Back in the summer of 2017 Kona invited us out to Squamish, British Columbia, to ride the latest version of their capable and esteemed Process 153. From the shorter-travel versions to the burlier 153 build, the Process has been a long-time favorite among our test riders. During our trip to Squamish we rode the 27.5 version and later followed up with a long-term review. We were blown away at the overall capability and design, so much so the bike earned one of our Editors’ Choice Awards for 2018. With nothing but good memories of the Process 153 27.5, we simply had to get our hands on the new carbon 29er version.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Process 153 is one step down from Kona’s longest-travel 165, with a very progressive geometry aimed at more aggressive riding. Kona considers this a trail bike suited for riders who take the most technical lines and want to shuttle or pedal up their local mountain. This bike wasn’t designed for weekend cross-country, but instead would be better suited crushing a local enduro.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
There are two levels of the Process 153 29, starting with an aluminum frame and rear triangle for $3000. The alloy version shares the same geometry and suspension design as the higher-end carbon but with a leaner price tag. Our test bike is the highest-end CR/DL with a full carbon fiber frame and seatstays. Kona uses aluminum chainstays for added durability and strength across the whole line of bikes. The frame has large oversized tubes using Kona’s strongest DH carbon, which is similar to what is used on their Operator downhill bike. The rear triangle uses Boost spacing to allow for shorter chainstay clearance to run up to a 2.4-inch tire. Keeping the overall look sleek is internal cable routing and a Stealthrouted dropper post. Moving with current trends, Kona designed the Process to be 1x-specific with ISCG05 tabs for riders who want to run a chainguide. Kona has been pushing the boundaries of geometry with the Process line, and the 29er version sports plenty of progressive numbers. Similar to the 27.5 version, the 29er build has a reach of 475mm for a size large with lengths varying by 25mm for each size change. Kona uses a short 450mm seat tube to allow for plenty of clearance for longer dropper posts. Up front is a slack 66-degree head tube angle for stability on steep sections of trail.
The Process 153 has Kona’s proven Beamer suspension design that uses a massive, overbuilt rocker link for added stiffness. The stock RockShox Super Deluxe is attached and uses a trunnion mount to allow for a longer shock and stroke.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Our test bike uses a host of burly and durable parts, showing that the product managers at Kona are in tune with the needs of aggressive riders. The RockShox suspension offered a broad range of adjustment and was quite user-friendly. Our test riders were impressed with the WTB rims and how strong they were without being overly stiff and harsh. And last, the Maxxis Minion DHF tires gave us all the traction we could ask for and plenty of support over technical terrain.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: We set up the RockShox Super Deluxe at 30-percent sag with four clicks of rebound. For some extra pedaling support we ran the low-speed compression about halfway in. This kept us from using the damper switch on the climbs.
Up front we ran 20-percent sag in the Lyrik with two bottomless tokens and low-speed compression set about halfway. The Charger 2 damper offers a highspeed compression adjustment as well that took a few rides for us to get dialed.
Moving out: Swinging a leg over the Process 153, the longer reach gave us a comfortable position. The 780mm-wide bars and short 50mm stem gave the Process a proper trail feel. The stock WTB Volt saddle fit most of our test riders and was comfortable during long rides.
Climbing: Hitting the climbs, the larger 29-inch wheels rolled efficiently with the Minion tires hooking up confidently. Out of the saddle the frame and rear triangle were stiff, but the suspension gave us an efficient pedaling platform to complement the whole package. Rolling up technical sections of trail, the front end was easy to pull up over roots and rocks, and the short chainstays were easy to pull through tight turns.
Descending: The Process was made for the descents; there is absolutely no doubt about that. Turning the bike downhill, we were constantly pushing harder looking for every bit of speed that we could find. At high speeds the Process was stable and precise, allowing us to either pick our way through chunky bits of trail or just roll over the top. The rear suspension was far more versatile than we expected in terms of adjustments. Each click of rebound damping gave the rear suspension a completely different feel. Whether we wanted to go fast or crawl down steep slabs, the Process could be modified to fit the bill of whatever trail we were riding.
Cornering: Twenty-niners have never been known for their cornering ability, but the Process defies all preconceived notions. The 2.5-inch-wide Minion tire inspired confidence and allowed our test riders to lean the bike over in corners. The short 425mm chainstays could be whipped through switchbacks with finesse and helped give the bike a light-handling feeling.
Braking: Kona spec’d our test bike with SRAM’s burliest Code RSC brakes that use a four-piston caliper. Along with the big calipers were larger 200mm rotors both front and rear. The reach and pad contact adjustment allowed us to customize the feel of our brakes with the rear focused on modulation and control. The Codes gave us all of the braking power that we needed and never had us white-knuckling to slow down.
TRICKS, TIPS OR UPGRADES?
The Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 has a solid build kit for the aggressive trail rider. If you want to add a little more bling, riders could opt for carbon fiber wheels to shed a bit of weight for a little better climbing performance.
Kona has a made an incredibly capable bike that is flat out fun to ride. Whether you’re hitting a flow trail or B.C. slabs, the Process 153 has the prowess to conquer all of it. The price tag on this build might be a tad steep for some, but the quality and performance are there. If you want a bike that will rip any trail and do it confidently, the Process 153 29 should be at the top of your list. www.konaworld.com
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