My first Cross bike was a Kona Jake the Snake. I loved it – it was Orange and awesome. The Jake has been in Kona’s lineup for years and is established as a mainstay in the cross scene. Byron sent me home with the 2010 Jake the Snake to put it to the test.
First impressions were pretty good. The blue paint jumps out at you which I like much better than the more “earthy” colors they’ve been pushing of late. I love the looks of the straight-blade carbon fork too. The Mavic Aksium wheelset are proven to be pretty sturdy, so a good choice for a bike you want to push into some tough terrain. The Continental tires looked alright, but I’d heard mixed reviews on them. Shimano 105, KORE Cross brakes, FSA Gossamer cranks. All good to go. I did swap out pedals and saddle because I just couldn’t run SPDs and a WTB saddle. Other than that – the bike was ready to ride.
I live close to St. Edward State Park which is loaded with trails that are just about perfect for a cross bike. Within the first section of single-track my bars slipped. Probably due to not enough torque, but it made me note that if it were my bike, I would have swapped it out for some Ritchey parts. I also missed my bar-top cheater brakes on the steeper parts, but that’s traditionally an after-market add. The KORE brakes also made me note, “get these.” They are SO much smoother than my Tektro Oryx set. The pads were were a bit grabby to start, but after I wore through the hard-candy shell it was more gradual. On some sections where I’d typically have rear wheel traction – I didn’t with the Continentals. I’m not sure if that we me, or the rubber (I’ll blame the rubber).
The 7005 Aluminum frame was actually a heck of a lot more comfortable than I remember, yet it was still zippy when re-accelerating out of corners. I have to say it was a good step up over similar setups I’ve ridden. In the couple dismounts and run-ups I did, the bike shouldered comfortably and was noticeably lighter than my steel single speed.
For a ready-to-race cross bike off the shelf at ~$1400 I think it’s a solid choice. I FAR prefer Shimano 105 (10sp) to Tiagra (9sp) that you find on similarly priced bikes. There are always going to be some swapping out of parts to get the proper setup, but there aren’t a lot on this Kona. When/If I go back to geared cross racing the Jake the Snake will likely be on the short list for the race-ready value that it is.