Kona Beer

This is the bicycle formerly known as Bear Dee-Lux. Since Kona owners like beer, and someone else already makes a bike named Bear, the name has been changed to protect the innocent.

By Maurice Tierney

This is the bicycle formerly known as Bear Dee-Lux. Since Kona owners like beer, and someone else already makes a bike named Bear, the name has been changed to protect the innocent. –Ed.

The box: 19 inch frame size. Was hoping for something a bit larger, but we’ll see. Out of the box: Oh, this is pretty. The frame is polished aluminum up front, and gunmetal gray powdercoat toward the back. Race Face cranks, mostly XT drivetrain, topped off with matching gray Fox Float shocks front and rear. Everything is done in neutral colors, except for the custom Hayes hydraulic calipers, which provide small orange accents. This is one good-looking bike, as many comments heard in the next few weeks will attest to. The Beer tips the scale at 29.5 lbs. This fits with the somewhere-in-between-XC-and-freeride philosophy that led to this design.

Ride #1: I get on and discover the fit is going to be OK. Since Kona bikes are designed with shorter top tubes (For the steep terrain found on the North Shore of British Columbia.), I’m thinking 23" is going to be a tad short for the way I normally ride. But I’ll try it out like this before I make any changes. On to some muddy motorcycle trails to test the mud clearing capabilities of the bike. The Hayes disc brakes are key in these kind of conditions. A nice, low granny gear helps, too.

Ride #2: Joel has put some more air in the shocks, replaced the Race Face Prodigy stem with a bit longer Salsa stem, and come back with some positive comments, like "A bushwhack pro" and "true enduro capabilities."

Ride #3: Lee’s pinball ride. We’re going to play four pinball machines at Lee’s and two at Dirt Rag. More mud, more fun. The Beer has four inches of travel front and rear. I’m thinking about those Fox Float air shocks. I’ve always been a steel spring kind of guy, but I appreciate the light weight afforded by the air shocks. Handling is neutral, I’m comfortable and life is good.

Ride #4: A road commute. I’ve always dissed lockout systems on suspension bikes. Until today. With the flip of two knobs, I’ve locked out both front and rear suspension, and I must say this feels real good on the road section of the commute.

Ride #5: An off-road commute. I’m amazed how un-sluggish the Beer feels in all this mud. Should really haul ass when it gets dry. Downhill technical sections are handled with confidence.

Ride #6: Frick Park. Frozen. The four inches front and rear is a good balance between downhill fun and uphill work. Holy smokes! This thing has a seatpost quick release! I haven’t seen one of those since 1980-something. Nice touch. Also of note is the fact that there are no cantilever studs. Disc brake only, it’s the way to be. Commitment, not confusion.

Ride #7: Deer Lakes. Something made me think it was going to be dry today, but I was wrong. I’m going home.

Ride #8: Vein Popper #23 (VP23) is the name of the trail. Joel can tell you why. Things are drying up nicely. The Beer’s been sitting around a couple of weeks while I’ve been traveling. I get on and I’m reminded how solid this bike feels. Clydesdales take note. We go out into the park to hop some log piles, and I’m feeling pretty good ’cause I’ve been riding a lot. The Beer’s handling everything I throw at it. I’m thinking about the four bar link suspension design. It’s very rigid, and I’m getting no hint of pedal induced movement of the suspension.

Ride #8: Next day, same trails. I should probably note that the Shimano drivetrain, Fox shocks, and Hayes disc brakes are working flawlessly. While some might say nine speed drivetrains are problematical, I’m having, again, no worries.

I’m also thinking about geometry. What a difference a degree of head angle makes. These days, 71? is generally considered to be a standard head angle. The Beer runs a 70? head angle. It’s more stable at speed, never twitchy, and still allows for decent slow speed handling.

Ride #9: Commute home on trails.

Ride #10: To the Pub to rock and roll all night. Put some smooth tires on and you’ve got a perfectly good road bike. Not. Really though, I’m liking this lockout thing, it makes for decent road riding. This is good, ’cause all good epic rides should have a little road in them.

Ride #11: Laurel Mountain. Couple inches of snow on the ground, even though it’s April. Sheesh. Good slow speed handling through wet stuff.

Ride #12, 13: More fun to report. The Tioga Extreme XC tires work really well for having such short knobs.

Ride #14: Hartwood. Never made that log pile before. Must be a good day. I’m going extra hard today. I take a hard landing off the big rock and notice a little flex in the rear wheel. At 225, I’m a tad heavy, so a heavier rim (than the Mavic X317 Disc) might be in order for me. But then again, that would compromise the great XC capabilities of the bike. Give and take. That’s what it’s all about.

A couple of small issues are popping up. I’ll need to check the derailleur hanger alignment, cause I’ve over-shifted into the spokes twice today. Must have taken a hit on a rock somewhere along the VP23. I also need to see why the front brake lever is coming so close to the bar. Oh, and the rear disc rubs a bit. I think the disc rotor was slightly warped when it came out of the box. I also need to grease the seatpost and solve that creaking problem. Should have greased it to begin with, but I was in a hurry.

Ride #15: Michaux race. Sport class. 20 miles. This ought to provide a little more "epicness" to the test. The lockout works nice again for the pack-separating road uphill. From there, it’s nothing but rocks. Lots of rocks. I was pretty slow on the road and now I’ve got to bull my way through the minions of sport and even beginner riders that passed me earlier on the uphill. Apologies abound as I nearly take out numerous people walking on the race course. I wish people would learn to get off the track when they can’t ride a technical section, but that’s another story.

I’m working hard and I’m loving it. Riding along wondering why more people don’t just trade in their hardtails. Ooops, a guy just passed me on a singlespeed; no, make that a rigid singlespeed. Hey, buddy, I hate you! The downhills are a great place to make up time on these hammerheads. I’m raging fast and thinking that maybe I won’t do so badly after all. 43rd out of 59 vets. Fewer beers next time.

Monday: Hayes front brake was leaking because the hydraulic line was rubbing the front wheel. Sent back to Hayes. Use more zip ties next time.

Ride #16: We’re going to do a long city/trail ride today, just to see if the bike feels any more beat from the racing. We hit four city parks and a bunch of street for, I’m guessing, a 50-mile day. Again, digging the lockout, except for the times I forgot to turn it off going into the woods. The bike’s due back at the factory, so I’ll have to bid it adieu. I hate to see it go.

Random Notes: The grade of Kona Clump Light 7005 butted aluminum tubing sits midway between the heavier tubing used on the Stinky "Out of Bounds" bikes and the lighter XC bikes. While the XC frames have lighter, round tubing, the Beers’ tubes form into a square shape like the Stinkys’ as they join the head tube.

While some frames of this ilk have adjustable travel, the Beer does not. The idea is that changes in geometry will have an ill effect on the ride. Kona philosophy says so.

After initial setting, the Beer Dee-Lux went the whole test without adding any air to the Fox Float front shock. I did add air to the rear, once.

Price: $2799. A less Deluxe Beer is available for $1799.

Contact: Kona USA, 2455 Salashan, Ferndale, WA 98248; 800.566.2872; www.konaworld.com