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Kona King Kahuna Frame Review

Product Reviews - Bikeman's Product Testing

Unfortunately, I had to “give up the ghost” on my 2011 Salsa Marmasita.  I heard some creaking from the rear end and discovered that the rear chain stay was cracked at the drain hole.  I was disappointed mainly that I was just starting to roll on new season  and I had no bike.  A quick call to Big Al and we decided to order up a leftover Kona King Kahuna all carbon hard tail.  I would have liked to see something SS compatible but, I was having good luck running the Surly chain tensioner on the Salsa.   Eccentric BB’s don’t work for me.  They are too hard to adjust and usually develop some type of problem.  The chain tensioner is a simple solution and I do often gear the bike.  Salsa did make good on the Marmasita about a month later and now I have an extra frame.



The build went smooth switching components from the 20” Salsa to the 20” Kona (I’m just under 6’2”).  My goal for a mtn. bike is to keep it as light as possible to take an advantage on climbing and flat open terrain.  I slow down on technical sections or get off and run it cyclocross style.   I kept with the carbon Carver tapered fork which I like it a lot.  Stiff yet compliant for a really good price.  Much more comfortable than a White Bros. Rock Solid.  The Kona requires a 132x12 mm rear axle so, my standard quick release wheel wouldn’t work.  I ordered a Bikeman Handspun Stan’s Arch EX wheel laced to a X9 hub and mounted a pair of Team Issue Panaracer Rampage tires tubeless and I was good to go.



So, what’s the difference with all variables being the same other than the frame?  Big difference in comfort and handling.  The cockpit is much higher up on the Kona.  The bars are in a more upright position that I was trying to achieve using stem spacers on the Salsa.  The geometry is way tighter on the Kona making it much more flickable.   The Kona turns much quicker and I’m able to “drive” the bike into corners harder.  I’m also better able to keep “off” the brakes in technical descents more, keeping speed up with less effort.   The frame is as stiff as the aluminum Salsa but, the steeper geometry allows it to climb like a goat.  I feel like I’m over the bike more with out being too forward.  I can move back over the rear wheel quickly coming over steep drop offs.  The Kona is definitely more race geometry and the Salsa is more relaxed.  This makes sense because the Salsa is marketed to the Adventure Crowd and the Kona King Kahuna is a race day bike.  I did a 100k club race on the Kona in the rain for 7 hours and I had no comfort issues at all on the fully rigid SS Kona.  Awesome “do it all” bike.



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