Norco Vixa and Kona Minxy, ’09 Women FR Bikes

26er Pro Reviews

Descending/Handling –

The fun stuff, of course, begins here, at the top of the mountain. Here is where the bikes differ the most. I wasn’t expecting them to be so dissimilar. On paper they seem very much alike aside from the top tube length. The Minxy has a slightly longer wheel base as well, 44.6″ vs. 43.9″, which no doubt adds to the behavioral differences between the two. Chain stay length is also different from bike to bike. The Kona, independent of frame size, is 17.4″. The Norco’s chain stay length is 17.1″. The almost 0.3″ difference between the two will have a huge effect on the way the bikes corner. A shorter stay will give a quicker snappier feel to the bike and vice versa for a longer stay. A longer stay will help the bike feel more stable. Such is the case with these two bikes. If you want a bike for high speed runs over rough stuff in not so twisty conditions where overall stability is a priority, the Minxy could be the bike for you. It handled itself well at the local dual slalom course and jump park too. It’s ultra stable off jumps, well balanced through corners and totally solid at 25mph over rock gardens. Really solid with no rear triangle flex. It corners well through berms and is more than happy to carry you safely over steep rock staircases. Its slightly larger frame and slacker head tube angle, 66° vs 66.9°, keeps your weight further back on descents so you can pretty much point the bike downhill and let it rip with confidence. The one drawback is that it’s more work to push through tight corners. It feels heavier while riding than the Vixa, though they’re only within a few pounds of each other.

The Vixa, on the other hand, feels like an appendage you’ve had since birth. Compared to the Minxy it’s virtually effortless to whip through corners. It feels stiff, light, springy, and extremely quick. It’s easy to throw over through tight corners and effortless to return to vertical. Its shorter wheelbase means it gets bounced around on the rough stuff more than the Minxy, but it’s so easy to control it requires minimal extra energy to do so. The short top tube and slightly steeper head tube angle keep your weight well centered over the bike so it’s not an exercise to get your weight over the front. It’s a virtually unnoticeable motion to get your weight over the bars for a quick turn then to center for negotiating a rock garden to back for a nice drop. The size and quickness of the bike resulted in a level of confidence I haven’t experienced before. And I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes. It’s fast, fluid, endlessly fun and nimble.

The Vixa’s one major drawback is the interrupted seat tube. It intersects the shock stanchion. Now this is fine if raising your saddle to pedal up the hill you’re about to descend isn’t in the plan. However, if you’d like to ride both up and down, the solution is to carry a second seatpost. With a hydration pack it’s no big deal. I carried one around with me several times. It just becomes a bit of a time waster at the top of the mountain. Gravity Droppers are too long and don’t have the necessary travel to make up for the short seat tube on the Vixa – I thought about trying it, but I needed about 8″ of seat post to pedal correctly. Descending with the seat high, even 4″ too high, wasn’t all that much fun because you know how much control you’re missing out on. The bike rewards proper body position with ear to ear smiles so I’d strongly recommend the second seat post (and saddle if you have one) if you hope to use this bike for anything other than a shuttle/lift assisted descent machine.

Conclusions –

After 2 months of jumps, drops twists and turns, I can safely say that the bikes are very different animals. The Minxy, at my size, seems to be more of what I’d imagine a smaller downhill rig to be. This isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s good actually. It’s a great bike and ready for anything you can throw at it, just know in advance that if you’re my size or smaller, it will be a bit more work to ride. It requires some muscle to throw around, but it never feels too small, out of control or under suspended. If I was going to pick a bike for an all day ride going both up and down, I’d choose the Minxy, possibly a small. I’d at least want to try a small before I bought anything. The Vixa, on the other hand, definitely fit me better. It felt lighter on its feet, a bit bouncier on fast rough stuff and easy to toss around but less of a pedaler than the Minxy.   If I was going to do a shuttle run, or a quick up & down then I’d choose the small Vixa. They’re certainly different, they’re equally legit, and I really, really, really don’t want to give them back.

P.S.
The orange reflectors on the Norco had to stay. They’re just way too gratifying as you pass people.

