Really shines when tackling trails at the pointier end of mountain biking
With chunky tubing and a tidal wave of travel with the Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29, is Kona out to prove that bigger is better?
Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 need to know
- Kona’s long travel enduro rig has 153mm of rear travel matched to a 160mm RockShox Lyrik fork
- Kona foregoes a full carbon frame construction, instead opting for more durable aluminium chainstays
- The Process 153 is available in both 27.5in and 29in versions, with bespoke frames for each wheel size
- 2020 sees a tyre switch to a more aggressive Maxxis Assegai 2.5in WT up front and a 2.4in Maxxis Minion DHR II on the rear
I’ve probably had over 20 rides on this top-of-the-line Process 153 CR/DL 29 – more than enough for the honeymoon period to be but a fuzzy, distant memory. In my current state of sobriety, however, I can see the Process 153 for what it really is: a hard-hitting, fun-loving 29er. And this isn’t even my first time around the block with the Process. I spent the best part of last year on the previous version as a long-term test mule; so to say that I know this bike inside and out, is something of an understatement.
And while I haven’t really moved on in the past 12 months, Kona hasn’t either. Now in its second year of production, the burly carbon frame remains unchanged. Kona’s iconic dropped top tube provides loads of room to manoeuvre, even though the tubing profiles are seriously oversized. I mean, take a look at the carbon rocker link; it’s one of the chunkiest I’ve ever seen. And as a serial sideways lander, it’s proved to be rock solid. And as burly as the rear end looks, Kona has kept it relatively short with a 427mm chainstay length.
Travel on the Process 153 is… you guessed it… 153mm. On the 2019 version I had real difficulties dialling in the shock, as I felt that it ramped up too quickly, making the rear suspension feel overly progressive at the end stroke and too soft at the beginning. Switching to the RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock has made it slightly easier to set up. It still ramps up a little too quickly for my liking on square edge hits, to the point where it feels like your being robbed of travel. The shock comes fitted with two volume spacers fitted as standard, so I’m considering taking one out as this will make it a little more linear deep in the travel. And I should emphasise this really is about getting the last five per cent out of the suspension. Also, if the 160mm Lyrik Ultimate wasn’t such an impressive fork, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the shortcomings of the rear suspension. I’d also consider swapping out the air shock for a coil shock; something Kona’s EWS race team has been doing on their Process 153 race bikes to good effect.
Kona has got the geometry of the Process 153 about as close to my own personal preferences as any bike I have tried. It’s not going to win an award for being the longest or the lowest, but with a reach of 475mm and a 624mm top tube, it fits my 6ft 1in frame like a glove. It also makes for a bike that has a bit more all-round capability, with that all-important flickability. Ideal on my local, tighter trails. And given the short stays, it’s actually a better climber than I anticipated, the steep effective seat angle and initial travel suppleness providing great traction on fun technical climbs. Yes, I love pain.
Where the Process 153 really shines though, is when tackling trails at the pointier end of mountain biking. The faster and more technical the trail the more the Process encourages you to lay off the brakes and let it run. I’ve raced the Process 153 on several occasions, and each time I’ve been impressed by the bike’s ability to steamroll anything and everything in its path. The frame stiffness also means it holds a line beautifully. The flipside of all that new-found confidence though, is that I’ve suddenly begun destroying rear wheels, something I rarely did in the past. It seems that where a lot of frames flex when the wheels are side loaded, the Process doesn’t budge, putting the onus entirely on the wheel.
This being the top of the line Process CR/DL the specification leaves nothing wanting. I’ve mentioned subtle changes to the suspension from last year, but the other area that’s received an upgrade is the wheelset. It still runs WTB i30 rims, but Kona has added DT Swiss hubs to up the level of quality over the unbranded hubs on last year’s bike. The standout change for me though has to be the Maxxis Assegai front tyre. It’s my new favourite; because it offers so much grip that my cornering confidence has skyrocketed. All in, this year’s bike is a hair lighter than its predecessor, with the size large tipping the scale at just over 14kg. Not bad for such an aggressively built bike. Unfortunately, the cost hasn’t moved in the same direction, and this 2020 version will now set you back £800 more than it did last year.