Kona Bikes Process 134 DL 29 2020 Mountain Bike Review

Kona Bikes Process 134 DL 29 2020

Reviews / Trail Bikes

Kona Bikes 107,604

At A Glance

There are very few bikes I wish I had bought, but the Process 111 from about 4 years ago has to be one of them. A bike way ahead of its time, it combined short travel with big bike numbers to create a unique and amazing ride. The 111 was forgotten about and Kona continued with the long travel Process to good effect, also offering the 134 as a shorter travel sibling. 2020 sees a new version of the 134, and before it was launched I was still hoping it would be a 111, however, I was told this new version still owes plenty to the original 111, so I was certainly keen to spend some time with it.

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The Process 134 gives 134mm of rear travel and is matched with a 140mm Pike upfront. Those numbers give the groundwork for a competent trail bike but the geometry also suggests a fun-loving bike. 510mm reach, a 66 head angle and short 427mm chainstays are modern, without being an enormous sled. Kona’s sizing has been great for years and many brands are still playing catch up, the reach is long and seat tubes are short, a great combination for getting a good fit.

The Process 134 29 is available in either carbon or aluminium and each frame has two models either standard or DL, which I will assume is deluxe as its a better spec. The two aluminium models hit the shop floor at £2399 and £3799 while the carbon models are either £5199 or £6199. There are also 27.5 wheel versions in aluminium.

The 134 DL tested here features a Pike Select RC fork matched with a RockShox Deluxe Ultimate rear shock. Interestingly this is the top model Deluxe shock and the lowest specced fork. The drivetrain is covered by the ever-reliable SRAM Eagle NX and GX, but crucially uses an NX Eagle cassette which fits on a splined freehub body rather than a SRAM body.

Braking is done with SRAM Guide R brakes and has 180mm rotors front and rear. Strangely if you move up to the carbon models you get bigger rotors, the next model gets a 200mm front rotor then the top model gets 200mm front and rear. If you go down a model on the aluminium you end up with a 160mm rear rotor on the rear which is crazy small.

The wheels are WTB KOM Light i30 rims on Formula hubs and aren't going to get anyone hot under the collar, but have a good width and are tubeless-ready. The tyres, however, are decent, with Minions specced in the 3C version and a Wide Trail upfront.

The Trans-X dropper is a win for tall riders with a 200mm drop on the XL, which is a breath of fresh air compared to standard short droppers on bikes, good work Kona. Own brand components finish off the cockpit and a WTB saddle rounds it out.

On The Trail

The sizing on Kona is great and as a tall rider, the 510mm reach is roomy and comfortable. The short head tube means reach is reduced if you stack up the bars, however, Kona has been on this sizing for some time and it does work very well.

Once on board and pedalling the 134 shows it's hand pretty quick, and it's clear it's not trying to be anything like the new breed of XC/Trail bikes which pedal like stink. The 134 has a solidity and sense of purpose with it's climbing and pedalling that will happily get you up long and techy climbs, but it's steady. The wheelset does nothing to help this with my initial ride starting with some impressive pinging as the spokes settled into a fairly slack build. This was tightened, but they're heavy and slow engaging which doesn't help to liven up the forward motion.

The steep seat angle puts the rider in a strong position for climbing and with the good rubber underneath. It climbs up steeps and technical terrain with tenacious enthusiasm but will also winch up fire roads happily and comfortably.

Once descending it's clear that the Process is a sophisticated bike with plenty of ability far beyond what the travel data would suggest. On rooty, loamy, rocky trails comparable to the home trails of Kona, the bike certainly felt at home.

The geometry is well balanced, the not so slack head angle and short back end gives a lively and agile feel but is balanced by the reach which stabilises the whole experience. The rear travel is very supple and sucks the ground well. Despite evidence from the shock that I was bottoming it out, I couldn't easily discern this on the trail. It certainly feels like there is more travel available than 134mm. It did struggle on longer rocky descents where repeated hits through rock gardens proved it did, in fact, have only 134mm. Compression is easily adjusted with the Ultimate Shock to give something to push against through faster corners and liven it up which plays well into the 134 style.

What the shorter travel does is engage the rider with the trail more intimately, corners can be initiated more easily and it never wallows or feels slow. Sure, it probably makes some trails harder to ride down, but when the gradient eases off a touch there is a sweet spot where the 134 really shines. Flowing trails, with some pedal input and a sprinkling of 'tech-gnar', would perhaps describe the ideal 134 trails.

Despite its rather lacklustre wheels and climbing prowess, a quick wheel swap proved it can easily be transformed into a more all-round trail bike, more precise and more efficient. With its plucky confidence in steep terrain, the Guide R brakes are quickly overcome, especially for me as a tall/heavy rider. Bigger rotors would solve this to a point, but for me, this is a four-pot bike and needs some strength to rein it in.

The big question facing a rider of the 134 is whether they should just go big and get the 153. It's a looming presence on the website and is a proven performer with remarkably similar geometry to the 134, they even share the 66-degree head angle as well as pricing.

For me, the Process 134 is the 'thinking riders' bike, a more refined and edifying experience than simply smashing through the terrain. You may need to ride more carefully but it'll see you through no problem and is ready to attack the trail, it doesn't need to be nursed through sections, you just have to work a bit harder.

Perhaps best described as a slightly down-tuned enduro bike, it takes the best from the genre and packages it up in a tighter and easier to ride bike. The Process loves trails with puzzles to unlock, but won't hold your hand or wipe your nose, you've got to work for it.

Overall

Despite lacking somewhat in the brakes and wheel department, the Process 134 proves itself to be an absolute blast on the trails and the spirit of the 111 lives on through it. More of a short travel enduro bike than trail bike the 134 wants to pick fights with technical terrain without losing any nimbleness or agility in the er, process.

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This review was in Issue 61 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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