Caleb Smith

Into the Woods: Kona’s Gravity Team Ride Rotorua with the Locals

Before the madness of Crankworx Rotorua had truly begun, the Kona Gravity Team headed into the local Whakarewarewa Forest trail network to get a taste of some of the best trails this mountain biking Mecca has on offer. Jonny Mitchell, Kona’s brand manager for the New Zealand distributor, had organized two private Southstar Shuttle ex-army Land Rovers for a private three-hour tour of the forest. The Landrovers allow access to almost all of the massive forests trail network, and they are an insanely efficient way to cram a whole bunch of riding into a small window. Most trails have an elevation drop of around 1300ft so cutting out the climbs back up a huge welcome relief.

Jonny Mitchell, Kona’s New Zealand brand manager, gets zesty on board his 30th Birthday Honzo ST.

Joining the crew was Southstar Shuttles owner (and shredder) Jeff Carter who would be guiding. Also jumping on board the seven-seater trucks were local rider Elliot Smith and a couple of NZ Kona Dealers who were lucky enough to get Jonny’s call.

The whole team doesn’t often get a chance to ride together, so dropping in blind in party chain elicited a whole bunch of hollering, on only their second run, the group found themselves at a popular sender, where Rhys, Caleb, Connor, and Elliot went to work. Feet came off, bikes and bodies were tweaked, and some casual heckling may have ensued.

Connor Fearon with a some text book relaxed steeze.
Rhys Verner lays out his brand new whip.
Canadian Caleb Holonko only came to NZ with an Operator and a Shonky, luckily Team Manager Mathieu Dupelle had his personal bike on hand to loan the young ripper.

But back to back runs is what the riders were here for and after a quick photo stop everyone was back into the swing of things and loaded up for the next run, and the next run and the one after that.

Connor finding flow in the dense regenerative forrest.
Miranda Miller, between a rock and a hard… Rock.
Shelly Flood needs no encouragement, her bike is just constantly popping of everything, dirt, roots, rocks you name it.
Beats climbing this hill six times!
Local 16-year-old Kona rider Elliot Smith had made the six-hour trip from the nation’s capital for the chance to ride with the team.
Miranda Miller eyes up that little landing for some extra pump and speed
Miranda Miller has a posse. (Connor Fearon missed the class photo as he was off taking part in the DH track walk).

Kona Dream Builds: Matt’s Cute Little Honzo

Matt Mckinley isn’t the tallest rider out there, at 5’5″, the Queenstown, NZ based Atlas Bar head chef should be allowed to ride any bike he wants. The boys at Bikeaholic think so and have built him this damn rad Honzo ST in size small. Coming from a road background this is Matts first ever MTB, talk about doing things the right way, if we could all start life on Honzo ST Dream Builds.

The build perfectly straddles modesty with a touch of class, no where is this more evident than in the drivetrain and brakes. A simple Shimano XT/Deore setup propels the bike while Shimano Deore brakes handle stopping duties.

Up front you’ll find a 130mm travel Marzocchi Bomber Z1.

The fork angle is slackened out via a 2º Works Angle Headset

A Spank Spike Race bar is mounted to the bike via a Thomson stem, contact points are courtesy of ODI’s infamous Ruffian grips.

The wheels are a set of Praxis Works AL 32’s… with an internal rim witdh of… you guessed it, 32mm.

And a laced to a set of DT Swiss 350’s front and rear.

That rigid post will be saying goodbye shortly, as it’s getting replaced with a OneUp dropper, which will match the OneUp alloy pedals nicely. It’s probably also worth mentioning the rad rubber as well, Maxxis skinwalls and a touch style, that’s a 2.4″ Ardent up front and a 2.2″ Ikon out back. Reviews Kona Process 153 CR 29

You gotta love Google Translate. I mean, I know a few German words and phrases, enough to get a beer at a bar, or buy a lift pass and say thank you, but there is no way I could ever decipher a bike review. Well, the German MTB bible that is has just posted up a solid review of our Process 153 CR 29 on their site (in German of course), if you can’t read German, don’t worry because Google Translate does an absolutely bang up job of converting this one.

