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Kona Hei Hei 29

Product Reviews - Bikeman's Product Testing

Bikeman's Product Testing
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Tester: Anders Larson, Team Bikeman.com Rider, Certified Bikeman Product Tester
Conditions: Roots, rocks and race courses across New England.

ImageFrom the Kingdom to the Campus Crusher and Back

After building up the "Hey Hey" (c’mon, fellas), I was greeted with more New England wet, mud, and misery, so I wasn’t able to really ride the thing. Knowing better conditions existed someplace, teammate Ryan Rumsey and I headed to the Kingdom Trials in the Northern Kingdom of Vermont. We rode a total of about 6 hours over 2 days there. My other "quality" time on the bike was racing the "Campus Soul Crusher", stop number two on the Maine Mountain Bike Association race series.

At the Kingdom, our first ride was, surprise, in a driving rain. To heck with it, we decided to just go. We started with a long road climb and proceded into the well draining trails. I won’t spend the time to review the Kingdom here, but to summarize, these trails are the best. They drain well, are super flowy, have challenging terrain, and are vast enough to keep one satisfied for a few days of riding. The next day saw the surprise appearance of the sun. We got to do a bunch of good climbing, descending, and shredding.

ImageThe trails at the Campus Crusher in Orono, Maine, were generally flat but very technical. Rocks and roots ruled the day, punctuated by mud holes and really tight corners. I was out there for over 2:20, and the whole affair, like last year, was a thorough soul sucking experience. Keeping focus was difficult, and while the trails are technically fun in small doses, the collective effect is just a little over the top for my tastes.

So what did I discover about the Kona? First, it is stiff. There is really no hint of rear wheel flop. With the Fox RP2 ProPedal on, it feels no different than a hardtail. With the ProPedal off, the suspension is familiar 4 bar smoothness. Still, no vagueness in the rear. In high speed corners the rear tracks right as one would want.

Another pleasant surprise was climbing. If the trail is at all technical, I left the ProPedal off. Some bob, but big deal. The large 29er wheels and the suspension design just grab traction and all I have to do was to sit and grunt it out. Standing didn’t produce any bad surprises, but unless I needed the extra burst of torque, it was all sit and spin. I am only using the ProPedal now when on gravel roads or pavement. I haven’t really felt the need for it once on the trails.

Some other real positives came to light. Tire clearance is huge. I don’t think they make a 29er tire that wouldn’t fit (I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen one). Riding in the mud does not present any problems with the mud getting in the way. Another positive is the cable routing. It’s seemingly a small thing, but as I mentioned in the build post, the 2 small screw in guides on the top tube near the seat junction are great ideas. Shifting and braking are smooth and after some real muddy rides they haven’t been effected because of the smart routing.

ImageRailing the bike up and over obstacles is fun, though it takes a little more effort than my hardtail due to the heft. The bike has a higher bottom bracket than I’m used to , but with the active suspension I don’t feel like I’m perched too high. There are a few moments when going really slow that the bike feels a bit top heavy, but once under steam it gets into its element and feels great. For the amount of time I spend at walking speed, this is not an issue I’d consider in owning this bike.

My only complaint so far is the weight, but even that’s no deal breaker. I would love this thing to be in the 26 pound range, but it’s more in the 28/29 pound range. I noticed the heft a little on lap three at the Campus Crusher, yet that’s mostly due to my inability to keep my mojo going over 2 hour race pace rides. There isn’t much I can do about the weight without spending stupid amounts of money, so I’m just going to have to suck it up and live with it. Like I said earlier, this isn’t a huge issue...

So to summarize, the Kona Hei Hei is a solid performing 29er full suspension bike. I am really happy with it and it appears tough enough to last at least a couple of years. It’s stiff, has gobs of clearance, and the silver/white paint job is easy on the eyes. I look forward to growing with this bike and creating some great cycling memories aboard it.

Rated:
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