Caleb Smith

Spencer Paxson Enters the Pain Cave and Climbs 10,000m (32,000ft)

Spencer Paxson will remember Summer Solstice 2017 for the rest of his days. A silly little idea of his came to life, to take his Hei Hei DL and make an attempt at 10,000m vertical ascent and descending between first and last light on the longest day of the year – or the equivalent of climbing out of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Why? The reasons are many, but celebrating the arrival of parenthood (soon!) and an even bigger adventure was at the top. Thanks to Paris for documenting.

To put that in perspective that’s climbing to the top of Whistler Bike Park and doing six and half laps of Top of the World or riding up and doing 28 laps of A-Line… WITH NO LIFT!

Look for a full report to drop on Bike Magazine soon

Photo: Paris Gore

Weeknight racing with Chad Cheeney at the Ska Brewing Circuit Race

Words: Chad Cheeney Photos: Grady James Photography

The Ska Brewing Circuit Race, done and dusted. Nothing beats weeknight bike racing in your hometown. You do work all day, superman kit up and dash out the door for a timely spin to the venue. Lovely.

I felt pretty darn Grassroots on this day. In the am I was out at the Brewery with my McCloud, busting up the overgrown singletrack portion of the race track. Sweaty, calloused palms blistering and starting to bleed from months of no shovelwork. Two hours and I had to blast. A sweaty cross town commute back home for cheeseburgers and water. A quick shower, play with the Boy and Wife, and kit up to lead the junior team I coach, Durango Devo, on a cross town “chill” ride to the race. Amazingly linked up some random singletrack southward, down the Animas River to link up to Ska Brewing with the kiddos all in tack. Whew, made it with 30 minutes to start.

Whirlwind of a day for sure. But that’s what it always is right?

The race had all the Durango sluggars and yada yada yada, Howard Grotts took Todd Wells in a keg lined sprint finish and Payson McElveen rolled in for third. Classic showdown for sure and the small town crowd was in awe nonetheless. I took a good start and held on for all I could to finish 8th. The fans where friends and family so the cheers where jolly and unrestricted. Seemed like we put on a good show.

The Ska Brewing Circuit Race is part of a 6 race series that happens in Durango, Colorado from May through October. Short Tracks, Time Trials, Enduros and Circuit Races are the usual suspects and new ideas are always welcome. Ran by Durango Devo, a local junior development program that I co-created, and a local race club, the series is mainly a training tool for the juniors in town, and a good fun training night for the cycling community. So Grassroots!

20 years of Mountain Mayhem: Dusty trails, retro bikes and beer in the sun!

The late Jenn Hopkins shredding a Kona at Mountain Mayhem a few years back. Photo: Geoff Waugh

It’s surreal riding 24hr endurance MTB even as part of a four man relay team… riding at 3.00am in the morning when all you can see are the sporadic lights of other riders bobbing up and down in the wood. The dry, dusty and hard course was getting looser and looser with hours of trail abuse, even the new loam single track section two climbs before the arena sprint was now just dust! It’s funny how you break down the track into sections in your mind, just one more climb and another before you are rewarded with an elbows out tech descent. Concentrating and keeping your skills dialled in the darkness is the hardest thing, but Adrenalin keeps you going. Fuel up, strap on your timing chip, reach for the trusty Hei Hei Race DL, spark up your lights and enter the 24 hour flow!

For the 20th edition of this legendary race, “Fat Pat” and his Mountain Mayhem team had built some new trail sections that seemed to break up the long climbs and gave the track great flow. The loop had such variety from single track through ancient deciduous woods to open grass climbs and a trail alongside a hidden pool. Whether you took the A – Line steep descents (which we did) or the more mellow B -Line over the stream crossing, the trails were awesome. With over 1300 riders competing on a new course at Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire, the country residence of HRH Princess Anne, on dusty and hard trails in amazing weather the event was sent off with a bang!

Kona had a four man team with an average lap time of 1 hour for the undulating course. So while we didn’t take the racing too seriously, we did immerse ourselves in the Mountain Mayhem vibe of drinking beer in blistering sunshine and riding trails with old and new friends – The Kona Way! The team rode a combination of bikes from the Unit (turning heads in the pit), to the Hei Hei Trail DL and Process 153.

We also supplied Hei Hei Race DL‘s to the Go Outdoors team for racing.​ Go Outdoors have been the headline sponsor for the event for the last three years and were offering cool things such as “Camping Angels” to erect racers tents (apparently that’s a marriage saver) in hot conditions with kids running around. Singletrack Magazine were dj’ing in the beer tent and had a huge vat of pop corn for riders to literally jump into. Many thanks to the Stroud Brewery for being on hand and fueling the team, we drew the line at putting beer in our hydration packs!

Retrobike always take over a huge section of the race village and it was truly amazing to see some beautiful heritage Kona’s with heritage wheels (that’s 26″), those guys have so much love, passion and knowledge for their Kona’s…mixed in with water pistols to cool the riders, fairy lights in the depth of night, pumping tunes and interesting drinks their village area was the place to be in the depths of the night! Only a few hundred meters from the start / finish they brought the riders home, lap after lap!

With an amazing family vibe, Mountain Mayhem has turned into a mini MTB festival and it was super cool to support an event with such huge heritage in the UK. We were delighted to attend and lend our support to an event that has given so much to the UK MTB scene. Trail riding in the sun, with old and new friends while drinking beer through the night, it was great to be back in the Mountain Mayhem family. The venue and format for the weekend are changing for 2018 and we are really excited to see what they come up with for the next era for this legendary MTB weekend.