„Je mehr grobes geläuf sich vor dem vorderrad auftürmt, desto besser.” Chris Spath

“The more the rough track piled up in front of the front wheel, the better.” – Chris Spath

You can check out the full review in German HERE.
Or you can read the translated review HERE.

Levi Koroscil’s Excellent New Zealand Adventure

TransNZ is like no other race around. It brings together riders from around the world into a supportive encouraging race environment. This six-day event travels through the South Island of New Zealand. Hitting up some of the best riding locations in the area. Pushing the riders mental and physical limits. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the volunteer team for this years event. Being part of the volley team means being part of the organizers, Megan Rose and Nate Corrigan’s family. They are ultra welcoming and in return, we provide the required labour for their event. I was in a marshaling role. This involves being sure the race stages are marked and ready for the racers. As well as helping the racers time in and out of the stages. It’s as rewarding to be part the excitement at the top of the stages as to be part of their story at the finish of the stages. 

Before the climb to Arthur’s Pass

Before we get into more about the event let’s rewind. I volunteered last year for the TransBC and was so energized by the event it got me thinking about joining in the New Zealand adventures. This being my first time to New Zealand I wanted to be sure to get the most of it. And what better way than to do a cycle tour. Therefore this is how I started my trip and how I arrived to meet the TransNZ crew in Castle Hill. My flight landed into Queenstown. Where I spent an afternoon riding and flagging what would be the day three of the event with Megan and Nate. The following morning involved a bus ride out to Franz Josef glacier. This was the start of my cycle tour. The tour ended up taking a little more than two days of travel. Where I covered 300km and climbed 3100m of elevation. With only two major mishaps; one being pushed off the road by a transport truck due to the narrow winding roads on the way up Arthur’s Pass. And the second being some road rash due to a miscalculation in my bag positioning on the bike. My sleeping bag got caught in the front wheel, causing the bike to stop and me fly over the handlebars onto the pavement. Some friendly roadside campers helped me to the Greymouth Hospital where all scrapes and cuts got checked over and I was on my way.

The cycle tour was a success. I got to get see some amazing landscapes, meet amazing people and spend a good chunk of time on my new Kona Process 153.

The following days after my arrival into Castle Hill involved some work and some play. We planned and flagged days one and two of the event as well as causal shuttle laps with the rest of the volunteers. The racers arrived after those few casual days and it was go time. However as the event drew nearer the weather wasn’t looking welcoming for the start of the race. And sure enough the weather forecast was accurate. Rain fell all night and the high mountains got a blanket of snow. Which created amazing views but less then desirable riding conditions.

Day one took place below the Craigieburn ski area. Due to weather the original plan had to be modified. Two stages were removed to reduce time spent in the adverse weather. The highlight of this day for me was a track called the Edge trail. It’s a very unique trail which traverses across avalanche paths on scree slopes and finishes on beautiful beech forested single track.

Day two took place at the neighbouring ski area Cheeseman. This was the shortest day of the event and only involved two stages. The first stage was a long one, Cocayne Alley. It start with high pace grassland single track then dumps into a root filled trail under a beech tree canopy. Stage two continued the beech forested rooty singletrack theme. The day was short because following the days racing all members of the event were on the long road south to Queenstown. This is where we would be located for the remainder of the event.

Slip Saddle, Coronet Peak, Queenstown Photo: Digby Shaw

Day three took place around Cornets Peak. It involved four stages and we finished at the village of Arrowtown. The weather was perfect for the day and the riders spirits were high. Everyone got a lift up the main access road and stage one started near the base of the peak. This was achieved by a 30 min hike-a-bike. It was an smooth track where you had to put the pedal power down. The top of stage two was the legendary Rude Rock trail. A trail that has seen so much media attention due to the superb landscape in which is flows through. Stage two branches off onto Skippers. This left the racers far down a drainage where they pedal back up a historic gold mining road back up to stage three. A much appreciated shuttle from bottom of stage three puts them within a 20 minute climb to start of stage four. The steepest trail of the whole event. I was the mid way marshal for this stage. Sitting at rocky canyon section, where I cheered on and support the racers through the technical section. It was at this location that a photographer, Digby Shaw pointed out a rock drop that Kelly McGarry built years ago. I was happy to have been shown it and even spoiler to have got some photos from it. A mellow pedal from bottom of stage four brought the riders to Arrowtown where snacks and beer where plentiful.

