Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Kona NuNu

With a spec list including a 7005 aluminum alloy frame, LX rear derailleur, Mavic X138 rims, STX-RC cranks, Avid 1.0 brakes and an RST 381 suspension fork, the $700 NuNu was designed to deliver comfort and durability…

By Karl Rosengarth

Kona released the NuNu, which means "Celebration" in Hawaiian, on the eve of their tenth anniversary. The NuNu is said to embody the ideal on which the company was founded: "Keep it simple and the beauty of the ride will take care of itself." With a spec list including a 7005 aluminum alloy frame, LX rear derailleur, Mavic X138 rims, STX-RC cranks, Avid 1.0 brakes and an RST 381 suspension fork, the $700 NuNu was designed to deliver comfort and durability at a kind price.

The 19" NuNu was my umpteenth consecutive test bike with 71°/73° head/seat angles. Conventionality continued with the 23.5" top tube, 16.75" chainstays and 42.2" wheelbase. Kona keeps things pretty simple – they make 12 other rigid frames with this exact same geometry. Their approach is to fine tune proven designs, rather than reinvent the mountain bike every season. In case you slept through Kona Design 101, here’s a cram session. Long sloping top tubes allow body movement and proper positioning while providing more stand over clearance and make for a more vertically compliant frame. Long oversize headtubes provide stronger support of the top and down tube, better shock distribution and prolonged bearing life. Kona claims that the 16.75" chainstays provide a perfect balance of stability and power transfer. Lowered seatstay attachment points produce shorter stays that have less flex during braking and acceleration.

A test bike can be a rolling classroom, if the test pilot keeps an open mind. The NuNu taught me an economics lesson: you can buy a lot of fun for $700. All the components performed their intended function without complaint. The frame had the typical aluminum rigidity – reassuring me with every pedal stroke that my effort was not being wasted. The NuNu gobbled up everything my local trails could dish out. On downhills and fast swoopers, the NuNu was stable and predictable. I had an occasional problem with the front wheel lifting on steep climbs, but some of that may be attributable to the 19" frame being an inch larger than my normal ride. I won’t feed you any stale baloney about this bike outperforming $2000 rides. But, if you rode home on a new NuNu, I think you’d be happy, happy.

If you like details, we can go there. The NuNu is available now, but you won’t find it in Kona’s 1998 catalog – it’s a mid-year introduction. My test bike came with an XT rear derailleur and Sun CR18 rims, slight deviations from the spec sheet. With my SPD pedals and a bottle cage, the 19" NuNu tipped the scales at 27.5 lbs. One planned change for 1999 is a Marzocchi Bomber Z5 replacing the RST 381 fork. I rode both forks and preferred the Z5. Insufficient damping was my knock on the RST 381.

I liked the yellow-to-blue-fade paint job – a classy touch at this price point. The NuNu is available in 14, 16, 18, 19 and 20 inch sizes.

Contact: Kona USA, 2455 Salashan, Ferndale, WA 98248; 360.366.0951; www.konaworld.com.

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