Kona Process 111 DL bike review
January 8th, 2016
Full Product Name | Kona Process 111 DL
Retail Price | £4399
Available From | Kona Europe
The most fun you can have wearing clown shoes
The Kona Process 111 DL is the most fun bike I’ve ridden in the last five years.
It has just 111mm of rear wheel travel; 120mm up front, a long low-slung stance and big old 29in wheels. The standover height on the size XL we tested is a super low 667mm – Kona see length as far more important so have the lowest possible top tubes on all sizes. It does look a little odd, but we like the way the Kona designers think…
The low standover suggests the bike is a beast when the trails point down, but raising the saddle also raises eyebrows on the size XL – there’s a hell of a lot of unsupported seat tube. It’s not as prominent on the smaller sizes, but this lofty seat tube looks a little scary.
That aside though, the Kona Process 111 frame has a clean purposeful look. The long front end features a tapered head tube with internal bearings; a press fit BB shell and is made from 6061 butted Aluminium. Massive pivot bearings join the rear end via Kona’s Rocker Independent Suspension. This linkage driven single pivot system uses asymmetrical chain stays and huge, low profile seat stays. From the carbon bridged rocker, a clevis mounted shock clears the seat tube and is mounted under the top tube. Rear axle width is the standard 12x142mm.
The Kona Process 111 has a roomy 772mm front centre, with 661mm top tube; a 68degree head angle and 74degree seat angle. It also has insanely short 430mm chain stays* Total wheelbase is a healthy 1200mm – long enough to be stable, but not long enough that the big wheels hamper agility.
*Most 29in wheeled bikes need short chain stays to maintain a lively feel but they tend to measure in the region of 435- 440mm. By comparison, my old Mondraker Foxy size XL had a 1240mm wheelbase; and 430mm chain stays – but with 27.5in wheels…
Component wise, the Kona Process 111 DL is the top model and has a great spec list. SRAM XO1 11 speed drive train with a Race Face Turbine crank and 32tooth chain ring were perfect up and down, whilst the excellent new Shimano XT brakes with 180/160mm rotors did the stopping.
Wheels were excellent WTB Asym 29mm rims on Novatec centre lock hubs, with a Maxxis Minion DHF up front and an Ardent out back.
Suspension was taken care of with a Pike 120mm RCT3 up front, and the Monarch RCT3 out back. Finishing kit included a KS Lev Integra seat post with WTB SL8 team saddle and Race Face Atlas 800mm x 35mm bar in a 40mm Race Face stem.
Obscure bike names and in house jokes
The Kona Process 111 takes it’s name from the wheel travel. Whilst this is purposeful and helps you identify the bike, this is a departure from Kona’s more entertaining past in naming bikes after Hawaiian volcanoes, fish and stuff that made them laugh in the office.
Kona make a cruiser called the HumuHumu, though this is the modern shortened name for the bike. When it was released is was known as the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (a type of Hawaiian reef trigger fish). The name took up a large amount of the top tube, and for a while was the bike with the longest name on the market. When another brand beat them by a couple of letters, Kona responded by offering the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa Deelux – which took up the entire top tube!
Infact, the name Kona itself tells a comical story from a similar name in Portuguese. This earnt a former employee all sorts of grief on a holiday when his family were head to toe in Kona clothing, much to the bemusement of the locals who wouldn’t serve, help or talk to them. A Portuguese mountain biker saw the funny side though – and a great opportunity – so started up distribution off the back of it.
Over the years, Kona have used all sorts of names and acronyms that made them laugh, including the old starfish logo used on the Stinky for obvious reasons, and more recently they returned to form with the Honzo steel hard tail. This was originally supposed to be Hanzo, taking the name after the famous Samhurai swordsman Hattori Hanzo, but a spelling mistake when doing research led them to Honzo.