Unfortunately day four was a scratch. It was meant to occur at Cardrona Ski Area. However due to adverse weather the lift operations manager decided to not take the risk. Winds were high and rain was falling heavily. So everyone was back onto the buses and back down to our Queenstown lodge. The riders either took a rest day or went for a causal rides on the nearby trails.

Day five was one of the highlights for me. We travelled roughly an hour from Queenstown to a town called Alexandra. A six stage day in a desert landscape. These trails were rocky and challenging to hold race pace on. Every stage got progressively rockier. With the final stage involving some mandatory two foot rock drops into rock gardens. It was wild terrain and I hope to ride more of that soon. The day finished at a local pub where the beer was flowing the burgers were plentiful.

Queenstown Photo: Scott Countryman

The final day took place fittingly at the Queenstown bike park, Skyline. Everyone pedalled directly from our accommodations up the steep access road to the top of the gondola. Stage one was a mellow park lap to the bottom of the gondola. A ride up the gondola and an hour or more hike/ride put riders at the top of stage two, near the Ben Lomond saddle. Stage two was awesome in that it raced down near a hiking trail where tourist would be watching and cheering on as the racers whizzed by.

The final stage of the whole event was in my mind one of the biggest endurance challenges of the whole event. A fifteen minute stage that incorporated everything from technical rocky sections to monster root gardens to flowy park trails. I was fortunate enough to be the marshal at the bottom of this stage. Welcoming the races into the finish of their six day adventure. Many laughs, high fives and hugs were had.
And to finish off the event we all went to town and had dinner together where awards were presented and a party ensued. Great finale.

It was a fantastic event. I am so happy to have met many new friends and have ridden some of the best trails New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. I will hold and cherish the memories created. Big shout out to all the racers and my fellow volunteers. And biggest shout out to the event organizers, Megan Rose and Nate Corrigan. With out you two this family wouldn’t be a family.

Kona Dream Builds: Pretty in Pink – Chad’s Custom Super Jake

Chad Grice hails from Victoria, BC and races cyclocross as well as road, and XC. During the day he’s an elevator guy and during the evening and weekends, HE. RIDES. BIKES. He currently has six bikes in his stable and this very inspired Super Jake is the showpiece of his collection.

It started as a frame and fork that was a prize at the annual Kona Kup as part of the amazing Cross on the Rocks Cyclocross Series. “I didn’t win it, however, I was able to acquire it from the winner. I love pink bikes and I had my previous cross bike custom painted pink and black. When I saw this frame I knew I had to get it. “

“I wanted to build the bike to be my cx race bike however, it will start life as a gravel racer. When I got the frame in the work stand I knew I wanted this bike to have everything I ever wanted in a cross bike and have all the pink highlights. It started with electronic shifting and grew from there.”

Chad’s Super Jake Build Kit

Shimano Di2 1X 
Shimano RX clutched rear derailleur 
Shimano 11- 34 Cassette 
Custom 1X Chain Ring Bolts. On R8000 Cranks.
Wolftooth 40T Drop stop chainring
Wolftooth Pink headset spacers
Pink Wolftooth Bottle cage bolts
Shimano 540 Pedals
Fulcrum 5 wheels
Cane Creek headset
Thomson Seat post 
Shimano Turnix saddle
Wheels manufacturing thread together BB
Pink Tacx Bottle cages 
Pink and Black KMC DLC chain    


Kona Dream Builds: Thilo Schwedmann’s Unit of all Trades

Thilo Schwedmann is a photographer, graphic designer, videographer and freelancing motion designer, he works mainly for television. Hailing from the crowded Ruhrgebiet area in Germany he doesn’t have any real mountains or hills to ride, but he does have a few wooded zones, a lot of great street spots and even a few “mountains” as results of the mining industry (which the area is known for).

