First look: the all-new 2018 carbon Kona Process

Kona’s long travel trail bike range sees a new carbon frame shape and the option for 29inch wheels

Kona Bicycles might have a lingering reputation for making burly freeride bikes, but in more recent years, it has really stepped up its game when it comes to trail bikes. 

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Taking care of the hardcore/enduro side of things is the Process range, which first appeared on the scene in 2014. Until now, it’s only been available in aluminium, but for 2018, the top of the range models have morphed into carbon and taken on a frame shape that bears many similarities to the brand’s Operator downhill bike. 

Kona’s ambition has been to retain the best features of the old Process 153, but improve upon its shortcomings and refine the overall package.

An evolving Process

When I tested the 2017 Process, I felt its awesome descending capability was let down by a sluggishness on the ups, so it’s good to see Kona labelling improved pedal efficiency as one of its main goals. 

Although the suspension layout on the 2018 Process looks almost identical to that of the Operator, Kona says that the suspension characteristics are very similar to that of the old Process; but by changing the position of the main pivot and aligning it for 32-34tooth chainrings, it has dramatically improved the way it pedals.

Inspired by its Operator downhill bike, Kona claims that the Process’s new suspension design is as supple, supportive and progressive as the old bike, but with much improved climbing prowess
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

The leverage rate has been designed to prioritise air shocks and with the exception of the longer travel Process 165, all new models come equipped with Rock Shox air cans in metric sizes. 

These are trunnion mounted and that has been chosen to give shorter eye-to-eye shock lengths, and because of the use of bearings in the upper pivot, there is less impeded movement than there would be with a DU bushing. Although Kona isn’t offering any coil shock options at present, aftermarket upgrades should be easy, as the shocks use the standard M/M tune.

A carbon rocker link actuates the trunnion mounted Rock Shox shock. In the interests of durability, large bearings are used in both main pivots and there are no threads in any carbon pieces
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

Old and new geometry

When it comes to geometry, the stack, bottom bracket height and reach measurements from the old Process have been carried over and the new 29-inch follows suit, too, as Kona wanted both wheel sizes to have the same ride characteristics. 

A spacious 510mm reach on the XL size gives the Process 153 one of the biggest cockpits on the market and this is matched to a super-short 425mm back end. Kona says that the combination of short chainstays and a steeper 76-degree seat tube angle creates a more balanced climbing position that is accentuated by the improved suspension design. 

With the exception of head and seat angle, Kona has kept the geometry of its new bike almost identical to the 2017 bike and this is followed through on the new 29er, too
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

What will also help you weight the front wheel is a head angle that’s 0.5 degrees steeper than the old bike, at 66 degrees. This bucks the ever slackening trend these days, but Kona believes that with a long reach, you can make the head angle slightly steeper for a bike that rides well in a variety of situations and not just on steep trails. 

Besides this, the low standover heights of the old Process have been maintained, as have the shortish seat tube lengths, which allow customers to choose their bike size based on reach.

Going carbon

The top end Process 153 DL and CR models are the only bikes to get the carbon treatment in the new range, but Kona was keen to point out that the carbon design came first and the aluminium bike followed as a more budget option. The one-piece carbon monocoque front triangle is paired to a matching rocker link and seatstays, but in the interests of durability, the chainstays have stayed in aluminium.

Durability and reliability seemed to be a recurring theme in Kona’s presentation, with the brand’s goal being to build a bike that doesn’t require constant servicing. 

The detailing is slick throughout on the carbon Process frames, but these are not featherweight carbon whippets: they’ve been designed to take a hammering
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

The main pivot and rocker link both rotate on large 21mm ID bearings and using a Pressfit 92 bottom bracket has allowed Kona to make a wide, stiff main pivot that reduces side loading on the shock. Press-in headset cups have been chosen to overcome potential tolerance problems from manufacture or crash damage, too. 

Further to this, there are no threads in the carbon frame pieces and instead the pivots rotate on male and female axles secured by lockscrews. Kona admits that all these details don’t make for the lightest bike around, but with a frame weight of around 3kg (medium/ no shock) it’s not exactly cumbersome. 

On the carbon Process, the exit port cover for the internal cable routing integrates a spare mech hanger, hidden away in the downtube
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

As you’d expect, there is Boost hub spacing and bolt-thru axles, both front and rear, and there is clearance for 2.5inch Wide Trail tyres. The Process won’t accommodate plus sized tyres, though, as Kona believes that they “just don’t work for aggressive riding.”

Although built to take a hammering, the appearance of the frame is really well considered. Cable routing is fully internal and the exit port on the downtube houses a spare derailleur hanger, which has the dual purpose of securing the cables. In the interests of cost saving and easy servicing, the cables are fully external on the aluminium bike. 

Something that everyone will be pleased to hear is the option to fit a waterbottle inside the front triangle on all sizes of the new Process and although chainguides are not supplied with the new bikes, there are ISCG 05 tabs, should you wish to fit one. 

The more expensive models in the range all come with stealth routed Rock Shox Reverb seatposts and the length of drop is dependent on bike size: 125mm (S), 150mm (M) and 170mm (L/XL).

