Kona’s Hei Hei has a long heritage: back in the 90s it was the Canadian brand’s über lustworthy Sandvik 3-2.5 titanium dream machine. It was a pure, undiluted mountain bike, the kind you’d sell your kidney for. Then it fell out of Kona’s range and out of memory for a few years. Now the Hei Hei is back, utterly re-imagined and reborn as a Scandium-tubed, 2.5in travel out-and-out cross-country race bike. All it shares with its predecessor is the name, so can Kona’s phoenix truly continue the Hei Hei’s classic lineage?
The bike drives forward faster than The Stig in a Lamborghini
Built from butted Scandium tubing, the Hei Hei is both light (11.4kg/25.1lb for the 20in frame) and firmly race focused. Its 70.4-degree head angle, 73.9-degree seat angle and traditional front triangle employing a long 23.8in top tube, combine with a 120mm stem for that head-down stretch.
The butted, oversized, bi-oval down tube keeps weight down and strength up. There’s a tidy gusset at the head tube junction to reinforce the front end and a subtle flared gusset at the top tube/seat tube junction. There’s also two sets of bottle bosses on the inside and underneath the down tube. The back end employs Kona’s asymmetric rocker-activated, single pivot configuration and the overall look, with the ball-burnished finish, is decidedly old school.
For a cross-country race machine, the component spec is nailed, save for the RaceFace Evolve low riser bar, which raises the ride position to that of a fast trail rig rather than a true XC racer. This might lift the appeal of the Hei Hei to enduro and marathon riders. The transmission is Shimano XT-based and 07 Rapidfire shifters became firm shifting friends with their Two-Way Release technology.
The trail is smoothed by Fox’s short-stroke FLOAT RP2 shock with rebound adjustment and ProPedal platform damping that’s switchable between open and closed, although we had instances where it annoyingly switched automatically. Up front, RockShox’s SID Race fork is light if a little flexy compared to current competitors, and we never got more than 80mm (3.1in) of the claimed 100mm (4in) travel out of it, but it does the job.
If you can afford it, you could step up to the range-topping Hei Hei Supreme for £3,700. Kona have put together a no-compromise speed machine with full Shimano XTR and a flat bar for pure speed freaks.
Purely and simply, the Hei Hei is fast. Flat out, endorphin-fuelled fast, up, down and along – the job lot. The Maxxis CrossMark tyres roll scarily well, and with the ProPedal damping clicked in for pedalling, the bike drives forward faster than The Stig in a Lamborghini. Click out of ProPedal and the shock gets to grip more effectively with trail buzz, but just knocks the nose off the crisp acceleration.
The 12.8in bottom bracket and reasonably tight back end (with 17in chainstays) also ensures that the Hei Hei gets the Kona groove on in flowing, techy singletrack, flitting sprightly into and out of corners before accelerating cleanly away, and always chomping at the bit for more.