I just bought this bike to replace a Cube hardtail, I always had Kona when I first started but ended up with a Marin for a few years.
The Kona is a superb bike and like many things seems to be more than the sum of it's parts.
I tried various bikes, including some with higher spec parts, but the Kona just felt more together, as if somebody had actually thought about what makes a bike desirable.
It came down to the Kona and a Ghost AMR7500 (not sure Ghost are well known in the US)
The Ghost was full XT and generally seemed better, but the Kona was nicer to ride, and looked better as well.
One thing I would like is remote lockout on the Rock Shox Sektor Solo Air front fork, I ordered a kit from my LBS but for some reason nobody in the UK can get one until November.
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Thread: 2013 Tanuki Deluxe