Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Kona Big Unit gains big gears – Deore M6000

Posted by Matt | November 16, 2017 | 3 comments so far

Sitting in my garage, doing nothing, is a scandium Kona Big Unit hardtail 29er. Literally, doing nothing.

Which seems a bit of a waste really, doesn’t it?

The story of how this all came about has to do with a convoluted tale, whereby I originally acquired the bike off CreakyDave™. Around 2012 it was one of the many bikes which passed through his Multi-Coloured 29er Swap Shop and despite it being painted an uninspiring black, it caught my eye. So much so that when the time came for Dave to move it on, it came to me.

I knew exactly what I was going to do with it as well. Dave, ever the pioneer, had it in 1×10 mode with a 32T front ring and funny handlebars, but I am a spinner and not a grinder so I promptly fitted new gears. It ended up with an SLX M675 groupset with a 24/38 double and a 11-32T cassette with green vinyl highlights to funk it up a bit. It proved to be a decent, lightweight XC kind of machine and provided many enjoyable miles but if I was honest, there was always a slight feeling I was hunting for the right gear between those two front chainrings.

This long amble down memory lane finally ends when I needed to rebuild my venerable 2005 On-One Inbred for my ever-growing son. By then the On-One was in a pink singlespeed set up (to this day one of my finest creations), but the long and short of it is that the gears ended up on the Inbred, while the Kona became a pink-tinged beauty rocking just one gear.

That’s how the Kona has remained to this day, but as my back has slowly deteriorated following an unpleasant (but relatively painless) hip rotation at the end of 2014 and endless hours of office work, I’ve rarely used the thing. The garage has kept it warm and dry but not a lot else has been going on with it, until now.

Why have a bike that’s not used? It’s a good question, and if it’s not used because there’s not enough gears on it, there’s a very simple solution…

A new Deore M6000 groupset

Deore M6000 Groupset 2018 - from

So, gears! That sounds like a good idea!

While recent years have seen a big move toward 1x setups, I am just not convinced. As I’ve said, the past couple of years has seen me shadowed by the spectre of backache and just I don’t think 1x quite suits me.

I’ve tried 1×10 on my Orange and 1×10 on my Marin Pine Mountain (admittedly, I’ve never tried a 1×11 setup), but neither quite hit the spot. The Orange just didn’t go low enough in range, while the Marin, even with a 11-42T cassette, always feels like it has slightly too large a gap between the cogs that I want to use.

What really surprised me was that my YT came supplied with a 2×10 SLX setup (24/36T with a 11-36T cassette). Despite initial thoughts that this seemed a bit passe, I found I really liked it, with a closer set of gears and a suitably low bottom end. All that spinny stuff fits my natural cadence and my current state of health perfectly.

As luck would have it, Shimano recently announced the new Deore M6000 groupset – you can read about it in depth on this Deore M6000 article on Singletrack – and immediately I realised this was just what I needed for the Kona.

First off, it’s worth noting that many features that not long ago would be considered top end are available on the M6000. There’s a clutch-enabled Shadow rear derailleur, a wide range cassette option (11-42T) and a specific double crankset for a start, with the outer chainring sporting a composite construction derived from XT. All good in fact.

Second, it’s quite a good looking groupset, again using many of the styling cues from higher up the range.

And finally, it’s really cheap. Shop around and there’s places the whole drivetrain can be had for about £220 and it’s only just come out as well. I’ve always thought that SLX is the sweet spot for performance vs cost but this I think is the best part of £80 cheaper, minimum.

If 11 speed is where it’s at for you, then Deore doesn’t work. If weight is an issue, then Deore adds a few grams, but my money is where my mouth is. I’m currently awaiting the happy sound of the Kona’s next chapter being delivered any day now.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted…


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 3 comments on ‘Kona Big Unit gains big gears – Deore M6000’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

  1. James says:

    Did you look at the SRAM eagle ? That’s 1×12 with a 50t I think.

    • Matt says:

      I did James, but Eagle GX doesn’t come close in terms of price. I got the full Deore drivetrain (rear mech, front mech, crankset, cassette, BB, front and rear shifters and chain) for 235 Euros but I can’t get the ‘same’ Eagle setup for less than 400 Euros (I included the crankset and a BB), plus I’d need a SRAM XD freehub.

      I know I will get 1000s of miles use out of the Deore without any trouble and all the bits are cheap to replace, whereas the rear cassette alone on the Eagle is £150.

      So really, it’s a no-brainer for a nice XC hardtail.

  2. Related: What's this?? A spot of Mountain Biking? | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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