DREAM KONA PROCESS X BUILD: AN MBA EDITOR’S FAVORITE TAKEN TO THE NEXT LEVEL
The process of a trail shredder
By JJ Squires
There are times in a rider’s life when he needs a bike that can take the hits without complaint. As a rider on the wrecking crew, I get to ride a lot of bikes that may or may not serve that purpose, but none of them can be considered “my bike.” Don’t get me wrong, riding the latest bikes in the most progressive companies’ lineups is the best job I could ever ask for, but, as I said, they don’t feel like “my bike.”
Now, I can’t claim to be a top pro in any category, but I can hold my own. My focus in riding is downhill and enduro, even though I grew up racing XC. With that being said, I break a lot of parts on bikes of all types, so I need a bike that can hold up to some heavy abuse. I come from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the riding is a mixed bag of gnarly, fast alpine loops and high-desert tech. As a lowly bike shop wrench, I needed a bike that could do everything. I spent almost every weekend at Angel Fire Bike Park and rode the trails around Santa Fe nearly every day before or after work.
Kona’s Process X came at a time when I was seriously looking into the possibility of owning a bike that could accommodate both a 29-inch and a 27.5-inch rear-wheel setup. I wanted to see what the mullet bike was all about. I’d been riding primarily 27.5-inch bikes for the past four years or so and was ready to try something different. I still love 27.5-inch bikes for many reasons, but I always wanted the rollover a 29-inch front wheel could give me. When a medium Process X came into the shop I was working at, I decided to strike a deal with my boss. I bought the bike and immediately took it to one of my favorite local gnarly trails to see how it would fare. I loved it, but I did notice the 29-inch rear wheel and how large it was. And there the saga begins.
Frame: The Kona Process X is a long, slack behemoth that comes stock as a full 29-inch bike but can be easily converted to mullet with the simple flip of a chip. It checks every box on the enduro checklist with a 63.5-degree head tube angle, a 78.2-degree seat tube angle, a reach of 465mm, and an adjustable wheelbase between 1238mm and 1253mm. The wheelbase is extended by sliding the wheel back in the dropout using some adapters that come with the bike. All these measurements are on the size medium that I ride. Kona uses its Kona Carbon to construct both the front and rear triangles. I have the Process X CR/DL, which is the more expensive build option.
Suspension: My Process X came with a 170mm RockShox ZEB Ultimate in the front with 38mm stanchions. The rear shock provided was the RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate, which was paired with Kona’s Beamer suspension linkage system to squeeze out 161mm of rear travel.
For the most part, this suspension system has been good. I blew up my fork pretty early on and had to replace the seals. The shock lasted a bit longer. I eventually took it to Diaz Suspension Design in Durango, Colorado, where they did a full rebuild and re-valve of the shock. That made the shock a lot more sensitive to small bumps, giving it the feel of a coil spring. It took a little while to get used to, but eventually, I grew to really enjoy it. The shock has since begun to leak oil a little, so I may have to rebuild it again soon.
Drivetrain: I was stoked when I saw what drivetrain this bike came with. I love the SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain with the 10-52t cassette. One thing I immediately replaced was the cranks. I had a set of Race Face Next R cranks at 170mm on hand, which I much prefer over the GX cranks at 175mm the bike came with. I also replaced the 32-tooth chainring with a 34-tooth oval chainring from Absolute Black, which I later replaced with a 32-tooth oval chainring after I cased a large rock while racing. I have since added a OneUp chainguide and bash guard to keep this from happening again.
Wheels: Oh boy, here we go. The Process X came with a set of WTB KOM Trails that only lasted about a month before I tacoed both within a week of each other. At that point, I built up a new rear wheel using the DT 350 hub from the original set to a Race Face ARC 31 27.5-inch carbon rim. I also bought a new DT Swiss XM9000 for the front, because I needed a wheel and it was cheap. I still wanted the option to go full 29-inch, so I bought a couple of DT Swiss FR560 rims and laced one to a gold Industry 9 Hydra hub, which is what I ride with mainly for now. I still need to rebuild the front wheel with the other FR560 rim and original DT Swiss 350 front hub.
Tires: Depending on what wheels I have on the bike at any given time, I’ll have a different tire each day. Right now, I’m set up with a pair of Maxxis Assegais with Double Down casing in the front and DH casing in the rear; both are the 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound. I trust these tires in almost every situation and have ridden them for years. Sometimes I’ll switch it up to a Dissector with DH casing in the back, but that’s only been on 27.5-inch wheels so far. I also typically run Tannus Armour, at least in the back, because I’m known to dent rims and like the extra support at the bike park.
Sealant: I generally choose Stan’s sealant for most of my bikes, because it’s easy to get and easy to install. I’ve run Orange Seal with great success also, but it’s harder to find and more expensive.
Brakes: The Kona originally came with SRAM Code RSC brakes, which I have few issues with aside from some fade on longer descents. I decided to take them off out of the box and throw on some TRP DH-R EVOs. I love the feel of these brakes and have never had an issue with fade. I love the durability of the master cylinders and levers when I crash as well. I’ve bent and broken too many brake levers, so the TRP levers are a breath of fresh air. Their lever feel is also much better than that of the Codes.
At the bars: I had a very hard time setting up the cockpit when I got this bike. I couldn’t get comfortable. Eventually, I swapped out the bars to some Deity carbon bars and a shorter 40mm stem, which helped a lot. I lowered the stack height on the steer tube and put a fancy brass cap on it designed by my friend Paulie at Ride Safe Co. I recently put on some PNW grips that I like, but I don’t like them as much as what I usually ride with, which are the ODI Longneck lock-ons—the best grips out there, especially if you go gloveless. My dropper lever is the Wolf Tooth lever, which I think is the most comfortable lever on the market.
Dropper post/saddle: I love the saddle that came with this bike. The WTB Volt Medium is the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used, and I was stoked to see it in the box when I opened it up. I replaced the RockShox Reverb Stealth before even installing it, because I don’t like the hydraulic actuation on it. I instead installed a Fox Factory Transfer 200mm post, which is the perfect length for getting the saddle out of my way for the descents.
Pedals: This is an easy one. I pretty much only use the enduro-style Shimano XTR clipless pedals with the extra support on all bikes except my dirt jumper. I’ve used some variation of the Shimano SPD’s since I began racing at 13 and have just never taken them off. The ones I currently have on this bike are pretty destroyed and need a bearing service, but they’re working just fine for me at the moment.
Accessories and add-ons: Since the Process X is a carbon bike, I wanted to protect my investment with some protective 3 M-style frame tape. Dyedbro makes some cool kits with some designs that are pretty out there, so I chose the Cats and Pizza design to protect my precious bike. I didn’t go with the white, though, because that would’ve been too much. Black on the dark green is noticeable but not enough that my bike is screaming how much of a dork I am. I also sport an Arundel Flip Flop side-load bottle cage that can be flipped to allow either left- or right-side bottle removal. I already mentioned the headset cap, but I might as well mention it again. It’s brass, and it says, “Be Kind; Ride Bikes.” I love it.