Not your average carbon race bike
Need to know
- Carbon-fibre version of the Hei Hei with Flex pivot suspension to save weight and cost
- Slacker trail-friendly geometry for a short-travel 29er
- 100mm RockShox suspension front and rear
- Single-ring only design with 1×11 drivetrain
Kona Hei Hei Race DL
A short-travel, carbon-fibre XC race bike is not the ideal companion for a day in the Alps, let alone an Austrian bike park where the steep slopes combine with long descents for some pretty epic riding.
It’s quite something, then, that the Kona Hei Hei Race DL, with its 100mm suspension and lightweight design didn’t suck at the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis bike park. In fact, not only did it not suck, this clever little bike delivered a fun, playful and comfortable ride on terrain that really should have shaken its poise.
The Hei Hei isn’t exactly new, introduced last year and based on the Kona Process’s excellent trail geometry, but for 2017 the range is expanded, with an impressive nine models to choose from. It’s a bit confusing, but you can split the Hei Hei range into two camps: those with 27.5in wheels, longer travel and more relaxed geometry; and the 29er versions. You can get a bike made from alloy or carbon in either Hei Hei type, with this Race DL version sitting high up the pecking order in the 29er race category.
The Hei Hei Race DL is not your average carbon race bike though, twinning trail-friendly geometry with flex-pivot suspension that does away with the seatstay pivot. Instead, the stays flex a few millimetres as the suspension compresses. The system is called Fuse Independent Suspension and the idea is to save weight and complexity while increasing stiffness.
Stepping off the chair lift and before the first downhill I worried about that undamped flex effecting the suspension performance, but of course Kona has allowed for that and I ran the shock with the rebound set fairly open and felt no kicky side effects. The suspension felt fun and trail-bike orientated rather than race-ready, complementing the fairly relaxed geometry — 69° head angle, short chainstays and a decent-length wheelbase.
It’s great that Kona has modernised the Hei Hei too, with all the bikes in the range now single-ring only and all with plenty of standover clearance to let you tap into the playful attitude. We’d opt for the Hei Hei without the ‘Race’ moniker though, because it’s a degree slacker, gets 20mm more fork travel and comes with a dropper post.