The proliferation of pumptracks around New Zealand over the past couple of years has been dramatic, and, in my eyes, completely justified. They provide hours of fun for bikers and skaters of all ages, and these new-age playgrounds can now be found spattered across schools, subdivisions and towns across the country. 

As a dad to an energetic three-year-old, I’ve found myself spending more and more time at my local pumptrack, and to add to the excitement, I often bring my own bike. However, my interest usually wanes quickly as I struggle to navigate the mid-travel 29er through the tight curves and bumps with any speed, let alone style or grace. So, when I was chatting to the guys at Kona about review bikes (or the general lack of them), they mooted the idea of testing their dirt jump bike, the Shonky. I snapped up the opportunity. 

Not long ago the Shonky was simply a dirt jumper—a stylish, steel-framed 26” hardtail designed to session the local jumps. But with dirt jumping’s popularity remaining niche, the Shonky was parked and only offered as a frame-only option for those core crew who wanted to build their dream DJ’er. 

But then pumptracks exploded onto the scene, and guess what the ideal bike for fanging around a pumptrack is? A 26” hardtail. Suddenly the demand for DJ bikes was surging and Kona relaunched the Shonky as a complete bike, only this time it was marketed as both a DJer and a pumptrack weapon.

The Shonky is built around a sleek, gold, Chromoly butted frame—steel frames are renowned for their supple ride characteristics, such as shock absorption and durability, which are both vital for this style of bike and riding. Another unique feature is that Kona offers the Shonky in two sizes, which is actually rare among dirt jump bikes.

The Shonky comes stock as a 14T single-speed, paired with a Samox DJ crankset and sliding dropouts, all of which give it a raw authentic look.

The wheelset is well considered, with the wide WTB i30 rims matched with Maxxis DTH 2.3” tyres. The DTH was originally a BMX race tyre, but is now a go-to for skateparks and concrete pumptracks. 

The cockpit features stock Kona bars and stem, with a single Tektro hydraulic brake providing the stopping power. Up front, the Manitou Circus fork provides 100mm of travel to use as you see fit. The end result is hard to fault and looks stunning.

I was a pretty nervous the first time I rolled up to the pumptrack on the Shonky; the last time I’d ridden anything like this was circa 2000 when I owned a Kona Roast. I was living in the UK at the time and my urban habitat had given me delusions of becoming a street rider the pinnacle of which was bunny-hopping kerbs on my ride home from work. The rolling snake of black tarmac that lay before me was completely different—this was going to be a shock to the system. 

It was, but it turns out that not all shocks are bad: the Shonky was a revelation. Once I’d found my balance on the smaller bike, I quickly rediscovered that crazy acceleration you unlock when you pump a hardtail bike designed for this specific purpose. The Shonky was a rocketship. The 26” wheels hugged the undulations and berms perfectly and the DTH tyres gripped the warm asphalt like Liquid Nails. The only issue was that after two laps I was completely exhausted. Undeterred, I caught my breath and went again. 

I soon started to feel like I was carrying enough speed to try and air some of the doubles. My first effort resulted in a wrist-jarring case that had me checking the fork set-up. What I discovered was that the Circus fork isn’t exactly set up to provide a lot of cushioning, but that’s the critical balance with DJ forks. The firmer and more supportive they are, the faster the bike runs through the rollers, but you still need just enough travel to save your scaphoids from snapping when landings go wrong. My dad bones preferred leaning towards less speed and more cushioning, so I let a few Psi out of the fork. 

Now I’m a regular at the pumptrack and have loved the process of trying to master something new. My confidence in the steel-framed rocket has grown, as has my fitness, and the speed and grip I can now generate on the Shonky is frightening. I’ve even managed to clear a few of the doubles. I’ve also found that my new pumptrack skills have really benefited my trail riding.  The next step is to summon the guts to take the Shonky back to its roots and hit up the local dirt jumps.

Much like house prices, the number of pumptracks in New Zealand is only going to increase, so I recommend you get your hands on a DJ bike like the Shonky, and experience the thrill of hurtling around the concrete racetrack. Plus you can enjoy riding with the whole family…kids shouldn’t have all the fun.  

Neil Kerr.