Kona are an established Canadian bike manufacturer that became popular in the 90s with their downhill bikes which, back then, were the weapon of choice for massive drops and wild stunts. Fast forward three decades and the Process X is currently Kona’s longest-travel mountain bike. Does it live up to the legacy of its predecessors?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: North America’s Finest – 7 models in review
Kona Bikes was founded in Vancouver in 1988 by Dan Gerhard and Jacob Heilbron, two riders who wanted to build high-quality custom bikes. Today, the Canadian brand has made it its mission to produce durable bikes that can withstand the hardships of their local trails, because the incessantly wet conditions and challenging terrain of the Pacific Northwest put a real strain on mountain bikes. Kona now have a massive portfolio, which includes not only mountain bikes but also road, city and kids bikes.
According to Kona, the Process is “the mountain bike for mountain bikers”, and the model range consists of three different variants: a shorter-travel 134 mm version, one with 153 mm of travel and our Process X test bike, which allows you to switch between 158 mm and 164 mm of travel at the rear, combined with 170 mm at front. Our test bike tips the scales at 15.8 kg and retails at € 5,999. Unfortunately, in Europe Kona only have a handful of official retailers, and getting a bike online directly from Kona isn’t an option.
The Kona Process X CR in detail
The Kona Process X CR relies on fairly classic design language, with a single-pivot rear suspension system driving the vertically positioned shock. While the styling is discreet, the colour certainly isn’t, with a rather eye-catching pink metallic paint finish. The cables are routed internally but aren’t clamped at the ports, which causes them to rattle lightly against the frame. In addition, the cables on our test bike were far too long, which results in a rather messy-looking cockpit and causes them to slap against each other. An extensive TPU plate protects the frame in the bottom bracket area, complemented by a shuttle guard to protect the top section of the down tube. The chainstay protector wasn’t secured properly on our test bike, and promptly fell off after a few test laps. That said, if you manage to stick it back on properly, it prevents chain slap reliably. The frame features bottle cage bosses but doesn’t have an additional mounting point for a tool strap.
The Kona Process X CR pairs a discrete design language with a loud, pink metallic paint finish.
The spec of the Kona Process X CR
The Process X CR isn’t the flagship model in the model range, and is specced to offer decent performance without breaking the bank. The FOX Performance fork relies on a basic GRIP damper, which offers limited adjustability and struggles to keep up with the tremendous performance of its high-end GRIP2 counterpart. At the rear, a FLOAT X Performance Elite air shock takes care of the rough stuff. Braking is taken care of by Shimano DEORE 4-piston stoppers, and while these lack adjustment options, they offer plenty of bite. The brakes are paired with 200 mm rotors front and rear. However, Kona use Shimano’s cheaper stamped rotos, which can’t keep up with the top-tier ICE-TECH discs in terms of braking performance. Shimano also supply a mixed drivetrain, consisting of an XT shifter and a cheaper SLX rear derailleur with matching SLX cassette. This is a very clever move, because Kona can take advantage of Shimano’s MULTI RELEASE technology while at the same time using a cheaper rear derailleur and cassette. The 200 mm TranzX +RAD dropper post is paired with an ergonomic Shimano lever. The Kona Process X CR rolls on an alloy WTB KOM Trail i30 TCS wheelset and MAXXIS tires, with an ASSEGAI in the soft MaxxGrip rubber compound at the front and a Minion DHR II in the harder MaxxTerra rubber compound at the rear. While the combination of a grippier rubber compound at the front and more durable compound at the rear is awesome, the puncture prone EXO+ casing front and rear doesn’t do justice to such a powerful enduro bike – the robust DoubleDown casing would be a far better match for the Process X.
Kona Process X CR
Fork FOX 38 Performance GRIP 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Performance Elite 162 mm
Seatpost TranzX Dropper +RAD 200 mm
Brakes Shimano DEORE 200/200 mm
Drivetrain Shimano SLX/XT 1x12
Stem Kona XC/BC 35 mm
Handlebar Kona XC/BC 800 mm
Wheelset WTB KOM Trail i30 29"
Tires MAXXIS ASSEGAI MaxxGrip EXO+/Minion DHR ll MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"
Size S M L XL
Weight 15.8 kg
The geometry of the Kona Process X
The Kona Process X is available in four sizes, S to XL, offering a suitable option for riders between 152 cm and 196 cm tall. At 420 mm, the seat tube is very short, especially in relation to the long 490 mm reach. Together with the long 200 mm dropper, this ensures plenty of freedom of movement on the bike. The Process X has two flip chips that allow you to adjust the geometry of the bike: the first one lets you convert your Kona to a mullet bike, without altering the geometry, while the second one changes the chainstay length from 435 mm to 450 mm. If you do so, make sure you turn around the brake adapter, as this will ensure that the brake calliper is in the right position.
The Kona Process X CR on the trail
When you swing your leg over the saddle, the Kona Process X CR positions you far back over the rear wheel, particularly for taller riders with higher saddles. Although the seat tube angle looks quite steep on paper, it’s rather slack in real life, meaning that the saddle moves progressively backwards over the rear wheel as the dropper extends. While the pedalling position per se is still very comfortable, the front wheel tends to lift off the ground easily on steep climbs. The rear suspension is quite plush, calling for the climb switch on long, monotonous fire road climbs.
The Process X CR feels underwhelming on slow trails but comes to life on steep, rough terrain.
Going downhill, the Process X places you in a central, well-balanced riding position, which makes you feel at ease from the get-go together with the intuitive handling. In slow, twisty sections, the Kona is a little sluggish, feeling relatively cumbersome in tight corners and making it clear that it wants to hit faster, rougher trails. The suspension is on the soft side and swallows up the rider’s input like a sandbag, making it hard to generate momentum by pumping through flowing trails. In harsh compressions, the suspension quickly rushes through its travel. On the other hand, the Process X really comes to life on steeper, more technical trails, sticking to the ground like Velcro and inspiring huge amounts of confidence in the process – pun intended! Particularly on fast trails with nasty rock gardens and root carpets, the Kona ploughs its way into the valley with stoic composure.
Tuning Tip: More robust tires with tougher DoubleDown casing
Our conclusions about the Kona Process X CR
With its classic look and value-oriented spec, the Kona Process X CR strikes an excellent price/performance ratio. On the other hand, this also calls for a few compromises on the trail, and especially the cheaper fork can be a limiting factor. On the trail, the Process X CR feels a bit cumbersome in slow, narrow sections, with the plush suspension resulting in a somewhat sluggish riding experience. However, on faster, steeper trails, the Kona really comes to life, impressing with plenty of traction and excellent composure.
- Suspension generates tons of traction
- Short seat tube and long-travel dropper post ensure plenty of freedom of movement
- Cables rattle against the frame
- Rear suspension lacks support
- Cumbersome in tight trail sections
You can find out more about at konaworld.com
The test field
For an overview of the test head to North America’s Finest – 7 models in review
All bikes in test: Alchemy Arktos 150 (Click for review) | Chromag Lowdown 158 G2-Build (Click for review) | Devinci Chainsaw GX Enduro (Click for review) | Kona Process X CR | Norco Sight C2 (Click for review) | Transition Carbon Patrol X0 AXS (Click for review) | We are One Arrival 170 GX AXS (Click for review)
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker