Modern mountain bikes like to blur boundaries. That’s why we now have flat billed bros rocking short travel 29ers and XC racers climbing bulldozers – I mean enduro bikes. But it wasn’t always this way. You used to pick a wheel size and be a d*ck about it.
So now that XC bikes look like trail bikes and trail bikes are practically enduro, how do you differentiate between model lines?
If you’re Kona, you build out two entirely different product ranges. On the one hand, you have your Process bikes. They’re on the cutting edge of the long and slack trend, with a honey badger like attitude about everything.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Hei Hei, which is Kona’s version of an XC race bike. It’s been in production in one form or another for nearly thirty years and has been reinvented with almost the same frequency as an a-list pop queen.
Last year, for instance, it ditched the old four bar system with pivots at the seat and chainstays, in favor of a small degree of seatstay flex. This new design, called Fuse Independent Suspension, is essentially a linkage driven single pivot. The benefits of the design include minimal maintenance and some serious weight savings.
The system was originally debuted on an ultra light alloy chassis that sported 100mm of rear travel and 29” wheels. Since then, a carbon version has also been deployed.
For 2017, Kona is launching a longer travel version with little wheels called the Hei Hei Trail. This new 27.5” bike has 140mm of travel front and rear and is intended to be more trail oriented than the similarly outfitted Process 134.
In addition to differences in geometry, wheel size, and travel, the new Hei Hei Trail diverges from its 29er sibling by embracing boost spacing, a trunnion mounted rear shock, and internally routed cables.
It’s available in three different trim levels, with prices starting at $4,199 and topping out at $7,499. The base level model comes equipped with a Shimano XT 1x drivetrain, SLX brakes, and Fox suspension – sans gold coat. The chichi build sports a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, Guide Ultimate stoppers,and a Pike/Monarch.
The middle-level Hei Hei Trail DL retails for $5,999 and is kitted out with Fox’s premiere suspension package, a Shimano XTR 1x drivetrain, and carbon WTB rims laced to Hope hubs. All three versions receive a KS dropper.
Unless you’re a diehard fanboy, there’s nothing you need to swap out on any of these builds.
The stems are short, the bars are wide, and the grips are classic ODI Ruffians with the MX under grip waffle pattern. Kona even nailed the dropper post lever, which replaces the OEM unit with the paddle-style Southpaw. My only complaint is the tires. What the hell is a Maxxis Tomahawk?
Actually, that’s not true. I have one more complaint – dropper length. Call me spoiled, but I would have preferred a 150mm drop over the 125mm unit the bike came stock with.
Moving past the spec and onto the handling, the Hei Hei is classic Kona. Despite its XC underpinnings, this little bike gets it done. We had the opportunity to test ride this model at Kona’s dealer event, which was held in Squamish. This mountain town is often overlooked as a riding destination due to its proximity to Whistler’s vast network of lift accessible trails, which is a-ok. As my Hawaiian friends say, “if you love Kauai send your friends to Maui.”
Their version of XC in Canada is not XC by anyone else’s standard. The trails are riddled with roots, rocks, and gigantic slabs. The locals send this stuff on hardtails, but everyone else is in for some butt puckering.