Kona goes after the trail market in a big way

New bikes, carbon frames, plus tyres and more

Kona is one of the most iconic mountain bike brands in the world, with its history stretching back decades. Over the years it has created legendary bikes, such as the Stinky DH bikes, and while Kona still has a strong gravity line-up, it's also pretty handy when it comes to trail and XC bikes.

We spent a bit of time out in Austria this summer looking at Kona's new trail bikes and reckon these are the five most important in its lineup.

Hey hey, HeiHei

The HeiHei line has recently been Kona’s XC platform, with the 100mm format being designed to shred XC race courses at the highest level. For 2017 we’re now seeing the previous alloy frames being joined by carbon models, while Kona has also popped longer forks and droppers on some models too — to give them a more trail orientation. As such there are now nine HeiHei models, covering everything from World Cup XC to trail centre fun.

HeiHei Supreme 29

The HeiHei Supreme takes a 100mm chassis and plugs a 120mm fork up front
The HeiHei Supreme takes a 100mm chassis and plugs a 120mm fork up front

  • Price: £7,899 / US$7,999 / AU$TBC

At the top of the HeiHei tree is the Supreme model, which comes in both trail friendly and WC ready formats. They both share the same carbon frame, which uses Kona's Fuse Independent Suspension system – this gives the carbon rear triangle a little bit of flex, negating the need for a pivot by the dropouts and save weight. Kona claims that the frames weigh 1,800g, which is pretty competitive.

Kona clearly hasn’t forgotten its roots, as the bikes both have decent geometry for a race-focussed bike

Both the trail and XC versions are controlled by the RockShox Monarch XX shock, which comes with a hydraulic lockout called the Xlock Full Sprint. This also actuates the lockout on the RockShox RS1 fork. While both frames have 100mm of travel, the XC ‘Race’ version has 100mm travel up front while the trail based version has 120mm. Trail riders will be happy to see the KS Lev Integra dropper on the non-Race version too.

As you’d expect from a top-level bike, the rest of the kit is pretty special. SRAM’s 12-speed XX1 Eagle groupset is joined by Level Ultimate brakes on the Race, and Guide RSC on the trail version, while they both roll on deep carbon WTB rims – Ci24s on the Race and Ci31s on the regular. Understandably the Race gets super-fast Maxxis Pace tyres versus an Ardent/Ikon mix on the other.

Kona clearly hasn’t forgotten its roots, as the bikes both have decent geometry for a race-focussed bike. The Race model has a reach of 455mm (large), a head angle of 69 degrees and a pretty steep 75-degree seat angle. Short-ish 430mm chainstays should help keep handling snappy, while also aiding rear-end stiffness. With the 20mm longer fork in the non-Race version, you can knock a degree off the head and seat angles.

HeiHei Trail DL

The HeiHei platform has been shrunk for smaller wheels and stretched to longer travel
The HeiHei platform has been shrunk for smaller wheels and stretched to longer travel

  • Price: £5,999 / US$5,999 / AU$TBC

While the standard HeiHei’s roll on 29erwheels, there’s also a 27.5” HeiHei platform reserved for trail orientated bikes. They’re not as radical geometry wise as the gravity focused Process’ but are built to be great all-day ride bikes with plenty of climbing potential, but shouldn’t leave you wanting on the downs either. Instead of 100mm out back, Kona has tweaked the suspension and frame design, providing 140mm of squish from the rear suspension.

The HeiHei Trail DL is the highest spec trail version, and if the spec is anything to go by, there’s not much you’d need to change on there.

Up front there’s a Fox Factory 34 Float providing 140mm of travel — the latest generation of Fox forks with the Fit4 damper are brilliant forks. This is joined by a Fox Factory Float DPS shock. WTB is again called on for the wheels, with the carbon Ci31 TCS rims supporting large volume Maxxis Tomahawk tyres, while Shimano XTR is used in the drivetrain and XT provides stopping duties.

Kona has kept the geometry pretty consistent with the 29er HeiHei’s, which sees a 455mm reach (large) and 68/75-degree head and seat angles, while 5mm has been lopped off the chainstays.

