More than just a subtle evolution
New Kona Process 153 CR certainly looks the part; chunky down tube, skinny top tube, raked back suspension link is very visually satisfying.
Kona Process 153 CR need to know
- 153mm trail/enduro bike with big sizing
- New carbon monocoque frame complete with carbon rocker link
- New suspension design now driving a vertically mounted, metric shock
- Trademark Kona short chainstay and low standover height
The Hei Hei has it, the Honzo has it, and now the new Process has it too — a carbon-fibre frame that Kona hopes will propel the brand up the pecking order and competing with the likes of Santa Cruz, Yeti and Intense.
It’s got a high-end ticket too. This top-end deluxe (DL) model is £6,000, and while that’s a hefty sum, it’s increasingly becoming the going rate for a top-end enduro bike these days.
There are plenty of more affordable choices in the range though, with a more modestly-equipped carbon version and seven alloy models, so most riders should find something in their budget.
As a rule, they all get 153mm of travel, but there are a few oddballs, such as the 165mm-travel park bike, and two 29er options, which take the popularity of the old Process 111 and turn it up to, er, 11.
The monocoque carbon frame has some interesting details, with feeding through the internal routing made easier by a big cable ‘door’ at the bottom end of the down tube. This also houses a spare derailleur hanger.
It’s not quite full carbon though. While the new rocker link is made from the dark stuff, the chainstays are aluminium, allegedly to better withstand rockstrikes and chain chatter.
Another obvious change is the new suspension layout. The old system slung the shock beneath the top tube, driven by an extended shock yoke attached to the seatstays.
Now, in what is becoming something of an industry trend, there’s a rocker-link design, with huge bearings and a trunnion mount metric shock.
Although it effectively remains a single-pivot, as the dropout pivot is still mounted to the seatstays. The idea behind this switch is to control the suspension better, helping the bike pedal more efficiently uphill, and, as trivial as it may sound, to make space for a bottle within that front triangle.
Kona says the bike is really just a revision of the old Process, but with a new frame, frame material and suspension design, it’s more than just a subtle evolution.
Kona has tried hard to retain the essence of the Process; its life and soul. That means it gets the same generous standover clearance of the old bike, the same chunky seat tube web where it meets the top tube, and the same short chainstays.
The bike’s grown up a little though, with longer and slacker geometry than the old bike, and longer reach measurements — the size XL I rode felt like a truly big bike with plenty of room in the cockpit.
There’s been no time for Kona to play around with increased offset in the fork, thank goodness, so the 66° head angle feels plenty slack enough for a 150mm trail bike.
If the old bike was built to be solid and stiff, then the new machine is built for war. There are Boost dropouts front and rear, and the DL model comes with SRAM carbon cranks, while the rest of the tubing is huge and screams unshakeably solid intentions.
First ride impressions
Standing up to the rough and blown-out Tignes bike park at the launch, I found it an incredibly easy bike to ride. The ultra-long front section of the bike put me into a neutral riding position that let me get on with the task at hand. That neutral stability seemed to carry over when I was in the air too, flattering my jumping ability.
Riding the new Process brought flashbacks of the Whyte T-130 carbon bike to mind, and that’s no bad thing; it has the same stable position and rock solid stiffness.
What’s also really interesting about the new Process is what it lacks. There’s no provision for switching between 27.5in, 29er and Plus sizes, as so many of the competition have adopted.
The cynical side of me wonders whether Kona has missed the boat on this – the Process has been three years in the making after all. But I prefer to believe that it has been optimised for what Kona believes is the best wheelsize — 27.5in.
And putting aside that point, along with all the fancy carbon work, the composed ride, the big geometry and the muscular frame, the most exciting thing about the 2018 Process for me is the tantalising 29er version…
This is a bike Kona didn’t make much of a song and dance about, it’s built from humble aluminium and it’s wearing a lower groupset than the 27.5in bike, but it looks like an absolute ripper to me. I’m going to put it down as one of my Most Wanted bikes of 2018.
Better geometry and sizing, improved suspension and stiffness, and there’s a 29er option too.
No 27.5+ option.