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The Beta Tests

The Beta Tests: Kona Process X DL

A purpose-built speed machine

Basics

-Full carbon frame
-161-millimeter rear travel, 170 front
-29-inch wheels
-Convertible to mullet setup


Pros

-Unrivaled stability
-Ultra supple, ground-hugging suspension
-Smart spec
-Smart geo-adjust choices
-Mullet-ready setup

Cons

-Lockout lever is necessary for climbing
-Not a daily driver for most
-You need to buy a park pass


Price

$7,200

Brand

Kona


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The start of our long-travel test loop did not do the Kona Process X DL any favors. It basically went from zero to searching for more gears in the length of a football pitch, and within that short distance all three testers had already flipped the ol’ blue lever for some compression help. “This is the bike lock out levers are made for,” said one tester. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that other bikes in this category, like the Evil Wreckoning, don’t need it at all.

To be clear, the Rock Shox Super Deluxe shock specced on this bike does have low-speed compression adjustment, and yes, you could use this to improve the climbing performance, but we felt that it had excellent traction pedaling out of corners and over rough undulating terrain with the compression more in the middle of the range, and we didn’t want that compromised. So it turns out we ended up using the lockout exactly as intended, and that, combined with the steep 78.3-degree seat tube angle, meant the climbing performance was just fine, definitely not something it excelled at, but perfectly acceptable given its travel.

Where the Kona Process X did excel however, was in exuding a sense of confidence and safety descending, with one tester going so far as to say it rode like, “it would take a bullet for me.” Now, there was a bit of disagreement describing its downhill personality, with one tester saying it was all business and another describing it as pure fun—two attributes not usually mentioned in the same sentence. This could be due in part to the fact that it’s so comfortable going fast, and for some speed is fun, while on the other hand, it’s long and stable which can indicate a more businesslike demeanor.

So, about that length, the 490-millimeter reach in a size large is without a doubt one of the longest out there, and yet none of the testers found it to be unwieldy. But it should just be on your radar when considering sizing, especially if you’re on the smaller side of whatever size you’re considering.

At $7,200, the price may seem high, but looking over the spec there are no black eyes; it’s top shelf all the way around. Notable standouts are the DT 350 hubs, XO cassette (companies love to hide GX cassettes back there), RockShox Zeb RC2, Reverb C1 and GX carbon cranks.  True, you may find carbon wheels on similarly priced bikes, but look closer and you’ll also find compromises elsewhere.

The Kona Process X received high praise for including adjustable geometry that was simple and effective. The chainstays have 15mm of range from 435 to 450mm, but the one we’re most chuffed about is the flip chip in the rocker link, allowing for mixed-wheel size setups without negatively affecting the geo. It’s nice to see built-in mullet-ability that was considered in the design and not a bandaid compromise, and the general consensus among testers is that it would make a fantastic park bike. That said, it’d be plenty at home on the lift lines in its stock 29er configuration as well.

Entry point:

There are only two models in the Process X lineup, the DL we tested here and the standard Kona Process X, which goes for $5,200. This is one of the situations where the lower-priced model may actually be the better option. It uses a more supportive Fox DPX2 rear shock and a Fox 38 fork that, although lacking Fox’s flagship GRIP2 damper, still performs well. The Shimano drivetrain is a favorite among testers, and the standard Process X picked a good one. Shimano XT shifters and a rear derailleur keep things crisp, the SLX cassette saves a bit of weight while staying inexpensive without sacrificing quality, and the Deore chain is just good enough. Kona also used an honest-to-goodness Shimano crank. It’s ‘just’ Deore level, but the previous generation was actually the basis for Shimano’s budget freeride group ZEE, so it’s not totally out of place on this bike. This is one of the cases where you truly will not be disappointed by the lower-priced version.

Find it at konaworld.com/process_x_dl

Photos: Anthony Smith