Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Kona CoilAir

By Adam Lipinski

In 2009 I was fortunate enough to hear the full explanation of Kona’s Magic Link suspension design from creator Brian Berthold. Since then the Magic Link-equipped CoilAir has been on my list of desirable bikes. The basic premise for the CoilAir is versatility. It teeters on the edge of being a full-blown DH bike, but in a package you can still pedal back up the hill.

The bike

At first glance the CoilAir looks like any of Kona’s full suspension bikes. The CoilAir uses the company’s tried and true 4-Bar suspension, but with the addition of the ride-altering Magic Link. This link connects the primary shock, in this case a Fox Float RP2, to a second, coil-sprung, auxiliary shock. When descending, the two shocks act in series, starting their soft initial strokes together. In this descending mode the Coilair’s rear suspension offers up to 200mm of plush, long-wheelbased, slack- angled, downhill-positioned goodness.

When you point the bike back up the hill, and start mashing the pedals, chain tension holds the link forward, locking out the movement of the auxiliary shock. This pedaling mode also shortens the wheelbase, steepens the angles, and only uses about 130mm of the rear suspension’s travel. The suspension is not limited to these two extremes; it constantly adapts itself to suit the terrain.

The bike tips the scales at 35.5lbs. Heavy for an all-mountain bike, but light by park and downhill standards. The CoilAir does take on the personalities of both, so I feel the weight is reasonable. The components are a healthy mix of stuff that can take a beating. The Fox 36 TALAS R, adjustable between 180mm and 140mm of travel, led me confidently through sketchy situations. It is simply a marvelous fork. The 203mm front and 185mm rear Avid Elixir 5 brakes performed well, but acquired a sticky rear piston near the end of the test. A rebuild and bleeding remedied the problem.

The ride

The fork and rear shock were very easy to dial in. I ran about 25% sag in the fork and 30% in the rear. The auxiliary shock is easy to adjust, but requires a bit more patience. Finding the best preload setting in the three-millimeter adjustment zone can be tedious. You must also decide on the auxiliary shock’s front bolt position in the Magic Link.

The top mount is a bit firmer and suggested for heavier riders, while the lower placement offers a softer ride. I tinkered with the two positions and found myself enjoying the lower mounting position for most situations. One of my favorite details of the rear suspension is the Zerk grease fitting on the lowest main pivot. It is a little hard to reach, but it kept things running smoothly.

I was pushing five-foot vertical drops on my first day on this bike. This is approaching my personal limits, so the CoilAir definitely inspires confidence. The suspension does a fantastic job of keeping the wheels planted. While riding in the bike park, higher speeds and bigger jumps made the bike use all of its suspension but never produced any harsh bottoming effects.

The rear end made some noise when taking big hits, but never showed any signs of being pushed too hard. Park riding is one situation where I was reminded that I was not on an actual downhill bike. A few cockpit adjustments helped to remedy this. My DH set-up consisted of a shorter stem, a handlebar with more rise, and a shorter seatpost. (The frame has cable guides for a dropper post, should you decide to use one.) These simple changes help me push the CoilAir deeper into the DH realm.

The CoilAir comes into its own during high-speed downhills. The long, 477mm chainstays slowed down the steering. When compressing the suspension in a fast turn the wheelbase extends, increasing stability and providing a lower bottom bracket and more rearward body position, helping me rail turns. A combination of hip steering and manhandling seemed to work well with the CoilAir’s long wheel- base.

I really noticed the CoilAir’s bipolar tendencies when it was time to climb. When climbing, the rider’s body is positioned further forward on the bike, which kept the front wheel tracking true on steeper climbs. It is predominately a gravity-oriented bike, so I won’t be overly critical of the climbing mode. Dropping the TALAS fork to the 140mm- travel position also helped on ascents. I liked how people reacted when I jumped the bike off a rock face and pedaled back up the hill. They almost always asked how much travel the bike had.

There was one weird quirk to the CoilAir’s Magic Link suspension: a slight kickback from the pedals when climbing. It happened when I hit a large bump while pedaling. The force of the bump would override the force of the chain, compressing the auxilary shock, causing the slight kick.

Final thoughts

The “one bike for all needs” scenario came to mind when reviewing the CoilAir. This is definitely an option for some riders. If you’re a gravity-oriented rider who wants a bike they can ride back up the mountain, this bike could be for you. Perhaps backcountry exploration is your thing; you never know what you may find out there. For me, I never know what kind of riding I may do when I head out, so riding a long-travel bike that can still be powered to the top of most climbs is right up my alley. Don’t be surprised if you see this bike in my personal lineup after this review is done.

Bike stats

  • Price: $3,569
  • Weight: 35.5lbs.
  • Sizes available: 14, 16, 18, 20, 22" (tested)
  • Country of origin: Taiwan
  • Online: konaworld.com

Tester stats

  • Age: 40
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 195lbs.
  • Inseam: 34”
     
 

 
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