Shop Testing: Kona Process 153

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When You're Least Expecting It...

Okay, we're not going to lie: this 'review' may be more a love letter than a technical appraisal. Why a love letter? Well, because something doesn't need to be perfect to be loved and what we have here is a love story. 

Testing the 153 has been a family affair. Mike first got his hands on a 153DL and deemed it slightly too large, which then was ridden by Paul, who then immediately purchased his own in an XL. Then, as it was eyeing me in the corner of the shop, I asked if I could give it a spin and I've been infatuated ever since. Joel liked the Process so much he opted for the 134 Supreme and following all of our leads Kim is looking at a 153 for her burlier rides and enduro races. You know there's something special when so many keep finding themselves aboard these bikes. 

A Good Pair of Blue Jeans

Have you ever had a pair of jeans that you refuse to get rid of? The fit, the feel, everything about them is perfect for you even as those around you tell you to get a new pair? This is that bike. 

You will find that riding a 153 is one of the most comfortable, accessible, and fun bikes around. Kona did something amazing in absolutely nailing the geometry on this whip. The low-slung top tube, low center of gravity, wide bars, slammed stem, steep seat-tube angle, slack head tube....well you get the point. You hop on and go ride. There is zero fussing about it. That's it. That's the review. 

Alright fine, let's take a look at this phenomenon a little closer and discover why there is something so right about the Process 153. 

Process 153

FRAME MATERIAL Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted 153mm Travel
SIZES S, M, L, XL
REAR SHOCK RockShox Monarch RT
FORK RockShox Pike RC Solo Air 160mm QR15 Tapered
CRANKARMS SRAM GX 1000
CHAINRINGS 32t, X-Sync w/Guard
B/B SRAM Press Fit GXP 92
PEDALS n/a
CHAIN SRAM PC1130
FREEWHEEL SRAM XG1150 10-42t 11spd
CHAINGUIDE n/a
F/D n/a
R/D SRAM GX
SHIFTERS SRAM GX
BRAKE CALIPERS Shimano Deore
FRONT BRAKE ROTOR Shimano Deore 203mm (centerlock)
REAR BRAKE ROTOR Shimano Deore 180mm (centerlock)
BRAKE LEVERS Shimano Deore
HEADSET FSA Orbit 1.5 ZS No.57B
HANDLEBAR Kona XC/BC 35 Riser
STEM Kona XC/BC 35
SEATPOST KS Lev Integra
SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
GRIPS ODI Ruffian MX
SADDLE WTB Volt Sport SE / Volt Sport SE 250
FRONT HUB Novatech QR15
REAR HUB Novatech 142x12mm
SPOKES Sandvik Stainless 14g Black
RIMS WTB STp i29 TCS
FRONT TIRE Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5x2.3"
REAR TIRE Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5x2.3"

Process 153DL

FRAME MATERIAL Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted 153mm Travel
SIZES S, M, L, XL
REAR SHOCK RockShox Monarch Plus RC3
FORK RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air 160mm QR15 Tapered
CRANKARMS SRAM X1 1200
CHAINRINGS 32t, X-Sync w/Guard
B/B SRAM Press Fit GXP 92
PEDALS n/a
CHAIN KMC X11
FREEWHEEL SRAM XG1195 10-42t 11spd
CHAINGUIDE n/a
F/D n/a
R/D SRAM XO1
SHIFTERS SRAM XO1
BRAKE CALIPERS Shimano XT
FRONT BRAKE ROTOR Shimano XT IceTech 203mm
REAR BRAKE ROTOR Shimano XT IceTech 180mm
BRAKE LEVERS Shimano XT
HEADSET FSA Orbit 1.5 ZS No.57
HANDLEBAR Kona XC/BC 35 Riser
STEM Kona XC/BC 35
SEATPOST KS Lev Integra
SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
GRIPS ODI Ruffian MX
SADDLE WTB Volt Team / Volt Team 250
FRONT HUB Novatech QR15
REAR HUB Novatech 142x12mm
SPOKES Sandvik Stainless 14g Black
RIMS WTB ASYM i35
FRONT TIRE Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5x2.3"
REAR TIRE Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5x2.3"

