Modern mountain bikes like to blur boundaries. That's why we now have flat billed bros rocking short travel 29ers and XC racers climbing bulldozers - I mean enduro bikes. But it wasn't always this way. You used to pick a wheel size and be a d*ck about it.

So now that XC bikes look like trail bikes and trail bikes are practically enduro, how do you differentiate between model lines?

If you're Kona, you build out two entirely different product ranges. On the one hand, you have your Process bikes. They're on the cutting edge of the long and slack trend, with a honey badger like attitude about everything.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Hei Hei, which is Kona's version of an XC race bike. It's been in production in one form or another for nearly thirty years and has been reinvented with almost the same frequency as an a-list pop queen.

The Fuse system ditches the pivot at the seatstay/chainstay junction in favor of chainstay flex.

The Fuse system ditches the pivot at the seatstay/chainstay junction in favor of chainstay flex.​

Last year, for instance, it ditched the old four bar system with pivots at the seat and chainstays, in favor of a small degree of seatstay flex. This new design, called Fuse Independent Suspension, is essentially a linkage driven single pivot. The benefits of the design include minimal maintenance and some serious weight savings.

The system was originally debuted on an ultra light alloy chassis that sported 100mm of rear travel and 29" wheels. Since then, a carbon version has also been deployed.

For 2017, Kona is launching a longer travel version with little wheels called the Hei Hei Trail. This new 27.5" bike has 140mm of travel front and rear and is intended to be more trail oriented than the similarly outfitted Process 134.

The spare rear hanger that hides within the downtube cover also doubles as a cable guide, to help prevent things from rattling around.

The spare rear hanger that hides within the downtube cover also doubles as a cable guide, to help prevent things from rattling around.​

In addition to differences in geometry, wheel size, and travel, the new Hei Hei Trail diverges from its 29er sibling by embracing boost spacing, a trunnion mounted rear shock, and internally routed cables.

Big bars, short stem, and nice grips. Hell yes.

Big bars, short stem, and nice grips. Hell yes.​

It's available in three different trim levels, with prices starting at $4,199 and topping out at $7,499. The base level model comes equipped with a Shimano XT 1x drivetrain, SLX brakes, and Fox suspension - sans gold coat. The chichi build sports a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, Guide Ultimate stoppers,and a Pike/Monarch.

Hope hubs laced to WTB carbon rims are not a combination we're used to seeing as OEM spec.

Hope hubs laced to WTB carbon rims are not a combination we're used to seeing as OEM spec.​

The middle-level Hei Hei Trail DL retails for $5,999 and is kitted out with Fox's premiere suspension package, a Shimano XTR 1x drivetrain, and carbon WTB rims laced to Hope hubs. All three versions receive a KS dropper.


Unless you're a diehard fanboy, there's nothing you need to swap out on any of these builds.
The stems are short, the bars are wide, and the grips are classic ODI Ruffians with the MX under grip waffle pattern. Kona even nailed the dropper post lever, which replaces the OEM unit with the paddle-style Southpaw. My only complaint is the tires. What the hell is a Maxxis Tomahawk?

Actually, that's not true. I have one more complaint - dropper length. Call me spoiled, but I would have preferred a 150mm drop over the 125mm unit the bike came stock with.

Squamish is a terrible place to ride. Don't go.

Squamish is a terrible place to ride. Don't go.​

Moving past the spec and onto the handling, the Hei Hei is classic Kona. Despite its XC underpinnings, this little bike gets it done. We had the opportunity to test ride this model at Kona's dealer event, which was held in Squamish. This mountain town is often overlooked as a riding destination due to its proximity to Whistler's vast network of lift accessible trails, which is a-ok. As my Hawaiian friends say, "if you love Kauai send your friends to Maui."

Their version of XC in Canada is not XC by anyone else's standard. The trails are riddled with roots, rocks, and gigantic slabs. The locals send this stuff on hardtails, but everyone else is in for some butt puckering.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Kona Hei Hei Trail DL first ride review including photo gallery »


There's a small amount of pedal bob noticeable when climbing, but that doesn't hamper the Hei Hei from clambering up climbs.

There's a small amount of pedal bob noticeable when climbing, but that doesn't hamper the Hei Hei from clambering up climbs.​

Uphill, the Hei Hei performed just as you'd expect from a carbon super bike whose Hawaiian name translates to race. With the shock wide open, it will crawl up anything. There's a little bit of pedal bob, but it's no worse than most bikes in this category. I'm a poor climber on even the best days and I never felt the need to try locking out the shock.

It's on the descents though where the Hei Hei most impressed me. It's not a plow bike by any means, but it's well balanced and easy to handle. It didn't take long to feel comfortable blindly doubling gaps and smashing into corners. The tires did dump me a few times, but the suspension tune was on point. During our day of testing, I never clacked the rear shock out.


So, if I was cross shopping between the Hei Hei and the Process, which would I pick? Deep down, I'll always be a DH bro. I've learned to earn my turns, but I still love shuttle laps. Based on that background, you'd think I'd be all over the Process 134, which has a one-degree slacker head tube angle and nearly an inch longer top tube and reach.

The Hei Hei is a well-balanced bike that's easy to whip around and responds well to input, but it's not a bruiser.

The Hei Hei is a well-balanced bike that's easy to whip around and responds well to input, but it's not a bruiser.​

The thing is, I'm pretty ok at descending, so I've started to gravitate towards bikes that speak to my weakness. Rather than take the shotgun approach to blasting through trail, it's fun to try a swiss army knife. It's also why I've been spending more time on short travel 29ers.

The Hei Hei won't wow forum trolls with its middle of the road geometry, but it's still damn fun on the trails.

The Hei Hei won't wow forum trolls with its middle of the road geometry, but it's still damn fun on the trails.​

If you're looking for a bruiser, the Process is where it's at. It's not quite as fast on the climbs, but you can easily enter it into an Enduro race or hit the lift lines without feeling under gunned. The Hei Hei 27.5" is more of a trail bike, with an XC pedigree. It won't hold you back, but it won't devilishly encourage you to hit the big lines. In a market that's saturated with bikes skewed so heavily to the gravity end of the spectrum, it's a refreshing change of pace.

For more info, visit www.konaworld.com.