2023 Kona Unit Field Test

You wanna talk about a bike with a long, singlespeed mountain bike history? We give you the 2023 Kona Unit. Back in the nineteen 90s, singlespeeds exploded onto the mountain bike scene, and the Kona Unit was born. There has been a slew of units over the last 30 years. I took notice of a more recent model (last year) because it came in a sweet, metallic pink colorway. The 2023 ColorWay is equally as stunning. The Unit is powder coated in a titanium, warm gray hue with lilac and deep coffee ground graphics. The moment that I saw the color I visualized the bike with a well broken in Cordova Brown Brooks Swift saddle that I have laying around. I never imagined that a brownish color scheme could look so badass, but this bike is aesthetically pleasing to these eyes. It’s the sort of pallet that would look fabulous with those tanwall tires that seem to be in favor currently… But the unit is much more than a great-looking singlespeed bicycle. I think that it rides as good (or better) than it looks.

Kona-philes and hardtail fans know what I’m saying when I say that the unit has Honzo-inspired geometry. The unit brings that kind of rowdy handling to the ready for the backcountry singlespeed or geared steel Hardtail. Kona sent us a size large demo that they sell as a complete bike for $1,399 USD. I’ve made a few tweaks at the touchpoints to suit my needs. Check out the full build list below.

Build List

FRAME MATERIAL Reynolds 520 Butted Cromoly
SIZES S, M, L, XL
FORK Kona Plus Fork 110mm spacing
CRANKARMS FSA Comet Modular
CHAINRINGS 32t
B/B FSA MegaExo 73mm
PEDALS Kona JS2 (Wolf Tooth Waveform Platform Pedals)
CHAIN KMC Z1 Narrow
CASSETTE KT 18t (20 Tooth)
BRAKE CALIPERS Alhonga HT472 Hydraulic
FRONT BRAKE ROTOR Alhonga 180mm
REAR BRAKE ROTOR Alhonga 160mm
BRAKE LEVERS Alhonga HT472 Hydraulic
HEADSET TH ZST No.10
HANDLEBAR Kona XC/BC Riser
STEM Kona XC
SEATPOST Kona Thumb w/Offset 31.6mm (Wolf Tooth Resolve Dropper Post)
SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
GRIPS Kona Key Grip (Ergon Cork L??)
SADDLE WTB Volt (Brooks Swift Cordoba Brown)
FRONT HUB Formula 110x15mm
REAR HUB Formula 148x12mm
SPOKES Stainless Black 14g
RIMS WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0
FRONT TIRE Maxxis Rekon TR 29×2.6″ or WTB Ranger TCS 29×2.6″
REAR TIRE Maxxis Rekon TR 29×2.6″ or WTB Ranger TCS 29×2.6″
PAINT COLOR Gloss Metallic Grey w/ Chocolate & Tan Decals

The size large unit fits like a glove. The bike felt like we were old friends from the very start. Old friends, who like to rip singletrack. The unit is a sweet handling rigid 29’r mountain bike. I shouldn’t give all the credit to the frame geometry without sending props to the Wolftooth dropper post. The unit is a drop/point/shoot Ripper on Flow Trail. The combination of progressive funAF geometry and a reliable dropper equals less breaking through shreddy berms and big silly grins. The unit encourages the rider to test the cornering traction of the Maxxis Recon‘s. And pays dividends on every flowing downhill curve. The Unit is a playful supple steel shredder that pushes me out of my comfort zone in a fun and exhilarating manner.

When the trail heads upward, the unit doesn’t misbehave as much as other progressive bikes that I’ve ridden. Maybe it’s because, on a singlespeed, the slowest climbing takes place with standing pedal mechanics. I’d say that the Unit climbs well. I was thinking about it after riding at CamRock. Singlespeeding isn’t always pretty, but it always surprises me what I manage to grind out. Rigid 29’r steel singspeeds work really well on our twisty strips of dirt.

The stock unit came geared 32:18. I spent way too much time thinking about how hard that feels compared to the two other singlspeed mountain bikes that are in my current bike rotation. I could easily switch to a 19 or 20-tooth cog in the rear. The unit can also easily be fitted with a 1 x 10 – 11–12 speed rear derailer if singlespeeding doesn’t appeal to you. In the end, I can climb 95% of the local topography with the stock ratio, so I told myself it was time for me to harden the fuck up and run the stock ratio. I need to stop thinking about ways to make it easier and just ride the damn thing. My inner ‘Fred’ never stops chirping about shit like that. #ShutUpFred Well… True confessions: all it took for my inner ‘Fred’ to win out was the third search of my parts drawers, where I found a 20-tooth cog. The final search was brought on before a group ride with some Amigos at Kettle. The two-tooth drop meant that I had more confidence that I’d avoid walking, two of the longest climbs. I could have probably been faster overall with the original gear ratio, but I was spared the ‘walk of shame’. Now my inner “Fred” is wondering about a Gold-Anodized Boone Titanium19-tooth cog. #ShutUpFred.

The Unit’s frame is made from Reynolds 520 Butted Cromoly. Fans of steel frames won’t be disappointed. My inner retro grouch likes to remind me that my last three mountain bikes are steel. Yeah, the unit balances out all of that retro grouch juju with Honzo progressive handling for something pretty damn impressive. It has me saying things like the unit is a better rigid, singlespeed, mountain bike than my Surly Krampus. I’m pretty sure this will become my new mountain bike. I’ll have to give it a try with gears eventually as well. I started calling this bike Carlos. Los for short. After Carlos Santana. That clearly indicates how I feel about the 23 Kona Unit. I’m a huge fan.

For more information about the Unit visit – https://konaworld.com/products/unit

About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.

6 Comments

  1. Yep, I built up a pink geared one last year. I’m not man enough for SS as a daily driver. It’s a fantastic bike.

  2. Huge fan of my military green 21’ Unit. I had a blast with it at SS USA 22’ and am looking forward to it again in KC this year. Cheers!

  3. Hello and thanks for sharing your experience with the Unit. You mentioned the size L fits like a glove. May I ask what’s your height? I’m considering a Unit for myself and not sure if M or L would be more suitable, I’m 5′ 11″.

  4. hi i am 6 1″ and had a xl unit .it was massive .i am getting a large 2023 .i have had 2 units and they are the best ridding bikes i have had

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