Tester: Brett Rothmeyer
Weight: 165 lbs.
Dropping into the first section of fast and flowy singletrack on the Big Honzo DL was like plugging a Les Paul into a Marshall stack and hitting an open A chord. We are not talking a Roy Orbison open A; we are talking a full windmill Pete Townsend open A! This bike turns the gain up to 10 and the volume up to 11.
Coming from a purely cross-country background, there was a slight adjustment period on this bike. I was worried about how this bike would feel chasing friends on some of the local punchy trails. While the front suspension comes in a little less than many trail bikes, it is still more than the average cross-country setup. Without a full lockout feature on the fork and with bigger tires, out of the saddle climbing can feel a little sluggish. That being said, the SRAM GX 1×11 gearing is more than low enough for you to stay in the saddle and spin your way over most obstacles. Most of my adjustments to this bike were mental; once I learned where the bike excelled, I stopped trying to make it climb like a race bike and waited for the fun of the flow.
Adapting to the the lower bottom bracket was my biggest challenge on the Big Honzo. While a low bottom bracket provides stability in high-speed and flowing turns, it can be a hindrance in more technical and off-camber terrain when pedaling is required. Pedal strikes have been common as I adjust to a new riding style.
The Big Honzo DL is a lot of bang for the buck. With its big tires, wide bars, dropper post and an aluminum frame with modern trail geometry, the Kona Honzo DL is big fun right out of the box. I swapped the front Rekon for a Highroller II 2.8, but left everything else stock. The fall in western Pennsylvania creates leaf-covered trails, often making traction elusive. The Rekon, while a fast-rolling front tire, is not the greatest at holding traction on the slippery mud and leaves.
The Big Honzo DL, while it is a hardtail, is very much a trail bike. Call it what you want, funduro, new hardtail, or is it nü-hardtail? If so, does that make the Big Honzo the Deftones of this current trend in hardtail geometry? One thing is clear; the Big Honzo is a ripper! Riding this bike instills the confidence to clear things that in the past have troubled me. I let go of the brakes more often and don’t skip any of the drops on the local trails. The 2.8 tires make short work of off-camber roots and rocks and the relaxed front end was never a twitchy or out of control while taking obstacles at speed.
If you want big-mountain fun on a small-mountain budget, look no further than the Kona Big Honzo DL. Plus tires aren’t your thing? The Honzo also comes in a few 29-inch flavors in your choice of steel, carbon, Ti or aluminum.
Top Tube: 25.4”
Head Tube: 68°
Seat Tube: 75°
BB Height: 12.2”
Weight: 29.6 lbs. without pedals
Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL