2019 Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 Bike

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2019 Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29
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Tested: 2019 Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29

Kona’s enduro weapon gets the wagon-wheel treatment.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: 2019 Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29

Last fall we flogged Kona’s updated Process G2 and had a blast doing it. The update improved every single trait of the bike, but many folks were left wondering, “Where’s the wagon wheeler?” Kona hinted at the fact that a 29-inch Process 153 was in the works. Shortly after the release of the Process G2, aluminum versions of the Process 153 29 started to surface. On paper, the 29-inch version of the Process shares just about every trait with its smaller sibling, and we were excited to see if the Process 153 CR/DL 29 retained the qualities we liked about the 27.5-inch version – in addition to the added stability and confidence that the bigger wheel provides. We managed to sneak away from Kona’s summer launch with our own Process 153 CR/DL 29, and have been putting in miles since to test our

Last fall we flogged Kona’s updated Process G2 and had a blast doing it. The update improved every single trait of the bike, but many folks were left wondering, “Where’s the wagon wheeler?” Kona hinted at the fact that a 29-inch Process 153 was in the works. Shortly after the release of the Process G2, aluminum versions of the Process 153 29 started to surface. On paper, the 29-inch version of the Process shares just about every trait with its smaller sibling, and we were excited to see if the Process 153 CR/DL 29 retained the qualities we liked about the 27.5-inch version – in addition to the added stability and confidence that the bigger wheel provides. We managed to sneak away from Kona’s summer launch with our own Process 153 CR/DL 29, and have been putting in miles since to test our theory.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Playful and dynamic ride
  • Cornering ability
  • Great reliability
  • Easy to maintain
  • Not the most efficient climber
  • A little bit hard to find perfect balance between plow and pop
  • Rear chainstay protector slightly too short
  • EXO tires may not be enough for intended use case of this build

Process 153 CR/DL 29 Highlights

  • 29-inch wheels
  • 153mm rear travel // 160mm front travel
  • Kona DH carbon frame with 6061 aluminum chainstay
  • Beamer Independent suspension // Trunnion shock mount // Metric sizing
  • 20mm ID rocker pivot bearings
  • 12x148mm Boost rear hub spacing
  • 2.4-inch tire clearance
  • Spare derailleur hanger hides within cable exit port
  • Molded downtube and chainstay protection
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • MSRP: $5,999 USD

Initial Impressions

Having some familiarity with the Process G2, we expected that we should be able to hop on and go…which is exactly what we did. At first glance, Process CR/DL 29 appears to be a bruiser with its massive carbon rocker. The front triangle is long, has a ton of standover, and the top tube swoops seamlessly downward towards the seatstay. An aluminum chainstay remains, which Kona prefers as their material of choice where durability is the priority. A quick visual inspection leaves no doubt that the Process 29 ought to be a stiff, durable, and capable bike, just like its smaller-wheeled sibling. Closer inspection reveals plenty of subtle refinements that we would expect from a high-end enduro bike: a Trunnion-mounted metric shock, tidy internal cable routing, integrated frame protection, clean three-piece locking axles and pivot bolts, and a great color to top it all off.

Kona has always taken pride in producing durable, low-maintenance bikes, so it is no surprise that the frame bearings are massive. The frame itself is burly from front to rear and while it may not be the lightest bike at the trailhead, you won’t be the rider dealing with frame issues mid-ride. When maintenance is required, the pivot axles are easily accessible and straightforward. Kona is confident that the 153 CR/DL 29 can handle just about anything, and backs it up with a limited lifetime warranty. The Process 153 CR/DL 29 appears set to go fast, but also go forever.

Geometry

Kona set out to retain relatively neutral geometry with the wagon-wheeled Process. Their rationale for a happy-medium approach was to ensure that the Process remained more than just a high-speed race bike, and when we rode the smaller-wheeled Process last fall we noted that geometry was well-rounded and felt solid in every scenario. The 29-inch version is no different. Where some brands are leaning towards extremes with geometry, the Process does not push boundaries as they did with their original Process lineup. Kona has chosen a 66-degree head angle noting that they felt the Process 153 29 handled well at lower speeds, without getting twitchy at higher speeds. Knowing that some consumers might feel the need for more, the frame is Cane Creek Angleset compatible. A large frame has a 475mm reach, which is on the longer side without being extreme, but the compact 425mm rear end keeps the wheelbase from getting too long. The 153’s short head tube means a low cockpit is in play, and the front triangle provides excellent standover clearance. On paper, the Process 153 29 should provide an ‘in the bike’ feeling – a feeling that we prefer when sat aboard any bike.


