Kona’s Prototype Air-Actuated Magic Link: First Look

Aug 5, 2011
by Richard Cunningham  
Pinkbike spotted Kona’s Matt Slaven riding an Abra Cadabra all-mountain bike outfitted with a tiny air-sprung damper in place of the standard-issue coil spring and plastic bumper stack that normally actuates the suspension’s Magic Link. The trick looking aluminum damper is in the testing stages, so sayeth Kona, but Slaven, who has been testing the air-spring system, was all fired up on its adjustability and seamless feel.

Abra Cadabra Side 2
Matt Slaven's Kona Abra Cadabra was leaning against the wall in the Pinkbike Tower when we spotted something different tucked into its lower suspension linkage.

Magic Link 101
If you are unfamiliar with the Magic Link, it’s an innovative design that allows the rear suspension to automatically increase its travel from 100-millimeters of firm action, to 160 millimeters of soft cushion as the terrain demands it. Many all-mountain type rear suspension designs offer long or short-travel shock mount positions. Kona’s Magic link performs exactly the same function, except that it automatically switches between the two travel options.

Air Spring side full
Kona says that the black-anodized aluminum air-spring is an early prototype, but its dedicated hardware and finished looks hint that the standard Magic Link's coil-spring actuation system will soon be replaced.

The swingarm pivots on the “Magic Link” which also forms the lower shock mount. Chain tension created by pedaling pulls the swingarm forward on the Magic Link, which drives the shock into the short-travel position. Bump forces pull the swingarm rearwards, which rocks the Magic Link into the long-travel position. Kona’s standard-issue Magic Link system uses an adjustable coil spring to return the Magic Link to the default, short-travel position. Preloading the spring determines how easily the Magic Link transitions to long-travel mode in response to impacts.

Magic Link air side
The tiny damper controls how quickly the swingarm driven Magic Link can switch from long travel to short travel suspension modes. More air pressure means the Magic Link will tend to stay forward in the short travel mode.

The new air-spring does away with the complicated looking coil spring assembly and offers infinite adjustability to Kona Magic Link riders. A red dial is marked ‘rebound’ on the forward end of the diminutive damper. Hydraulic damping in the tiny air shock ensures that the transition to and from suspension modes will occur even more seamlessly than with the stock coil-spring set up.

Air spring dial
The addition of rebound damping to the Magic Link actuator allows the rider to tune how readily the system returns to short-travel mode after a big impact. More rebound damping keeps the suspension in long-travel mode momentarily, so the suspension can be ready for another big hit.


Pinkbike’s Take on the Air-Actuated Magic Link:
Kona insists that the air-spring system is still a long way from production, but we think it will appear sooner than 2013 – perhaps a mid-season 2012 release. It brings the Magic Link system one-spring-does-all adjustment and the air spring looks far better than the functional-but-funky coil spring design. As Matt Slaven said, “It’s the Magic Link’s Missing link. We are pushing Kona to ride the new system and will report the news the moment we do.

Pinkbike thinks that the air damper is exactly what Kona's Magic Link system needs. Any thoughts on Kona's prototype setup?


72 Comments

  • 47 9
 There you go Kona haters! lol


....this is soooooo awesome! Big Grin
  • 7 8
 Why not just make it 160mm instead of have one shock to 100mm another to 160mm and just higher pivot for rearward travel. Just a bad idea, if you want firm at start, soft through travel don't fox have the brain technology that does that built into shock...
  • 4 6
 Like Trek's dcrv technology.
  • 30 2
 @DH-Til-I-Die: the magic link "shock" is not actually a shock at all. The main shock does all the work, at 100mm and 160mm. What the magic link does is it alters the whole geometry of the bike, not just limit the travel. You know how some frames have multiple shock mounts that allow the travel and geo to change? Same idea, but instead of having to change the mounting points, it does it automatically. Not only does the travel change, but the HA goes slacker and the wheelbase gets longer. Pretty cool if you ask me.
  • 5 2
 Kona is really steping it up!
  • 4 6
 still got that cheap feel about them, rather a mondraker, banshee, giant, specialized, trek, etc
  • 2 0
 i had a shot on two of them cadabras, 2010 and 2011 ones, nice bikes light and fast a fuck, but you really dont want to bottom them out...undamped spring isn't a best idea. this new air unit with rebound adjustment makes so much sense, cant wait for that thing to come into the shop for us to thrash the shit out of.
  • 6 0
 needs a mini dhx 5
  • 3 1
 Mnorris, except setting the standard for HT geometry and producing the first freeride-specific bike.
  • 5 1
 Been riding with 2011 Abracadabra since may, and it's AWESOME. Even though I have other bikes, I always end up taking Abracadabra with me =), trail riding, bikeparks and Enduro racing. One of the best parts of it is the coil spring feeling in the suspension because of the magic link. If the new air-spring system doesn't lose that feeling it's warmly welcome.
  • 45 0
 Then the coilair will be named airair?
  • 3 2
 The Coilar's name predates magic link and is not named after the air sprung shock and magic's coil.
  • 4 0
 Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like you will be able to set it up with essentially a "floating" lower shock mount? This is what alters the bikes geometry, travel, & leverage ratio? The small air shock (or coil on the current models) does not suspend the bike but simply moves the shock position.

