Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 first ride review£5,499.00

Kona’s new 29er is a beautifully-balanced aggro all-rounder

Kona’s Process 153 has been slaying more challenging trails on 26in and 650b wheels for years, and the Canadian brand introduced a larger-wheeled option last year. The carbon front-ended CR is a whole new beast though, with some serious flow and go.

Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 specifications

  • Frame: ‘DH Carbon’ carbon fibre mainframe, rocker link and seatstays; 6061 aluminium alloy chainstays, 153mm (6in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Lyrik RC2, 160mm (6.3in) travel
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe RCT
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle
  • Cranks: Truvativ Descendant Carbon DUB (1x12)
  • Wheelset: WTB KOM Trail TCS rims on SRAM S900 Boost hubs
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO TR 29x2.5in WT (front) and 29x2.3in (rear)
  • Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors
  • Bar: Kona XC/BC, 760mm
  • Stem: Kona XC/BC, 50mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Pro
  • Weight: 14.56kg / 32.05lb, large size without pedals

Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 frame

Kona’s first carbon Process 29er has a smooth ride in the rough but I occasionally lost the front end in corners
Kona’s first carbon Process 29er has a smooth ride in the rough but I occasionally lost the front end in corners

The flowing shape of the carbon frame accentuates its long-and-low geometry. A long, shallow ‘neck’ behind the head tube leads into a curved and tapered top tube, which swoops down to the base of a long seat tube extension.

The stoutness of the S-curved down tube is echoed by the kinked seat tube, with its extended ‘nose’ for the rocker-link pivot, and the bearings themselves.

Things get properly massive out back, with a huge carbon rocker link and deep rectangular stays. Despite the Boost 148mm axle and swerved and curved back end, clearance is pretty tight with a 2.3in tyre. That means Kona’s ‘2.4in max’ statement will be cutting it fine in sticky conditions and you won’t be able to match the 2.5in rubber up front.

Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 kit

Tyre clearance is limited within the chunky rear triangle
Tyre clearance is limited within the chunky rear triangle

Despite the sizing mismatch, the top-spec Maxxis Minion DHF tyres are a great trail choice (although enduro smashers will want a reinforced ‘Double Down’ rather than ‘EXO Protection’ carcass on the back).

The latest super-plush RockShox Lyrik RC2 fork and Super Deluxe RCT shock are a stunning pairing in terms of smooth control too, and SRAM’s Code RSCs are my favourite aggro anchors, with 200mm rotors front and rear for extra grunt.

SRAM also provides the 12-speed X01 Eagle gears, Descendant carbon crankset, Reverb dropper and Boost hubs. WTB’s alloy KOM rims are light and 29mm wide, for good tyre support, but I did bend one badly on the notoriously wheel-hungry ’Ard Rock Enduro course.

The 760mm bar and 50mm stem are relatively conservative on a bike that’s designed to charge.

Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 ride impressions

The Kona can be pushed and popped to drive speed out of berms and backslopes, and feels surprisingly alive, dynamic and trail happy for a 14.5kg 29er
The Kona can be pushed and popped to drive speed out of berms and backslopes, and feels surprisingly alive, dynamic and trail happy for a 14.5kg 29er

It’s the sheer smoothness of the Process 153 29 that stands out. While the latest Lyrik, with its increased negative volume and ultra-slick action, has a tendency to embarrass many bikes’ back ends, the Kona’s stout rear triangle and Super Deluxe shock provide a perfect match.

Spot-on suspension kinematics (soft off the top, slight pedal feedback around the sag point for solid propulsion, then more linear and active for serious big-hit hunger) give a broad bandwidth of acceptable pressure and damping settings, so you can get trail-bombing straight away and then dial the shock in more accurately later, if you want or need to.

The Lyrik fork and 2.5in Minion tyre are a killer combination in terms of control

The gain from losing tyre clearance is a short but rock-solid 425mm rear end. Combined with the shock action, this means the Kona can be pushed and popped to drive speed out of berms and backslopes. As a result, the Process 153 29 feels surprisingly alive, dynamic and trail happy for a 14.5kg 29er.

While it won’t naturally attack on the climbs, it can twist the knife if a gap appears in the group on technical terrain, and its 76-degree seat angle sits you in exactly the right place for making the most of the impressive rear-wheel traction too.

Its 1,220mm wheelbase and 475mm reach (large) give plenty of stability, and the 66-degree head angle is similar to that of bikes like the Santa Cruz Hightower (67 degrees), Specialized Enduro (66.5 degrees) and Ibis Ripmo (65.9 degrees).

The Lyrik fork and 2.5in Minion tyre are a killer combination in terms of control too, so I was surprised that the Process 153 29 had a definite habit of tucking under and then sliding out when pushed really hard through corners.

The first few times I thought it was just the trail conditions or the fact I’d been riding a lot of short-offset forks recently, which react faster in sliding situations. Adding some volume spacers and low-speed progression to the fork made a bit of a difference, and a wider bar/shorter stem combo helped more.

Whatever I did never totally cured this occasional cornering glitch though, and I can only attribute it to a slight softness in the front end compared to the rock-solid rear.

Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 early verdict

Super-smooth yet lively long-travel 29er, but heavy, and the front end can tuck if pushed hard.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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