We had a chance to chat with Spencer Paxson while he was in Europe racing the World Cups a little while back about the new Kona he was riding for the XCO events. He was a bit tight-lipped with the details ahead of the official launch of the bike, but did have some interesting notes. One being that this XC 29er rides more like a light trail bike, while still efficiently getting him up the climbs quickly in the races. Part of that comes down to the Fox iRD electronically controlled suspension, but also to some geometry updates.
We expect to get more info on the new 2016 bikes in the next week or so from Kona, but follow past the break for some details of this race-ready setup…
Sharing what seems to be the same alloy frame with the new Trail version of the same bike, Paxon’s cross country Hei Hei DL Race matches the 100mm frame to a Fox 32 fork with 120mm of travel for a slightly more relaxed head angle than we typically see at the World Cup level. Both Factory Series 2016 suspension components from Fox get iRD control and Kashima coatings to control the 100/120mm travel. Kona has two carbon versions of the Hei Hei in the current 2015 line-up, so we’d not be surprised if Paxson had been testing this alloy version in order to dial in new geometry and suspension ahead of a carbon version in the works.
The suspension design for this new iteration of the Hei Hei is all new, leaving behind Kona’s standard 4(faux)-bar layout. The Hei Hei DL now gets a shorter link and relies on the flex of the stays in place of a pivot near the dropout. The bike also supposedly has shortened the chainstays from the previous Hei Hei to help give it a more playful feel.
It is worth noting that this early/pre-production alloy frame looks to be pretty versatile and fully developed. It has a mix of internal shift and external brake routing (with the Di2 battery in the seattube), including compatibility for front derailleurs (to the extent that the chainstay gets shaped at the main pivot for clearance) dropper posts, and either electronic or mechanical drivetrains.
For his overall setup, Paxson’s bike gets the newest XTR Di2 group which meshes nicely with the Fox iRD components, together with the new stiff XTR carbon wheels. He does opt for a Wolf Tooth Drop-Stop ring instead of Shimano’s 1x option, and also goes with the M9000 version of the Stages power meter for race and training data collection. The complete bike as it sat here weighed a tad under 25lbs (11.3kg) ready to race. While that isn’t exceptionally light and slightly surprised Paxson, he has been racing this bike as is in Europe XCs, the BC Bike race, and shredding his technical home trails in the Pacific Northwest. Our interest in piqued, and we look forward to throwing a leg over one soon.