Climbing and Fit
At 5' 6", I fall into that annoying ‘smedium’ category where I could have ended up on either a small or a medium bike. After some back and forth with the folks at Kona, we settled on a medium for this test to ensure I got enough leg extension on the bike. The longer 605mm top tube, 435mm of reach coupled with the short 40mm stem was also going to put me further into Kona’s desired attack position, whereas the size small may have shifted my weight further back on the bike, which was not the ultimate goal.
Setting the 134 DL up was pretty easy, as there’s really not a whole lot to fuss with. If you’re not into fiddling with things too much this is good news. The RockShox Pike comes with a suggested air volume (printed on the left-hand fork lower) that's dependent on rider weight; it's a great starting point for those who don’t know where to begin. After setting seat height, sag, and the cockpit you should able to get out the door and down to business pretty quickly.
There’s one word that springs to mind when jumping aboard the 134 DL and that’s balance. The roomy cockpit, shorter stem and low center of gravity created a very grounded feeling right out of the gate. The 134 DL might not be an XC bike, but it’s got some pretty impressive climbing chops. That feeling of balance remains fairly intact while climbing, with no wandering of the front wheel, and just smooth operation that generates some great traction. The 134 DL enjoyed tractoring up and over roots and rocks; there was never a back seat moment, and it was easy to move weight around on the bike to assist with different climbing moves. While moving forward and standing up on the bike I always felt planted and not too boggy through pedal strokes.
The Monarch RL rear shock only comes with open and lock-out mode, so there’s no cheater climb mode here, but I really didn’t feel as though that mattered too much. It was nice to just get riding and not have to think about flicking switches. I still felt supported while climbing out of the saddle, so this may have helped the bike feel as though it carried itself well.
Without pedals the 134 DL clocked in at 29.12 pounds on the dream crusher. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the 134 DL is portly - "big boned" might be a better adjective - but it carries its weight unexpectedly well when climbing. There are lighter bikes out there, but it’s worth regarding how well this bike gets itself around considering its ticket price. Make no mistake, this is not the bike you want to chase the lycra-clad crowd around on unless, of course, you are looking to punish your way to fitness and glory. If you do decide to race your XC buddies to the top, make sure you muscle to the front for the descent, because that’s when things really get fun...Descending
There’s nothing that quite beats throwing a leg over a DH rig and pointing it south, but when you get on a shorter-travel bike and you experience a similar sensation, you know you're onto a good thing. The 134 has got all the markings of a bigger rig, just in a little brother package. It’s not quite as big and it’s not quite as burly, but it’s an impressively talented descender who will do its best to keep up with the big kids.
The geo numbers Kona put together and the low-slung center of gravity make the 134 a really stable-feeling bike that also possesses a lively and playful feel that makes you just want to pop off every little rock or root on the trail just for the fun of it. Despite its 68-degree head angle, the 134 DL feels slack enough to still feel as though you are attacking the trail, and not pogoing yourself to potential doom. The bike comes with a 780mm Kona XC riser bar, which some people will love for steering leverage, although I chopped mine down to 760mm as I just don't need that much handlebar. With the short stem the steering is precise, but never jumpy and I felt confident making quick decisions on the fly.
When it came to cornering, the 134 DL felt predictable and consistent and it was easy to remain centered over the bike and hold your line while making turns. If you happen to be really good at pulling aggressive shapes on your bike a la Seb Kemp
, the low top tube of the 134 DL will give you room enough to get as creative as you like.
When it came to bigger hits, the 134 DL really could step up to the plate, and even when I did use up the bike’s full travel, there was enough progression in the suspension to keep the bike from feeling as though I was being body slammed into the ground. The 134 DL can quickly lull a rider into thinking that anything is possible... and it probably is if you’ve got the skills and confidence to step up to it. Component Check• KS Lev:
Although I really like the Lev's lever, I had some problems getting this post to return consistently. Vernon Felton recommended I try some additional PSI - closer to the top end than was recommended - and once I tried this the seat was better at returning but became more difficult to drop unless I added force, and so the experimentation continued... • Shimano XT Drivetrain:
This drivetrain did give me some headaches. Out of the box I could not get the shifting to work smoothly and after closer inspection it was found that the hanger was bent during shipping, and after Kona sent across a new one things worked a lot better. I felt as though the 32 tooth ring was a great choice for this bike, and most likely for a lot of riders out there.• Minion DHF 2.30 Front / Tomahawk 2.30 Rear:
The Minion and Tomahawk combo is like a good old fashioned mullet - business in the front and party in the back - a great and predictable combo for my home trails. Plus I was able to run them tubeless, which is also a bonus.• WTB Volt Team / Saddle:
I really like this saddle, it felt super neutral, not too rigid or cushy and not too wide.Pinkbike's Take:
|Kona have packaged up a slice of the Pacific Northwest's riding style for the rest of the world to experience and enjoy in the 134 DL. It's no featherweight, but the DL climbs well enough that you could go and race your local enduro on it. More importantly, you will be getting the most of descending while having a lot of fun. If we're honest with ourselves, many of us don't need 160mm+ of suspension for our local trails but if you still want to get a little sendy, the 134 DL has a bulletproof frame, a lifetime warranty, is ready, obliging and will cost you less than a beat up Subaru. - Rachelle Frazer|
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About the ReviewerStats: Age: Masters Category • Height: 5'6” • Inseam: 31" • Weight: 116lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None Rachelle's relationship with mountain biking began when she moved from Australia to Whistler, B.C., in 2005, where she swiftly fell in love with downhilling thanks to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Her love for mountain biking has grown over the years to include all types of riding, and she is currently working on taming the unruly rock gardens of the East Coast of the USA where she now lives. Rachelle Frazer