Kona Lisa TR review$2,138.00

Women-specific time trial bike

BikeRadar score2.5/5

The Lisa TR is the only time trial/triathlon bike in the range from mountain bike specialists Kona, which is a shame because it performs well and looks pretty darn cool too.

Besides the name, there’s nothing about the Lisa that screams “girl’s bike”. It only comes in one colour and that colour's not pink, so it's worth considering for smaller blokes and youth riders too.

Ride & handling: Accurate handling, even through fast and tight corners

There are loads of Top Trumps facts and figures that can dominate bike comparisons, but one of the most important aspects of finding the right steed for you is fit. Kona are concentrating on a distinct segment of the market with the Lisa, but the key thing is that they’ve done it really well.

Every tester who rode this bike – from novice to experienced triathlete – felt immediately confident in the ride position. This security extended a fair way into the sketchier areas of bike control too, from steep switchback descents to slow-speed sections on exposed hilltops.

The broad frame does tend to snatch a bit in windy conditions, but you’re rarely forced to move from the tri bar extensions to the base bar in order to stay in control.

The tiny frame size means less metal in the mix, but even taking that into consideration, the Kona comes in at a decent weight. Add a rigid frame-feel to harness your muscle power and it’s immediately responsive to every pedal push or upchange through the gears.

It isn’t afraid to take the fight to climbs either, and is certainly suited to more aggressive riders on shorter courses. In addition to this, the tightness of the frame and the handling mean it’s also an agile and accurate carver on more technical parts of circuits.

And while it’s definitely a major bonus for windcheating, the downside of using deep aero tubes on smaller frames is that it makes them even stiffer. On rougher surfaces, this made the Kona feel harsh, even abusive at times.

That said, the Deda fork prevents this affecting the handling or front tyre traction, but this bike is definitely at its best on smooth roads rather than back roads.

Chassis: Ultra-stiff frame makes for an efficient, responsive ride, but watch out on uneven roads

As you’d hope on a smaller riders’ bike, a short head tube with an integrated headset means you can set up a low-tuck riding position.

That bobbin-shaped head tube leads into a deep, teardrop profile down tube complete with internal gear routing scoops. The same deep teardrop shape forms the seat tube, albeit with a wheel-hugging cutaway for most of its height, while the skinny top tube gets internal brake cable routing.

The rear stays are matched as well, with the same tapered teardrop pieces used for both the seatstays and chainstays. Oddly, the seatstays are positioned back-to-front with the broad section at the rear, which really doesn’t make any aerodynamic sense, even though the weld at the top is slightly neater as a result.

Unfortunately, the fit between the carbon seatpost and the seat tube is gappy, leading to a rather worrying crunch whenever we tightened up the rear clamping bolt.

Equipment: Female-friendly kit, but we'd have preferred a lower spread of gears

Kona have clearly done their female-friendly homework with regard to the important equipment choices. They haven't gone for smaller than normal 650c wheels like some brands, but the FSA Vision bars are short-reach versions, the short 70mm stem gives a proportioned position and the Velo saddle is women-specific.

However, our smaller testers would definitely have preferred a compact chainset (with fewer teeth than standard) rather than full size chainrings for an easier spread of gears to allow them to spin up tough climbs.

Continental UltraRace tyres give the Mavic wheels plenty of easy-rolling speed though, and the Shimano Dura-Ace/Ultegra/105 shifting works absolutely fine.

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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