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2021 Kona Process X Bike

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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2021 Kona Process X
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Kona Process X Review - This is Not a Do-It-All Bike, and That's a Good Thing

Ready for rowdy, the Kona Process X knows its place in this world.

Rating: Vital Review
Kona Process X Review - This is Not a Do-It-All Bike, and That's a Good Thing

What an era to be a mountain biker! It seems gone are the days of spending an entire day loading up downhill bikes in your buddy’s beater truck and hauling up a winding dirt road for a handful of loose runs before dark. Now, options are endless for efficient, pedal-hungry enduro bikes that excel on steep, rough and aggressive descents. Answering the calls of adrenaline-starved riders is Kona with their Process X — a brave, capable, carbon 29er ready for serious action.

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Strengths

  • Balanced and stable at speed, especially through rough terrain
  • Predictable suspension feel on trail
  • Easy suspension setup
  • Adjustable chainstay length, ability to run 27.5 rear wheel
  • The bike looks good!

Weaknesses

  • Can be sluggish in less-than-aggressive terrain
  • Possible fit conflicts for riders in between sizes
  • Climbing prowess
  • Some underwhelming spec choices

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Highlights

  • Kona carbon frame front and rear with aluminum rocker
  • 29-inch wheels with 27.5-inch rear wheel (mullet) compatibility
  • 161mm rear wheel travel // 170mm front
  • Beamer linkage-driven single-pivot suspension design
  • Tapered headtube
  • Alternating internal and external routing
  • PF92 BB with ISCG mounts
  • Rear Boost spacing with adjustable chainstay length dropouts
  • MSRP $5,199 USD

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The Process X is Kona’s interpretation of an all-around gravity bike, a few millimeters squishier and more aggressive than their Process 153 line. As Kona puts it, “the Process X and Process X DL are our answer to big days of gravity-fueled riding.” Kona didn’t want to pigeonhole this bike into the enduro race segment, but it is the bike of choice for Kona factory rider Connor Fearon and Miranda Miller. None of this is particularly surprising; the thing just looks fast. Its low-slung stature and ample suspension is unapologetically gravity-oriented.

The Process X isn’t just a longer-travel version of the other Process models. The suspension sports greater progressivity and the geometry has more adjustability. Along with the frame’s dual-position chainstay is the option to swap a 27.5 wheel in the rear and *mullet* the bike.

First Impressions

Looking at the frame from a distance, besides the good looks, we didn’t see anything that really popped out — the bike is clean. The cable routing was well managed, and overall the frame was a refreshingly simple layout. The tubes don’t look massively burly, but that is deceptive. From above, the bike has a relatively wide stance. The wide pivots and oval-shaped tubes offer a very stable platform. That wide stance also provides ample rear tire clearance.

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As we zoomed in closer to the bike, the sparkly paint and fine details started to take shape. The bearings are relatively large, but there was quite a bit of exposure to the elements. We would have loved to see a second seal or cap to reduce the volume of contaminants the bearing could be exposed to. In addition to the bearing exposure, we did notice that the lower shock bolt was held in by two significant ribs on the downtube. These ribs could potentially trap contaminants in the 'tray' that it forms. Fortunately, those worries were unfounded for the duration of our test. But, it’s something to consider over the long haul as continually leaving contaminants near that lower shock bolt could result in premature wear of the lower shock bushing.

We were hoping to see a threaded bottom bracket, but we were presented with a PF92 instead. That same region includes ISCG tabs, but one thing kind of surprised us, this bike didn’t come with a chainguide. It’s not a huge deal, but we would expect at least upper chainguide integration for a bike of this classification. The more expensive Process X DL is also chainguide-free off the shelf.

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Geometry

The evolution of longer and slacker bikes, especially in the trail/enduro segment, is not something the bike industry has been consistent with for the last few years. Whether this is demand driven or a hyped up trend is a worthy debate. However, there is no denying, for certain terrain and types of riding, the benefits are real. Going through the geometry chart for the Process X shows measurements we have come to expect from an aggressive, 160/170mm-travel enduro bike.

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Kona's fit guide recommendations

The goal with the Process X isn’t to have a do-everything bike, but rather a get-to-everything gravity machine.

We tested a size large which provided a roomy 490mm reach, 1263mm wheel base, and a 63.5-degree headtube angle to check the ‘longer and slacker’ boxes of modern bikes. These numbers may marginalize the Process X as daily driver for many riders, as it will require some serious speed and steep trails to perform without feeling sluggish. The goal with the Process X isn’t to have a do-everything bike, but rather a get-to-everything gravity machine. When pedaling, the reach and slack head angle feels impressively comfortable due to a steeper 78-degree seat tube angle. Despite the focus on its descending capabilities, the comfort provided on multi-hour excursions is noteworthy.

