Gear Review: The Kona Mahuna 29er mountain bike
Special to the Tribune
Style: Hardtail 29er mountain bike
Components: Shimano Altus derailleurs/shifters, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
Front fork: Suntour XCR 32
Similar bikes: Specialized Rockhopper and Hardrock
For more info on the Mahuna, including full specs and pricing, see the Kona website at www.konaworld.com.
The 29er mountain bike — any bike designed around a 29-inch wheel set — was a novelty less than a decade ago. But, what started as a niche market idea is now almost the standard. These days, 26-inch tires are the ones working toward obscurity — or at least being relegated to youth-bike sizes.
Why the hesitation to adopt the bigger tire? And why is the 29er now closer to the norm? Ergonomics, really. The larger bike tire makes it easier to roll over rocks and downed logs, but earlier frame models with the bigger tires made the bikes less maneuverable — around turns, for example — than their 26-inch counterparts.
Initially, many manufacturers used to just slap a 29-inch tire on a frame designed for 26-inch wheels. Now, frame designs have caught up to the point where even full-suspension downhill bikes come in the larger tire size. Still, a serious downhiller will probably opt for a 27.5-inch tire, also a more common option as of late.
For those who are either looking to get into mountain biking for the first time or are not in a hurry to hit the more technical trails, a hardtail (aka front suspension only) 29er is the way to go. It’s also a better option than a full-suspension bike for riders concerned about not dropping too much coin for a bike. A higher-end hardtail bike is going to come at a much lower price point than a full-suspension ride.
The Kona Mahuna
In the interest of embracing the 29er lifestyle, we’ve spent this young bike season playing on one of Kona bicycles’ hardtail 29ers, the Mahuna.
Retailing at $799 — a step up from Kona’s basic $659 Lava Dome model and below the company’s $1,000 bikes — the Mahuna makes a great option for any of the types of riders mentioned. The mid-range price-point comes with a better components package than the Lava Dome, including Shimano shifters, brakes and the like.
While it might not be the lightest option in terms of overall weight, it’s a solid value for the price. After time spent on 26-inch tires, the extra three inches was a welcome change — and it came without the loss of maneuverability. The bigger wheels absolutely make rolling over sizable rocks and tree roots easier. They’re also better for maintaining speed on longer cross-country rides.
The only real downside to this model is the front fork. The Suntour XCR 32 front-suspension setup is a no-frills base model with four inches of travel. It’ll do the job, but it also might be the first part worthy of an upgrade. Kona’s are made to last, so, as other parts eventually wear down, the base frame will be worth holding onto and upgrading piece by piece over time.
Having now ridden the Mahuna in a variety of conditions, as a whole, this is a great bike for a variety of riders. This is also a great everyday bike fit for those less-aggressive rides, particularly if a hefty full-suspension setup is already among your toy collection.