The day after getting a chance to check out Kona’s new Hei Hei Trail DL, we had time for one more ride. This year was the first that Kona held their dealer event in Squamish, BC, which meant prime access to some of the best local trails right out the front door. For obvious reasons, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the revised Process 134 DL. Built with similar travel numbers to the new Hei Hei Trail, the ride would serve as a back to back comparison between two similar but very different bikes on some of the exact trails they were created for…
Based on outward appearances, the 2017 Kona Process 134 DL doesn’t appear to be much different than the 2016 model. It still offers 134mm of rear travel mated to a 140mm fork and uses Kona’s Rocker Independent Suspension platform. The frame is still a 6061 butted aluminum number with a carbon brace between the rocker arms.
Stealth dropper compatible, the cable routing is a blend of internal and external with a fully external rear brake line. Straddling the PF92 BB shell you’ll find ISCG 05 mounting tabs as well as a low direct front derailleur mount – both of which were absent on the Hei Hei Trail.
The biggest change comes in the form of geometry with Kona adding length to the reach – up to 25mm more for the XL (XS remains the same). All sizes also see a longer front center measurement and slightly longer wheelbases. The head angle also slackens by 1º and the seat tube angle steepens by a half degree. All of the changes are said to make the Process line even more capable and in line with modern trends without resorting to a Boost rear end.
The aluminum build of the Process 134 DL is responsible for a big chunk of the weight difference between it and the Hei Hei Trail DL, but the Process also features a burlier build that hints towards the bike’s rowdier nature. The 30.71 lb (13.92kg) weight includes tubes and fairly aggressive Maxxis tires with a Minion DHF EXO Dual TR 27.5 x 2.3 front and Tomahawk EXO Dual TR 27.5 x 2.3″ tire on the back.
Considering that there was a lot of climbing to kick off the ride, I was pretty happy with the Shimano SLX crank with a 30t chainring. Look closely and you’ll notice that this is the first narrow/wide Shimano ring that we’ve been able to ride (or see for that matter). Based on the drops and jumps the drivetrain was subjected to, the chainring functioned well enough that I didn’t realize it was anything different over the course of the ride. Shimano may have had to swallow a bit of pride when it comes to narrow wide chainrings, but it appears they have done their homework.
On the climb up Jack’s and 50 Shades to the entrance of Rupert, the extra heft of the Process 134 was noticeable compared to the Hei Hei, but the bike still pedals well. It doesn’t inspire XC race confidence like the Hei Hei Trail, but with a flip of the levers on the suspension you can sit back and pedal without any drama to the top. In reality this seems more in line with the spirit of the bike anyways. Its true calling is blasting down at mach chicken while it will gladly pedal to the top – if you have to.
Along those lines, when it came time to drop in on some of the bigger North Shore features, the changes in geometry were right at home. The Hei Hei Trail was perfectly capable of handling the same lines, but the Process allows you to drop in with more confidence that you’re going to stomp the line. Having two bikes with such similar numbers may seem like an oversight, but it’s surprising just how different the two feel. The Hei Hei Trail is a trail bike that you could race XC on, while the Process is a trail bike that you could do bike park laps on.
Both are insanely fun, but one will probably fit in better with your riding style and needs. Or your budget, considering the Process 134 DL is just $3,599.