Words and photos: Julia Revitt
After riding the Kona Tanuki on UK XC trails, I decided it was high time to put it through its paces on some rather steep and technical alpine trails. Where better to do this than my favourite place in the world – Chamonix, France.
After having a lovely continental breakfast, I headed up the valley to find some of the lush singletrack that I’ve been dreaming of since my last trip there. The trails were dry, rocky, rooty and never, ever flat – a perfect test for the Tanuki.
The technical details
My bike is a 2013 Kona Tanuki DL 15″ and it fits like a dream. I’ve previously ridden 14” bikes and was a bit concerned the Kona would be too big but no, it really does fit very well (I’m 5ft 5”).
The Tanuki DL sits on the first rung of Kona’s trail bike range, one step above the base Tanuki, and features the classic Kona 4 bar linkage giving 130mm of travel with 26″ wheels. The tapered head tube and 15mm axle equipped RockShox Sektor TK Solo Air fork give the front end a business like appearance. Easton’s tubed wheel set is marked as XC but is not particularly lightweight and is shod with Maxxis Ardent 2.25 tyres, which come up quite large but roll well for their size.
Components are mostly Shimano, a mix of lines from Deore to XT, with Kona branded cockpit and seat post.
RockShox Monarch RL air rear shock is a simple setup, air valve to set sag, a lockout and a rebound adjuster to set speed. The RockShox Sektor TK Solo Air fork is classic Rockshox in feel and features the same simple adjustments as the rear shock. Car park rebound test showed a faster action than the rear. Matching up the two had the rear rebound clicked right up. After a couple of months use the fork lost no air but the rear needed constant checking and topping up and an extra couple of psi is needed every time to get the sag right.
Gears have worked fine from day one even being ‘only’ Deore with a XT rear mech. The 42/32/24t front setup seems a little antiquated in the age of 1×11 and you could lose the big ring without too much worry. The Deore brakes and 180mm rotor on the front and 160mm on the rear were not troubled by English trails.
This bike is an awesome climber – even up the lung busting singletrack. The riding position is very comfortable and I can lock out the rear, get out of the WTB saddle and pound the pedals when necessary. Initially the ride felt quite choppy so I slowed the rebound down on the rear suspension to compensate and the problem was solved.
The grip was great in the dry. It did rain the day before one ride, which made the roots a little slippy and I felt a bit of sideways slip from the ‘all-round’ Maxxis tyres.
Downhill, with the saddle lowered, I felt confident and relaxed. The Kona handled smaller drop offs and steep terrain without a problem. The suspension works well on the bigger stuff too and the geometry felt comfortable. It’s a trail bike that does rather well even when put into some demanding circumstances, of which there are plenty available around Chamonix.
I’ve been through some brakes in my time (and I do mean through – I totalled a disc once!). However, the Deore brakes never faded or gave me any trouble. They were reliable and sharp for the whole trip.
The verdict so far
I don’t think trails get more varied than Chamonix. Everything from singletrack goat trails covered in loose rocks to masses of roots with no clear line through them is on offer around the famous mountain town. At this point in time I’m very happy with the performance of the bike and there are very few gripes that come to mind. The Kona Tanuki handled everything that Chamonix had to throw at it with grace and ease – it was just the rider that didn’t!
Watch this space for more adventures with the Tanuki and to find out how the frame and components stand up to more hours in the saddle.