See you at Mountain Mayhem 2018 for whatever that brings!

Ryan Gardner’s California Enduro Series Round 3 winning Process 111

The California Enduro Series went north this weekend to the rugged coasts of Mendocino County. After two short races on the dusty fast single tracks of Auburn and Monterey, a visit to the redwoods of Northern California was a welcome reprieve. The Wildwood Enduro is also a substantially longer race than most of the California Enduro stops. With over 45 miles and 7k feet of climbing over six physical stages Wildwood promised to test the fitness and concentration of even the most seasoned racers. The race itself was held in the Jackson Demonstration Forest, a green swath of redwood trees and deep drainages less than a mile from the coast. The trails here are a pattern of high speed bench cuts across steep faces followed by shut down corners which all seem to contain overhanging redwood trunks. The result are physical stages requiring dozens of short sprints throughout each race run to get back up to cruising speed as quickly as possible before the next shut down. 

My weapon of choice for this event was my perennial favorite, the Process 111. After a few years of building up this frame I think I have come across the perfect part spec and just look at it! This bike is just a ray of sunshine.Up front I have increased the travel to 140mm with a Fox 34 Factory stuffed with the maximum allowable air tokens which gives me a super progressive feel and keeps the front end from diving too much in the rough stuff. A Fox Float run on the plush side does the work out back.

With all this aggressive geometry and suspension this 111 can get up to speed quickly. Slowing down again with a 200lb rider on it however, takes some doing. This year I upgraded to the TRP Quadium four piston brakes with a 203mm rotor up front and a 185 out back. Being able to slow down quickly means I can break later and is well worth any weight penalty.

For this race I went with my go to tire combo from WTB. A tough casing fast rolling Vigilante up front provides tons of bite for my over the front end cornering style, while a tough casing fast rolling trail boss keeps everything rolling fast. It’s the mullet of tire combos, business up front, party in the back!

Ethirteen provides the only plastic components on this bike with their carbon TRSr cranks and wheels. I have had incredibly good luck with these parts and they have really changed my mind about how durable carbon parts can be. Plus, having some light stuff is ok sometimes too I guess… I have also come to rely on their TRSr cassette to get me through big days. With over 500% range I can always find the gear I need. At the end of a 7k foot day of climbing, it can really make a difference on those last few stages.

VP’s VX Adventure pedals have been my go to for the past few seasons and like most of the other parts of this bike I have sacrificed a bit of weight for a nice big platform that provides comfort and stability worth much more than a few grams.

Being comfortable on my bike, and knowing that it can handle a tough situations (like rider errors) gives me the confidence to get way more loose than I have any business being on a 4” 29er. Throughout the day I had more than a few close calls weaving through the redwoods. Riding out of the forest towards the finish area with a group of great friends, rehashing the days moments of glory and mishaps, I was suddenly hooked on racing all over again. This event was exactly what I had needed. When we all dipped our chips and the times started rolling in it was an added bonus to see that I had laid down a good one and took the win by just five seconds after 28+ minutes of racing. Now it’s time to break out the big bike again as the CES heads back to the Sierra for the DH oriented China Peak in two weeks!

Ti Tuesday: Visa’s Ti Honzo 2.0

When the Ti Honzo original build had it’s first birthday recently we decided it was time to make some upgrades and tweak things even further. The first version was specced with always in-stock parts, so we wanted to go a bit wild and this time, we really went to town!

The original build was a ton of fun and has travelled with me from the Austrian Alps to the Lofoten islands in Norway. And never failed to deliver. We just wanted to see if we could make it even better, we sure did!

So the old wheelset had to step aside, the crankset went flying out the window and the cockpit was changed. The rims are 27.5” 45mm wide carbon rims from Whisky Parts paired with Hope Pro4 hubs (orange of course), oh that sound when blasting downhill. The XT crankset was replaced with a Raceface Next SL set and an oval ring from Absoluteblack. The Cockpit got a makeover to with a Carbon Sixc 35 handlebar from Raceface as well and a new Fox Transfer dropper post to match the Kashima fork. The fork travel is now 140mm compared to the original 120mm.

The bike is now lighter (around 12 kg, roughly 1kg less compared to the original build, depending on the tyre choice), it’s snappier, accelerates faster and the overall feeling has improved, thus earning the 2.0 title. The tyres are now WTB Rangers 3.0 light high grip front and 2.8 tough fast rolling in the rear. The Rangers have performed really well in all conditions and held up for the challenge, I’ve torn to pieces my share of lighter Trailblazers.

So we’ve come pretty far from the original idea of a moderately priced and specced bike but hey that’s the way it always goes right?

And for those of you wondering if the bike is still able to take a beating, I have an answer for you guys. It is! I participated in the Finnish National Enduro Series with it and took third place in hardtail category (yes, there were more than three riders in hardtail). Absolutely no issues apart from the rider not being fast enough!

For more Ti Kona goodness, check out the Ti Tuesday archives and #TiTuesdaysWithKona on Instagram. If you’ve got a Ti Kona bike, please do get in touch!

Singletrack Mag Reviews the Hei Hei DL: “Kona has absolutely got the chassis stiffness and geometry nailed on this bike.”

Aussie Ex-Pat Wil Barrett has just posted up his in-depth review of our  Hei Hei DL 29  on Singletrackworld.com, this is the same bike that Cory Wallace recently won the 24hr Solo World Championships on. The review is jam packed full of advert worthy quotes, and the best bit is we didn’t have to pay Wil to come up with them, just a few months spent on our full carbon Hei Hei DL and he just willingly handed them over.

