Review and photos by Eric (Auk) Akiyoshi, The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team
The 2014 Kona Process 153 is, to quote one great rider, "…a game changer!" The legacy of Kona trail bikes includes classics like the King Kikapu (4-inch), Dawg (5-inch), and the Coiler (6-inch). Having ridden each one of those bikes, the Process 153 has some, proverbial, big wheels (errr…shoes), to fill; maybe that is why it rolls on 27.5" wheels?
Earlier this year, there were rumors of the Process bikes getting some rough and rowdy testing in SoCal. Solid reports started hitting the internet in July after Kona invited dealers to ride the 2014 lineup at the annual Kona dealer event, creating quite the buzz. In early October, the Path Bike Shop received a shipment of production bikes and the "Process" had arrived.
There are plenty of articles on the design philosophy behind the Process lineup (just Google search on "Kona Process bikes") so it won't be rehashed. Suffice it to say that the 153 mm of rear travel was the result of goals and objectives set by the design team rather than designing a bike around a specific travel amount: pivot locations, long-ish top tubes, super low stand over, short chain stays, and low bottom brackets, all tweaked for peak performance. Perhaps another way to characterize the design is "right sizing" the geometry.
Looking at the lines of the Kona Process 153, it's a darn good looking bike; just sitting there, it encourages confidence. Someone once said, "…a bike needs to speak to me." The Process 153 "speaks" volumes. The Orange and black scheme was a bold move and executed nicely. One small gripe, the lack of space to fit one's favorite bike shop stickers without covering up the Kona logos...
Below is a quick summary the geometry measurements: just think, long, low, and slack…errrr, "right sized."
- Head angle: 66.5-deg
- Bottom Bracket (height): 13.4-inches
- Chainstay: 16.75-inches
- Effective top tube / reach: 23.7-inches / 17.1 (comparable other mediums have ETTs around 23-inches and reaches about an inch shorter).
- Seat tube angle: 74-deg
A plethora of 27.5" wheeled bikes with about 150-mm of rear travel with killer geometries hit the market for 2014 (e.g. Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Edition, Santa Cruz Bronson, Giant Trance SX 27.5). However, this ride stands apart with it's 16.75-inch chain stays, lowest-in class sagged BB height, longer reach / short stem, and super low stand-over clearance.
Build Kit / Weight
This particular custom build started as a Process 153 (non-DL version), complete with the super sick 2014 Rockshox Pike RC fork. From there, some personal touches were added: drive train (SRAM XX1), wheels (Stan's Flow rims on DT Swiss 240 / Chub hub with comp spokes), dropper post, and ENVE carbon DH handlebar. The stock Shimano Deore brakes weren't changed; consensus is that they feel and perform as well as their lighter cousins. The final build weight is right at 29.75 lbs; it's no XC Racer-boy bike, but respectable enough for what it's meant to do.
Rides on the 2014 Kona Process 153
In the span of a week, the Process 153 was taken to a local bike park (Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA), ridden through the Santa Ana Mountains (long steep climbs with steep, chunky, exposed downhills), railed through some local favorites at the Santiago Oaks Regional Park (short, steep ups, quick downs), and pedaled in south Orange County's Aliso Woods Wilderness Park. Four very different riding conditions, about 8 hours of saddle time, and 15,000 feet of descending goodness!
People asked, "how does it climb compared to a first generation Intense Slopestyle, or even the recently released Rocky Mountain Altitude?" Comparisons have been made to a "…mini-Downhill rig…" Affirmative, it climbs as well as any gravity oriented trail bike and inspires confidence like a DH rig.
The longer top tube / reach measurement makes the transition from pedaling to descending completely natural with no need to search for that magic balance point between overweighting the front nor slipping too far off the back. Chasing some local fast guys around Big Bear, the 153 goaded me on, faster and faster, bigger and bigger. Brief thoughts flashed across my mind, "…should I be going this fast?" and "…dang this rig wants to charge harder, but I'm freakin' tired!" Off-camber turns linked with table tops, rhythm sections, doubles, and built up berms leading into big drops, the Process handled these with aplomb! Whew, my hands need a break just writing about the thrill.
As for climbing, the super short, 40 mm, stem might cause a little consternation for uphill stability. However, coupled with the longer reach measurement, steep-ish seat tube angle, and low bottom bracket, the Process is as stable as it needs when the going gets steep.
When all was said and done, I often forgot I was riding a 650b/27.5" wheeled bike. The ride is responsive and playful enough, and also gives that high speed DH stability.
Enough writing, go find a bike and ride.