Kona's Honzo ESD is a very (hardcore) hardtail

Honzo ESD ready for the big hits
Honzo ESD keeps its simple with external cable routing (Image credit: Kona)

The hardcore hardtail was always a very British mountain biking phenomenon.

Steel frames with very progressive geometry and the ability run long-travel forks, enabling riders who had the adequate skill, to negotiate year-round technical riding.

The advantage of a hardcore hardtail is simple: plenty of riding thrills with relatively low maintenance, thanks to the rigid rear end, devoid of links and bearings to service.

Riders who have the joint health and confidence to ride a hardtail on terrain that would have most mountain bikers grateful for their rear shock, now have a new option from Kona.

The Canadian mountain bike brand has endured with its Honzo steel hardtail for years, but the latest version is quite a radical departure. It is called the Honzo ESD and has geometry numbers would not look out of place on a dual-suspension downhill frame.

Fabricated from steel, the Honzo ESD is designed around a 150mm fork and 29er wheels, which makes for a very big hardtail rig. It rolls Raceface AR 30 wheels, with a combination Maxxis Assegai (2.5”) and DHR 11 (2.4”) tire pairing.

ESD has sliding rear drop-out and a 180mm brake rotor 

ESD has sliding rear drop-out and a 180mm brake rotor  (Image credit: Kona)

Designed for descending - not merely riding along  

Viewed side-on the Honzo’s radical geometry is clear. You are looking at a 63° head angle unsagged. When you are descending, that ultra-slack head angle comes into play, and with the 150mm Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork, promise a very purist technical terrain riding experience.

Kona has also ensured the Honzo ESD features an appropriately roomy front triangle with 490mm of reach on the size large, which should deliver prodigious stability at speed. There is a sliding rear dropout, allowing riders to select chainstay length on scale between 417mm and 432mm.

At 14.6kg (32.8lb), the Honzo ESD is not a light hardtail by any measure, but its overbuilt frame structure and frame bracing gussets ensure that you’ll fail before the bike does. 

For skilled riders who revel in steep terrain and wish to add some low-budget thrills to their mountain biking experience, this new steel hardtail is a compelling alternative.

The Honzo ESD is being offered as a frame only at $665, whilst the full build option prices at $2699. Kona’s Honzo ESD build kit includes a blended Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain and the latest Deore 4-piston trail brakes.

Lance Branquinho
Freelance writer

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born journalist who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. As well as Bike Perfect, Lance has written for MBR.com, Off-Road.cc and Cycling News.