At the 24 Hours of El Peublo, almost everybody goes out of their way to be different. Whether it’s a pair of comedy teeth, bunny ears attached a helmet, a silver one-piece or – if you’re a guy – a nice floral dress, standing out from the crowd is all part of the game. It’s like the Burning Man festival on bikes. But what nobody has twigged, is that if you truly want to turn heads at El Peublo, all you need to do is race on 26in wheels. Yep, 29ers are all over the place in Arizona. We’d conservatively estimate that 95% of the 1800 competitors were riding big wheels. And it’s not hard to see why on a race course that prioritised rolling momentum over sudden bursts of acceleration. So if Kona wanted to immerse us journalists in the world of the big wheeler, it couldn’t have chosen a better place.
We had several of Kona’s new 2012 29er line-up at our disposal for the duration of the launch, half of which was spent trail-riding on some of Arizona’s finest singletrack, and the remainder actually racing at the 24hrs of El Peublo. To begin with we grabbed a 100mm travel Hei Hei – the bike most of the Kona XC team chose to race on. If it’s good enough for the pros, it’ll do for us Joes, we summised. Once the racing was over we switched to the 130mm travel Satori for Monday’s all-mountain extravaganza. And boy did we get to know those two bikes; racking up over 100 miles on the Hei Hei and about 20 miles on the Satori.
We’ll leave the full story for the May issue, but until then you can feast your eyes on some of the stunning images of the 24 hrs of El Peublo, the riding around Tucson and, of course, the new Kona 29ers. All images are courtesy of the grand wizard that is Sterling Lorence.
The Hei Hei Supreme is billed as a race bike for the kind of multi-day stage race that will make pâté of your ass. With 100mm of travel front and rear, there’s enough to take the sting out of the tail for most racers while retaining the kind of responsiveness demanded by professional hammerheads. Stiffness is taken care of by a 142x12mm rear dropout configuration and a 15mm QR axle on the Float FIT RLC tapered steerer fork. The scandium frameset has good standover clearance and fairly lengthy chainstays to promote better climbing. Despite being aimed at racers, we reckon the Hei Hei Supreme would make a great UK trail bike, particularly with a slightly longer travel fork – say 120mm.
100mm of travel not enough? Then the Satori could be up your street. With an extra 30mm of travel and a much stockier build, the Satori is designed for big all-day epics on challenging terrain. It gets a 142x12mm rear end, a 20mm Maxle equipped Revelation RLT fork, 23mm internal width Easton Vice rims and fat Maxxis Ardent 2.4in tyres. On the fast, rock-infested trails in the mountains of Arizona, the Satori felt like a gobbler – flattening stuff that would have similar travel 26in bike bucking like a mule.
We lusted over the original Titanium Kona – the Hei Hei – back in the ’90s, and the new Raigin brings a contemporary twist to that former poster bike. Built by Lynsky, the Raigin brings 29in wheels to the kind of audience that was hitting the hills when we still had publicly owned railways.
The long-forked hardtail; the hardcore hardtail; the hooligan hardtail: call it what you will, but the concept of a sturdy, ride-it-all-day-and-toss-it-in-the-shed-until-next-Sunday bike is alive and kicking in the UK.With the Honzo, Kona aims to bring the monster truck capability of 29in wheels to the back-to-basics durability of the hardtail. Ultra short chainstays keep the handling playful, there’s a single ring and chain device to secure the drivetrain and a simple steel frame that should last a lifetime. Horizontal dropouts mean you can even run it single speed.