By Eric McKeegan
After finishing up at the Norco press camp I stuck around Whistler until the end of Crankworx. I made sure to make a few phone calls beforehand to connect with industry connections that might be showing new product at the show. One of the first to respond was Kona.
Kona has been dribbling some info about 2012 product out on their blog for a bit, so I knew what to expect, but I was stoked hear I could score a ride on one of the prototypes of their new 29er AM hardtail, the Honzo.
I headed out for a quick spin on the Lost Lake trail system with Chris Mandell, DH product manager at Kona. This project was one of his babies, which explains some of the non-standard spec and geometry on the Honzo. The Bike about is a non painted prototype, proper color is below.
First up, the short chainstays. Something like 16.2” on the production bikes (the prototypes where a wee bit longer). That is short, short enough to preclude using a front derailleur. Fine by me. This means a 1×9 system with a 12-36 cassettes and chainguide. The head angle is a slack 68º with the stock Rock Shox Revelation 120mm fork. Top that off with a wide bar and short (~50mm) stem, and you get a pretty interesting concoction.
Plenty of tire clearance for the big meats, and the 44mm headtube means compatablity with tapered or straight forks.
After slamming about for two days on long travel full suspension bikes, the Honzo felt pretty normal to me, which meant very, very capable. I won’t make too many pronouncements after a single ride on a prototype, but I will say riders with a distain for typical Midwestern 29er geometry should be stoked with about this ride. Also, whether you are ready or not BC residents, 29ers are coming for you.
The Honzo is on my short list for test bikes.
Also shown, is the Satori, a 130mm 29er full suspension bike. Same idea as the Honzo, slack head angle, and short (mid 17”) chainstays, the Satori looks to be a well thought out trail/AM 29er to compete with similar new models from Transition and Salsa, and the already established Intense Tracer 29, Norco Shinobi and Lenz models.
In the DH range Kona has a new short travel/mini 170mm DH bike, the Entourage. After getting feedback from their pro riders, both the Operator and Entourage will be sporting shorter chainstays (16.3” on the Entourage) for 2012. More maneuverability and probably a bit easier to throw down the sickest whips (not that I would know anything about that). Also, this matte black model with the most basic of decals was one of the best looking production bikes I’ve seen in a spell.
2012 looks to be a great year for new models from Kona, with a new cyclocross bike, a 29er carbon hardtail and some shorter travel 26” bikes as well. Watch this space for more info; we hope to ride some other new models before Interbike.
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