Kona Honzo CR Trail Longterm Review

May 5th, 2017

By Andrew Dodd in Bikes,Features

Product Full Name | Kona Honzo CR Trail

Retail Price | £3499

Available From | Kona Bikes Europe

Kona Honzo CR Trail – Four Months on the Trail

After getting to know the Kona Honzo CR Race at the launch last year, I was keen to try out the burlier Honzo CR Trail model – that comes with strong wheels and a dropper post as standard. (read my review of the Race model right here

Kona Honzo CR Trail

The Kona Honzo CR Trail is a great mountain bike. You could build it up light weight and you have a fine XC race bike; or run it with heavier wheels and a dropper post to turn it in to a decent trail bike. Photo | Andrew Saunders

The Honzo has been ridden most days now since the beginning of January – in utterly filthy conditions through the winter through to the flat out dry trails we’ve been enjoying lately.

Those that have ridden with me will know how much I love my Mondraker Dune – but I still really love riding a hard tail. There’s something quite pure about it – and it really keeps you on your toes.

Initial Impressions

I was blown away by the weight of the CR Race model at the launch – it was under 25lbs. I was under no illusion how this was achieved though – the Maxxis Ikon tyres are about as thick as a Durex; the WTB KOM wheels were light and skitty and the lack of dropper post certainly helped.

But I knew with the right wheels and a dropper post, this bike could be a damned good UK hardtail – especially as the sizing suited me so much. The size XL bike features a 657mm top tube; 485mm reach; 68degree head angle; tiny 415mm chain stays and a 1182mm wheelbase.

The Honzo CR Trail was definitely a little heavier than I expected though – once out the box and set up tubeless I clocked my size XL at 28.1lbs with pedals.

Kona Honzo CR Trail

Most people that spotted the lack of clearance on the Honzo laughed – it really is tight. However, it’s also the reason the bike rides so damed well. A slimmer tyre kept it rolling through thick mud in winter though, and now I’m back on the larger volume tyres to help smooth out the trail buzz. Photo | Andrew Saunders

This weight increase is down to the dropper post; substantial WTB i29 wheels and much heavier duty Maxxis Minion DHF and Ardent tyres. But they would all add to the way I would be riding it, so it didn’t concern me. I also had concerns with the ultra short chain stays. They don’t exactly offer much in the way of tyre clearance, and my local conditions can be truly horrendous in winter…

(check our bike check out right here for the full spec low down)

Trail Time

Whilst the weightier wheels did feel a little slower to get going than the Race model I’d ridden previously, they also slightly tamed the ride in quite a good way. The tyres felt confident and stable, and with the ultra short back end the bike surges forward with very little effort. It also holds speed very well – a combination of the bigger wheels, and the rolling weight.

Kona Honzo CR Trail

Early rides on the Honzo encouraged me to go to spots and mess about – not just ride loops. The Honzo loves jumping, and doesn’t often feel like it’s been chucked in at the deep end. Photo | Andrew Saunders

Hard tails tend to struggle when it comes to putting power down on uneven surfaces  – but the Kona has immense rear wheel grip. In fact the traction is so good that I needed to check I didn’t have a puncture out back on a particularly slippy local climb on the first outing. It also has amazing grip pretty much anywhere on the trail – but that can come at a price, as on my fourth ride out I pushed in to a fast rooty turn and rolled the rear tyre off the rim. Something I don’t recall having ever done before! When remounting inflated, I noticed the tyre casing was deformed and would no longer run through the frame – despite the wheel itself remaining true!

Kona Honzo CR Trail

There aren’t many hard tails I’d want to take to the local quarry for a session – the only thing the Kona screamed for more on this day was a set of flat pedals. It rides far more like a jump bike, but for grown ups… Photo | Andrew Saunders

I swapped the Ardent for a Maxxis Aggressor, which although minimal in clearance does a pretty good job of chucking mud out – so was good until those really bad months.

Mud Plugging

Kona Honzo CR Trail

With lighter DT Swiss wheels and the featherweight DT Swiss OPM ODL 120 fork, the Honzo felt far more like the XC/trail bike I first imagined it would be. It felt fast all winter, and never missed a beat. Even the press fit BB is still going – somehow.

When things got properly sloppy I fitted some more suitable tyres for winter. Out back a Specialized Storm Control, and up front a Hillbilly (review right here) . Both tyres were fitted on some new lightweight DT Swiss test wheels, and some DT Swiss OPM ODL forks (First Look right here). 

Immediately the bike felt lighter, had much improved tyre clearance out back, and was ready for the filth.

If completely honest – I didn’t miss the full suspension bike for over a month on local trails, as the Kona dealt with it all brilliantly. When it’s a complete s***fest out there it can be hard to keep motivated and carry on churning, but the Kona really has encouraged me to ride. No matter what the weather.

In the early part of the year when the days are short and it’s mostly wet, the Honzo CR Trail became my best friend. It was ridden constantly and never answered back once.

Eye ball rattling

As the trails have hardened up, I’ve changed tyres again – now running the Minion DHF up front, and a semi slick Minion SS out back. OK, so they might not be that light – but they suit the way I ride and are plenty fast enough.

Kona Honzo CR Trail

The DT Fork is really light, and performs well on the trail. Combined with the lighter wheels – the Honzo absolutely flies. You might notice the rear wheel is the stock wheel in this photo – lets just say that a light weight wheel out back isn’t the best choice on this frame, for the way I’ve been enjoying riding it. The stock i29 rims might be on the porky side, but they’re plenty strong enough.

I’ve also been dabbling back and forth between the stock Fox 34 fork, and the DT Swiss test fork. The DT fork is a fair bit lighter, and although feels quite stiff – just doesn’t feel quite as burly. That said, it actually suits the bike very well – more on that in the forth coming review though.

Able to ride the faster, steeper and more technical trails now it’s dry has exposed a few things about the Honzo CR Trail that I’d forgotten about.

The frame is so, so stiff that you can get sore feet on longer, rougher descents. Nothing that surprising – being a hard tail – but it’s present because of how damned fast this bike can be ridden. It really does carry speed exceptionally well, jumps well and wants to mess about – not just conservatively ride your local single track.

To maintain the sort of speed I normally ride a full suspension bike on certain local trails, I’ve found myself popping off roots and skipping out the sorts of section that can make hard tails stumble. The Honzo certainly doesn’t make me want to slow down and ride it like a hard tail – it has just made me think about how I approach the trail a bit more.

Unlike many hard tails that can feel a bit nervous when the going gets treacherous, the Kona Honzo CR Trail actually has more in common with the way you might ride a jump bike on a section of single track. It’s stiff and really inspiring to ride.

What Upgrades Would Improve the Honzo?

When the Honzo CR Trail first turned up, I didn’t like the weight of the wheels. They were my first thing on the hit list to change – but they are still spinning perfectly true, and although a bit on the lardy side give the bike decent stability. I would consider some lighter wheels, but having something a little tougher is key to this bike riding well.

Up front the damping on the Fox 34 is a little basic, but really it’s fine. Even the head angle that I first thought a little steep at 68 degrees really suits the bike.

It has the right amount of agility and stability – if encouraged anymore, the ride quality would probably be lost.

I can even over look the dire mud clearance  – but I would rather it had a threaded BB shell.

Overall – I bloody love this bike. You might have already guessed that.

Check out the Kona launch video for the bike – it pretty much backs up how I feel about it…


What do you think of the Kona Honzo CR Trail? 

Do you even like hard tails? 

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