Kona Caldera 2007
Kona are a fantastic Canadian company that was set up in 1988
by Jacob "Jake the Snake" Heilbron, Dan Gerhard and Joe Murray. They specialise mostly in mountain bikes at the high end of the quality spectrum.
I bought my first Kona, a Kona Lava Dome, in February of 2006 however on March the 6th of last year (2007) man and machine met wrought iron fence. Both man and machine were broken only, unlike myself, my trusty steed doesn't have the ability to heal itself. Fortunately I had had the good sense to insure my bike and received a cheque with which I have been able to replace Mr bicycle - or at least parts of him.
I visited my local Kona dealer and a rather nice chap suggested I took my frame in and he would see what Kona would do for me. The following afternoon I received the news that Kona had offered a crash replacement frame with 50% off. Brilliant. Hence - the Kona Caldera.
The Kona Caldera is an all mountain aluminum frame that has been designed primarily with cross country riding in mind. It is a hard tail mountain bike which means that the back wheel has no suspension whereas the front forks are shock absorbers. These shock absorbers can be sprung, compressed air, oil or a combination.
It's important to choose the correct frame size as too large a frame can end in sore shoulders and neck after a long ride and it makes it a little more difficult to throw your bike around the windy trails.
With the Caldera there are14-22 inch frames available.
Frame size guide
14" suits 5'0"-5'2"
16" suits 5'2"-5'4"
17" suits 5'5"-5'7"
18" suits 5'8"-5'10"
19" suits 5'11"-6'1"
20" suits 6'2"-6'3"
22" suits 6'4"+
If you want to have a look at the frame geometry and dimensions just go to the Kona website and you'll find what you need to know there.
Moving from steel frames to Aluminium frames is a strange experience... Initially all the creaks and groans of the incredibly rigid set up can be a little alarming and the extra vibration through your feet can be a bit disconcerting. This increased vibration is down to the difference in material properties of steel and aluminium. Aluminium is a very rigid, brittle composition whereas steel is a bit more forgiving as it is more elastic, meaning that it flexes when cycling over rougher terrain and seems to cope with the bumps a little better. But in a world where weight is incredibly important Aluminium seems to come out on top for cross country style riding (unless of course you are minted and can get your local friendly titanium frame designer to knock something up for a grand or two).
The Caldera itself handles my riding style well and reacts nicely when throwing it around the trails or bouncing it around in the park. The frame is very light (around 1.5kg) and is finished in gloss black. I have noticed that gloss finishes wear a little harder than matt finishes as there seems to be a further layer of some sort of lacquer.
If you were to buy a Kona Caldera from the shops it would come with a set of standard components and although I haven't personally used all of them I do know a bit about them. So here's what I think!
Hayes HFX-9 XC
These brakes are fantastic. They are hydraulic disc brakes with six inch rotors and two finger levers. They have excellent modulation (How hard you pull on the lever reflects how hard the brake pads press on the rotor) and arrive pre-bled and once you have the pads aligned properly you have awesome stopping power. These brakes aren't top of the range but they are pretty good nonetheless. Unfortunately Hayes do not do spares at the moment and are not a British company so it is difficult to get things sorted with them. If you look after your brakes though I'm sure that they'll last well and before you know it they will have spares on the market.
If you wanted to upgrade yourself to a superior brake then I would recommend Hope Mono's. Hope is a fantastic British company who, in my humble opinion, are the best manufacturers of cycle brakes around. A set of Hope mono's would knock you back about £250.
Before I tell you about the headset you might not know what it is. The headset is essentially the bearing set in the steering mechanism and is what joins your frame to your forks. It consists of a set of bearings, spacers and cups.
The headset on the Caldera is nothing whooptedoo but, as Ronseal would say, does exactly what it says on the tin. It's unusual for someone to have problems with their headset. If you do want to splash out though it has to be Chris King headsets all the way - awesome.
