Affectionately called “The smallest biggest bike company in the world” by folks who know a thing or two about bikes, the Kona brand has a cult following.
This mountain bike company is owned by its riders who are said to possess both fiscal patience and an insensitivity to risk. Now that’s a resume every serious cyclist can understand.
Bellingham, Washington born and bred, Kona is a dog-friendly business that hires only “talented bike freaks who aren’t just in it for a discount.” Their calling card?
Fingernail grease born of late nights and cheap whiskey. Founders Jake Heilbron and Dan Gerhard launched Kona in 1988 and they’ve never looked back.
Business as usual? Hardly. Staffers turn out unique products with the quirkiest names and features on the planet: Hei Hei, Stinky, Jake the Snake, Nanu Nanu and Humuhumu-Nukunuku-Apu’A. Staffers are required to satisfy the brand’s hunger for playfulness, yet when it comes to engineering, the proof is in the product.
Need a short explanation that tells you why this company is so unique? According to folks in the know, “They didn’t just try on being silly for a few years and discard it–they were the original mountain bike company that had more fun than everyone else.”
Yet the mission of everyone at Kona remains delivering product that can’t be emulated because each bike is so unique. So far, mission accomplished.
KONA ROVE NRB DL BIKE 2019 – Best Kona Entry Level Road Bike
- Ultra-reliable shifting
- Confidence-inspiring stopping power
- Fewer flats and smoother riding
- 11-speed cassette for a “hill-crushing 11-34-tooth gear range”
- Rack and fender mounts secure attachments.
- You may dislike the signature color mix
- Components are subject to change without notice
- You’ll spend time searching for the most affordable price.
Treat yourself to a $2300 ($1495 on sale) Rove NRB DL that comes in seafoam and cream. What—you were expecting black? This is Kona. Home of the Stinky, Dude. Ideal for gravel, touring and commuting, this bike’s 6061 aluminum frame features geometry that allows for more tire clearance and custom dropouts play nicely with fenders. The Rove’s frame is crafted with eyelets that welcome a rear rack for your commute.
If you get off on specs, keep reading: the Rove comes with a Shimano Ultegra/105 2×11-speed drivetrain, has Shimano 105 shifters, 105 front derailleur, and Ultegra rear derailleur. The Shimano 105 cassette has an 11-34-tooth gear range that conquers rough terrain and Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes stop on a dime so your descent from steep climbs is effortless. WTB Asym i23 tubeless rims paired with WTB Horizon Road Plus tubeless tires deliver a smoother ride, better traction, and fewer flats.
KONA OPERATOR CR BIKE 2019 – Best Kona Downhill Bike
- Shift your heart out courtesy of SRAM GX drivetrain
- SRAM Code brakes are thrillingly responsive
- Front and rear Maxxis DHF tires won’t disappoint
- The aluminum chainstay throws rocks back to where they came from
- Endorsed by Connor Fearon and Miranda Miller.
- Limited range of sizes
- Despite Carbon construction, this is one heavy mother
- The colors could turn you off.
It’s called a “race machine” for good reason. This Operator CR was born to compete, yet athletes eager for fun find this ride to be sublime. Whether you sprint or glide, this highly adjustable ride comes with a price tag that could give you a momentary pulse spike at $3900, but since the original MRP was $6K, you can’t complain. As the flagship downhill bike in the Kona library, the Operator comes with 29-inch wheels but if, for some bizarre reason, this size doesn’t do it for you, switch them out for 27.5-inch wheels, flip the geometry chip and hit the road.
Love to tinker with the chain to suit your desired pace? The length can go from 425- to 440mm so shorten or lengthen it to hype your control and stability. Rely upon the headset than can be adjusted by 10mm to increase or decrease this clever bike’s reach. The Operator CR has plenty of things to brag about, including a Boxxer World Cup fork, Super Deluxe Rear Shox and killer Rock Shox suspension. But knowing that this ride is going to be around for years to come thanks to the Kona DH Carbon frame may be reward enough.
KONA HEI HEI TRAIL CR/DL BIKE 2018 – Best Kona XC Bike
- Smooth, accurate pedal turning and shifts
- At 27.5, the wheels do justice to the rugged terrain
- Nimble and responsive through tight switchbacks
- SRAM’s Guide R brakes won’t disappoint
- An ideal choice for both endurance racers and weekend warriors.
- Lack of reviews could be worrisome
- May be priced out of your comfort zone.
We send a shout-out to the folks at JensonUSA for calling the Kona Hei Hei CR/DL “an XC bike on steroids.” But riding this lean machine will give you way too much pleasure to deliver ‘roid rage. Strong yet lightweight, the Hei Hei doesn’t send critics into overdrive on the weight issue when compared to the aforementioned Operator. This model is light, offers a suspension platform with Rock Shox Deluxe rear shocks and the 140mm Rock Shox Pike upfront is rumored to laugh at rock gardens while crushing them. Who are we to question that?
