Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Kona Process 153


Kona Process 153-1

Tester: Justin Steiner
Age: 33, Height: 5’7″, Weight: 165 lbs., Inseam: 31”
Bike price: $5,000
Sizes: M, (tested) L, XL

Kona first launched the Process lineup in 2013 for the 2014 model year. Since then, we’ve reviewed and revered both the 29 inch Process 111 (issue #178) and the 27.5 inch Process 134 (issue #184). Based on those positive experiences, I was stoked to see what the Process 153 has to offer.

Where the Process 111 and 134 target the trail category, the 153 presents a burlier option for riders on the enduro and all-mountain end of the spectrum. Suspension travel is 153 mm at the rear wheel, damped by a Monarch Plus RC3. A 160 mm RockShox Pike holds down the fort up front.

Kona Process 153-4

When the Process bikes were announced, they were on the bleeding edge of the longer, lower and slacker new-school geometry movement we’ve seen gain traction in the years since. As geometry trends progress, the once-extreme geometry of the Process bikes now largely represents the new normal. In no way is that a bad thing though, the market has largely just caught up to the Process bikes in the three years since their introduction. That said, Kona will be subtly revising the Process’ geometry for the 2017 model year.

In this day and age of making everything out of carbon fiber, the Process bikes represent a bit of an outlier in terms of their aluminum construction. Though this move doesn’t necessarily make for a terribly light bike, I’m always impressed by how well aluminum bikes, particularly those with aluminum rims, communicate what’s happening at the tires’ contact patches. I’m not 100 percent certain why that is, but here’s my theory: Without the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon, the sensory connection simply feels more direct.

Kona Process 153-7

As you might expect, this DL model checks the proper boxes with solid parts spec all around. The SRAM X1/X01 drivetrain provides reliable locomotion and ample gearing range for most situations. In mountain country, I’d likely drop down from the 32-tooth chainring to a 30-tooth ‘ring to provide a slightly easier gearing range.

For years, Shimano brakes represented the gold standard in terms of reliable braking, but the latest generation XT and XTR brakes have been a little bit of a hiccup for the company. We have word that Shimano has recently fixed the issues once and for all, but the brakes on this bike exhibit the migrating engagement point that we’ve noted on a handful of brake sets. This, however, should not be an issue on future Process models.

The KS Lev Integra dropper post operated flawlessly through the test period, and I really dig the ergonomics of the company’s Southpaw remote. The other notable parts spec is WTB’s new Asym i35 rims front and rear. These wide (35 mm internal width) rims provided an awesomely stable platform for the 2.3 inch Minion DHF tires. The rim’s asymmetrical design also goes a long way toward equalizing spoke tension.

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Speaking of wheels, it’s worth noting that the Process line was launched before 148 mm hub spacing was anything more than a twinkle in an engineer’s eye. So no 148 mm spacing or plus tire compatibility here.

The 153’s head tube angle clocks in at 66.5 degrees, the bottom bracket sits 13.4 inches off the deck and the wheelbase measures a rangy 45.7 inches, despite short 16.7 inch chainstays. The resulting 29 inch front center measurement provides a lot of stability at speed and in steep terrain. The steep-ish 74 degree seat tube angle and long top tube yield a 17.1 inch reach on my medium test bike, which provides a weight forward climbing position that helps to keep the front wheel down and tracking up hill.

Even though my maiden voyage aboard the Process occurred on unfamiliar trails, I was immediately comfortable on the bike, and it quickly encouraged exploring the limits. Like most bikes in this category, the Process is a very capable machine. The long front center provides stability that belies the 66.5 degree headtube angle, making it feel as though it were slacker, but without the slow-speed wheel fl op that comes along with slacker angles. The front end stability is nicely balanced by the responsiveness of the short chainstays, which whip nicely around corners and greatly ease lofting the front wheel.

Kona Process 153-5

The Process’ suspension performance was impressive. The rear suspension is stable and well-damped under pedaling forces, but remains responsive to small bumps while pedaling. Pointed down hill that same sense of chassis stability remains, but small and large bumps are dispatched with equal aptitude.