Marzocchi MZ Race
I've been running Marzocchi MZ comp 2005 forks for about a year and a half and have not found a single problem with them. Marzocchi are up with the best when it comes to designing forks and these forks are a great entry level fork for beginners and experienced riders alike. Quite a popular thing to do at the moment is to buy a fork that locks off. This means that when your are cycling on the road you can lock your shocks off so that none of the energy you transmit into the pedals is dissipated by the shocks, thus making road cycling more efficient.
Shimano PD-M505 Clipless
Personally I am not a fan of clipless pedals for mountain biking. Have your foot stuck to the pedal is a bit spooky when you're hurtling along a single trail dodging trees, rocks and other hard things (fences maybe??). I would recommend the DMR-V8 (or V12 if you have the extra 20 quid) pedals as they have not let me down yet - although they have left a series of fairly nasty scars up the back of my leg. The DMR's are concave so that the load (your weight) is spread evenly around the edge of the pedal instead of having all your weight on the axle in the centre. The DMR's are covered in little grub screws which act as spikes to stop your feet slipping off. Or maybe they are there so that when you slip off you get a nasty gash so that next time you'll think twice about slipping off.
Sun Black eye rims
Shimano Deore 11-32 9speed
Wheels. An essential part of the bicycle. A wheel is composed of a rim, spokes, a hub, an axle and a freewheel. The hub is the central part of the wheel that supports the spokes and houses the axle and freewheel. The spokes are fairly self explanatory, there are usually 28-32 of them and are 14g in weight each (15g for the front wheel). The axle is what the wheel spins around and is how it is attached to the frame. Most are quick-release these days which makes fixing a puncture in the middle of nowhere a little faster. The freewheel allows the rear wheel to spin whenever you are not pedalling. Old bmx's didn't have freewheels and you used your pedals as a brake - or to cycle backwards. Scary stuff if you ask me!
All of these components on the Caldera are of the quality you would expect with an eight hundred pound bicycle and I can't fault any of them. If you wanted you could upgrade your freewheel for one that bites a little quicker or maybe buy a titanium axle but these modifications are only really for very serious riders.
Don't know much about this crankset unfortunately (all the specs are at the end of the review). I can tell you that the chain rings are 44/32/22 which is the standard sort of set up but I run Shimano hollow tech cranks which come with their own funny bottom bracket and I like em! Really light at 927 grams and priced reasonably at £100.
Maxxis Ignitor 26x2.1
Unfortunately I cannot comment on these tyres as I've never owned a pair however a quick look on the familiar bike websites lets me know that they are a 4.5/5 and an excellent multi-condition performer. Not bad.
Front - Shimano Deore
Rear - Shimano Deore XT
Derailleurs are the things that move the chain from gear to gear when you want to change them! Shimano are cracking and I can't really fault these. They are perfect middle of the range and are great at what they do. They are also very simple to set up and maintain.
These grips are made from a relatively soft compound of rubber and have lasted me for a year of riding almost every day. Perfect.
Frame tubing - Kona All-Mountain Butted Aluminum
Fork - Marzocchi MZ Race
Braze-ons - 2 x bottles, rack, fenders, disc tabs
Headset - TH
Crankarms - FSA Alpha Drive ISIS
Chainrings - 44/32/22
B/B - RPM ISIS
Pedals - Shimano PD-M505 Clipless
Chain - Shimano CN-HG53
Freewheel - Shimano Deore (11-32t, 9speed)
F/D - Shimano Deore
R/D - Shimano Deore XT
Shifters - Shimano Deore
Handlebar - WTB CXC Riser
Stem - WTB CXC
Grips - Kona Jackshit
Brakes - HAYES HFX-9 XC W6 w/2-finger Lever
Brake Levers - HAYES HFX-9 XC W6 w/2-finger Lever
Front hub - KK Disc
Rear hub - Shimano FH-M475 disc
Spokes - 15g front and 14g rear stainless DT
Tyres - Maxxis IGNITOR 26x2.1
Rims - Sun Black Eye
Saddle - WTB Laser V SPORT
Seat post - WTB CXC
Seat clamp - Kona QR
My complete bike comes in at around 14kg.
This frame is fantastic for constant upgrading which is a big part of the fun. Making your bike just that little bit better can make all the difference.
