We’ve been working the design team hard here at Kona. Testing, drawing, refining, inventing, creating, coming up with entirely new models, while ensuring existing models are the best they can possibly be. In this series of 2011 Sneak Peeks, we get up close and personal with our product team on the why’s, how’s and wow’s of a few highlight bikes that will be hitting stores in a few months from now. In this installment, we catch up with Team Kona Cyclocross rider, Barry Wicks, offering up the first official, break-it-to-the-world look at our entirely new carbon fiber CX race bike, the 2011 Major Jake.

This is Kona’s first carbon cyclocross race bike, what are the notable benefits?
From a racer’s perspective, the carbon allows us to have a bike that is both lighter and stiffer than the traditional Scandium frame, and has a better ride quality. The Scandium bikes were awesome, they felt very snappy and forgiving, but this new Carbon cross bike takes it to the next level. I am getting to know the bike more and more with every ride I do on it, and it continues to impress me. The steering is more precise, due in part to the over size steer tube, there is absolutely no fork chatter under hard braking. The bike accelerates really well out of tight corners which is very important for cross. The New oversize BB area increases the stiffness to the point where I can just mash on the gas as soon as I get the bike pointed in the right direction and it just goes off like a rocket. All these stiffness increases may have had a negative impact on the ride quality, but that it he beauty of Carbon Fiber, it is as stiff as you want all day long, but just hovers over the lumpy grass and bumps like a pillowy cloud, leaving the rider comfortable and less fatigued and ready to dominate.

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What’s the ride like? How fast does it go? Give us the deets!
This bike rides great! When I first got on it, it felt very familiar, as it is the same size and geometries as my scandium bike. When I stared riding it, the advantages of the carbon material and increased head tube and bottom bracket stiffness began to emerge. Stomping on the pedals up steep climbs and ripping single track descents became an exercise in precision and speed. I felt like I was on my scandium bike, but with a 30 percent increase in awesomeness. Trail irregularities dissipated, and just as quickly hills and corners became my new best friends as I conquered and carved them with ease. It goes really, really fast, especially when you pedal really, really hard.

What are some of the more notable design improvements/changes? Other than carbon, is it much different than the 2010 Major Jake?
The Geometries are basically the same tried and true Kona cross geometry that we have been refining for the last 8 years. The major differences in the carbon bike are the oversized, tapered head tube and the oversized BB area. These increase the steering precision, eliminate fork chatter and increase the efficiency of the bike under hard accelerations. The Carbon frame is also more forgiving on rough courses as the frame helps damp high frequency vibrations and absorbs some of the punishment so the rider doesn’t have to. Also, internal cable routing keeps the cables protected from contamination which is important for the inevitable wet, muddy days, and the integrated carbon cable stop for the rear brake is light and awesome. The fork has massive clearance for muddy days and the over sized BB area allows for extra mud clearance around the chainstays.

How much does it weigh?
With my training clincher wheels on it and some non race spec parts, it is sitting right about 17 lbs. When it is in full race prep, I expect close to 16 lbs. And remember, this is a 63cm bike, so that is really light.