Components: Shimano Deore XT, Race Face Evolve XC X-type, Hayes hydraulic HFX-9 XC carbon
Frame & Fork: Kona Clump Scandium Race, four inches of travel/Fox FRL 100mm
Geometry: 68.5Â°/72Â° (head/seat)
Sizes: 14″, 16″, 18″ (tested), 19″, 20″, 21″
When the 2005 King Kikapu first showed up at our door, I was a little nervous as to what was going to come out of the box. You see, the problem was that I had spent so many hours butt stuck to the saddle of a 2004 King Kikapu that I was hard pressed to believe anything better could come out of that box. When Kona told me it had ramped the suspension up to a whopping four inches of travel (whopping in cross-country circles, believe me!), I became even more suspicious and had to double-check Kona’s catalogue to ensure the Kikapu hadn’t secretly been moved into Kona’s FreeRide line. It hadn’t. It was still all cross-country, so I decided to treat it that way.
Nothing like jumping into the deep end. For my test run, I entered the first B.C. cross-country marathon event of the season, an event the King was born for, right? Forty-eight kilometres of cross-country cranking with tons of climbing, lots of singletrack, some high-speed fire roads, brutal walls, and rollercoaster downhills provided every testing aspect for the King, and with more than 200 competitors gunning for the podium “” motivation to push this bike hard was not hard to muster up.
The King surprised in so many ways. It’s just hard to believe that a dualie with four inches of travel can climb as well as this bike does. Part of the answer lies in the stiffness of the frame, especially the rear end. The 2005 rocker arm is shorter than the 2004, which tightens up the rear end. Combine with this the asymmetric chainstays, a stiff but light Scandium frame, and the well-tuned efficiency of the Fox Float RL shock with ProPedal and you have the answer as to why the King is such a killer climber. Also, the four inches of travel are easily locked out on the Fox Float RLT fork and the ProPedal all but eliminates back-end bob.
Once I hit the singletrack and the descents, I understood why Kona had gone to four inches of travel. The hell with picking a line; the King just blasted through the rough stuff without hesitation. It felt like I had exchanged bikes at the top of the hill, and I almost felt bad blasting by guys on their 2.5″ travel frames “” almost, but not really. The big hits encountered on the descents were easily handled by the Fox RL fork and the beefy boxed front end of the King. Even though the frame feels like a freeride rig on the descents, and for that matter pretty much looks like one, it becomes pretty obvious on the fly that the relatively long top tube, long stem, and overall geometry are all about racing.
Now I’m sure some would argue that this bike could be lighter (actually any bike could be lighter), but Kona is far from being obsessed with weight. What Kona does obsess over is providing a ride that will do just that”” , ride! And continue to do so for many years. The parts list is well thought out in that regard, with durability being a key factor: the Fox suspension systems are known for their ease of adjustment, serviceability, and durability; the Race Face Evolve cranks with X-type outboard bottom brackets are considered to be superior to ISIS bb’s when it comes to durability; Shimano’s XT derailleurs have an undeniable track record; the Hayes HFX-9 hydraulic disc brakes are a gold standard in the industry; and the Shimano FH-M525 disc hubs, with easily adjustable cups and cones, would give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money when it comes to “Keeps going and going.”
All in all, it’s a parts list that definitely complements Kona’s philosophy of providing a solid, non-disposable bike design at a reliable weight. And since the two top finishers at our marathon race test site just happened to be Kona riders Roland Green and Kris Sneddon, Kona must be doing something right!