Last week I was lucky enough to be shipped off to Spain to enjoy a spot of late autumn warmth while viewing and testing the Kona range of #dirtydropbargoodness bikes for 2018. There are now quite a number of bikes in the Kona drop bar off road line up, and choosing between them may prove quite bewildering for the prospective buyer. Steel, alloy, or carbon? Front derailleur or not? 650b or 700c? It’s a veritable pick and mix of bike standards and components, so let’s try and guide you through the options. Here we take a look at the CX ‘Jake’ range…
- Jake the Snake – £1,799
- Major Jake – £2,999
- Super Jake – £4,399
Perhaps the simplest range to outline is ‘the Jakes’. Now in its 20th year, the Jake range is Kona’s cyclocross machine, UCI compliant and built with an eye on racing rather than adventure. As I am no cx racer (jumping on and off a bike and running round a field being likely to result in my hip dislocating itself!) I didn’t ride this range on my trip out to the dust of Spain. And anyway, who can remember the last incidence of dust in the Yorkshire Points Series? However, because we’re sure you’re keen to know, I did get a good look at what the Jakes will be offering in 2018.
At the top of the range is the race ready Super Jake, with carbon frame and fork and 1x SRAM Force 1 groupset. This comes in black with pink and bright blue decals – if this were a women’s bike I’d probably hate it, but as a gender neutral one I quite like it for being a bit different. With its relatively long head tube and open frame, it’s designed to be easy to shoulder, and it’s specced to be ready for World Cup level racing. Using the same frame and fork, the turquoise blue Major Jake comes in at a lower price point of £2,999 but is still equipped for the racing enthusiast with a Shimano 105 groupset.
In keeping with a race bike that may find itself being jetwashed a couple of times a week or more through the winter race season, it’s been designed with easy maintenance in mind. The front brake is externally routed, while the access hatch on the bottom bracket shell gives room to catch those cables as they’re directed through the frame by the shallow angled entry ports further up the downtube. Once fitted, the cables will be slightly tensioned and held away from the frame, apparently reducing that annoying cable rattle so common with internally routed cables.
The bottom bracket shell itself is quite distinctive and boxy looking – this shape has apparently allowed a stiffer and lighter weight frame, while being more compliant in certain ways – Kona claims a 10% increase in stiffness in the downtube/seat tube/chainstays area, with 10% more compliance in the rear triangle, and 10% stiffness increase in the headtube interestion with the top tube and downtube (all compared to previous models). The shell shape with press fit bottom bracket might not please everyone, however Kona said it allow 1x and 2x cranksets, as well as 24mm or 30mm cranksets.
The carbon frames have been designed to be lighter and offer a better ride quality that previous models of the Jake. All three models, including the alloy Jake The Snake, have thru axles (12×100 front/12×142 rear), with flat mount brakes. All three models are also equipped with hydraulic brakes and tubeless ready wheels, although the alloy model doesn’t come with tubeless ready tyres. The forks are the same on all three bikes, and the thru axles are tool-less to facilitate quick wheel changes during a race (the same fork is used on some of the Rove range, but the axles require a hex key to remove them).
Not everyone may be happy to see the seat tube diameter is 31.6mm due to the expectation that within the lifetime of the frame mould the fitting of dropper posts will become common. We’ve yet to see a truly ergonomic solution to drop bar dropper post actuation, so perhaps this frame is destined to stay as is for a couple of model years yet. It also seems like a slightly strange choice on an out-and-out ‘cross race bike. With UCI courses becoming ever more technical and companies seeking to develop new innovations to satisfy consumer desire to take drop bar bikes further out of their traditional comfort zone, maybe Kona knows something we don’t. Eyes peeled for some of the big names to bring truly integrated dropper solutions for curly bars. Back to the Jake – if you do want to fit a dropper post that BB access reveals grooves for a dropper routing.
Sizing is such that you’re likely to want to size down on the Konas – they’re relatively long without a huge amount of standover.
Despite the cx race orientation, Kona has retained the ability to fit full mudguards to the Jake range, for those who want that flexibility.
It’s good to see a race bike with aggressive, low geometry. With an eye on flexibility, bikes will be shipped with quite long steerer tubes and skyward stems. Some will be getting the hacksaw out before a pedal has been turned, but it’s good to have the choice. However, the non-racers may want to look to the adventure/gravel range for their Kona fix…
Travel and accommodation costs for this trip were covered by Kona Bikes.