As you’d expect from the folks at Kona, the Process also handles big hits without breaking a sweat. The spring rate ramps up nicely to fend off bottom out without the rider even noticing. The travel o-ring indicated that I had used full travel, but I never felt a noticeable bottom out.

Kona Process 153-2

Regardless of the type of trails I was riding, the Process felt balanced and composed in all situations, from fast and rowdy descents in Pisgah National Forest to smooth and flowing trails in central Michigan. It never felt like overkill on the trail or left me wanting more capability. Sure, it may be overkill for tame trails, but even in those settings, the Process encourages you to hit the optional lines. When the going gets rowdy, the Process 153 really shines.

All in all, the Process 153 offers an impressive balance of capability and versatility. Whether it is your only bike, or the enduro bike of your quiver, it makes a compelling case for itself.

Kona Process 153 Details

  • Reach: 17.1”
  • Stack: 23.5”
  • Top Tube: 23.7”
  • Head Tube: 66.5°
  • Seat Tube: 74°
  • BB Height: 13.4”
  • Chainstays: 16.7”
  • Wheelbase: 45.7”
  • Weight: 30.0 lbs. (with 29” wheels) w/o pedals
  • Specs based on size tested
  • More info: Kona Process lineup

 

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First Impressions: Norco Torrent 7 Plus


Ed’s Note: This bike is part of our annual, sub-$3,000 bike test where the Dirt Rag staff spends significant time aboard less-expensive but fully capable offerings that we’d seriously consider buying ourselves. The final review will be out early 2016 in issue #189. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it!


Price: $2,425

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The Torrent name is not new to Norco but the plus-size tires certainly are. The Torrent name has been in and out of the Norco line since the 90s and was last used on a carbon 26-inch hardtail that looked like this:

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I know which one of those two I’d pick.

The Torrent is a return to the all-mountain hardtail, a niche market that is near and dear to my heart. Say what you will about plus-size tires but they have companies reconsidering what a modern hardtail can be, and the Torrent is a excellent example of this new breed of bike.

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There are lots of well-thought-out details on the Torrent, including Boost hub spacing front and rear, a hugely adjustable fork, internal dropper routing and sleek rear caliper positioning.

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So far, the Manitou Magnum Pro fork is very plush, although I’m still trying to properly tune it to use more travel on big hits.

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The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is, hands down, the best tire I’ve ever ridden on leaf-covered trails.

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The 16.7-inch chainstays are one of the reasons this is among the most playful bikes I’ve ridden. That nimbleness is balanced with a good bit of stability from the long front center (29.3 inches) and 67-degree head angle. The dropper post, stout fork and aggressive tires are treating me right, as well.

You’ll have to wait for the full review but, so far so great. See Norco’s website for more info.

 

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Inside Line: Pivot updates the Mach 6 with new carbon and aluminum frames


In the rapidly moving world of all-mountain bikes, the Mach 6 was far from old or outdated, but Pivot isn’t a company to sit on its laurels (whatever the hell that means).

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Mach 6 Carbon

Instead, it updated the carbon bike, and released an aluminum version of the well received frame. Both bikes use a new linkage that claims to be 150 percent stiffer, has larger bearings and lighter linkages. Sounds good to me. The rear end gets Boost 148 spacing, because that is what’s happening, like it or not, and there are solid reasons to make the change. For those with the cheese, you can get your Di2 on with Pivot’s Cable Port System, a first for long travel bikes.

