Kona Hei Hei £2543

Characteristic and speedy racer

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Kona were one of the first manufacturers to produce a super-short-travel full-supension bike (rather than a soft-tail) and the latest Hei Hei is arguably the best yet.

While 2.5in of travel might not seem worth having, on flatter, faster trails where lightweight responsiveness rather than serious impact soak is key, this is a rapid and enjoyable ride. Original kit is workable if not wild value for money, but there’s a load of upgrade potential in the scandium frame.

Ride & handling: Whiplash-quick, tightly controlled high-speed singletracker

With weight comfortably under 26lb even on our large 20in sample bike and fast rolling Maxxis Crossmark tyres, the Kona is an immediately rapid feeling ride.

Compared with previous Hei Heis, the scandium frame and rocker hardware is plenty stiff too, so you can jam the power down instantly rather than working through rear end wag.

Add a ‘proper’ riser bar to a (comparatively slack) 70° head angle and this is a bike that loves to crackle and carve through tight technical singletrack.

The long stem works fine at the big-ring speeds this bike encourages, although a shorter unit would make it even more responsive if you’re normally a mid-ring paced rider. The ample top tube length means you certainly won’t suffer in terms of breathing space either.

If you’re wondering what use 2.5in of rear suspension is, the answer is it depends how you set it up. Keep it soft and the falling rate linkage creates a surprisingly smooth and linear stroke that adds plush tracking and continuous traction connection to the rear tyre.

Noticeable bob means you’ll be flicking the ProPedal platform damping lever as soon as the trail smoothes out though, and bigger hits will bounce it off the stops regularly.

As a result we reckon most racers will run it tight for a hardtail feel 90 percent of the time, but with emergency impact control to save your bum if that overtake line turns out to have a crafty ditch or a boulder hidden in it.

Either way it’s a useful addition in comfort and control terms that gives the Hei Hei a very definite advantage over hardtails on rougher and longer trails.

The Fox fork up front completes the sorted short-travel suspension pairing to create a very composed high-speed/long-haul machine that you can still really rip on in the fun stuff.

Frame: Functional rather than fancy, but bike has superlight potential

The ultralight scandium tubeset is stiffened using a ‘coffin’ to hexagonal section downtube and ‘coffin’ to oval sections for the kinked top tube with a reinforcing gusset under the throat.

The main pivot just behind the bottom bracket and rear pivots on the seatstay create a simple swingarm wheel arc. The big sculptural magnesium rocker driving the super-short 140mm Fox shock adds extra stiffness.

Finishing is slightly agricultural with no less than four different cable/hose guide points, with three different types of guide on the top tube.

You get two bottle cage mounts and reasonable mud room under the simple plate seatstay brace. The bolted seat collar is an anodised colour match to stem and seatpost, while red anodised pivot caps pick up red frame splashes.

Kona’s finely spaced frame size options offer a super-accurate fit for most riders – a major reason for their outstanding customer loyalty.

Equipment: Sorted kit, but a frame this good is gagging for some upgrades

A lot of what you’re paying for here is upgrade potential, with the same frame being used on the super pimp XTR/ CrossMax/Race Face ‘Supreme’ version.

Given that the Hei Hei still delivers an impressively low weight despite relatively chunky items like the square stem, mid-range Shimano SLX brakes and chainset – and a saddle and seatpost that weigh 510g alone – you can see that creating a seriously light bike needn’t cost you the £4696.99 of the Supreme.

In practical if not prestige terms, it’s sorted straight from the box. Yes, the stem could be shorter if you prize singletrack dive over climbing stability but you don’t need to buy a riser bar.

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