Kona 2+2 Price $3,000 Range $3,000-$4,100 Weight 26.6 pounds

Final Take It's no parlor trick: The Magic Link suspension design featured on the Kona 2+2 had us positively spellbound.

Kona 2+2 Price $3,000 Range $3,000-$4,100 Weight 26.6 pounds

Final Take It's no parlor trick: The Magic Link suspension design featured on the Kona 2+2 had us positively spellbound.

Those looking for a cross-country bike that can keep pace on the climbs as well as provide a plush experience when pointed the other direction are sadly limited in their options. There are oodles of bikes that can climb like there's no tomorrow, but come time to descend, they leave you wondering whether you're on a bike or a jackhammer.

Enter the Kona 2+2. a bike which suffers from a severe case of split personality disorder. Where other XC bikes have neutered their downhill credentials in the name of a "race-tuned" suspension, the Kona, thanks to its Magic Link-equipped suspension platform, can hang with the best of those "race-tuned" suspension designs on the climbs and then say "sayonara" as soon as the course tilts downwards.

Kona's Magic Link is nothing new, but is definitely one of the more unsung suspension designs out there. Utilizing an auxiliary coil shock in conjunction with an air shock (a Fox RP2 in this case), Kona has created a suspen sion design that allows the bike to change its geometry, travel and suspension on the fly-no switch required. Under pedaling forces, the auxiliary shock is inactive, halving the bike's travel and contributing impressive amounts of anti-squat for an ultra-efficient pedaling platform. When descending, larger hits activate the auxiliary shock, allowing the bike to use its full, and surprisingly plush, 100 millimeters of travel, while at the same time subtly changing the bike's geometry by extending the wheelbase and providing a slacker head angle.

Equipped with the Magic Link platform, and a scandium tubeset to keep things kosher for the weight weenies, the 2+2 presents a rather attractive package, one made all the more desirable by a solid. SLX/XT-anchored build kit and middle-of-the-road price tag. All said and done, the 2+2 adds up to a bike who's performance is positively schizophrenic—and in this case, we don't recommend therapy.

—Kevin Rouse

Niner Jet 9 Price $1,750 (frame only) Range N/A Weight 26.1 pounds

Final Take Forget what you think about wheel size: This is a mountain bike, all day long.

Niner definitely takes top honors in the Fit is Very Important category because they sent us not one but two Jet 9s to shake down-a medium and a large. The medium was a vibrant orange color they call "tang" and the large model sported their black anodized finish. Niner's attention to detail is outstanding, with each piece of hardware adding to the aesthetic value of the Jet 9. Add this to Niner's history of standing by its bikes, and you have a company that embodies mountain biking's true culture.

On the trail, the Jet 9 feels as at home being leaned over and stuffed into corners as it does plodding along and being driven like a semi, indicating it would be a great choice for riding all day as well as shorter, more intense rides. Ride quality is quintessential 29, giving you the sensation of being closer to the large front wheel that rolls easily over almost everything.

The Jet 9's "Constantly Varying Arc" suspension (CVA] and Fox RP23 give it plenty of pedaling efficiency, yet it soaks up wee bits of trail garbage handily. Niner claims their CVA system needs no pedal platform shock. While it's true the Niner pedals efficiently without ProPedal, we felt this to be one of the bikes most affected by a flick of the ProPedal lever.

The Niner transcends XC categorization, easily capable for trail and all-mountain duty. In fact, after riding this back-to-back with others in the category, we agreed this was one of the more versatile bikes in the category. and one factually two in this case] that all of us were sad to see boxed up and headed for home. As the name suggests. Niner doesn't do 26-just 29. Their commitment to the genre is clearly evident in the quality of the bikes they produce. —Joe Parkin

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