The Evolution of Kona Bikes: Part I - Video

Mar 6, 2018
by Pinkbike Staff  

Kona has been a key player in the mountain bike industry for decades, and there are some great stories behind how their products have evolved from the first bikes they produced way back when. We chat with Product Manager Paddy White who has been involved with Kona almost as long as the brand has existed. He takes us from his start with the company, up until the end Fabien Barel's involvement in 2008 in this video.

Click here to subscribe to the Pinkbike YouTube channel! Part II of The Evolution of Kona will be dropping next week!


MENTIONS: @pinkbikeproductions / @konaworld



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157 Comments

  • + 224
 Storytime for Pinkbike! Back around 2000 I was riding a Kona Kula frame for urban sessions, DH and shore riding. I cracked the headtube at some point and was not expecting much in the way of warranty. I mean, this was a Easton XC race frame I was ripping with a 130mm Bomber fork. Anyway I called up Kona, didn't lie about it, never said J.R.A., and they totally understood my situation. (I was a poor student at the time and couldn't afford a new frame.) They told me to bring in the frame for inspection. I put the frame on my back that same day and rode my other bike out to Ferndale from Bellingham. Got there, dude looked at the crack and said "ohh ya that cracked. hold on a minute we might have something" and goes into the back... Comes back with a polished Chute frame in my size! This was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and they just gave it to me like I was some pro rider. Blew my mind. Rode the 15 miles back to town with the biggest shit-eating grin on my face. Since then I have had too many Konas to remember but none of them has been as fast as my new Honzo ST!!! Way to make a lifelong customer, Kona.
  • + 28
 @mojopedaler in a perfect world all manufacturers in the cycling industry would treat customers like this
  • + 21
 And that folks is how you win customers.
  • + 6
 Santa Cruz bikes just replaced my 6 year old Blur LT Carbon that was out of warranty with a Hightower LT due to a crack that formed around the lover pivot. Just like @mojopedaler I am sold on Santa Cruz.
  • + 20
 No doubt that in the early 2000's Kona played a huge roll in bringing DH and Freeride to the masses. Thank you Kona.
  • + 3
 Love these kind of stories! I've never broke a frame, but I've had a few Kona's and they offer great value. Had a couple Stinky's back in the late 00's. They really have upped their game and changed their perception imo. I used to hear comments about them being a poor mans bike, cracked frames, etc. That's not the case anymore. I'd love a Process, just a bit too much $$$ to justify.
  • - 1
 I had an Ibis mojo sl that i loved, while riding one day the metal inserts in the rear drop outs both came loose. Everything was tight., the back wheel just started squirming about out of the blue, I had to push my bike home 3 miles. I was gutted. Frame was just over a year old. Called Ibis UK importers who were great. They emailed Ibis in the States who sent me some glue to bond them back in myself. On the back of the glue apoxy it said too much contact with this glue can cause cancer. As much as I loved my SL ill never ever buy another Ibis bike. Worst customer service experience ive ever had. Oh it took a month for the glue to come after I had to email them again after 2 weeks where they told me they had forgot to post it out. Fantastic Kona doing that though, great story and Santa Cruz cant fault it.
  • + 7
 @Stinky-Dee: your username says otherwise…
  • + 2
 @lyophilization: That was my first long travel ride... Smile
  • + 29
 We love you, @mojopedaler !
  • + 2
 @Stinky-Dee: Same thing happened to me, except it was a 10 year old Blur LT aluminum frame out of warranty. Top notch brand!
  • + 1
 everyone! check the score fs in buysell, one of the rarest frames ever from kona!
  • + 1
 And that is the way to treat a customer. Good on Kona. I wish Evil was the same. They shafted me on my Evil Uprising. Bought new, had a frame defect from the factory. Brought this to the attention of Evil. Aaaannndd....crickets.
  • + 114
 Bring back the old names like the stinky and the stinky deluxe
  • + 16
 i would be quite pleased if that carbon operator that was on the front page was named the stinky when it goes to production.
  • + 60
 Jesus Christ. Go to the arts and crafts store. Get a alphabet sticker pack. Spell out Stinky Deluxe and put them on your frame. Boom, easy fix.
  • + 31
 @adrennan: The Operator would be called the Stab, if anything.
  • + 12
 Kona Process 167 is the new popular ''old'' Stinky Smile ))
  • + 34
 @chillrider199: Isaiah 43:18-19 ?
  • + 5
 Bought the Sex One in 1995. It was my first full suspension bike. Loved it!
  • + 8
 I'll be renaming my Process 165 'Stinky' just for nostalgias sake.
  • + 6
 I'd love to be able to get the new Process with Dawg Matic suspension.
  • + 7
 @iantmcg: Dogmatix? tap tap tap. These Konas are crazy.
  • + 19
 @chillrider199: Man your name is ironic
  • + 2
 @cdmbmw: Oh I know
  • + 3
 Love the Shonky!
  • + 5
 @adrennan: Bring the Stab name back for the operator.