So you are not switching back and forth between 100mm and 160mm travel, but constantly somewhere between the two depending on what the terrain and riding is doing to the suspension.
  • 1 0
 thats what i think too. man at my LBS swears by his abra cadabra. makes for a fast AM bike
  • 4 0
 There's always gonna be haters. It's a good idea and works seamlessly. Sold 5 through our shop and everyone loves them - both Cadabras and the Coilairs equipped with it. Seriously - people need to stop being armchair engineers, or worse, criticising something they haven't, and probably won't, try. Give it a rest.
  • 4 1
 Cool way of thinking, but i'm not sure about the maintenance factor?
I'd like to try production bike, based on air magic link, but for now - I'd stick with something more traditional for my own bikes!
  • 1 1
 I'm also unsure about the "automatic" ML adjustment, though optional manual adjustment would be much more complex and expensive to manifacture...
  • 3 1
 So braking bumps, square hits etc.. move the wheel backwards into long travel mode. What about landings? especially if you land rear first it is going to stay in short travel?
  • 4 1
 Yes, I would like to see some video of it in action. I can understand how it works by looking at it, but it wouldn't seem to me that, in some situations where it is needed, such as bigger landings, that it would be able to switch before the shock compressed. Even if it did manage to switch, I would think there would be some delay causing the shock to compress-decompress-compress throughout the motion, which would feel a bit odd, if not throw your balance. It's difficult to tell from looking at pictures, I want video.
  • 4 0
 Its not fixed in short travel mode by anything so there isn't really a delay to be had. It's mostly held there by chain tension. If you have the magic link set up with some sag it sits (when coasting) facing slightly rearward so any downward movement can make it use it's travel. When pedaling the link is held vertical by chain tension. Also the main shock when compressed pushes the magic link rearwards into it's travel. So any impact big enough uses all the travel. Also there really is no delay or weirdness to feel if you have the sags set up properly (aka not to much sag on the magic link) from my riding experience.
  • 6 0
 I rode the original 2008 magic link, and after breaking the frame (not at the magic link junction, up at the top tube) i got a 2010 frame from Kona, no charge. Ive been riding the magic link for 3 seasons now, and I can say with confidence that on big drops it feels like a seemless 8" of rear travel. When in the "long travel mode" it really doesn't have 8" of rear, it has more like 6, but moving from the forward to rearward position compresses the suspension around two inches. This "increase" in sag makes it feel very smooth on medium bumps, but its not downhill bike on really big rockgarden type stuff. However, on drops you get that full 8", and it feels great.
  • 1 0
 hamncheez, that's a pretty accurate description. I've noticed the same thing. In a rock garden/roots its a little jumpy in the back end. But when you need the extra room on a landing, it's there in spades. For flowy/jumpy trails, it's the perfect combo of agile and sturdy.
  • 3 0
 Flat landings instantly pull the Magic Link into long-travel mode. It's seamless.
Donch15 is correct: in real life, the Magic Link is constantly in flux between the short and long-travel extremes, so it always feels like a 160mm bike, although it climbs and accelerates more like like a 100mm XC ride. What I like about it is that I don't have to fuss with travel or lockout levers when the fun begins.
  • 1 0
 I've been riding my 2010 Cadabra since last October and needless to say, it does what it says on the box. It pedals brilliantly and it descends with confidence. For the east coast, it's an excellent mount. As much as it plays an important role in the handling characteristics of the bike, the magic link does need to be refined. Setting the magic link is a compromise - you have to remember that 160mm is a lot of travel for a 1.5in stroke RP23, a shock that now requires more air pressure. Set the magic link too hard, and the transition from short to long travel is harsh. A soft magic link setting results in a lot of motion from the link when pedaling in the first part of the suspension travel. As I already lost a bolt holding the spring assembly once, I'd rather see proper bearing assemblies installed instead. I'm not keen on bolt/bushings acting as pins and loctite is not an elegant solution. Damping wise, there is enough friction in the system to prevent the thing from becoming a pogo and since the link moves a lot, I can't help but wonder if a lot of damping on the air spring would reduce the pedaling efficiency. Just the current way the spring assembly is mounted creates a fair amount of friction damping. This concept has been made to work very well with the Cadabra and a little more refinement would do wonders.
  • 1 0
 www.konaworld.com/page.cfm?content=magic here's a vid. Ingenius design actually.
  • 4 0
 HEY!!! Richard Cunningham said I was right!!! Awesome!!! Made my day.
  • 1 0
 Do want...
I have a 2011 Coil air and it's seamless once set up. The frame is very stiff and is all around a fun and nimble corner shedding machine. Also kona did an awesome job on the graphics the frame really does look stunning. Only down side is the magic link can be a little squeaky. I take it apart every few weeks and wax all the pit with some paraffin wax (candle) and that shuts it up.. going to try graphite powder next I think tho.. but this would solve it I bet!
  • 1 0
