by Wil Barrett
December 6, 2016
The original Kona Honzo was a radical 29in hardtail built for grin-inducing fun. So how does that translate to titanium? Jason digs deep with the Honzo Ti.
Rewind to the Bike Test in Issue #108 of Singletrack Magazine, where Jason Miles pitched three titanium hardtails against each other.
As soon as you see the Kona Honzo you know instinctively that it’s not a bike aimed at bimbling around on. The very low-slung top tube, the massive tyre clearance, the big Hope 4 piston brakes and the slack, RockShox Pike-equipped front end shout ‘FUN!’ to some and ‘Accident and Emergency’ to others.
The (Taiwanese-made) frame is on the well-built end of the spectrum. There’s a large lump of titanium welded at the front between the top and down tubes. There’s a great big plate attached to the top of the seat tube down to the top tube. All the tubes look like they were built to last.
The incredibly short chainstays (415mm!) are also purposeful-looking and don’t appear to be in any way ‘springy’, ‘vibration absorbing’ or any other titanium-based ride quality hyperbole you can think of. Nope, the Honzo just looks plain HARD.
There are modular dropouts so that you can run the frame geared – this one had 142x12mm thru-axle ones – or singlespeed, and due to the extreme bend in the seat tube (to slam the rear wheel as far inward as possible) there’s no way you’re going to be using a front mech.
In real terms, the seat tube angle is very steep indeed – 74.5° in fact – which probably helps the bike climb, but probably doesn’t help comfort levels. You really do feel all of the bumps on this bike – if there’s a big rock or a bump, you stand up. I mean, you’d probably stand up anyway, but it’s nothing like the smooth ride of many other Ti frames in spite of the big Maxxis Ardent rear tyre.
Our test bike came built with some really high-end parts – SRAM 1×11, XX1 carbon cranks, a 120mm Pike fork, KS Lev dropper post and Hope Tech 3 203/180mm brakes. A super-short Race Face 40mm stem and wide bar complete the ‘throw me down a steep hill’ character. The Maxxis tyres were perfect for this bike and as capable as ever.
The ride is no surprise. Given the (relatively) light weight of the frame and the posh build kit, it’s incredibly easy to get the Honzo airborne, even (as I discovered) when you don’t particularly want to. On jumpy, trail-centre-type rides the amount of speed you can carry into a technical section can be alarming if you’re not concentrating – to the point where a ‘technical section’ can easily become a ‘rapidly deteriorating situation’.
It’s an incredible bike to ride downhill, in fact I found myself riding faster and faster downhill until I reached the point where my enthusiasm and skill level converged and I landed in a heap. That point of convergence probably occurs earlier for me than many riders though (probably the kind of ‘gravity’ rider this bike is actually aimed at), so I expect in the right hands the Honzo could be terrifyingly quick.
You’ve really got to concentrate on what you’re doing. As the bike picks up speed you end up ploughing into stuff just because you can – the big Hope brakes, tough WTB 29er wheels and the Maxxis Minion up front, along with all the other attributes of the bike I’ve already mentioned – mean that things start to happen very quickly indeed and you’ll either amaze yourself at what you managed to ride on a hardtail or you’ll remember why you don’t normally ride that particular bit.
It’s hard to tell how anyone could justify buying a Honzo Ti. The same bike is available as an aluminium frame with a much lower price tag, probably the same level of stiffness (aka discomfort), and the same amount of trail-smashing, high-speed, bonkers-ness. It is a very cool bike though, one that you’d wheel out of the shed on special days where you’ve not got a skiing holiday/wedding/job interview coming up. As long as you don’t crash too badly you’ll be giggling for a few hours afterwards, too.
The Kona Honzo Ti Specifications
- Frame // 3Al-2.5V Titanium
- Fork // RockShox PIKE Solo Air RCT3, 120mm travel, 15mm thru axle
- Hubs // Hope Pro4, 100x15mm front & 142x12mm rear
- Rims // WTB Frequency i25 Team, 32h, TCS
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF 29×2.3in front & Ardent 29×2.25in rear
- Chainset // SRAM XX-1 Carbon 32t
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM XX-1
- Shifters // SRAM XX-1 1×11
- Cassette // SRAM XX-1 10-42t
- Brakes // Hope Tech 3 w/203mm front & 180mm rear 6-bolt rotors
- Stem // RaceFace Turbine 40mm
- Bars // RaceFace Turbine 780mm wide
- Grips // SDG Lock-On
- Seatpost // KS Lev Integra 31.6mm
- Saddle // WTB Silverado
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 26.8lbs (12.18kg)