Kona Big Kahuna 29er review

A great match for the more powerful rider

Our rating 
2.5 out of 5 star rating 2.5
GBP £1,450.00 RRP

Our review

A competent bike, but it won’t excite you – although it won’t scare you either
Skip to view product specifications

Kona were one of the first mainstream companies to follow Gary Fisher into the world of bigger wheels. Add a similarly advanced interest in freeride and aggro riding in general, and it’s no surprise the Big Kahuna is one of the ballsiest frames around.


Ride & handling: Rough and ready

Kona are one of several brands using backswept bars on their big-wheeled bikes, which combine with the steep seat angle to give an overly compact, hands-by-your-knees riding feel at first.

When you knock the saddle right back on its rails and get off-road, though, that weirdness disappears in favour of a naturally surefooted and relaxed feel that’s still light and nippy enough through the tight stuff. The stiff frame puts maximum power through to the back wheel, which will please powerful riders.

Even with the smooth wheels and rearward weight shift of the bars, the basic fork and stiff frame mean that ground shock soon starts to make your wrists and soles of your feet ache on rough ground. It’s a heavy bike too, so beyond short grunt climbs, upward mobility isn’t a strong point.

Frame & equipment: For fork’s sake

The short, stout tapered head tube is backed up by big square-section main tubes, with shared seams up front and a broad ovalised overlap at the bottom bracket. Big machined plate chainstay heads, a steep seat angle and the broad stance, round tube A-frame stays give plenty of tyre room. 

It’s an IS brake mount out back and the dropout rack mount drillings aren’t matched on the stays, if you’re thinking of off-road touring with it. The biggest black mark in equipment terms is the fork, though.

The RockShox Recon has simple damping and soon gets overwhelmed on long rocky or step sections. And despite the tapered head tube, the steel steerer isn’t tapered to match and the stanchions are steel too, which adds some serious weight.

At least all of the negatives are in one easily – if expensively – upgradable area and the wheel package almost makes up for it. Easton wheels are light and tight and the Maxxis Aspen tyres are our favourite 29er speed rubber, offering surprising grip and smoothness.

The 10-speed SRAM shifting was less than smooth after only one ride though, and the bottom bracket started grinding in under an hour, so check that your shop has prepped the bike properly.


With a big, stiff frame and sorted angles, the Big Kahuna is an obvious choice for big, powerful riders. Despite a good wheel package, the very basic fork really lets it down and you’ll soon ache if you get too aggressive with it.

Product Specifications


Name Big Kahuna 29er (11)
Brand Kona

Available Colours Matt Green
Rims Easton XC 29er Wheelset
Top Tube (in) 23.5
Standover Height (in) 31.1
Seat Tube (in) 18
Chainstays (in) 17.1
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 12.2
Spoke Type Easton XC 29er Wheelset
Brake Levers Avid Elixir 5
Weight (lb) 26.78
Weight (kg) 12.1
Stem Kona XC/Road
Shifters SRAM X7
Seatpost Kona Primo Double Clamp w/offset
Seat Angle 74
Saddle WTB Valcon Comp
Rear Tyre Maxxis Aspen 29x2.1 Kevlar
Available Sizes 19" 19" 16" 19" 18" 18" 19" 20" 18" 20" 22" 18" 20" 20" 22" 20" 22" 16" 16" 18" 18" 20" 18" 20" 22" 18" 19" 20" 19" 19" 20" 22" 19" 19" 22" 19" 19" 19" 19" 19" 19" 16" 16" 18" 19" 20" 16" 19" 20" 16" 18" 16" 18" 19" 20" 22" 16" 18" 19" 20" 16" 18" 20" 16" 18" 20" 22" 16" 18" 20" 22" 16" 18" 20" 16" 18" 16" 18" 16" 18" 16" 19" 19" 20" 22" 19" 19" 22" 19" 22" 20" 18"
Front Derailleur SRAM X7
Brakes Avid Elixir 5
Cassette SRAM PowerGlide 1050 11-34 (9 spd)
Chain SRAM PowerChain 1030
Cranks Shimano SLX 42/32/24
Fork RockShox Recon TK Solo Air 100mm
Frame Material 7005 Alu Butted
Front Hub Easton XC 29er Wheelset
Rear Hub Easton XC 29er Wheelset
Front Tyre Maxxis Aspen 29x2.1 Kevlar
Grips/Tape Kona Race Light LOG
Handlebar Kona Energy Deluxe
Head Angle 70
Headset Type FSA No.57B
Rear Derailleur SRAM X9 SGS
Wheelbase (in) 43.5