The Kona Lava Dome is uninspiring, even at this price level
The Lava Dome is Kona’s entry-level 29er trail bike and visually it’s a departure from other bikes at this price point. Most obviously, Kona has stuck with round aluminium tubes for the frame, rather than forking out on fancy fluid-formed profiles.
Still, as every armchair bike designer knows, round tubes offer the best strength to weight ratio. We had high hopes…
Certainly the Kona Lava Dome feels well planted. It can take on slow-speed technical sections pretty confidently and at higher speeds those 29 inch wheels fared well, never coming unstuck on roots and rocks.
However, the idea that round tubes can equal a quicker, stiffer, lighter bike doesn’t prove true here. Weighing in at 14.9kg the Kona Lava Dome is hefty by anyone’s standards – certainly much heavier than a Trek Marlin 7 or a Specialized Pitch Sport – and while we were expecting the strong frame to offer a real shot in the arm with its power delivery, the Lava Dome actually felt a touch turgid.
Getting it up to speed in almost all situations was is a bit of a chore. It wasn’t that the rear lacked grip, it just didn’t respond dynamically to rider effort.
The SRAM drivetrain is a decent set-up, offering accurate shifting. And while the WTB rims and Joytech hubs are nothing out of the ordinary at this price point, the relatively wide 2.2in Vittoria Saguaro tyres provided plenty of traction in all conditions.
So the Kona Lava Dome is a bit of a mixed bag. Expectations were high with the frame, the drivetrain was good, and there are a few nice touches, but the overall ride experience is forgettable due to the weight of the bike.