Since ditching the Process 111 after the 2017 model year, Kona's lineup has been one bike short of reaching full enlightenment ... until now. The new 2019 Satori is nothing like the cult favorite 111, and other than sharing the same 140/130-millimeter front/rear travel numbers, it's not a whole lot like the previous generation Satori, last available in 2014. Actually, it's really not like any other mid-travel 29er I've ridden. That's because Kona went ahead and did something radical to the bike's geometry, which after the overwhelmingly successful Process series, is something Kona has become known for doing.
Unlike what made the Process unique, the Satori doesn't have groundbreakingly long reach, though it does mimic the current Process 153 here. What makes the Satori special is its remarkably steep, 78.3-degree seat tube angle. For reference, we recently described the "sharp" 76-degree seat angle on the Process 153 as being "firmly on the cutting edge." That's a full 2.3 degrees steeper (and 4.3 degrees steeper than the previous Satori).
Making seat angles steeper is the latest trend in "modernizing" geometry, but leave it to Kona to take a trend and push it to the absolute limit. The 78.3-degree seat tube is massively different, and unsurprisingly therefore, why the Satori feels new, funky--and really good. You can't just be throwing straight-up seat angles on every bike, but it suits the intention of the Satori as a fast, nimble 29er trail bike by putting the rider in a forward, almost attack-like position. It's a really effective way of making a not terribly light, 30.5-pound bike, climb extremely well--it's geometry out science'ing physics.
But it wouldn't be practical without the advent of dropper posts. The reason seat angles were what they were before droppers, becomes terrifyingly clear if you somehow get caught on the Satori with gravity at your back and the seat up--it feels like it wants to push you straight over the bars. For years I've been joking that droppers have become mandatory equipment. On this bike, it's not a joke. Because of this, I feel obligated to give Kona props for spec'ing a good one--the RockShox Reverb--but also a firm finger-wag at the over-the-bar plunger remote. It's too far away to activate as quickly as the Satori requires. Luckily, the fair $3,500 price point should leave room in the piggy bank for a Reverb 1X Remote upgrade--something I'd recommend doing immediately.
As bike size goes up, so does dropper travel. Smalls and mediums get 100- and 125-millimeter strokes, respectively, while larges and extra larges receive 150-millimeter drops. For me, though, that's still not enough. I only mention this because the Satori benefits from maximizing dropper travel, arguably more than other bikes do. Kona stocks the dropper travels they do because the seat needs to be able to go low enough to fit the majority of riders for a given frame size, and you can't fault a company for that. Personally, I have crazy-long stems, enough for 200 millimeters of drop on most bikes, and my post of choice is the 9point8 fall line. Just putting that out there.
Still, the Satori DL is a damn steal as far as I'm concerned, but for complicated reasons. That steep seat angle makes the bike climb so well that I never found myself wishing the frame was carbon. And because it's aluminum, Kona can afford a pretty solid kit for the money. It's an all-SRAM bike, with a GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, Descendant cranks, SRAM Guide R brakes, RockShox Revelation RC fork, Deluxe RL, trunnion-mounted shock, and aforementioned Reverb dropper. The Revelation fork shares the same stiff chassis with the Pike, but runs a simpler Motion Control damper, as apposed to the higher-end Charger damper. It's a good performer nonetheless, allowing for low-speed compression and rebound control, and accepting volume spacers in the air spring for ramp control. I had no problems with the shock either, which did a fine job and left little to be desired.
It's worth mentioning here, that it was only a couple years ago that bikes in this price range were categorically worse than ones twice the price, but the Satori is one exception helping disprove the rule. In fact, there are a few bikes around (and even below) the Satori’s price point with very competitive build kits. If you’re making the unfair comparison to consumer-direct bikes like the$2800 YT Jeffsy 29 AL Comp, you’d hope to find something very special for that extra $700. And on top of the privilege of buying the Satori in person, from a human being, and in a building with real tools and real mechanics, the Satori DL has something very special. I'm a total bike snob, and it's almost embarrassing how well the Satori DL stands up to the fancier-kitted full-carbon dream machines in my stable. For half the cost there's very little performance drop-off.
Rounding out the parts kit, you'll find a WTB Volt Comp seat, decent WTB STP i29 tubeless-hooked hoops on Formula hubs, grippy Maxxis Tomahawk and Minion DHF 2.3 tires, and Kona branded stem and alloy bar with 35 millimeter clamp.
Those are the parts, but we still haven't gotten into precisely what sort of bike the Satori is. Category-wise, it falls somewhere between 'XC' and ‘aggressive trail'. If you're familiar with Kona's lineup, it's basically supposed to be like a big-wheeled Hei Hei Trail, but frankly, the steep seat angle makes it feel decidedly unique, and it takes some getting used to. First off, the geometry chart shows identical reach numbers to the Process 153, but the Satori feels dramatically shorter. Then there's the weight bias, which is much farther forward than any other trail bike you're likely to throw a leg over. Once you get used to it, though, you realize that you're leaning into corners more, changing directions faster, and you ultimately have excellent control without the bike feeling too twitchy. That's because most of us tend to ride too far off the back of the bike, and the Satori forces us into the position we should already be in, and it does so without needing to scoot onto the tip of the seat. This makes the Satori a natural and comfortable climber--like, as good as a lot of XC bikes.
Then, drop the seat, and it doesn't take long to realize that the Satori is much more capable than your typical spindly 100-millimeter-travel race bike. All of a sudden, it's riding like a playful, capable trail bike. Its short, 430-millimeter chainstays and low 339-millimeter bottom bracket allow quick cornering, easy manualing, and a balanced in-the-bike feel. With the seat dropped and gravity on your side, the Satori DL is 100 percent hoot worthy, with no discernible downside from what many would consider an unreasonably steep seat angle.
It gives you all this at a pretty great price, and best of all, the thing is simple, easy to work on, and built to last. It's a Kona, after all. Flexing seat stays replace an unnecessary rear-end pivot, adding stiffness and reducing maintenance. It's not the most advanced suspension in the world, and it's not the supplest either, but it works. The shock pivots on bearings, too, so there's no DU bushings to replace. Meanwhile, external cables, routed on the top of the downtube, are easily accessible but out of harms way. The press-fit bottom bracket shell gets low marks for being more difficult to replace than threaded, but there are plenty of reliable, creak-free press-fit bottom brackets out there, making durability less of a concern these days.
After riding the Satori for the past month, I can honestly say that, barring a couple minor personal changes, this bike snob would be perfectly happy riding the Satori DL full time. That's a good thing, considering it's the highest-level spec Satori that Kona currently makes.