edit..someone beat me to this comment.
  • + 2
 Super stinky deluxe dawg
  • + 2
 @BenPea: Well, that's just perfect! Thanks for pointing me to it. I have some friends who could do with spending a while contemplating that, myself also on some days.
  • + 2
 @moose-tastes-good Yeah, bring Humuhumunukunukuapua’a back! (no joke, a bike used to be called that!)
  • + 1
 @OldOtter: #joketurnedserious
  • + 2
 @winko: Yep, cool bike, double top tube cruiser frame, got one as my dog walk round town/pub bike
  • + 3
 @BenPea: is this "Isaiah 43:18-19" some new standard from Sram? If it is then I dont like it.
  • + 2
 @Boardlife69: it's an old standard that is now sadly obsolete
  • + 4
 @OzMike: the previouse year 167s had a little Badge on them that said "The new Stinky"
  • + 3
 last years range had a "stinky" it was the precept 200 renamed
  • + 2
 @OzMike: just ordered my stinky deluxe stickers for my Process
  • + 1
 @danfromme: epic! Where did you get the stickers from?
  • + 1
 @OzMike: Any decal maker?
  • + 1
 Quick search on eBay and I found almost colour matched orange and black ones for my process153@OzMike:
  • + 2
 @danfromme: I've ordered several decal kits off of eBay. All have been from a Russian seller. Amazing quality summer as good or better than Factory graphics. Long shipping weight but it is worth it. These have also been high quality UV resistant printed Graphics not vinyl die cut. With clear vinyl overlay.
  • + 1
 @properp: I just received my stinky deluxe decals from the UK via ebay in around a week. Now I just have to figure out how to remove the original decals....
  • + 37
 Would love to have a beer with that guy. Sounds like a gold mine of great stories.
  • + 5
 Barel's mechanic's second name was Walton.
  • + 12
 @bonkywonky: Still is.
  • + 2
 That's all I could think of when watching the video. Looking forward to Part 2!
  • + 2
 Paddy once handed me a mason jar filled with a clear liquid and asked me to have a drink. And I did!
  • + 2
 @MisterChow: if yellow, better don't..
  • + 28
 more footage of the shop dogs please
  • + 5
 I would actually watch a Pinkbike video of them just going from shop to shop and from bike company to bike company and just meeting the dogs. They could ask about how the dogs were named, what it's like having them around, what quirks the dogs have. It would be a great bit of content for the winter months when content is slow
  • + 2
 @Lookinforit: I do the same but looking for the tea cups. A serious business will have serious cups for the tea.
  • + 3
 www.pinkbike.com/photo/9435675