I would thoroughly recommend this bike to all levels of riders. These guys (Kona) are pretty much all about the mountain bikes so you racer types out there will have to look elsewhere unfortunately. The other three guys I ride with own a Gary Fisher Wahoo, a Specialised and a Santa Cruz Chameleon. All three have their own advantages and downfalls. It's all down to the way you ride and what you feel comfortable with.
Considering that the Caldera is quite a short, stocky frame I find that it responds very well in all different situations. It rides very well on downhill and singletrack trails and does very well in the air (considering it's a hardtail). I've found that some hardtail cross country bikes tend to struggle a bit when you are hitting jumps because the geometry just isn't designed for getting some big air.
The Caldera also performs very well when street riding. It's the easiest mountain bike that I've ever done stationary tricks on. It's easy to bunnyhop reasonably high, easy to wheelie - balanced very well - and is light enough to throw around the place.
The only real downfall is when riding on the road. The short geometry puts a lot of weight over the front wheel so much of your effort is simply absorbed in the front forks. A simple way around this is to buy lockable forks, this essentially changes the bike from a hardtail to a fully rigid set-up.
Available from around £700
I was going to periodically update this review with how the frame performed on different styles of rides/ trails etc. However, I returned to my flat a while ago to discover that my beloved bicycle had been stolen from inside my close. It was clearly a planned operation as my lock was huge and one of the best in it's range but careful choice of tools meant that someone was able to steal it...
Thanks for reading and hope this review is useful!
Following a heavy Saturday night out, you know the type far too much beer followed by a heavy curry, what could be better than waking early on a cold wet Sunday morning, getting into some tight lycra, and getting covered in mud!!!! Exactly, you just can’t beat Mountain Biking and if you are going to ride you may as well get yourself the right tools for the job. For those of you who have never ridden off road before please don’t read this bike review and rush out with your months wages only to find that two weeks later you would rather stay in bed on a Sunday with a bacon sandwich and the papers as the bike shops don’t tend to do refunds! The Kona Caldera is a bike for all abilities from beginner to expert, if cross country riding is for you then this bike will take you wherever you want to go, well so long as you have the legs for it! My Caldera is a 97 model in gleaming black, well not quite so gleaming now more sort of black with mud accessories, hey who wants to be cleaning their bike when they could be riding! Kona have changed the specification on the later models so I will try to give you pointers to this throughout the review. The Company Kona are a Canadian company who have been building bikes for more years than I would care to remember, I think I read somewhere that they started in 1988. They’re frames are renowned for their durability, and this company was the first to introduce a sloping top tube giving more clearance for the rider over the frame, this is useful for the nervous beginner who slams on their brakes too hard! (Think about it) and combined with other style changes, mentioned later, gives the expert rider more feeling for the bike. The Frame Kona utilised double-butted chromoly frames in their production of the Caldera, the other choice on the market being aluminium. Steel is inherently stronger so the tubes on the frame can be narrower and thinner walled thus cutt
ing weight. Along with this weight reduction steel gives a stiffer ride and personally I feel better feedback through the frame. The double butting gives stronger more flexible joints and the welding by the guys at Kona is as tough as they come. Kona also utilise the sloping top tube as I mentioned above, the other major design development coupled to this was to lower the seat stays giving a smaller rear triangle. This helps to stiffen the frame at the back where it is needed most, making for a very fast responsive frame. Aluminium though has taken over the market, it is cheaper to produce and easier to work with. Its lightness benefits the rider, although for me the flex experienced with the aluminium frames does not provide the ride experience of the steel. The 2000 Caldera is now produced in aluminium and the frame painted a bright red rather than the black of mine. Some people may prefer this, but whatever the colour a little tip to preserve the finish, put electricians tape on the frame at the points where your cables touch, this will prevent the cables chafing the paint off. Be careful when you buy your bike the size of frame you require is very important the bench mark is to stand flat footed astride the bike and you should have a minimum of 3” of clearance between the top tube and your self. Too small a frame and you will feel cramped too big and you will not be able to control the bike…and for you guys that can result in a very painful accident. The Mechanics Any mountain bike worth its salt uses Shimano specified parts for the mechanics. These come in several levels with Alivio being the bottom level entry, followed by STX-RC then LX, XT and finally the Rolls Royce of mechanics XTR. Most reviewers will tell you that the best combination of mechanics is to have the front and rear the same, this is similar to people who say you must drink red wine with beef. Forget it unles
