Sunn are no stranger to the enduro scene, and we sent Ryan out on their Kern LT Finest to see what this French brand bring to the party.
Words and images: Ryan Walsch
When I first pulled the Sunn Kern LT Finest out of the box, I didn’t have a clue where to look. Polished alloy, leopard print, fluoro, Mavic wheels, Hutchinson Python and Squale tyres it was like a hommage to the late 90s and all the trick bits we adorned our bikes with.
The Kern is available in 3 stroke lengths, Kern LT for Enduro at 160mm, The Kern for Trail at 140mm and the Kern SL at 120mm. The Kern has been developed with the Enduro rider in mind and rigorously tested in the field with a focus on climbing efficiency and speed and safety on the descents.
We have the range topping Kern LT Finest, which sports a nicely made alloy mainframe, seat-stay and yes you read correctly a carbon chainstay but more on that later.
The Kern LT is up against serious rivals in the 160mm Enduro category, but sets itself apart by adopting some quirky French characteristics, components and ingenuity.
With the mainframe and seat-stay being constructed out of fatigue and corrosion resistant 6069 T6 aluminium you may ask why the MonoBloc chainstay has been fabricated out of Toray 800 Carbon. Typical bike companies make carbon mainframes and alloy stays, partially due to the very high manufacturing cost of stays versus what the customer wants, which is a carbon frame often looking past the chainstay entirely. It is ultimately the job of the chain-stay the keep the rear wheel tracking straight and the bike feeling stable, stiff and eager out of corners. This is something Sunn have put very high up on the list of must haves and when paired with a set of Mavic Deemax Pro Enduro wheels, the back end is taken care of.
Leopard print, check, fluoro, got that too. As mentioned earlier I didn’t know where to look, green may be the only color absent from the Kern LT Finest and its grown on me. People look and gawk wondering what it is at the trail head, and it certainly specced with nice parts like the 160mm Lyrik, Super Deluxe shock and XX1 Derailleur.
Setup was an absolute breeze with the RockShox Lyrik and Super Deluxe which has become un-unstoppable pairing of late. I was surprised to see a 230mm metric shock and Boost fork on essentially a 2017/2018 frame sporting a 142mm rear end, possibly an early adoption of the metric standard? The whole sturdy and overbuilt package came in at a respectable 14.7kgs.
Like anyone with a new bike in the workshop, I set pressures and put air in the tyres and hit the trails only to find on the first descent it was running tubes with a classic demo bike rear pinch flat. It was at this point that I was dreading trying to get it repaired and setup tubeless but was so glad Mavic and Hutchinson have been in the tubeless game longer than anyone. The UST rims and quality rubber are such a hassle free match. You will find no spoke holes or tubeless tape, just pop the valve in, add sealant, roll the tire onto rim and inflate with your track pump. This combo brought back good nostalgic memories of when I first tried tubeless with the same two brands.
On The Trail
Even with frame in its second season, the geometry is still within the sensible range of 66 degree headangle, 435mm chainstay and our size Medium on test’s 600mm Top tube equating to a 440mm reach.
We found the use of the RaceFace Atlas Stealth 785mm bar and 50mm Atlas stem a comfortable and homely feel. However the Reverb’s under bar lever was very akward to use after using Rock Shox 1 x specific lever, little spec changes like this will be welcomed with new season models no doubt.
As the Kern LT is tipped into some steep, tight switchbacks the choice of the carbon Chainstay/Mavic Deemax 27.5 wheels is pretty clear. Tight technical terrain with fast direction changes is what the Kern LT is about without any nervousness or instability. The Lyrik and SuperDeluxe suspension package is a great addition and will give riders a hassle free and confidence inspiring ride in all conditions.
We did notice on climbs the Kern sat into more of its travel than expected for the pressure we ran, something that an additional volume spacer or two could certainly assist with. For a 160mm enduro bike, it was no hard task to get back to the summit always feeling like it had traction and composure.
Throughout the duration of our time with the Kern LT, it showed barely a hint of faltering and leaves us with the impression that this is a quality offering that be well received by Australian riders.
The Sunn Kern LT Finest matches maneuverability with stability, although viewed with 2019 on the horizon some of the geometry looks a little dated, but it works!
The frame is really solid, and is likely to be around for many years to come even under hard riding. Sunn are new back in Australia and there is no doubting they are French! Some of the spec and design might seem quirky, but it works well and they are all high-end proven parts.
As said above, 2019 is on the horizon, and it's likely that there will be new models coming. Bikes like this Sunn Kern LT Finest are doing the rounds with the importer, Ride Sports, for test rides. It's a solid bike and we're keen to see what 2019 brings to the platform.