In the 90s, Kona made a name for itself as a manufacturer that was prepared to challenge preconceptions of acceptable for frame geometry.
The Process 153 DL heralds Kona’s return to challenging the geometry norm – it’s certainly done that, and a whole lot more to boot…
Frame and equipment: a frame built around a short stem, with a longer front centre to balance it out
An increasing number of riders are ‘upsizing’ their bikes to run shorter stems, often at the expense of standover height, so Kona has created a frame with a short stem at its heart, and a longer front centre (the measurement from the bottom bracket to the front axle) to compensate. The company felt that this would create a bike that offered trail stability while maintaining steering reactivity.
We were surpised to see that the Process 153 DL has a 6061 aluminium frame and swingarm, as opposed to the lighter carbon offerings found elsewhere in this competitive all-mountain category, especially considering this flagship model’s enduro race intentions, and its price.
Although there may not be any carbon here, the Process still sports enough all-mountain essentials to ensure it’s a force to be reckoned with up on the hill.
It has 650b wheels for starters, as do three other models in the six-bike Process lineup. The remaining two sport 29er hoops. The 153mm (6in) of rear wheel travel is delivered via Kona’s low-slung Rocker Independent Suspension system, and controlled by the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock. The rear axle is a stiff 12x142mm number and uses a Maxle rear axle, so it’s easy to remove and install.
There’s routing for the all-important stealth dropper (and regular) posts, a tapered head tube, masses of standover height, ISCG tabs for chain protection and a lifetime warranty, which further bolster the 153 DL’s trail credentials.
The widely applauded 160mm travel RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Monarch Plus RC3 shock handle give a nod towards the 153 DL’s more aggressive intentions.
The KS Lev Integra dropper post delivers 150mm of stop-anywhere adjustment via a cable-activated lever that’s mounted on the bar. Early Integra models (including this one) were plagued by cable retentions issues at the base of the Integra, where it could get snagged when replacing after servicing. Thankfully KS has released a new retro-fittable cable housing that has subsequently remedied the issue.
Kona’s own 40mm stem features on every frame size offered, and is mated with some appropriately wide 785mm RaceFace Atlas bars. Shimano XT brakes bring the Process to a halt, while the capable SRAM X9 2x10 drivetrain gets it moving again. The rolling stock is a pair of XT hubs laced to WTB’s tubeless-ready Frequency i25 TCS rims, with Maxxis High Roller II EXO 3C 2.3in tyres.
Ride and handling: confidence-inspiring and fun on the downs, but a little bit of a buzzkill on the ups
Once we’d got our heads around the long front centre and super short stem, we started to appreciate the extra room that was available for us to move our weight around in. Not only did it seem to boost grip from the 650b tyres below, but it also inspired our confidence to tackle challenging terrain at speed.
The Rocker Independent Suspension system and well-honed RockShox units help to back up this dialled geometry. This combination delivers a progressive, composed feel, swallowing successive hits with ease and encouraging us to push the Process even harder.
Even with the longer front centre, smashing the Process through turns as still a pleasure, thanks in part to the short 425mm chainstays.
On fast and prolonged descents, the XT brakes felt a little lacklustre, and there were situations where we felt more power would have been beneficial – steep, tight corners being a prime example. The lack of chain retention was also an issue on rough trails, and that does seem like an oversight considering the Process’ aggressive nature.
Climbing is bearable, rather than sprightly. It takes a bit of horsepower and gusto to get you back to the top of the trail. This is partly down to the soft compound tyres – while they’re superb going down hill, they added enough drag to sap some of the fun our of longer rides that included multiple climbs.
A harder-compound rear tyre would have certainly helped and with some alterations to the drivetrain, it’d be easy enough to chip away at the 14.24kg weight.
Luckily, the Process 153 DL is such an exciting, stable and confidence inspiring ride on the downs that any of those climbing grumbles are soon forgotten, and before you know it, you’re diving headlong into some of the most fear-inducing trails faster than you might have dared before.