s you are going to jump your bike off a mountain side, race it, and generally ride more than about 20 hours a week you do not need the highest spec mechanics. On the flip side of the coin the Olivio running gear will last about as long as it takes you to get your bike out of the shed! The most common spec is a combination of STX-RC/LX, it is tough equipment and sold at a reasonable cost. The Caldera is equipped with a combination of STX-RC for the front mechanics and XT for the rear mechanics, I upgraded to the LX level at the front of the bike just to give me the extra security of slightly tougher kit, and the bike shop was offering a free upgrade so why not! The XT rear mech provides a very slick change through the gears and combined with the rapid-fire levers allows absolute control. One word of warning finding a mechanic who can set these gears up to your satisfaction after a service can be very difficult. When you find a local bike shop with a good mechanic be nice to him and hope he never leaves! The main thing to check is the bottom bracket, this is the bit that holds the front cogs and pedal assembly together and supports your weight when you apply the power. Many bike companies cut costs and fit a low spec bottom bracket, ensure your bike is fitted with at least a Shimano UN72 which should last you around 500 miles of hard use. The standard pedals on the bike are Richie clip less, the type whereby you have a cleat on the bottom of your shoe that clips into a binding. If you have never ridden with clip less pedals before expect to fall off a few times as you come to a stop and cannot unclip…..I have always found it best to choose an area where a lot of people could see me to do this!!! On the plus side the clip less pedal allow you to apply power on the upstroke as well as the down stroke of the pedals giving that bit extra power to get up those hills. The front forks on the 97 model
are Judy T2 long travel forks which give a plush ride once ridden in and can be adjusted for rebound. The current model is fitted with Marzocchi Z-5 Bomber forks. The specifications of these two sets of forks are very similar and both provide a good ride absorbing the bigger hits on the trail rather than jarring through your arms and shoulders. When buying a bike most shops will offer upgrades to the hardware on the bike either free as part of the deal or at a discounted rate, it’s always worth asking. The Ride Ah now the fun bit getting out there and riding!!! The Caldera provides a superb ride. I ride mainly on bridleways and footpaths through Epping Forest that provide a variety of surfaces from sand through to woodchip although the common factor always seems to be mud! This bike can handle anything I throw at it: fast downhill riding, single track with tight turns, or a little bit of total off road through the trees. Equipped with Mavic 220 rims and Mythos IRC tyres the grip is always available and the Avid 2 brakes bring the bike to a stop in the shortest distance, very useful for those encounters with the extended dog lead ….. It is worth upgrading the saddle though; my Caldera came fitted with a Selle Italia that can only be defined as about as comfortable as sitting on a razor blade! The current model comes fitted with a Kona in house seat which looks a little more comfortable but I guess comfort just depends on the shape of your bum. Riding this bike is fun it is light responsive and can cope with a lot more than its rider! The frame provides a good riding position and that is important for those longer day rides. One word of warning this bike seems to have a built in nettle radar on more than one occasion a dog or horse has caused me to swerve and brake hard resulting in the inevitable crash and I always come off into nettles!!!! Conclusion In the Caldera Kona
have produced a light (26.9lbs) cross-country rigid framed mountain bike. As I mentioned earlier this bike is forgiving enough for beginners and responsive enough for expert riders. Whether you want a quiet ride through the forest or to race cross-country this bike is for you. Mine has seen many miles of muddy trail and with regular servicing (once a year) keeps going and going, and will probably last a lot longer than its rider. You can visit Kona at www.Konaworld.com to see the full range of bikes but for an affordable bike that you will never grow out of the Caldera is the one. The big news being that Kona have just reduced the prices across their entire range so the Caldera is even better value Just Get Out and Ride