Kona Process 153 longtermer

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This is my final review of the Kona Process 153 longterm test bike. Out of the box, you may recall having previously seen the stock 2016 Kona Process 153 when it first looked like this;

outofbox153Halfway through the test period, it then looked like this.

After 10 long months of riding the Process here (local Calderdale loops and hillside plummets), there (trips to the Scottish borders and highlands) and elsewhere (racing the Ard Rock enduro), it can be said that the 153 is one hell of a mountain bike. Kona have put together a complete package here. For holding on tight and going as fast as you dare, be that with a number-board on or simply pushing yourself and your grin further, messing about in the woods/uplift days or longer pedals up and down a few hills and across valleys, it is simply brilliant.

What has been a pleasant surprise is that for it’s travel and intentions, is that it has worked well for all sorts of rides, and not just throttling wide open in the rough stuff. Though it is dead-brilliant in this regard. Long, low and lovely. Great balance and poise, this is truly a well mannered and hugely capable bike.


There are a couple of things that I did early on and recommend. The main ones being that I fitted Bottomless Tokens to the Rock Shox PIKE fork, and I also setup the tyres tubeless. These are easy workshop jobs that do not take much time and deliver noticeable performance improvements.

Adding Tokens to the fork meant that sensitivity remained on smaller bumps and trail chatter, but an increased ramp up allowed the PIKE to better deal with the bigger hits. Along with the tubeless tyres and lower operating pressures, the Process 153 benefitted significantly from the improved control and grip.

Bottomless Tokens sit underneath the air cap, with a threaded system that allows you to easily install and remove Tokens to tune the overall feel of the fork.


Kona has spec’d the Process 153 well. One of the areas that they are to be applauded is the wheels, in particular the rims and tyres. Hooray for wide rims and quality tyres! Tubeless valves are included in the box, the WTB i29 rims come pre-taped and the MAXXIS Minion DHF tyres are also tubeless ready. As you can imagine, I didn’t hesitate to remove tubes, add sealant and inflate. This is an easy to do out of the box performance upgrade – all the better at gripping and cushioning.

With tubeless compatible rims and tyres, all that’s left to do is remove the inner tubes, fit the provided tubeless valves and add a couple of scoops of liquid sealant. Lower weight, more traction, reduced rolling resistance – why wouldn’t you?

153tubelessready6Overall, the Kona Process 153 has been fuss free and easy to live with. There has been the usual scuff and scrape of the rear mech, and the odd bent hanger that’s needed tweaking. I’ve replaced the gear cable a couple of times, sliced the rear tyre and replaced worn out brake pads. All general wear and tear that you expect with riding a mountain bike. Fitting new gear cables with internal routing has been surprisingly fuss free.

The KS Lev dropper has worked well most of the time…

153kslevrepair…for 9 months it’s been cycled up and down, up and down without issue and then just riding along (Ed; JRA huh??) a push on the KS Southpaw lever and…nothing. What happened? Looking inside a small part had failed. The arm where the cable secures had snapped. This was easy to fix and the post and myself were back to up and down again within a half hour.

Long, low and lovely. This bike’s got stance!

The standard specification is considered and suits the intention of the bike perfectly. There is nothing that needed changing straight away. The Kona-branded bar and stem are the correct dimensions, the brakes are strong and there’s a wide range drivetrain. And as already mentioned the WTB rims are good and wide, with the tyres being quality MAXXIS rubber.

For the £2999 asking price all is good. The linkage driven single pivot rear suspension is excellent. It’s sensitive to start, supportive in the mid-stroke and deals with big hits in a controlled manner with an increase in progression towards the end. It’s both comfortable and controlled. No complaints here, and it shows that Kona has clearly done its homework.

Masses of standover on the Process 153 frame.

The aluminium frameset is built to build to go the distance with big bearings and a stout chassis. It’s well put together, rides well and gives heaps of confidence to push on in unforgiving terrain. It’s low and out of the way, with generous standover clearance. It should be noted though that shoe clearance is a little on the tight side towards the back of the bike. The swingarm is spaced wide, and as such heels and calves can run pretty close. It’s noticeable, but thankfully this has not proved to be an issue for me in use.

This is a bike that goes just as fast sideways as it does forwards!

