Kona Jake, 61cm. 2015.
One month on, and it’s time to summarise my experience so far.
Fit: it’s big, but I need that. The choice was narrowed down to a ‘cross bike with disc brakes and mud-guard bolts. This is not the biggest Jake, the catalogues list up to 63cm, which must be huge. At 6’4″, I have always needed a large frame and reach has been a particular problem. That is why my first two bikes were custom made. Off the peg at the time, it was only possible to get 22.5inch top-tube bikes. Many famous brands made all their frames with the same top-tube, regardless of frame size. This 61cm fits me well.
Handling: it all seems natural to me. Squelchy surfaces are a new experience for me, and I don’t mind admitting to some nervousness. That’s my weakness, not the bike’s. My nerve and judgement is getting better with each ride. Once I have fallen off, I can truly say the bike is christened. However, the canal water looks very cold, so the first tumble better not be into the drink.
Weight : with the bottle and seat pouch removed, it’s 10.57 Kg. About the same as my steel 8 speed racer.
Brakes: at first, it needs a lot of pull to stop hard but once a hundred miles were done, they became excellent. The cables don’t need to be all that tight, unlike the setup by the shop. After loosing them off, the braking is sensitive and subtle with the option to weigh anchor if necessary .
So far so good, the only problem is the brake calipers. They are quite wide so my heel catches on the rear brake sometimes. Once I have paid the last installment, I will change them to another brand. Bikes with rear brakes mounted on the seat-stay won’t have this problem, but their owners will struggle to fit a rack.
Wheels and tyres: not light, the rear complete is 2.2Kg. They do seem strong and the tyres grip well on soft muddy trails. The only real frustration is the large number of punctures. In first 120 miles ridden so far, 7 punctures. 5 were caused by thorns, the remaining two were snakebites. Soft grass and mud can conceal a deflating tyre which is probably how the tubes got pinched in those cases. #1
Gears: 10 on the back (11-30) and a double chainset (50-36). The Tiagra change reasonably well but one cog is slow to click down. That cassette is huge, 11-30 and is probably heavy (see above). #2
In future I will fit road wheels which will have higher ratios. Perhaps 11-25 would be more realistic. This way, if I fancy some muddy fun, then it’s only a quick swap away.
The down side: there are only a few changes I would make to this bike:
Handlebars- I don’t mind the wide bars, but the drops are quite shallow so that with hands there, your position is no lower than on the tops. You can’t really get your head down on a fast descent but at least you can exert leverage with the wider bar section. This shape, it seems, is the fashion these days.
The rear stays are rather plain; they look like they’re from a 1990’s bike. No curves or wishbone design. That is all behind you so you can’t see them though, so don’t worry. The bottom line is that when you’re on the bike you look at the landscape and traffic, when you’re off it- the bike is locked away in the shed. Looks aren’t that important.
Finally, the seat is too narrow for my big arse, and the stem, 1cm too short.
Overall, Remember that I have never had a mountain bike and am not comparing a range of machines like a proper review might.
I am having tremendous fun with it and probably building handling skills on loose surfaces. Without a doubt, it’s a fine 50th birthday present to myself.
#1; In despair after the 11th puncture, I fitted a pair of Slime inner-tubes. Puncture problem solved. They add a lot to the wheel’s weight; that’s moving mass too. However, the time lost with slower wheels is gained by not stopping to fix flats. At higher speeds, handling is less ‘flicky’, probably a gyroscope effect from the heavier tyre-tube combination.
#2: Since writing this, I have taken the cassette off and it’s not very heavy.