Happy Honzo

The Honzo lineup brought long, slack and low geometry to hardtails in Kona’s range and were immediately a hit. While the range started small, Kona has grown it and now the Honzo lineup has something for (almost) every hardtail taste. Having been largely based around alloy frames, with steel and titanium frame-only options, Kona has taken the logical step to carbon for some of the nine-bike Honzo range.

The Honzo really is shaped just how we like it. The reach is an impressive 475mm across the range, while the 68/75-degree angles are pretty good for a 120mm 29er. The 310mm bottom bracket height hugs the ground and past experience suggests this makes for great cornering.

Honzo CR Trail

A carbon hardtail from Kona with stonking angles
A carbon hardtail from Kona with stonking angles

  • Price: £3499 / US$3,499 / AU$TBC

Joining the carbon HeiHei’s is the carbon Honzo, available in two Trail guises and one Race. The CR Trail is the cheaper of the CR Honzos, but still comes with a decent looking spec, which should be more than capable enough for most trails. Up front a 120mm Boost spaced Fox Float 34 Performance fork takes care of trail taming, while the rear carbon triangle is also Boost spaced.

Our brief ride on the bike suggests that the carbon adds a very subtle amount of buzz-deadening from the carbon, yet still a direct power transfer from the cranks.

The rest of the gear is solid stuff, with a Shimano SLX/XT transmission, SLX brakes, RaceFace Aeffect SL crank and Maxxis Minion DHF/Ardent tyres mounted onto WTB Asym i29 hoops — these spin on ever reliable SLX hubs. As you’d expect from a trail bike, there’s a KS dropper in there too.

The fancier DL (£4,399 / US$4,599 / AU$TBC) version gets a SRAM 11-speed X01 groupset, SRAM Guide RSC brakes and a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork. The (£3,299 / US$3,599 / AU$TBC) Race spec drops the dropper post, but gets a full SLX group and lighter Maxxis Ikon tyres mounted onto skinnier WTB KOM i23 rims.

Big Honzo DL

Well, we got the lighting wrong for this shot! But the Big Honzo's lines show through
Well, we got the lighting wrong for this shot! But the Big Honzo's lines show through

  • Price: £2199 / US$2,399 / AU$TBC

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand the past 18 months you’ll have realised that Plus tyres are most definitely a ‘thing’ this year. When we rode the 2016 Honzo AL DL last year we commented that the punishing alloy frame would be more capable if Plus tyres could be squeezed in. We’re not claiming that we influenced Kona here, but let’s just say we’re keen to have a proper ride on the Big Honzo DL, a Plus version of the Honzo.

As mentioned before, the Honzo’s geometry is great and something we’ve got on well with in the past, so it’s great to see the same figures on the Plus version of the bike.

The frame is 6061 Aluminium, butted to keep the ride/weight balance right. A RockShox Yari fork, in boost width and sporting 120mm of suspension, is plugged in the headtube and the bike rolls on 2.8” Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres mounted to WTB Scraper i40 rims. A SRAM GX 1x11-speed group keeps you rolling forwards while non-series Shimano brakes bring you to a halt.

Wo + Honzo = Wozo

The Wozo looks like an absolute beast
The Wozo looks like an absolute beast

  • Price: £2,099 / US$2,399 / AU$TBC

Fat bikes can be fun, so Kona reckons anyway, and having had the Wo in the range for a couple of years, Kona has taken it and a Honzo and created the Wozo.

So what do you get? Well, it’s a full fledged fat bike with a 100mm RockShox Bluto fork, SunRingle Mulefut rims and 4.8” Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tyres. There’s then a mixed SRAM NX and GX 11-speed drivetrain and Shimano brakes too.

All pretty standard stuff so far. Where it deviates is that the geometry is, pretty much, unique in the world of fat bikes. The Large frame has a monster reach of 478mm (XL tops out at over 500mm!), there’s the Honzo’s 69/75 head and seat angles and super short 420mm chainstays, and an absolutely wild BB height of 304mm.

One thing’s for sure, we’re genuinely excited to get a test of this…

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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