Monthly Archives: April 2017

Qualifications at Lourdes Provide a Mixed Day for Kona Riders

Qualifications at round one of the UCI DH World Cup in Lourdes, France proved to be a interesting day for the Kona DH Team, producing a mixed bag of results. Connor Fearon, racing with the number five plate, finished qualifications uncharacteristically outside of the top ten in 32nd, with only 3 seconds separating the top ten though the racing in Lourdes is tight. He’s not fazed though, confident that he can bring the speed on race day “I felt weird dropping in for my qualification today. I was nervous and just rode tight. I’m not to worried though, I’ve been riding good and I feel confident I’ll bring the speed tomorrow.” – Connor Fearon

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Josh Button, whose seeded in 62nd place after his 2016 season (how could you forget Cairns), rode to solid 63rd place in qualis yesterday. We all know he has what it takes to surprise everyone and we are just waiting for it to happen again. Could the season opener be his day?

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Tegan Molloy unfortunately has fallen victim to the new UCI changes and her 17th place yesterday morning puts her just two places shy of competing in the finals. After a great off season back home in Australia it’s a disappointing start for her season. She remains positive and more motivated than ever to crush it at round two.

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After an injury plagued 2016 season, junior Anthony Poulson could not have hoped for a better start to 2017. Looking blazingly fast on track, the young Quebec native who spent his winter in NZ, has come out with an 11th place in qualifications. This will be his second season on the World Cup circuit and it appears that his experience is starting to pay off.

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And unfortunately for Canadian shredder Magnus Manson, his 82nd will leave him out the finals at Round 1. He was riding fast in practice but just couldn’t put things together in his run. There is no doubt that this years DH field is supremely stacked with talented riders, but there is no denying it’s a disappointing start Magnus, whom clearly has that X factor.

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Finals are airing on RedBull.Tv at 4:00 AM PDT. Be sure to tune in and cheer for Josh, Connor and Anthony as they compete against the rest of the Worlds best DH racers!

Suns Out Guns Out in Lourdes, France for the Opening Round of the DH World Cup

Qualifying for the first round of the World Cup in Lourdes, France happens later today and the Kona team, about their Operators have kicked off practice and timed training with a bang. Racing to 7th in timed training yesterday, Connor Fearon has begun the same way he ended last season, sitting comfortable in the top 10.

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“The World Cup off season is so long that I get sick of training and just anxious to get back racing. The first World Cup is finally here and everything feels good: The team, bike and myself.” Connor is clearly is going to be exciting to watch this season and we cant wait to see what he pulls out of the bag on race day!

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Magnus Manson’s is racing his first World Cup on a Kona this weekend, coming off the back of a convincing win at Port Angeles two weeks back. We cant wait to see what he can do here riding for the Stevie Smith Foundation and the memory of a team mate and friend.

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Stoked that the rain has disappeared Tegan Molloy is just amped to be back on the circuit again and with the team “It’s exciting to be back with a full team for the season opener here in Lourdes. The track is running awesome and if the weather holds off for the finals it’ll be even better.”

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Connor Fearon Gets in One Last Trail Shred Before the World Cup Kicks Off

With the 2017 DH World Cup kicking off this weekend, Kona’s in-house cinematographer, Joonas Vinnari, though it timely to re-work our recent footage of Connor Fearon rallying the Hei Hei Trail at Retallack Lodge. With the season packed over the next few months there wont be a whole lot of small bike action for Connor and the DH team. Enjoy!

You can check out the original version of the video with a whole pile of photos HERE.

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Spencer Paxson Waxes About his 2-3 Finish with Kerry Werner at the Pisgah Stage Race!

Spencer Paxson and Kerry Werner went 2-3 at the Pisgah Stage Race on their Hei Heis. As usual, Spencer’s trip report is super thoughtful and interesting! Here goes…

Words by Spencer Paxson. Photos courtesy Blue Ridge Adventures and Icon Media Asheville.

If the Bible had been written in the Pacific Northwest, the expression “shake the dust off your feet” would go something like “scrape the moss off…” At least that was my thought as I hummed out of town in my moss-covered truck early one April morning for my first race trip of the 2017 season. It had been a long and wet winter in Bellingham. The longest in recorded history. I had let the legs go good and fallow since my last race in November, and then spent all of December off of the bike (on account of the snow). For the past three months I had been riding the magic carpet of loam on the trails around town to get back in shape. Now it was time to put it to the test and wake the senses from hibernation with a trip to the Pisgah Stage Race in North Carolina.

Needless to say, I was keen to get out and stretch my legs in the old crumbly Blue Ridge Mountains and rhododendron groves of western North Carolina. The objective was the Pisgah Stage Race, a 5-day humdinger of a mountain bike stage race based out of the town of Brevard. This would be the 9th edition of the famous event and my first time racing it. Along the way I’d link up with new teammate and North Carolina native Kerry Werner and the good folks at Tennessee Valley Bikes (TVB) in Knoxville.

