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2021 Kona Shonky Bike

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Kona Shonky Complete Build for Complete Fun

A whole lot of fun for not a lot of dough.

Rating: Vital Review
Kona Shonky Complete Build for Complete Fun

26ain't dead. Seriously, it isn't. The dirt jump revival is on. Look no further than your local shop or classifieds -- try to find a dirt jumper. Yes, things with COVID-19 have bike sales going bananas across the board, but even in 2019 and prior, dirt jump bikes were on the move. In towns all over the world, pumptracks are popping up like pimples. Often, they are accompanied by some sort of jump park as well. There is merit to taking your full-suspension trail bike to these venues, but nothing compares to a dirt jumper. The pumping power of a hardtail, the simplicity of a single speed, single brake and a low-slung frame allows for focus on the tasks at hand rather than the bike's technology and post-ride forum arguments. Enter the Kona Shonky.

Highlights

  • Chromoly frame construction
  • Adjustable dropouts/chain tensioner
  • Accepts rear derailleur
  • Tektro rear brake
  • 3-piece Samox crankset
  • Manitou Circus Expert 100mm fork
  • Maxxis DTH rubber 26x2.3
  • Short and long sizes
  • $1,399 complete (tested), frame-only option $575

Strengths

  • It's a dirt jumper!
  • Forgiving, chromoly frame
  • Geometry is neutral and stable, easy to get along with
  • Manitou Circus is highly adjustable
  • Maxxis DTH tires grip in a variety of conditions
  • Rear derailleur compatible
  • That paint job...

Weaknesses

  • Higher rise bars would be nice
  • Tektro brake lacks bite

For years, Kona's Shonky was available as a frame-only option, leaving riders to fend for themselves when it came to building up a bike. That can be fun, but isn't the most cost-effective form of acquiring a bike. For 2020, much to the delight of many mountain bikers, Kona released the Shonky in a complete build. We reached out to Kona the moment the press release hit the inbox to get our hands on a test bike.

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Many of us have heard other riders talking about "working on their jumping." Even though "working" and "jumping" are somewhat at odds, it is an honest sentiment. The best way to tackle a skill is by having fun with it, and nothing will propel a mountain biker's jumping like a proper dirt jump bike. For the price of a fancy set of carbon wheels, you could purchase something that will actually improve your riding. This is why riders need a bike like the Shonky.

Tech Specs

Moving from today's long and slack mountain bikes to a dirt jumper can be a touch jarring, depending upon the manufacturer. The Shonky strikes a nice balance, remaining focused on its intent while easing the rider into a world of popping steep lips and accelerating down steep backsides. The 69-degree head angle is right in the mix of most bikes in this category. Our "short" frame felt right at home under the tester's 5-foot 9-inch body.

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On the geometry chart, our Shonky has 400mm chainstays and our test bike came with the rear axle slid almost all the way back in the dropouts where they measured in at 401mm. Most dirt jumpers tend to have chainstays under 400mm, but a few, including the Shonky come in right at that mark. For the trick-oriented, or seasoned dirt jumper, the shorter rear end means a shorter bike for tricks. Theoretically, one could slide the Shonky's dropouts forward and hack a link off the chain to tighten up the back end. The crossover mountain biker will not be bothered with the extra few millimeters since the Shonky already manages to cut at least an inch off the rear of most daily drivers.

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Our test bike came with only the rear Tektro TR hydraulic brake installed, as most dirt jumpers do. Some riders may want the added security and familiarity that comes with a front brake, which is easily done with the Shonky.

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The Kona dirt jump saddle gave us flashbacks to the days when couch-like seats were all the rage. We're sure there's some function here, but dang, this Barcalounger definitely detracts from the gorgeous gold paint and complimentary tan-wall Maxxis DTH TR 26x2.3-inch tires.

Kona-brand parts such as the stem, bars, grips, and seatpost finish off the cockpit. Rims and hubs are handled by WTB and Formula with a Joytech 14t single-speed freewheel. A traditional three-piece crank and bottom bracket setup from Samox with a 28t chainring finished off the drivetrain. Nothing fancy, but everything appropriate.

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We pulled specs and pricing on a number of dirt jumpers on the market to see how the Shonky stacks up. To start, chromoly dirt jumpers are in short supply these days, so to get a more comprehensive look at the market, we included aluminum frames. Looking at straight up price, the Shonky lands right in the middle, even when factoring in consumer-direct brands. Looking at the parts-to-money ratio (value), the Shonky is on point. If riders spend more money, there are flashier parts out there. Spend less money, get less bike. Only offerings from YT and Commencal really beat the Shonky in a line-item comparison. Overall, based on the current market, we can’t fault Kona for their price.

Setup

The Manitou Circus Expert gives riders a massive range in setting up its 100mm of travel. Using the air chart on the leg, we put in 25 PSI for our weight. We added one click on the upper TSI+ and adjusted the lower rebound knob towards the upper range (it is not indexed.) In all, we found the Circus Expert to be sufficiently stiff while managing its rebound well.

