Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Review – Kona Big Unit 29er – the Build & 1st ride

Posted by DaveC | August 24, 2011 | 14 comments so far

Now that Colin comes out so infrequently it’s pretty much impossible for him to turn up and find me riding a bike I had when he last came out.

Kona Big Unit

With the Haro Mary being such an inexpensive way last year to change my winter hardtail over to a 29er I never thought it was going to be a long term buddy. OK, some might say only my Orange 5 is a long term buddy!

Anyway, I was looking at Chinese carbon 29er frames on eBay thinking it would be nice to loose a few lbs before Mountain Mayhem next year when a random Google search threw up Charlie the Bikemonger’s site as having some Kona Unit frames.

Initially I thought these steel frames with sliding dropouts (including a geared drop-out) would be a useful addition to allow some reduction in bike fleet. So I duly emails Charlie to find out what the frame weight was.

Kona Big Unit sliding dropout

Now, Brant Richards uses his wife’s cooking scales to measure frame weights, Charlie nips next door and uses the greengrocer’s scales (should that be a costamonger?) and Charlie assured me that is exactly what he would do when the frames arrived later that day.

I patiently waited and flicked onto his website only see that the frame had suddenly changed colour and material! Apparently Charlie was a bit surprised at what arrived as well. Paligap sent him some Big Unit frames that apparently never got sold in the UK. Rather than being steel they are Scandium alloy. Well it had to weigh less than a Haro steel frame!

Kona Big Unit headtube

So after a few more calls and some more hunting on the net I decided that it was worth a punt. Next day the frame was in my hands. So began the frame swap. Oh… and new cranks… err… and new pedals… oh… and there might be new wheels as well. Well, the forks were used, as was the rear mech, seat post and saddle… hmmmm.

Kona Big Unit 1x9 Middleburn Uno crank

But I did end up with a bike that was 25.4lbs. So if I can lose 5lbs myself we’re onto a real weight saving for MM next year!

The build is as follows;

Kona Big Unit Frame 18″
Superstar Taper ZS headset (with converter crown race)
Reba 29er Team forks
Superstar 80mm stem
Carnegie bars
XT brakes
XT right shifter
Deore HG61 12-36 cassette
MRP 1.x chain device
Middleburn crank with 32t Uno ring
Stan’s Crest 29er rims on Superstar Evo Switch hubs
Maxxis Aspen 29er tyres
Thomson seatpost

Build went together without a hitch. Looking forward to getting out over the next week but from the short ride up and down the road it feels like it’ll be responsive and agile.

First impressions

I’ve ridden the BU twice now and both times it’s felt very fast. Obviously it’s a sum of the parts and the parts have been chosen to make it light without getting silly with the cost. The biggest different is the weight of the wheels/tyres. This is VERY noticeable as I climb although I am wary of the thin walls on the Aspens. Grip wise though they have been excellent in the dry and dusty conditions.

120mm of travel does not seem to have slowed the steering down or adversely affected the handling. On fast downhills it’s felt planted and in control, on steep and stoney uphills it’s felt grippy and able. Overall I’m very happy with it so far.

Filed under Bikes in August 2011


About the author

Dave's been riding seriously since about 1997 and is one of the founding Molefathers — along with Matt and Mark — that came up with the idea of a MTB website for Mole Valley riders.

He's had several different bikes but it's now mainly 29ers in Dave's stable, apart from an Orange 5.

Current Bikes: Orange 5, Salsa Spearfish and Kona Big Unit

There are 14 comments on ‘Review – Kona Big Unit 29er – the Build & 1st ride’

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  1. Kc says:

    Looks like a great bike and cost effective at getting to that weight too!

  2. Jem says:

    I Kona believe the weight!!

    Rather good for a geared hardtail.

    Aslo like the stealth look, could do with some matt black forks:-)

  3. stevend says:

    That is a nice looking bike, simple and uncluttered but I agree with Jem – your first ‘upgrade’ should be matt black forks.

  4. Big al says:

    Very nice looking bike Dave , Just think how much weight you could save by making it a singlespeed . Maybe we could enter a Singlspeed team next year at MM , what do you think ?

  5. Matt says:

    Having seen this bike in the metal it’s much nicer than the pics show.

    I really don’t like black bikes but the matt finish is OK in that it shows off the tube profiling rather well – and there’s a lot going on there, with square section, concave tubing on the down tube, a squarish top tube and rounded seat stays. Subtle but details matter.

    Throw in the sliding dropouts, slack geometry for a 29er and the tapered headtube and it’s a good starting point for a 29er virgin.

    Riding it up the road it feels like a ‘normal’ bike, easy to pop the front up a kerb and I was able to drag the rear brake to turn the bike in it’s own length with no problem at all. Boxes ticked there.

    I like Dave’s muted use of red anodising to lift the looks but overall I really don’t want a black bike. Or weirdo handlebars 🙂

    Best bit, which Dave is aware of, is that when the bike name is viewed from close by the ‘Big Unit’ text manages to look like it says ‘Big *unt’ (ahem), very funny.

    What a silly bunt in fact 🙂

    (apologies to Monty Python fans out there…)

    But really, a very nice bike.

  6. Kevs says:

    Having seen the “Big Unit” in action on Sunday, and the bike :-)) … I want it and shall wait until its owner grows tired of it in a few weeks and upgrades to yet another two wheeled steed.
    Than I shall move in with a derisory offer to purchase! Ha Haaaaaaa!! (Cue loud organ music and deranged cackling)

  7. Clink says:

    If you do sell I’m very interested!

  8. Clink says:

    Well – just ordered a 2012 frame from states – again not available in UK. Mine will be SS though.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Clink,

      Lots nice in Blue as well. Otherwise the frame looks similar but it seems to have a direct mount FD although you won’t be using that obviously. May well treat myself to another rear wheel and set it up for easy conversion to SS. Not sure how the geometry compares and I see it’s still difficult to track down on the Kona website.

      hmmmmmm……the Honzo looks great though!

  9. Micah says:

    Did you ever find out the frame weight?

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  11. Related: Kona Big Unit gains big gears - Deore M6000 | Mutterings, Stuff & nonsense | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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