Maple Springs to Motorway


Up above the clouds. We think the mountain seen on the top left of the picture is Catalina

Wow, what a beautiful Saturday it was above the clouds. As it is many times in Southern California in June, we were experiencing a bit of June gloom. I woke up on Saturday morning and left the house to a very slight drizzle. When I arrived at the trailhead, the drizzle had passed but the clouds were still present. Dan and I readied ourselves in the empty parking lot as we knew this would be a strenuous ride.


Heading into the canyon on the Jet9. This portion of the climb up Maple Springs is on pavement.

This would be my first time doing this route: up Maple Springs, connect to Main Divide then down Motorway back to the car. Frankly, I was a bit concerned but also excited. I wish all rides would have me feeling this way! The proposed route would cover almost 3,800 ft in climbing in a total of 16 miles. Maple Spring would cover 7 miles and steadily climb about 2800 feet. The next 6 miles would be a beautiful undulating ride along the Main Divide. The last 2 miles, Motorway, would be a fast singletrack fest back to the car.

Maple Springs was not too bad. Yes, there was a lot of climbing but we got to Four Corners, the start of the Main Divide portion of the trail, in 1:37 which means we were moving at about 4.3 mph. The climb was 3 miles of asphault and 4 miles of fireroad and not particularly steep at any time. It was really a grind though.


Amazing views along the Main Divide. The trail snaking its way up the mountain is Maple Springs. Its always nice to see where you came from.

The next portion, Main Divide, went longer than I thought. It was not until I got back home and examined my GPS did I realize that the MD was 6 miles long. I thought it was about 4 miles and this led to both Dan and I searching around for the turnoff to Motorway a couple of miles early. What hurt though, was the last two climbs on the Main Divide. After blasting out the first 2800ft on Maple Springs and another 200ft along the rolling Main Divide, the last two miles had two short climbs of about 400ft each. OUCH.


Dan, Airborne Goblin and the Main Divide sign. The green on the Goblin is SHARP. I likey. The pricepoint for the parts is impeccable. It reminds me of 2007 when I bought my X-Caliber for nearly the same price but the Goblin has better brakes and a nicer paint job.

Motorway was a great reward. Mildly technical due to some exposure and kitty litter over hardpacked with some smaller-than-babyhead rocks. Dan & I cruised back to the cars enjoying the flowy fast descent. But our cruise was curtailed by a tear of my new rear Specialized Fastrack Control. Thankfully I didn’t lose control and we were able to boot and tube it.


Almost all the way down Motorway. This part wasn’t even all that. I was really hauling through here when the slice occurred. Somewhere, a rock is grinning mischievously.

Quick update on the Niner Jet 9: The Jet9 did very well on this voyage, its third since being returned. She was waiting on a new cassette which held it out of service for a couple of weeks but I’ve put nearly 50 miles and over 7,000ft climbing in the week she has been back in service. I am really enjoying her 80mm of CVA suspension which has been efficient and comfortable although not as plush as the Voodoo Canzo’s 100mm it replaced. I have not noticed any lack of stiffness as compared to the Canzo, either.

Up next, as part of the agreement with the insurance company, the Jet 9 will be receiving new wheels (current wheels are from another bike) and new lowers on the Fox F29 fork to go from QR to 15mm T/A paid for by me.

Review: 2009 Kona King Kahuna

Who:
The Kona Bicycle Company designs, manufacturers and distributes more than 60 models of purpose-built, high-performance mountain, road and urban bicycles. Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Ferndale, Washington, USA, Kona bicycles are distributed worldwide in more than 60 countries through independent specialty bicycle dealers. Kona funds several professional road, mountain and cyclo-cross racing teams that include World Cup Champions, World Champions and National Champions.


Kona King Kahuna, freshly built up

Product Tested:
Kona King Kahuna

Website’s MSRP:
$2,299

Specs:
Frame sizes 16″, 18″, 19″, 20″, 22″
Frame tubing Kona Race Light Scandium Butted
Fork Fox 32 F29 RL 80mm
Headset FSA Orbit DL
Crankarms Shimano SLX
Chainrings 44/32/22
B/B Shimano SLX
Pedals Shimano M520 Clipless
Chain Shimano Deore
Freewheel Shimano Deore (11-34, 9spd)
F/D Shimano SLX
R/D Shimano XT Shadow
Shifters Shimano XT
Handlebar Kona XC/BC Deluxe Riser
Stem Kona XC/BC Deluxe
Grips Kona Race Light
Brakes Shimano SLX Hydraulic Disc
Brake Levers Shimano SLX Hydraulic
Front hub FSA XC-290 Wheelset
Rear hub FSA XC-290 Wheelset
Spokes FSA XC-290 Wheelset
Tires Maxxis Ignitor 29×2.1 Kevlar
Rims FSA XC-290 Wheelset
Saddle WTB Rocket V Comp Cromo
Seatpost Kona XC/BC Deluxe
Seat clamp Kona Clamp
Color Grey Metallic/Pearl White

About Me:
6’1” 210lbs, 29 year old male. I’m a mountain biking enthusiast who enjoys XC riding.


