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Pro bikes, November 21, 2005

Barry Wicks' Kona The King

Photos ©: Steve Medcroft
Shimano XTR components
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Only two rings
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Wicks runs the Fox Float R
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The Kona team ran Nokian tires
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The Race Face Dues XC stem
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Race Face Next XC LR
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We liked the detail
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Wicks says he switched
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Shimano's hydraulic disc brake
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6ft 4in, 170lb Kona Les Gets cross-country pro Barry Wicks
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Full suspension for the big guy

By Steve Medcroft

What's tall and fast and orange all over? No, this isn't one of those jokes you find in the Big Book of Gags for Seven Year Olds, but it is a trick question; one that has two answers. Because depending on what race you're watching, the answer could be Ryan Trebon or Barry Wicks, Kona's basketball team-sized pro mountain bike and cyclocross racers.

In cyclocross, the first orange alien you usually see is Trebon. After winning the U. S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross last year, he has come into the 2005/06 season in strong form, winning several times already and planning to head to Europe in December to take on the World Cup field. In 2005 NORBA mountain bike races, you were more likely to see Wicks though; especially since Trebon spent the last half of the season rehabilitating a wrist he broke on a crash during the International Tour de 'Toona..

These two riders present an interesting challenge for Kona engineers, one that any tall cyclist knows well; traditional bikes are not designed around riders well over six feet tall. Trebon is six feet five and Wicks six feet four. Both their 'cross and mountain bikes had to be custom made (63cm 'cross frames and 23" mountain-bikes). Even with the super-tall frames, the pair still runs six inches or more of seat post above the seat tube.

To understand the choices the tall boys make in their bike setup, we got a closer look at Barry Wicks' Kona 'The King' Scandium-framed full-suspension mountain bike at U.S. Nationals back in September.

Kona provides its cross-country factory team with both a hardtail and full-suspension bike but Wicks' says he prefers the full suspension. "This was a new bike for Kona in 2005. It's set up with two and a half inches of travel (the stock setup is four inches). I got it in Texas for the first NORBA and the only places I didn't race it were the couple of super-flat, high altitude NORBA's."

Wicks says the bike weighs about two pounds more than his hardtail "but with the full suspension I feel like I have better efficiency; I save a ton of energy in small percentages throughout the course of a whole race." The travel setup is a lot smaller than we thought a tall rider would prefer. "I ran the 100mm fork at Angel Fire because the course was so rough but the rest of the time I keep it at two inches in the front (80mm Marzocchi Marathon) and 2 1/2 (Fox Float RP3) in the rear."

Although many of the components on Wicks' race bike are standard-issue with the production model, Wicks said that the team, "runs full Shimano XTR kits (including Shimano's XTR tubeless wheels and hydraulic disc brake setup) instead of the mixture of components that keeps the production bike reasonably priced. We run the stock Race Face bar, stems and posts; they're super light and you just don't have to worry about them."

Wicks 23-inch full-suspension frame is custom built. "There is a 23-inch hardtail now but there was no 23-inch version of the full suspension when it first came. Kona made one for me, one for Ryan and probably one spare." The rider's extra height required no geometry adjustments. "The bikes we were getting we spec'd for a 100mm fork so since we run the 80mm fork, we've steepened up the hardtail a little bit over the years, but the full-suspension geometry is the same as the smaller production bike."

Wicks runs Shimano tubeless rimsshod with Nokian clinchers converted with Stan's No-Tubes. "And I'm so used to running tubeless now," he says, "I can't run tubes any more; every time I run tubes, I get a flat tire."

With that, Wicks turned our attention to the Genuine Innovations inflation canister mounted on the inside of his downtube. "This, I'm most proud of," he said. "It's a custom, limited edition Singlespeed World Championships inflator tip. "They were giving them out at singlespeed worlds. There's only a few in the world and I have one on my race bike."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Steve Medcroft

Full specification

Frame: Kona The King, Kona Scandium Butted, 23-inch
Fork: Marzocchi Marathon Race 80mm
Rear shock: Fox Float RP3

Cranks: Shimano XTR 44, 34
Chain: Shimano 9-Speed
Front derailleur: Shimano XTR
Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR
Brakes: XTR hydraulic Disc Brake
Levers: Shimano XTR, dual control
Rear sprockets: Shimano XTR 11-34, 9 speed


Wheels: Shimano XTR clincher (WH M965)
Tires: Nokian NBX light XC (made by Suomi)

Bar: Race Face Next XC LR (low rise)
Grips: Titec Pluto
Stem: Race Face Dues XC
Headset: Aheadset SAS

Pedals: Shimano PD-M959

Seat post: Race Face Next SL
Saddle: Unidentified