“We prioritized the same characteristics between the wheel sizes. We knew that we wanted short chainstays, a stiff frame and low standover while fitting a water bottle in the triangle. Keeping the chainstay length short on the 29er makes the bike fun to ride as well. Easy to manual, bunny hop and flip around into tight corners…this was important to us, as we did not want to make a bike with a sprawling wheelbase that only excelled in straight lines since some trails still have corners. Our focus is on ‘fun’ as well as speed and we feel that they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.” – Ian Schmitt, Kona Product Manager

Beamer Independent Suspension

Suspension layout is one of the key items that differentiates one frame from the next. In an industry full of pressure to innovate, Kona has remained devoted to the single-pivot. To some a single pivot may seem passé, however Kona has been working with this design for generations of bikes which has given them the opportunity to refine and dial in this setup for every scenario. Kona has developed different interpretations of the single-pivot based on intended application, and both the Process and Operator frames use the linkage-driven Beamer Independent Suspension. According to Kona, the key benefits of this design are simplicity, ease of tuning, and low maintenance. The tuning goal for the Process 29 was similar to that of the 27.5 version: a flatter curve to begin with for excellent small-bump compliance, with enough progression to ensure that the bike does not wallow and provides a playful ride.

Because the term ‘single-pivot’ polarizes some folks, we dug a little deeper and questioned Kona on their rationale for the single pivot. Ian Schmitt, Kona Product Manager, noted that there were a number of discussions around suspension layout, even evaluations of new designs, but when the Process was being updated they ultimately kept coming back to what they knew best and a design that offered the ride characteristics they were after. After such a great time aboard the Process 153 CR/DL 27.5 and with high hopes for the 29-inch sibling, we did not argue.


“I definitely understand the sentiment that ‘more complexity is better’, but we’re really focused on tuning our bikes to work with shocks from our vendors. This creates a bike that works really well right out of the box and I think that is what a lot of our riders and customers value… We want to make sure that what we’re doing moving forward is true to the brand and resonates with our customer base.” – Schmitt

On The Trail

Considering that Kona is based primarily in the Pacific Northwest, and the crew frequents the Sea to Sky Corridor regularly, the Process 153 CR/DL 29 ought to feel right at home in Squamish, BC. Our first ride on the Process 29 was a group outing during Kona’s dealer launch late this summer, where we had the opportunity to tag along on a group ride…and then derail it completely by convincing our crew to abandon the original route in favor of a few personal favorites.

Setting suspension on the updated RockShox Lyrik RC2 fork was straightforward. The added bonus of easier external adjustments made things even better right out of the gate. The Super Deluxe RCT rear shock was just as easy, with a quick sag adjustment and a few clicks of low-speed compression before rolling out. We tinkered quite a bit with setup on the Process 29 throughout our test in an effort to find a balance between a playful versus stable setup, ultimately landing at a single volume spacer front and rear with less sag than recommended at 25%. We tried additional volume spacers, however we found that a linear setup gave us the most control in the fast, choppy terrain we were riding most frequently. While a more linear setup sacrificed some of the poppy, playful character we love so much, this setup was both more comfortable and faster. In a place like the Sea to Sky Corridor, there is quite a bit of trail noise and too much progression can become a little harsh for our taste. Do not assume that the Process 29 is a straight-line only, trail muting plow…it is still one of the more agile long-travel bikes on the market, even with a linear setup.

We found that we could generate speed easily aboard the Process 29, and getting behind the rear axle to manual is much easier than many bikes with far less travel.

The Process 29 is a below average climber with the suspension left in the open setting, but the compression knob on the Super Deluxe is easily accessible and the lockout provides a significant improvement in climbing prowess. While climbing certainly is not the 153’s forte, we would happily sacrifice a bit of efficiency and a few ounces in exchange for better descending and longevity. In spite of the active suspension and weight, the Process 29 is still capable of big vertical and provides plenty of grip on technical climbing sections.

