Mahalo, Kona

It was my luck this year to begin and end Interbike Outdoor Demo with test rides on two very sweet women specific bikes. Early Monday morning, I swung by the Kona tent and picked up the first ride of the day, the Kona Lisa 120 Deluxe.  Kona has been busy finessing to perfection this 5” travel deluxe version for it’s premier in 2009.  As a rule, I don’t ride dual suspension bikes since my first experience on one was less than glorious. An error on my part it turns out. I would end up riding two very nice women’s dual suspension bikes and enjoying both immensely. Before I headed out with the Lisa 120 Deluxe, Jeff and Jim from Kona were kind enough to set up my test bike’s sag and give me a run down on the various points to adjust and refine the Kona 4-Bar suspension set up. A nice bit of technology that you can read more about here.


On the trail, I was pleasantly surprised to find this bike felt instantly familiar and comfortable. Usually one of the trade off with dual suspension bikes is added weight, but Kona uses a light weight scandium alloy and the Lisa was quick on the trail and didn’t drag as I pedaled up the first big climb. This bike was very rewarding to maneuver over the singletrack and I was even feeling confident enough to tackle some of the more challenging parts of the trail right off the bat. The Shimano M575 Hydraulic Disc brakes are a very nice touch and combined with the light frame and ideal 22.5” top tube length made for a smooth ride. Already I was having thoughts of cheating on my Trek. Finishing up the first loop, I was pumped to go back and run through it again. The particular set up I was riding on the test had me sitting at a slightly more upright position over the handlebars which I find to be more comfortable than a lower, more aggressive position. However, this positioning combined with full tires on loose gravel did result in some occasional looseness in the steering but it would have been easy enough to take some spacers out of the headset to drop into a more forward riding mode if needed and add weight on the front tires to minimize those moments. I think Kona has an exceptional women’s specific bike that is fantastic for anyone interested in a multipurpose trail bike and I would have loved to spend even more time on the Kona Lisa sometime down the line.

Giant Anthem

Bookending the days riding, I took an opportunity to stop by Giant and see what they had in their line up for women specific bikes as well. They hooked me up with the Anthem X W. The Anthem with a light aluminum frame, 4” of travel and race forward positioning is ideal for more assertive competition riding but I did find it suitable for the average everyday trail ride as well. Like the Kona Lisa, having the proper sag setup in the suspension is the first step to a pleasant ride, and the tech’s in the Giant tent did a quick efficient adjustment and it was ready to ride.


The Anthem is set up with it’s Race Face Evolve XC  lowrise handlebar and stem, which brought me a bit more forward over the front wheel and just to the edge of my comfort zone. Dispite that, I still found the Anthem was quiet nimble on the trail, sticking to the corners nicely and steering response was fast. Because of its race competition breeding, the Anthem is geared to a down to business sort of take on the trail and everything Giant speced on this bike is aimed to that end. Specifically, I found the Shimano SLX Rapidfire shifting system is a good match, letting the rider use thumb or forefinger for quick and accurate shifting on the fly. One thing Giant boast of is their bikes ability to handle climbs and when I asked the tech on hand for details he explained Giant’s Maestro Suspension system that utilizing key pivot points to smooth out your pedaling and braking so more of your energy goes into generating forward momentum. Here’s more details.  After a hot long day of riding when my enthusiasm for long climbs was on the wane, I was delighted to find the system really worked. In fact, I purposely rode down a few extra grades just to marvel at the ease of re-climbing them.

In the end, Giant has done a great job of setting up a competitive womens specific bike that can in a pinch be used for the occasional casual spin in the woods.