photo of another Kona dog.
  • + 15
 I like Konas. Had three red ones so far.
Kona 1- 2001 King Kikapu, my first FS, looked cool, had an X-Vert 100mm fork, I raced some XC badly on it
Kona 2- 1998 Munimula, single speed and rigid, fun
Kona 3- 2014 Process 111 DL, ridiculous fun, completely changed my riding “style,” very sad that the 111 is gone from the lineup. The 111 introduced a lot of people to the burly short-travel 29er idea.
  • + 14
 I think Kona really nailed it with the Process 153 in 2014. The geometry was just ahead of everybody else at the time. I don't think I will ever be able to get rid of this bike. It rides so well (park or trail) I absolutely love it. Unfortunately, Kona is changing mentality a little it seems like and Ithen is quite sad. I also owned two supreme operator (one aluminium, one carbon) but both snapped. My process though... is still here !
  • + 7
 +1 for the 153, every time i swing my leg over it feels like home, I'm still totally in love with it
  • + 9
 My 153 process frame brand new with lifetime warranty was $850. What more could a mountain biker ask for?
  • + 5
 I think 167 doesn’t get enough credit, because as far as my demo day experience went, I found 167 as good as 153 and it could easily give bikes like Nomad or SB6 a run for their money. The most modern 26” bike, proving 27,5 is bullshit.
  • + 14
 @WAKIdesigns: rode my 153 back to back with an SB6 and was faster on the kona by a good margin
  • - 15
flag parallaxid (Mar 6, 2018 at 16:54) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: the 167 was a dumb bike, the wheels were too small.
  • + 5
 Yup. First bike I rode in years that as soon as I rode it, I knew I had to have it. People say you can't tell much from a parking lot ride, but I beg to differ.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: too bad you weren't allowed to run a coil on them... Wasnt really publicly known but yeah, due to flex the shock shaft could snap if you ran a coil shock.

Dont believe me? Ask the kid who was in whistler found out the hard way... Wasn't pretty
  • + 2
 @2bigwheels: this is very common for pretty much all bikes where shock is driven by a yoke. It's been the issue with Sunn Radical, nearly all Specializeds, Which means... that puts more stress on the shaft, regardless of the shock, although air shocks obviously deal with it better.
  • + 2
 @2bigwheels: @2bigwheels: Why would a coil shock be more likely to fail in this manner than an air shock? one would think a coil shock would hold up to torsion abuse better since the effects of burping a seal wouldn't be as immediately detrimental.
  • + 2
 @Buggyr333: I have Foo barred 7 rear air shocks to this day. I have never had an issue or broken a rear coil shock yet. I have had other issues with coil shocks like rattly Springs or spanner nuts that continue to come loose. All very simple repairs. Then there's the issue with the fox dyad rt2 s. These shocks seem to be nothing but problems. In my opinion these are even worse than the first issue double barrel in lines.
  • + 2
 Idk about the 167 but I always ran a ttx coil on my 153 and it was just straight up awesome and good times. Was a sad day to upgrade to the 2018 bike and not be able to use the same shock.
  • + 1
 @Buggyr333: The issue is with snapping the actual piston Rod. When the air can burps, it is because it has been supporting the whole shock in a way a coil won't.
  • + 1
 @feeblesmith: So I guess one could say it is also a problem with piston rods not being strong enough to handle torsional loads, and would probably vary depending on the shock used.
  • - 1
 @Buggyr333: yes, Cane Creeks in particular have been known to snap in Demos. Air shock shaft can surely take more than coil shock shafts. Which doesn’t make them any more optimal. Yokes are yikes, as simple as that
  • + 13
 Back in the late 90's my roommate had a pain old Stinky, we made up some decals that matched the Kona font, same size and colour and put them on his bike.

The decal just said "Slut", so his bike looked like a factory "Stinky Slut"! Let me tell you that bike got more comments than a Pinkbike article on wheel size!
  • + 15
 I can watch vids like this all day, keep making them please.
  • + 11
 Every year I search eBay for a 1990 Lava Dome , yellow with red and black paint splatter, my first real MTB - I loved that bike
  • + 6
 Had an red Eplosive with the B&W splatter. That bike was rad. Loved the old project 2 forks as well
  • + 2
 @nojzilla: i have an old (must be 1993 or so) explosif with the p2 fork, bought frame+fork used 2 years back for 80 euros because the driveside chainstay was cracked at the BB junction. friend of mine, a professional welder, fixed it. very beautiful frame.
  • + 5
 Picked up a 97 lava dome last year as birthday present to myself. It was the 20th anniversary of my 1st ever proper bike.
  • + 4
 @rynee: had the monster green 1991 explosif. Proyect two fork Hell of a ride with double cinch toeclips (sketchy) and joe murray components. talk about a good steel tange prestige frame.
  • + 5
 Hey Sewer-rat, a '90 Lavadome was my first mountainbike too but, suspecting I couldn't live long term with the splatter paint, after a long search found and bought one of only three plain white ones that came into the country.
I've still got it (along with six other bikes, including an Explosif) but it's still got a big place in my heart despite having been single-speeded up and wearing Maxxis Hookworms.