We stand by the ‘bruiser’ label we gave the Process 153 CR/DL 29 earlier, but that does not mean it is not an absolute blast to ride. The short chainstays and supportive suspension make pumping and playing through trails a joy. We found that we could generate speed easily aboard the Process 29, and getting behind the rear axle to manual is much easier than many bikes with far less travel. The trait we loved most is the 153’s ability to corner. The combined stiffness of the frame and a little bit of wheel compliance meant we could hit corners hard without deflecting or finding the bike too harsh. The compact rear end snaps effortlessly around corners and aggressive riders will have no problem squaring off turns be it out of necessity or for the sake of playing around. Anytime we exaggerated front-end pressure, we could cut the rear wheel loose easier than most other bikes, which made somewhat mundane sections of trail far more fun. On some long-travel heavyweights, we tend to avoid anything below a certain degree of difficulty, but the geometry and suspension kinematics of the Process 153 CR/DL 29 allow it to handle well while remaining engaging on intermediate trails and at speeds that are more modest.

The trait we loved most is the 153’s ability to corner. The compact rear end snaps effortlessly around corners and aggressive riders will have no problem squaring off turns be it out of necessity or for the sake of playing around.

On steep, rough, and fast terrain, the Process 153 CR/DL 29 continues to impress. We mentioned earlier that we settled on a linear setup, which meant we found ourselves riding relatively deep in the travel on faster, rougher downhill trails. The bike seemed to sit down in the travel and felt very stable, but, on the flip side, we did bottom the bike out more frequently. The long reach provides confidence on rougher trails, with the chainstay being just long enough that the bike remains composed, although the Process 153 CR/DL 29 does require a little more rider aggression to keep things from getting squirrely through high-speed chop. When we rode with additional volume spacers or added air pressure, we found that we had a tough time keeping the rear end tracking the ground smoothly. We experienced more feedback than we would have liked, especially while riding flat pedals. We did not have the opportunity to try different shocks, but for terrain like Squamish we could see a coil or firmer tune being a better fit for us. Kona’s factory riders differ when it comes to shock preference, with Squamish-based Rhys Verner preferring a coil for his Process 29 and Aussie Connor Fearon preferring the feel of air.

Ultimately, we enjoyed the Process more when we were riding aggressively and with plenty of rider input. Faffing about rather than simply plowing from top to bottom is the Process 29’s wheelhouse; although more shock tinkering could have resulted in a better ‘race’ setup for us. We cannot stress just how well this bike corners, and we found ourselves seeking trails that had plenty of opportunities to lay the bike on edge, rather than just hauling straight down the fall line. The Process 153 CR/DL 29 is more than capable in the hands of any rider, but it is probably best suited for an intermediate to advanced person looking for the most fun way down the trail, rather than the quickest Strava time.

Build Kit

Kona has been on point with their build kits for quite some time, and the Process 153 CR/DL 29 is no exception. At six thousand dollars, top-shelf suspension is an expectation. Fortunately, the updated RockShox Lyrik and Super Deluxe leave very little to be desired. Both the fork and shock were faultless during our test, requiring nothing more than the odd wipe down in exchange for excellent performance that remains beyond the recommended service interval.

We are confident that this bike is among the toughest bikes on the market, with a suspension design that requires almost zero maintenance.

The CR/DL is Kona’s top-shelf build, which comes equipped with SRAM's X01 Eagle drivetrain paired with a Descendant Carbon crankset. SRAM also takes care of stopping duties with Code RSC brakes squeezing 200mm rotors front and rear. We are big fans of SRAM's latest components, with no maintenance being required during our test beyond the odd cable or b-tension adjustment for the derailleur. Kona was also smart enough to fit a 170mm Reverb dropper post, and while not everybody prefers or needs the additional range, we are certainly happy to have the option.

Rolling duties are handled by WTB KOM i29 rims, which are a good fit for the tires most folks will run. Kona has chosen SRAM hubs, which are not necessarily a conversation piece but functioned without issue and show zero wear internally. In its stock trim, Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO tires appear front and rear. WTB takes care of the saddle, and Kona’s in-house components round out the remainder of the build – helping to save a few dollars versus name brand options while performing nearly as well.

