Sophie Bossier

The First Week of Sophie at Kona Bikes!

More than being talented at work, Kona’s employees are killing it in their personal fields. It’s like that at Kona: they don’t hire you on your resume only, and even less for your educational background. They really look at who you are.

Photos and words by Sophie Bossier.

Last week I told you about my first impressions when I arrived at Kona Bikes for the first time. If you missed it, read my first article about my internship at Kona!

Within the Kona family where I work we have a World Champion of Downhill, a former top level BMX racer, a professional skier and mountain biker… and the list goes on. It’s so incredibly inspiring to be around people that push the limits, living life and exceeding their resumes.

The craziest is Richard, or Dik, or Richard – lol’ I don’t really know, this nickname is confusing for me – please refer to my first article and you will understand. Dik Cox was on the ground level of the MTB world you know today. He rode before there were trails built on the North Shore, and long before the mountain bikes that we see today existed. Dik has a big quiver, and he rides them, every day. He is THE guy, like the guy who gets up at five in the morning to do three hours of riding before going to the office. And everyone knows him in the bicycle industry here in B.C.

In my day-to-day I work closely with Kona’s marketing team. There is Caleb Smith, Kona’s brand manager, who is also a professional photographer. He was the founder of Spoke Magazine in New Zealand before coming to Kona. He speaks with a strange New Zealand accent, and sometimes I don’t understand him. In addition, he’s a strong advocate of New Zealand’s culture. He’s nice and very professional.

Next, Morgan Taylor is the writer at Kona. He has almost 15k followers on Instagram and is very connected to bicycle culture. He once lived in a house of twenty square meters in the forest and you have probably already heard about him in one of his funny videos or his article on the Radavist.

The head of marketing, Eddy Marcelet, is my internship supervisor. Eddy lives in another riding mecca, Nelson, B.C., and he likes really steep natural trails. And I would not dare to tell you anything funny or obtuse about him, sorry. I’m so happy to be part of their team, and I know I’ll learn a lot about marketing working with them.

Many of the employees have been working here for ten years, twenty years and thirty years. That says something about the commitment, the culture, and the great company Kona is. One guy worked here before Kona existed. This guy makes good coffee too – coffee is a religion here. I was almost fired when I said that I didn’t like coffee, haha.

More than half of the employees here work outside the office, from home, as they live close to the forest – because their playground is the forest and its various trails that it can offer them by bike.

I understand, behind Kona’s bikes, it’s all amazing and talented people. They take great care with the Kona brand and its bikes as if it was their baby. So when you ride a Kona bike, think about that.

If you want to know more about my colleagues, you can watch the series of My Kona Videos dedicated to them. There you will be introduced to the whole Kona family, including the Kona USA employees who are crazier than here, I am told, haha.

My First Days in British Columbia

I think I’m lucky, really lucky. My schedule is really cool. I am able to get into my biking gear, don my knee pads and my helmet and get on my bike for an after work ride in the forest behind my home – or to shape some trails and jumps that the teens of the family I am living with are making for fun with their friends.

Then, on the weekends, I have the opportunity to travel and do a lot of things with my two wheel machine and my boyfriend. All the more so as I’m able to borrow every bike I want in the Kona demo fleet. From road bikes, to enduro or fat bikes, to downhill bikes, the choices are almost endless. This week I chose a Kona Process 167, the perfect bike for what I planned to do.

Last weekend, we went to Squamish, between Vancouver and Whistler. Squamish has a long history as a MTB destination, and some of Kona’s employees live there. Lots of well-known personalities of the bike industry and lots of trails builders live in this town too.

The drive to Squamish is beautiful: it’s so nice to drive along the coast and some of the islands in Howe Sound. We rode the extremely steep 19th Hole, and one of Squamish’s most popular trails, Half Nelson. We rode Full Nelson too, which is very fun, flowy trail, with four kilometers of berms, rollers and jumps throughout.

I have stars in my eyes. Squamish is definitely such an incredible place to go, and it’s so close to my home. I am living the dream, my dream!

Vital MTB Reviews the Kona Operator DL: “Park Friendly, World Cup Approved”

Vital MTB has just published a very thorough and positive review of our Operator DL.

“Whether you spend $3,200 on the baseline model or $7,500 on their highest end build, you still get a durable, well-thought-out machine with good geometry, a solid suspension platform, all in a mega-stout package that should take a beating for many seasons to come.”

“Kona’s updated Operator DL is a solid downhill bike with a build that strikes a nice balance between performance and budget.”

Read the full review at Vital MTB!

Factory Jackson is in awe of the Honzo CR Trail: “The Kona really has encouraged me to ride…”

Andrew Dodd from Factory Jackson has recently published an excellent long term review of our Honzo CR Trail. The Honzo inspired him to get out in sloppy conditions all winter and helped him to push his riding skills – exactly what we were hoping by sending over a long term tester.

“Unlike many hard tails that can feel a bit nervous when the going gets treacherous, the Kona Honzo CR Trail actually has more in common with the way you might ride a jump bike on a section of single track. It’s stiff and really inspiring to ride.”

