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!
The Hei Hei has long been Kona’s premier cross country platform, and while past models have been no-compromise race bikes, the latest generation reflects the changing nature of cross-country riding and mountain biking in general.
While the aluminum frame moves a racy 100 mm of travel through an all-new suspension design Kona calls Fuse, the 120 mm fork and 68 degree head tube angle are more commonly found on bigger bikes. It’s no wonder that the new bike gets the “trail” designation right in the name. (There is a Hei Hei Race model with a 100 mm fork for the go-fast crowd).
The Fuse system is a classic single-pivot design that does away with the secondary pivot in favor of a flex design. This keeps both the cost and weight down and means one less part to maintain. The result is a classic single-pivot feel with a lively nature. If you run your rebound knob clocked at the “rabbit” end of the dial, you’re going to like this bike. The smaller packaging of the Fuse system also allows for 16.9-inch chainstays, which just barely qualify as worthy of the “short rear end” moniker.
It’s clear the parts spec has been chosen with a great balance of functionality and affordability. The RockShox Recon Gold TK Solo Air isn’t flashy but is a solid workhorse. The 2×10 Shimano Deore/XT running gear is tried and true including the Deore hubs (with Centerlock rotors, woot!) laced to WTB i25 tubeless rims. Even the Kona house-brand cockpit components fit great, with wide handlebars and a 35 mm stem clamp. Ok, I might change out the grips, but I can’t knock Kona for those. The Hei Hei Trail doesn’t ship with a dropper post, but one can be easily installed with either internal or external cable routing.
No, mountain bikes aren’t cheap, but it’s amazing how capable a bike in this price range can be. I predict some fun times ahead on the Hei Hei Trail.
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Kona’s tagline for its 2016 lineup is “Going Deeper” and it’s an apt description for its largest-ever product range. While some models carry over largely unchanged, nearly every mountain bike gets an update of some kind, and several get ground-up redesigns. We sampled some of the latest on the trails outside Bellingham, Washington.
When I rode the original Honzo for a long-term review last year I couldn’t help but feel that it was really only going to make a particular type of rider happy. In classic Kona style it was built tough, and didn’t worry much about the gram scale. It was a ripper, for sure, but wasn’t the bike I would choose for all-purpose mountain biking.
The new aluminum Honzo changes that entirely. It sheds nearly three pounds of the frame weight of the steel version (which is still available as a frame-only) and transforms the bike into a much more pedal-friendly all-arounder. You might be saying “Ok, so it’s a Taro,” an aluminum model that had a similar geometry to the steel Honzo, but it’s not. The aluminum Honzo is entirely new, with an all-new tubeset, different hub spacing (Boost 148) and a PF92 bottom bracket shell. The short 415 mm chainstays and 68 degree head tube angle stay put while the front center stretches out even more, now matching the front end geometry of the Process 111.
The AL/DL model comes with the new Foax 34 fork (with the much improved FIT4 damper) set at 120 mm and a 1×10 Shimano drivetrain at $2,199. The AL model swaps in a RockShox Recon fork at $1,599 and the frame itself can be had for $500. The steel frame remains largely the same but gets the same geometry as the aluminum model and retails for $525. Finally, there is now a titanium frame for the true connoisseur at $2,199.
Hei Hei Trail
The Hei Hei has long been Kona’s full-suspension cross-country platform, and the latest version adapts in accordance with the changes in cross-country riding. Races are getting more technical, riders are looking for more travel, and versatility is being favored over gram counting. The new Hei Hei Trail addresses these demands with new geometry and an all-new suspension platform.
The new Hei Hei Trail moves 100 mm of travel through a new flex pivot design Kona calls Fuse. By eliminating the pivot near the dropout and instead allowing the chainstay to flex 1.5 degrees, the rear triangle is lighter and simpler. The linkage is also much smaller and the shock is mounted lower, resulting in better standover and a lower center of gravity.
Up front the bike’s attitude is transformed with a 68 degree head tube angle and a longer reach (though not as long as the Honzo or Process bikes). Paired with a 120 mm Fox 34 fork it is more than capable of hanging with its Process cousins, especially when equipped with a dropper post through the available stealth routing. The Fuse suspension is poised and responsive, and while it doesn’t have a lot of travel it is more than capable. Of the three bikes I sampled, the Hei Hei Trail was the one that surprised and impressed me the most.
The Hei Hei Trail DL is equipped with a Fox 34 fork and 1×11 Shimano XT drivetrain for $3,299. The Hei Hei Trail rolls with a RockShox Recon Gold TK fork and 2×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain for $2,499. The frame only is $1,699. There is a Hei Hei Race version, with a 100 mm fork and a very race-oriented build kit, but it will only be available international markets.
While the Process line of bikes have been earning a lot of accolades, including in our pages, they are inherently more expensive to manufacture. The Precept line uses a more traditional single pivot suspension layout and more affordable build kits to hit a lower price point without sacrificing the attitude of Kona’s more expensive models.
The Precept 150 is an all-new model with 27.5 wheels and 150 mm of travel front and rear. The aluminum frame features a tried-and-true linkage-driven single pivot design paired with a RockShox Sektor fork and ships with a KS dropper post and 2×10 SRAM drivetrain. The geometry matches the Process 153 with a 66.5 head tube angle and 16.7 inch chainstays, keeping the Precept 150 feeling light on its feet and never cumbersome.
While it doesn’t have the bling factor of the fancy parts the Precept 150 is perfectly at home on steep, rocky trails and would be just fine doing light bike park duty or enduro racing. The single model will sell for $2,699.