Kona 2009 Bike Launch: Whistler, BC

Kona held their 2009 bike launch at Whistler resort on August 14th, 2008. They have been supplying Whistler with it’s rental fleet since the beginning, making it the perfect place to host the launch. Whistler’s legendary trails, state of the art trail building, and ground breaking events can supply every level of rider a good time. Kona also has the machinery to fulfill every rider’s needs.

Kona has a full line of riding and casual apparel. We were supplied with some hats and a pair of their new Supreme gloves. The gloves have all the features expected with a high end product. There is highly breathable material where possible, with protective padding where needed. A terry snot wipe thumb helps keep you presentable out on the trail, and the silicone grip finger tips keep you from slipping off the brakes. Supreme gloves indeed. There is a wide variety of hats, shirts, shorts, socks and also a full line of women’s apparel. All the 2009 clothing will be available in February.

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Kona offers all the mountain bike clothing you could need, but their extensive bike line is even more impressive. Let’s begin with what Kona calls, in their own words, “the most important bike we’ve ever designed.” The Africa Bike is the machine they are referring to. This is a simple, single or three speed ride with all the basics covered. It comes complete with a bell, full fenders, front basket, chainguard, rear lock system, sturdy Continental tires and rear rack. The burly rear rack is part of the frame, attaching to the lower seatstays and seat tube. Kona started the program to assist humanitarians in the worst areas of Africa. For every two bikes sold, Kona will donate one to the cause. They have donated 1,500 bikes so far. If you need a cruiser for around town, this is the one you should buy.  The singlespeed Africa bike will retail for $375.00, and the Three speed will be $449.00  Go to konaworld.com for all the details.

Kona also produces the $899.00 Ute, a utilitarian, haul-anything bike. This is definitely the kind of bike that Dirt Rag‘s “one less car” sticker promotes. It is ready to run to the store for groceries, or haul all your work related items on your daily commute. Disk brakes, center stand, engraved wooden rear rack and fenders round out this package. They are trying to start a grocery delivery program with Whole Foods, utilizing this bike. The plan is not a definite, but would be pretty cool.

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Let’s regress for a moment, to the kids’ bikes. Kona’s full line includes seven mountain bikes for the children. There are six hardtail bikes, starting with the $299.00 Makena, to the $899.00 Stuff 2-4. The bikes cater to different kids’ riding needs, whatever their skill level may be. After the first six models, they get to step up into the realm of full-suspension, with the $1,499.00 Stinky 2-4. The Stinky 2-4 is one of the first serious steps to enjoying your downhill fun with your child.

I’m not a huge fan of riding on the asphalt, but sometimes it has to happen. In the unfortunate event that you find yourself shredding miles of the black death, there are quite a few beautiful options from the Kona shed.  Two of the asphalt bikes are women specific, the Lisa Road and Lisa TR (triathlon). The rest of the list is quite extensive, consisting of twelve options. There is everything from super-light-weight race bikes to fully functional commuters. The frame materials cover a broad spectrum of options as well—everything but Titanium. Prices range from the $375.00 Africa 2.0, to the $3,499.00 King Zing. The $679.00 Paddy Wagon would be my choice from this category. A no-nonsense, singlespeed or fixed approach to the everyday road bike. The Wagon consists of a high grade chromoly frame and fork, mixed with a minimalist group of sturdy components. The Kona flip-flop fixie/freewheel hub adds great value to the bike, in case you want or need to coast.

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As much as I would probably enjoy the Paddy Wagon, I would choose one of the cross bikes. What could be better than quickly cruising home on the road after a hard days work, and taking an alternate trail route without worries. Not  a whole lot as far as I can see. Cyclocross bikes have almost all the speed of a road bike, with a big chunk of the mountain bike comfort and durability thrown in to boot. DeeeCent!!

The next logical step in the evolution of the Kona line is the hardtail. These bikes span ten different categories for the 2009 season. In a nutshell, Kona can supply any kind of hardtail you need. The out-of-bounds group stands out as the most unique, especially if you will be riding on Whistler-type trails.  These bikes are geared towards aggressive riding, such as dirt jumping, slopestyle or big-mountain freeriding. The out of bounds category also contains one full-suspension design, the Bass slopestyle bike. The Bass incorporates an eccentric bottom bracket into its full suspension design. The eccentric bottom bracket allows the Bass to keep a simple rear suspension design, less pivots to keep the suspension and braking/pedaling forces isolated.

