Hands-on Gear Review

Kona Wo 2018 Review

A capable fat bike that has a strong preference for smooth and flowy trails
By: Ian Butler  ⋅  Apr 26, 2018
Price:  $1,499 List
Pros:  Wide rubber, excellent on flowy trails, attractive price
Cons:  Easily overwhelmed on rough trails,
Manufacturer:   Kona Bikes
58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 6
  • Fun Factor - 30% 6
  • Downhill - 30% 4
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Ease of Maintenance - 10% 7
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Our Verdict

The Kona Wo is a mountain goat. This bike is a swift climber that puts riders in a very efficient position to grind uphill. The Wo rolls on 26x4.8-inch tires and remains agile and quick. On the descent, this fat bike prefers open and fast terrain absent of technical features. This bike can be overwhelmed fairly easily when the going gets rough. The $1499 price point is attractive and this Wo is a strong value.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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What the Kona Wo lacks in high-end performance  it makes up for in cost effectiveness.
What the Kona Wo lacks in high-end performance, it makes up for in cost effectiveness.

Should I Buy This Bike?


The Wo blends solid performance with a solid price tag. This bike is an excellent choice for the rider who likes to climb. The Kona has a comfortable climbing position and the 4.8-inch tires provide an exceptional amount of traction. This bike has a preference for smooth and fast downhills. It may be best for the rider who rides a lot of snowy trails or new-school trails.

The award-winning Trek Farley is a ripping fat bike. The Farley rolls fast thanks to its giant 27.5x4.5-inch tires. The massive wheels can monster truck over holes and roots on the descent. They also carry plenty of momentum uphill once they get rolling. The Farley 5 has some impressive components and a reasonable $1729 price tag.

Design Highlights


   square bullet Aluminum frame
   square bullet 26x4.8-inch tires
   square bullet Suspension corrected fork.

   square bullet Press fit bottom bracket

With a rigid fork and no rear suspension  feel free to splash around.
With a rigid fork and no rear suspension, feel free to splash around.

Downhill Performance


The Wo's steep geometry has a clear preference for fast and flowy terrain. Rough and steep trails are unstable and are very dependant on line choice. This playful bike has a high fun-factor on the right type of terrain, but it can get in over its head in a hurry.

On the descent, riders are put in a decisively forward position. The short top tube moves rider weight forward towards the front wheel. This tight cockpit is paired with a steep 69.0-degree head tube angle kills confidence on rough terrain. In rough, steep, terrain, you need to work hard to keep your weight back and avoid getting pitched over the bars.

The flip side of this steep and tight geometry is a high fun-factor. The steep angles and tight top tube create excellent handling and responsiveness. The BMX-feel can be extremely fun on fast and flowy terrain. The low-end Shimano hydraulic brakes had a difficult time shutting down speed on the Wo. We recommend upgrading to something more powerful like Shimano SLX or SRAM Guide R brakes.

Small bump compliance was decent. One tester noted that the Wo felt more like a rigid plus bike with 3-inch tires compared to a fat bike over chatter. Big hits were translated directly to the riders arms and body. This bike had the attitude and angles to corner quickly, but the Kenda Knard lacked cornering knobs. Note: while our test bike had Kenda Knard tires, this bike is now being shipped by Kona with Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires.

The Wo is an effective and comfortable climber.
The Wo is an effective and comfortable climber.

Climbing Performance


The Kona Wo is an impressive climber. Its cross country-influenced geometry made for an extremely comfortable and efficient climbing position. Uphill handling was impressive and a few key specifications create a decisively light-footed feeling.

The Wo offers a comfortable and fairly aggressive climbing position. Riders placed on top of the cranks to maximize power transfer. The forward rider position and steep head tube angle keep your weight on the front wheel. No matter how steep the climb got, the front wheel stayed planted and didn't wander.

Navigating technical climbs is pleasant and easy. The steep head tube angle created very responsive steering. Navigating through rock gardens was relatively easy. Changing directions mid-way through a line was possible where some longer and slacker bikes were kind of stuck in the chosen line. The manageable wheelbase turned through uphill switchbacks with ease.

The wheel and tire specifications helped create a light feel. The Knard tires on our test bike rolled well and didn't feel like they were dragging too bad. Riders who intend to frequent icy and hard packed snow conditions should definitely considered studded tires .

The Wo is a reasonably fun and well-performing fattie.
The Wo is a reasonably fun and well-performing fattie.

Value


The Kona Wo is a fairly strong value. While this bike lacks some of the high-end performance of the Trek Farley, Carver O'Beast, and Surly Ice Cream Truck, it carries a lower price tag. The Wo is a serviceable fat bike that will get you out on the trail.

Conclusion


The Kona Wo is a cross-country focused fat bike with a preference for fast and flowy downhills. On smooth terrain, this nimble and responsive bike is tremendously fun. Descending rougher terrain can be physically demanding and jarring. The Wo is an impressive climber that benefits from its steep and upright geometry. This bike is a strong value at $1500.

Ian Butler


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Most recent review: April 26, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 0%  (0)
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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