demoed/rented the 153 to ride in Moab this past weekend - bike was fresh out o the box and spanky new when I picked er up saturday morning to ride Porcupine and as much above porky that was rideable (snow in the lasalles had many of the upper loops snowed/mudded out already).
after chatting w shuttle driver - we chose to self shuttle up to the road at Sand flats (think Slickrock access) and pay $2/rider and ride up for a warm up.
The bike was the non - DL, and unlike web pix where it looks red - its a blazey orange. Simple specs at x7 primarily and Deore brakes. Wheels ok - a bit heavy. Maxxis high rollers frt/rr. A lovely all black Pike up front in 160 mode!
Shop set sus based on body weight so did a quick sag in the lot at start of ride. From shop setup - it was basically about 20% frt/rr so let out a bit o air.
The medium 153 fit perfect (altho looking at numbers i thought it would be big). I've been riding a 2013 Kona Satori 29er in small since last thanksgiving. Looking down - and w the slack head and beefy high roller - I had a hard time not seeing a "big wheel" out front - yes big, not 29er big but big. i played around with the Monarch - platform on and off during the ride. not a "lot" of difference in feel - on the road - but - even in open mode and mashing the pedals while sitting didnt create a lot of rear sus movement. Bike simply felt right, good and comfy from the get go - granted - im on a dirt/gravel road.
Rode approx 7 miles w 1300 elevation gain up the road to the rim trailhead (i believe there are many - but this is more double track and jeep access once you leave road). right before we jumped to the trail - I checked the sag and let out some air - hitting square btw the 25%-30% markings on the stanchions. bounced around and over some rocks and set rebound.
Now the real test begins. the next couple miles are rocky doubletrack climb. Nothing super steep - but sustained with short, steep sections with tech rock step ups and maneuvers that will get a guys lungs and legs to their limit quickly. Square edge hits - one of the smoothest bkes i've ridden taking on everything from 6" to over a foot - wow. What Impressed me most was how well the rear wheel stuck (granted big new grippy rubber) - on everything - and I climbed every tech obstacle I could find or attempt. The bike climbed the tech like a proverbial mt goat. Sus was "active" but never wallowed or bobbed in a bad way - when I needed it - it was right there, finesse moves, standing, seated or all 3 to get up and over the obstacles. At this point - i Havent even pointed down the fabled trail. Yep - i was all smiles - a bit winded - but all smiles.
note - everywhere I was stopped - for a pic, food, water etc... the bike drew everyones attn - - heck - in blaze orange with black - it was hard not to notice it.
Now - lets get that DH I just earned with more than 2000 vert climbing.
right off - the bike was just SOLID. felt more solid than my Satori. The PIKE is the real deal - i will have a very hard time riding my fox 34 w/ctd for the rest of fall season in CO. it just did everything well - and nothing bad. don't know I've ever ridden a more solid feeling fork that gave when it had to and never before - yet felt supple on small bumps and just ate up everything big. It saved my bacon more than once - more on that later!
got a few amazing miles in before my one trail incident - and let me state that whether I was rolling down, pedaling through or even on the rollers back up - i began to pick every unnatural line, hit, rock garden etc. So while guys and gals around me were on the ridden trail - i was always left or right navigating the worse line or harder section. Am I braggin about my skill - hellz no - the bike made me want to try everything - harder, faster, uglier etc... no problems at all. Until I lost focus - waved a rider by ( i didnt say I was THE fastest) - and boom - endo my bike. Good news no hurt!. Pick up bike go to pedal - nothing! look back and the derailler is just dangling - snapped the hangar - could not believe it. btw - KONA - if you read this - please replace the hangar with a REAL piece of metal - it is so thin and brittle - im sure it's not the first nor last that will simply break.
So after some trailside work - im all of a sudden a single speeder for the day. worse part - I'm NOT a single speed rider by any stretch. Settled on big ring up front and 3d smallest out back - simply to get a decent chain line, leave slack for sus to work and try to finish while not walking. Good news is altho there were more than a few chain jumps or drops - i only had to walk a couple steep ups - and finished on the bike with a chain still in tact.
so - overall - its a winner. Climbs better and handles techy climbs better than a 6" + travel bike should. Downhill - its the real deal and makes it easy. Nimble - while I didnt have a chance at any tight 90deg switchbacks like I normally ride - it was EASY to ride, change a line, pick a spot etc...Geo is nailed! If I made a mistake - let the bike with the pike save my bacon! Utlimately - altho I had to work harder (in single speed mode) I came away less "worked" than if I were on a long tech ride on my Satori. I could easily own this bike tomorrow - but will wait til I ride a few more bikes on the short list before I make that decision. For a value price - well - relative to all the $5000+ bikes on the market - this bike is a steal especially with the Pike, workman x7 and even tho only Deore - the brakes are what they are - Shimano and worked flawless. Personally - i'd likely get the DL, but knowing this is the starting point - right on Kona. 1 gripe -please replace that brittle little thing called a derailleur hangar with a real piece of metal!
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