Replacement(?) for 2008 Kona Unit 29- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Replacement(?) for 2008 Kona Unit 29

    OK! I have a 2008 Kona Unit that climbs - and when I say climbs, I mean climbing when standing, up gnarly terrain - not seated, like a beast. It's the most capable (when standing) bike I have ever owned. It's tired, components worn out, really looking its age so I replaced it with a Marin CXR 29r. Super light, front suspension etc. I hate it (other than the weight). I'm actually on my second frame, cracked the first one. It climbs (when standing) like crap. Breaks free all the time, super frustrating. It's geared and I would love to through in an eccentric bottom bracket and go SS - but it can't climb worth beans.
    I also bought a Marin Pine Mountain 27+. Same issue when climbing, although somewhat better. On my second frame with that bike as well (doubt I'll buy another Marin).
    So, what I'm getting at is I want to go back to SS riding. I love it, I miss it. But, neither of these bikes is going to do the trick which gets me to the question/point of the long post.
    GEOMETRY! I'm baffled.
    Kona: HA-73.2 (its an 08), SA-74.2, CS-17.3
    Marin CXR: HA-71.5, SA-73.5, CS-17.5
    Marin Pine Mountain: HA-69, SA-70, CS-17.24
    Looking at the numbers the CXR shouldn't be that much different than the Unit - no? Does the HA help with traction when standing and climbing??
    The Pine Mountain, as much as I love the comfort of the big 27.5 plus tires, just annoys me when climbing. You have to stand to feel any progress (steep stuff - I like tackling steep hills).
    While I realize there are many aspects to any given bike - why does the old 08 Unit climb so much better??
    (to add - new tires on the CXR, old crappy tires on the Unit, still no comparison!!).
    At this point I'm ready to dump the new bikes and rebuild the old Kona!

  2. #2
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    Look for a bike with shorter chainstays. A tucked rear wheel will have better traction while standing. The STA will also not matter traction wise since your standing. Same for the HTA, it won't affect traction, but it will make a bit of difference in the steering.

    Check out the Kona Honzo ST, Canfield Nimble 9, etc. (others can add more with super short chainstays). Those bikes in my opinion have become the best all-around hardtails on the market. They go up better, down better, there's really no down side except maybe a little extra weight from being a bit more "trail" oriented. I love the long reach on the Honzo!
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply OneSpeed. Shorter chainstays, yes I get that. My 08 Unit, that climbs so well doesn't really have overly short stays - and not much different than the CXR. 17.3 vers 17.4. I don't get it. The CXR should climb just as well, but it doesn't come close.
    Considering something with even shorter stays certainly isn't out of the question, but being in Canada the choices can be a bit more limited - exchange rate and all.
    Kona Honzo - quite slack no? An able aggressive climber?? I like to attack hills going up as much as down, maybe even more so - anyone can go down...
    The Kona Raijin's numbers look good, I think, but too pricey for me to justify. What about the new Surly Karate Monkey at 16.7?? Very similar to the Raijin but so very much cheaper.

  4. #4
    Downcountry AF
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    Did your 08 Kona Unit have 26" wheels?

    Edit: Never mind, I answered my own question. I formerly owned a 2011 Unit, which I miss dearly, and really liked that bike. It didn't have overly short chainstays but I did like the overall handling of the bike for my tight and twisty trails.

    Anyway, after I broke my frame and couldn't find a suitable replacement after looking for the better part of a year, I decided to have a custom frame built. Long story short my new frame has similar geo to the Raijin. I was going for "modern XC geo". It definitely goes down better and I'm more confident on technical terrain, but it also goes up better. It's been a while since I rode the Unit (2 years) but I'm just going from memory.

    I also had a chance to ride a Honzo this summer at a demo, before I had my custom SS built up. I was impressed. I thought it was going to be too "trail" oriented but it didn't ride as extreme as the geo numbers suggest it might. There was very little trade off for the much better downhill ability and all round awesomeness. I'd buy that bike in a heartbeat if I hadn't just built one very similar to it.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  5. #5
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    No sir, it's a 29r.
    I have a set a newish Stans wheels for it, but the rest of it would need a rebuild. 8 years of SS wore everything out.
    I just can't figure out why the CXR climbs like crap in comparison.
    The Honzo, while sexy, worries me. While demoing bikes I took out a Process 111. Same slack front end. I rode it twice, but couldn't get get used to it - while CLIMBING. Downhill, sure it was ok. Up, no not so much but I'm sure I would get used to it, or would I...I couldn't stand and crank uphill. Seated was nuts - a horribly distorted position like I was hugging/balancing a football in my lap. Now, the Honzo is a hardtail so I would expect it to climb (out of the saddle) better, but...

  6. #6
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    The Honzo does not get great climbing ratings

  7. #7
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    Jenson has a few 2016 Unit frames for sale. Or rebuild the old one.

