You know the spiel: Kona's original Process bikes were a watershed moment in modern mountain-bike development. They were long in the front, they were short in the back and they took way too long to make it to carbon. But now they've made it, or at least one of them has.
The new, mostly-carbon 153 isn't radical within the context of modern geometry that its progenitors helped create, but its long 475-millimeter reach, 1,216-millimeter wheelbase and sharp 76-degree seat-tube angle place it firmly on the cutting edge. The rear end is still sliced at 425 millimeters. Those large and small numbers are in all the places you'd expect on an enduro bike in 2018, and the Process 153 is certainly enduro capable. We wouldn't box it into the enduro category, though. Kona has actually steepened the 153's head angle by a half degree to 66, which is comparable to the rest of our all-mountain class, as are its namesake 153-millimeters of rear and 160-millimeters of front travel.
Enough with the numbers. Our testers were enamored with this bike. One's first impression was of a very neutral, balanced-feeling all-mountain bike. Another remarked that it felt like a downhill bike, and really came alive when the trail turned steeply, chunkily downward. All three were impressed by its climbing characteristics. Another highlighted how fun the Process is, even on less-technical or slower sections of trail. Testers appreciated the water bottle space inside the front triangle, and felt that this $6,000 build was a respectable value.
Kona's new 'Beamer' suspension platform quickly proved competitive with the best in the all-mountain class. It worked exactly how we wanted in every situation, both uphill and down. Going up, it provides a platform for quick bursts of power and will lend you as much traction as you want when the climb starts to look more like a wrong-way descent. The system is similarly effective when the downhill begins. It was among the supplest of our all-mountain class, and had bottom-out resistance and midstroke support on tap whenever we placed the order. It tracks well through corners and was rarely bucked off line.
Though it has slightly less travel, the Mondraker Foxy is similar to the Process in terms of geometry. But the Process' rear suspension outperforms the Foxy's to the point that the Mondraker feels chattery and harsh in comparison.
Perhaps because it isn't as radical, this new Process has not have arrived to the fanfare of the original. That's a shame, because it surely deserves it.
Q&A with Ian Schmitt, product manager, Kona Bicycles
Why did Kona decide to redesign the Process' rear suspension?
There were several factors that contributed to the new layout for our Process rear suspension: trunnion mounted shocks, a desire for a stiffer frame chassis and water bottle fitment were all front runners in the new layout. Going to a vertically oriented trunnion shock gave us the ability to maintain standover while also freeing up space for a water bottle to fit in the front triangle. We were also able to improve the frame stiffness in this configuration by moving the main and rocker pivots farther apart and increasing the bearing and axle dimensions. The visual effect was also considered with this redesign and we felt that it was a good opportunity to bring the Process aesthetic more in-line with the Operator range. People should expect their trail bikes in this category to have a very composed and solid feel on the trail and adding some of that downhill lineage was important to us.
With the previous version, it was said that the bike's 153 millimeters of travel was the result of a geometry-first design. So how did you end up with that same number after a complete redesign?
Funny story--we started with the same philosophy and actually ended up with 153 millimeters of travel. We focused on evolving our existing range and just happened to wind up at the same travel number.
Did you have different riders in mind when designing the 27.5- and 29-inch Processes? Who is each bike for?
We recognized that riders of all sizes and shapes love to argue about different rim and tire dimensions. We assumed that two wheel sizes would be sufficient to fuel the fire and give everyone an opportunity to argue and bicker to their heart's content. All joking aside, we did consider that there would be different rider groups looking at either bike but we really didn't want to pigeon-hole either wheelsize. Our thought process was something like 'Some riders like big wheels and some riders like smaller wheels so why wouldn't we just offer both options with a similar trail feel?' And we did exactly that. We're actively trying to avoid telling our customers how they should ride their bike or who they are as a rider and instead we want to give them options, if that makes sense.
We really like this bike, but we liked the Process 111 and 134, too! What about new versions of those?
We always like to hear that you like our bikes. Hopefully you'll like when we make another new bike, too, but what that is we're not saying yet.