Kona’s 80mm-travel Hei Hei has been the company’s full-suspension cross-country race mainstay for a while. By adding 20mm of extra travel at each end and slapping on a relatively wallet-friendly £1,600 pricetag, Kona obviously hope to extend its appeal beyond the racehead crowd.
There’s plenty to like about the Hei Hei 100, from its pleasingly benign handling to the undoubted appeal of a scandium frame and bling Mavicwheels. But it’s outdated, outclassed and outridden by the best of the competition.
Ride & handling: Typically tidy Kona handling let down by dated suspension design
The Hei Hei 100 oozes perfect trail manners – not surprising from a manufacturer with decades of experience in turning out great trail bikes – and the sprung rear end keeps the rear wheel planted and tracking in situations where a hardtail rider would need to be hovering over the saddle.
However, Kona’s venerable ‘faux bar’ suspension system has been around a long time, and they can only compete with the best of the rest in terms of pedalling eficiency by speccing a Fox shock in its most constipated, compression-damping tune.
The result is a relatively bob-free ride, but also one that’s severely compromised in small bump compliance – and you can’t adjust it.
A few years ago this wouldn’t have been such an issue, but bikes like the Giant Anthem X have shifted the 100mm goal posts. And the result is that the Hei Hei 100 is well off the pace, despite its great handling.
Frame & equipment: Scandium tubing and slick-shifting transmission
In spite of its mid-range price ticket, Kona’s product managers have found enough spare change down the back of the company sofa to equip the Hei Hei 100 with an honest-to-goodness scandium-tubed frame, just like its hardtail Kula Deluxe stablemate.
The titanium-coloured main tubes add a classy touch that’s slightly compromised by the white-painted – and extremely chunky – shock rocker. It’s good to see air springs at both ends, with a Fox RP2 shock bringing up the rear and a great RockShox Recon fork up front.
A Shimano Deore, SLX and XT mash-up makes for a slick-shifting transmission set, while the wide bars give plenty of leverage for wrestling through rock gardens.
Mavic Crossride wheels are an unusual and distinctive choice that work well, and the fast-rolling but small-knobbed Kenda Small Block Eights are perfect for dry, dusty summer trails but you’ll probably want to swap them for something less squirmy to cope with typically slimy winter conditions.