  8. #8
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    The Unit is a rigid SS 29er. That's a winning combo for standing climbs. The other two bikes only have 1 of those 3 traits.

    The effect of geometry varies so much between SS riders. Hard to draw generalizations (but shorts stays are preferred by most). What is your height/inseam? How does the CXR fit differently than the Unit? Do you feel a bit hunched over when out of the saddle on the CXR, unable to get leverage on the bars? Did the Unit have 180mm cranks?

    Due to its steeper HTA and less fork offset, the Unit must have a shorter wheelbase, which I finds climbs better. But I have a very short torso. With a longer wb, I struggle to weight both wheels the way I want, and become trapped in a horizontal position, baby-sitting both ends of the bike. With a shorter wb, I have more control over how my weight is distributed, one moment to the next, at each end of the bike.

    Did the two Marins break in the same place? That might provide a clue.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSSTeve View Post
    rebuild the old Kona!
    Not a bad idea. I had a 2007 Kula 2-9 SS with that same geometry and dropouts. That bike was a rocket! Best power transfer of any bike I've had.

  10. #10
    Downcountry AF
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    I was thinking more about it last night and wondered what the BB drop is between the bikes?

    The Honzo definitely has a low BB and with a rigid fork would be even lower. I think Carver makes one of the longer rigid forks available @ 490mm.

    That recommendation was based on the traction question, which the Honzo has plenty of. Perhaps the Surly KM is a better setup for a rigid SS? I've not ridden one. You should also check out the Vassago Jabberwocky.

    If you really like the old frame, strip it down, have it powder coated, and rebuild with new parts.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  11. #11
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    I am really enjoying my Vassago Jabberwocky. chainstays are around 17" long at the shortest setting, which means you can probably run your chain a full ling shorter than what you had on the Unit.

    the main thing is the top tube length- the Jabber quite a bit longer for it's size than most similar bikes. my experience has been that most medium frames are too short in reach for me at 5'9", so I have to run stupid-long stems. the Jabber's longer TT allows me to run a rational 70mm stem and ride comfortably for long periods of time.

    my previous frames were a Soma Juice and a Niner ROS 9. I had the Juice for a long time and loved it. my only complain were the long-ish chainstays. should have kept it but I wanted to try the super-short chainstay hype. I bought a used ROS 9 and it was a fun bike to play around on. it was a lousy bike for long rides though, as the short top tube force me to either hurt my bike on a short stem, or suffer lousy handling with a really long stem. the short chainstays on the ROS 9 seemed like a gimmick. I could do wheelies more easily, which was fun, but not very useful on a 25-30 XC ride.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all the replies! Things that keep us up at night…
    I’m 6 foot, and the CXR would have a longer top tube than the Unit. I have played with stems to try and emulate the same fit, although, generally speaking I would be lower on the CXR. Cranks both 175.
    Shorter wheelbase could be the key. 1094 to 1121? Not a huge difference, but one of a number of slight differences.
    Great points Ryder1. I could try getting myself higher on the CXR as a test, but honestly don’t think it will help.
    As for the two Marins, interestingly enough they both cracked (no actual breaks) in different locations. Pine Mountain (steel) on the upper seat stay welds, CXR (carbon) in the bottom bracket. Marin and my LBS have both been excellent for warrantee/support.
    The Honzo reviews I’ve read generally all focus on it’s weight (unless ti) and downhill battle axe abilities. It is ‘not a great climber’ – whatever that means. Reviews on how bikes climb can often be vague. Seated or standing, geared or SS, up a steep west coast rooty single-track trail or a smooth beach like Arizona trail. So many, many factors. The Honzo may climb like a goat, I wouldn’t know, but it is approaching a questionable ‘too slack’ front end – in my very unprofessional opinion. Sexy looking bike though.
    Fork offset, trail and wheelbase could be the key measurements between the CXR and old Unit?? There are no huge differences in the numbers from what I can see – if the published charts are accurate!
    If I were to rebuild the old Unit (the newer Units all have slightly different geometry past 2011) I would want a suspension fork. I worry what that might do to the overall ‘zen’ climbing it currently possesses.

    HA STA CS
    Kona Unit 2008 72.2 74.2 17.3
    Kona Unit 2009 72.2 74.2 17.3
    Kona Unit 2010 72.2 74.2 17.3
    Kona Unit 2011 70 73 17.1
    Kona Unit 2012 70 73 17.1
    Kona Unit 2013 70 73 17.1
    Kona Unit 2014 70 73 17.08
    Kona Unit 2015 70 73 17.08
    Kona Unit 2016 69 73 17.08
    Kona Unit 2017 69 74 17.4
    Kona Unit 2018 69 74 17.4

    Interesting comments on the ROS 9. Yes, Looked at the Soma, not sure how the geo would work out based on my current CXR experience. Long chainstay.
    I like the look and geometry of the Jabberwocky – can it/should it run a suspension fork or remain rigid?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSSTeve View Post
    Shorter wheelbase could be the key. 1094 to 1121? Not a huge difference, but one of a number of slight differences. [...] I could try getting myself higher on the CXR as a test, but honestly don’t think it will help.
    I find 1" wb significant, but if it's entirely due to HTA/offset (not reach), maybe less so.