In the time that I’ve been riding the bike there has been a wheel change and a drivetrain change for test purposes and not because original equipment was the wrong size/nor fit for purpose. I’ve fitted test product in Stans BRAVO wheels and SRAM Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. Of course the standard specification of SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain and WTB i29 with NOVATECH hubs is good, but we’re here to experiment right?

ard rock enduro james love kona process
James pinning it at the Ard Rock Enduro. Racing always offers the perfect environment for product testing, and luckily the Process 153 has been a dependable platform for strapping on a number plate. Photo: Jerry Tatton (JWDTphotography)

The lighter, more compliant wheels and one more cog drivetrain is…different! The wheels are particularly interesting being more compliant vertically. And having 12 gears? Well the SRAM Eagle drivetrain was fitted just in time for the Ard Rock enduro. This is a big day out with a course that covers near enough 45 kilometers long with 1500 meters of elevation gain in one loop. The 1×11 GX drivetrain has worked well and provided a wide gear range for ups and downs alike with a 32t chainring and 10-42 11 speed cassette. But the extra 50t low gear of the Eagle cassette was a welcome option for the long gradual ups between stages. You can certainly mash your way up those climbs, but having the extra low gear really did help me to preserve my legs for sprinting during the actual race stages.

This one goes to 12!

Shown above, the Stans BRAVO carbon wheels (reviewed in #107) helped to drop overall weight and also increased comfort thanks to their vertical compliance, which was surprisingly noticeable despite the 153mm of suspension travel on the Process. Also shown is the SRAM Eagle XO-1 1×12 drivetrain, that I grew to appreciate on bigger days out with a lower sit-and-spin gear option.

James scoring some air miles aboard the stable Kona Process.

Parts aside, the Process 153 is an absolute charger. Swift to get up to speed and happy to stay there. It can be hustled along and hung on to when the going gets rough and it’s happy to spin up as well with a comfortable seated pedalling position. This bike flies. It’s a super fun ride. Playful and capable of serious speed.

Foot out, FLAT OUT!
Very much at home blasting rocky descents.
With grippy tubeless rubber, wide carbon rims and over 6in of supple suspension, the Process offers point-and-shoot confidence for sending it downhill.

The Kona Process in two words? Good times! For high speed thrills and spirited riding, the 2016 Process 153 has been superb. The 153 is unashamedly a bike for covering rough ground quickly and confidently.  An ideal mountain bike for racing enduro and aggressive trail riding and general hooning around everyday, especially if you like to rally!

For 2017? Fine tuning of a great recipe, the 153 is longer and slacker…faster and funner?! We’ll just have to wait and see…

Review Info

Product:Process 153
From:Kona Bicycles (www.konaworld.com)
Tested:by James for 10 months

Comments (0)

    Sounds great.

    Actually, sounds a lot like my experiences of the Banshee Prime, which is a similarly epic bike. Would love to see a side-by-side comparison (of how they ride – not too worried about the numbers).

    All fine and dandy but I take issue with ‘compliant wheels’.
    How much does a wheel have to deform before you can actually feel it over the squish of the 2.4 ish tyre? 1cm? I find it very hard to believe that a wheel will flex this much. And if it does, how long will the spokes last.
    Sorry, but I’m not having that.

    Thanks for taking the time to read through the review Flossie, and appreciate the question!

    One of the unique aspects to Stans carbon fibre rims is that they’re deliberately built with a degree of vertical compliance. The idea behind this is to allow the rim to compress under a hard impact. This helps to minimise the chance of damage and cracking under a really hard wallop, and it also reduces the chance of you cutting the tyre too. The third benefit of this additional vertical compliance is comfort, which personally, I was surprised to actually feel on a long travel bike like the Process 153.

    The beauty about reviewing the Stans Bravo wheelset on the Kona Process 153 was that I had a significant amount of ride time on the stock WTB wheelset before swapping in the carbon wheels. With the same tyres setup at the same pressure on the same bike with the same suspension settings ridden back to back on the same rough and rocky trail there was a noticeable difference in feedback between the trail and the contact points. This is a hard thing to describe, but the best way I can convey that sensation is that the Stans Bravo wheels simply felt less ‘harsh’ at the grips and pedals.

    Hopefully that makes sense?

    If not, it may be worth reading Wil’s review of the Stans Valor carbon wheelset (http://singletrackworld.com/reviews/review-stans-notubes-ztr-valor-pro-wheelset/). He reviewed those on a Trek Procaliber hardtail, and found the difference in vertical compliance to be even more noticeable (as you’d expect).

    Let me know if you have any other questions Flossie, and we’ll do our best to answer them for you!

    Out of interest, after putting the two tokens in, what we’re you running the pressures at? (and how much do you weigh)?

    Hey there stupegg. I’m happy with 2 tokens and 80psi. I weigh 85kg (PIKE solo air 27.5 160mm)
    It’s an easy job to do and you get more support towards the end of the stroke where the spring rate ramps up and sensitivity is maintained in early part of stroke…so good for small bump compliance and bigger, harder impacts.
    Any further questions…let me know.

    Thanks for the write-up. I’m currently pondering a heavily-discounted ’16 153 DL as a belated Xmas pressie to myself…

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