Unbelievably, around the mid-to-late two thousands, I was using it as a pit-bike at the Roc d'Azur race in the south of France and was stopped by an English guy and his mate riding through the showground, who used to own Cycle Care in High Wycombe (where I got it from) WHO FLIPPING RECOGNISED THE BIKE.....
Damn, that still makes me smile.
  • + 3
 My first mountain bike was a 1994 Fire Mountain. Loved it, and probably did more miles on it than all the bikes I've had combined since then.
  • + 3
 I do the same for my first BMX. Hutch exel. My grandmother and help me get this bike when I was in 6th grade.
  • + 12
 Paddy is funny, more stuff with this guy please
  • + 9
 My wife's 134 and my 153 process are an absolute hoot. Definitely some of the best bang-for-the-buck bikes we have ever owned.
  • + 10
 20 + year lifetime Cannondale Rider. Now riding a Kona and never looking back.
  • + 5
 2010 stinky was my first real FS bike. Amazing how 180mm travel felt bottomless and the short rear end and super clack front end really made that bike ahead of its time. Only thing stopping it was weight. The Stinky gave me the confidence to hit the biggest jumps I ever hit in my life. Next bike was a full custom 2009 Giant Reign. Different bike in basically every way. The Reign was lighter and faster but I ended up just keeping both because the Kona just had better feel at the bike park and wore parts out less often. Other odd quirk of the Stinky was the brake caliper pushrod thing. Never had issues with it but always wondered why they didn't just engineer things to not have to use it. Miss that bike alot but as I get older and style changes a 45lb "freeride" bike isn't exactly practical as a full time bike.

Both bikes are gone now and I'm on an a 2015 NS Snabb which is a great bike too but I am at a point where I may sell it for something with a little different geometry and newer parts or just get something for beating up at the park and downhill trails and keep the snabb as my adventure bike.

Anyways Konas are great! and maybe I will take a closer look at their bikes as I consider something new this season.
  • + 5
 My first real mountain bike was a 2000 Kona Caldera, in blue with a bomber z4 and the trickiest feature.....glow in the dark graphics and grips!!! Being 15 years old at the time, my buddies and I would chill and watch all the Kranked videos then go out and try to ride like Simmons, Tippie, and Schley. That bike made me as a rider and how I ride today. It was my urban, trials, trail, slalom, free ride and DH bike. I even won my first DH race on it!! The bike even helped me through some major hardships in my high school years. I have since moved along through various brands, but you can’t ignore those Kona roots. I have to give the Kona guys a sincere Thanks. You have made amazing bikes through the years and My life probably wouldn’t have turned out like it has without you.

I’d also like to note that the Stab in the video was a dream bike of mine. Brings back tons of great memories.
  • + 4
 I don't get that talk about the Kona Impact headset. Sheesh. That was a kick ass part.

This was at a time when there was still a threaded steer, quill stem, but fortunately 1 1/8". Had larger bearings in the lower and a rubber surround for the lower. At a time when an XT headset lasted 6-9 months the kona impact lasted... well, it lasted me 5+ years of actual riding, its still going strong in retirement. I actually have a spare impact control headset that I never needed.

My only regret is not buying that ti project 2 fork.
  • + 4
 So was Paul Turner ripped off or did Kona pay him a royalty? I know the Missers rode Kona-badged Turners on the world cup for a while.

