BIKE TEST: KONA HONZO 29ER TITANIUM

KONA HONZO 29ER TITANIUM

Not your average hardtail

The Honzo was one of those bikes you could call a pioneer. Before the Honzo, the “29er aggressive hardtail” didn’t really exist. It began its life as the brainchild of Kona engineers who wanted a bike that wouldn’t be pigeon- holed as another me-too cross-country bike designed for meandering down the trails. Kona’s engineers wanted to build a bike designed for shredding the nastiest trails. We tested the steel version of the Honzo in the past with great results; however, this newest titanium version takes the Honzo chassis to the next level. We set out to see if it could actually outperform the already stellar, although unconventional, Honzo steel.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Kona Honzo is far from a cross-country bike seeking to find the best way to shave seconds off a racecourse. It is truly at home shredding trails and jumping features along the way. It’s not likely to take you to the top step of the podium, but it will deliver a joy that can rival any high from winning a race.

The hardtail that could: The Honzo allows riders to charge down gnarly trails that would be way too sketchy for a typical hardtail.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Our test bike was built from Kona’s 3-2.5 titanium with a raw finish to show the precision of every weld. The Honzo titanium is sold as a frame only and features a sliding 12×142 thru-axle dropout. The sliding dropout allows the bike to be run as a geared bike or a single-speed, and the Honzo’s titanium frame is backed with a full lifetime warranty.

Kona’s crafty work: The welds on the Honzo’s titanium frame showcase Kona’s impeccable build quality and attention to detail.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The Honzo we tested was decked out with the latest and greatest SRAM equipment. A Rockshox Pike and Reverb Stealth dropper allowed the bike to get aggressive, while the SRAM Guide brakes brought us safely to a stop. The titanium Honzo frame is a piece of eye candy that is built to last. Titanium is known for its corrosion resistance and high-tensile strength. Titanium also has a higher melting point than other metals, which makes it harder to work with; however, the Honzo showcases many smooth and meticulously placed welds.

Party up front: The Kona Honzo sports a plush RockShox Pike fork that allowed our test riders to ride this bike at its full potential despite the lack of any rear-wheel travel.

Sliding dropouts: The horizontal sliding dropouts make it easy to convert the Honzo to a single-speed. However, we enjoyed the low-range gearing of our 1×11 setup.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: We set our Rockshox Pike to 30 percent sag with the help of the markings on the fork. Centering the rebound knob and the low-speed compression knob will give you a good base- line, but it’s important to tweak the dials to customize the feel for the rider.

Moving out: Our Honzo’s aggressive build kit truly made this bike a blast to ride. Wide handlebars, a beefy fork and burly tires made our Honzo the ultimate trail-shredding machine. Many of our riders even found themselves treating the Honzo more like a trail- bike than a traditional hardtail.

Stand up: The Honzo’s stiff rear end loves a rider who is willing to get out of the saddle and lay down some power.

Climbing: Taking the Honzo titanium up some steep hills quickly reminded us that this bike isn’t a lightweight race rocket, nor does it pretend to be. Although the Honzo has a fairly stiff feeling out of the saddle, the slack head tube and heavier weight are readily apparent. Rolling hills with fast and smooth singletrack are a dream on this bike, but long, treacherous fire-road climbs will leave you begging for a lighter-weight rig.

Floating in the air: The Honzo loves to be “flicked” down the trail thanks to its lively geometry and playful nature. This bike is flat- out fun to ride.

Cornering: The Honzo’s geometry is built to slay corners with its 68-degree head tube angle and low 11.5-inch bottom bracket height. The wide 785-millimeter Race Face Atlas bars gave us tons of leverage, and the dropper post allowed us to get our center of gravity low and towards the back. Weighting the rear end helped us maintain traction on loose turns, and the Maxxis Minion DHF tires kept us hooked up to the ground.

Descending: Playful is the name of the game when riding the Honzo. We weren’t likely to beat our personal best down the trails, but it didn’t matter. The RockShox Pike and stealth-routed Reverb dropper post gave us a ton of confidence, with a great feeling over rough terrain and enough mobility to toss the bike around. The 29-inch wheels rolled over rocks and ruts while still allowing us to jump over or manual through obstacles.

Dropping in: The Honzo likes to hit drops, but be prepared to soak up the landings with your legs.

Braking: SRAM Guide brakes brought our Honzo to a stop using a 180-millimeter front rotor and 160-millimeter rear. The brakes were easy to modulate, allowing us to scrub speed without locking up the tires. Some hardtails have problems maintaining traction under hard braking, but the Honzo stayed hooked up due to its rearward weight distribution.

Not your average hardtail: The wide handlebars and stealth-rout- ed dropper post aboard our Honzo made it stand out as a hardtail that’s not simply meant for the cross-country crowd. We’d happily put this bike against nearly any full-suspension trailbike thanks to its forgiving geometry and relatively supple feel.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

As a frame-only option, the Honzo titanium is a blank canvas, but we have a few tips for getting the most out of your dream build. First of all, buy an aggressive fork such as the Pike or a Fox 34. This bike is built to accommodate a big fork and requires one to unleash its full potential. Another must is the dropper post. With a slammed saddle height, the Honzo feels like a playful 29-inch dirt jumper.

BUYING ADVICE

Riders seeking a fun and playful hardtail should look no further than the Honzo. Its aggressive geometry is built with the hard-core trail rider in mind. The Honzo can be purchased as a frame in three different materials: titanium, steel and aluminum. The titanium version is the most expensive option, but the attention to detail is unmatched. If you can afford the titanium frame, you won’t be disappointed, and your riding buddies will be envious.


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