With five inches of travel on offer for the vertically challenged and available in a quirkily tiny 14.4in frame size too, the Kona Lisa 120 is an ideal ride for diminutive girls who push their riding beyond the limits of a cross-country bike.
Ride and handling: Calm and stable ride that makes the most of its plush suspension
Kona have stuck by the four-bar linkage for their suspension designs and their experience is reflected in the effectiveness of the Lisa 120. The bottomless, plush feeling that’s traditionally associated with the system is present in spades.
The shock is in its climbing ability; with the ProPedal platform damping on the shock flicked on, the Kona hugged the rocks and rolls of our favourite technical step-ups as though they were swathed in Velcro and was more than willing to keep hammering away just as long as our legs could keep up.
Descending was equally delicious – the slacker angles required to make a 5in bike work well make for a calm and stable ride that takes good care of its rider and makes the most of the travel at its disposal.
The Lisa 120 is no cross-country racer, though with a judiciously spendy diet it would make an eminently suitable all-day trail bike, but will happily cruise along beneath you, dismissing substantial whacks and general trail buzz with equal indifference and always with a grin on its face.
It shoehorns a lot of bike into a small package and is excellent value. If you view the climbs as a means to an end and live for the descents then it’s definitely one to check out.
Frame: Light and tough chassis with good female-specific sizing options
Kona’s women’s bikes fit the traditional ‘short body, long legs’ shape well and the Lisa 120 is no exception. The top tube on our 17in demo bike was a scant 22in – a full inch-and-a-half shorter than that found on the equivalent men’s bike, the Dawg – and frames are sized in inch increments so finding a good fit should be straightforward.
A deeply scooped top tube keeps standover as minimal as is possible with 5in of travel front and rear; as frame sizes get smaller it can be difficult to fit everything required without compromising fit but Kona have coped well here.
Butted scandium main tubes and a svelte magnesium rocker link are ideal for this application, keeping weight down and providing plenty of resilience for tough shredders. Fox’s RP2 shock lends simple, no-nonsense control to the four-bar linkage, keeping things tame on the climbs.
If you’re an enduro nut and after even more travel for big courses, then check out the Lisa 120’s sister bike, the Minxy – it packs an extra inch of travel into a truly purposeful-looking, pretty much unique, female-specific freeride machine.
Equipment: Excellent fork and wheels, plus workhorse Deore kit, but we’d swap tyres
Not so long ago we’d have looked askance at the appearance of Shimano Deore parts on a £1,600 bike but in the current economic climate the build of the Lisa 120 is great value on paper and works equally well on the trail.
Mavic’s Crossride wheelset will put up with some serious abuse and suits the character of the bike well, though the Maxxis Aspen 2.1 tyres could be upsized if you’re inclined to rock.
The air sprung RockShox Recon SL Solo fork is a real benefit for lighter riders as spring weight is infinitely adjustable within the fork’s limits and we found the performance at low rider weights to be very good indeed.