Kona Honzo 29er mountain bikereview and photos by Eric (Auk) Akiyoshi, The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team
A few months back, my weight weenie, amazing, aggressive-trail, 130mm travel, sub-26-lb, uber carbon, do-everything, full-suspension, 29er was sent back to Factory X for some warranty work.  I decided to build a Kona Honzo 29er since the geometry looked amazing and I wanted something to pedal around while the “super-bike” was being examined at Factory X.  The steel 29er Kona Honzo looked like it just might fill in nicely. 
An unassuming, 7-lb steel hard tail seems out of place in these modern times of full suspension carbon frames.  Kona product manager Chris Mandell once described it as, “...a trail bike that can go into the all-mountain realm.” (Dirt Rag, Feb 2014).  True to the design intent, the Honzo inspires the charger mentality through the chunky-gnar of Orange County, CA

2014 Kona Process 153 on the trail at sunriseReview 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...
2014 Kona Process 153 custom build from The Path Bike ShopBelow is a quick summary the geometry measurements:  just think, long, low, and slack…errrr, "right sized."
Bike Geometry
  • 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!
2014 Kona Process 153 custom build from The Path Bike ShopPerformance…BRRAAAP!!!
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.


2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude 650B 27.5By Luke Wronski, employee of The Path Bike Shop

When I began the search for a new bike I was looking for an aggressive and snappy handling  6" travel 26er. When I found the Altitude, I found it to be just as snappy and fun as any 26", with improved pedal-ability due to the slightly larger wheels.


Due to Rocky Mountain's "Straight up Geometry", which pertains to the straight up seat-tube angle, the Altitude climbs even the steepest ascents with comfort and ease. I've managed to climb comfortably with the bike in its slackest setting, but if climbs are a struggle the adjustable geometry chip is there to help. In addition to the geometry, the 27.5" wheels also help this bike maintain traction on technical climbs, and help the rider stay planted in the center to preserve energy.


In rough stuff the Altitude easily plows through the roughest rock gardens and feels confident on steep chutes and drops. Although the bike is stable and confidence inspiring, this is not at the cost of playfulness and flick-ability. The rear suspension of the Altitude is progressive, which favors a rider who tends to push hard into obstacles and needs the suspension to refrain from bottoming out too much.

Adrian jumping a 2013 Kona Operator DH mountain bikeAdrian Valdez, Kona Grassroots DH rider and employee of The Path Bike Shop

When it comes to producing cool bikes, Kona is on it! The 2013 Kona Operator is definitely one of the best downhill bikes I have owned and pedaled and honestly I was really sold on a Specialized Demo 8 thinking there was nothing better. Once I rode the Kona Operator, I was blown away!

It didn’t feel like a big, sluggish DH bike and I immediately noticed it sat higher in the travel. When I corner in braking bumps it feels way more stable than all my other DH bikes I have ever owned and the bike tracks very well through high speed corners to rocky off camber turns. The short chainstays really enhance the cornering and at the same time is still super stable at high speed chunk and straightaways. I felt comfortable the first time I jumped this bike, it handles well and was very predictable in the air and getting back on the ground!

SRAM's XX1 installed on a mountain bikeby Josh Jacquot, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team

Five Weeks, Zero Chain Drops

SRAM's XX1 Still Causes Fits

Live with SRAM XX1, the new 11-speed, single-chainring, slackless drivetrain for five weeks and you're going to have some regrets.

First, you'll find yourself stuck with the urge to burn all front derailleurs. Not just yours, either. Your friends will be beating you away from theirs, too. But that's not all. Oh, no. All your old-school chain-slapping rear derailleurs will be destined for the flames as well.

Truth is, if you ride in a way that's ever made your chain fall off, you'll be riding this stuff inside of 12 months. It's that good. With the switch from a Shimano 2x10 setup I lost both the chain-dropping antics common to clutchless drivetrains (yes, Shimano makes one. No, I didn't have it) and three quarters of a pound from the bike. It was like losing a noisy anchor. Missed it about as much, too.