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The Kona bars come in at 780mm but we cut ours down to 770mm for a touch narrower feel. After that it was a matter of putting a little Wu on the saddle and getting it down and out of the way. Next stop, the bike park.

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Ride impressions

Step One: A look in the mirror.

Most every time out on the Shonky shook out the same way. First, we would pull laps on the pumptrack to get warm and become reacquainted with our golden steed. The Shonky will rail corners and pop the rider out of the exit in short order. Pumping through rollers is an easy affair, the Shonky has plenty of room to move around and loosen up. There is a delightful amount of pop to this bike, even small rollers will give enough ramp to loft and catch backside further down the lane. After some rounds of pumping and pushing through turns, we were off to the dirt jumps.

Probably more than anything, the element that will have riders feeling more comfortable transitioning from their trail bike to the Shonky is the steel frame. It had been a little while since we hit an honest rhythm set and there were more than a few cases along the way. After some rounds of coming up short, one tends to let go the fears of "not having rear suspension," only to realize how pampered and soft we've become. There is nothing to fear here.

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After a moment of self reflection, the Shonky will remind you why you started riding: because it's fun. March yourself back to the top and try the line again. Flowing a rhythm set is a magical feeling. Any flowing jump line, big or small, can have you feeling like the coolest kid.

While the Shonky's wheels held up on all those slaps to dirt, the headset managed to work its way loose on several occasions. Swapping to a different stem resolved the issue. We reinstalled the stock Kona stem which just needed to be torqued down extremely tightly to keep things in check. Other than this small adventure, the remainder of the parts on the Shonky have been trouble-free.

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We found the Maxxis DTH (Drop The Hammer) tires to be more than just a set of good looking rubber. They rolled fast and held their line through dirt and paved pumptrack sessions. The Tektro HD-M275 brake on a trail bike is downright terrifying, as we've experienced in our budget MTB shootout. In the dirt jump arena, we would bump the performance to "adequate." There's enough juice there to help riders modulate a manual and prevent a loopout. A truly particular rider may dump the rear brake for something with a more familiar feel and power, and if really concerned, add a front brake. Beyond that, any parts we would swap out on the Shonky would strictly be for some more bling here or there.

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In all, the Shonky gave us many trouble-free hours of fun at the bike parks in our Boise area. Only having to focus on the riding meant a return to popping lips and keeping loose on the bike. Does that qualify as working?

What's the Bottom Line?

When it was time to load up the Shonky and head to the park, we'd get a little giddy. It was time to ride bikes, devoid of geometry debates, dropper post lengths, and many of the trappings that our technical, suspension-addicted minds get wrapped up in. The simplicity and reliability of our gold bike meant that we fixated on catching backside just right and nailing the line. There aren't any revolutionary parts to the Shonky, but what is there works well and kept our mind on the riding, and holding ourselves accountable to our own skills. Instead of fancy wheels or the latest wiz-bang suspension fork, we lobby that you grab a dirt jumper instead. If you can find one, the Shonky should be on that short list.

Head to KonaWorld.com for more information and to find your dealer.

Specifications

Product Kona Shonky Bike
Model Year 2021
Riding Type Dirt Jump / Slopestyle, Other (Pump Track)
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
Short, Long View Geometry
Size Short Long
Top Tube Length 611mm 624mm
Head Tube Angle 69° 69°
Head Tube Length 120mm 120mm
Seat Tube Angle 71.5° 71.5°
Seat Tube Length 347mm 347mm
Bottom Bracket Height 307mm (26mm drop) 307mm (26mm drop)
Chainstay Length 400mm 400mm
Wheelbase 1074mm 1087mm
Standover 680mm 677mm
Reach 415mm 428mm
Stack 584mm 584mm
Wheel Size 26"
Frame Material Chromoly
Frame Material Details Kona custom-drawn 4130 chromoly
Rear Travel Hardtail
Rear Shock N/A
Fork Manitou Circus Expert
Fork Travel 100mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Headset FSA Orbit 1.5B ZS
Handlebar Kona XC/BC 35
Stem Kona XC/BC 35
Grips Kona Key Grip
Brakes Caliper: Tektro HD-M275, 2-piston hydraulic (rear only)
Rotor: Tektro TR, 160mm (rear only)
Brake Levers Tektro HD-M275 (rear only)
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters N/A
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur N/A
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Samox Dirt Jumper
Chainrings Samox Dirt Jumper, 28 tooth
Bottom Bracket Samox Dirt Jumper, threaded
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM PC1
Cassette Joytech, single speed, 14 tooth
Rims WTB ST i30, tubeless compatible
Hubs Formula, 110x20mm Boost front, 148x12mm Boost rear
Spokes Stainless steel, 14g
Tires Maxxis DTH, Dual compound, EXO, TR, 26" x 2.3"
Saddle Kona Dirt Jump
Seatpost Kona Thumb
Seatpost Diameter
Seatpost Clamp Kona, single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148x12mm Boost, modular sliding
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts No
Colors Gloss Champagne with raised decals
Warranty Lifetime frame
Weight
Miscellaneous External cable routing
Modular sliding rear dropouts
Price $1,399
More Info konaworld.com

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