Genuinely interested in the circumstances around it given how much of Kona's history is spent leveraging off those original designs.
  • + 1
 Good question DubiousD
  • + 2
 Paul Turner is rockshox I think. However Dave Turner, according to some of the old stories floating around on the net, had made a handshake deal with Kona, Kona stole his idea's / design and politely told him where to go, once they reversed engineered his work. This is internet hearsay, so it could be true or incorrect.
  • + 3
 I had some great times on my old Konas. 1st was a raw U'Hu I had in about 1997, I modded it with BETD long travel plates, rode it to death wrapped the back end round a tree and got a warantee back end off a King Kikapu which was amazing service. I replaced that with the original Stab with blue main frame with yellow flames from the head tube, in about 1999 loved that bike. At the end when I sold it on in about 2002 it had Boxxer 151's with a drop crown, long travel BETD plates, Hope Pro brakes, Hope BigUn hubs etc, raced a couple of Dragon DH's. Then I had a bit of a long "proper riding" break and came back bought a Dawg 2008, found that disappointing didn't keep it long.
  • + 2
 Dirt magazine did a pro bike check on Fabien's bike back in 2003/4 which was really cool.

They'd clearly gotten a stock bike and attacked it with a hack saw and blow torch. The rocker was completely homemade.
Homemade fork crowns too and I think Oliver Bossard made the shock and fork internals from scratch, only the stanchions and lowers were Marzocchi.
I seem to remember reading some of the geo numbers and just thinking they couldn't be true, especially the wheelbase
  • + 3
 My first and only full suspension bike is a 2006 Kona Coiler Deluxe that I picked up around 2013, I still ride that thing today and for an older bike with very few upgrades it still feels pretty damn good.
  • + 2
 Kona, please make an aluminum (or carbon I guess) 153 9er with a decent suspension spec! The Yari just isn't doing it!! So ready to retire my clapped out 134 and don't want to swap a bunch of new parts. Or you could just offer the 153 9er frameset....
  • + 2
 153 AL/DL frameset comes with the upgraded rear shock:
"AVAILABLE AS FRAME WITH ROCKSHOX SUPER DELUXE RCT REAR SHOCK & SRAM MAXLE ULTIMATE"

You can also upgrade the YARI into a Lyrik with a new damper kit.
  • + 1
 @scottiemac: close, but only the 27.5 is available as a frameset... it also comes with a solid parts spec. the best 9er comes with the yari, 11spd, and a lot of other stuff to be replaced.
  • + 1
 @TrainingWheelz: 153 AL/DL 29 is available as a frame only-

konaworld.com/process_153_al_dl_29.cfm

$2499
  • + 4
 I was hoping for hearing about Joe Murray,he played a big part on the XC side of things at Kona in the early 90's.
  • + 3
 Sounds like Fabien Barel and his mechanic became their R&D departement for that period of time. Probably didn't hurt that Fabien was a racer and an engineer.
  • + 1
 I had a 4" travel Dawg. I put a 130 fox vanilla RC on it. Every day when I walked by it on my way up the stairs I would stop and just drool. "How am I so lucky?"
I miss that feeling. Kona was the first bike that ever gave me that feeling. I would love to get another.
  • + 1
 I've been riding for years. Growing up in Western Canada, my friends had every year/color/model of Kona from '95-00. I LOVE their colors, graphic designs, logos, etc. from that era, their bikes looked great.

I finally bought a Kona in the fall, an '18 Big Honzo DL. I love how it rides.