“Kona has absolutely got the chassis stiffness and geometry nailed on this bike.”

“Quite frankly, the Hei Hei DL blew me away with its competence at speed.”

“The Hei Hei DL to skip its way over ugly rock gardens with a level of speed and finesse that is hair-tingellingly exciting.”

Thanks to the kind folks at Singletrackworld.com you can read the review in full below.


To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I first got hold of the 2017 Hei Hei DL from Kona. It’s a Kona, so I was sure it ‘d be fun, but I’ll admit that I didn’t have particularly high expectations – I mean, it’s a cross-country 29er with 100mm travel and a single pivot suspension design – how different could it actually be from every other 100mm travel 29er out there?

As it would turn out, quite a lot actually.

New for 2017 is the carbon version of the Hei Hei platform.

For 2017, Kona has split the Hei Hei platform into two different categories; the Hei Hei, and the Hei Hei Race. To muddle things further though, there’s a third Hei Hei category under the Hei Hei Trail label. However, that bike uses a completely different frame, more travel at 140mm, and smaller 27.5in wheels. So lets ignore that one for the time being.

The Hei Hei DL sits in the middle of the range.

New for 2017, the carbon Hei Hei and the Hei Hei Race platforms are lightweight full suspension cross-country bikes based upon the successful alloy Hei Hei, which was first introduced in 2016. Both platforms use the same carbon fibre frame, the same 29in wheelsize and the same 100mm of rear travel courtesy of the FUSE suspension design. The difference between the two lies in the spec. While the Race model gets a 100mm travel fork and lightweight components oriented towards XC racing, the regular Hei Hei is pumped up with a 120mm travel fork, bigger rims and tyres, and a dropper post. Think of it as a pumped-up XC dually.

Using the same carbon frame as the Hei Hei Race, the regular Hei Hei also uses 29in wheels and 100mm of rear travel.

There are three models within the Hei Hei line. The alloy-framed Hei Hei, the all-singing, all-dancing carbon-framed Hei Hei Supreme, and then this model that sits in the middle; the Hei Hei DL.

Kona has beefed up the Hei Hei DL with a 120mm travel fork and a more capable parts spec.


kona hei hei dl wil lady cannings shockwiz fox shimano bontrager wtb

The Bike

Straight off the bat, I liked the look of the Hei Hei DL. Embellished with its matte green paint job, I gotta say that this is one suave looking bike. Bright, but not garishly so. Also of note is that in the flesh (carbon?) it’s a significantly deeper shade of green that what it appears to look like online. Nice given that it’s quite rare to find something in real life that looks better than it does on the internets.

Plenty of space for a water bottle inside the mainframe.

Like the Hei Hei Supreme, the Hei Hei DL gets a full carbon fibre frame. Devoid of the bubblegum-carbon aesthetic, Kona has gone for a more traditional tube shape on the Hei Hei DL, with large-profile junctions at the tapered head tube and PF92 bottom bracket. The organic shapes are broad, without looking fat and blobby. Along with the vertically-mounted rear shock, Kona has ensured that there is plenty of vacant space inside the front triangle for a full size water bottle. Without the rear shock, Kona claims the Hei Hei DL carbon frame weighs 1800g, or just shy of 2kg with the shock.

The FUSE suspension design uses a single pivot and a one-piece carbon swingarm that flexes through the 100mm of travel.

The swingarm is made from a one-piece carbon fibre monocoque, with no rearward pivots to be found. Instead, the seatstays have a small degree of flex throughout their length to accommodate the 100mm of rear wheel travel. Rear hub spacing is 148x12mm, which combines with a short alloy rocker link, an oversized main pivot, and boxy chainstays to help add rigidity to the Hei Hei DL’s back end.

The carbon seatstays are flattened out for lateral rigidity, while providing the necessary vertical give for the suspension to cycle.

Speaking of, the rear centre on the Hei Hei DL runs at a short-for-XC 430mm. Also noteworthy compared with racier XC machines is the slack 68 head angle, which helps to add stability by pushing the front wheel further out in front.

The Fox 34 fork is a brilliant performer on the Hei Hei DL.

For the Hei Hei DL, Kona has spec’d the bike with Performance Series Fox suspension, so it’s all-black sliders front and back. The fork uses 34mm diameter stanchions to bolster steering precision, along with an adjustable air spring and the simple-but-excellent GRIP damper. It’s got a Boost 110x15mm tool-free axle, and Kona has selected the longer 51mm offset to reduce wheel flop on the climbs.

The rear shock is a tiny Fox Float DPS.

As for the shock, it’s a diminutive Fox Float DPS that offers just 38mm of travel. For those doing the math, that equals an average leverage ratio of 2.63:1, so not particularly high nor low. Like the fork, the rear shock is air-adjustable, with a red rebound dial and a blue 3-position compression lever that offers Open, Medium and Firm modes. Deeper inside the shock, Kona has elected for a medium compression tune, a firm rebound tune and a light tune for the climb (Firm) mode.

Internal routing for the rear derailleur cable, and external routing for the rear brake hose.

A small external run for the rear derailleur cable.

Throughout the Hei Hei DL, details are modern without being farcical. The frame is discreetly Di2 ready for those who choose to go electric, and although the rear derailleur cable runs inside the frame, the rear brake (thankfully) routes externally to keep the home mechanics happy. The stealth-routed KS Lev dropper post mixes it up by sending the cable down through the seat tube, before it exits out of a rubber grommet near the BB shell, finally joining the rear brake line along the downtube on its way to the handlebar.

