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Kona Process 134 CR/DL 29 first ride review – a mid-travel trail ripper

Can Kona’s flagship mid-travel twenty niner MTB mix efficient climbing with maximum tech terrain enjoyment?

Kona Process 134 CR/DL 29
(Image: © Future)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Unconventional proportions make Kona’s flagship mid-travel machine an addictive ragged edge rally enthusiast.

Pros

  • +

    Light, stiff and lively carbon frame

  • +

    Agile geometry

  • +

    Really sorted mid-travel suspension

  • +

    Loves manuals and side knob abuse

  • +

    29 or 27.5in wheeled versions

Cons

  • -

    No internal storage

  • -

    Press fit bottom bracket

  • -

    Peer price bikes often have carbon wheels

The 134 is the shortest travel option in Kona’s Process mountain bike family but this top spec 29er makes the most of every millimeter on descents while still hustling the climbs. It’s got a distinctive handling balance that really rewards proactive piloting too, so if you love waving your front wheel in the air or hearing side knobs almost tearing off then the CR/DL could be ideal.

Should you fancy reading about more excellent mountain bikes after this review, then check out our guide to the best trail bikes available.

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

Kona Process 134 CR/DL rear

A super short back end is a big part of the Process handling DNA (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design

I recently tested the alloy, 27.5in wheeled version of the Process 134 and in terms of outline there’s very little difference. The back end is still tucked in very tight (at 427mm the chain stays are only 2mm longer) and the 66-degree head angle, 76.3-degree seat angle 475mm reach on a large geometry is almost identical. Even the bottom bracket height is basically identical with the 29er being 1mm lower. That still translates to a big dynamic difference though as the BB drop is 33mm rather than 12mm and even with a long 51mm fork offset the 29er wheels like to stay straight rather than tuck under.

The big differences definitely come from the carbon frame though, with a much stiffer front end with long conjoined head box. Super stout rear stays pivot just above and ahead of the chainring top on a massive pivot bore, with a second pivot on the seat stay driving the vertical shock through a big single piece carbon fibre ‘Beamer’ rocker link. Large diameter bearings all round are complemented by a trunnion bearing mount for the rear shock to maximise sensitivity. There’s rubber armour under the belly and around the chain stay and the internal cable routing slips neatly into extended blister openings on the head box. Kona also uses internal headset cups for easy swapping to an angle adjust setup if you want and, while they potentially create creak and longevity issues, the press fit bottom bracket is chosen to increase stiffness while reducing weight. 

The Process doesn’t get internal storage or built-in geometry adjust but there is room for a bottle cage and strap-on storage. Relatively short seat tubes mean you can probably size up without too much seat height growth but it’s worth noting that while S, M and L sizes are 25mm apart in reach, the XL is 35mm longer than the large sample I tested.

Kona Beamer

Kona's Beamer suspension uses massive bearings and a big carbon rocker block (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Specifications

In Kona-speak the DL stands for DeLuxe and apart from the carbon wheels and cockpit you’re getting a pretty fancy kit collection here. The gears are SRAM AXS wireless, the G2 brakes are the fully-adjustable RSC version and the RockShox Pike fork and piggy back damper boosted RockShox Super Deluxe shock are the fully high and low speed compression adjustable ‘Ultimate’ versions. 

Maxxis DHF and Dissector tires are a great team for front-end grip and extra gear speed and, while most bikes this price and spec are also running carbon rims, the WTB KOM Team rims are light for alloy hoops. This helps bring the Kona in lighter than you might expect considering the brand’s reputation for rowdy strength and the seriously chunky back end. 

RockShox Pike top

RockShox Pike fork and Super Deluxe shock are both top 'Ultimate' spec with high and low speed compression damping adjust (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

Heading up from my Bike Demo HQ for the day, the Process was keen to show its enthusiasm for gaining speed or height fast straightaway too. That’s partly due to the relatively fast-rolling Dissector tire on the rear, but low overall weight and a really solid drive feel through the oversized but short length stays and the press fit bottom bracket also really help with hustling. Once you’ve worked out which way they’ve been configured (why do they always seem to work the opposite way to what you expect, however they’ve been set up?) the Force AXS gears never miss a beat and are brilliant for adding gears into every headlong Kona charge. That’s not the only switch you might need to flick either as the suspension is obviously mobile under power so it benefits from the climb switch being flicked if there’s a fire road climb involved. On janky sections I could keep on the gas without any pedal choke or cadence interruption though, so it surges on where other bikes stalled and struggled. It’s also worth noting the DT Swiss rear hub trades tireless durability for instant pick-up in default setup (you can buy a faster reacting ratchet), but once it engages drive the Kona properly kicks on.

Rockshox pike on kona

RockShox Pike Ultimate fork and 29 x 2.5in Maxxis Minion DHF tire are a great all-round control combo (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

The responsiveness and leash-straining enthusiasm means you don’t have to wait for gravity to be on your side before you start getting lairy either. While the longer offset fork and tight back end mean it’s not the most stable bike at high speed, they set up a super agile, fast response character on tighter trails where quick reactions are key. The reaction speed also makes it really fun to chase the edge of side knob traction by slamming the bars as low as possible into every turn and then surfing the slide before snapping out and over the way to rail the next turn. Having been spooked several times on the shorter travel alloy bike, it was a real relief to be able to bury the front wheel into turns and get consistent results from the stiffer carbon frame. 

Kona Process cockpit

Big bars and fully tuneable SRAM brakes make this a Process you can fully trust (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

While a lot of modern mid-travel bikes are utterly sorted and safe in feel, the Kona is a really welcome slice of live wire insolence. Long offset forks and super-short rear ends certainly aren’t the fashionable proportions right now and they mean the Process is more likely to spill traction and control on the steepest climbs or fastest descents. However, if you like popping your front wheel up, snapping between savage lines and hearing tires roar as the rubber starts to rip, the extra responsiveness of the 134 is a grin-guaranteeing gift. The fact it's light and efficient enough to get extra runs in, give e-bikes a hard time or kick DH speeds out of flat trails is a real unexpected bonus too. Or to put it another way, what had started as a wary demo ride after my previous Process experience rapidly became an absolute flat-out rally session where I spent most of my time wondering how I could sneak the bike away with me afterwards.  

Tech Specs: Kona Process 134 CR DL 29

  • Discipline: Trail/Enduro
  • Price: $6999 / £6999 
  • Head angle: 66-degrees
  • Frame material: Alloy
  • Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
  • Weight: 13.77 kg
  • Wheel size: 29x2.5/4in
  • Suspension (front/rear): RockShox Pike Ultimate RC2 140mm travel, 51mm offset/RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate Trunnion 134mm travel
  • Components: SRAM GX AXS Eagle 12 speed wireless mech and shifter. SRAM X01 10-52T cassette and SRAM GX Carbon DUB 32T chainset. SRAM G2 RSC brakes with 200/180mm rotors. Maxxis Minion DHF MaxTerra Exo WT 29 x 2.5in front and Maxxis Dissector EXO TR 3C 29x2.4in rear tires on WTB KOM Team i30 TCS rims with DT Swiss 350 hubs. Kona XC/BC 780 x 35mm alloy bar and 50 x 35mm stem, Rock Shox Reverb 170mm dropper post, WTB Volt saddle.
Guy Kesteven
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg

With contributions from