Recently, Kona held a 2020 a 2020 launch event in Bellingham, WA. While riding the new Process 134 was our main focus, Kona set up a few other bikes for retailers and media to try on the last day of the launch. I decided to grab the bike that would be most suitable for my local trails in Pemberton, B.C. After spending two days riding the Process 134, I was also curious to see how the 153 CR 29 compared to its shorter-travel counterpart. Combining 153mm of rear travel, impressive pedaling efficiency, your choice of wheel size, and up-to-date frame geometry is a good recipe for making a fun and capable trail/enduro bike.
Kona Process 153 CR 29 One-Ride Review:
Not to spoil my whole writeup right away, but I found the Process 153 has very similar characteristics to the 134. The only big difference is it offers more rear travel and a greater capacity to handle rougher terrain. The model I rode was the lower spec carbon framed 153 CR 29.
I was pleased to find that much like the Process 134, the 153 is an impressively efficient climber. Kona’s linkage-driven single pivot suspension platform does a very good job of transferring pedal power and keeping you from sagging into the travel on the uphills. Even with the Fox Float DPX2 Performance Elite rear shock left wide open, the rear end used about half of its travel climbing moderately technical singletrack. Switching the shock into its middle or Firm modes offers a stiffer pedalling platform, without sacrificing traction or making for an uncomfortably harsh ride.
Kona emphasized how they wanted a lot of mid-stroke support from the Process 134’s, and I agree they did this quite well – the 153 is unsurprisingly similar in this regard. This makes for a bike with a lively, poppy feel that not only pedals well but easily generates speed as you pump through rollers and spring out of corners.
The additional travel (vs. the 134) was noticeable on the downhill trails I rode, making for a much softer ride that could easily handle rougher terrain than I had at hand. The 153’s linkage is a bit less progressive than the 134, but ramps up enough that on my short ride I didn’t quite bottom out the bike. On rougher terrain, I’m sure I could have achieved full travel with some harder impacts or landings.
I do have one negative comment about the Process 153’s frame. Kona’s engineers mentioned how they narrowed the seatstays on the new 134’s, and I now know why… my shoes clipped the 153’s seatstays a few times during my ride. I don’t have huge feet, so I can see why Kona trimmed down the 134’s. Perhaps the next generation 153’s will get the same treatment (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Kona). While the new Process 134 is now a full-carbon bike, the harder-hitting 153 sticks with stiffer, more durable aluminum chainstays for 2020.
The 153’s front end feels a bit shorter than the 134, but it actually has the same 450mm reach. The difference in feel may be due to its stack height being 5mm higher. The slightly higher front end makes sense on the bigger bike, as its intended purpose is to tackle rougher and steeper trails.
The Process 153’s head tube angle is identical to the 134 at 66°. I’m a bit surprised it isn’t a degree slacker to give it more capability on aggressive terrain, but its steering is far from twitchy. Like the 134’s, Kona did opt for a longer 51mm offset fork for the Process 153 29ers. A steep seat tube angle of 76° keeps you seated well over the pedals, so it’s easy to put power down when needed.
Kona managed to cram 29” wheels into 425mm chainstays (without moving to 157mm rear spacing, no less), so if you like poppin’ wheelies and whipping around tight corners, you will appreciate the Process 153’s snappy rear end.
2020 Kona Process 153 CR 29 specs:
In addition to a less progressive shock rate, Kona differentiates the Process 153s from the lighter-duty 134s by selecting some beefier components. The 153s come with stronger WTB KOM Trail i30 TCS rims, a pair of Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 3C tires to maximize grip, and SRAM’s Code brakes with bigger rotors (200/200 or 200/180mm).
The 2020 Process 153 is available in eight different models, with options for carbon or aluminum frames and 29” or 27.5” wheels. The 27.5” 153s are available in S/M/L/XL sizes, while the 29” models come in M/L/XL. Check out Kona’s website for build specs and pricing.