A unique option we were unable to play with during our test is the ability of the Process X to run a 27.5-inch rear wheel with the use of linkage flip chips. We have had some time on mixed-wheel setups in the past and see it as a viable option for this platform, especially when the going gets steep. Kona offering a stock mixed-wheel-size option would have been a nice touch, however. Maybe next year.

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Two Riders, Two Experiences - Setup

Bike Fit

Jason Schroeder - 6'0", 165 pounds

Out of the box and with sag set for my weight, the Process X had a very comfortable rider triangle. My arms effortlessly fell onto the bars and over the front end with my center of mass sitting nicely into the center of the frame.

Greg - 5'11", 150 pounds

I had a harder time getting myself centered on the bike. The seated position was almost comfortable, but I was being pulled over the front of the bike. I kept the stock 50mm stem for most of the test, but cut the handlebar to 760mm to keep myself centered. There were times on this bike where I felt like I could have sized down to a medium. On a trip to Bellingham, Washington, I swapped to a 40mm stem, which you'll notice in the POV shots and this helped my body position on the Process X.

Kona's sizing chart confirmed that I could have been suited to a medium, but, the overlap on the other end of their size spectrum supported the possibility of even sizing up XL. To spare myself ambiguity, I filled out their sizing form to get a better idea of what Kona would suggest. Below are my personal measurements, and a few hours later I received an email from Kona with their size recommendation — I should run a large.

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Do I disagree with the suggested size recommendation? It depends on what the riding intentions are. Like with the Canyon Spectral I tested earlier, I am between sizes. If I were primarily going to wide, open, super-fast trails, then there is no question that I would recommend the large. In addition to that long front-center, the ability to lengthen the chainstays 15mm (450mm) on the Process X added greater composure at speed.

I would choose the medium if I saw myself riding a mixture of terrain that included quick line changes and required increased maneuverability. The bike would still be very capable, but the wheelbase would be a bit more versatile for my personal dimensions.

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Suspension setup

Both testers easily achieved a nice suspension feel from the bike. 30% sag and the stock volume spacers in the rear provided plenty of support, while 18% sag in the fork with stock volume spacers was sufficient in the front. Overall, there was little trouble getting the FOX suspension to function as desired on this platform.



On The Trail

Jason’s experience on mellower trails

My testing was limited to the network of trails on offer in the greater Boise area where admittedly the Process X is too much bike in most situations. Right off the bat, the stability due to the long and slack geometry matched with a beefy 170mm FOX 38 neutralized many sections of trail. The comfort and confidence provided quickly revealed the niche focus of this bike. With this said, plenty of smiles and fun were had locally on our flowy and high-speed trails. The bike was planted and stable at speed without being so secure that I couldn't pop around. It offered a lively demeanor if desired. The ‘off-the-top’ progression of the rear suspension aided greatly in being able to pump the bike over small trail variations and maintain speed. It also shined on high-speed braking bumps allowing the rear end to recover quickly and provide consistent braking that didn’t skip or lead to late braking.

When lower-angle trails did get tighter, the planted beginning stroke of the shock matched with the comfortably stiff full carbon frame allowing the Process X to surprisingly snap out of corners and carry speed. Unfortunately, this liveliness was countered with sluggish rolling speed due to the gravity-focused Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR tire combo that were spec’d with steeper trails in mind. I did expect ripping these ‘intermediate’ trails on the Process X to still be fun despite the true, aggressive intended use of the bike. It is always easier to ride mellower trails on an aggressive bike, but it was clear the Process X was going to need true gravity-focused terrain to appropriately gauge the benefits and shortcomings of the bike in its natural habitat.

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Greg’s take - Getting the Process X to the wet trails of Bellingham, Washington

While both of us spent the bulk of our time here on Boise’s more mellow trails, I also had the opportunity to take this bike up to Kona’s hometown: Bellingham, Washington. I met up with some of the locals and got a wide variety of terrain under the bike. The rain was relentless that weekend, so the extra confidence that the Process X provided on the technical, slippery terrain was appreciated. There were instances where I let go of the brakes and trusted the bike as I dropped into new-to-me trails, completely blind. The bike held traction impressively well through high-speed turns, jumps, and rock rolls. Even with time on these trails, the bike felt like it was still hungry for more steeps and more abuse.

We tried to adequately feed this bike’s ravenous appetite for fall line descents, but the weather did not play in our favor while in Bellingham. Fortunately, our efforts were not in vain. We could see this bike bringing us immense joy at a lift-served bike park, as well as opening it up on the steep alpine trails in our nearby mountains when summer comes. We may have been unable to reach the bike's potential this winter, but we both saw glimpses of what this bike can do and have no doubt about its potential.

