Kona Dawg Deluxe review£2,250.00

Old Dawg gets new tricks

BikeRadar score2.5/5

Kona’s suspension bikes have always rewarded their fans with some of the longest lifespans around. The new 6in Dawgs are faithful friends in the most inhospitable terrain, but there’s deinitely no whippet in their bloodline.

Ride & handling: totally dependable long-travel cruiser that’ll take everything in its lazy stride

With its ultra reliable, chaos-calming suspension, plenty of cockpit room and relatively light weight, the Dawg will be a truly faithful backcountry friend for years to come. However, flexy wheels and steady character make it happier walking placidly to heel rather than chasing sticks.

While the sub-30lb weight is commendable for a 6in bike, the longer linkages make it more of an effort-eater than previous bikes. As a result we found ourselves clicking the ProPedal compression damping on for every climb and settling in for a slow wind upwards rather than sprinting for a win. The soggy, flexy feel of the FSA wheels further undermined any steering accuracy.

The longer stem and steeper 68° head angle also remove a lot of the playfulness and steering agility that were characteristic of last year’s Dawgs. It still goes where you want it to, and the increased travel means you can lean back and let it plough through pretty much anything in your path, but there’s no incentive to really push your limits.

Frame: strong, stiff and fairly light

Kona has worked hard to minimise weight in the Dawg frames. Scandium alloy has crept in from the Cold War arsenal to make extremely strong and stiff frame tubes. Kona has put a lot of effort into optimising the tube shapes too, with a curved coffin to hexagon section down tube, kinked teardrop section top tube and externally butted head tube.

To increase the travel by 1in in the rear to a rock-munching 6in, Kona has lengthened the rocker link and rejigged the linkages. The rocker link is magnesium to drop weight even lower, and modular drop-outs on the end of deep rectangular chainstays allow you to replace crash-damaged components or change to Maxle screw-thru axles. There’s plenty of tyre clearance too.

We miss the chromed chainslap-proof chainstay and, while the seat collar looks neat, it either lets the post slip or is so tight it won’t open or close without some persuasion from a rock.

The long-lived suspension bearings and minimal maintenance design make the Dawg family  – and all Kona suspension bikes – favourites of MTB rental fleets the world over. Another reason why Kona riders display such loyalty to the brand is the inch-by-inch sizing, which ensures a great fit for everyone. For this year the Dawg is not only longer in travel terms, but also in reach thanks to a longer stem and longer front centre. Add a decent width riser bar and you’ve got plenty of room to get your pedal on and enjoy the view.

Equipment: basic groupset and pimped up finishing kit

Shimano’s everyman SLX chainset, shifters and front mech are the backbone of the Dawg Deluxe’s transmission, combined with an up-specced XT Shadow rear mech for showroom appeal. SLX disc brakes take care of stopping duties.

For 2009 Kona unveiled a raft of matching satin gunmetal finish own-brand bars, stem, seat posts and quick releases (QRs) to give that collar and cuffs finish. The perch is a WTB Rocket and the FSA hoops are shod with grippy Maxxis Ignitors 2.35 tyres.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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