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.

Ride Report: Whiting Ranch for a Bday Ride

Tim Scissors & I were able to get out for 2 laps at Whiting Ranch this past Saturday. It was a birthday ride but the birthday boy was a little shy so no pictures of the group.


Tim Scissors salutes the beautiful ride, great weather and fun trail

We’ve written about Whiting Ranch a couple of times on this site. It is a nice set of trails about a 30 minute drive from mtnbikeriders.com headquarters. It’s also a very busy set of trails on the weekend especially if the weather is good.

And boy was the weather good this past weekend. Other than the winds it was absolutely gorgeous out with temps when we started the ride in the upper 50s to the low 70s by the time we were done. The winds were a bit gusty but we weren’t exposed to it. It only hit hard on a fireroad climb up to Four Corners, as if Mustard wasn’t enough!


Full Squish Robinson’s first ride on his Specy

We started off a little later than planned but got into a good groove right away. We were 9 strong and only had one mechanical, truly amazing and it has got to be a record somewhere. The mechanical happened to be an easy fix too: a slow leaker on Full Squish Robinson’s front tire. Some air and we were done.

Whiting starts off with a gradual uphill ride on a trail called Borrego. Not hard climbing, mind you, but just enough uphill to get the blood flowing. Borrego goes for about a mile and half and was in good condition. It had a couple of sand pits but if you’re on a 29er you’ll get through fine.


Test bike, the Kona King Kahuna, made short work of sand pits and baby heads alike

Borrego ends at Mustard which is a short 0.8 miles to Four Corners on an approximately 9% grade. The fun part about Mustard is that it kicks up just a tick the last 15 yards or so. Lots of fun I tell ya.

From there, you can choose a variety of routes including hitting the Luge which adds a 4.5 mile climb before a short bun descent, the Dreaded Hill climb, or a couple of options going downwards. We, of course, pointed our tires downwards and took off on Cactus and a couple of other trails before arriving back at our car for a second lap.


Me, dropping into the Cactus singletrack after a stop at Four Corners.

Two had to bail before our second lap so after bidding adieu, 7 of us took off. The only mishap on the second lap was we lost one of our riders, AV Dan, when we split up at the bottom of Mustard. When we found him he was dying from exhaustion but gamely willing to finish the ride, for the birthday boy. What a trooper, AV Dan.

Overall a good ride. If you’re wondering how the trail conditions in Whiting are, no fear. There are only a couple of sandy areas. The rest of the trail is in good condition and a lot of fun as always.