It is impossible to please everybody, but Kona has once again put quite a solid build together for the Process 153 CR/DL 29.Buyers are likely to have a thousand dollars or so leftover compared to similar builds from many other brands. While we were fortunate enough to test Kona’s top-tier build, it is worth noting that the less expensive Process 153 CR 29 is also intelligently specced and saves a pretty penny.

Things That Could Be Improved

There isn’t much to improve on Kona’s latest enduro bike. The Process 153 CR/DL 29 has solid geometry and a very solid frame. Like the smaller-wheeled version, chainstay protection ought to extend beyond the front weld to keep things even quieter and to prevent paint damage.

We are still hoping brands begin to deliver such capable bikes with more robust tires, as the Maxxis EXO casing just doesn’t hold up in a place like Squamish. At our ideal tire pressure the sidewalls do not provide enough support for hard cornering or square-edge impacts, and the WTB KOM rims have the scars to prove it. In order to protect the rims we ran higher pressure, but it took away from traction and overall enjoyment on the trail. With Maxxis Double Down tires readily available, we would love to see a bike with the Process 29’s capability come with tires that are heartier.

Long Term Durability

Kona has definitely made durability and ease of service a priority with all of their bikes, and the Process 153 CR/DL 29 is no exception. We experienced no maintenance issues, no bolts required attention, and – except for the tire casings – we didn’t have a single component complaint along the road. The Process 153 CR/DL 29 is a trophy truck on the trail, but a farm truck in terms of maintenance. We did not have any noteworthy crashes or moments that were particularly abusive to the bike, but we are confident that this bike is among the toughest bikes on the market with a suspension design that requires almost zero maintenance.

What’s The Bottom Line?

We admire Kona’s conviction to stay true to themselves. With all the pressure to constantly innovate, they have refined what they know well in order to make yet another great performer. The Process 153 CR/DL 29 is among the most entertaining bikes we have ridden to date and has a playful feel that few companies have achieved. Folks looking for a trail-erasing straight-line race bike should probably look elsewhere, but those looking to ride with friends, smash corners, and have a blast on any trail should apply within.

Check out www.konaworld.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3 stars - Good
  • Descending: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Fun Factor: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 35 // Years Riding: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings.

Photos by Jessie McAuley

Specifications

Product Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 Bike
Model Year 2019
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
M, L, XL View Geometry
Size M L XL
Top Tube Length 603mm 632mm 671mm
Head Tube Angle 66.0° 66.0° 66.0°
Head Tube Length 90mm 100mm 110mm
Seat Tube Angle 76.0° 75.8° 75.7°
Seat Tube Length 406mm 450mm 482mm
Bottom Bracket Height 346mm (29mm drop) 346mm (29mm drop) 346mm (29mm drop)
Chainstay Length 425mm 425mm 425mm
Wheelbase 1189mm 1218mm 1258mm
Standover 702mm 702mm 701mm
Reach 450mm 475mm 510mm
Stack 612mm 621mm 630mm
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Kona DH carbon with 6061 aluminum chainstays, internal cable routing
Rear Travel 153mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RCT DebonAir
Fork RockShox Lyrik RC2, 51mm offset
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset FSA Orbit 1.5 E ZS
Handlebar Kona XC/BC 35
Stem Kona XC/BC 35
Grips Kona Key Grip
Brakes SRAM Code RSC with 200mm front / 200mm rear rotors
Brake Levers SRAM Code RSC
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle
ISCG Tabs Yes
Chainguide N/A
Cranks SRAM Descendant Carbon DUB
Chainrings 32 tooth X-Sync Eagle
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB PF92
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM GX Eagle
Cassette SRAM X01 Eagle, 10-50 tooth, 12-speed
Rims WTB KOM Trail TCS
Hubs SRAM S900, 110x15mm front / 148x12mm rear
Spokes Stainless Black 14g
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 3C 29"x2.5"
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 3C 29"x2.3"
Saddle WTB Volt Pro
Seatpost RockShox Reverb withg 1x remote lever
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 148mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Gloss desert tan with black, lipstick, and cream decals
Warranty One-year limited warranty on complete bicycle
Weight
Miscellaneous Beamer Independent Suspension
Price $5,999
More Info

konaworld.com

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