Build and Setup

It's amazing to think that so many mountain bikes come so well spec'd nowadays. It wasn't that long ago when you got a bike and immediately began tinkering with swapping out components and making it 'work' the way you wanted it to. Both the 153 and 153DL come dressed with excellent trimmings from SRAM, Rockshox, WTB, and the in-house Kona brand. The cockpit comes with a stout 35mm bar and stem combo that is both comfortable, but demands you to ride with authority. The drivetrain is handled by a simple 1x11 drivetrain and stoppers from Shimano. You may notice the gigantic 203mm rotors...yes, they stop you quick! The surprising part is that even with pizza-sized rotors, the brakes don't feel overwhelming and allow you to 'spot check' your speed. Just a tap and we're back in control. Kona was wise to include wide, tubeless rims shod with Maxxis Minion DHF tires. Here in the dusty, rocky Southwest, the extra traction is greatly welcomed. The wide rims and beefy tires help exude high-speed confidence and an almost reckless regard for personal safety. I mean that in a good way.

As for the frame, the oversized bearings and simple linkage indicate this bike is for the long-haul. Nothing fragile here, keep moving along. 

Climbing and Pedaling

We live in the golden age of 6" travel wonder bikes that pedal well and descend like a bat out of hell. Some are better at this than others like the Yeti 5c that makes you believe someone attached strings to you and is reeling you in uphill. Then there's the Kona 153. Now, let me get this right: the Kona isn't bad at climbing. Not at all, actually. It's just not on the same level that some other manufacturers have accomplished. Likewise, the Kona is a bit overweight and lacks and fancy bells and whistles in the linkage department to aid in your uphill struggles. No, the Kona is a simple bike....and it's great. 

With a linkage driven single-pivot rear suspension the bike relies solely on the performance of the shock and rider to find its way up the mountain. In this case, the rear Monarch shock requires a quick flip of the switch and all of the sudden the soggy cereal feeling in your pedaling magically goes away. Stand up, though, and it comes right back. That being said, the Process is a fine climber if you remain seated and let your legs churn away up and over anything that comes in your way. No, you won't be taking KOMs away from your neighbor, but you might spot a few birds along your ride and check them off your Life List. How about that? I bet he can't do that! 

Descending

So it doesn't climb like a caffeinated cat, but how does it descend? Oh. Boy. 

This is where all those 'right' geometry numbers we mentioned before come into play. By putting the rider well-positioned over the pedals and weighting the front wheel with the long reach, the Process wants to pop, jump, hop, and plow through anything in its path. Remember to flip the switch on the Monarch, push the o-ring down on the Pike, and get down to business. 

With the suspension masterfully handled by the pairing of the Monarch and Pike, there's very little to think about. Using the KS Integra dropper post with the Southpaw lever is a mindless task if you recall the days of the front derailleur and once the saddle is low and out of the way, the low-slung top-tube and low center of gravity create an exciting, 'keep pushing me harder', downhill grin machine. The resounding consensus among all of us who have had the pleasure to pilot the 153 down a steep, rocky, technical and fast trail is that this bike is FUN. This bike is damn fun. Oh, did we mention fun? 

Paul found his happy place riding the 153 down the chutes and drops on the Hi-Line trail in Sedona, while I found mine rocketing down Birdhouse in Tijeras. Kim, curious to see what the fuss was all about, took the 153 down Chamisa Trail and then down Sidewinder in Santa Fe and was blown away at the confidence, cornering, and playfulness. What seemed like such a 'meh' machine turned out to be the opposite. In fact, she'll have one herself soon. 

Conclusion

By now it probably sounds a little confusing: it's portly, climbs alright, and descends extremely well. What's the big deal?

Love is not perfect, love is sometimes blind. What may look strange, feel heavy, seem dull by comparison to the likes of its Yeti, Devinci, and Rocky Mountain brethren, is actually quite perfect. If your heart is set on racing in spandex and showing off to your dentist friend, then no, this bike is not for you. Those of you, though, that know the value in fun, comfort, and reliability...well, here's your new best friend. Maybe even lover?

Kona hit this one out of the park. Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, the Process 153 is one of the most entertaining and overall 'right' bikes we have ridden in a while. We appreciate the blue collar, no bullshit, no carbon approach they have taken and we predict that many years of abuse won't phase this bike. It'll shrug it off, sit in the corner of your room and beg you for more. What more could you want?

Don't Take Our Word For It

Come check one out for yourself. We have a few around the shop including a whole demo line of 134s waiting for your love.
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