Specs: Norco Vixa

-----------------
SPECS

Frame sizes
Frame tubing
Rear Shock
Fork
Headset
Crankarms
B/B
Pedals
Chain
Cassette
F/D
R/D
Shifters
Handlebar
Stem
Grips
Brakes
Brake Levers
Front hub
Rear hub
Spokes
Tires
Rims
Saddle
Seatpost
Color

XS, S, M
Hydraform low standover, ladies design freeride frame, travel 152mm
Fox DHX Air 3.0
Marzocchi 55-ATA 150mm w/20mm Dropouts
FSA Orbit #1
Truvativ double with guard
Truvativ howitzer
MTB flat pedal
KMC Z-9 9sp
Sram PG-950 11-32 T
Shimano Deore
Sram X-7 9sp
Sram X-5 trigger
Truvativ Hussefelt
Truvativ Hussefelt
Lock on
Avid Juicy 3, 7” rotor
Avid Juicy
KT 20 mm sealed bearing
KT 135 x12 mm with Maxle
Stainless steel 2.0
Maxxis Minion 26×2.35
Sun MTX 27 mm white
WTB speed she
Truvativ XR double bolt
Medical Green

Specs: Kona Minxy

-----------------
SPECS

Frame sizes
Frame tubing
Rear Shock
Fork
Headset
Crankarms
Chainrings
B/B
Pedals
Chain
Freewheel
F/D
R/D
Shifters
Handlebar
Stem
Grips
Brakes
Brake Levers
Front hub
Rear hub
Spokes
Tires
Rims
Saddle
Seatpost
Seat clamp
Color

S(15″), M(16″), L(17″)
Kona Clump DH 7005 Aluminum, 6″ Travel
Fox DHX Air 3.0
Marzocchi 55-ATA 150mm w/20mm Dropouts
FSA Orbit Z 1.5 R
FSA Moto-X
Guard/36/24
FSA Moto Integrated
Kona Jackshit
Shimano Deore
Shimano Deore (11-34, 9spd)
Shimano Deore
Shimano Deore
Shimano Deore
Kona OB Riser
Kona OB
Kona Lisa
Hayes Hydraulic Stroker Ryde V8
Hayes Hydraulic Stroker Ryde
Formula DH
Shimano M475 Disc
Sandvik Stainless 14g
Maxxis Minion 26×2.35
Alex DM-24
WTB Speed She Comp
Kona OB
Kona QR
Gloss Black

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  • Tony W says:

    Is she related to a Nascar driver?

  • Miquel Sanchez says:

    Another fine example of the wasteless critueqing in the bike industry. No disrespect to the author, but how does a comparison review by one rider of two bikes amount to anything helpful for the average consumer?

    Reading between the lines, there are too may problems with both bikes beyond their UGLY looks. The Norco doesn’t climb or sprint and the geniuses that order the bikes there (there are no inhouse engineers at Norco) haven’t been able to find one with a design where the seatpost doesn’t slam into the rear shock. So you need to carry two seat posts! No problem says the author! No, thats a big problem, because it shows it’s a stupid design. Let’s see, it doesn’t climb or sprint and I need two posts. Yup, I am all over that companies bike.

    The Kona is yet another version of their tired suspension design repackaged into a “womens design”. It’s apparently stable, if you get it going fast enough but doesn’t steer well at slower sppeds and is a pain to push around and suffers from unwanted suspension lock-out. On top of that, it is heavy! So, if you just do fast descents (huh?) this may be the bike for you.

    Useless! Comparing one slow fat pig against another one, doesn’t help me. There are lots of good bike designs out there from companies that actually design and manufacture their own bikes and that invest in real engineering. Shootoots between only two bikes are useless, unless of course, you live in a town that only has one bike shop selling only those two bikes with no access to courier or mail service.

  • adam says:

    Hey Miquel Sanchez,

    I think you might have missed the title a bit Miguel. The reason these two bikes are in a shootout is because the are FEMALE freeride bikes for ‘09. Both from two big companies that are going to attract a lot of attention from women riders who are looking into women specific freeride bikes. That is a perfectly legit reason to compare them.

    Reading between the lines is fine. Remember, every bike has its good and bad, along with ever suspension design. There is yet to be a perfect bike for all conditions.

