Budding big-wheel-loving, up-and-coming riders of the world unite! Everything we've learned from seven years testing, training and trail destroying on 29ers comes together in this well-priced XC ripper. Built with perfectly refined geometry and precisely tuned suspension, the Hei Hei 29 features the incredible lightweight, strength and smooth riding characteristics of Kona Scandium 6069 Butted tubing.
Strengths: Value for Price
Same spec frame has higher spec models
Good blend of X5 and X7 components
Weaknesses: None really that I've found, the concessions like heavy wheels, house brand rear shock are there to hit a price point and they do exactly that. Other brands are the same or worse speced for the money as far as I can tell.
I'm loving this bike, though I did do a few upgrades right off the bat, before even riding it. At this point, I have about 15 hours, 150 miles of single track on the bike. Much of that rocks and roots, the Kona has eaten it up.
I set the stock wheels up with Kenda Komfort tires for road riding, and mounted the Maxxis tires on a set of Stans Crest wheels for my off-road setup. Running them tubeless. Removed the stock fork and put on a REBA RLT fork on it. Also pulled carbon seatpost, stem, flat handlebars with short bar-ends from my other bike. As I have it setup right now, it weighs 25.1 lbs with pedals, bottle cage, bar end on the handlebars, and the not lightweight tires, i.e. ready for the trails.
29 wheels are awesome, the Kona branded shock is actually working great for me, took about 4-5 hours of riding before it loosened up and started working though. For a while I thought I was going to replace it, but after 150 miles of single track I've put on it, it's working well and I'm keeping it.
Sram shifters are working great, as are the brakes. I will be racing this bike later in the year, and next year, I can easily get the weight into the 22-23 lb range by going to a 1x10 setup, and lighter tires/seat. I may not even bother though as the current setup seems to be working so well.
I definitely would recommend this bike to anyone looking for a 29r Full Suspension cross country bike. Others I considered were the Salsa Spearfish and the Giant Anthem, but I'm glad I got the Kona Hei Hei. I'd buy it again if something happened to this one.
I just purchased the Kona Hei Hei DL and I am very disappointed. I just found out that the bike is not compatible with any bike trailers on the market due to the different size hub.
a All Mountain Rider
Date Reviewed: September 30, 2012
Strengths: Climbs like a beast! Very fast, very well built. I've owned mine for 5 months and have really beat on it. Besides the wheels no issues.
Weaknesses: Stock wheel set. Easily gets knocks outta true. Had to have m wheels trued probably 5-6 times so far. Crabs brothers iodine are in the future I think. It is an xc race bike. However I ride mine like an all mountain bike, that being said it can be alittle slow in down hill/ techy corner situations.
Great bike. Handles everything I throw at it. With a new wheel set it'd be pretty bullet proof. As much as i love this bike I think I woulda been even more happy with a satori.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: April 25, 2012
Strengths: 2012 Base Model - Durable components. Rear 12x142mm thru-axle - stiff, prevents mis-alignment and slip-out. Rock Shox XC 32 TK 29 - user serviceable & locks out with only a small amount of motion when out-of-the-saddle-climbing. Kona-Fastrax AF2 rear shock locks out and has a bypass if you hit a hard bump.
Weaknesses: 19" frame & base model components weigh in @ about 32 lbs. Shimano M446 Hydraulic brakes have relatively weak grip after initial burnishing (I weigh ~170) also, they have a tendancy to rub and groan.
I ride it on rocky XC limestone trails around central Texas and it absorbs the ledge drops/climbs and rolls over the babyheads in the rock gardens with less likelyhood of an endo due to the larger wheels. I changed the Speed Disc wheelset to my road set with 700x28c road tires on it and lock the suspension out completely for distance training. I have a lightweight wheelset, setup tubeless, for XC.
My Kona dealer tried to get me the frame only, but Kona refused. I figured I would sell the stock components but I decided to keep them until I could slowly upgrade the Kona components and keep my 2011 Niner E.M.D. 9 hardtail with all the higher quality, lightweight components.
Bonus: Kona provided Shimano XT rear hub and cassette (at least on the bike I received).
Similar Products Used: 2002 Cannondale Super V 500
a Cross Country Rider
from Los Angeles CA
Date Reviewed: November 19, 2011
Strengths: everything! after a solid year of riding it on dry fire roads, rock single track, roots, mud, etc., I cannot believe that it takes what i give to it and doesnt let me down. I look at Ellsworth Evolution and the suspension is similiar and this suspension design works better as a 29er than a 26! Kona and I got lucky!