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Greg swapped from the stock 50mm stem to a 40mm stem for his trip to Bellingham.
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Rear Suspension Performance and the Fun Factor

The Kona Process X is a linkage-driven single-pivot design which they call Beamer Independent Suspension. Unlike the Process 153, the Process X suspension has been increased to 13% progressivity. The two different chainstay lengths (135mm and 150mm) also result 158mm and 164mm of travel respectively. Kona's spec list chose to split the difference and just list 161mm rear travel to avoid confusion.

The Process X needs to be pushed by both the rider and the terrain.

Kona bikes have earned the reputation of being fun. The suspension itself offers plenty of pop out of corners and while pumping terrain. That spritely nature also makes the perceived weight of the bike feel quite a bit less than the mid-30-pounds that it is. That suspension feel is sure-footed, but we wouldn’t call it a playful bike. This isn’t a bike that you will grab to go jibbing with your friends. When in its element — at speed and in the steeps — the Process X makes quick work of sketchy situations. This bike needs to be pushed. The Process X needs to be pushed by both the rider and the terrain.

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Kona continues to maximize its Beamer Independent Suspension platform which does have a noticeable beginning stroke ramp which transitions into a relatively linear feel on trail. We enjoyed this initial stroke support especially when pumping through berms and trail features, as well as the quick recovery the Process X has on consecutive hits.

We found the bike easy-to-tune to our liking and we just kind of forgot about it after that. In the best way possible, the suspension just faded into the background. There weren’t any peculiarities. Even climbing, while not best-in-class, was better than we thought it would be.

At about 85% anti-squat at sag, the bike is not particularly firm on the pedals. The steep (78 degree) seat tube helped in these situations, and the climb switch was available to firm up the rear end. We were never going to win a climbing contest while riding this bike. Despite the shortcomings, we didn’t find ourselves cursing our way to the top either. We succesfully piled up many 4+ hour excursions on the Process X without much drama. At the end of the day, we just accepted the climbing tradeoffs for the descending characteristics were worth it.

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Build Kit Performance and Value

Dropper post

The only component that we had an issue with was the Trans X dropper post. The post came with 200mm of drop, but is adjustable up to 30mm in 10mm increments. We really appreciate the ability to refine the amount of drop available, but near the end of the test we began to have issues with the post returning to full travel. When researching the post, it unfortunately turns out that the damper is not rebuildable. Instead, a $75 damper cartridge replacement is required if an issue arises. Historically, we've had no problems with less-expensive 150mm drop Trans X posts on sub-$3000 bikes, so to see this model with more features struggle was a disappointment.

Fork and Shock

The FOX 38 Performance fork with Grip damper was a solid performer throughout the test. But we're a bit surprised that the Performance Elite 38 fork wasn't spec'd, as we've seen that fork on similar bikes in this price range. The 3-position compression and low-speed rebound adjustment of the Performance model may feel limiting, especially considering the naughty places one could put the Process X. We can be two-faced at times, and in the past we've wondered if maybe there was too much adjustment on the higher-end FOX forks, so we'll re-iterate that the 38 Performance fork held up well and took the hits through our test all with an easy-to-set-up package. We'll continue the thought with the Float DPX2 Elite shock, however. Setup was easy and performance was great for the riding we did, but as stated, the Process X chassis was ready for more. We wonder if the DPX2 would eventually be overcome after repeated and extended periods of gnar.

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Tire Performance

The combination of Maxxis Assegai and DHR II are well renowned for a reason. The consistent traction suits this bike very well. The choice of EXO+ was sufficient for most of our rides, but we would opt for a burlier DoubleDown or even DH casing for rugged summer riding when we could push the Process X to its limits in our area.

Wheel Performance

The wheels were a bit of a mystery. We tried finding information on these WTB KOM Trail rims, but with no such luck. We would assume that these rims would be similar to their ‘stout’ variant, but the ‘trail’ classification had us scratching our head. Naming convention aside, they offered plenty of compliance and survived the test period, which was a relief, as we've smashed up some lighter WTB rims in past tests.

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Brake Performance

The 4-piston Shimano Deore brakes continue to impress (See our Deore review for more). If you like the feel of Shimano brakes, then these Deores will give you control and power when you need it, without frills, fade or wander. Under a blind test, these brakes would have fooled us into thinking that they were a more expensive variant.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain selection was well-thought-out. The choice of a Shimano XT shifter was fantastic, nice bling with the XT derailleur, and the SLX cassette is ready to work. The Deore crank isn't flashy, and any extra weight at the bottom bracket is hardly noticeable, but they may offend some label hunters. Overall, the drivetrain held up very well, even with our torrential PNW excursion. Despite riding through dust and sand or rivers and muddy puddles, the shifting has been flawless throughout the duration of the test. The PF92 bottom bracket remained creak-free as well.