 My new 2010 isnt sqeaking, but my old 2008 did. I think the more oil or grease u put on it, the more dirt it attracts. I bet if u had it near dry the graphite would work great.
  • 1 0
 Yeah tried grease on my 09.. terrible mistake. Mine does not make much noise really. But I like my bike silent as can be. and it only takes a minute to do. And I like to take things apart to fiddle!
  • 1 0
 I used Sil-Glyde which is lube for the sliders and rubber brake parts on car brakes. Worked great to shut it up back there and seems to be staying clean.
  • 1 0
 I have a 2008 Coilair as well and I love the damn thing. My LBS doesn't sell Kona and they always hated my bike and recently I have let them all try it out for a run and now they love it and get it. Its the smoothest bike I have ever had the pleasure of riding. It really fits MY style of riding. Fast and flowy. This new ML setup looks awesome to me. Having the ability to adjust the rebound on it looks like it would come in very handy.
  • 1 0
 Couple things - Firstly, these bikes have to be set up properly for the actual benefits to be fully realized. For obvious reasons this is more time consuming then even a normal full-sus setup. I've seen people hop on these things and take them out for a test ride without changing a thing. This is a bike shop employee nightmare to setup for people to take out for a test ride. Secondly, don't know how good of idea it is on Kona's part to show people that "Hey, this is in the works now. It won't be on the 2012 bikes but probably will be by 2013....Ughh, we still hope you will purchase a 2012 model though." My 2 cents.
  • 3 0
 All manufacturers show "sneak peaks" before their products are ready... even if they never see the light of day sometimes. It's how you get potential customers excited!
  • 1 0
 Adjustable length chainstay sounds like a lot of jumps that will end badly to me. I have a hard enough time getting used to the way a bike jumps in the first place without having to make an instantaneous guess about how far back the rear wheel is.
  • 1 0
 The result might not be that great, but why not keep trying? If my bike "knows" what I want it to do when and how I want it to do it, thats great. I"m into the idea of do all and anything bikes. You have to compromise in areas, but the benefits of one rig to ride is pretty cool...
  • 1 0
 I think it would be awesome if pinkbike could follow up this article, the air link is out on the shelves now, I own a coil air and I love it though I would like to know if you could retrofit a new air link in there!!!
  • 1 0
 stoked on the new technology! Amazing how much progress there has been, can't even imagine what else is possible to be invented in the future :O
  • 1 0
 I love my 2010 Abra Cadabra, the geometry changes when climbing to downhill are seamless. When they bring this to market I hope they make a retrofit kit!
  • 2 0
 It would be nice from Kona to ensure backward compatibility (with earlier Magic links).
  • 1 0
 Dont feed the trolls! Awesome looking setup, the rebound adjust would really improve the feel of the ride! Cant wait to try it.
  • 1 0
 We should give him your operator because nobody gives a fu*%# about Enduro in the US.
Oh i forgot, the operator does not win races either.
  • 2 0
 FYI Kona is now selling a retrofit air magic link kit for bikes that originally had the coil.
  • 10 9
 i dont see the purpose, your just adding more things that break or rub and cause problem, but maybe thats just me.
  • 28 3
 You're right, you don't see the purpose. That's ok.
  • 7 1
 Just stick you your full rigid single speed if you don't want to cause problems
  • 11 3
 never knew XC riders were so sensitive, it just what i thought but what ever keep hating Razz
  • 1 0
 Amen to that! Haha, I love my fully rigid Kona Unit 29er. But getting back on topic, I love the idea of this linkage, and although I haven't personally ridden one yet, if it rides anywhere near as good as the HeiHei or Four, it should be a fantastic bike, and with the adjustable automatic travel adjust makes great sense as a one bike does all agressive XC/Trail bike.
  • 2 0
 i thought id never say it, but Kona, being desirable for its technology
  • 4 0
 It's like their linkage is progressing... Finally!
  • 2 0
 The air canister confused me at first haha. Good job kona.
  • 2 0
 they are just trying to find horns on a horse.
  • 3 0
 Horses DO have horns. They're just a little hard to find. Next time you see one, go round the back, stand with your legs spread wide apart and feel around under the tail. You'll find the horns!
  • 2 1
 Gay!
  • 1 0
 to be honest kona isn't that bad but they're soooo ugly and they looks very breakable Wink
  • 1 0
 ANyone know why they don't spec the hammershcmidt on it anyomre? I love mine
  • 2 0
 look sick!
  • 1 0
 Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt.
  • 1 0
 This system on the kona new coilair would be sick!
  • 1 1
 Correct, you havent ridden one and kona can't sell them so, the jury still out on this one.
  • 2 5
 Absolutely awful idea. It has always been hideously heavy, clunky and very very bad under braking. How anyone can ride one is beyond me. All they have done is make an unnecessary and flawed design slightly lighter, more complicated and less reliable.
  • 1 0
 agree with you too will. i'd have personally set the bike with a better shock tune and 150mm travel. as i also said, lad at my LBS loves his, it seems pretty good at covering ground as its 100mm most of the time
  • 1 0
 a very good effort well worth trying
  • 2 3
 it seems like a god idea. Will just have to see how long it manages to last without having the Kona snapping curse
  • 2 4
 Is it just me or all alot of bikes from various brands looking the same these days?
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