Kona Bikes Process 111 2016 Mountain Bike Review

Kona Bikes Process 111 2016

Reviews / Trail Bikes

Kona Bikes 107,783

At A Glance

Kona have been on a winning streak with the Process family since they hit the market. A set of three bikes all looking to do something similar, but with very different style. They all share some forward thinking geometry in the form of long front centres and reach, coupled with slack angles and long wheelbases. These bikes are designed to shred. The Process 111 is the 29er of the family, with its two siblings sporting 650b wheels and more travel, either 153 or 134mm. Obviously, the travel on the big wheeler is 111mm and is matched by a 120mm Pike which always suggests a relatively aggressive outlook on the world.

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The wild numbers continue with a 68 head angle, a huge 485mm reach (in XL) and a comedy low stand-over of 667mm giving somewhat of a flagpole look to the seat post! In contrast to the large scale of the bike, the chainstays are kept super short at 430mm. Bars are a large 800mm wide with a stubby 40mm stem to keep things super sharp on the steering. The rest of the kit is pretty well thought out with XT brakes and a SRAM drivetrain, while seatpost adjustment comes the KS Lev Integra which is great to see in 150mm on a large bike. Wheels are WTB Asym rims on Novatec hubs and finished with Maxxis rubber in Minion and Ardent form. Race Face finish off the package in their no-nonsense style of dependable kit.

On The Trail

Swinging a leg over, or even through, given the low standover, immediately gives a feeling of room in the cockpit. This is one of the longest front ends you can find, and coupled with the 800mm bars; there is a lot of breathing space. For me this is one of the first reasons I fell in love with this bike, as being rather tall, I rarely get enough room on a bike. It was immediately clear that I probably wouldn't want to give this bike back, and the hype around the Process family was not without reason. Now the Process 153 is, of course, the big hitter in the family, with the 134 offering a more trail orientated feel, but how would the short travel 29er measure up? And where would it excel?

The short answers to those questions are that it performed brilliantly, and pretty much excels everywhere (yes I do like this bike). In the world of bikes, geometry is the boss, and without a solid set of angles, a bike is nothing. This is where Kona have got it pretty much on the money, with the long front end giving a ton of confidence, and the short and tight back end needing no excuse to get that front wheel airborne. The space allows for the rider to move around the bike easily, distributing weight where needed without fear of unbalancing the bike, although it does require some thought about keeping the front wheel weighted for cornering traction. Any thoughts of this 29er being a 'bit XC' are forgotten as you rail every berm and pump every roller like a kid at a BMX track.

The short travel nature of this machine means very little energy is lost into the system, so pedalling, pumping and jumping all feel solid, getting a real return on energy invested. With a quick lockout of fork and shock, the big wheels just keep carrying speed, allowing me to enjoy the 30min road ride to my local trails without feeling like I'm towing a tank. The lively and stiff ride makes climbing a pleasant experience, but although it's a short travel bike, it won't magically make the climbs disappear, and reminds you this is an all round shredder.

With the suspension in short supply, tuning is very important to get maximum performance from the 111mm available. The sag setting, as always, is crucial, and initially, I was running things a bit soft and was blowing through the travel every so often, but that did slacken the bike off quite nicely! With precise setting, and a little less than usual rebound damping, I found I got the best out of the shock. The Pike obviously performed well and matched nicely at 120mm with the rear end.

Performance on the trail was excellent in nearly every situation, excelling on flowy and pumpy trails where the wheels would carry speed superbly and fly with dangerous levels of speed. Even boulder fields and rocks would be munched happily due to the large wheel size and just enough suspension to see you through. The super steep gradients failed to ruffle the feathers, and the long front was allowing dangerously precipitous trails to be ridden with minimal terror. What did become an issue was when these aspects were all added together, rough is fine, steep is fine, but together I could find the limits of the bike. Without the depth of suspension, the tough, technical trails left me a little out of depth, with the bikes head angle not allowing the bike to plough through features at steeper gradients. All out speed through rough stuff also left the suspension with nothing more to give, but hey it's only 111mm of travel, that's asking a lot. The Process has already far surpassed many 150/160mm enduro bikes I've ridden recently.

It's not all perfect; the wheels let the build down as they felt a bit flexy and were prone to a few dings in the rim despite swapping out the ardent rear tyre for something more robust. The pivots need care as the main one had a tendency towards loosening, but some Loctite can sort that. I would be as bold to say they could even add a bit of front length to the bike (why not eh?) and maybe up the fork to 140mm, as the head angle could be a little slacker. As I write this the 2017 versions of the Process have been announced with precisely those tweaks, although only a 130mm fork. The only other frame issue would be tyre clearance, but this goes hand in hand with the slightly flexy wheels, which caused a fair amount of chainstay rub.

Stand out components were the KS dropper which performed very well, and could tempt me away from the well known hydraulically operated competition. Also, the Race Face Turbine cranks and the bar and stem combo kept everything solid, stiff and dependable. This bike has been everywhere with me over the past months, with trips to the notoriously rocky and rough Torridon and I even raced it in the Tweedlove International Enduro. There is very little this bike can't take.

Overall

If the Process range is a family, then the 153 is the wild child, and the 134 is perhaps the one with the midlife crisis. This leaves the 111 as some sort of ageing ex-rock star, having survived a hedonistic youth, it has cleaned up its act and is a leaner and fitter package. It can munch the miles while still re-live it's youth when you point it downhill and knows how to party like the best of them while teaching the youngsters a lesson or three.

There is nothing this bike won't try, and very little it cannot do. A few tweaks can always improve a bike, but as it stands this is a truly fantastic bike that will take you far and wide with a smile on your face.

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This review was in Issue 43 of IMB.

For more information visit Kona Bikes

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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