If tire clearance is perpetually at the forefront of your brain, the boost rear end offering additional clearance for tires could compete with the love of your life for your affections. You get more precision, no unwanted flexing and the Descendant crankset paired with a GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain could make your purchasing decision for you. Originally priced at $6K, you won’t have to search hard to find this model selling for around $3K, so what do you have to lose if a Kona bike has been on your “must have” list for so long, it’s embarrassing?
KONA TI EXPLOSIF GX EAGLE JENSON USA EXCLUSIVE BUILD – Best Kona Hardtail Mountain Bike
- You always wanted a titanium bike, right?
- Relatively affordable given the brand
- Stop like a lightning bolt thanks to Shimano XT M8000 hydraulic disc brakes
- Brag about a hill-crushing 10-50-tooth gear range
- Shifting is effortless thanks to an SRAM NX/GX drivetrain.
- Called a pricey beginners bike
- Not made at Kona facility
- Could be hard to find.
We warned you that Kona tends to pick weird model names, but you needn’t worry that EXPLOSIF is a dangerous ride. The name refers to heightened action and excitement rather than destruction—unless you count terrain that’s savaged when this seamless titanium dynamo lays waste to surfaces. Sublimely lightweight, this silver and black 27.5-inch Eagle Jenson Exclusive Build comes with an impressive pedigree, but the $2790 price tag belies its heritage. Quick and lively, this bicycle has a modular dropout system, short chain stays and the seat contributes to stability and power transfer.
Are you hung up on stats? The EXPLOSIF has them in spades. This Exclusive Build features a SRAM GX/NX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM NX Eagle shifter and GX Eagle rear derailleur. Confidence-inspiring Shimano XT hydraulic disc brakes must be experienced to be believed and the SRAM XG-1275 cassette has a hill-crushing 10-50-tooth gear range that defies steep hills. May we add that Spank Oozy 350 wheels are paired with Vittoria Morsa 27.5 x 2.3″ tires for excellent traction? Okay. We just did.
Kona Sutra – Best Kona Long-Distance Tour Bike
- Kona Cromoly butted frame
- Shimano Deore Crankset and 10spd drivetrain
- Front and rear Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 700x40c tires
- Kona Deluxe Thumb seat post w/offset /Brooks B17 Leather saddle
- Comes with fenders mud flaps and pannier rack.
- Could be less nimble if weighted down
- Derailleur hangers could break
- Versatile, but not for racing.
The wordplay is enticing—whether or not you’ve read the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian Sanskrit text on sexuality and eroticism. Buy this bike for around $1500 and you may find it to be just as thrilling. This attractive, cream-colored machine could make you feel sexy just piloting it around. Because it is versatile, consider it your magic carpet when you decide it’s time to take the bike tour you’ve talked about forever
The Kona Sutra even offers you a stylish Brooks saddle so you stay perched upon the Kona Cromoly steel frame looking regal thanks to the cork bar tape. But it’s the operation that will impress the most: From BarCon shifters to fenders and rack, a Shimano Deore 3×10 drivetrain that delivers the maximum gearing and the smooth-rolling WTB STi23 36h WTB bicycle rims, you’re going to have a love affair with the pavement. A copy of the Kama Sutra isn’t included, but will a limited lifetime warranty do?
Kona Sutra is probably one of the best bikes for long-distance bike trips.
Kona Ute – Best Kona Ultra-Cargo Bike
- The quintessential carry-all utility bike
- Cockpit is loaded: Kona Handplant bar, Kona Road stem and Velo Ergo Grip
- Features an internal headset
- Lifetime limited warranty on frame
- Choose from sizes S, M, L, XL.
- Weight of cargo could impact your ride
- No lower platforms; won’t ﬁt most panniers
- No mudguards so cargo is on its own.
If are fortunate enough to make your living as a delivery professional, this Kona Ute is your ticket to higher revenues. It’s won so many Bike-of-the-Year awards, there’s not enough room to list them here. But when it comes to balancing agility with burden-bearing, even camels could lose the competition. This utility bike comes in utility black, which says a lot about this no-nonsense ride with a price tag of around $1500.
The Kona 7005 Aluminum Butted frame material is solid and sturdy, Ute’s Tektro HDM285 brakes deliver a fast halt no matter how much stuff you’re transporting, and the Shimano Acera/Deore Shadow 9spd drivetrain is up to the job. Sit atop a Velo plush saddle and your butt won’t complain as you ride atop WTB Trekking Comp 700x40c tires and WTB Freedom CruzDisc wheels. Factor in the FSA Alpha Drive crankset and Kona Project Two Aluminum disc and whether you’re dropping off groceries or kids, you’ll maximize time like a pro.