After a five-year hiatus, Kona's Satori is back. It still has 29" wheels, 130mm of travel, and 68-degree headtube, but nearly everything has been changed, including the design of the frame itself.
The Satori was originally slated to be released a year earlier than it was and with 27.5" wheels. However, Kona's engineers decided that 29" wheels would better serve the riders' needs so they went back and did some re-designing, re-configuring, and came up with the 2019 Satori. At first look, it's obvious that some of the angles are pretty different than a lot of other bikes currently out there.
According to Kona, this "XC-trail" bike with its short chain-stays, steep seat-tube angle, and 68 degree head-tube was made for the rider who wants to put in miles on a variety of terrain but still have a bike that can handle some abuse and be nimble both uphill and down.
Intended use: XC-trail
Travel: 130mm rear / 140mm front
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: aluminum
Head angle: 68º
Chainstay length: 430mm
Colors: gloss hot orange
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Weight: 30.5 lbs. (Size M, without pedals)
Price: $3,499 USD
More info: www.konaworld.com
The Satori comes in two builds in sizes small to extra-large. The base model Satori is $2,399 USD and comes with a Shimano Deore 1x10 drivetrain, Shimano brakes, RockShox Deluxe RL Debonair shock, and RockShox Recon Gold SL fork. The Satori DL tested here comes with a 140mm RockShox Revelation RL fork, SRAM's GX Eagle drivetrain, Guide R Brakes and a Maxxis Minion, Tomahawk tire combo and retails for $3,499.
Construction and Features
The Satori takes some design cues from Kona's Hei Hei line and some others from the much loved first generation Process. The bike has the same single-pivot "Fuse" suspension platform as the Hei Hei, but with some pretty unorthodox angles. According to Paddy White, Kona's Product Manager, "This bike came from us trying to address a few categories at once. It's a capable, versatile, monster truck of an XC bike that has quickly become an in-house favorite." The team at Kona didn't necessarily want a full-on XC bike but they didn't want the bike to also carry over into the duties of the Process line. It was intended to fill the gap between the two.
There's a durable parts build and external cable routing that keeps the bike simple and maintenance as easy as possible. A water bottle can be mounted to the downtube, something no modern bike should be without, sitting cleanly on top of the cable guides. There's a RockShox Reverb seatpost, and although I can't support the decision to use the plunger style remote, according to the team at Kona, it was a significant cost savings to spec that over the Reverb 1x remote. It's also something that is easily upgraded by the end consumer and one of the few things I would change if it were my bike.
Geometry & Sizing
Kona took the platform from the Hei Hei and then combined it with the reach numbers of the G1 Process. They kept the 68-degree headtube angle from the original Satori- an outlier in and of itself and then cranked up the seat tube angle to a far forward 78.4 degrees (sizes S and M...L and XL are 78.3). So while the bike is longer and lower, it's not slacker than the OG.
The seat tube angle is four degrees forward from the original Satori. The idea is that this will keep the rider more on top of the bottom bracket, effectively helping the long bike feel a good bit shorter when climbing. Combined with the 68-degree head-tube and short rear, tight turns and navigating through technical spots while heading both uphill and down should be easier to maneuver past.
The Satori uses a single pivot design and Kona's Fuse suspension platform, with a flex-stay rear-end. The vertically mounted trunnion shock allows the use of bearings as well as a bigger shock with more air/oil flow. The leverage ratio is fairly similar to the G1 Process - mostly linear and fairly progressive in the travel. The Satori's anti-squat percentage stays above 100% throughout its travel.
I'm a big fan of mid-travel 29" trail bikes and I would probably choose one over just about anything else for the riding around me. While some people are more focused on riding whatever long travel bike is going to help them best cut corners and produce the top Strava time on the local descents, I find that a well rounded, mid-travel 29er that likes to go up and down is my "go-to" most days. Especially for any longer rides on varied terrain. To get to most of the good stuff, you've gotta get up to get down, after all.
Pedaling the Satori, my body position was more forward and on top of the bottom bracket than usual due to the steep seat tube, but that's not necessarily bad, it's just quite different from many other bikes in this category. The aggressive stance is most apparent on flatter trail sections and much less so while climbing. On steeper terrain, that position became an advantage by putting me in a good spot to get more power down to the pedals; it creates a seated position that mimics the feeling of standing up and forward, out of the saddle.