Clearing a long climb on the King Kahuna at Fontana’s XC Winter Race Series

Testing Grounds:
Whiting Ranch, Fullerton Loop, Southridge and many other trails in Southern California.

First Impressions:
The Kona King Kahuna is a looker. The build up was easy as most of the bike was pre-assembled. The brake lines were a bit long. They were not so long as to cause any issues while riding but they were long enough that they look a little awkward even though functionally they were fine. If this were a bike I was to keep I would have invested in shortening the lines but since this was a 3 month demo I decided to leave them as is.

Strengths:
I have to say that the Kona King Kahuna is one knock out bike. It is very pretty if you’re into those things which I happen to be. The color scheme is excellent. The graphics on the bike are top notch and very cool. The paint job held really well even after I ate it a few times out on the trail. The blue on the top tube has a sweet metallic finish that shimmers in the light. White forks have always been a plus in my book and I personally like the look of the SLX crankset as compared to Shimano’s LX or XT cranks.


Dropping into a local trail, taken by Mr. Ivan, photog extraordinaire

But what sets the bike apart from other bikes is the Kona branded parts. House brand parts can be hit or miss especially when there is very little information about the parts. You really can’t stack them up against the Race Faces, Eastons and Ritcheys of the world with such a short review period. Over the testing period the parts worked fine which is always a plus but where the Kona parts really shined was the look. The stem, handlebar and seatpost drew rave reviews from virtually everyone who stopped to look at the bike. I was even asked if Kona sold those bike parts separately from their bikes. All I knew was that they were on the website, but without pricing details, I wouldn’t know if they could be purchased sans bike.

Beyond the superficial and subjective opinions on the look of the Kona King Kahuna, what makes the King Kahuna really stand out at this price are two things: 1. the Scandium frame and 2. the Fox fork.

The frame rode surprisingly well for a Scandium frame. Coming off of riding a steel hardtail I was expecting the Scandium frame to be brittle and harsh, but over the testing period I never thought twice about the frame. I was very impressed at how great it felt for not being steel. I wasn’t able to get an exact weight for the frame as the bike came 80% assembled to me but the full bike was probably at least a pound less than my similarly built steel hardtail.

The geometry used on this frame seems to be the “standard” 29er geometry right now. The 71/73 degree head tube/seat tube angles respectively seems to be the norm for 29er hardtails and when I jumped on the bike, I felt pretty much at ease. About the only thing I have to point out is the slightly taller standover height. Most bikes at 19”/Large size do not sport the 32.5” standover height. This, thankfully, did not rear its head in testing, but it is something to be aware of when considering what size to buy.

The Fox F29 is a very good fork. It is stiff and plush for being only 80mm of travel. It took me only a ride to get it fully adjusted to the way I like it which to me makes it easily adjustable. The surprising part to me about the fork is how well it worked on pretty much everything I threw at it. I wasn’t able to get out on really rocky or long technical descents rides but I did ride a lot of my favorite trails. On the trail, there were many times I would just look to find the gnarliest line and send the King Kahuna down it. During those sections I never really wished for more travel which sort of surprised me. The travel is really good on the F29, so much so that the 80mm advertised seems incorrect.


Dropping the King Kahuna in to Cactus at Whiting Ranch

I was able to get the King Kahuna out to Fontana for a XC race during the winter series. The bike carried me to a fourth place finish on a course that had a little bit of everything including muddy climbs, rocky climbs, sandy descents, switchbacks, singletrack… The King Kahuna did a great job of navigating me through it all.

Weakness:
I really had no issues with the Kona King Kahuna from beginning to end. The geometry is good and the bike is a looker. The components are good for the price, all the way around the bike save two parts.

About the only thing I can nitpick on are the two Deore level components on the bike: chain and cassette. These are two “hidden” components that, at this price point, should not be spec’d on a bike. At $2,300 I feel that the minimum level of componentry should be SLX and higher. From our friends in the industry, I know that spec’ing bikes is a difficult process. Getting the best parts for the price is a difficult task but Deore level components, which although not bad are still two steps below SLX, in my opinion should not be on a $2,000 plus hardtail bike.


Steep downhill section at the Fontana race, see the Pro rider behind me? j/k. He was on his 2nd lap… me just finishing my first.

Summary:
The Kona King Kahuna is Kona’s high end hardtail 29er. It comes with a great Scandium frame that combines surprising comfort while also keeping things pretty light weight. The Fox fork and strong components make for a durable well rounded bike that can withstand some hard trail riding while also easily slipping into the racer mode if you so desired.

For more info on the Kona King Kahuna, click here.