Bike Test: Kona Hei Hei DL Trail

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 7.36.40 AMBikes with 5 inches of travel or less used to be for cross-country racers only. Over the past few years, however, we have seen more and more playful short-travel bikes creeping out of the XC world and giving longer-travel bikes a serious run for their money. These shorter-travel trailbikes offer a package that climbs well and still allows riders to push themselves against the clock on descents. Kona’s all-new Hei Hei DL Trail is the perfect example of a cross-country bike that has been tweaked a bit to become a trail slayer. Kona hit the drawing board hard for the complete revamp of the Hei Hei DL Trail.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Hei Hei DL Trail is a cross-country race or cross-country trailbike. Cross-country racers will feel at home with the Hei Hei’s stiff rear end and will appreciate its short-travel nature. Trail riders will love that this bike is confidence-inspiring, easy to ride and will put a smile on their faces. The Hei Hei DL Trail suits the entry-level or weekend warrior cross-country racer, but it will also appeal to riders who just want to get out and enjoy the climbs and descents of a trail ride.

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WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Kona’s Hei Hei DL Trail uses 100 millimeters of Fuse Independent Suspension travel in the rear. Fuse offers riders a more efficient and snappier feel by removing the pivot points from the seatstay and chainstay. Kona claims that removing pivot points increases lateral stiffness. Up front the Hei Hei DL Trail uses a 120-millimeter-travel fork. The frame is made from Kona’s Race Light aluminum. Kona stands behind its Race Light aluminum frames with a lifetime warranty.

Kona3All new: Kona did away with its old Beamer independent suspension and introduced Fuse independent suspension. Kona claims Fuse is more efficient and offers riders a fun and playful feel. Kona also added many features and geometry changes to make the 2016 Hei Hei a more aggressive trail killer.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Hopping aboard the Kona Hei Hei DL Trail you will notice the wide 750-millimeter handlebars; looking further down you will see the Fox Float 34 and instantly think you’re on a longer-travel bike. Traditionally, a bike in this segment would have a 32-millimeter-chassis fork; however, the 34-millimeter version provided a stiffer forward and aft feeling, allowing riders to dive harder into technical sections and sharp turns.

Cockpit updates: Kona’s cockpit received a shorter stem and new handlebars that are 750 millimeters wide and 35 millimeters in diameter. The bar and stem combination provided ample amounts of leverage and control.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: As with most Fox products, setting the sag was a breeze, but extra help is available on Fox’s website if you need it. For our test bike we set 25 percent sag in the rear and 30 percent in the front. We started with the rebound settings in the middle position and then moved them one or two clicks at a time to tune our suspension for the trails we were riding.

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Moving out: At 5-foot-9 our test rider had his seatpost around a half inch from the maximum allowable height on our medium test bike. At 16.5 inches Kona’s Hei Hei DL Trail has a smaller-than-standard seat tube; however, it wasn’t noticeable when riding. The Hei Hei DL Trail did exceptionally well while climbing the fire roads that lead to some of our favorite singletrack. When heading down the singletrack our test rider noticed that he could dance around the trail or simply run stuff over with the Hei Hei DL Trail’s large 29-inch wheels.

Kona6Stiff yet plush: The Fox 34 made the Hei Hei DL Trail feel like less of a cross-country bike and more like a bigger trailbike. Even with its relatively short-travel setup, it felt impressively capable on jumps and drops.

Climbing: The Hei Hei DL Trail kept the rear end stiff and glued to the ground, even when we were standing on the pedals. We were able to leave the Fox CTD rear shock in the Trail position for most of the climbs. On steeper climbs the Hei Hei DL Trail felt a little light on the front end, which we thought was most likely due to its shorter stem. Adjusting the rider’s weight forward solved the issue, and the short stem more than made up for any concerns while descending and cornering.

Cornering: The Kona Hei Hei DL Trail did well in the corners. The wider handlebars offered plenty of leverage, and the shorter stem worked well to quicken steering speed. The Fuse Suspension kept the rear tire from washing out in loose or off-camber turns. The suspension allowed for a small controlled slide before hooking up the rear tire to the ground and taking off like a rocket. With the Hei Hei DL Trail’s stiff rear end, the bike could be pushed hard into a berm and gave the rider a nice push back, letting him know the bike was going to hold grip and send him on his way.

Step it out: The Hei Hei DL Trail’s Fuse suspension does wonders when the corners get loose. Just allow for a small slide and the bike sends you on its way.

Descending: Charging down hills on a cross-country bike can make a person a little uneasy, but with the Kona Hei Hei DL Trail, we just lowered the saddle height a bit and rode it like a longer-travel trailbike. The confidence on descents comes from the added degree of rake to the head tube and the shorter chainstays. The Hei Hei DL Trail has a playful feel and doesn’t shy away from taking the faster jump line while also allowing riders to pedal hard through flat or rolling sections of trail. The shorter travel of this bike did make for an interesting experience when trails got a little rockier, but staying loose and trusting the bike got our rider through whatever he threw at it.

Kona8Tackle any terrain: The Kona Hei Hei DL Trail, at only 120 millimeters of front travel and 100 millimeters in the rear, wasn’t afraid to rip down any rocks, roots or ruts. Just stay off the brakes and let the bike blast through.

Kona4Where’s the rear pivot? Kona’s Fuse suspension removed the pivot point in the rear triangle in attempt to make the rear end more laterally stiff. It also gives it a clean and attractive look.

Braking: The new Shimano XT brakes with a 180-millimeter front rotor and a 160-millimeter rear rotor offered a solid feeling and good performance. The Hei Hei DL Trail delivers the XT’s braking power to the ground flawlessly due to Kona’s new Fuse suspension. The Fuse suspension kept the rear wheel on the ground over uneven surfaces, which prevented the rear end of the bike from unwanted skidding. The Fox Float fork also aided in braking performance during hard braking. The Float felt stiff and didn’t dive when braking hard before a corner.

Kona9Fun and playful: Kona’s Hei Hei has long been known as a cross-country race bike, but things have changed. The new Hei Hei DL Trail is highly capable and a blast to ride.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

This bike would benefit from a dropper seatpost to allow riders to feel more confident moving the bike on descents and in switch- back corners. For newer riders, a 34-tooth chainring might be a little over-geared in steeper locations. Setting the bike up tubeless would be an easy upgrade, because the Stan’s ZTR Rapids come pre-taped and the Maxxis tires are tubeless-ready.

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BUYING ADVICE

When looking to buy a bike on a budget, we sometimes don’t get all the bells and whistles we had hoped for. Kona’s new Hei Hei DL Trail has just about all the bells and whistles required to wow even the most persnickety riding groups. Kona used its 28 years of experience to remake its cross-country bike into a trail-shredding machine. The 2016 Kona Hei Hei DL Trail received a new suspension design, a great list of components and a well-thought-out geometry. We think this bike is a cut above many others in its category. The best part, though, is that Kona offers its new Hei Hei DL Trail at a price that might make you start clearing out a spot in the garage.

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