“Overall – I bloody love this bike. You might have already guessed that.”

Without any doubt, Doddy is impressed! Read his complete long term review at Factory Jackson!

Dirt Mountain Bike’s 27.5 Kona Operator Long Term Review: “We totally love it…”

Dirt Mountain Bike has just posted their long term review of Operator. With notes on the history of our race-ready downhill machine, Ieuan Williams gets into just what our lineup of DH shredders is capable of.

“The RockShox Kage rear shock together with the suspension system is a real gem of a pairing – smooth, supple over harsh high frequency terrain but also has a progressive curve to help deal with big hits without blowing through the travel. We totally love it.”

“We rate this bike highly and the ride characteristic offers superb traction together with a silent ride.”

Read the full review at Dirt Mountain Bike!

Sophie is Living the Canadian Dream at Kona

Earlier this year I sent my application to Richard Wadd, and I’m now a marketing intern at Kona Bikes in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Photos and words by Sophie Bossier.

Please allow me to introduce myself – my name is Sophie. I’m a 22 year old BMX racer and MTB rider from France and I am now in Vancouver with my single suitcase, my bike, my boyfriend and my questions as baggage – haha. I would like to share my adventures with you through a weekly report about my trip and my experiences at Kona in B.C., as a French female rider and as an intern with the fabulous Kona family.

My trip to B.C. raised a lot of questions in my mind. Where is the best place to live? Is Canada different than France? How are the people there? How do they live? Will I experience culture shock? Will I be able to speak English? Is Kona a big company? What does it look like? How is the team? Will I have the opportunity to be involved in the marketing team? Will I have the time to ride my, or their bikes? How are the trails in B.C.?

After one week in Vancouver, I can answer a few of my questions, and I can tell you with no doubt that I’m excited for all that I am experiencing. It is only just the beginning!

The Canadian Dream

Culture shock? Yes and No. Yes, but in a very positive way. In Vancouver, the culture is organized around bikes. In France, people turn their heads in the street when you wear your full face helmet, you don’t ride on the road for fear of getting crushed by a car, and most believe it is nonsense to spend more than $300 on a bike. Vancouver has a culture that encourages and revolves around riding, with bike paths everywhere, a wealth of bike jump parks, endless trails, bike shops on every corner, pick up trucks full of $5,000 two wheeled machines at every stop. Here, riders are kings, nobody can stop them, except maybe bears. There really are bears here and I am excited to see some.

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I live in North Vancouver, near Deep Cove, in the Seymour mountain area with a nice family. Only 2 minutes from the nearest enduro trails, 3 minutes from the dirt jump park, 5 minutes from hiking, 10 minutes from the BMX racing track, 15 minutes from the downhill trails, 30 minutes from the biggest Canadian indoor bike park, 45 minutes from Squamish, 1h15 from Coast Gravity Park and 1h30 from Whistler. In a nutshell I am so happy. I will skip all the details for now and tell you more in my next article where I will introduce you to my incredible agenda for the next few months. I am living the Canadian Dream.

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My First Day at Kona Bikes

Don’t try to find a big brand new building with a Kona Bikes sign with employees in suits… Kona is more like the cave of Alibaba for riders: once you have found the building – and it’s not that easy to find – you enter and discover the treasure!

Bikes, everywhere. At first a showroom at the entrance with all the best pieces from the new lineup. Then, an excess of bikes everywhere, from the hundreds of archive bikes and frames suspended from the ceiling to the prototypes hung on the walls and hundreds of derailleurs and forks right out of the box with all kinds of other components. Looking for an unusual part? You’re likely to find it here!

They gave me a tour of the company. It’s easy – 2 floors, 4 offices, hundreds of bikes and my future colleagues, which could be counted on the fingers of two hands. However, I hear the US headquarters in Bellingham, Washington is a bigger playground. I get the hang of it.

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On my first day at Kona I was introduced to my new colleagues. The first one I met was the guy I sent my application to 3 months ago. They introduced me to him, telling me his name was Dik. I found this confusing. I didn’t understand because I wrote to Richard Wadd. They all found this so funny, laughing and explained that the shortened slang name for Richard is called Dik, it’s like a nickname. They laughed again and explained to me that in writing to richard.wadd@konaworld.com, I wrote to dik.wadd@konaworld.com. Damn! And then it got worse. They told me what Dik Wadd means. Too funny, imagine me, a carefree young French woman who has learned English only in books.

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And that is Kona – all things are like this at Kona. It’s cool, quirky sometimes but really fun – I guarantee it. But don’t be mistaken, Kona is a very serious company – you’ll see it in my future articles.

Stephane Pelletier Hearts New Zealand

Canadian Kona Grassroots rider Stephane Pelletier relocated to New Zealand to study late last year and his move just happened to coincide with the end of the Kiwi summer.  Jump on board with Stephane as he hits up Queenstown and Rotorua onboard his Kona Process 153 in this banging iPhone filmed clip.

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 !

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.

Jena Greaser on the Podium at the Moab Rocks Stage Race

Canadian Kona Grassroots rider Jena Greaser killed it with a time of 6:52:12.4 at the TransRockies Moab Rocks Stage race! Here’s her recap of three days of XC racing with her Hei Hei Race Supreme.

Words by Jena Greaser. Photos courtesy TransRockies / Moab Rocks.

Moab Rocks 3-day stage race successfully fulfilled my goal for racing this season: to find the best mountain bike races in North America! This was my first stage race. I gained mental, technical and tactical strength and experience that will go a long way into this season and beyond. Moab Rocks is certainly on the race calendar for 2018. It was an excellent, well organized event with tons of great people, trails and prizes.

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Day 1: Porcupine Rim
Distance: 25.3 miles. Elevation: 4200 feet.

After 15 miles of CONSISTENT climbing, myself and female competitor, Marlee Dixon, had maintained a steady pace to break away from 2016 bronze medal Olympian, Catharine Pendrel, in the last few miles of the ascent.

On this first day, I suffered from lack of “terrain knowledge”; chunky, technical rock, with multiple drops and various lines to take. Mechanically, I made the error of riding with too high of tire pressure as well, which didn’t help on the rough descent. I learned a lesson on climbing up into thin air this stage. Oops!

Take note, this is one stage that riding on a more “trail” style bike is certainly advantageous: The time you lose on the climb can be made up on the long downhill. Overall, it was a super long, dirt road/pavement climb, followed by an hour of some of the wildest, best descending you’ll ever do in a cross country race.

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Day 2: Klondike Bluffs
Distance: 25.8 miles. Elevation: 2800 feet.

This stage was the most “cross country” type layout of the three days. After a fast 3 miles of dirt road, it was a mass sprint up the first short slick-rock climb. At this point, I made my move on the rest of the women’s field. I knew that I needed to take advantage of my motivation and increase my lead. Lead I did; across the finish line to own an impressive stage win. Overall, this was the most exciting and best performance day in the saddle!

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Day 3: Magnificent 7
Distance: 28.6 miles. Elevation: 3600 feet.

Stage three had a mix of everything. Some steep climbs, some smooth flowy singletrack and of course, more slickrock! I had my most challenging day in the saddle, mentally and physically. Despite my legs not responding the way I had hoped and a few tactical errors early on in the race, I was able to keep a steady pace. In the final 8 miles of the race, I had a sketchy endo that luckily, did not leave me toothless or end my race! After feeling like my mouth was disconnected from my face and seeing stars, I somehow “found another gear” and charged onward to the finish; leaving everything I had on the Moab dirt.

At the end of the day, the rough terrain had worn me out, as any good race should. However, after taking on such an endeavor together with my teammate and partner, Dylan Bailey, we were all smiles; full of happiness, learned valuable lessons, and got to ride some of the best, most challenging trails we’d ever raced. Three days at Moab Rocks served as a great catalyst to stage racing, and prepared us well for the next event: the 5 day Pisgah Stage Race in North Carolina April 11th – 15th.

Jena is raising funds to keep her US race travel going this spring. You can donate through this link. And in any case, follow Jena on Instagram!

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The Advantages of Riding at Altitude in Guatemala

To be one of the most accomplished marathon mountain bike racers in the world, you have to put in the work. Kona Endurance and Adventure Team rider Cory Wallace, well, he puts in the work. Year after year. After a good experience last year’s early season training at elevation in Nepal and India, Cory chose to head to Guatemala this spring. Below are a few excerpts, but there are lots of gems in the longer version, which you can go to Cory’s blog to read

Words and photos by Cory Wallace.

Marathon mountain bike racing is similar to being a smart investor as it requires a pile of time invested into training during the off-season to prepare for the payoff later in the season when the big races come around. It can be easy to lose your focus in the middle of winter when the weather is challenging and there’s no real immediate payoff for the hard work, but this is when seasons are made and lost. It’s common to be putting in 25+ hours per week on the bike so it’s nice to have accommodating weather!

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This winter Guatemala was chosen, partly to take part in the El Reto de Quetzal race, partly to study Spanish, and partly to try out an experiment and to see how training at altitude would payoff. Having good success riding at altitude in India and Nepal last fall and the amazing feeling of having 3 lungs after returning to lower altitudes it gave me the inspiration to explore this avenue a little further.

Doing a bit of research and with past experiences I’ve come to my own conclusions about what should work and it seems living and training at altitudes between 2200 m and 2600 m seems ideal. Anything lower and the concentration of oxygen in the air is still high enough that it may limit adaptations, while any higher and there is not enough oxygen to be able to push yourself hard enoughto keep your muscles strong.

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The idea is that the body will increase the volume of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, become more efficient at using oxygen, and due to the lack of oxygen both the lungs and heart will have to work at an elevated intensity. It also seems to be important to break up the altitude training with retreats to lower elevations to help with recovery to put in some strong efforts in oxygen-rich air, and once you return to altitude the body re-kickstarts the adaptations. Time will tell but things are on track right now with the body showing nice improvements every week.

Check out a few more photos below, and read the full story on Cory’s blog

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