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Kona Satori Review - African Zen

   Words by Mark

   on 25/02/2015 11:34:00

Test Riding the Kona Satori in South Africa

Satori is a Buddhist term for enlightenment. Apparently, as long as there is Satori, then Zen will continue to exist in the world. You might think that to associate this kind of feeling with riding a bike is a bit too abstract. But, when riding this bike that is exactly what you feel - an enlightening experience. You become one with the bike, with the mountains, with nature itself.

However, the feeling of enlightenment that I experienced may have had something to do with the surroundings in which I choose to give the Kona Satori a little spin. This is a story about how a Satori made its way 8000 miles around the world to the mountainous wine lands of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, South Africa - a much more glamorous destination than my local Leicestershire woodland!

My father, who is now 72 years young, has been cycling for as long as I can remember. He is an extremely fit man and often outsprints men half his age on his road bike. But he wanted a new challenge in his life – no, this didn’t involve wanting to become an armchair Countdown champion – he wanted to dabble in MTB.

This newfound passion for MTB was the reason behind him throwing a little curve ball just before I was due to fly out to see him in South Africa. Two days, yes two days…, before I left the UK and as I was finalising my last minute arrangements, he dropped me a line to see if I could squeeze a Satori into my suitcase – only, of course, if this wouldn’t be too much bother.

“Sure”, I said, “not a problem, Dad.” I knew as soon as I said those words that I was going to be in trouble with the wife. I was pretty sure that we already were at the luggage weight limit and now I had to find room for a 29-inch wheel bike! Luckily for me, and my marriage in particular, Virgin didn’t appear to charge for a single item of sports equipment. Obstacle number one successfully hurdled. Upon further research it also became clear that there wasn’t any import duties on personal sports equipment. Bonus – this is simple I thought.

What I didn’t consider at the time is that because the bike was pre-built it wasn’t going to fit in the boot alongside all the other luggage. The trusty Thule 923 Euroway G2 towbar carrier came to the rescue and soon enough, Satori and all, we were off to Heathrow. I should probably mention that the bike bag I purchased for the trip, an Evoc Bike Bag, was a truly awesome piece of kit. The Evoc had compartments for the wheels, with additional protection on the inside to prevent damage to all the essentials. Another nice feature was a foam block that supports the chainstays preventing damage to crank and rear mech. There is even an additional internal compartment for pedals and other small accessories – it was perfect for the job.

Two hours after landing in S.A., the Satori was unpacked and assembled again. The bike travelled well and arrived completely unscathed. My dad, above all, was ecstatic with it and couldn’t wait to jump on it. After making sure the wife and child were settled, as that was most definitely my priority, we headed five miles down a dusty road to the local trail. The Southey Vines Trail was built by the local club – the Wannabees, Somerset West – an amazing club of very passionate riders who have helped build up riding in the Western Cape, working with the local farmers to ensure safety on the trails.

The trail is set in a large park, and despite being relatively flat compared to some of the trails here in the UK, you can quickly build up a bit of speed. It features a number of berms, jumps, gaps and drop-offs, which allowed us to give the bike a great little test. Plus, in the heat (34 degrees), it really didn’t take long to work up a proper sweat! I could tell immediately that my Dad had fallen in love with his new steed.

This is a story about how a Satori made its way 8000 miles around the world to the mountainous wine lands of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, South Africa - a much more glamorous destination than my local Leicestershire woodland!
Dad Test Riding the Kona Satori in South Africa

We needed to try something a little more challenging. So, the plan was to hit some proper singletrack, something more akin to what we find at trail centres here – I’m talking Grizedale, Cannock Chase, or Coed-y-Brenin. There was a Wannabees club ride planned for the Saturday on some proper trail near Stellenbosch, which looked ideal. But I was without a bike, so quickly found and contacted Ride In, a bike rental café, who had a number of really well prepared Specialized bikes at really decent rates - £20 for a full day on a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp Evo for example. The owner, Gavin, is originally from the UK and worked with pro-bike teams before embarking on a more relaxed style of living and to be honest I don’t blame him.

Knowing the terrain, my Dad decided to go tubeless on the Satori. Many of the vineyards have a thorny weed growing in them know as Duiwel Doring (Devils Thorn) and they will literally pierce anything and everything they touch. You’d be an idiot to ride the area with anything but tubeless. Fortunately, the Satori comes tubeless ready, so all we needed was some Stans No Tubes and a little bit of patience before we were ready to roll.