Shimano 1×11 drivetrain with Race Face cranks.

Keeping things clean, the Hei Hei DL frame is 1x specific, with a Shimano 1×11 drivetrain taking care of gear changes. There’s a stout wheelset courtesy of WTB, with the lightweight KOM rims using a generous 29mm internal width to support the high-volume Maxxis rubber, and the rims come pre-taped from the get-go. You will, however, have to provide your own valves and tubeless goop.

I swapped in some meatier rubber from Bontrager for the test period. Loads of clearance for the 2.4in wide tyres.

As it arrived at Singletrack Towers, the medium-sized Kona Hei Hei DL with tubes weighed in at 12.46kg on our scales. In preparation for sloppier riding conditions, I removed the rather ambitious stock Maxxis rubber and setup a pair of 2.4in wide Bontrager XR4 Team Issue tyres tubeless. This dropped the weight down to 12.24kg and gave the bike a bit more meat where it counts.

Kona has a habit of getting geometry and positioning spot-on with its bikes, and the Hei Hei DL is no different.

The Ride

Kona recommends you setup the Hei Hei’s rear suspension with approximately 25-30% sag. For the little rear shock that equates to just 9.5-11.4mm of static sag, so you’ll need to get the ruler out to make sure you’ve got it right. For my 70kg riding weight, I started with about 130psi in the rear shock, and 65psi in the fork. Both felt smooth from the off, but the rear shock needed a little more work to get it dialed in. More about that later…

Save for dropping the stem, I made zero changes to the cockpit – it is perfect out of the box.

Climbing aboard the Hei Hei DL for the first time it immediately feels like home. For my 175cm height, the reach measurement on our Medium test frame was absolutely spot-on at 430mm (455mm on the Large and 485mm on the X-Large), which works well with the 70mm long stem. There’s no doubting you’re in a forward-leaning XC riding position, but the 740mm wide riser bars offer a comfortable sweep that brings the grips to you, rather than making you feel like you need to take a yoga class every time you jump on.

Love the KS Southpaw remote and ODI grips.

Adding to the intuitive cockpit feel is the brilliant under-the-bar KS Southpaw dropper lever, and the highly tactile Ruffian MX grips from ODI. All good stuff that’s been well chosen by Kona’s product managers. It also means that when you’re sitting on top of the Hei Hei DL and you can see that chunky Fox 34 fork angling out in front of you, it has a decidedly more trail bike feel to it.

The Hei Hei DL is a zippy and efficient bike to pedal.

As you’d expect from a lightweight carbon fibre XC rig, the Hei Hei DL pedals very well. There is minimal bob from the rear shock, and I can’t recall one occasion where I felt compelled to employ the shock’s compression dial for anything other than experimentation. Left in the Open mode, the Float DPS is active, but there’s no mushiness at the pedals.

And the stiff carbon frame does well at translating your inputs into momentum on the trail.

Part of this zippiness comes from the 1x optimised suspension design, with a main pivot that sits just high of the 32t chainring. In the larger sprockets on the cassette, there’s slightly more anti-squat to firm up the suspension when mashing in the lower gears, but the overall feel at the pedals is one of neutrality. Other XC bikes use a much higher anti-squat value to provide firm pedalling, which typically comes at the expense of suspension performance. The other trade-off with a high anti-squat value is excessive pedal feedback, resulting in a choppy feel when trying to pedal over rough terrain. However, the Hei Hei DL suffers none of that, managing to strike a sweet balance between pedal efficiency and smooth bump-response.

The PF92 bottom bracket, boxy stays and oversized main pivot minimise twisting through the back end.

Combining stable suspension with a rock-solid carbon frame, the Hei Hei certainly feels lighter than its 12.24kg weight figure. It’s got a fantastic get-up-and-go attitude, with the short and stiff swingarm eliminating any sideways wiggle that would otherwise dampen acceleration inputs. It feels crisp, agile and willing.

While the Hei Hei DL is agile though, somehow it never feels twitchy. Pedalling along flat singletrack with my hands off the bars, the bike is steady and adept at self-correcting. Ducking and weaving into corners, the weight distribution is well balanced, and the Hei Hei DL rarely pushes you into oversteer or understeer. It offers a very predictable ride quality, and that’s due to both the excellent geometry and well-behaved FUSE suspension design. For speeding through twisty singletrack, the Hei Hei DL is so intuitive to pilot that it becomes easy to push the bike harder and faster the more you ride it.

This bike is an absolute riot through the turns, and beats many longer travel bikes when it comes to fun factor.

Where things got really interesting however, is when the trail turns downwards. The short of it is that the Hei Hei DL just shouldn’t be this competent on technical downhills – it is very rapid. In fact, on my local test loop, the Hei Hei DL nabbed numerous descending KOMs that had been previously held by much longer travel 140-160mm enduro bikes – not short-travel XC bikes. Of course there’s something to be said of the bike’s low overall weight and poppy suspension feel, which allows the Hei Hei DL to skip its way over ugly rock gardens with a level of speed and finesse that is hair-tingellingly exciting. Sure you can overcook it, because this is an XC bike after all, but it’s surprising how stable the front end of the Hei Hei DL is on choppy terrain as the gradient steepens. And quite frankly, the Hei Hei DL blew me away with its competence at speed.