I rode MTB and BMX as a child/teenager quite a lot then stopped when I got my first car. A few years ago I got back into BMX but recognized rather quickly that I’d grown out of that. So I sold my BMX and went for an MTB. But I couldn’t sever myself from the simplicity of a BMX completely back then, so I went the most BMX like MTB I could find; the Kona Unit.

I got more and more into MTB and decided my Unit should become more versatile, It should be able to ride streets, trail, and downhill because of those slag “mountains” I talked about before. They get extremely steep (I’ve been to Bike Park Winterberg a few times, it was nothing compared to this. Look for “Halde Haniel” on YouTube as an example for one of those hills), so I needed a higher front end.

The first thing I changed was gearing. Climbing up those steep slopes in a single gear just wasn’t gonna happen, so I went for a Shimano Deore XT 1×11 setup, with Racefece Chester Cranks, BB and Race-Face narrow-wide chainring, and Crank Brothers Stamp pedals (no clipless for me!). That helped me get up, but I still needed to get down.

I changed the fork to a RockShox Reba in 120mm (had to change the lower part of the headset to Cane Creek), also had to change the front hub and wheel to fit the fork, so I went for a DT Swiss combo there. I changed the Stem to an Azonic Beratta with 40mm length and 15mm rise, and put on RaceFace Atlas bars with 31mm rise with Ergon GD1 Grips.

The WTB Tires just didn’t work out for me, so I swapped them for Onza Canis Skinwall ones in 2.85. They are amazing. I changed the back wheel for a Hope 35w with a Hope Pro 4 Evo hub for better engagement. I got an Ergon seat with RaceFace seat post, and a Chromag quick release, to change position quickly.

So now, just like me, my bike is a Jack of all Trades, I can ride street and do a few tricks, cover some miles simply riding it with the girlfriend, hit trails in the woods and also blast downhill without going OTB.

I love the Unit for its steel frame. It’s got enough flex and looks super clean. The big tires do compensate a little bit for lack of rear suspension, without losing pedal strength for riding longer tours. Also, I’ve learned so much by customizing it since I did everything myself. I have never really worked on a bike before but I found a passion for it. It’s just like playing with legos as a child!

The Press Love Kona Wah Wah Pedals, You Can Too.

Do you ride flat pedals? Are you flat curious? Are you unhappy with your current flat pedals? Well, our updated Wah Wah II’s pedals could be what you are looking for. Available in both alloy and composite and starting at just $60 you really have no excuses not to own a pair. But you don’t need to just take our word for it, the press loves the Wah Wah II, just check out any one of the below reviews.

You can purchase them at your local dealer and globally online at HERE, and for our friends, to the north, you can head to the Kona Canada webstore HERE.

“These Kona Wah Wah 2 composite pedals have a massive but very thin 120mm x 118mm body, spin on large bearings that are easily serviced and replaced, are notably quiet on rocky trails, come in six colorways, take an absolute sh*t-kicking, and only cost 60 USD.” Andrew Major,

“Long pins and the bigger platform made the pedal easy to get parallel to the ground and bash through rock gardens without my foot bouncing around. I would even go so far as to say these are some of the tackiest pedals I have ridden.” Amos Horn, Bike Mag

“The original Wah Wah made quite a name for itself in the flat pedal world, so Kona had to make sure to do it justice when updating it. Mission accomplished – the Wah Wah 2 is a modern flat pedal which offers excellent grip and a positive feel in a suitably wide and thin package. A combination of bearings and bushings offer a solution for good longevity while keeping the overall profile slim, and the rear-loading pins are easy to replace if need be. The Wah Wah is back!” Johan Hjord, VitalMTB 

“When I ride I like to “dance” around with my foot placement.  Depending on what the terrain is doing I’ll move my feet all over, especially in corners or on descents.  The Wah Wahs gave me plenty of room to do that with plenty of options and never did I once lose my footing. ”  LT. LarSSon,

Kona’s Wah Wah II pedals are ready to rock, with a wide, grippy platform that provides plenty of support for keeping those feet in place no matter how rough the trail, and a price tag that’s tough to beat. Mike Kazimer, Pinkbike

Kona Dream Builds: “Probably The Best Kona 2013 Stinky 24 Ever Built “

It’s a bold claim, right? That was the first line in Anthony Lonsdales Kona Dream Build submission. After taking one look at the bike though, we’d have to agree with him… I mean really, if you know of a more high-end Stinky 24 then we HAVE to see it. Anthony has cut absolutely zero corners building this DH destroyer of a rig! Let’s dive into the build.

