Through a very fortunate twist of events, without even any noticeable wheedling on my part, I got to go to Kona's dealer-invite new bike launch. Speaking of launch, I got lunch... and dinner, and breakfast too, sweet. Also sweet, I got to ride this bike, ab-so-lute-ly too much fun:
Now, before anybody squawks, I didn't steal this one from any prospecitve order placing dealers, I semi-patiently awaited until after the second session and then rode Chuckanut's "classic XC" trails (thanks Ian!) that anybody in Marin would refer to as, ahhhem, far more aggressive than classic XC. Jumbles of roots, heaps of smaller ledges, grunty up-down-around rock features and an irresistibly tasty ridgeline separating glimpses of Bellingham Bay and San Juan Islands to the left as well as a misunderstanding and potential fall of great heights as Bellingham watches in the background. That's how I'd describe the trails the Process 111 tamed.
So how'd it ride? Awesome. A sub 17" chainstay, slack enough headtube angle, no nonsense linkage with big, oversized axles, lovely WTB ST i23 29" rims, Volt saddle - what's not to like. It monster trucked through the rumpled roots without being at all lethargic and seemed so easy to pick up and over anything malicious demanding attention. The front just picked up. The rear suspension was progressive without feeling like it didn't want to conform to all rough unpleasantries, lively would be a good way to describe it. It felt like miles beyond 111 millimeters. You feel very much as though you ride within the frame, not precariously atop it. Throw some quick rolling TCS tires on it and you could easily take it out all day. Sorry, shameless plug. It's pretty easy to understand Kona design when you ride their trails and consider their environment - relentless roots, berms, gaps, drops, 10 months out of the year of rain, it all makes complete sense why they design their bikes to be laterally stiff and to last.
Other cool stuff? There was plenty. Dealers faced a sea of shiny new rides:
A lot of comfy WTB Volts atop those stunning shred sleds. Process 153 DLs, 167s, and 111s in this shot, plus - 3 more racks and then some.
That had some very useful features to shops and those building them up from a frame-only state:
All the questions you'd need answered are stated right there. Also, that bridge reads, "This Bridge is Carbon," there, you can say your bike's carbon.
Plus, guided rides of Gailbraith for dealers on day two:
Wild Bill, shredder, of Ashland Mountain Adventures ready to, as those at Kona say, "Give 'Er," with a Process 167 featuring some lovely WTB Frequency i25 26" TCS Team rims. Nope, not a typo. Yep, 26". Bringing it back, so hot right now.
Was that not enough - sweet bikes and guided trails, there was... wait for it... BEER!
Man, was there a lot of beer, it showed up everywhere.
Awesome Rove Ti (made in US) sporting a Devo SLT adorned with a can of Rainier, fresh from an adventure, in the conference room. Rainier beer, you tried to kill me.
Then, after hearing about schralping, schralping, discussing the schralping over cans, it was time for din din and an evening view of Bellingham Bay:
Then it all started over again, only this time followed by a hooligan fest at Kona USA HQ:
Greetings from Kona USA. On the inside, not of the bowl, was the real treat:
Lining the walls were amazing frames and bikes from 1988 until present - a walk through the ages, like this super sweet one:
1995 Special Edition HumuHumuWholeLottaOthaVowels with a Ti fork, Syncros Hardcore 7075 post, Machine Tech brakes, Cook Bros Racing cranks, Scratch and Sniff tires, pretty rad. Then, mischief:
Weave some cones
Pump some rollers.
Slam some jelly filled donettes
It hurt. The tequila was a suggestion for washing it down.
Lady shredders too of course - the one in the front is leading due to her WTB rim. An official finish:
If you can't tell, I had a good time. Probably too good of a time. I'm still sitting here, head scratching, amazed I got to go. It's impossible to go and not fall completely in love with Kona. The Kona crew makes it happen, are happy to be there, listen to their dealers - there's a roundtable discussion at the start of day two, things brought up are implemented for dealers. Concerns are addressed - dealers are addressed too, by their first names, everybody seems to know everybody. Crazy. You ride incredibly fun bikes, amazing trails, a beautiful location, people are happy, I'm still marveling. So go out, buy a Kona, chances are it'll have an irrefutably comfy WTB saddle, top notch WTB rims, and be nothing but fun to ride and last forever. Yes, happily ever after. Thanks Kona!