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Kona Big Unit

Skittish scandium sprinter

The Kona Unit has been one of the UK’s most successful singlespeeds, so we were surprised to see that the original 26in-wheeled version has vanished in favour of two 29er options for 2009.

Ride & handling: Stiff and capable, but doesn't exploit its best 29er attributes

With an 80mm fork and superlight

It charges along well, with impressive tracking accuracy

That said, it had a tendency

The overall stiffness is obvious in general ride comfort. There’s a lot of

Frame: Scandium gives good blend of light weight and high performance

Kona is now into scandium big time across all its bikes where light weight and high performance make sense. Square section hydroformed tubes add torsional stiffness between the externally butted head tube and extended seat tube.

A big machined yoke with tubular brace keeps tyre clearance reasonable while slightly curved stays stop ankle knock. Big Allen-bolted sliding dropouts with screw adjusters and integrated brake mount take up chain slack. Full cable routing is kept for running gears, which is either useful or ugly depending on your singlemindedness.

Equipment: Good crankset and rims, but short-travel fork and cheap brakes let spec down

Bashguarded RaceFace Atlas cranks can take an inner ring if needed. Their stiffness helps turn the single Formula cog and the cassette design means easy swapping to other ratios.

Other kit is high-quality too, with tough Mavic 719 29er rims surviving some tyre-splitting impacts and Maxxis rubber giving good all-round performance. Low rise Kona bars give plenty of leverage on the climbs too.

Despite typically excellent Fox control, the 80mm fork offers 20mm less travel than we would expect (and recommend) for a bike of this type. The Shimano brakes look and feel cheap on a £1,500 bike too.

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