The news we’ve all been waiting for:
OK, maybe not EVERYONE was waiting, but there is no arguing that the high-end trail and all-mountain markets are dominated by carbon-framed bikes, and the Process line, while being some sweet riding bikes, weren’t on the radar of the carbon-ravenous among us.
Obviously, this isn’t just a carbon version of the previous 153, but an entirely new family of bikes, including new aluminum bikes as well. There are two carbon 27.5 bikes, two aluminum 27.5, and two aluminum bikes with 29 inch wheels. For those looking for some real smashy action, there is a single Process 165 model with 27.5 wheels and a coil rear shock.
If these new bikes are still too big a hit on the bank balance, the previous generation Process 134 and 153 will continue forward with one model each at very affordable price points, 134 SE $2,099 and 153 SE $2,199.
That means no more Precept line, and sadly, no more Process 111. As someone who loved the 111, it is sad to see it go, but in some ways, the current line up of the Hei Hei takes care of lighter-duty trail action, and the new Process 153 29 is for the harder hitters among us. The new 153 29 really isn’t much heavier than the departed Process 111, it probably pedals as well, and has a ton more travel and capability. But I am getting ahead of myself with those ride impressions.
All the new bikes use a trunnion-mount, metric-sized rear shock. There is a good bit more anti-squat tuned-in this time around, as well as more mid-stroke support. Rather than depend on either complicated kinematics or complicated-proprietary rear shocks, Kona really designed these bikes around the excellent stock dampers on offer from RockShox. The single-pivot design seems to be aging well here.
The shock is now tucked down and in-line with the seat tube. This helps to take stress off the rear shock, and directs more force into the strongest part of the frame, the bottom bracket area. It also frees us space for a proper water bottle mount. Did Kona start this redesign around a water bottle and work out from there? There were some jokes made about that, but it might not be far from the truth. With more and more riders ditching the water pack, a 2018 trail bike without a bottle mount would seem pretty far off the back.
The new aluminum frames are said to be stiffer and lighter, and the carbon frame stiffer and lighter than the aluminum. Cable routing is internal on the carbon bikes, but external (and almost perfectly executed) on the aluminum bikes. No front derailleurs need apply, but ICSG mounts allow for a chain guide if needed. All bikes use aluminum chainstays, a part of the bike Kona says would be prohibitively expensive to build from carbon, not much stiffer or lighter, and much more prone to damage.
Much like the Trek Remedy and Slash, the Process 153 27.5 and 29 share suspension travel, but the 29er is marketed as the more aggressive bike. The Process 165 looks to compete directly with the real heavy hitters such as the Nomad, Firebird and Enduro.
Prices and build kits are solidly in the functional and not flashy range, with lots of Yari forks and SRAM GX. The Maxxis DHF appears on every Process, along with WTB i29 rims.
Have you ridden in Squamish? If the answer is no, make an effort to visit. Click those pics to make them bigger, it is worth it.
It is a lovely small town on the cusp of becoming larger, full of world class trails for all skill levels. It is also home to lots of steep rock faces and trail builders found of building trails on said steep rock faces.
With that in mind, I grabbed a size large Process 153 AL/DL with 29 inch wheels, knowing I wanted a lot of bike and a lot of wheel in front of me when things tilted downward. On day two of riding, I decided to stick with a good thing and rode the 29er again. You’ll have to go elsewhere for talk about how the carbon frame rode, but honestly, of all the changes to these bikes, the carbon frame might have the least effect on the ride.
As you would expect, the reach grows a bit, the head angles gets slacker, etc. You know the drill by now. Since the original Process bikes were on the tip of the lower, slacker, longer spear, the geometry changes aren’t super extreme. Obviously, since there wasn’t a 153 29 previously the bike I rode can’t be directly compared to older numbers, but the 27.5 and 29er share many of the same measurements, including head angle (66) reach (475 mm in large), and chainstay length (425 mm).
The rear shock on the AL/DL is just a little on/off switch, and that seemed fine. Pavement or really smooth dirt climb, turn on the pedal platform. Everything else, leave it wide open. The anti-squat combined with the stock low-speed damping was a great balance between traction and efficiency. I could try to say more words about it, but it didn’t do anything weird or outstanding, it just worked that way I thought it should.
Headed down the other side, the 153 always, always had my back. I have zero local terrain with both the elevation and extended steepness found in Squamish, but the Process was one of the bikes that just felt right from the first moment of butt-puckering roll-in. It really isn’t that slack for a bike with a 160mm Yari up front, but the long front center helped to keep it stable at speed and virtually endo proof.
I put the endo-proofness to the test on one of the final features on the final bit of trail on the final ride. Trying to scrub off some speed before the impending abrupt transition between the rock face and the ground, my back tire started to come around in a way all the body English in the world wasn’t going to save. While a fellow journalist crouched at the bottom of the slab lined up a cell phone shot, he started to repeat my name over and over, each repetition becoming more and more panicked, as my brain somehow convinced me to let go of my brakes to get the bike lined up again. Rocketing into transition at a speed that seemed destined to land me on my face, the 153 rolled out of it like I had planned the whole thing. The only casualty of the day was a perminant DHF skid mark on the back of my orange shorts.
The last generation of Process bikes won over riders with dialed geometry, sturdy builds, decent suspension and reasonable prices. This new generation looks to improve on all those areas while adding a carbon frame option and room for that sacred water bottle. Pedalling performance has been improved, in a fashion that I would slot between noticeably and dramatically, and the handling has been modernized without trying to win any awards for slackest head angle or longest reach. These new bikes seem to be an evolution of the revolution that Kona help to start with those first Process bikes.
You probably want to know more, so head to Kona’s website.