2012 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTcby Eric (Auk) Akiyoshi, member of The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team

"…no sir, I'm holding on too tight, I've lost my edge…" (Top Gun)

Ten months ago, my left Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) was completely ruptured, every other ligament in my knee was at least partially torn, and one of the meniscus required repair work (basketball injury).  Enter one magnificent orthopedic surgeon (Dr. David Gazzaniga), one stellar rehab center (Breakthrough Physical Therapy), and six months of arduous rehab and the knee is back FSA (Full-Speed Ahead).

Six weeks on crutches, 10 weeks off the bike, and about 14-weeks off the dirt messed with my mind:  Or perhaps it was just mental games of wanting to avoid another blown ACL.  I felt like that pilot, Cougar, in Top Gun, "…no sir, I'm holding on too tight, I've lost my edge…"

Salsa Ti Fargo bikeby Eric Akiyoshi, member of The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team

Salsa Ti Fargo

Evolution – “the process of working out or developing” (Webster’s Dictionary).

Road Bike…Cyclocross (CX)…Monstercross…Fargo Cross (FX)?!?!?!

After almost 9 years of commuting to work via bicycle on everything from an Ellsworth Joker to a Moots Compact Road bike, I met the Salsa Ti Fargo.  The Fargo has been around since 2008, and in 2011, Salsa released their Ti version:  US made (by Lynskey) and weighs in right around 3.25-lbs +/-.  The Fargo is Salsa’s “…drop-bar, offroad, adventure bike” complete with 3 (on the small) or 4 waterbottle bosses on the frame, rack tabs, and disc only brakes.

Santa Cruz Tallboyby Josh Jacquot, member of The Path Race Team

Conventional mountain bike wisdom says that the quick way through feature-filled backcountry trails is with five to six inches of travel and 26-inch wheels. Conventional mountain bike wisdom is changing.

Big-wheel bikes are proving themselves capable in virtually any environment – from the World Cup to the Downieville All-Mountain World Championships to, well, wildly insignificant races here in our local Santa Ana Mountains – like this year’s Ultra Quest.

Here’s a closer look at the bike that won that race – a Santa Cruz Tallboy built specifically for covering ground quickly in the backcountry. At 24.8 pounds ready to ride, this bike is three to six pounds lighter than most long-travel small-wheel bikes, yet it’s at home on the same terrain.

Tani and Milton with Santa Cruz Tallboy bikecontributed by Milton, a valued customer here at The Path Bike Shop

I purchased my Santa Cruz Tallboy from The Path a few months ago (I’m the one with Tani in the pic).  I am writing this unsolicited update of my experiences. 

Let’s first start with the basics.  Why did I choose the Tallboy?  My rationale was I wanted a 29er.  But, the main drawback of 29ers was the weight.  Based on simple physics, the heavier the bike, the more effort the climbs.  On the flip side, I come from a road bike background, and the 29er just feels right.  Also, descents are better/easier because I feel 29er rolls over stuff better.  With my skills (or lack thereof), I need all the help I can get.

Canfield Yelli Screamy bikeby Eric Akiyoshi, member of The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team

Canfield Brothers tossed the “Yelli Screamy” into a whirlwind of 29er frames and evolving geometries. I, for one, have been yearning for a 29er with chainstays shorter than 17.75-inches and a head angle slacker than 69.5-degrees.

We’ve all heard that a 29er that's too slack feels like your driving a truck, blah, blah, blah…but instead of “steering,” the Yelli Screamy respectfully asks that one “handle” the bike. You know, push left to go right, lean, keep your elbows from tucking into your side, and look through the turn type of stuff…

Santa Cruz Tallboyby Erik Williams, member of The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team

Finally got a Santa Cruz Tallboy, size XXL. 

Initial thoughts after my first ride (Harding to Motorway):

Bicycling Magazine 100 Best Bike Shops logo

IMBA International Mountain Bicycling Association logo and link to website