Even I was able to get the Hei Hei DL (somewhat) off the ground.

As I started pushing the bike harder and harder though, I soon encountered some limits with the rear suspension. For returning back to earth after capitalising on an imaginary lip on the trail, I was finding it a little too easy to bottom out the rear shock, with a hefty ‘clunk’ emerging from the Float DPS as momentum sucked my weight down through the Hei Hei DL’s chassis. Initially I tried upping the pressure to add support (first 140psi, then 150psi), which worked, but meant that I was then running closer to 15% sag. As such, the rear suspension was feeling quite harsh, and had the effect of pitching my weight further into the fork travel. To validate my suspicions, I fitted a Quarq ShockWiz for some data acquisition for the rear shock. The result was as expected, with the ShockWiz recommending a reduction in air volume, as well as as reduction in air pressure to help increase the dynamic sag figure.

Suspension testing with the Quarq ShockWiz.

Looking into the Float DPS shock further, it turns out that the air can comes sans volume spacers as stock. According to Fox, the 6.5×1.5in shock can be fitted with either the smallest or second smallest volume spacer, but that’s as far as you can go. Given that it’s quite a small volume shock to begin with, any reduction in internal volume is going to make a much bigger difference compared to a higher volume shock anyway. I did end up trying both spacer options for shits and giggles, but quickly worked out the smallest spacer was right for me.

Decreasing the shock volume helped to increase bottom-out resistance and provide a more lively feel to the Hei Hei DL.

The difference was immediately noticeable, and with the air spring ramping up harder towards the end, I was able to lower pressures back down to 130psi to achieve that idyllic 25% sag figure. The back end of the bike became a little calmer and more controlled on rough chattery sections, and the increased small-bump sensitivity delivered more traction and comfort. However, the biggest benefit was in the bike’s willingness to get airborne, with the shock feeling like it had more support to push back on during a preload compression. For the landing, the harsh bottom-out disappeared, and the Hei Hei DL became even better at launching itself into the ugly stuff. Good times.

Suspension aside, it’s the geometry and chassis stiffness that Kona has killed it with on this bike. Massive thumbs up.

Aside from the improvement in big-hit performance, one thing that became blatantly apparent with this shock-tuning experiment was just how good the Hei Hei DL is even when the shock wasn’t setup properly for me to begin with. Even with the shock bottoming out left, right, and centre, the Hei Hei DL was still bucketloads of fun to ride. Normally with a full suspension bike, if something’s off on the fork or shock, the whole ride suffers as a result. Not so with the Hei Hei DL however, and a sign that Kona has absolutely got the chassis stiffness and geometry nailed on this bike.

Wide rims do well to support the tubeless tyres.

The rest of the bike must also be commended for the Hei Hei DL’s excellent off-road manners, and in particular, the wide-rimmed WTB wheelset that was super solid throughout testing. The Boost thru-axles and 32x spoke build ensures there is minimal lateral flex, while allowing for more vertical compliance compared to a cheap carbon wheelset. I’m also a big fan of the conventional J-bend spokes, external nipples and 3x lacing pattern. It makes for a robust wheelset, but also one that’s easy to live with should you ever break a spoke or simply need to true the wheel. The fact that it’s all rolling on sealed cartridge bearings with a serviceable freehub mechanism is good news too, even if engagement is on the slower side.

No issues with the Deore XT brakes on our test bike.

Other highlights included the Deore XT disc brakes, which were absolutely faultless and devoid of the lever-pumping issues that some earlier XT brakes have suffered from in the past. Shifting was similarly bulletproof, and the tactile and punchy feel of the XT shifter pod is most excellent. I’m also a big fan of the double-shift function on the small trigger that allows you to click up to a harder gear two at a time.

Durability Notes

Having arrived just before winter, the Hei Hei DL test bike saw a significant amount of use in some pretty grim riding conditions, and it was also subjected to more cleaning and degreasing than it really should have had. But while the gritty Pennine mud did its best to get into every nook and cranny, the Hei Hei DL remained quiet and creak-free all the way through to summer. However, it wasn’t quite all smooth sailing.

The KS Lev dropper did suffer from the usual stuck-down syndrome of other Levs we’ve tested.

From new, the KS Lev Integra dropper post suffered the same sticky behaviour that we’ve had with other KS Lev posts. This would see the saddle sometimes ‘stick’ at its lowest position, meaning you’d have to give it a tug with your hand to free it up upon return. Apparently since mid-2016, KS has rectified this problem with the use of new internals on its dropper posts. Post action aside, the Southpaw remote is the bees knees, with a smooth lever surface that’s a pleasure to use.

The Race Face ring dropped the chain on me several times.

Although the Shimano 1×11 shifting was superb, I did get several annoying chain drops from the Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring. It’s not uncommon for the alloy teeth on the Race Face rings to lose their chain retention abilities as they wear, but it happened quite quickly on the Hei Hei DL test bike, and I’d be tempted to replace the chainring with a different option, potentially one made of steel.

It’d be great to see the bike coming with volume spacers for at-home tuning for the consumer.

Otherwise there’s little else to worry about on the Hei Hei DL. I would like to see the bike come with optional volume spacers though. The whole shock-tuning procedure is pretty straight forward, and it’s one that I’ve come to expect with most of the full suspension bikes I’ve tested in recent times. Of course suspension setup is entirely personal, and in reality, the breadth of rider types and sizes that a brand like Kona needs to design their bikes for is much wider than any one suspension product can cope with. However, it would be nice to see full suspension bikes being packaged with a range of volume spacers for both the fork and shock to make the process for the consumer that much easier.