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Frame details

  • Full carbon frame featuring leading edge carbon fiber materials and Pivot’s proprietary hollow core internal molding technology.
  • 155mm (6.1 inches) of renowned dw-link suspension
  • 27.5 wheels for the fastest descents and superior rollover in technical terrain
  • Pivot’s new ultra-stiff, DH-inspired, double-wishbone rear triangle design
  • All new, cold-forged wider and stiffer upper and lower linkage design with Enduro Max Cartridge Bearings
  • New 12 x 148 mm Boost rear spacing for maximum stiffness and control.
  • Custom-tuned Fox Factory Kashima Float X shock with EVOL air sleeve.
  • Designed to work with forks from 150-160 mm in travel
  • All new internal cable routing, featuring Pivot’s Cable Port System and full Di2 integration
  • Internal stealth dropper post compatible
  • New Pivot removable front derailleur mount for a clean frame design with 1X and perfect front shifting with Shimano’s side-swing 2X system.
  • Post mount disc brake mounts for precision and weight savings
  • PF92 bottom bracket for light weight, durability and ease of maintenance
  • Rubberized leather chainstay, inner seat stay, and down tube protectors for a quiet ride and higher impact resistance
  • Medium frame weight: 6.5 pounds including shock.
  • Available in sizes XS, S, M, L, XL for riders between 4’10″ and 6’2″+

 

Mach 6 Aluminum

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And much as we love carbon bikes, our kid’s college accounts, or our microbrew beer funds often prefer metal frames. The aluminum version of the Mach 6 is far from cheap, but at $2,000, it undercuts the carbon frame ($3,000) by a cool grand. Fully built up, the Mach 3 Aluminum starts at $3,500 while the Mach 6 Carbon completes start at $4,700. The metal frame is claimed to be as stiff as the carbon, but weight is where the penalty is paid, with a 7.4 pound frame and shock in size medium, which isn’t heavy, but it does tip the scales at almost a pound heavier than the 6.5 pound carbon frame.

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Another nice touch is a full size range, from extra small through extra large, which covers a lot of heights, something that can be missing in some smaller brands S, M, L sizing.

Pivot’s newest aluminum frameset utilizes next-generation, variable wall thickness hydro-forming – bringing carbon-level strength, stiffness, precision, and control to produce the ultimate aluminum frame design

 

Availability

Carbon frames and compete bikes are shipping to dealers as I type. I’d pick a blue frame with the new XT.

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Aluminum will follow in September. I like the orange, also with XT, although the new SRAM GX would be swell as well.

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In action

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Canfield Brothers redesign the Yelli Screamy 29er


Canfield Brothers 2015 Yelli Screamy Studio 2

The original Yelli Screamy helped to redefine what a production hardtail 29er could be, with short chainstays, a slack head angle and a playful nature. “The original Yelli was the 29er that we wanted to ride,” said Lance Canfield, owner and designer. “It didn’t exist, so we built it. It’s fun up, down, in the air, pretty much anywhere you want to take it. Just because it’s a hardtail 29er doesn’t mean you should ride it like one.” But even good products have room to get better, and the second generation Yelli Screamy adds modern features and all new tubing shapes. Stealth dropper routing, 142×12 thru-axle and a new chainstay yoke the leaves plenty of room for high volume tires, modern 1x drivetrains and chainguides.

Canfield Brothers 2015 Yelli Screamy

Clocking in at $650, this is an excellent way to experience modern aggressive geometry without breaking the bank.

Aluminum not your bag? Check out the EPO carbon hardtail, or the steel Nimble 9, both with similar geometry. And if hardtails don’t do it for you, the full suspension Riot might be your huckleberry.

Canfield Brothers 2015 Yelli Screamy 2 2-8

Canfield Brothers 2015 Yelli Screamy 2 2-6

Canfield Brothers 2015 Yelli Screamy 2 2-5

Available in five anodized colors and two limited edition colors in S, M, L and XL, check it out at at the Canfield Brothers website.

Features:

6061 aluminum
142×12 rear through-axle
1x or front derailleur compatibility
ISCG standard
Stealth dropper routing
67º HA w/ 140mm fork, 68º HA w/ 120mm fork
16.7-inch chainstays
Low top-tube for maximum standover
Multiple anodized colors available
Two limited edition colors available: LE Fire and Sparkle Blue
Available in S, M, L, XL

ABOUT CANFIELD BROTHERS

Founded in 1999 by Lance and Chris Canfield, Canfield Brothers is comprised of a small group of riders that dedicate their lives to producing performance-enhancing mountain bikes and components. We design all of our products to give our customers a better riding experience and to make their riding, simply put, MORE FUN! For more information, visit CanfieldBrothers.com.

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