Since the appearing of the Magic Link, we wanted to test one of these, especially after watching the way Karin Amour rides with it! On paper it seemed to be a quick bike and in the trail it proved to be so. One of us had a Kona as the first full-suspension bike and it was a trusted one, the Kona Cadabra keeps the same enjoyable riding fun.
Chassis/ build / details
The Cadabra sits just before the top-end (Abra Cadabra) in the Kona range of trail / all mountain bikes, being the chassis the exact same as the top version, the frame is well constructed and it fells solid, scandium alloy, a 142x12mm rear axle and a 68º head angle are the key to it’s success. It provides up to 160mm of real travel with a quite unique dynamics.
The looks of the bike might not be for everyone, but we found yourselves appreciating the mixture of black and lime green look, quite nice indeed.
The bike we got for testing was a normal stock version, having a Fox32 Talas with a 15mm axle upfront and a Fox Float RP2 on the back, transmission ensured by Shimano, brakes from SRAM, cockipt stuff (steam, handlebar) under Kona brand and a excellent pair of wheels provided by Easton rolling on Maxxis rubber. Have to say the wheels were superb, Easton labelled them as XC but we can assure we provided those wheels a all lot more than a XC ride and they never complained a bit.
No internal cable routing available, but nonetheless the Cadabra presents a decent cable routing with no worries, tire clearance was also a no-issue.
We found the task of adjusting the magic link to be a easy process, just do it like it says in the book (guides from Kona) and you are done! Of course, as any other full suspension bike we needed to make some adjustments on the setup during time, but that’s part of the process and it wasn’t hard to reach a good compromise (for trail / enduro riding).
As for the rest it was all about the rider preferences, suspension tuning and tire pressure. The bike came pretty much ready to roll, but a shorter stem, a wider handlebar and a 160mm suspension are still wondering in our heads…
The Magic Link, a name that speaks for it self, allows you to climb like you’re in a XC bike and to go down thinking you are on a complete different bike!
The Cadabra is a climbing pedalling machine. We actually enjoyed climbing to the top (but not as much as the descents), the Maxxis Ardent do pretty much the trick on dry surface, the issues that we’ve found was on the front suspension side… not big fans of travel adjustment forks due to it’s lack of sensibility and the felling that you are losing travel along the way! Those are not great things, but the 15mm axle at front and the 12mm Maxle on the rear fells great as you can really play hard with it along the confidence that it provides at the high speed turns in off camber mode!
Nevertheless on a more technical ride sometimes we add to compensate the rear by trowing the body weight over it, the Magic Link had it’s issues when putting weight on the front as the bike assumes the XC side on the rear and becomes a bit unpredictable (using only the 110mm of real travel). To be ridden over hard terrain it needs weight on the rear, if not the Magic Link will not due it’s magic, it’s just a matter of adapt to the bike dynamics.
There was a spot which add a high speed run over a small rock garden / natural steps, we pointed the bike and run over it like a hard hitting machine and was amazed on how nicely the Cadabra handled them, it kept on going in the right direction with no speed loss. The felling was from a race machine, not a soft ride but surely a quick one.
The rear suspension ratio that provides the 110mm of travel is the trick to it’s climbing pedaling efficiency that makes this a flying machine! The Cadabra really speeds up once you kick on the pedals after the berms or flat turns, power transfer is superb.
Also, on the air the bike feels very light and maneuverable as we can easily put it where we want and play with it. In big jumps and rough terrain the initial feeling is quite strange as the bike seems to be squeezed (when using full travel on the Magic link) but then recovers very well and under control. While on the jump session sometimes we felt the need for some additional stiffness on the complete bike setup as the general opinion during the test sessions was that with a small change in front to a 160mm suspension, a 20mm axle and a bigger and stickier tire you could fly on jumps and gain an extra confidence. It’s not a freeride bike and does not intends to be, but if you want to you can embarrass some riders with (heavy) 180/200mm bikes.
There is always space for improvements, and on this case it seemed obvious to us that the Cadabra deserves to get rid of the 3x plate setup (and the noise it brings along) and go for a chainguide (where is the ISCG mount?) plus a 1x or 2x plates for wider use of the bike as it can easily do marathon races too (but don’t expect to bring the gold home). Additionally, a wider handlebar (740 to 760) should also find it’s way on the Cadabra, as we found the stock one to be too narrow.
Too much travel for a trail bike or not enough for a hard hitting? Too noisy on the descents or perfectly fit for a marathon? The Cadabra Magic Link is a bit of a game changer as it blurs the line between the two worlds (trail and hard hitting enduro), it can do both but the system requires some adaptation (from the rider) in order to take full advantage of it. We found the small bump sensibility might not be as plush as you could find on other trail / enduro bikes, but on the other end the Cadabra rides fast anywhere and most important keeps the speed going! (does not eat your power as you hammer it on rough stuff, not easy to find on most bikes).
It’s definitely a special bike, would dare to say a race bike which likes to be ridden with conviction to show it’s true potential. Some could say it’s a bit nervous, we would say it’s precise.
A perfect bike for Enduro racing or just to be used by someone who wants to have fun going down but without (almost no) compromise on pedal efficiency, it’s up to you to decide!
Manufacturer suggested retail price: 2990€
Further info: Kona Cadabra product page
Note: we would like to say a big thanks to Luis Lúcio from Freeride.pt for the opportunity to test the Cadabra along some weeks, we had great fun. Luis contact in case needed by anyone interested on getting additional info firstname.lastname@example.org
below you can find some more photos, have a look.