The 11-42t gearing is a little too tall for our steep valley trails. 11-46t please.

Three Things That Could Be Improved

  1. The sticky KS Lev Integra dropper post. More travel would be swell too
  2. A more durable chainring with better chain retention abilities
  3. Get an 11-46t cassette on there to open up the climbing range

Boxy chainstays with integrated rubber armouring.

Three Things That We Loved

  1. Jack Russell confidence and speed on the descents
  2. Stiff, high quality carbon fibre frame
  3. Perfectly dialed geometry and suspension package

The Kona Hei Hei DL in its stock form.

Overall

Of the bikes I’ve ridden over the past twelve months, few have left an impact on me like the Kona Hei Hei DL has. It may have been that I lacked high expectations to begin with, but there is no doubting that Kona has got things absolutely bang-on with this bike. Like many short-travel duallies, the Hei Hei DL is lightweight, efficient and fast, but it’s the fact that Kona has managed to achieve all of that in a bike that is just plain stupid fun to ride too that makes it all the more impressive.

Not only is the geometry dialed and the frame well made, the parts spec is on-point too. Modern technologies such as Boost hub spacing, wide rims and 1x gearing have all been used to their maximum potential, and the collective result is a bike that rides far, far beyond what a few numbers on paper might suggest.

The Hei Hei DL gets a ‘Singletrack Recommended’ stamp of approval from me – this bike is a corker!

I’d have no troubles recommending the Hei Hei DL to any mountain biker wanting a fast and fun short-travel XC/trail bike. Unless you’re a diehard XC racer (you’d be on a hardtail anyway), the Hei Hei DL is more than happy turning up to a local dirt crit or a 6-hour enduro race. It may be a touch heavier compared to Kona’s Hei Hei Race models, but the addition of a bigger 34 fork, dropper post and wider rims help to create a significantly more competent bike for the descents, I honestly believe that you’ll likely be faster on the regular Hei Hei anyway. And lets be honest, after race day, you’ll have a much more enjoyable bike for regular trail riding too.

But the Hei Hei DL isn’t just for XC guys and gals. For those who you have been sucked into the enduro marketing wormhole and have found yourself riding bigger and longer travel bikes in recent years, you owe it to yourself to try out one of the new breed of lighweight XC/trail bikes like the Kona Hei Hei DL. They’ve come a massively long way in that time, and you may just surprise yourself with how much you can get away with. I certainly did.

A fun machine for XC riders, or a fast trail whippet for enduro riders – the Hei Hei DL ticks both boxes.

2017 Kona Hei Hei DL Specifications

  • Frame // Kona Race Light Carbon Mainframe & Swingarm, 100mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox 34 Float Performance Series, 120mm Travel
  • Shock // Fox Float DPS Performance Series
  • Hubs // Joytech Sealed Bearing, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // WTB KOM i29, Tubeless Compatible
  • Tyres // Maxxis Ardent EXO 2.25in Front & Ikon EXO 2.20in Rear
  • Chainset // Race Face Aeffect, 32t Narrow-Wide Chainring
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Shifters // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Cassette // Shimano Deore XT, 11-42t, 11-Speed
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore XT, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
  • Stem // Kona XC 35, 70mm Length
  • Bars // Kona XC 35, 740mm Wide, 15mm Rise
  • Grips // ODI Ruffian MX
  • Seatpost // KS Lev Integra, 31.6mm Diameter, 125mm Travel
  • Saddle // WTB Volt Comp
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Weight // 12.46 kg / 27.41 lbs

Connor Fearon bags another Top Ten World Cup result at Leogang

Thanks, in part, to a crazy start to the season the 2017 UCI DH World Cup is shaping up to be one of the more exciting events in recent memory, and Connor Fearon is right there in the mix. Just three rounds in he’s sitting comfortably in the top ten and despite the fresh names surrounding him, this is, without a doubt the fasted World Cup Field ever. On Sunday morning Connor rode to his third top ten result of the season, solidifying himself as a real contender this year. 

The course at Leogang had been drastically changed from recent years, changed from the course where Connor finished in second place. The rocks (and some roots) were now gone from the track and riders had to do battle on what some deemed as a pure bike park track, one rider even rode practice on hard tail to prove that point. The lack of technical features on the hill meant that times would be tight and any errors would be costly. Connor rode a consistent race run that was by no means conservative, but it was void of some of the risk and flair we’ve seen earlier this season from the guy many on the circuit believe to be the fastest corner destroyer in the business.

His days efforts would be rewarded with a solid 10th place, which see’s him now sitting eighth overall in the standings with four rounds to go. And if you like stats, this race marks ten World Cup events in a row where Connor has finished in the top 15, eight of those being in the top ten.

“I’m happy with how the weekend went. 10th is good, the track doesn’t suit me as well as it did a few years ago. There’s a lot less turns and fewer tech sections. The track is basically a flow track for 80% of it now. I think I was capable of a better result, I just didn’t risk it enough which you need to do on a easy track like this. But I’m leaving full of confidence and looking forward to Andorra.” Connor Fearon

After a conservative qualifying run that landed hin in the 55th spot Josh Button was ready to show everyone what he was made off and back up that amazing Cairns 5th place podium. Unfortunately for Josh, a heavy crash took away that chance, he stormed on like a trooper and managed to finish his race run, crossing the line in 73rd, more motivated than ever!

