Kona Hei Hei Supreme review

An odd mix of components leads to an interesting ride

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Kona has bolstered its Hei Hei line up by offering eight 120/100mm 29ers, as well as five trail-focused 27.5in versions with 140/140mm travel.

The Hei Hei Supreme 29er falls into the former camp, but thanks to an interesting mix of components that's the only niche it slots into unequivocally.

Even before the bike landed in my hands, I was intrigued by the build kit of the Hei Hei Supreme. The two big head-scratchers were the inverted RockShox RS-1 fork and the WTB Ci31 carbon rims. While both top-end spec, they seem to be a bit contradictory. 

The RS-1 is RockShox's full-go XC race fork with carbon throughout, a proprietary hub and a mind-melting price to match. Despite all that, its performance hasn't impressed my BikeRadar colleagues. Before this, I'd ridden the RS-1 only a little bit, so I was eager to spend some quality time aboard it on my home trails.  

Race Face's stout 35mm diameter Next carbon bar and Turbine stem were on board
Race Face's stout 35mm diameter Next carbon bar and Turbine stem were on board

In contrast to the XC-oriented RS-1 fork, the WTB Ci31 rims practically had trail and enduro written all over them.

They were a massive 31mm wide between the beads, had a deep profile, and were laced with 32 DT Swiss spokes. Normally, rims this wide are reserved for bikes that prefer the downs to the ups and wear tires 2.4in wide and thicker. 

Continuing the contrast, the massive rims were shod with a relatively narrow Maxxis Ardent 2.25 up front and an even smaller Ikon 2.2 tire out back. Kona at least had the decency to spec EXO casings on the pinner treads. I swapped the front tire to some wider rubber more appropriate to the rim.

31mm wide WTB Ci31 carbon rims were an odd spec, but one that I grew to appreciate
31mm wide WTB Ci31 carbon rims were an odd spec, but one that I grew to appreciate

The interesting spec list went on with a Hope Pro4 hub out back. In over two decades of working in the bike industry this was the first Hope hub I had seen spec'd OEM. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come, because Hope hubs are very impressive.  

A KS Lev Integra dropper post was kitted. Again, it's not a common spec, as RockShox Reverbs and Fox Transfers seem to dominate component lists nowadays. 

Damn the lockouts

Last but not least of the peculiar spec was the RockShox XLoc Full Sprint lockout.

Hydraulic cables from the fork and the shock met a single button on the bars to lock out both suspension units simultaneously. 

RockShox's Full Sprint lockout is acceptable on XC race whips, not so much here
RockShox's Full Sprint lockout is acceptable on XC race whips, not so much here

I'm not a fan of lockouts at all, and I'm even less of fan of this convoluted, hard-to-bleed, unnecessary system. On a no-holds-barred XC race whip, sure, I guess I understand including a lockout. On a bike flirting with both the endurance and the trail bike crowds, no thank you. 

And to rub salt in the wound, removing the hoses and remote defaults the suspension to being locked out. Argghh! 

XC here, all-mountain there

How did all those odd components play together? Quite well, really. 

What's instantly noticeable was that Kona's Fuse rear suspension was super taut. Sure it's only 100mm of travel, so wasn't going to feel deep, plush and controlled, but compared to other short-travel bikes it was firm. 

The carbon says 'Race Light', the bike's capability said 'trail ripper'
The carbon says 'Race Light', the bike's capability said 'trail ripper'

I experimented with the sag, gradually going deeper into the short stroke, but even with 27 percent sag the Fuse rear end was very tight feeling. The other sensation was that it seemed to get a tad hung up on square edge hits with a bit of tug on the pedals. 

On the other end, the RS-1 fork sadly let the Hei Hei Supreme down. I liked the moto looks of the fork with its brawny shoulders and exposed stanchions near the hub, but the chassis was noticeably not as stiff as the rear when pushed hard.

The 120mm stroke was a bit of let down as well. I was getting all the travel, but it was lacking the plush, chatter-eating suppleness expected of today's high-end dampers. 

I tested the RS-1 back-to-back with a Fox 34, and the Hei Hei Supreme would benefit with a 34 or a lowered RockShox Pike on front. Plus, a 34 or Pike costs substantially less, so overall bike price could come down. 

Up front, the 120mm RockShox RS-1 was overwhelmed by the wide, tough rims and slack head angle
Up front, the 120mm RockShox RS-1 was overwhelmed by the wide, tough rims and slack head angle

Unfortunately, the wide, stiff WTB carbon rims magnified the fork's lack of performance. Minus that though, the rims provided a precise ride with impeccable line holding and confidence-boosting stiffness.

The big wheels seemed to urge me into hitting technical sections faster than the bike's travel would dictate. The stiff ride buoyed me to take decidedly non-XC lines, often to the displeasure of the RS-1 fork. 

On the plus side, the frame itself was stiff front to back and the ride responded well to muscling in and out of the twisty bits of trail. Tossing the bike around was rewarded with a balanced feel and stable manners when both wheels left the ground. 

The ride overall was unique. The bike had a mind-bending blend of go-fast speed, yet didn't feel out of place when tossing it deep into chunky corners filled with square rocks.

When ridden on the ragged edge in steep terrain, the short travel made itself known and the fork pinged around trying to contain the stiff front wheel, but with a bit more pilot attention it could get down nasty trails no problem. 

If it was my daily driver I'd fit some bigger tires, figure out a way to dispose of the lockouts, and not shy away from any ride short of shuttles or laps at the bike park.

Kona Hei Hei Supreme pricing 

The Hei Hei Supreme wears some of the nicest components mountain biking has on offer and its price tag of $7,999 (roughly £5,955 or AU$10,208) reflects that.

Kona sells its bikes in bike shops as well as at its site online

Kona Hei Hei Supreme bottom line

Kona's Fuse suspension platform does away with the pivot by the rear axle. The result is a taut, efficient ride
Kona's Fuse suspension platform does away with the pivot by the rear axle. The result is a taut, efficient ride

In a day where bikes are hyper specialized, the Hei Hei Supreme is an interesting bike. Could it toe the line at an XC race? Yep, no problem. Could you take on an enduro course? Well, you could, but it's definitely not the right tool for that.

How about taking on an epic day of trails covering mega miles? That's where I think the Hei Hei Supreme shines. Its rear end is super efficient and eager for speed, yet the wide, stiff wheels (especially when paired with bigger tires) and long, slackish geometry are eager for you to make the most out of the paltry travel on the descents.  

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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