We get all giddy when we see new long-travel 29ers. There are just so many different ways to approach this growing category. The Norco Range C2 29 and Kona Process 153 AL/DL 29 take a similarly burly, aggressive approach, but as always, we found the outcomes were very different.
First, we need to point out that the price points on these two bikes aren't exactly comparable. The $3,600 Process is aluminum, and it's spec'd with far lower-tech suspension than the $5,400 carbon fiber Range. That said, they both weighed somewhere in the low-to-mid-30s. How’s that for scientific? It’s ok, you just need to know they aren’t quite light. The Kona partly because of its hefty frame, and the Norco partly because of its hefty tires. It was no surprise that they both struggled on the climbs, but each of us found something we liked about pedaling these beasts. The Kona shined because of its steep seat angle, and the Norco because of its neutral, trail-oriented feel and finely-tunable Super Deluxe shock.
That shock also helped the Norco on the downhill. It allowed us to tune this heavy-feeling bike to sit deeper or shallower in its travel depending on what we were into. The Kona, on the other hand, relies on its geometry to put your weight where it can do the most good. Neither will get you up the hill in a hurry, but they'll both get you up the hill.
Getting down, they were both planted, burly and best at high speeds. But this is where the price difference was most apparent. While we were able to tune the Range to be responsive and supportive, the Process suffered from a less refined ride, especially in the fork. But as it was, the Process has the long chassis and deep feel of a planted downhill bike, while the Range is a more neutral-feeling all-rounder and doesn't sacrifice its descending prowess because of it.
These were two pretty evenly-matched bikes, so to look into all the subtle differences, check out their individual roundtable reels and read up on their long-form reviews.