Magnus Manson, coming off some solid results Stateside, suffered a rotor bending crash in his qualifying run that meant his bike would not move, after bashing it into shape he managed to get it down the hill but not in enough time to make the top 80. It’s just a matter of time before Magnus pieces together an Elite World Cup event and reminds us of the speed and style we all saw when he was a junior. The guy was winning practice at Leogang thats for sure!

Leah and Jonathan Maunsell take first and first at Round 4 of the Grassroots Enduro Series

How fitting that our last race before we head off to France would be at home in Ballyhoura for Round 4 of the Grassroots Enduro Series. It would seem that this season has consisted of lots of wet races so why would this one different? It rained all week in the lead up to race weekend which would certainly affect the trails and make for a very exciting race. Especially considering the one day blind race format which is unique to this series – meaning that riders do not get to practice in advance, but can attempt the three stages as many times as they like before the cut-off time. Getting out early was going to be key if you wanted any chance of racing on clean stages. As we predicted the track conditions deteriorated throughout the day.
Team Maunsell had a great day and luckily put in some fantastic stage times early on in the day. Although the trails may have gotten slower throughout the day, it didn’t dampen the spirits or the fun. It was such a good day riding with all of the locals and catching up with familiar faces. You can’t beat that feeling of racing at home. Jonathan put in the fastest time of the day to win the Elite Men and Leah won the Women’s Category and posted a time that would have placed her 5th overall! Two Kona Process 153DL’s on the top step!

Connor Fearon Gives us the Inside Scoop on last weekend’s Fort William World Cup race

Fort William is always a race I’m happy to be leaving. The track itself is probably the longest and most physical track of the season, meaning risk of mechanical failures and injury are the highest. I always find it hard to get into the rhythm of things when practicing, especially the first day of practice. There are so many straights that are so rough and rocky, it feels like you’re going to break your wheels and I don’t really enjoy that type of riding. That being said they made a really good new section in the middle of the track with a couple of sweet jumps and turns, which is something new for this place!

That brings you to the controversial woods section. Basically, it was a 50-meter section running through a natural spring so it is always muddy. There was no maintenance, despite many riders asking for it, to make it more rideable. I think of it similar to an oil slick in a Moto GP race, basically, a booby-trap section taking out half the riders completely out of sync with the rest of the track. I’m not really for or against having a section like that in the race, as long as everyone has to ride the same track, although maintaining it (which is not a big ask at all) after practice would have been nice.

Qualifying went okay for me, I actually crashed in the bog section but still qualified 19th to get a couple of crucial points. I was kind of glad I crashed there in qualifying it settled some superstitions of me thinking I can’t crash in the same place for qualifying and race run. It feels more like an enduro stage than a downhill sprint race here because of the time it takes to get down. You have to think about pacing yourself which you don’t need to worry about for most of the other world cups.

It rained quite a bit before race runs on Sunday which did the top open sections some good, because it puts some moisture into the dry slippery gravel making it much grippier. I had two solid practice runs and was confident for finals although the wood section always leaves doubt in your mind because it’s so easy to ruin your whole race in it. I set off a bit slow in my race but found a good rhythm, trying to focus on carrying speed the whole way down and not make any mistakes. I got through the wood section pretty well which was a huge relief because it is pretty straight forward to the finish from there. I always lose time at the flat sections in the last minute or two which is frustrating but something to work on for next year.

I finished in 8th place which is my best result at Fort William. I’m happy with that because now I’m confident I should be in the top 10 at any track and be a real threat to the podium. I moved back to 6th overall but the points are really close in front of me and I’m really excited coming into Leogang one of my favourite tracks this weekend.

Enduro Ripper Jordan Regnier Joins Kona’s European Grassroots Team

We are happy to announce that we’ve just added French enduro shredder Jordan Regnier to our European Grassroots team. Jordan raced motocross in his early 20’s before discovering mountain biking in 2008. Since then he’s had some solid results rising through the European Enduro ranks, he finished 8th in the Megavalanche on Reunion Island in 2012 and finished 21st at the Valloire round of the EWS in 2014.

For 2017 he’ll be continuing a domestic focus onboard his Process 153 racing the Enduro Frenchcup, the Maxiavalanche and the Mégavalanche as well as the French and Italian EWS rounds.

Kona Dream Builds: Clayton’s Purple Rain Process 111

Words: Clayton Wangbichler Photos: Abner Kingman

Roughly eight years ago, I walked into a bike shop with the simple aim of getting brake pads for a Walmart hardtail I was borrowing from a buddy. Next thing I knew, the shop owner was trying to pitch me a great deal on a new bike. One thousand dollars for a brand new, size-small Kona Stinky.

It didn’t make any sense for a broke college student who was six feet tall, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. I walked next door, applied for a credit card, bought the bike and traded in the hunk of Walmart steel for a set of pedals to ride home on.

I returned to the shop the next week to ask some maintenance questions and found the space to be empty, doors boarded up and no signs of life. Turns out the owner was being indicted for tax evasion and had been liquidating his shop before leaving the country. The deal now made sense. I’d give the shop owner his plane ticket to freedom and he had provided me a lifelong love for Kona. Fair trade.

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Need a visual? Here is how I got into riding on that very bike back in 2009. Pro-Tec helmet, pink short shorts that eventually ripped mid-air, Vans that always folded around the pedals, and my buddy Cory always doing lunges in the background.

