The Sunn Kern EN 29 Finest is a leading bike in the Enduro World Series - and you can buy one for yourself.
Starting as a Bicycle Motor Cross brand, some talented young BMX racers made the switch to mountain biking in the mid 90s and put Sunn top of the downhill world stage, under the control of greats like Anne-Caroline Chausson, Nicolas Vouilloz and Francois Gachet. After company restructures and a brief hiatus, Sunn has been producing high quality and visually stunning bikes since 2013 and graced many Enduro World Series (EWS) podiums more recently.
The Kern EN29 Finest is a 155mm travel, 29inch wheeled Enduro race bike while remaining versatile and efficient enough for all day duties or bike park shuttles. As the biggest hitter in Sunn’s range, the Kern EN29 Finest has evolved into a purebred Enduro race bike with a focus on clever suspension and all-day climbing prowess. The mix of geometry and purpose puts the Sunn Kern EN29 Finest into the mix with bikes like the Kona Process 153 29, Trek Slash, Specialized Enduro, YT Jeffsy, Giant Reign 29, Norco Sight, Scott Genius and Santa Cruz Megatower – just to name a few. Long-travel aggressive 29” wheeled bikes are really popular right now and it's a very competitive part of the market for brands to be in.
Sunn are available from Ride Sports in Queensland, who are selling their bikes direct to riders via their website. They have held a number of demo days out on the trails, and are backing the bikes they sell with great service, and selling them at incredible value. The Sunn Kern EN29 Finest sells for 5299 Euro, which is about $8500 here. And Ride Sports will sell you these bikes direct at $6299.
As we have seen with previous Sunn bikes on review with AMB, the construction and attention to detail is extremely impressive. With tubes more angular than a Bat Mobile and a headtube shape and size that resembles an ancient Chinese vase, the Sunn Kern EN29 Finest turned heads everywhere I have taken it. Onlookers were often left debating if it’s a digital or analogue powered bike but rest assured at the heart of the Kern EN29 is a race-ready Enduro bike with angles and tech to keep you climbing onwards and upwards. The seating position is well centred between the wheels with the 77 degree virtual seat tube angle (actual 71 degree when measured with an angle finder) putting the rider over the bottom bracket nicely which will make climbs less arduous on the 14.85kg (actual weight of the large test bike) Enduro rig. Sunn have taken climbing prowess a bit further on top of the efficient kinematics and included a RockShox TwistLoc equipped Super Deluxe rear shock which is paired perfectly with a RockShox Lyrik RC2 160mm fork. This is stunning suspension spec at the extremely sharp price point of $6299. Setup of the RockShox Lyrik is as simple as following the chart on the back of the fork leg, and always amazes me how supple they are regardless of the riders weight.
Getting to the rear shock, setting its sag and adjusting the rebound behind the Zig Zag shaped seat tube is a little more tedious but once dialled in at approx. 35% sag there is little need to fiddle much trailside, and the shock is well out of harms way from most trail debris.
Visually the bike looks taller than other size large bikes in my workshop and is on the larger size when looking at the figures. Sunn is offering the Kern EN29 in 3 sizes: small, medium and large and technically my 178cm height would require right between medium and marge. The size large test bike has a 485mm seat tube so it sits 35mm higher than what I’m currently riding with fractionally longer reach and a shorter stem hence me going up to the size large with the longer wheelbase and more stability at speed. What I didn’t know is that the large would be specced with a very smooth actioned but quite short SDG Tellis 125mm dropper. I would only just be able to install a 150mm dropper in the Kern size large but absolutely loved the 484mm reach so I am torn between riding a large or going to a medium, with slightly longer stem and longer dropper. The seat tube/reach relationship is definitely something to consider based on your leg to torso relationship. If you're looking at the bikes for an online purchase, grab out your tape measure and get some really accurate measurements from your current bike – or any bikes you have borrowed that you really like. That will be a useful guide when looking at Sunn's geometry charts on the Ride Sports website.
On the first ride I did note excessive rear tyre rub on the seat stays and chain stays after squaring off some bermed bikepark turns and deep rutted trails. With a bit of searching I found the rear spoke tension on the low side requiring a re-tension of the wheel. With the rear spokes reading the correct values and all the rear pivots checked I hit the trails again and found the rubbing reduced significantly yet still possible when grip was high and the going rough.
On The Trail
Our Sunn Kern EN29 Finest size large is the longest large I have tested and the 484mm reach was amazing on the trail, especially when going fast. With the Kern EN29 Finest being built for speed, inclusions like the SRAM Code RSC brakes, soft compound Hutchinson rubber, RaceFace SIXC 785mm Carbon bars and a E-Thirteen TRS Plus guide with slider its remains silent and confidence inspiring when pushing hard down the local favourite.
Getting over the back of the bike was a little trickier than normal with the short 125mm dropper bringing up the rear, at a full 50mm higher than normal for me it did take a bit of getting used too especially in corners and in flight. Being between two sizes is always going to be a tricky decision and more recently I tend to focus more on the reach figures for bike fit as low stand-overs and short seat tubes allow riders of many shapes and sizes to jump on board. The Kern is a little different as its seat tube is longer than most, so ensure to cross reference the geometry chart and size guide!
Being a big, long travel 29” Enduro bike, the Kern is a brilliant climber due to its slightly forward of centre seating position, clever suspension and a remote rear lockout nothing gets in the way. Sram’s TwistLoc is great, if not the best single or double lockout ensemble around. It provides riders with flawless locking and a light touch button unlocking which while a seeming simple task, is so often the bane of any lockout system. Looking at all the parts on the Kern EN29 Finest, absolutely everything is cherry picked from a catalogue. From the WTB saddle, carbon RaceFace bars, Mavic wheels, Sram Code RSCs it doesn’t stop, it is all quality gear that anyone would want on their bike, there is nothing to change out. The only in house part is the CNC machined stem, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Hailing from France and built for Enduro it is no surprise that the Kern excels at riding technical singletrack fast while inspiring confidence and control. The 439mm chainstay aids in keeping the tail in check contributing to the overall grounded feel of the bike and lets riders track across questionable lines with ease – which is exactly what you should expect from an Enduro race bike. The RockShox premium offerings soak up everything in their path and have more than enough tuning options for weekend warriors and racers alike.
With <6mm clearance between the rear tyre and seat stays and <5mm clearance to the chain stays there isn’t much wiggle room in the back end and a 2.4” tyre with an overall width of 63mm might be the limit. The rear end is stiff and beautifully made however the clearances are tight. So when there is lateral deflection in the rear wheel, or a buckle, the tyre may rub. With “Enduro” riders often opting to run 2.4 – 2.6” tyres, your choice will be limited to the narrower of this range due to clearance and I would even consider a 2.3inch to eliminate possibly damaging wear. We had some deeper scuffs from the test period.
The Kern EN29 Finest is arguably the best value for money Enduro bike currently available in Australia at $6299, every component on the bike is top notch, has been carefully selected and would be found on a bike $2k-$3k more expensive. The frame, its hardware and the linkage are beautifully finished and appear built to last. Riders looking for an exceptionally good value for money Enduro race bike should consider the Sunn Kern EN29, despite its quirks and tight clearances, this direct to consumer bike will impress not just with the value presented, but the suspension performance and its capabilities for Enduro racing and all-day big mountain rides.
For the complete parts spec, head to the Ride Sports website.