  • Tracy Barrell says:

    Hey,
    I have a good solution that will work very well for your seat post issues for the Norco Vixa, Titec makes a telescoping seat post that works perfectly for this application. Though it is a bit heavier it is a small sacrifice to have full leg extension for rides up but still be able to slam it if needed for the decent. I am happy with the Vixa, I live in Pacifica and there is a climb to get to the decent, this bike works perfect for this type of riding. Of corse there are always little things I would change about the stock parts and all that but I am willing to make a few mods to make the bike better like: chain guide, better pedals, grips, and possibly brakes. Thanks Norco! Ride on!
    Tracy Barrell Pacifica Ca

  • Tiffany says:

    Tracy,

    That’s a great suggestion for solving the seatpost situation on the Vixa. Glad to hear it’s working for you.

    Tiffany

  • Ezra L. says:

    I’m glad to see that some one put some perspective to Miguel’s comment. As Tracy pointed out, the awesome underlying point to this whole “shootout” is that there are actually woman’s specific freeride bikes being produced by major bike manufactures!I can not tell you what a relief it is to me to know that my wife will have access to a bike that actually was made to fit her. No longer will we struggle to find builds that suit her needs (she likes to bomb through things, without always looking for the best(smoothest) lines), and that fits her body. My only qualm with this article is where is the Transition Syren? Without the Syren being present it doesn’t allow riders (particularly woman riders) to understand the full array of choices that they do have. Please include the Syren in future tests. I know that my wife would love to hear what you have to say about it. Thanks.

    Ezra L

  • Tiffany says:

    Hi Ezra,

    Glad you enjoyed the article. As for the Syren, I’d be happy to review it if it becomes available to do so. I hope your wife can find a big that fits her well, no doubt it will help her go even faster!

    Tiffany

  • Paul says:

    I feel as though for being female specific bikes, they should have much more than shorter tubes and stand over. What about lighter weight? The majority of female riders are going to be lighter than their male counterparts and not going to need that extra 5 pounds of frame material that a clyde would.

    There are more ways to optimize performance features based around the gender differences. If I was a lighter rider, (I’m the opposite) I’d want a bike that took advantage of the fact that I’m less abusive on parts. Since I’m a heavy rider, I demand bikes that are built with a little extra security in mind.

    The fact that both employ front forks that aren’t tuned for a lighter weights is another example that both are just bad or at least sub-par attempts at creating female specific bikes.

    Not that they shouldn’t have made them, but it seems as though they could have gone further than just making a smaller frame.

  • adam says:

    Paul,

    I hear what you are saying about the front fork should be more tuned to a female rider. I thought about this for a while myself, I thought this was a downside as well. Than I remembered, that I am 240lbs, and I have to get standard forks tuned for my weight. So..Should I be mad at company x for not making L dh bikes with stiffer springs. One could argue yes, but, another could argue no. I ride with another 6’4″ guy who is about 200lbs on a wet day. I think forks are just something people are going to have to learn to deal with on their own.

    I have a Zoke 55 on a Norco Fluid LT I am testing right now, and to get it to balance right, and not suffer from brake dive, it appears I am not getting full travel at this point either. Though I’ve not really had time to experiment. This fork issue could be a Zoke issue, not a Norco/Kona issue.

    Good point though.

  • Anthony says:

    Miguel: Useless article huh? Sounds like from all the things you cite you learned alot from it.
    I think everybody who reads this article will realize it’s just ONE person reviewing it and will therefore consider it. What I can tell is that this ONE review by one person is a hell of a lot more informative and accurate than all the drivel and misinformation that I read in forums that are open for anybody to write a review. The author also goes to a great extent to explain her riding style and experience to put her review in perspective. Certainly a better review than some of the junky one line reviews I’ve seen on open forums: “this bike sucks, I broke it” or “this bike is flexy, don’t ever buy it”

    Regarding “engineered” design: I for one value it (I’m an engineer myself), but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good product if it’s “engineered”. Nor does it mean it’s a bad product if it’s not “engineered”. It is up to the leaders of the company to determine if they need engineered design or not, or maybe they purchase an already engineered design (which is probably what Norco is doing, if you’re correct). It’s up to them whether they want to take that risk, if that’s their business strategy, then so be it. Maybe that’s why these bikes are so heavy and overbuilt – for a margin of safety since they aren’t analyzed all to hell. As a resuilt they may be making bikes with lower cost of development and maybe even quicker development, all while hopefully meeting their specifications, which if chosen correctly will meet those of the customer and they will therefore sell bikes. What matters is the bottom line.