Of course the real test is out on the trail. At the Kona launch in Tignes and Val D’isere, we did our best to put the new Process through its paces. Stay tuned for a full review, coming soon
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith

Process 153 CR/ DL 27.5

This is the highest spec’d bike in the Process range. The carbon frame is complimented by an array of top level kit: a 160mm Rock Shox Lyrik RCT3 fork, Rock Shox Super Deluxe RCT Trunnion shock, Sram X01 Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, SRAM Descendent carbon cranks and Guide RSC brakes. 

Keeping things rolling are a pair of WTB Asym i29 TCS rims, shod with Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 3C tyres (2.5inch front/ 2.3inch rear).

  • Process 153 CR/ DL 27.5: £6,099 / $5,999

Process 153 CR 27.5

At a slightly more affordable price point is the Process 153 CR. It features the same carbon frame as the CR/DL, but the parts spec is a little less extravagant. 

A Lyrik RC fork instead of the RCT3 and a piggyback-less Rock Shox Deluxe RT shock. 

You still get a 12speed drivetrain, but it’s the heavier Sram GX Eagle version and the carbon cranks are traded for aluminium ones. The wheels, tyres and dropper post remain unchanged.

Process 153 CR 27.5 is the slightly cheaper carbon option in the range
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith
  • Process 153 CR 27.5: £4,799 / $4,799

Process 153 AL/DL 27.5

If you’re not enamoured by the benefits of carbon frames, you can save a good chunk of money with the aluminium Process. 

Apart from having a Rock Shox Yari fork in place of the Lyrik, the AL/DL model is built up with the same kit as the CR version.

With an aluminium frame, the Process 153 AL/ DL 27.5 has the same build kit as the CR bike, but minus the carbon, it costs much less
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith
  • Process 153 AL/DL: £3,499 / $3,599

There is also an entry level version called the Process 153 AL. Here you only get an 11speed SRAM NX drivetrain, SRAM Level brakes and a Trans-X dropper post, but the frame remains unchanged, making it a solid option for future upgrades.

  • Process 153 AL: £3,099 / $2,999

Process 153 AL 29

Big wheel fans will welcome the introduction of a 29er Process. At present, it is only available in aluminium, but a carbon version is expected sometime in the new year and we heard rumours of a Sea Otter release.

As stated earlier, the geometry of the 29er has been kept almost identical to that of the 27.5inch bike. With 29mm of BB drop, it’s pretty low slung and the 425mm chainstays are some of the shortest we’ve seen on any 29inch bike.

There are two models available and both are spec’d identically to their 27.5inch counterparts, but because of saddle/tyre clearance issues, Kona isn’t offering the Process 29 in a size small.

In 29inch wheels, Kona is offering the same spec options that are available on its aluminium 27.5inch bikes. There is no carbon option at present, but watch this space
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith
  • Process 153 AL/ DL 29: £3,499 / $3,599
  • Process 153 AL 29: £3,099/ $2,999

Process 165

In addition to the Process 153, Kona has also released a longer 165mm travel version. It’s designed to be an evolution of the classic Stinky as well as being a fun park bike. 

Fork travel on the Rock Shox Lyrik RC is upped to 170mm and this is matched to a Rock Shox Super Deluxe R coil shock out back. With a SRAM GX Eagle 12speed drivetrain and a KS Lev Integra dropper fitted, you should still be able to grind up the hills, but the idea of fitting a cable operated dropper is that you can whip it out to turn the 165 into a proper bike park shredder.

You could call this bike the 2018 version of the classic Kona Stinky. This 165mm long travel trail bike looks like it’ll be equally at home shredding steep descents or whipping it up in the bike park
Kona Bicycles/ Caleb Smith
  • Process 165: £3,999 / $3,999

Process 153 SE & 134 SE

Finally, two bikes worthy of note in the range are the Process SE models. By keeping the frame shape from the 2017 Process, Kona has managed to make two affordable trail bike options. 

Both feature Rock Shox rear shocks, Trans-X dropper posts and Maxxis Minion DHF tyres and they look like great options for beginner and intermediate riders wanting a solid bike with good geometry that will help them learn new skills.

Keeping the frame shape of the 2017 Process, the 153 SE looks like a killer option for hardcore riders on a budget
Kona Bicycles
It’s exciting to see brands offering well proportioned and well sepc’d affordable bikes. As an all round trail bike, the Process 134 SE looks bang on the money
Kona Bicycles

Process 153 SE: £1,999/ $2,199

Process 134 SE: £1,899/ $2,099

Kona Process pricing and availability

  • Process 153 CR/ DL 27.5: £6,099 / $5,999
  • Process 153 CR 27.5: £4,799 / $4,799
  • Process 153 AL/ DL 27.5: £3,499 / $3,599
  • Process 153 AL 27.5: £3,099 / $2,999
  • Process 153 AL/ DL 29: £3,499 / $3,599
  • Process 153 AL 29: £3,099 / $2,999
  • Process 165: £3,999 / $3,999
  • Process 153 SE: £1,999 / $2,199
  • Process 134 SE: £1,899 / $2,099
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All the new bikes are anticipated to land in the UK in early November 2017, with the exception of the Process SE range, which are available now.