KONA HEI HEI TRAIL DL 27.5 TEST
KONA HEI HEI TRAIL DL 27.5
The Hei Hei has been a staple in the Kona lineup for more than two decades. In that time it has evolved from the original steel hardtail that graced the trails in 1996 into a titanium hardtail, then into an aluminum dually, and then into the carbon machine, you see on the pages here. The “Hei Hei” designation has always graced bikes that were cross-country-oriented but also not afraid to hit the trails aggressively. In fact, we’d be willing to say that not a single version of the Hei Hei, as different as they may have been over the years, could be pigeonholed as a cross-country, race-day-only bike.
Kona has a reputation for building bikes that are all about having fun on the trail. Every summer we spend a couple days in Bellingham, Washington, riding Kona’s local trails and sampling the new bikes they have been working on. Last summer Kona introduced us to the Hei Hei Trail, but we wanted the opportunity to do a thorough test. We got a hold of a Trail DL and pushed to find the limits of this sporty yet fun rig on our local testing grounds.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Kona revamped its Hei Hei line in 2016 with the introduction of an XC/ trail-oriented 29er. We tested the XC version last spring, and our test riders were impressed with its capability and willingness to shred. The Hei Hei Trail, tested here, was designed to bridge the gap between Kona’s XC bikes and its bigger enduro-oriented rigs. With 140 millimeters of front and rear suspension travel and 27.5-inch wheels, the Hei Hei Trail falls comfort- ably into the trail category.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Sturdy and stable: Kona overbuilt the head tube with plenty of carbon fiber to help keep the front end stiff and stable. Adding to the confident feel was a 35-millimeter bar and stem that gave us plenty of leverage.
The entire Hei Hei line uses Kona’s new FUSE suspension design that is similar to a single-pivot setup. Suspension travel varies throughout the line, with the Trail version getting 140 millimeters in the front and rear. The rear triangle has stocky chainstays with equally sturdy-looking seatstays that are flattened out near the brake mount on either side to allow for some flex. Kona designed the Hei Hei Trail with a full-carbon fiber frame and rear triangle. It sports internal cable routing with the ability to run mechanical or Di2 drivetrains and a stealth-routed dropper post. Kona has gone all in on Boost spacing with the Hei Hei line, and the Trail version gets the same treatment.
As for the geometry, the bike has a long top tube and relatively steep head angle that give the ride a sporty and nimble feel. Kona offers the Hei Hei Trail starting at $4200, with the Supreme topping out at $7500. Our test bike sits comfortably in the middle at $6000 in sizes extra small to large.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
They stop: Shimano XT brakes have been the brake of choice for all-around trail riding. During testing, they delivered consistent performance, even on the steepest terrain.
Our test bike came equipped with proven Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain, with the exception of the XTR rear derailleur. Fox supplied the suspension with a 34 Factory fork and Factory shock that gave our test riders plenty of support and adjustment. Among the biggest standouts from the build kit were the carbon WTB Ci31 rims laced to Hope Pro4 hubs. Wheels are usually one of the first things to get upgraded aftermarket, but we would be hard-pressed to recommend a better pair of hoops.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Our test riders didn’t have any issues dialing in the fit of the Hei Hei Trail. The compact reach and tall head tube had most of our riders dropping the stem as low as they could put it for a more aggressive position to charge down the trail. The stock 70-millimeter stem felt comfortable, although a couple of our riders would have preferred something even shorter.
Proven performance: The Fox 34 Factory Float fork complemented the rowdy feel and capable geometry of the Hei Hei Trail DL.
Fuse it: Kona’s Fuse Suspension Design offers an efficient pedaling platform while keeping the rear wheel active over technical terrain. Each shock setting changed the feel, giving the bike an adaptable ride quality.
We set up the fork at 20-percent sag and sped up the rebound a few clicks. In the shock, we initially set the pressure at 20 percent but increased it to 25 percent with the rebound centered. On more technical bits of trail, the knob on the shock gave us a little more support to prevent bottoming.
The aggressive position gave the Hei Hei a very playful feel that allowed our test riders to lean the bike over as much as they wanted. The tight wheelbase was easy to pull through tight turns and allowed us to confidently glide through switchbacks.
Longer-travel bikes aren’t generally known for their climbing ability, but the FUSE suspension gave us good support to swiftly pedal up the mountain. On tighter, rockier climbs the Hei Hei was easy to maneuver, but at times had us longing for a larger 29-inch wheel.
If there is any bike that will put a smile on your face when ripping down the mountain, the Hei Hei is it. Almost every bit of singletrack had our test riders searching for bonus lines or hips to push the Hei Hei off.
The FUSE suspension felt very active and soaked up small and big hits with ease. On steep sections of trail, the Hei Hei offered plenty of room for our test riders to shift their weight back behind the rear wheel. At high speeds, the frame felt stiff and stable, and the WTB wheels added to the burly feel of the bike.
TRICKS, TIPS, UPGRADES?
It is safe to say that some riders will want to swap to a slightly shorter stem for a more aggressive trail feel. The Tomahawk tires were decent on our local terrain, but a little more versatile tread like a High Roller II might be more appropriate for most riders. Going up the mountain we had plenty of low gears, but most of our test riders topped out on just about every descent they rode with the 30-tooth chainring. We would recommend jumping up to a 32 at the very least to balance out the spectrum.
Riders are always looking for a do-it-all bike that can handle the gnarly bits but still climb quickly, and the Hei Hei Trail is definitely one of those bikes. Overall, our riders were impressed with the performance and capability of the Hei Hei Trail and wouldn’t mind having one in the stable to use when they want to have a little extra fun out on the trail. If the DL sits a little too far out of your budget, we are confident that the entry-level Trail will provide a solid base for future upgrades. The Hei Hei Trail is one seriously fun bike to rip.
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