Kona's hit more than missed I think. I am interested to hear Paddy explain the Magic Link, I think that was pretty f'd. However, that's interesting to hear about the feedback from Fabien Barel and his mechanic... Kona got really good, really quickly, at making freeride and DH bikes in the early '00s.
  • + 5
 Good video, thanks PB and Kona!
  • + 5
 Still riding my 1993 Cindercone
  • + 1
 Hm! So we talk bike history, but we forget that Hans Rey was (and still is) riding probably the most famous hardtail of all time, the Zaskar? And we also forget to make a connection to Turner, when Pau and Tomi Misser were riding rebadged Afterburners for Volvo/Kona before there was a production Stab? Well, at least it's good we still know who Paul Walton is and give him the deserved props, even though his last name stays sheer mistery. Wink
  • + 5
 Very enjoyable! Bring on episode two.
  • + 3
 It will be nice if pinkbike do this kind of footage with every no mainstream brand... Transition, Intense, Knolly, Pivot,...
  • + 5
 Nice TT jacket!!
  • + 2
 TT when your balls are as big as your bag of skills
  • + 4
 Kona; staffed by dogs. Apparently.
  • + 3
 I still shred my '07 Stinky! The bike that started it all for me, and many many others!
  • + 1
 I had some early 90's jerseys (including 2 of those long sleeve light zip-up jackets) I dropped off to Kona in Vancouver maybe 5 years ago.) Hope they still have them and have them hanging on a wall somewhere. ????
  • + 2
 Kona 1- black 89 explosif
Kona 2- 90’s Hei Hei titanium with Dr. Dews.
Kona 3- 90’s black explosif
Rode once with Joe Murray up at Grand Beach trails in Manitoba.
  • + 4
 Really cool. Look forward to part 2.
  • + 3
 All time awesomeness Kona!
  • + 3
 I love the old skool Kona bikes - takes me back! Smile
  • + 3
 I'll take those XTR V-brake levers off your hands.
  • + 3
 Still lust after those too.
  • + 2
 I still have mine.
  • + 1
 My stinky was the best bike I had for wipping it was the only bike iv had that I could wipp both ways, got a 2011 bass at the min with 650b wheels on
  • + 2
 I have a search saved on kijiji for an Abra Cadabra. That bike always intrigued me.
  • + 3
 I really don't get these people. I still ride a stinky...
  • + 3
 2006 stinky was my first real bike, man I loved that thing
  • + 3
 Kona Bear was my first full suspension bike
  • + 2
 So... when is part 2 dropping?
  • + 1
 Cool eye opening vid! I always thought bike builders are super pro engineers...
  • + 1
 Loved my 2002 Stinky DeeLux paired with a Shiver. Still makes me smile thinking of that combo
  • + 2
 Ya I am still wondering when part 2 is happening...
  • - 2
 First kona - stinky Dee lux
Second kona - stab primo
Third kona - jake the snake
Fourth kona - 2013 Process - last of the 26" and designed by interns. Complete POS design for chainstay pivot. Frame and swing arm cracks within 18 months. I really liked all these bikes but I don't trust the engineering anymore.
  • - 4
flag speedy06 (Mar 7, 2018 at 3:21) (Below Threshold)
 I know what you mean. My first real bike was a Kona and loved the brand but when I think about it I had to take the the bike back to the shop twice. One was a noise coming from the frame which turned out to be a crack and second time was a faulty front hub which was a fraction too big to fit the axle properly. A lot of hassle caused by one bike.
  • + 1
 "designed by interns" ... lol, nope.
  • + 1
 @ScandiumRider: fine. I'll say the B-team. what's the difference? I think in 2012 most of the engineering effort was probably on the 2014 27.5 bikes. Those bikes were a hit. The 2013 Process.... just look at this pivot design. I'm thrilled that they saved a few ounces but what did they think riders who buy 150mm travel bike do with them? unacceptable, and unfortunately now they are at the bottom of the list when I look for new bikes. I can't buy bikes as often as I like and this one really burned me. I was expecting this bike to last 5+ years.
www.pinkbike.com/photo/15678680
  • - 1
 When he said that Dan and Jacob's retirement wasn't going to happen, I thought maybe they'd passed away?
I've googled it and both seemed well, at least in the last few years
Not sure I know what he meant with that comment
  • + 2
 They will never retire. Or never have enough money to retire to Kona. Either way
  • + 2
 Maybe he meant they're not planning on retirement at all?
  • + 1
 I love my Process 153, but is it just me or has Kona always been hit or miss with paint schemes and graphics?
  • + 1
 Magic Link. What happened? Wasn't so Magical?
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