Weaknesses: Honestly, i cannot find anything once you get it dialed in. the stock FOX fork is so responsive ( way better than my reba), the FOX shock and pro pedal are still sealed and absorbs the little stuff. the frame is bomb proof.... i cant find any weakness now that i have the drivetrain aligned and clean.
Ive been riding since '93. Yep, getting old, but I am still super picky about how a bike makes me ride and feel. Some are slow and go, some are rip and fall, and some are fast, smooth ,and in control and enlightening.This bike is on the enlightening category. This Kona has grown on me to the point where I am NOT upgrading to a new carbon fiber 29er. Im going to really take care of it and upgrade to a light tubeless wheel set and add carbon bars, stem, seatpost,cranks, etc. I dont give out high ratings without using a product, so after a solid year of riding it 3-5 times a week, it deserves it. Its snowboarding season, and I still miss riding the bike, can't wait for spring.
Similar Products Used: Tallboy, Dos Niner, Truth, rip 9, pivots, spearfish
Bike Setup: SLX stock cranks, Full XT group drivetrain ( except cranks) XT brakes, XT hubs, Salsa Delgado Rims, Salsa seatpost, Salsa 100mm stem, KMC chain(amazing),Maxxis Ignitors
a Weekend Warrior
from Amarillo, Tx
Date Reviewed: July 16, 2011
Strengths: I'm a big guy at 6'4" and 260 lbs. This 2009 has a frame that is as solid as they come, with all XT components. I would recommend this for anyone over tall and 220+ lbs.
Weaknesses: The wheel set bit the dust but it was probably more because of my weight and size than the product. I replaced it with the Sun Pringle charger pro 29er and there awesome. There a all mountain wheelset that is wide and has little flex in it.
I don't see how it gets any better then this. Worth every penny to me. I feel like this bike will last me forever with some up grades here and there. Did I mention that it only weighs a little over 27 lbs. for a full suspension 29er, not that it matters to me. I can't think why anyone would not like it as long as you have done your research and know you want this or something close to it. When it comes down to it it just has to feel good and it does.
Similar Products Used: none, before this I had a 26" Specialized Hardrock with a 21" frame, it was pretty basic.
Bike Setup: 22" frame, Fox front and rear shocks, all XT components and brakes, Chris King headset, Acid 2 pedals, Vigo WTB seat, Easton seat post, Sun Pringle Charger Pro wheelset, Geax Gato tubeless tires.
a Cross Country Rider
from Annapolis, MD
Date Reviewed: February 19, 2011
Strengths: Bike Geometry, initial component group, strength vs weight, black and blue paint job is sweet (plus it matches my bruises)
Weaknesses: Narrow rear chain will only support about a 2.25 tire without rubbing.
Love the bike. I've got nothing bad to say other than this bike has deepened my addiction. Drank the 29er Kool-Aid about 4 years ago and it was goooood. Upgraded to the FS this year. I'm 6'6", 225lbs and ride the 22in frame. Where I always felt cramped on even a 24 inch 26 frame, this bike feels like it was built for me. Inspires confidence. Light, quick and soaks up the trail chatter. During twisting downhill single track, this thing rides like it's on rails no matter how tight the switchbacks. I've been getting 60-80 miles a week on the trails, where I could only get maybe 20-30 on the hardtail (cause I'm getting old). The Fox 29 and RP23 shocks have so far been bullet proof and trouble free. Still running the small block 8 on the rear as I like to drift the back end sometimes. I looked for a 22 inch 29er FS for about 6 months. Spoke with Rod at Pedal Pushers, he made a few calls and found this one. Apparently it was on loan to a magazine. Kona called it back in and Rod sent it to me. Showed up on my island without the compression ring for the headset, contacted Kona and they had a whole new headset sent out to me within 2 weeks. I've gone through 4 seats as the beating I'm giving this bike has resulted in the seat rails bending. This thing is just plain fun to ride.
Similar Products Used: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 29
Bike Setup: Stock except for the following: 4" Gravity Dropper Seat Post, 2.35 Panaracer Rampage on front, Dapper Dan Ergo clamp on grips, Shimano M324 Rodeos
a Cross Country Rider
from San Jose, CA
Date Reviewed: July 29, 2010
Strengths: bottom bracket height, amazing support welds (not sure about the terminology), pro pedal, scandium, hydroformed tubes
Weaknesses: Its really tall (BB height) Can be a weakness for some
Bought this frame without even seeing it. I was a little nervous at first, and I don't recommend ever doing this, I worried a lot about the fit and weight, but everything turned out fine in the end. I am 6'1" and I bought a 20" frame fits like a glove. It weighs about 6.1 lbs.