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There was no lacking in fine Southern hospitality as soon as I landed in Knoxville. In no time I had tossed my bag into the back of a big truck and was driving down the highway with a Nikki Lane song twanging on the radio as the sun set over the Smoky Mountains. A big dinner of hole-in-the-wall Mexican food with Scott and Eric from TVB and the road warriors from Kona Bicycles Demo Tour had me feeling fat as a tick. With a happy post-travel coma fast approaching, I passed out that night to the sound of the local crickets and katydids.

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We shook our legs out at the Kona Demo Day at the new Knoxville Urban Wilderness trail system, followed that evening my some official pre-fueling at TVB’s new shop grand opening. Kerry and I were elected as chief judges for a “guac-off”. We sampled 14 different kinds of guacamole scoring on 8 criteria each, then topped off on street corn and sausages before bidding farewell to Knoxville and caravanning down the Blue Ridge Highway to Brevard. We weathered a flat tire on the RV and made it to the Pine Ridge campground and my first night in the Pisgah Forest. Just before midnight I had pitched a tent on a little grassy nook next the Davidson River with the blue light of the moon shining so bright I could read a book without a flashlight.

Coffee, pancakes, and NPR News in the morning would begin the routine for the coming week as Kerry whipped up a mighty fine breakfast before our first day pre-riding some of the Pisgah trails. The weather was looking prime, with sun and short-sleeve temperatures forecasted for the week, maybe a frogwash or two along the way, but otherwise uncharacteristically dry for spring. Despite the warm temperatures, the trees had not bloomed yet, and the only green in the woods was the dark evergreen of rhododendron groves. The absence of leaves gave the forest a brisk and flinty appearance. I kept an eye out for the famous white squirrels of Pisgah and imagined old-time Civil War era history as we rolled out to the trails.

“This one’ll get a little loose,” noted Kerry before we dropped into the first descent of the day. I had expected Pisgah to be rough based on the stories I had heard, but that said, I was caught off guard after four months of riding the luxurious loam carpets of Cascadia. Yes, our trails in Bellingham can get rough and wild, but there’s a nuance to everything. The trails of Pisgah are refreshingly raw, rocky and rooty, ungroomed and unapologetic. Riding fast here requires a smoothness akin to the prolonged vowels of the Southern drawl. Managing traction and speed are as different here as the accent. Fundamentals are the same, but the expressions don’t work without the subtleties. I felt like I couldn’t carry my speed if I had a bucket with a lid on it! Let’s say my Yankee rigidity would hold me back through the first half of the stage race, but I eventually adopted a smoother Southern style.

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Racing arrived soon enough, and on the morning of Stage 1 the air was abuzz as the crowd of 200 racers from 11 countries lined up for the 5-day, 140-mile journey. We plunged through an icy stream and into the rhododendron forests. A group of four, including Kerry, a local elite rider named Tristan Cowie, one Mystery European and myself, quickly separated from the masses and soon we were all seeing double as we navigated our way up and away into the forest. The battle was on.

Kerry was the defending champion of Pisgah and bringing the thunder after a career best cyclocross season in 2016, not to mention a long history as one of the top MTBrs in the country. Tristan Cowie was no stranger to the top-level of mountain bike racing himself, having been a regular on the US National Team in the 2007-2009 period. And as a local, he knew each of the trails like a tree knows its roots. The Mystery European turned out to be from Spain and was an ex-World Cup dominator. With fast conditions and good legs, we blazed through the stage setting a course record a whopping 20 minutes faster than the year before! Midway through, Tristan launched a perfect attack into a long descent, placing the Spaniard between him and myself. Spaniard’s skill going down was not as good as it was going up, and Tristan began to float away. I eventually snuck around Spaniard, but I wasn’t riding very smooth either, and though I was reeling Tristan in, there wasn’t enough of the day left to close the gap. I came in second on Day 1 by 19 seconds, a gap that would ebb and flow through the week. Kerry rolled in third.

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Meanwhile, Kona Grassroots rider Jena Greaser was dominating the Open Women’s category, and would go on to do so through the week. Jena is beginning to rack up impressive results, with a top-3 finish a few week’s prior at the TransRockies Moab Rocks stage race in Utah. Desert to Appalachia, she is a Canadian force to be reckoned with. In the Open Men’s field and just a possum’s tail behind us was Super Grassroots rider Cory Rimmer, a young and rising star from North Carolina. Cory put the hustle to the enduro sections like a fart in a fan factory and would go on to take second overall in the Enduro portion of the race.

