Written by Emily Phillips Wednesday, 19 June 2013 14:06
I’ve been in the 29er market for over a year. Last fall I was about to give up on the 29ers because I really couldn’t find a bike that fit me. I’m 5’3” with a pretty equal torso to legs ratio. Over the past few years, I’ve become finicky about my fit. I’ve tested several 29ers and owned an aluminum 16” Salsa 29er last year. After several rides, I realized that a 16 inch frame was too big for me and the aluminum bike was really just too heavy for me to get moving, especially on climbs. I tested a full suspension Niner and felt it was too big as well. I rented a 15” Specialized Epic 29er on a trip to Colorado and the frame fit really well but the toe overlap was a problem on single track.
When Kona announced they were making a 15 inch carbon frame for the Kona Hei Hei Supreme model, I decided to give the big wheels one more chance. I compared the geometry with my 26er and the horizontal top tube is basically the same. This measurement always seems to be key in a fit for me and I think it’s a good measurement for small people to pay attention to in general. (For the record, the actual frame states that it’s a 15.5 inch frame so make sure to check the geometry online for frame measurements.)
I’ve ridden the Kona for 4 weeks now and I’ve been really impressed with the fit and handling. I finally feel like I’m riding a bike and not driving a monster truck with a saddle on it. I can corner efficiently. Of course, it’s not going to corner like a 26er but it’s the most nimble 29er I’ve ridden, which I attribute to the geometry of the small frame and the lightness of the bike. I’m able to power up hills with ease and roll over logs and rocks without hitting my bottom bracket or going head-over-tea-kettle. Also, I should mention, it’s fast…really fast.
Right now, the bike is a bit under 25 pounds with pedals. I made a few very small changes. I put on a women’s specific Terry Flex Gel Saddle, which is slightly heavier than the stock saddle and I took off the oversized Race Face bars and put on Truativ carbon bars that are 580mm wide. The Race Face Seat post can be cut down to save a few more grams. The components on the bike are impressive. Fox front and rear suspension come standard on the bike. Because this is Kona’s top of the line race bike, I feel they could have splurged on a remote lockout for the fork. However, with a fairly lean retail price of $5495, it’s understandable that Kona would have to save money somewhere. Both the front and rear shocks are manually adjustable with three settings for climbing (firm), trail (medium firmness) and descending (cushy). The crank is a lightweight SRAM XO, their carbon model with 38/24 chain rings. The 2x10 drive train is one of my favorite features and I think the chain ring sizes that come standard are really perfect for climbing, technical terrain and hammering when needed. I’ve actually been on a hammer fest ride on mostly flat terrain and I didn’t feel that I needed a larger ring. The front and rear derailleurs are also XO and the rear derailleur has SRAM’s new “clutch” feature that prevents chain slack. The Easton 90 XC wheel set is super light at around 1600 grams and is tubeless ready. The tires that come stock are Maxxis Ikkons and they are surprisingly grippy for New England trails.
My only complaint about the Kona Hei Hei Supreme is the total lack of room for a water bottle on the frame. I’ve tried mounting a side entry cage but even my smallest bottle won’t fit in the cage properly. I appreciate the small frame and it’s superior ability to fit my petite frame but there should have been some thought ahead on that aspect of the design…especially since it’s supposed to be the frame that the Kona sponsored pros are using.\
Overall, I’m a big fan of the new carbon Hei Hei Supreme. It’s an excellent option for a small person that wants a reasonably priced race super light race bike.
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