    When you recall climbing on the Unit, was your torso more horizontal, recruiting lots of hips/glutes/core, for massive power? Or were you dancing on the pedals, head up high, relying on gravity, quads, and bike sway to keep on top of a smaller gear? Ideally your bike fits in such a way that you can utilize both positions as the trail demands, while simultaneously keeping you over the BB with an optimal front/rear weight distribution.

    For me, a long low cockpit (and wide bars) prevents me from getting fully into that more vertical "dance" position that's so efficient on long steady climbs (see Alberto Contador). But too short and high leaves you all balled up when trying to get low and sprint, or power through more technical terrain.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSSTeve View Post
    Interesting comments on the ROS 9. Yes, Looked at the Soma, not sure how the geo would work out based on my current CXR experience. Long chainstay.
    I like the look and geometry of the Jabberwocky – can it/should it run a suspension fork or remain rigid?
    The ROS is a great AM bike. since I don't ride that way and my local terrain isn't like that, an XC bike makes a lot more sense. I don't know exactly what it as, but anyone who saw me on that bike said it was just too small. so it depends on what your riding style is. the Honzo and the new Unit are two different bikes geared (or not) toward different riding styles.

    I am running a 100mm Reba on my Jabber and I plan to get the Vassago rigid fork for it soon. with it's rather low BB and nuetral STA and HA, I would have no problem running a 120mm squish fork on it, which I will do eventually when i feel like rebuilding my Reba with the longer piston that's sitting my my parts bin. I know several nearby riders who are on old Jabbers and VerHauens and they seem to love them for the local terrain.

  15. #15
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    I Just measured the Unit against the CXR. The Unit is over an inch shorter - actual top tube measurement. Chainstays a little longer on the CXR, not a lot, but a bit. All adding up to a longer wheelbase, which, I agree is significant, and the general problem with the CXR. I rode the Unit with a longish stem, and have a shortish stem on the CXR. I can't go any shorter on the CXR. I already know I have too much weight over the front during hard sharp singletrack cornering - any shorter and the front end may kick out on me. I cannot replicate the front end geomentry of the Unit with the CXR. Too much of a difference.

    So - mystery (I think) solved. Good and bad. Time put my two Marin's up for sale and begin collecting parts for a Unit rebuild!

    Thanks all - I appreciate the help.

  16. #16
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    in case you still need to really looks at geometry, use this Stack and reach calculator

  17. #17
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    I had a 2008 or 9? Kula 2-9 SS with the sliding dropouts. Scandium frame and definitely a nice bike. Just rode it and beat the heck out of it. Had an average mix of parts and was about 24 lbs.

    When it came time to upgrade I went with Carbon Pivot Les with nice spec (20lb bike).

    The short stays, longer reach and modern geometry of the Les feel much nicer.

  18. #18
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    The Pivot Les is a very nice for sure. It's also an easy $3000.00 here, just for the frame, not cheap. Another one I looked at is the Kona Raijin. Same thing though, $3k just for the frame. For me, not worth it. I would rather have a steel frame, and spend more on wheels.

    If I had lots of money, spending excessive amounts on bikes would be fun and justifiable. But, as I don't, and as all we do is take these bikes out and ride the snot out of them, I cringe at fixing, repairing, and purchasing high end parts.

    mack_turtle - thanks for the link - stack and reach calculator. Pretty cool.

  19. #19
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    On the Les I would check out the used market. Yes you don't get the factory warranty but you can get a decent complete bike for $2000 - $3000, some have gears and some set up SS. Pinkbike, Ebay this site has some deals as we speak. Used Kona's are pretty cheap too

  20. #20
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    Thanks newking. Yes, some good deals can be had on used bikes, my last two cross bikes were used - excellent deals. I'll keep my eyes open, especially here on this site, of which I am new!

  21. #21
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    Looking for a new (to me) bike, and came across this thread. I've actually found a used 2008 Kona Unit 2-9 upgraded with a 1x9 speed SRAM XO drivetrain, 2 year old Shimano XTR brakes/rotors, Bontrager Race X-Lite wheels with Maxis Highroller II (front) and Maxis Ardent (rear) set up tubeless, and a Rock Shox Reba RLT, dual air fork. Asking price is $600. Thoughts on price for something like this? Too much, just right?

  22. #22
    Rod
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    I vote for rebuilding the bike you love. You already have a great set of wheels, whixh will be the most expensive item. It will be exactly what you want and cheaper than buying a new bike.

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