This mini DH sled is propelled by a set of 152mm cnc’d Hope Cranks spinning on a Hope BB. An MRP Chain Guide handles chain retention duties. Out back, shifting is taken care off with a Shimano Saint 10 speed rear mech. And we can’t ignore that shock. Anthony has machined the rocker to accept a Fox Float CTD 190×50 and of course, it’s been custom tuned for a lighter rider.

And why not match that Fox out the back with some more Fox up the front? A set 2017 Fox 36s keep the front end tracking true. The fork is a 26″ model custom tuned by Fox to 140mm. Oh those 20mm axle bolts, Ti, in fact every bolt on the bike has been swapped out for Ti hardware.

And what Dream Build is not fully Dream worthy without Chris King hubs. Anthony’s Stinky 24 is sporting Blue Chris Kings ISO hubs front and rear.

Shimano XTR stoppers for keeping things under control.

Those Chris King hubs are laced to probably the most modest aspect of the build, a set of 24″ Stans Flow MK3 rims. Tire choice is a 24 x 2.35 Schwalbe Hans Dampf up front and a 24×2.4 Fat Albert up front.

The bling just keeps coming. The cockpit features a Renthal Fatbar carbon cut to 710mm, it’s clamped in place by a 31mm Renthal apex stem which sits in a Hope E2 headset.

So have you seen a nicer or a more blinging Stinky 24″ bike, If so lets see it!

Miranda and Rhys crush it in Tennesse

Kona enduro team riders Miranda Miller and Rhys Verner just wrapped up their first enduro of the season with a first and third place finish, respectively. The Tennessee National Enduro was the culmination of a week of testing with SRAM at Windrock Bike Park. The race was the perfect proving ground for Miller and Verner to get used to working with the Kona team and test out their bikes under pressure. Next stop, Rotorua, New Zealand for the first stop of the EWS and Crankworx!

“I felt I had a very smooth day, with the exception of the final stage. (It was awkward and so was I.) I felt what held me back was trying to rely on course memory and knowledge, instead of instincts which limited me to how fast I rode the tracks. I had a strong focus and always felt relaxed and smooth in my riding, but could have physically pushed it a little more. Because of the physical toughness of this race it was a good indicator that I’m strong but need to work on the race craft of utilizing my strength.” -Miranda Miller

I am very impressed with the trail network at Windrock Bike Park. The first half of our week was focused on bike set up and testing, so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample everything they had to offer, but I did get a sense of the terrain and the variety. We were faced with some challenging conditions for testing, but by the end of the third day, and after making Dupelle and Pointer change my bar height 1000 times, I’ve landed on a set-up that I am comfortable with and look forward to further testing in NZ and Tasmania. 

Stage 1 & 5 of the Enduro dropped from the top of the mountain, into the bike park and finished in the parking lot and they were unreal! Steep, off camber, long and rough. Tricky with the conditions but some of the coolest pieces of trails I’ve ridden in a while.” -Miller

I was pretty happy I got the opportunity to do a race before the first EWS. There’s so much practice and race strategy that can come into play. I managed to work out a lot of quirks, like a new GoPro, new helmet, new bike etc. They seem small and trivial but when you’re trying to be efficient at practicing and time management you want to be able to film all of the stages and have quality footage to review. I made a point of only riding the stages once, like an EWS, to try and get better at that format. As a downhiller, I feel that is something I need to work on. While at this race, I didn’t really review the footage like I would at an EWS, but I made sure I had it anyway!” -Miller

Riding at Windrock was great! Lots of variety made for a great enduro course and just, in general, a great riding venue. It seemed to have a bit of everything. The stages ranged from steep and gnarly to fast and flowy with everything in between. All in all, I think Windrock has the potential to be a top mountain biking destination. ” –Rhys Verner