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At the front end of the field, the days at Pisgah are relatively short at around 2-2.5hrs each. The upside is that the fatigue doesn’t stack up the way it does in longer death-march style races where each day is over 4 hours. The flip side is that the short days make for very intense and fast racing. The pace each day is faster than green grass through a goose. Course records fell left and right as we stormed through the hills, beating times set by previous legends of the sport Jeremiah Bishop, Thomas Turner, Sam Koerber and Adam Craig. Was it the trail conditions, the modern equipment, the legs, or all combined?

Whatever it was, it made for a tight battle between Tristan and me. It turns out we were well-matched. I won three stages and chopped the gap down to as little as 9 seconds, while he won the other two stages. My advantage early on was in going uphill, a metabolically expensive option. Tristan was already strong as an ox on acid on the climbs, yet his advantage was in going downhill, a much more energy-efficient option. Each day we logged at least 10 minutes worth of sustained 6 watts-per-kilogram efforts, interspersed with plenty of digs so hard they could make a preacher cuss, and long descents that left the arms feeling like a pair of arthritic snakes full of hot sauce. By day 4, I was going downhill on pace, but just couldn’t close the gap. Despite my best efforts, I finished my now customary 2nd place by less than 0.2% after five days of racing. That’s tighter than a pair of pants on a bloated elephant, and something like my 6th consecutive stage race that I’ve finished as bridesmaid.

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Kerry wrapped up the week in third overall, and took the win in the Enduro, the race within the race, comprised of a timed segment of downhill trail on each stage. Kerry rode over those rocks, ruts and roots faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition, and was still there with a cheery smile to make breakfast for us every morning. When it was all said and done we basked in glory and downed several beers, sprawled under the sun in a grassy field at the after party listening to Nikki Lane live in concert serenade the crowd, grinnin’ like possums eatin’ sweet taters. It was a damn fine week.

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Check Spencer’s blog for the full article, and follow him on Instagram !

Leah Maunsell Wins the Irish Gravity Enduro Series Opener

This weekend was the Irish Gravity Enduro (our National series) season opener in Ballinastoe, Co. Wicklow. Due to my school commitments (my exams are drawing closer) I was unable to dedicate the whole weekend away from study. Rather than miss the race I decided to skip the Saturday practice and spend the day studying then travel up on Sunday morning and race blind.

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It was the usual format with five stages. Because of the nature of the hill, the trail conditions varied from generally wet and muddy at the top to dryer trails as we descended to the bottom.

I guess the difficulty of riding unfamiliar trails is you end up in the wrong gear or even almost stalling causing you to lose speed where you know others are pedaling hard. The worst feeling is probably seeing ‘that line’ only after you’ve passed it! As a result of this, anytime I could see an open or straight section or hard pack trail I just opened it up and rode as fast as I could. 

The biggest battle was with myself, trying to remain calm and focused after making mistakes, trying to recover quickly was key. Looking back I made a lot of mistakes and I hope I will learn a lot from the experience. Luckily this time I did enough to take the win! Thankfully that was the last race I will have to race blind between here and my exams. After that, I will be back into the swing of things for summer! This weekend saw the biggest field of female riders the Irish series has ever seen. It is so good to see that the enduro scene is forever growing!

I am so lucky to be able to rock up to a race with so much confidence in my Process 153DL that it will perform so well every time.

“Reasonably priced and unreasonably fun” – Big Honzo Wins a Bicycling Magazine Editor’s Choice Award

The Kona Big Honzo DL has won a Bicycling Magazine Editor’s Choice award! Bicycling revealed their 2017 Mountain Bike Editors’ Choice Winners at Sea Otter this past week and the Big Honzo – “reasonably priced and unreasonably fun” – made the list.

“If you want to shred trails—without the expense, additional complexity, and service requirements of full suspension—this Kona is reasonably priced and unreasonably fun.”

Read the full writeup at Bicycling.

Dirt Rag is Loving the Honzo CR: “Kona knocked it out of the park…”

Dirt Rag‘s Scott Williams has begun testing on the Honzo CR Trail DL and it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting it back any time soon. From the component spec to the frame details to the ride characteristics, Scott is loving the Honzo CR.

“As a full-on ambassador of the hardtail world, the Honzo checks many of the must-have boxes for me. Simply put, a solid, dependable build that’s ready to shred straight from the box.”

Read Scott’s First Impressions review at Dirt Rag and keep an eye on newsstands for the full review in their next issue.

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Magnus Manson Wins NW Cup Round 1 at Port Angeles

If you’ve been following early season DH news, you may have caught wind that young BC ripper Magnus Manson is riding a Kona Operator this season. And just this past weekend at the NW Cup race in Port Angeles, Magnus has taken his first win aboard the Operator.

Magnus Manson (Pro Men).

Eric Ashley was at the race shooting photos, and wrote an in-depth race report which you can check out over on Pinkbike. Watch the recap video below and read all about Magnus’ season plans in his Getting to Know article.

Magnus Manson (Pro Men).

Photos by Eric Ashley.