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Kona’s mountain bike heritage explodes from the Major Jake, especially when you dive into the first sand pit on course. The front end feels tall and long, reminiscent of a hardtail mountain bike, yet the chainstays are short at 425 millimeters. You’ll want to flick the rear end around and launch off small kickers. With geometry like that, it should come as no surprise that the Major Jake excels on fast descents but needs a fair bit of coaxing in tight, low-speed turns. This is a ’cross bike built for mountain bikers rather than roadies.
Consider sizing down. The geometry on a size 54cm Major Jake feels more akin to a 56cm in other brands, so be sure to check your stack and reach preferences. That’s particularly important because those dimensions (610 millimeters and 393 millimeters, respectively, for a size 56cm) are quite big. That can make for some unwieldy handling, especially given the long 1,047-millimeter wheelbase. Bumping down to the 54cm Major Jake affords a 580-millimeter stack and 390-millimeter reach — both still comparably long but more on par with what you’re likely used to.
Geometry aside, the Major Jake rips, especially on tricky descents and flat, red-line sprints. The steering tightens up at high speeds: Getting your weight back is a cinch, which means your front wheel will be less weighted. That makes it easy to power through loose sand pits and muddy slop.
The short chain stays encourage airing it out over every riser you can find. But don’t expect to win tape-to-tape cornering battles. It’ll take some muscling to get the Major Jake to cut in tight, largely due to its 71-degree head tube angle and 45-millimeter fork offset that makes for a languid 72-millimeter trail.
At 20.3 pounds, the Major Jake lies on the heavy end of what we’d consider for a race bike, but that weight is largely due to the budget-conscious build. The Kona Road Light handlebars are an immediate upgrade opportunity: They feature a sweep we felt was unnecessary. Along with a lighter stem, the cockpit seems like an excellent opportunity to shave some grams. And while the aluminum WTB i19 wheels are great for training, consider upgrading to deeper carbon wheels on race day. We were also unenthused with the bulky Shimano 105 brake hoods, though the hydraulic disc brakes felt remarkably well-modulated and powerful.
The overall build seems to be a nod to value-minded consumers who might also want to use this as a commuter bike, but it seems a shame to constrain a phenomenal frameset with such a mediocre spec. Luckily, Kona also offers the Super Jake with a build more befitting the racecourse for just $1,000 more.