With its versatile spec and confidence-boosting ride, you’ll swear this bike was meant for adventure far beyond the ‘cross course
The bike makes easy work of mountain bike trails, road rides, gravel paths, commutes, and (naturally) ‘cross courses. It took pushing the bike to the edge of what it can reasonably be expected to tackle to even see it flinch.
Who It’s For
The Private Jake was designed as an all-rounder to meet the demands of a privateer rider. “It’s for someone who performs at a high level with minimal outside support, who needs and requires specific performance traits from their bike but doesn’t have the available funds to purchase multiple race bikes,” says Kona product manager Ian Schmitt.
Because the Private Jake is meant to handle diverse needs, it comes with some personalization options: Sliding dropouts mean you can dial in the wheelbase to suit your riding style, make extra room for larger tires, and even convert the whole thing to a singlespeed.
The Private Jake’s geometry further blurs the line between ‘cross and adventure in a way that makes it a good pick for a variety of rides. Its steep seat and headtube angles, shorter stack height (thanks to the internal headset), and longer reach give it a more aggressive geometry than some of its closest peers, like the Scott Addict CX 10. Its 70mm bottom bracket drop is also on the high end for ‘cross bikes; this lowers the center of gravity for better stability and more predictable tracking, and moves the saddle closer to the ground for easier mounts and dismounts, though it does also decrease pedal clearance. With its short, bowed 420mm chainstays, this adds up to a responsive ride that corners quickly but still feels stable.
Combined with dependable TRP disc brakes (which helped braking feel smooth, even for fast stops), the Private Jake felt like a mud-resistant security blanket—I felt confident enough to take turns just a little tighter than I’m used to, and go faster on rooty stretches.
The ‘all-rounder’ design ethos is immediately discernable in the spec. The quick-rolling Clement MXP tubeless-ready tires tackled crumbling country road climbs, stone trails, dirt paths, and the rained-out slurry of the local cyclocross course without getting clogged up.
A SRAM Rival 1x11 drivetrain (40t chainring with 11-32t rear cassette) shaves off a front derailleur without compromising gear range, and shifts up and down smoothly and quickly. I’m a novice ‘crosser, but I was able to easily ride out steep course climbs and descents in the right gear (but if you plan on riding long road climbs, you might find yourself wishing for just one more rear sprocket).
The bike has a few other notable specs, including a rear thru axle. Like many of its ‘cross industry peers are doing, Kona gives the Private Jake one with Boost spacing for a stiffer rear wheel and more tire spacing at the chainstay yoke behind the BB. The bike also has a tapered headtube, meant to eliminate brake shudder and enhance handling and control; I was genuinely impressed by how in control I felt riding around hairpin turns.
Additionally, I really loved the chunky handlebar grips. They were easy to attach lights to, and my hands stayed comfortable over long, jostling rides.
At 20.1 pounds for a 49.5cm bike without a front derailleur, this bike is not the lightest you’ll find at its pricepoint. The weight’s not too noticeable when you’re in the saddle, but I did feel it when shouldering. (Speaking of shouldering, the square-taper top tube could be comfier.)
As much as I liked how the bowed chainstays keep the rear triangle tight, I often found myself accidentally kicking them when I really pushed through my heel; if you have smaller feet (I wear a 41) or place your cleats further toward your heel, though, this might not be an issue for you.
At $1,999, with the given spec, the Kona Private Jake is a decidedly affordable bike—especially if you aren’t planning to buy other bikes to supplement it. It’s capable and confidence-inspiring in techy terrain, and incredibly dependable between the course tape.
What You Need to Know
Weight: 20.1 ounces (size 49.5cm)
At A Glance
- Designed as an all-rounder to meet the demands of a privateer cyclocross rider
- Lightweight butted aluminum frame in sizes from 48-59cm
- Reliable TRP Spyre C cable-activated disc brakes
- SRAM Rival 1x drivetrain limits dropped chains on remounts