Since then, I’ve owned and ridden a handful of Konas. Process 111, Process 167, CoilAir, Jake the Snake… I rode them because of the simple fact that I knew they wouldn’t let me down. I didn’t know the folks who were masterfully materializing bikes at Kona, but I knew I shared with them a common view of what makes a solid bike. What makes a bike fun, where it needs to be strong, how it needs to corner at speed and what should be expected of component spec. I knew all their bikes were made with speed in mind, because that is where Konas have always performed best. Pinned, through hairy sections of trail.

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Buried in last winter’s West Coast snowpocalypse, I needed a way to satisfy my two-wheeled addiction without being able to actually ride. I figured it was time to give my Kona some one-of-a-kind love. The direction I went with it was born out of nostalgia. When I was about six years old, my dad bought me my first dirt bike after years of riding three wheelers. He restores classic cars and told me he would paint it any color I wanted. Any color. I chose purple and without my input he added a pink pearl that glistened in direct sunshine. I’ve owned a few dirt bikes over the years, but none provided me the same elation I experienced while riding the purple machine that shined pink in the California sun.

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But let’s be clear, the paint job alone wouldn’t provide the experience that my first dirt bike did. After my previous job provided me the opportunity to ride about sixty bikes in the last three years the Process 111 proved itself to be an incredibly capable short-travel 29er that didn’t come with some painfully unattractive price tag. Suited for daily trail laps while also proven to handle 30-foot senders. Built stout, yet comfortable for gruellingly long days in the saddle. I love this bike, so it only made sense that I show her the same love she’s shown me. The purple theme is a personal throwback to the endlessly blissful days I had on my first custom painted dirt bike.

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Once Kona got wind of the build, it only took a couple emails for Gavin Stewart, Industrial Designer at Kona, to get stoked on creating some customs decals. “Subtle, yet poppy” was probably the most confusing direction I could have provided him, but he nailed it. Thank you, Gavin. You’re a wizard of design. Our graphic designer at WTB, Joey Hale, also put together some color-matched rim graphics for me and next thing I knew I had the baddest looking bike on the block. Infinite thank yous to the Kona and WTB crews for making my dream a reality.

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Ryan Gardner and Alexander Kangas take on Round Three of the EWS in Madeira

Kona had two of its enduro riders attend Round Three of the Enduro World Series on the small Atlantic Island of Madeira this past weekend including Alexander Kangas (SWE) and Ryan Gardner (USA). This was the first EWS stop held on the remote island and riders could only speculate on the conditions that would await them. After two days of practicing the nine stages that would span two race days, riders were forced to come to grips with a veritable cornucopia of trail conditions. The island, it turns out, is a gem of many facets. Stages started at over 6,000ft on the ancient volcanic island (one of the oldest in the world) and dropped from wide open alpine feeling meadows into deciduous forests which could have been somewhere in the Northeast of the United States. Other trails fingered down ridgelines with sheer drops to the ocean on one side and 30 million-year-old forests filled with prehistoric cycads on the other. Still, other trails dropped riders down treacherous rock strewn paths and ended in wide open eucalyptus groves. All of this was mixed with around 4k feet of climbing per day and stages which stretched to 9+ minutes. To say this EWS was a test is an understatement. The worlds best battled through the four days of riding and broken bikes and bodies were not uncommon.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

All Photos: Sven Martin

Alex had a bit of a tough start to the weekend taking a header into a very stout pine whilst hucking a big line on a slick and root strewn section of stage seven. A stage which would go on to take more than a few riders down. When Alex “woke up on Saturday for the first day of racing, I honestly felt like shit, I had a headache and felt dizzy, I hate making excuses but honestly, I wasn’t feeling that good! But I felt like I was gonna be able to ride my bike.” And so he soldiered on through the most pedally and possibly most technical stages of the weekend and wound up 61st on the first day.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan Gardner made the trip from California to Madiera for his first EWS of the season. Coming off a podium in CA the previous weekend, Ryan was looking forward to seeing where he fit in amongst the world class crowd. He was quickly introduced to some of the slickest and rowdiest trails he has had the good fortune to ride. “Some of the tracks were honestly a little intimidating to race” he said. Day one started off with an incredibly physical track which seemed more uphill than down and lasted a solid 10 minutes. After this, the tracks stayed slippery and wet, but went increasingly downhill. “I had a tough time getting used to the icy red clay after a winter of riding hero dirt in CA, but managed one of my best stages of the day on stage three which had been giving me anxiety all week”. Two crashes (one each on stage tour and nine) put Ryan back in 82st after day one, a position more than a few places lower than he had hoped.

On Sunday Alex continued to improve through the day and started to attack the track on his Process 153 in a style more fitting to his abilities. He ended the day with a solid 44th on stage nine. His day two stylings bumped him up in the overall to a very respectable 56th in the stacked 200 rider deep open field. Alex heads on to Ireland in two weeks looking to continue building momentum.
Day two also saw Ryan improve on his performance clawing back nine places to finish 73rd overall and the fourth fastest American at the race. “I was really happy to have a clean race today. Stages five and six were really wet and I was having a hard time finding the pace. These were some of the most slippery trails I have ever ridden!”. As the day went on the tracks dried considerably and Ryan started gaining back some confidence on the bike and avoided any major mistakes, helping him in the overall. “This was the hardest race I have done so far and I learned quite a bit about what you need to be successful at this level. It seems like every year the pace is increasing and the tracks are getting harder! I’m really happy to put together a big two-day race without any major crashes or mechanicals!”.
Both riders finished within the top 80 and will, therefore, receive those coveted EWS points.