It was 23 degrees when we left the house at 5:30am, a far cry from the freezing temperatures in the UK. We met around 100 other cyclists, a group that consisted of a mix of roadies and MTBers, outside the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West ready for the 6am depart. Based upon ability we separated into smaller groups and headed off into the wine lands of Stellenbosch. The pace was steady and the trail flowed beautifully as we traversed the picturesque vineyards. We stopped after about 20 miles to allow the group to separate. Whilst the XC marathon ‘extremists’ rode off to do another 60-odd miles, we cut to take a shorter, but none less breath-taking, route home. Reluctantly, my Dad and I swapped bikes, allowing me the chance to compare the Satori to the Stumpy.

I have to admit, I was suitably impressed. Sure it didn’t have Autosag on the shock. Sure it “only” had Fox Float 34 CTD’s and not the silky smooth Rockshox Revelation RC29. Yet, the more I rode it, the more I thought, "are these more expensive components actually needed?" For me on that trail at that given moment, and certainly for my dad who won’t be doing anything extreme, the Satori was perfect.

I have to admit, I was suitably impressed. For me on that trail at that given moment, and certainly for my dad who won’t be doing anything extreme, the Satori was perfect.
Dad Test Riding the Kona Satori on the South African Trails

However, I still needed and felt the urge for a more technical trail to run the rule over the Satori. The Jonkershoek trails are considered by the locals as the best trails in the area and were to be our next conquest. It’s is the perfect venue for an Enduro Event with the Jeep track for climbs, flowing singletrack and downhill sections for the timed descends. Rather stupidly we forgot our trail map back at the house, but figured it couldn’t be that bad. Without proper direction we landed up climbing up Canaries, rather than taking the tamer Jeep track. But, both bikes took the climb in their stride and just ate up the roots and rocks with ease.

A number of riders, who were descending, commented on how committed they thought we were climbing the trail rather than the Jeep track. I quietly thought they really ought to come and ride some of the UK trails and they’ll soon see it’s the norm, not commitment. Besides, these 29ers really made it feel easy. I jumped on the Satori a few times and couldn’t believe what the Satori was delivering for the money paid! Soon though, the trails got pretty gnarly and some sections were un-climbable. We eventually landed up on some Jeep Track, which climbed to the top of a trail named Black Diamond – a gem of a black grade trail. Gnarly as a gnarly thing.

At the top of Black Diamond, we rode about 5 miles of tight, technical, flowing singletrack with every kind of variation imaginable. From sandy, rooty, tree-lined runs, down into very technical, rocky pine forest runs, then into bare, open and sketchy rocky XC and finally into tree-lined, soft, sandy but flowing singletrack. The Satori just stood out as being such a capable machine, but it has to be said, by the 3rd time of adjusting air pressure in the shock and forks, I was thinking Autosag would make a lot more sense. But, if it’s your only trail bike you wouldn’t have the need for all this changing.

A number of riders, who were descending, commented on how committed they thought we were climbing the trail rather than the Jeep track. I quietly thought they really ought to come and ride some of the UK trails and they’ll soon see it’s the norm, not commitment.
South-Africa-Trail

I had to get back and try more of these awesome trails. However, unfortunately my dad needed to turn his focus to training for the epic Cape Argus (Cape Town Cycle Tour) road race – billed as the world’s largest cycle race (not really sure how that stacks up with the Tour, perhaps it’s the sheer number of competitors?). But, luckily I had a great super-sub. My other half was eager to get out on the trails after seeing my many pictures and listening to our endless stories. So, the following week my wife and I hit the trails, she on a Specialized Rumor and myself on the Satori.

In searing 30 degree heat, we started a gruelling climb up steep Jeep tracks. I took the decision to keep to semi-familiar ground and re-ran the exact same route I had ridden previously. I raced most of the way to the top of Canaries again. However, I took an enforced rest break when a large troop of these massive baboons decided to descend from their tree tops and check out the Satori. Flying down Canaries was just amazing on this bike. Drop-offs were a doddle. The bike just floated off jumps soaking up the landings with ease. Berms, soft sand, technical rock gardens, tight twisties and flat-out speed - it does it all.

The more I rode, the more this bike made sense. It’s not loud, but neither is it understated. It’s fast and it delivers exceptional performance. Every component compliments the next. The design and build quality is top notch. It’s everything we have grown to expect from Kona. If you’re looking trail-blasting performance in a package that won’t cost the earth (Currently £1,500.00 – Was £2,800.00), this is the bike for you. This bike is Satori, the path to MTB Zen. No question. Well done Kona.

By Garrick, Digital Marketing Manager

★★★★★ 5/5

View the Full Specification of the Kona Satori

Riding into the Sunset on the Kona

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