Visiting Kona Bicycles Headquarters in Washington, then driving up to Whistler, B.C. - a trip I will always look back on with great pleasure.
Every summer for years, I have been telling myself that this would be the summer I would make it to Whistler. After years of letting myself down, I was beginning to lose hope. So when our long time friend and Kona rep Kelly invited me to join him for three days in Whistler following the 2013 Kona product launch, I jumped at the chance. We flew in to Bellingham, Washington on Wednesday August 22nd. We arrived at around 4PM, and before sunset, we were racing around Bellingham on Kona Dr. Good bikes. The team up at Kona all are passionate and ripping riders who really know how to share a good time.
The Kona headquarters was super sweet. I loved seeing the old jerseys on the wall. It was also amazing to see the prototype and original bike frames on the wall. As I sat in the offices where Chris "Hippy" Mandell, Pat "Paddy" White, Doug "Dewey" LaFavour, Mark Matson, and Jack Russell design the bikes, I got chills thinking of the ideas that must have been formed in that room.
Here's a 1997 Kona Dawg prototype, and a vintage Kona hardtail.
Here's a 1997 prototype of a Horst Link Dawg. I think it is interesting that they decided that they still preferred their version of the 4 bar.
For the next two days of the Kona Product Launch event, we rode the local trails and had a blast. I got to ride the new Kona Process in Galbraith Mountain. The Process is going to be a special bike in the aggressive all-mountain Enduro type category. With a slack head angle, low bottom bracket, and super short chain stays, I was instantly at home on the Process. The Konas were all noticeably less flexy and squirmy feeling than the competition. I was super impressed with the new Kona Satori. The Satori was a hot long travel 29er for 2012, and for 2013 they upgraded the fork to a Fox 34, added a Kronolog dropper post, and gave it a sweet new dark matte grey paint job. All this, and the price barely changed. The 2013 Kona Honzo 29er got more stand over. There is a new low slack 5 inch travel trail bike called the Kitsune, which reminded me a lot of my much more expensive Santa Cruz Blur TRC. There were lots of cool design tweaks in the new Kona line for 2013, and the colors and graphics are the best I have seen from Kona in a while.
During my stay, I was reminded of many of the reasons that The Path Bike Shop has done so well with the Kona brand of bikes over the years. The bikes all feel very solid and balanced. I did not hear any pivots creaking or feel any play in the linkages. I know that this is indicative of the long term performance and reliability that you can expect from a Kona frame. Many of the bikes are designed for hardcore riding styles as apposed to being designed to suit as many riders as possible. Kona also makes many bikes like the Hei-Hei 29er and the Mahuna 29er, which meet more conventional riding needs.
We left Washington on Sunday with good feelings and headed up to Whistler, B.C. I wish I had taken more pictures. If you have not been to Whistler Mountain Bike Park, start planning a trip ASAP. You will thank me. There is something for everyone up there, and it is all built to promote safe progression. The forest and mountains are beyond beautiful.
By the time we left, we were all hitting jumps and features that would have seemed insane to us on our first day. My favorite run ended up being Freight Train, Dirt Merchant, A-Line.
There was a little fear that I would miss my old Specialized Demo 8, but I was instantly at home on my new Kona Supreme Operator. I was impressed to find that the suspension on the Operator felt smoother and more controlled with less chatter. At Whistler, the suspension felt really good on the high speed sections of A-Line as well as the big hits too. The "single pivot" suspension was outperforming many of the the fancy multi-link bikes I have ridden. This, along with sweet geometry and a quiet balanced ride left me totally sold on this bike. The Kona Operator is a keeper, and I hope to be seen on it at local races.
Now back at home, I just finished building up my new Kona Raijin. It weighs 22 pounds. Single-speeding is just as awesome as I remember. I think I am going to see more wildlife on my rides because this bike is so quiet.
The Kona team had so much enthusiasm, and they are so into the bicycle life style - when I got home, I was inspired to dust off my 2007 Kona Paddy Wagon and ride it in to work. It's the longest standing Kona in my collection.