Bike Test: Kona Abra Cadabra

Vernon Felton and Ryan LaBar review the Kona Abra Cadabra.

Kona Abra Cadabra
$4,300 /

From the Designer
Our goal was to design an enduro bike that would climb like an XC bike and descend like an all-mountain bike. The Cadabra is designed to transition between climbing and descending mode intuitively, no switches necessary. Pedal forces keep the Magic Link from engaging for shorter, more linear travel, while speed and bumps engage the linkage for more deeper, progressive travel.

Tester 1: Vernon Felton
Years Riding: 22
Test Locale: Bellingham, Washington

Two bikes in one--that's the promise of Kona's Magic Link suspension system, which automatically slackens the bike's geometry and increases its available rear suspension when you stop pedaling and start slamming into things. In the case of the Abra Cadabra, the bike is supposed to morph from being a cross-country bike with 4 inches of rear travel to an all-mountain machine with 6 inches of cushion out back.

Out on the dirt, the Abra Cadabra proves its XC mettle. It climbs briskly--even in the granny ring--while boasting superb sensitivity to small obstructions. When it came time to scale the consistently root and rock-laden singletrack in my neck of the woods, the Kona absolutely killed it.

The Abra Cadabra was slightly less successful, however, in living up to the all-mountain end of the bargain even though it's well equipped for the job. The Fox TALAS fork (with QR15 through-axle) and Easton Haven wheels, for instance, are perfect kit for a bike that should be light, yet burly. You have to really push the Kona, however, to get the full benefit of the increased wheelbase and suspension--and even then, the Abra Cadabra doesn't possess the precise tracking and downhill capabilities of a full-time, all-mountain bike.

In short, it's a question of expectations: You'll love the Abra Cadabra if what you're looking for is a trail bike that has the ability to save your bacon when you stumble into something that's nastier than you expected. If, on the other hand, you're looking for consistent balls-to-the-wall all-mountain performance, look elsewhere.

Tester 2: Ryan LaBar
Years Riding: 13
Test Locale: Southern California

Just about every bike company claims to have a ride that descends like a banshee, yet climbs like an XC machine. What sets the Abra Cadabra apart in this case is that it actually does climb like a 4-inch bike, because, while ascending, it essentially is one.

On technical climbs, the Abra Cadabra is amazing. When accelerated into or over a feature, the bike snapped into action as a 4-inch XC bike, but hit something hard enough and, voila, it'd provide 160 millimeters of traction-grabbing suspension. Smooth climbs, though, warranted a flip of the ProPedal switch as there was some noticeable bobbing.

While descending, I never felt like the bike sank or settled into the angle-slackening position that Kona claims the Magic Link provides. However, once I came to terms with the fact that the Abra Cadabra was not going to feel like a freeride bike on the descents, I realized that it could absolutely hold its own with, or better, bikes with similar travel and geometry numbers. The bike used every bit of its 160 millimeters of rear travel while blasting through rock gardens or landing jumps and drops, and the rearward axle path helped prevent the wheel from getting hung up on square-edged hits. My only complaint was, at times, as the Magic Link moved, the changing shock rate felt a bit awkward.

As far as the parts on this frame, Kona did a great job. It went all-out on the components that matter--wheels, brakes, drivetrain, tires and suspension--and saved money on often-replaced, personal-preference items--handlebars, stem and seatpost.

Kona's Two Cents
It sounds like both testers were accurate in their assessment of the test bike. People can feel a bit scared of the technology at first, but that disappears after a short time on the bike. Racer feedback tells us that setup is dependent on the course and the Cadabra offers a lot of adjustment. The two dampeners create variable geometry and spring rate. It seems to me that Vernon had the bike tuned a bit towards XC riding, while Ryan had his tuned a bit to all-mountain.
--Doug "Dewey" Lafavor, Technical Designer