Kona’s rebuilding of their mountain bike repertoire is no secret; they’ve been doing it in a big way since 2011. After 14 years we saw the death of the Stinky, a bike made famous by its affordability and silly name. In its place stood the Operator as Kona’s flagship gravity bike. A year later, the Entourage was added and was advertised as Kona’s first “Do It All” bike. Major bike reviewers around the world acclaimed the Entourage and it was clear that Kona’s mountain bikes were back on track. The Process lineup was introduced in 2013 as an apparent replacement for the Coilair. Still a 6” bike, it was apparent that Kona was using lessons learned from the Entourage and Operator on the Process. The new Process featured radically redesigned geometry, but still utilized the Walking Beam 4-bar linkage design that Kona had used for many years previous. Not to be accused of resting on their haunches, in 2014 Kona released a new suspension design exclusively for the Process line. A new, low-slung, heavily shaped rear swing arm was introduced. Utilizing a U-shaped yoke to activate the now top-tube mounted shock was something drastically different than anything seen from Kona in the past. This new Rocker Independant Suspension system catapulted the Process into the limelight as one of the bikes you need to look at if you’re in the market for a “Do It All” bike—just in time for the growth of the enduro market.
2015 Kona Process 153 details:
Fork: RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 15mm Thru-Axle, 160mm
Shock: RockShox Monarch RT
Shifters: SRAM X7 2×10
Derailleurs: SRAM X5 Direct Mount, SRAM X9 Type 2
Cassette: SRAM PG1020 11-36T
Brakes: Shimano Deore, 203mm [F], 180mm [R]
Hubs: Shimano Deore
Crankset: SRAM X1 1200
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C, 27.5×2.3”
Handlebar: Kona XC/BC Riser
Stem: Kona 40mm
Saddle: WTB Volt Sport SE
Seatpost: KS Lev Integra
Weight: 32.05 lbs (with pedals)
MSRP: $3, 899 CAN
Our test bike was a Process 153, with “153” echoing the amount of rear travel in millimeters. A quick glance at the bike reveals much about the numbers that make this setup work. The top tube looks long and the chain stays short; and they are. Our large frame’s top tube measured in at a lenghtly 629mm (about 24.75”) and the chainstays only 425mm (16.7”), the shortest in our test group. The 67° head angle matched the Bronson and Jekyll in our test as the steepest in our fleet but seemed to work well with the rest of the geometry. Also helping to keep things under control up front was the 160mm travel Rockshox Pike RC Solo Air, and in the back a Rockshox Monarch RT. SRAM takes over the drive train on the stock build, utilizing a X1 crankset and X9 type-2 derailleur. The Process 153 uses a 2 x 10 setup, using SRAM X7 shifters to control the derailleurs. A KS Lev Integra dropper post adorned the seat tube. Shimano Deore brakes take on the task of stopping the 27.5” WTB tubeless-ready rims laced on Deore hubs. Wrapping up the wheels you’ll find a pair of 2.3” Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C tires.
An excitably bright orange paint job greats your eyes the second you look at the bike, setting the stage for what is to come. Some effort toward internal cable routing can be noted as well, though only about half of the cables can be routed internally making the bike look just a bit less “clean” than other bikes in the test. Other early pre-ride comments from our team was how long and low the bike appeared to be. We agreed that the combination of the long top tube and low stand over height makes the bike looks fast and racy, though some mentioned that the suspension linkage and seat tube area looked a bit off when compared to the spot-on workmanship found on the rest of the frame. However, these minor cosmetic issues proved themselves a necessary evil the moment we threw a leg over and began riding. Any doubts we had over the geometry of the bike were all but gone after only a short time on the bike.
While on the trail the riding position achieved by the long top tube and short stem allowed for a comfortable, centered riding position when riding flats and descending. Thanks to this, everyone who rode the bike used the words “fun” and “playful” to describe their ride. The short chain stays coupled with Kona’s new super-responsive Rocker suspension was praised by us all. It worked nicely with the front-end geometry to create a very stable, confidence-inspiring bike when we pointed it downhill and when speeds increased. The Process was no slouch on the climbs either. Contrary to what one might assume based off of its downhill performance, the bike climbed well with only a slight bit of pedal bob noticed when hammering up out of saddle climbs. As a bonus, at only 32 pounds the bike compared quite well to the carbon bikes in our test, especially when noting its aluminum construction.
The sheer length of the bike did create one issue that we all agreed upon. While stable and confidence inspiring under most circumstances, in tight corners and/or slow and tight terrain the extended geometry forced us to use a wider turning radius and increased the need to “turn with the bars” more than any other bike in the test. As with most frame designs, there seems there needed to be some compromise between downhill and uphill performance, with climbing taking the hit. While not a deal breaker for most, this is an important point for those who frequent slower, more technical trails.
Some more minor points of note were that the other tires in our test, specifically the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs, outperformed the Process’ stock Maxxis Minion DHF tires. We were greeted with slick, muddy conditions most of the time, and the Minions simply did not clear the mud as well as its competitors. In addition, we thought the 153 would benefit from a similar 1×11 setup that its big brother (the 153DL) sports for 2015. This would both free up some weight, and hopefully decrease some of the chain dropping problems up front that we experienced, though there weren’t many.
Kona has made progress in leaps and bounds in recent years, and the 2015 Process is another fine example of that. This is certainly an excellent bike for the enduro market. It does however slightly tip the scale towards riders who will be doing more descending than trail riding. Its unique, stretched-out, low-slung geometry is the source of its greatest qualities but also its greatest fault. While the bike did impress us in most trail conditions, its relative inability to easily maneuver through slower, tighter terrain can make it difficult to ride in tight trail conditions. However, any frown put on your face by the Process in these sections will quickly be inverted once speeds increase again. One of the most highly regarded bikes in our test, this bike left a smile on every tester’s face.
You read the story about the RFG Fall Test Session and see other bikes reviewed here: https://www.ridingfeelsgood.com/rfg-fall-test-session-2015-enduro-bikes/