Planted and stable at speed and can plough through almost anything
The Process has evolved over the years and the latest Kona Process 153 DL 29 sports 153mm of rear travel and a 160mm fork, just like the 27.5in bike.
Under the Process umbrella Kona pioneered bikes with long, low-slung top tubes and shorter seat tubes. It what’s now widely referred to as modern sizing, and that was back in 2012.
Kona Process 153 DL 29 review
With a deserved reputation for durability, it’s no surprise Kona’s aluminium big wheeler frame looks burly. Oversized pivots and a huge carbon fibre rocker link unite fat rear stays to a thick front triangle.
Out back the 425mm chainstays on the Process are super short for a 29er, which also means there’s no size small available, because the 29in rear tyre would buzz the saddle when the suspension bottoms out.
The Process 153 uses a linkage-tuned single pivot suspension design with a metric shock for improved stiffness. The rocker link compresses a 3-way adjustable RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 shock which sports a piggyback for improved head management on longer descents. It also gets RockShox’s latest DebonAir spring technology that make it easier to use the first third of the travel, while delivering extra mid-stroke support.
The 160mm travel RockShox suspension fork shares this spring technology, but we’d expect more than a mid-tier Yari on a £3.7k bike. A new-for-2019 Charger RC cartridge takes care of damping, but it is still cheaper and less sophisticated than the dampers in pricier RockShox kit.
WTB KOM wheels are solid but on the heavy side and use Formula boost hubs with a slow-to-engage freehub; both factors contribute to a lack of snappiness under power on the Kona.
We have no complaints about the tyres though, as Maxxis Minions are MBR favourites and Kona wisely specs the grippier 3C EXO versions. Interestingly, Kona has opted for a narrower 2.3in tyre out back, as the super short chainstays don’t leave much room for fatter rubber or British mud.
Kona’s wide handlebar and short stem are both a good shape and rock solid. The same can’t be said for the flexy Trans-X dropper post remote however. It’s awkwardly placed, plus the slow action makes the seatpost feel half asleep when activated.
Overall, the finishing kit on the Process is average at best. We’d expect more from an aluminium bike pushing four grand than these wheels, Guide R brakes (that work fine, but offer less adjustment), and a mostly SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain that’s significantly heavier than SRAM GX Eagle. The most compromised NX component is an 11-50t cassette that’s a hefty 615g; it misses the 10-tooth cog and the extra weight has to move up and down each time the rear suspension tracks a bump.
The roomy Process feels solid and calm smashing downhill. There’s minimal drama at speed and it hugs the ground, never feeling flustered over really battered terrain. The short back end helps the Kona manual really easily, so it’s easy to lift the front over obstacles or when messing around on jumps. The frame’s stiffness also encourages letting it go in wild slop and ruts, where some bikes make you hesitant and hold back.
Start to turn in hard though and the Process isn’t as straightforward. There’s an occasional sense that the front tyre wants to tuck or fold under and weight distribution is regularly skewed towards the front, even with higher air pressures in the Yari fork.
This all may be a consequence of the short chainstays encouraging rider weight to shift forwards between the contact patches of the tyres, but you’re subtly pitched closer to the bars at the apex of turns by the rear suspension too.
Also, being so heavy, the Kona never pops or accelerates out of berms or compressions. Another weight related issue is that the pedalling response is lethargic. It doesn’t bob that dramatically, but the Process feels soft at the cranks with less drive under power, so pedal efforts are underrepresented until you build up enough momentum to start really trucking.
The Kona Process DL 29 is a lot of bike. It’s planted and stable at speed and can plough through almost anything, but the overall weight and dull pedalling response make it a bit of a drag to lug around. We never felt centred on the bike either, possibly due to the ultra-short chainstays, so it’s less intuitive to chuck around tight turns than the other bikes in test. And while the pricier, lighter, carbon fibre Process 153 may well be an altogether different beast, the chunky alloy version needs significantly better value parts and a diet plan to cut it as a top UK trail slayer.