Raymond Loewy, often eulogized as the Father of Industrial Design, believed that buying decisions are influenced by both neophilia--a curiosity for new things--and neophobia--a fear of new things. People are drawn to products that are striking and yet familiar, or, as Loewy put it, "Most advanced yet acceptable."
In 2012, Kona and Mondraker both released radical bikes. Kona's was the Honzo--a steel hardtail meant for aggressive riding. The size-large Honzo boasted a 452-millimeter reach, which was downright vast at the time. Mondraker went even longer with its full-suspension Foxy XR, but paired the lengthy reach with a 10-millimeter stem that positioned the bars almost directly above the steerer tube.
You could say that both brands missed the "most advanced yet acceptable" mark. Kona's progressive geometry was camouflaged by the hardtail package it came in, while Mondraker's design looked too radical because of the silhouette-soiling stem. Both brands soon corrected--Kona with its full-suspension Process lineup and Mondraker by melting down its unorthodox 10-millimeter stems for normal 30-millimeter ones.
The norm has since encroached on what was once Kona and Mondraker's radical frontier, but both brands' new bikes are still certifiably long AF, with wheelbases well over the 1,200-millimeter mark. Both have carbon frames and 27.5-inch wheels. Both have 66-degree head angles and about 150 millimeters of rear-wheel travel. Both appear to be 'acceptable.' But which is more advanced?
Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR SL
For some riders, which of these two bikes is a better climber will have nothing to do with suspension performance, geometry or weight. That's because some of our testers were hitting their calves on the Mondraker's rocker link when pedaling from the saddle. The frequency of this contact varied, but one tester who rides flat pedals and has never experienced this before on any bike has, well, delicate calves.
The rest of the bike didn't chafe so much on the climbs. The frame's long reach was paired with a moderate head angle to quicken the slow steering of such a long wheelbase, though we were regularly reminded of how much bike we had in front of us. And the suspension seemed reluctant to crawl out of holes or track through rough sections. But if grip was lost, the Foxy regained speed more quickly than the Process thanks both to its suspension, which provided an encouraging pedaling platform, and the feathery weight of the top-of-the-line RR SL build we tested.
Whether a long wheelbase is a feature or a fault is often dependent upon whether you're gaining or losing elevation, and at what rate. With vert dropping away quickly, the Foxy's 500-millimeter reach pulls the rider forward and allows for terrain to be handled with poise, while the long wheelbase gives the bike unflappable stability. This had us charging hard and fast into varying technical terrain, and rolling away with unexpected ease. The Foxy's length is more perceptible than the Kona's on descents, as is its extra 25 millimeters of reach. The combination of those two dimensions, plus the 345-millimeter-high bottom bracket, make for a 29er-esque 'in the bike' riding sensation that our testers appreciated.
The Foxy's geometry allowed us to get away with so much that if we hadn't been testing bikes back-to-back, we might have blamed the rear suspension's harsh, over-damped feel on us hitting things harder and faster. But the Kona's suspension is much more sensitive. This was discernable anywhere the trail got rough, but especially through one high-speed, chattery section where the Process tracked unperturbed through rocks and roots ranging in size from adult fist to baby head. A heavier hand was required to keep the Foxy from ricocheting off line.
After the high-speed chunder, we carved through a pair of berms and over a double that required more speed than the previous corner allowed. Where the Kona needed pedal strokes, well-timed pumps were enough to get the lighter, more supportive Mondraker up to speed. In some ways, the Mondraker felt more like a long-legged trail bike due to its stiff rear suspension and low weight. A shock with adjustable high-speed compression or a coil spring would likely unleash its potential.
Kona Process 153 CR/CL 27.5
While every other brand has been slackening their bikes, the new 153 frame is actually a half-degree steeper at the headtube than the previous version, indicating, perhaps, Kona's desire to give its small-wheeled all-mountain bike a balance of playfulness and capability.
The new 'Beamer' linkage helps achieve that goal, and leaves room for a water bottle inside the front triangle. The 153 doesn't ride especially high in its travel, but doesn't wallow either. The rider is put in a comfortable climbing position thanks to the frame's steep 76-degree seat-tube angle, and the suspension responds to hard out-of-the-saddle efforts with a faithfully supportive platform. The bike's 66-degree head angle and 1,216-millimeter wheelbase don't allow for much in the way of quick directional changes on rock-and-root infested ascents, but the rock-crawling rear suspension removes the need for most of those spur-of-the-moment precision maneuvers.
As on the climbs, the Process is best when descending in a straight line: A forward weight shift is sometimes needed to help it through tight corners, but an assertive pilot will be able to roast through berms and sweeping flat curves.
The Process' 153 millimeters of travel is very accessible. That's not to say it was quick to bottom, though. The quiet and stout-feeling Beamer suspension retained enough bottom-out resistance for the big hits, was supple off the top and absorbed repetitive mid-size hits with ease. It's willing to play and pop, but prefers to do so at speed. The 425-millimeter rear end and comfortable 475-millimeter reach make for effortless manuals and other party tricks. We'd expect nothing less from a Kona Process.
We tested the top-end builds of both bikes. Still, the $9,100 Foxy RR SL comes at a considerable premium over the $6,000 Process 153 CR/DL. For its intended audience, the weight-conscious RR SL build probably makes sense, but we would have preferred a burlier rear tire than the stock Maxxis Ardent, as well as a more tunable shock, like Fox's X2, or even a coil, which is available stock on the XR model. We didn't have any criticisms of the Process' build, which is a solid value, but not especially lightweight.
How about the question that started this whole thing: Which bike feels more advanced? The Foxy's radical geometry makes it more of a harbinger than the Process, which boasts a combination of dialed suspension and boundary-pushing geo that makes it state-of-the-art in its own right.
But this isn't about which bike is more significant as a concept--and the Foxy does in some ways feel like a concept bike, with its less-than-supple suspension and potentially deal-breaking calf interference. The Process, on the other hand, goes up comfortably and efficiently. It has sensitive, supportive and dependable suspension. It has cutting-edge geometry. It's at least as advanced as the Foxy, and it's definitely more acceptable.