On The Trail
Kona’s goal with the Kona Coilair was to make a mountain bike that could be ridden in all conditions. That said…there is not a mid 30’s weight bike in the world that is going to climb like a 4″ xc rig, so this bike is really made for downhillers that need a little help getting their bike to the top of a hill. In the southeast United States, we have very limited assisted options, so something like the Kona Coilair could be a great option. Theoretically, the Kona Coilair changes travel, bottom bracket height and travel depending upon braking forces and chain tension. As the bike encounters downhill like symptoms, it changes all of these automatically through the Magic Link suspension.
Descending the Kona Coilair
Pushing a bike to its limit is what Kona has been known for doing best. Their bikes have been used as rentals in parks for years due to their competitive price, stiff platform and ability to deliver stiff, plush suspension that is a blast to ride. Unfortunately, the Kona Coilair leaves a lot to be desired in the DH realm. The suspension setup changes to 7.4 inches as advertised, but this change is done on a platform that can best be described as “not Kona stiff”. You can feel the rear wheel wandering through off camber rock gardens and in smooth berms…the rear triangle walks. When you are riding a 7.4″ travel mountain bike down your favorite section of trail, you expect that longer travel platform to stay put and with the Kona Coilair…that confidence is just not there.
The rear suspension was plush for an air sprung setup and you could carry a lot of speed through straight on rock gardens. It was when you put hard longitudinal loads against the rear triangle when the Coilair started to show signs of weakness.
Drops to flat and drops with transition were taken easily if you were on a straight exit. The Kona Coilair took the hits and performed without any noticeable harsh bottom outs or unpredictable behavior. When I took larger drops…I had the confidence that the bike was going to be there for the landing. During face styled dirt jumps, the bike had a hard time with the pressure applied on the jump before take off. It almost seemed like the bike wasn’t sure which setting to be in and sometime would change midway up the face. I am suspecting that this has to do with the XC nature of smooth DJ lead ins coupled with the ram-the-face force of the takeoff. A similar effect was felt at the apex of smooth slalom styled berms as the suspension would squat into the secondary travel setting under pressure. I also think this is what gave the bike the “walking” feeling during smooth transitions.
Up front, the Fox RC2 with the tapered steerer tube tracked beautifully, connected to the boxed tube front triangle. For riders looking to really take advantage of the 7.5″ of rear travel, you might want to look into a Totem solo air for increased DH ability as the Fox 36 can have its limitations under more extreme conditions. If Kona could just get this same stiff construction and transfer it to the rear end of the bike, they would have a completely different descender.
Climbing the Kona Coilair
Surprisingly, the Kona Coilair climbed almost as advertised. With very little pedal induced feedback, the bike seemed to just motor up the hill. It climbed a little bit slower than most 6″ travel all mountain bikes but considerably faster than any of the 7.5″ + rigs I have ridden up to this point. You are not going to win any king of the mountain contests, but the Kona Coilair will get you to the top of the hill with enough energy left to tackle the descent. The rear end provided plenty of grip for technical climbs when seated, but when you got out of the saddle…those harder forces made the suspension want to compress and in a big way. The Coilair really is a sit and spin rig to get to the top. For those that want to really increase the climbing efficiency, you can lock out the RP23 rear shock and drop the travel on the Talas. I wouldn’t go much below 120mm on the front as the 100m travel setting can give you the feeling of plowing the trail in front of you.