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Kona Honzo AL: Shred-Ready For Under $2k

You know, you can get a heckuva bike these days for less than a 1998 Subura Legacy Outback. That's a pretty incredible value! 

We're taking a look at the 2017 Kona Honzo AL, the bike that opens up the Honzo line. With the addition of the carbon frames and high-end race specs, it would be easy to skimp on the aluminum options, but Kona always keeps every type of rider in mind. Nothing gets overlooked in the line-up, and certainly not the AL. At $1599, it's tough to beat the value and ride quality of this hot bike. 

That 'AL' is the 6061 aluminum frame you'll find on most of the range, with 29" wheels that rock for most Michigan trails. As Kona mentions, it's a more aggressive, trail-ready geometry than more traditional XC platforms, and the rubber is picked to match. The rig comes with a full 2.4" Maxxis Ardent up front and a 2.25" out back on WTB SX25 rims. 

Kona is totally dedicated to 1x drivetrains, and they sneak a SRAM NX1 setup on at a very competitive price point. Another nice spec is the RaceFace Ride crankset, which has a 32t ring on for now. That's a decent size for most riders, although some may opt to bump up to a 34t for flatter, faster races with less singletrack. (Iceman. We mean for Iceman.) 

There are two other things worth mentioning. The world, it seems, is drifting towards longer travel, and the 120mm RockShox Recon Silver certainly is heading in that direction. With the geometry of the frame (think short stays, long top tube, slacker headtube, and short stem) you're in a good position to make the most of that extra cushion, especially in singletrack. 

Of course, there's the dropper. Once you ride one, you'll get it. To see a KS mechanical dropper at this price point is awesome, and gives riders a chance to improve their descending and bike-handling. It's internally routed, keeps the lines clean, and looks incredible, too. 

We've got just a few of these left in the shop, so swing through and check out the Honzo AL and the rest of the Honzo line-up. 



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Plus Is More: 27.5+ For Under $1700

Dedicated 29+ and 27.5+ (or B+, if you're down) rigs are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. More tire means more aggressive cornering, better floatation in sand, more traction when you're out of the saddle and scampering up a climb, and smoother than more traditional 2.25" tire widths on narrower rims. There's been a big gravitation toward plus bikes, and a big part of that is the massive increase in rim and tires options. From in-house brands to components specialists, the options are almost endless on rims, rubber and even what you can do with the bike itself. 

But just as exciting as the options are what that plethora of choice has done to the price points. For a long while, even inexpensive plus wheelsets were at or above $1000. For 2017, the options for complete bikes is only a little bit more, and what you get is a whole lot of bike that will be a whole lot of fun. 

Kona went all in on plus, with options on the famed Honzo and Kahuna framesets to choose from. The Honzo is one of the most talked about, trail-shredding bikes around, and armed with that geometry, the guys at Kona went crazy. Perhaps leaning toward that trail pedigree, they developed a BOOST (148 rear hub) spaced rear end and the slack headtube that made the Honzo so fun, tossed on a 120mm travel fork, and dialed in the rest of the geometry to balance the new wheel size and the beloved ride qualities of the original Honzo. Because the actual diameter of B+ is so close to a 29er, the tweaks are really small, and the characteristic carry-over nicely. 

The 2.8" Schwalbe Nobby Nics seem to be the choice, and Kona does tend to err on the side of shred-ready rather than race ready. The Nics are an aggressive tread, a good option for singletrack lovers and riders that rely on a side knob to keep them out of the trees. For other, more weight conscious riders, something like Schwalbe's Rocket Ron in a Liteskin will save few grams, but still offer a predictable and grippy tread. 

The Big Honzo is a smart mix of SRAM's GX and NX component groups, so it's always going to be 1x11. The stock 30t might be a touch light for West Michigan, but it's a good chance to grab yourself a Wolf Tooth or Absolute Black oval ring in a 32t or 34t. And yes, it comes with a dropper post. Because they're awesome. 

2017 Kona Big Honzo...with a drappah! 

2017 Kona Big Honzo...with a drappah! 

Of course, that 120mm fork might be a bit much for you, and that's where the Kahuna comes roaring into play. The Big Kahuna is asimilar story; take a proven and tested geometry, just tweak it to account for the subtle difference in tires, and then toss that 100mm, race-ready fork on the front to take the worst of the trail off the ride. We've spent some time, and the added volume of a wide tire does help with some vibration reduction, although it's certainly no substitute for true suspension. A shorter travel fork like the 100mm, combined with that 2.8" tire at correct trail pressure (think 9-12psi for a 150 pound rider) and you've got a stable, fast rig that would punch you in the throat. 

The Big Kahuna does come with a 2x10 Deore drivetrain, and there are certainly some people that will drop it pretty quickly to a 1x10. We say go for it, and hey, maybe upgrade to a dropper seat post, because at $1399, it's ready to go off the floor, but what's the fun in that? 


One of the very cool things about how Kona went about their plus bikes is how they present and spec the bikes. They don't treat them as some exotic, strange, otherworldly new thing that's foreign. Essentially, the plus bikes in the Kona line-up are just different builds of proven bikes in the Honzo and Kahuna line-up, right there as options next to the Honzo AL/DL or Carbon Trail. They're another choice for another kind of rider, or another kind of ride. There's a lot of credibility in that, and we really dig it. 


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