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Long-Term Durability

The frame seems stout and prepared for the long haul. The frame has rubber protection throughout to suppress chain noise and protect the downtube from both rock strikes and tailgate pad wear. We would have liked to see the bearings less exposed, and a threaded bottom bracket is preferred these days for ease of maintenance if nothing else. Throughout the test, we did not have any reliability or noise issues with the Process X frame. The paint was durable, and the limited lifetime warranty on the frame, as well as the one-year warranty for the whole bike, is enough reason to be confident.

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Other than the dropper post, we didn’t have any other issues with the Process X. We also don’t see any good reason to spend $2,000 more for the Process X DL model. Sure, it has some nicer spec, but we'd put the money toward a Grip 2 damper upgrade in the fork or a 27.5-inch rear wheel to have for #mulletlife experimentation. The rest of our dough can go toward trips to the bike park to bring this machine alive.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Looking to offer a bike for their top EWS riders and weekend senders alike, Kona has delivered with the Process X. It has modern geometry, chainstay adjustability and mixed wheel size possibilities, and a decent spec that's ready for plenty of trail smashing. If you like on being over-biked on local trails that aren't all that rowdy, even so, this is not the bike for you. You may want to look into the Process 153 or better yet, the very versatile Kona Process 134 that we enjoyed and would excel as a true daily driver. The Process X is for riders who need a big bike capable of tackling legitimately tough, fast trails. A do-it-all bike, this is not...and that's a good thing.

Visit www.konaworld.com for more information

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3.5 stars
  • Descending: 4.5 stars
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars
  • Value: 3.5 stars
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars

Specifications

Product Kona Process X Bike
Model Year 2021
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
SM, MD, LG, XL View Geometry
Size SM MD LG XL
Top Tube Length 569mm 594mm 623mm 662mm
Head Tube Angle 63.5° 63.5° 63.5° 63.5°
Head Tube Length 94mm 94mm 105mm 116mm
Seat Tube Angle 78.2° 78.2° 78.0° 77.9°
Seat Tube Length 380mm 380mm 420mm 450mm
Bottom Bracket Height 345mm (20mm drop) 345mm (30mm drop) 345mm (30mm drop) 345mm (30mm drop)
Chainstay Length 435 or 450mm 435 or 450mm 435 or 450mm 435 or 450mm
Wheelbase 1213 or 1228mm 1238 or 1253mm 1268 or 1283mm 1308 or 1323mm
Standover 690mm 700mm 710mm 720mm
Reach 440mm 465mm 490mm 525mm
Stack 615mm 615mm 625mm 635mm
* Additional Info MD/LG/XL have 29" wheels; SM has Mixed ("Mullet") wheels: 29" front, 27.5" rear.
Chainstay and wheelbase lengths adjustable via modular rear dropouts.
Geometry adjustable via flip chip in rocker link to allow 27.5" or 29" rear wheel.
Wheel Size 29", 27.5" (650b), Other (Mullet)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Molded chainstay, seatstay, and down tube (lower and shuttle guard) protection
Rear Travel 161mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT DPX2 Performance Elite, trunnion mount
Fork FOX FLOAT 38 Performance, GRIP damper, 44mm offset
Fork Travel 170mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Headset FSA Orbit 1.5 EP ZS
Handlebar Kona XC/BC 35, 35mm clamp diameter
Stem Kona XC/BC 35, 35mm bar clamp
Grips Kona Key Grip, lock-on
Brakes Shimano Deore, 4-piston, Shimano RT66 203mm rotors
Brake Levers Shimano Deore
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano Deore XT, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Shimano Deore
Chainrings Shimano Deore, 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Shimano, PF92 press-fit
Pedals N/A
Chain Shimano Deore, 12-speed
Cassette Shimano SLX, 12-speed, 10-51 tooth
Rims WTB KOM Trail i30 TCS, 30mm inner width
Hubs DT Swiss 370, 110x15mm Boost front, 148x12mm Boost rear with MICRO SPLINE driver
Spokes Stainless steel, 14g
Tires Front: Maxxis Assegai, 3C, EXO+, TR, 29" x 2.5" WT
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II, 3C, EXO+, TR, 2.4" WT (29" on MD/LG/XL; 27.5" on SM)
Saddle WTB Volt
Seatpost TransX +RAD dropper, Shimano 1x remote lever
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Kona, single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148x12mm Boost
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts One inside front triangle
Colors Gloss Metallic Black with Gold/Black Decals
Warranty Lifetime frame
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous Beamer Independent Suspension design
MD/LG/XL have 29" wheels; SM has Mixed ("Mullet") wheels: 29" front, 27.5" rear
Chainstay and wheelbase lengths adjustable via modular rear dropouts
Geometry adjustable via flip chip in rocker link to allow 27.5" or 29" rear wheel
Internal cable routing
Price $5,199
More Info

Officially Presenting the All-New Process X: It's So Sick (press release)

konaworld.com

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