Honzo was a Chimp in an Austrian zoo that was addicted to booze and fags – clearly a much more suitable name! Although the Process 111 has a boring name by comparison, this bike is nothing but boring…
Kona Process 111 – Out on the Trail
Climbing on to the Kona Process 111, it feels long and stretched out. My initial feeling was that I needed to bump the stem up a few spacers or fit a higher rise bar – but I decided to ride it as was, and adjust later if necessary. After the first ride I didn’t change a thing – Kona nailed the spec.
Three things instantly spring to mind when you climb on the Kona Process 111:
- It can’t possibly have just 111mm travel! The back end feels far too plush, grippy and responsive…
- It can’t possibly have 29in wheels. It feels like a jump bike!
- Holy shit this thing LOVES back wheel!
Despite the slightly odd looks with the saddle at full height, I guarantee you’ll completely forget about that if you try one of these. This bike is so much fun to ride – everywhere.
With the momentum of 29in wheels and an efficient suspension platform, the 111 zips along on the flat like an XC bike. It does feel a little heavier on the climbs – the sturdy 29mm (internal) rims with Maxxis rubber are there for grip and fun – not heart attack inducing XC sprints. But it climbs without fuss.
In fact it makes such little fuss that I don’t really even recall climbing on the 111, as I was far more bothered about getting to the fun bits. That’s a good thing, right?
So with the seat slammed, the Kona Process 111 is quite literally the most fun bike I’ve ridden in five years.
The suspension feels excellent – really grippy and very progressive. Even through rough stuff the bike doesn’t wince like a 4in travel 29er should. The wide rimmed WTB Asym wheels are more than stiff enough to maximise on the taught, snappy feel of the bike – and work well with the short travel to give a surprising amount of grip. Even when faced with rough tracks and riders chasing me on bikes with far more travel – the 111 never once choked, spluttered or fell short.
The only times it got a little out it’s depth was when braking on rough stuff. 50 Shades of Black at Bikepark Wales on a seriously muddy day, with Cheesy Pete chasing me on a Kona Process DH bike was interesting! But really, it was only the Maxxis Ardent out back that couldn’t hack it. The performance of this bike is just incredible – up, along, over and down it inspires.
I don’t normally like the short chain stays that half the biking world seem obsessed with, instead I tend to prefer a slightly longer back end to keep my height and weight balanced between wheels. But the 111 is an exception to the rule – it pops off jumps and manuals like nothing I’ve ridden in years. Every dip, hollow and tree root is an excuse to get airborne and I found myself in the air and changing direction more like a Springbok than a 6’3″ lump riding a 29er. Kona have nailed it with this one.
And did I mention that this thing loves back wheel? Jeez, even a half arsed attempt at a manual makes you feel like Wyn Masters on #wheeliewednesday. The 111 picks up and sits in on the balance point amazingly. This is a seriously good bike from Kona with excellent suspension and geometry that pulls it altogether perfectly.
And it asks one particular question: what could you possibly need a bigger bike for?
Now that 27.5in wheels have bulldozered their way in to the market, 29in wheels are being pushed towards XC, and bigger wheeled trail bikes are becoming rarer. Luckily, some manufacturers still know what works.
What Kona has delivered here really is something special – a short travel bike without any of the limitations that short travel bikes tend to have. Thanks to the 29in wheels it has all the grip you need, is immensely fun on any trail and is very flattering to active input. Where the geometry and short travel wants the bike to go wild, the bigger wheels bring things back in to track – a killer combination.
The Process 111 is flat out fast, it pops off lips like a jump bike and loves back wheel.
If you’re in the market for an exciting bike for UK shredding, this bike will do it better than most things you’re probably looking at. Forget that it has 29in wheels; forget that it only has 111mm of travel and forget that the size XL looks a bit gangly with the saddle up. The Kona Process 111 is a bloody fantastic bike.
What do you think about 29ers and short travel suspension?
Do you need more travel?
Are 29ers dying a death?
Let us know in the comments below!