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…

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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.

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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.

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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.



  1. “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.”

    They’re going to rely on the flex of welded Aluminum stays? That sounds like cracks waiting to happen. Are you sure that’s how the suspension linkage works on this bike?

  2. @AlwaysACritic.

    Salsa have been doing this for quite some time on their aluminium frames. As long as the seat stay wall thickness is tapered sufficiently thin enough in the centre section then the deflection will be distributed over a large area of material that is no where near the weld sites. Fatigue failure is based on how much stress is distributed over a given material volume. With some testing equipment this will be simple stuff for Kona to have run the rear triangle through loading cycles.

  3. Am I the only one shocked about a World Cup racer stuck on an aluminum bike? And just under 25lb? Most World Cup racers are on hardtails under 20 pounds and full suspensions under 22. Hopefully what Spencer was “tight lipped” about was Kona offering this in a carbon fiber version soon.

  4. @Always Yep, the rear end is doing the flexing (not sure where exactly.) We don’t have details, but might guess that it is Scandium based on previous editions.

    @Walter It’s true that the 10 or so WC XC hardatails we’ve weighed this year hovered around 20lbs (with only 1 under 19), but the 5 full suspension bikes have been all over the place from 21-25lb, with the Women’s world champ riding a bike that weighed almost 24. Paxson races everything from XC to Enduro, so it’s less a surprise to see him testing a heavier bike, and we’re sure he’ll have the next carbon one before we do.

  5. Anyone asking about flexing stays, please stop and go look up Salsa. They have been doing this successfully for many, many, many years.

  6. Salsa stopped using flex stays in favour of Split Pivot rear ends a few years ago. Felt, Marin, and others (Yeti 575) use flex stays (as did Trek/Gary Fisher many years ago). Whether any do it to any success is another matter….

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