The full-suspension area is what I always think of when my mind drifts towards Kona bicycles. They are definitely  not leaving me hanging on that thought. They have been investing a lot of time to their full-suspension line. They produce super-light-weight full-suspension cross country bikes, to the full-blown downhill rig. In the middle of the spectrum is the Dawg series. Next year’s Dawgs are getting quite the overhaul. The rear triangles have been completely reworked to decrease weight and increase strength. The Dawgs also gets Kona’s D.O.P.E. lite rear dropout that allows the use of a floating rear brake system. One of the bikes that the Kona folk seem the most excited about is the Minxy. The Minxy is a women-specific, six inch travel freeride bike. Kona started with their new Stinky Six and tweaked it to make it the gender-specific Minxy. It receives a tighter cockpit, lower standover height, less weight, an array of special components, and its own graphics. It is one of the better looking Konas as far as I’m concerned, with it’s sexy blacked-out stealth appearance. The Stab series bikes received a few upgrades as well. Highlighting next year’s Stab will be the D.O.P.E. rear dropouts/Brake Therapy system that utilizes a floating caliper. They will also accept any 12 by 150mm rear axles, allowing the use of most aftermarket hubs. An 83mm bottom bracket shell will also be used on the Stabs (it aligns better with the 150mm rear hub).  The Stab Supreme will also be graced with a full Shimano Saint component group. Ladies and gentlemen, the Stab Supreme.

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The freeride bikes from Kona, the Stinky and the Coil Air, also get some attention. The Stinky gets shorter chainstays, steeper headtube geometry and a bigger 1.5″ headtube. All of these changes are due to requests from Kona freeriders. The bike also comes with cable routing for the new Truvativ HammerSchmidt front transmission, covered in Karl Rosengarth’s recent blog. The Coil Air is the bike we spent the most time discussing at the the launch. The designer/engineer, Brian Berthold, was on site to give us the lowdown of the machine. The Magic Link on the Coil Air is a mechanically active design that automatically adjusts between pedaling and coasting forces. When pedaling, the magic link is pushed forward, causing the geometry of the bike to steepen and the six inches of suspension to stiffen. When Kona’s bike is allowed to coast the link is pulled back, activating a very simple spring that is in series with the Fox air shock. Almost twenty years ago I attempted making a rear suspension bike. I used a crappy ten speed mountain bike as my platform, a short rear hatch strut from a car, two valve springs from an old Chevy small block V8, and a heavy steel hinge for my pivot. The bike would have been a success if I had understood springs a little better.  The two springs together allowed the rear end to pack-up and fully compress, after about six or seven pedal strokes, and not rebound fast enough. Activating two springs together in series creates a much softer initial stroke, which allows the CoilAir’s rear wheel to move up and out of the way of obstacles easier. Kona seems to have found the perfect mixture of springs in series to make this bike perform exactly as they want. Also when coasting, the chainstays increase in length, the angles slacken and the travel increases to 7.4″. All of this happens without the need for switches or levers—it is strictly mechanical.  Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Coil Air is the addition of grease ports in the main pivot. The most vulnerable pivot on the the bike can be kept clean and full of grease with a few pumps of a grease gun—beautiful. New for 2009 as well is the tapered headtube. This system gives the bike a small weight savings, while increasing headtube strength as well. The whole bike should fall somewhere in the mid-30-pound range, and cost $2,399.00, $3,999.00 or $5,799.00, depending on which model you purchase.

The 2009 Kona launch was held ¾ of the way up the mountain at the top of the Village Gondola lift. Our very informative press release was accompanied by some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen, lingering in the background.

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The full line of bikes and clothing were discussed and shown to us, then we got to ride the bikes. Most people were riding CoilAirs or Stabs, while I was given a Hei Hei 2-9. What bike is this, you may ask. It is a 3.5″ travel XC 29er, with an 80mm front fork. Someone is trying to kill me. A large percentage of the Kyber trail that we rode should be ridden on a six-plus inch travel bike. No big deal, I definitely got to put it to the test on this ride. The twenty minutes that we rode uphill, and the road ride back to the village, was much better on this bike as well. It was funny that in those two instances everyone wanted to trade me bikes. The big wheels on the Hei Hei helped me to roll over all the large rocks and drops on the Kyber trail. Although I remained towards the front of the 20 person pack on most of the ride, the bike was out of its realm. It took all the abuse I dished out, and only whimpered a little bit in the form of brake jack. I bet the other riders did not experience this, with their Brake Therapy floating rear calipers. Back here in Pittsburgh the Hei Hei would be a fantastic choice, but not so much if you are doing lift-assist freeride runs all day. The  hydroformed Scandium framed Hei Hei 2-9 and Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe come with one piece magnesium rockers in the rear suspension, tons of stand over height, a host of light weight parts, and a Fox 32 F29 RL front fork. We were told the bikes would perform fine with a 100mm fork, if you wanted a little more travel. Below are a few thumbnails of my bike before the ride, our starting point, a mid-ride shot, Magic Link creator Brian Berthold and the man that made the whole trip happen, Keith Cozzens. Cheers! Click on thumbnails to enlarge.

my_heihei2-9.jpg    starting_point.jpg    preeride.jpg    duringride.jpg   magic_link_brian_berthold.jpg    keith.jpg

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