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Kona WO Review 1: Initial impression - Dirt, Roots, Rocks and Leaves

Product Reviews - Bikeman's Product Testing

 

Great review from team rider Dave Barr! The Kona WO is my first ever fat bike so this article has a bit of product and a bit of first impression information. Like several other times in my history of riding mountain bikes, there is always the skeptical stage. Think of all the things that start out with general resistance. I remember back in ’91 thinking suspension forks weren’t worth the weight…then came tubeless, disc brakes…29ers and so-on. Still later came the single speed MTB craze (“why the heck would I want to ride with only one gear” I chided some friends in ’05). Then I proceeded to ride and race only SS for two years straight. Now we have fat biking and it really took off out here in the Boston area last winter. No skepticism this time…I gotta have one! There are so many people winter riding here that the area is becoming a mecca for fat biking. It is like a whole new winter sport.

 

 

The bike

I picked up my Kona WO directly from the Bikeman shop in Bath Maine. Most everything is stock except I did take Jesse’s advice and had him build it with a set of Race Face risers in place of the Kona sweeper bars and also immediately swapped the Vee Rubber front tire for a Surly Knard (probably the highest priority change according to Bikeman). For the fall season, I’ll use clipless pedals but will switch to flats when the snow flies. The build is actually quite nice. I find the shifting, brakes and drive train to be totally functional and the saddle is very comfortable in my opinion. Essentially, I will have to try real snow riding before I make any further changes.

 

 

The ride

I chose to make the maiden voyage on a trail I’ve ridden 100s of times before to really get a good comparison to a standard MTB. It is a local fast, twisty, rooty single track but at this time of year it is also full of fallen leaves. First impression of the Kona WO is STABILITY… STABILITY… STABILITY!! It is really amazing how these bikes just float through anything. I think it is a combination of the long wheel base, 70⁰ head tube angle and the 4” tires. It makes riding downhill fast through deep leaves a whole new experience. Running 10 PSI in the tires I felt like I was somewhere in-between a fully rigid 29er and my 3” travel full suspension rig. You have the “connected” feeling of the fully rigid, but just enough cushion from the big, fat, soft tires to take the edge off. The bike climbs surprisingly well due to the extra traction. While it’s not a fast climber, once again, because it is so super-stable; you can pretty much crawl up anything. And it is also really easy to stay balanced when going very slow or track standing. I was able to slowly conquer one of the nastiest, loose rocky power line hills in my local area. It’s one of those hills that (with most bikes) unless you’re perfect with every pedal stroke, you slip out and end up walking.

I’ll be back to give another review when the snow falls in a month or so. All I can say for now is that the Kona WO is super-stable and super-fun to ride. I may just put the other bikes away early this year.

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