I have used MTBR for a few years and have found the reviews very helpful. I watched a video on this bike and read all the reviews and was very pleased with their accuracy.
If you ride over or through rocks and roots a lot, this bike is king. It has the highest bottom bracket I have ever seen, practically parallel to the hub height.
That is a huge advantage over other 29er full suspendos.
Because of this, I now run a Gravity Dropper seatpost. It was damn scary descending standing up that high. This is another key to this bike being world class. If you are taller this might not even be an issue for you.
The chain suck issue that you read about in the reviews is real. I now use 0 (zero) spacers on my Bottom Bracket. That is the key. I have not had a single chain suck since I removed all the BB spacers.
Seat stay gets a lot of chain slap. Wrap it up with some cloth tape.
Kona knows how to build bikes very well. Their welds are big, the forged pieces are mega stiff and strong, and I love the s-bend stays in this frame.
Descending is incredible, the wheelbase length is somewhere in the middle, but it is deceptively snappy in the corners. At high speeds, this thing leans way over. The rider is positioned well between the 2 axles.
Climbing is very stable, the geometry allows you to evenly get your weight over the front wheel without skidding the rear tire. Pro pedal is 10 times more effective than the Gary Fisher.
The bottom line is if you're tall you can ride this thing. If you're short, the BB is too high for you. Its a helluva bike!
Bike Setup: Purchased frame only, Easton DH Handlebars, Gravity Dropper seat post, Reba Team 29er Lockout Remote, U turn and thru axle
Date Reviewed: May 5, 2010
I bought this bike only a week ago and I love it: without being too tech and hashing over the details, this bike gives you a lot of confidence and just seems to eat the trail up. Its comfortable and fast and most of all fun. I can see why they have increased travel to 100mm on the 2010 model, unfortunately my budget didnt extend that far, but i'm sure as hell happy with my brand new 2009
a Cross Country Rider
from Windsor, VT
Date Reviewed: March 24, 2010
Strengths: PRICE! Bought a 2008 holdover because of the specs. Its components are better than the 2009. All XT on the '08 and a mix on the '09. The 2009 does have the Fox front fork which IMO better than the Reba but, I haven't had any issues with the Reba....yet. The bike goes where you point it and rolls over things far better than a 26" bike.
Weaknesses: Wish it had just another inch or so of travel. Not that this is a weakness of the actual bike but, it would be nice.
If you're looking for an amazing ride at a great price and are interested in making the switch to a 29er this is the bike for you! This bike is extremely comfortable to ride and may get used in a couple races this season depending on my fitness! I know that the bike's race worthy but, now it's up to me.
It's an inspiring and confidence building bike that is just exhilarating to ride! Like I said earlier I wish it had another inch or so of travel but, other than that this bike is exactly what I wanted and couldn't be happier with the price and service from the crew at Paradise Sports!
Bike Setup: Stock except for XT cranks & Ergon GP1 grips....which are amazing!
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: February 20, 2010
Strengths: Its a 29er
Weaknesses: needs a 36 in the back.
Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Demo Ride.
Ok so a bike shop got me a demo bike from the Kona rep and just did my first ride on it. So here are my impressions. Let me say first, that I loved this bike so much that my excitement will undoubtedly come through, but be assured, I am being as objective as possible.
My experience is as follows. I started Mountain biking in 1992 on a huffy, then moved to a hard tail Specialized Stumpjumper, then bought a Specialized FSR in 1998, and in 2007 I moved back to a hardtail, but have ridden several modern Full suspension bikes. I have also raced offroad motorcycles for years and understand suspension and how it affects performance better than the average Joe.
I have been in 30 different bike shops in the last three months shopping for my next Mountain bike, and overall the shop owners were not excited about 29ers. So I had hoped the 29er hype I read about would be true, but was starting to doubt that it was that good. So this review is not only a review of the Hei Hei but my thoughts on 29ers as well. This should be good as I am guessing if you’re shopping for a 29er, chances are this is your first one and have the same questions I did.
The trail I rode starts out with slower technical sections in the rocks and I was immediately able ride over stuff that had slowed me down or spooked me in the past. The sharp edge rocks that would cause my 26er to bounce back were gobbled up under the bigger wheel. I also felt a balance I didn’t expect. I almost never put my feet down.