The Satori does a good job of holding itself up and has a lot of anti-squat. I found that some of my favorite trails to ride the Satori on were those with undulating terrain. Short, punchy climbs and quick descents, such as the ones DuPont State Forest has to offer were a blast on the bike. Tight uphill turns were incredibly easy to negotiate, and the Satori's angles - steeper than most other mid-travel bikes I've been on lately, made technical ascents that can at times be tricky quite simple to clean. This was especially noticeable at lower speeds.
The trails around here are multi-use. Technical, non-mountain bike specific ruts are commonplace. It's what people enjoy about the area and what makes it special. There's very little predictability to the condition that things may be in, especially with rain storms changing rocks, making new ruts, and washing sand into turns on a daily basis. You have to be fully on your game to ride quickly, maintain a flow, and stay on the bike. The Satori's stout build - (Revelation RL fork, 2.3 Minion and Tomahawk tire combo on WTB i29 rims, SRAM Guide brakes, and oversized 35mm bar/stem) makes it easy to ride into most anything with some confidence. Stray rocks, newly uncovered roots, and other trail obstacles were easy to manage.
Getting the seat down and out of the way is especially imperative to having a good time while descending on the Satori due to that steep seat tube angle. I felt as if I needed to drop the seat and then making a concerted effort to find my center of balance again in order to get my weight back where it should be before charging into a technical section of trail. With the seat down and my weight back, the Satori feels comfortable and ready to attack. The chainstays are pretty short at 430mm and the bike is nimble and quick in turns and confident in descents.
The suspension did feel a little harsh off of the top, and although I experimented with different air pressures, shock settings, and volume reducers I could never get it quite as supple as I would have liked in the very initial part of the travel. Once in the travel, however, and especially at speed, any harshness was much less noticeable, and the bike was easy to push into anything from rock gardens and higher speed rooty descents to random trail-side drops and features.
If I rode the bike confidently it likewise behaved confidently. If I was too reserved on it and didn't make a conscious effort to get my weight back from the seated position even in more flat and pedaly technical terrain, the Satori would start to lose its composure ever-so-slightly, but more than bikes with a less forward seat tube angle seem to. Overall, the Satori is a great descender and not afraid to assertively roll into sections of trail that would make some other 130/140mm XC-trail bikes quickly shut down. If it's ridden with some intention, as it should be, it will go just about anywhere you point it with ease.
How does it compare?
The Santa Cruz Tallboy has 20mm less travel than the Satori, but the geometry numbers (except for the Satori's super steep seat tube angle) are similar, and both bikes have a similar intended use, falling into the technical trail / aggressive cross-country category.
The Satori clambered up steeper sections of trail with a bit more ease, but it in flatter, technical terrain, the Tallboy excels. The Tallboy feels tough enough to be ridden hard, but it doesn't have the same overbuilt and ready for anything feel that the Satori offers. The Satori also holds itself together better when descending rough and unpredictable trail, thanks largely to the extra travel. The Tallboy's suspension is more supple in small bumps and it's more efficient on flatter trails, while the Satori has the edge in rougher terrain.
Technical Report RockShox Revelation RC Fork:
The Revelation is a good value and a stout fork. No longer is it the scrawny XC fork of years past, it now has the same chassis as the Pike with 35mm stanchions and a DebonAir air spring.SRAM Guide R Brakes:
When set up properly, I like SRAM's Guide family of brakes. They're easy to adjust, even down to the more entry level "R" model and they've proven to be consistent for me...and this is probably the 20th bike I've had with them in the last couple of years.RockShox Reverb:
Despite its reputation for frequent needing rebuilds and servicing, the latest version of the Reverb works well. I think that the plunger style remote is extremely antiquated, and at the very least it should it should have been mounted under the bar rather than over the top. The lever is easily upgradeable to RockShox's new shifter-style remote, something I'd recommend doing right away. Maxxis DHF 2.3 / Tomahawk 2.3 tires:
The DHF is one of the most popular tires of all time. It's good in a wide variety of conditions and predictable. The Tomahawk is a little less common, but it did an exceptional job of managing poor and wet trail conditions, clearing muck with its wide tread pattern. However, the tires are the less expensive dual compound, and I would certainly upgrade to a 3C compound as soon as they showed signs of wear.
Is this the bike for you?
The Satori is an interesting bike that handles technical terrain well. It has some pretty untraditional angles, but they help it excel where a lot of bikes don't, especially steeper climbs and choppy descents. For places where rides can be a wide mix of conditions and it's usually up or down, the Satori is a bombproof bike to get you in and out of just about anything you find. it has the composure to charge confidently into the "somewhat unknown" without worry, and while it's not an enduro bike by any means, it's far closer to that that than it is a flimsy XC rig.