With Kona introducing new Fuse Independent Suspension to its Hei Hei XC series as well as adding alloy Honzo builds and new Process models to its range, we found the the Canadian brand making a wide offering for 2016 at its product launch in the Austrian Alps last week.
Generally speaking, Kona is continuing with its progressive geometry across the range. It looks as if pricing is going to be a bit more competitive this year, something that we feel the brand has struggled with recently – in the UK at least. (We’ll be adding Australian prices to this article as they filter through.)
Kona is concentrating on alloy frames (save for the 26in Operator Supreme DH bike), because it’s a lot easier to make tweaks to metal frame designs than it is to remake carbon moulds. Reading between the lines, it seems likely that carbon frames of some models may become available, though we’ve no idea as yet when this might happen.
The big news is focused on the Hei Hei XC range of bikes, which gets a new suspension platform dubbed Fuse Independent Suspension. This is basically a four-bar rear end without a pivot close to the rear axle. Instead, there’s around 1.5 degrees of flex from the alloy rear triangle.
There are four bikes in the Hei Hei range. The Hei Hei Race (£2,099 / $2,499) and Hei Hei DL Race (£2,799 / $3,299) are 100mm front and back XC race bikes, with an emphasis on fun handling while still being competent on the racetrack.
The Hei Hei Trail (£2,099 / $2,499) and Hei Hei Trail DL (£2,799 / $3,299) are built around an identical frame, but come with a 120mm fork plugged in. This slackens the head angle and raises the front end a touch, resulting in a bike that’s is more confident when the trail gets steeper and more technical – fine by us in the steep, wooded, rooty and rocky trails Kona laid on.
Trail riders aren't forgotten - the Hei Hei Trail has the same frame as the Race, but with a 120mm fork
The DL (or deluxe, if you will) Race version gets a RockShox Reba fork, SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain and uprated Novatech / WTB i23 wheels over the Recon Gold, 2x10 Shimano Deore / XT Mix and Kona / WTB STP i19 rims found on the standard model. While the standard Hei Hei comes with Maxxis Icon tyres, the DL comes with even skinnier M340 Maxxlite ones – great on the race course, not so much over those roots and rocks.
The Trail models look like a great option if you're looking for a lively trail bike, but don't fancy the extra heft and travel of a Process. The DL again looks to be the pick of the bunch, coming with a great spec. Fox’s 34s are vastly improved for 2016, and we’re more than happy to see them on a bike such as this.
Then there’s XT brakes – dependable as ever, and the new 11-speed XT groupset, paired with a RaceFace single ring crank. Stans rims and a Maxxis Ardent / Ikon rubber combo for additional confidence (We’d not have complained if this had appeared on the standard Hei Hei!).
We tested Kona’s steel Honzo a few months ago. We loved the geometry, but found it a touch harsh – and the Revelation fork could be easily pushed beyond its comfortable limits.
This year, Kona has made the fully built Honzo range from alloy and improved the spec. Again, on the DL model (£1,799 / $2,199), Fox’s 34 fork appears – much more composed than Revelation of old.
The back end of the Honzo Al, with 12x148 axle. Unfortunately it looks like 27+ rubber won't quite fit
The stop-go gear all comes from Shimano’s Deore stable, save for the RaceFace Aeffect cranks. A quick look at the spec shows a 32x11-36t drivetrain – we reckon a slightly lower bottom gear would be a nice touch for the winch and plummet style of riding the Honzo begs for. The 29mm wide rims are a great touch, giving plenty of volume and support to the Maxxis Minion and Crossmark treads.
The standard model (£1,199 / $2,199) comes with a RockShox Recon Silver fork, and a few other slight, but price conscious, ‘downgrades’ such as a slightly more basic drivetrain and brakes, narrower WTB rims and less aggressive Ardent treads front and back. Riders wishing for a new steel Honzo can buy frame-only versions of the Honzo in steel and titanium.
We rode the Honzo AL DL extensively at the launch – look out for a test soon.
The Kahuna is Kona’s XC hardtail, and this year comes in three options, all of them alloy at the time of writing. Slacker, shorter and lower is the order of the day, yet the bikes are still designed to be ridden hard and fast on the XC course.
Here's the Kahuna DDL, top of the Kona XC HT tree
The standard Kahuna (£999) comes with a Recon Silver fork and Deore stop-go kit, while the DL (£1,399) gets a Recon Gold and slightly upgraded gears, and the DDL (£1,699) gets a 15mm Recon Gold, 2x10 Deore/XT gearing and an upgraded wheel package.
Processes and Precepts
The Process is Kona’s relatively new all-mountain/enduro platform, which has proved incredibly popular on both sides of the Atlantic. As one of the earlier bikes with long and slack geometry, it’s great to see this continuing, with the MY16 bikes maintaining its aggressive geometry.
Kona hasn’t done too much with the Process line for 2016, but the frames have an updated seat tube and seat tube gusset to save some weight. There are also a couple of fresh models for this year.
The Process 153 should be a big hit this year
There’s a new Process 111DL – Kona’s 111mm travel 29er frame – which comes with a 120mm Pike RCT3 fork, X01 groupset and XT brakes (upgraded over the standard 111's RC, X1 and SLX) and comes in at £3,499.
The Process 134 Supreme comes in at £4,799 and is a top-end enduro race weapon, dripping in slick componentry: XX1, 140mm Pike RCT3, RaceFace finishing kit and XT brakes.
The Precept is the cheaper brother of the Process, and again features fewer changes than other bikes in the line-up. The most interesting model is the Precept 150 (£1,899), which unsurprisingly packs 150mm of travel front and back, thanks to a RockShox Sektor fork and Monarch RL shock.
Finally, the Operator DH bike now comes in a 27.5in wheeled variety, at £3299. A 200mm RockShox Boxxer RC fork props the front end up, with a KAGE RC at the back providing 196mm of travel.
Still on 26in wheels – and now Kona's only carbon mountain bike – the Operator Supreme