There was section with a tight right circle where the terrain angles down off camber as you turn where I felt I needed to unclick my spd’s. I don’t know I that I had to, but did to be safe. So I have heard people say a 26er might be easier in technical sections, but this part of the trail was not extreme technical, but pretty standard for Southern California Desert rocks and I can’t imagine a section where I would prefer a 26 inch wheeled bike. Even thinking of East Coast mud, tree roots, and switch back trails I think I would just shop for a quick steering 29er with shorter chainstays.
Also it was about this point where I started thinking this bike has absolutely no pedal bob and felt very light. I will experiment more with the suspension on my next ride. But it had 202psi ( I weight 190) in the rear shock and I never felt a need to change it. It seemed to work fine even during hard breaking.
So as the trail opened up in a slight downhill single track ,I felt like had more control over the trail in every way. It was the type of control you feel riding a Dirt Bike Motorcycle like Honda CRF450. The traction is great, and as far as the big wheels keeping momentum, the best comparison I can make is again to dirt bikes. On old four stroke engine bikes, the engine braking would slow you down like a diesel jake brake. But on a two stroke this didn’t happen so you kept momentum when letting off the gas. This was good and bad on a motorcycle, but when you’re on a self powered machine I only see this momentum as a positive.
So all of the marketing on 29er and some 26ers talk about plowing through rock gardens Well that marketing is not hype on the Kona. I had about 2 miles of rollers with some rocky sections and sandy sections. The 29er was superior to a 26 in both. The bigger tires floated through the sand with more control than smaller wheels. The head angle seemed just right on the Kona as I felt confident downhill, but it didn’t turn slow like a chopper.
Ok so the last section had a lot of climbs, and it is here where I have some mixed emotions on the 29er and the Kona. This bike was all XT and shifted great, but the lowest gear in back was a 34. On a 26er the 34 would be plenty, but there were a few times I was clicking for a lower gear and had none. I would upgrade to a 36 if bought this bike, which I probably will. The bike did have some climbing advantages as it rolled over rocks and momentum was good. One thing that would have made the climbs easier would have been my adjustable seat post. Since I didn’t have mine installed on this bike, I had to settle for a middle of the road seat position. On my bike, when the seat post is in the default highest position I have my legs stretched out pretty far and then drop it a little for the technical and downhill sections. So I definitely feel you’re at a disadvantage without one these seat posts.
I don’t think you’re at a disadvantage climbing with a 29er, but my perception was that it took more to get the tires moving. And I have heard the mathematical arguments about more distance for the work, but I think I would still feel it at the end of a long day or climb. This was the higher level bike with super light rims and tires and I still felt a tire lag so there is something to that. I think it’s IMPORTANT to know that it is not the same kind of lag you get by going from a 2.0 to a 2.3 on a 26 inch bike. It is different as it takes more to move, but you’re not penalized on momentum. So overall I think the traction advantage is worth the lag.
The brakes on this bike are XT and were amazing. The bike I will buy has Avids on it and I don’t know if they are as good but I will find out. Also the shop already knew the Race Face cranks on the bike they have suck so they are upgrading them to XT at cost.
I have a Haro Sonix 650B in the garage that I am supposed to demo ride tomorrow, but I liked this Kona so much that I don’t even want to ride the Sonix. I probably will , but don’t want to I want to ride the Kona again! As far as 29er to 26er, for me the question is answered. It is not even a fair fight! 29er
a Weekend Warrior
from Phoenix, AZ
Date Reviewed: August 31, 2009
Strengths: Climbs great, handles the downhill/tech great, suspension works well (you don't even notice it doing its job), laterally stiff frame, handles superb (with fork @ 100mm), sweet paint scheme ('08), nice part spec for the money
Weaknesses: Stock wheelset, occasional chainsuck when bike was new
This bike kicks it. Period. It is easily the funnest bike I've ever owned. It climbs like a goat (yes it's a cliche...but it is true), it rolls downhill surprisingly well for an "XC" bike (even the tech stuff), and it handles great. The 4-bar suspension works flawlessly...so much so that I rarely find myself reaching for the pro pedal. The white-on-black-on-polished AL paint scheme looks sweet...and with the exception of the wheelset, the part spec is great.
I bought the Hei Hei to be my "endurance XC" rig, and for that it has fit the bill perfectly. I've gone on a few 8+ hour races and the bike is infinitely more comfortable than my old 26er XC setup. The Hei Hei would also excel as a 24-hour race bike (which I plan to do as well).