  • Chris says:

    This is one of the best reviews I have read in quite some time. Talk about COMPLETE! The technical knowledge of the author is outstanding and it seemed to buck the trend of the all too common mediocre review in so many ways: The author was not trying to fluff the drawbacks of either bike and any problems were addressed in very clear and logical ways. The fact that she gave extensive incite to HER riding style and background is an immense help to anyone considering either of these two bikes. How often do you see reviews and wonder exactly how does the riding style of the author compare to me? How much time did they spend on the bike? What type of terrain did they ride? Ect… Without that information, its really difficult to judge the value of the information and how it relates to your own abilities.

    (Dirty) Sanchez,
    Funny! You sure seemed to have learned a lot from the review! How can you say this doesn’t help anyone? The female freeride/DH market is exploding! Been to Whistler lately? The number of shred bettys in the lift line is amazing! Add to the fact that neither of these bikes are very likely to be stocked by your local NORCO or Kona dealer and you have a very worthy and helpful review!

  • ChrisO says:

    What? Women’s specific designs? A rising demand for them? Crazy. But wait, will other manufactures follow suit? Improve on the short comings and/or weight of the first bikes out? Push the envelope again? Have those advances improve all our bikes again. Hmm…I’m for it. Excellent review. I like my Titec telescoping seat post….

  • Kasey says:

    Thank you so much for this review. I was able to ride the vixa last year at interbike and was totally blown away. I am not a typical female that likes the female fit on most bikes. Usually I find that the lower center of gravity just screws with my handling. Add to that…they usually down grade the parts, so it won’t help my racing one bit. I teach mountain biking to women and help run a mountain bike camp for kids. The Vixa is a great option for teaching what many are so afraid to learn…going down hill. I can also spend the day at bike camp without wondering if I am going to blow-up my shocks by going off a drop. I am glad to see that the minxy is an option as well. I am lucky enough to know both the Kona and Norco rep for our area and will be requesting some test-ridable bikes. My husband better watch out I may be beating him in the downhill events, too. Thanks for the awesome, short and sweet, to the point review.

  • nadia says:

    Thanks for the review; I was also contemplating the syren, but it looks like my field has been narrowed to the vixa or the minxy. All three still don’t have as low a standover as I would like, but maybe in time they will actually design forks and rear shocks that can fit into a differently shaped frame.

  • Tiffany says:

    Kasey and Nadia,

    Thanks for the great feedback. I’m currently reviewing the Syren so I’ll have some more information on that style in a month or two. Happy riding to both!

  • Venessa Hydamacka says:

    Hi Tiffany,
    I really appreciate your thoughts on the bikes you compared. They are the 2 that I have been looking at as well as the Syren. You are very lucky to have the chance to ride them. I already have a all mountain climbing style bike that I am very happy with. It is the descending that I am losing out on. Which is really the part that I love the most. I am thinking that for the price difference that the Kona seems like a better deal. If any of the parts break, I would be replacing them with upgrades anyway. I personally like the suspension design of the norco better. But the whole seat tube issue has come into my mind. And I am also concerned about the standover. I am only 5’2″. So that has always been an issue for me. But would love to hear more about your reviews. Thanks

  • adam says:

    It has taken a lil’bit o’ time but the Syren review is up.

    http://reviews.mtbr.com/blog/transition-syren-review-womens-specific-freeride/

  • Tyler says:

    After reading this review and testing the bikes out my lady decided on the Minxy. I have to say, considering the Vixa costs about 700 dollars more I can’t see the real value. You wrote a great review and we would like to thank you for actually putting out an insightful account of your experience on both bikes. I’m sure any lady would be pleased with either of the bikes reviewed but from what we know now the Minxy is a killer all-round bike that I’m rather jealous of as I sit aboard my Norco Six.

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