“Getting that first race under the belt that wasn’t an EWS was definitely a great call. We rode all week and I was a bit surprised by how tired I was aftr the race. Definitely good to get a feel for a big day on the bike and to kind of get the juices flowing before NZ. I rode fairly conservatively throughout the stages and kind of took it as a warm-up race.” –Verner

Overall I feel pretty good about the race. I was a bit hesitant to take risks so on the slippery stages, I reined it in a little bit. After breaking my scaphoid at the first race last year I think this was the right call, even if I did lose some time here and there. I felt I rode well within my limits and was still able to post some pretty solid times, so I’m very happy with how the race went overall. -Verner

Looking forward it was good to be able to get some time in start gates and get the pre-race season jitters out of the way. Also having the SRAM camp all week we were able to test out different suspension setups and really get the bikes properly dialed in. I feel super good about my bike setup now and have the confidence that my equipment works amazingly well. Also to be able to post some stage times that were within seconds of Damien Oton gives me confidence that I have what it takes to race at a high level. Bring on Rororua!!!”  –Verner

Korean Youtuber Sikks Lee Hearts Kona

South Korea’s most popular MTB YouTube channel, Realty Bike Show, and its creator have been showing Kona a whole lotta love of late. You can find his channel here, obviously speaking and understanding Korean gonna be handy… What you can appreciate though, is Sikss can ride a bike, his trials infused trail riding is definitely fun to watch!

Kona Dream Builds: Red Dawn, the 2019 Team Issue Process CR DL 29

For the 2019 Race Season we wanted to do something a little special for our Gravity team riders and their race bikes. Inspired in part by major team sponsor RockShox’ incredibly fast looking (and performing) Lyrik lowers, we’d like to present you with the Team Issue Kona Process 153 CR DL. 

Connor Fearon, Miranda Miller, Rhys Verner, and Shelly Flood will be shredding these bikes at EWS races and at select enduro events this season, built up as you see here with a plethora of parts from our fabulous 2019 team partners.  

The Kona Gravity Team Process bikes are fully custom built from the ground up and feature a full suspension setup from RockShox, drivetrain and brakes from SRAM, rims from Canadian company WeAreOne, hubs and headset from Chris King and tires from Maxxis. The cockpit combines parts from Deity, OneUP and ODI and the build is rounded out with pedals from HT and tire inserts from Cush Core.

Miranda Miller and Rhys Verner will be taking the new Team Issue Process Bikes for their maiden race outings this weekend at the Tennessee National, an EWS qualifying event based out of the Windrock Bike Park.

Kona Dream Builds: Mikey’s Not Quite a Process Satori

We haven’t seen a whole bunch of Satori Dream Builds, mostly because we don’t sell the Satori as a frame only, but as Mikey Spear from Halcyon Bike worked out, the base model is essentially a blank canvas and his build is one serious work of art.

I was so torn on which way to go when I started this years bike build.  My riding is split between my hardtail on local trails and a full suspension mainly used for all day Appalachian excursions.  I wanted the shred of the Process but with the climbing characteristics of the Hei Hei.  It was in the middle of my months long internal struggle on which way to go that the Satori was released and I knew right away that was the bike for me.

Knowing I wanted to build it my way but with no frameset option I opted to buy the base level Satori complete bike and stripped it down to the frame.  Starting with the suspension I called up one of my buddies at Cane Creek and got a Helm Air fork, DB Air CS rear shock, and a 40 series headset.  I left the fork at its stock 150mm for just a little more party.  Next I moved to the wheels,  Continuing the made in the USA theme I laced up a set of Velocity Blunt SS rims to Industry Nine Classic hubs with DT Swiss Competition spokes.  I wrapped the wheels in Schwalbe Hans Damp 2.35 rubber. 

The drivetrain is a little bit of a Sram Eagle hodgepodge.  GX shifter, XO rear derailleur, XO cassette, and XX crankset.  Sram Guide RSC brakes handle the stopping with a 180mm rotor in front and a 160mm rotor in back. I had the Race Face Kash Money Atlas bar laying around just begging to go on something for the past year so I figured now was its time to shine.  The Industry Nine A35 is on clamping duty and a sweet SDG Duster saddle sits on top of a Rockshox reverb to round out the cockpit.