After 6 months of ownership, there are only 2 complaints I have:
1) At first I experienced intermittent chain suck (it has pretty much gone away now). My friend had the same issue with his Hei Hei and the LBS swapped the crankset out for an XT and his problems went away immediately. The chainsuck on my bike was never enough of an issue to bother. FYI -- I had Race Face Deus cranks on my previous bike (Giant NRS) and I also got chain suck on that bike after the install...so the profile on the Race Face chainrings must be be causing the problem until they wear down a little. Regardless, it's not that bad...I just take care not to shift to the small ring when under heavy load.
2) The stock Sun Equalizer wheelset is not very good. This should come as no surprise as I've never seen a sub-$4000 stock bike come with anything decent. I sold the Sun wheels for $100 and applied the cash towards a Stans Arch/Hope build and it rocks.
Also - if you are a Hei Hei owner, I have one suggestion: bump the Reba to 100mm. Kona set the Reba at 80mm at the factory. I'm not sure why. I rode the bike for a month at the stock setting...and then bumped it to 100mm. Handling improved noticeably afterwards -- there is less tendency for "fall-in" on hard cornering. I've felt this on other 29'er bikes with 80mm forks as well. My Bianchi Rita has a similar geometry but the Reba was set at the factory at 100mm. I really liked how the Bianchi handled, so I figured I would try going to 100mm on the Kona and see what difference it makes. That 20mm difference makes the bike handle better (probably slackens out the HTA by 0.25 degrees). So if you're still running the fork at 80mm, try bumping it to 100mm and see what you think.
My bike weighs just over 27 lbs, which isn't that bad considering I didn't try to go light with anything. I'm guessing I could get under 25 pounds with a lighter wheelset and possibly swapping out some other components for weight weenie stuff. But I've long given up that battle and would prefer mid-level "durable" components that last longer than 1 season. So far everything is holding up just fine.
In summary, even with the few flaws, I still give 5 chilis to the overall the package. I don't give out 5's too often, but this bike is just too much fun to give it anything lower. Any time that I want to do a non-DH ride, this is the bike that I reach for.
Similar Products Used: Bianchi Rita singlespeed (my other 29er), demo'd various other 29er FS bikes
Bike Setup: 16" frame set up stock except the wheels (replaced w/Hope + Stan Arch), bars (Easton Monkey Lite 685mm), and stem (Ritchey 4-Axis).
a Weekend Warrior
from Lubbock, TX, USA
Date Reviewed: July 12, 2009
Strengths: Comfortable. Climbs well. Faster than my other bike. Lighter than my other bike.
Weaknesses: Saddle could be more comfortable. I would have preferred to have SRAM derailleurs and shifters rather than the Shimano's.
I'm impressed with the 2-9. It is faster than my Trance4 on the single track. It climbs shelves better. Climbing hills may be better although I haven't compared them on consecutive climbs. I couldn't resist the price.
Similar Products Used: This is my first 29er. My other bike is a built-up Trance 4
Bike Setup: 2008
a Cross Country Rider
from Virgin, UT
Date Reviewed: May 19, 2009
Strengths: Great traction. Stand up and hammer it and the back digs in, not spins. Friggin fast....!I mean really fast. Te big wheels make it feel like a 5 inch bike.
Weaknesses: The stock wheels suck! I'm 180lbs and these things needed truing constantly. The spokes lossened up like the rpom queen at midnight. I finally went with Stans Flow from Bike29.com...... very happy now.Chain suck. I clean the chain and lube it like clockwork...the problem went away.
Good stuff and the Deluxe model sounds even better.
Bike Setup: Fork is on 100mm travel and this slows the handling just a skosh and I like it. It wanted to fall into corners with the 80mm setting.
a Cross Country Rider
from Phoenix, AZ, USA
Date Reviewed: November 8, 2008
Strengths: My first 29er. It handles a lot better than I expected. Climbs great and rolls with ease over areas I have difficulty with on my 26. It's fairly light weight at 29 lbs. And, for a few hundred bucks the wheels, seatpost, and bars could be replaced to lose a few more pounds.
Weaknesses: Wheels and cranks. I kept getting chain suck with the stock Race Face crankset when shifting from the middle chain ring to the small ring. After several trips to the shop Kona paid for Shimano XT cranks and rings. Still getting chain suck, but not as often. I'm going to grind the gears off the big ring to fix the problem. The stock wheels make a lot of noise and can't handle dropping too far.
I've put 300 miles on this bike in the last month. It's overall a great bike. It handles great and climbs like a mountain goat. Unfortunately, I think there's a design flaw on the frame that's causing the chain suck. But, for the price I don't think you can get a better bike with better components.