Kona Honzo CR Race Review | First Ride

By in Bikes,Reviews

Product Full Name | Kona Honzo CR Race

Retail Price | £3299

Available From | Kona World 

Kona Honzo CR Race – not your average XC bike

The first Kona Honzo was launched in 2012, and was a steel frame. Originally intended to be named the Hanzo – after the legendary Japanese Samurai Hattori Hanzo – a spelling error when researching the subject lead them to Honzo.

Who was a famous Austrian Chimpanzee addicted to fags and booze. So the name stuck!

For 2017, Kona has unveiled the Honzo Carbon – which is based around a frame light enough for World Cup XC, but featuring progressive geometry and three models ranging from the XC Race model to the Trail DL model. We spent two days hammering the Honzo CR Race… 

Kona Honzo CR Race

The Kona Honzo CR Race comes with Maxxis Ikon tyres front and rear, but we toughened ours up a bit with a Minion DHF up front. With the saddle slammed, you’d never realise the Honzo is essentially an XC bike. Photo | Sam Needham

During the presentation, I found myself really excited to hit the trails around Serfaus Fiss Ladis on the Trail model of the Honzo, which featured a dropper post, wide rims and aggressive tyres. With the radical geometry, it promised the zippy handling of a jump bike, and the stability and speed of a modern trail bike.

Unfortunately the only size XL available was the Honzo CR Race model – with regular seat post; lightweight wheels and extremely light Maxxis Ikon tyres. Not exactly the sort of bike we’d pick here for a couple of days of proper mountain riding. Would it be a bit too XC in the handling department?

We found out the fun way…

The Details

The Honzo Carbon frame is made from high modulus carbon for lightweight, stiffness and that all important feel you can only get with carbon. The Honzo CR Race is designed around a 120mm fork, 29in wheels and has extremely short 415mm chain stays.

The low slung frame is also very long – offering stability and confidence – and is dropper post compatible for the option of control over out and out weight.

Kona Honzo CR Race

The dropped top tube allowed for a huge standover, and a mean low slung look. More like a jump bike than an XC bike. Photo | Sam Needham

Our size XL sample bike featured a roomy 657mm top tube (with 40mm stem as stock), 1179mm wheelbase and had a decent 75degree seat angle. Head angle was 68degrees – which might sound a little steep but was actually perfect and flattered the bike.

Like other progressive Kona bikes, the stand over height was huge thanks to the dropped top tube – making the bike look low slung and ready for anything.

Kona Honzo CR Race

The Kona Honzo CR Race comes with a 40mm, 35mm diameter stem as standard, and a 780mm bar. Bravo Kona. The cable routing option for a dropper post is there – if you ride the Race model, you’ll soon want to upgrade when you realise the potential. Photo | Sam Needham

Up front there is an integrated head set, and internal cable routing ready for a dropper post.

Out back are 12mm x 148mm Boost drop outs – but not for plus tyre compatibility. Purely for the best clearance possible with the ultra compact back end – if you fancy a Honzo in plus size check out the Big Honzo in our top picks for 2017.


Out on the Trail

For years the XC scene has puzzled me, but Kona’s answer building a hard trail frame that is race light, but trail ready really is a game changer for the hard tail aficionados out there.

Our Honzo CR Race weighed in just under 24lbs – putting it firmly in the XC camp – but lacks the dreadful road bike inspired geometry that far too many XC bikes have.

Once I’d slammed the seat in the frame and borrowed a burlier front wheel from another demo bike I was ready to hit the trails.

Kona Honzo CR Race

Alpine single track like this makes us want a 150mm bike for maximum fun – but the Kona inspired us way more than we thought. Book. Cover. Judge. Don’t. Photo | Sam Needham

With plenty of tyre pressure out back to help avoid pinching the durex-thin Ikon tyre, I hit the Serfaus Bike Park for a few laps to get the bike set up and was instantly surprised by the feel of the bike. Imagine the snap and zip of a jump bike; the confident position of a modern trail bike and an outrageous amount of back end grip and you’ll get the idea.

I hit most the jumps, wall rides and drops first time at Serfaus – soon forgetting I was effectively on a World Cup XC bike.  It’s bonkers.

Kona Honzo CR Race

Rowdy rocks, brutal roots, killer single track and a bike park were all tackled on the Kona Honzo CR Race. And it sucked it all up and screamed for more. Photo | Sam Needham

Taking it up on the real mountain trails though took a little adjusting to get myself in check. Riding those sorts of trails doesn’t lend itself well to bulldozering even on a full suspension bike, so with some recalibration I settled in to a pace that felt great, but would hopefully not end in a slashed tyre or a mangled wheel.

The front end of the Honzo CR Race is stiff and offers lightening fast response – but it’s not nervous. Where I thought I’d be backing off I found myself leaning in and pushing on.

And the back end was a really pleasant surprise.

OK, so it’s very stiff. There is clearly no energy wasted under pedalling, but also it doesn’t feel too harsh on hits. Granted, at the end of one decent 30minute descent my feet were buzzing a bit – but 40psi in the rear tyre and an ultra stiff back end will do that. Really, I should have suffered much more.


Kona Honzo CR Race

Not the type of terrain you’d choose to ride on a 23lb XC hard tail with tyres like condoms and no dropper post. But the Kona Honzo CR Race laughed at it. Photo | Sam Needham

Despite feeling like I had to keep a check on speed, I never really backed off too much and was surprised by the way the Honzo CR Race tackled everything I pointed it down.

As a hard tail it’s impressive. As an XC race bike, it positively takes the piss out of everything else.

We say

What Kona has created with the Honzo Carbon is both an astonishingly light trail-worthy hard tail, and an XC race bike that breaks down the barriers of what XC hard tails can do in technical terrain. 

The Kona Honzo CR Race is not a bike that can be pigeon holed. It’s light enough for XC; inspiring enough for technical single track and is happy to spend a day shredding a bike park.

We’d love to see other XC bikes go the same way as Kona – it could spark a new XC movement. 



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