River Valley Cycle was kind enough to let me race and review Kona’s top-of-the-line CX offering, the Major Jake. At first glance, the 2010 Major Jake might be pretty ‘plain Jane’ to look at with its brushed metal finish and black decaling and components. But, remember the old saying, you should never judge a book by its cover, because the Major Jake is all business.

It’s hard to ignore the success this bike has had, powered by the legs and lungs of Team Orange Crush racers like Barry Wicks and Ryan Trebon.  A person could just look at that and say, ‘yeah, must be a pretty damn good bike’, and well, I’m here to tell ya, you’d be right!

Here’s the run down:

Frame: Kona Race Light Scandium, which I like a lot. Light, very strong and responsive when you want to put the power down. If you’re not into paying the premium to jump on the carbon bandwagon, scandium is the way to go.

Fork: Alpha Q CX-20 carbon fork is light, strong and tracks well, offering vibration dampening, even in the chattery sections while also providing ample mud clearance.

Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra/105 derailleur and Flightdeck shifter grouping delivers solid performance. I haven’t had a single shifting hiccup yet on this bike, even in racing conditions. The FSA Cossamer crank, with 36/46 gearing and a 10 sprocket rear cassette is geared pretty well for me. I like the range because I can find a gear for the steep power climbs and still have lots of room to stretch out on the downhills and bomby straights.

Wheel set: Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheelset is a nice touch. Again, known for their performance and durability, I have nothing but good things to say here.

Tires: Continental Speed King Cross 700 x 35C, wouldn’t have been my first choice. The season here has been dry and cool for the most part so I haven’t had any real issues with them other than the fact that they are a bit beefier of tire than I’d choose now that I’ve ridden them. This is completely a personal preference though.

Brakes: Kore Race Plus cantis, which I found a little lacking to be honest. It could be as simple as swapping out the pads though. The ones that came with the bike are durable but don’t grab quite as well in the cold as I’d like. As I said, though, that’s an easy fix.

Final Word:

This is not quite Ryan Trebon’s 15lbs Team version, but the stock MJ is nothing to sneeze at, at 21.6lbs (54cm / pedals on).

This bike is clearly no commuter, so scratch it off your list if that’s what you’re looking for. The Kona Jake, or Jake the Snake will be better suited. But the Major Jake, is a serious race bike – stiff, light and fast, with solid Ultegra/105 race set up and a Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheelset. I don’t think you can go wrong with this rig, especially for the price.

Overall I really liked this bike. It performed flawlessly for me this season, gave me a lot of confidence on all kinds of terrain out on the course, and was a lot of fun to ride. If you’re looking for a CX racer, you should definitely add the Major Jake to your list of test drives.