First Ride Review: Kona Hei Hei CR/DL | For XC And More

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The 2020 Kona Hei Hei has undergone another step-change, continuing its metamorphosis from XC race machine to something much more trail-capable, with a significantly remodelled frame design, geometry updates and upgrades to the componentry.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Can we blame COVID-19 for that crank position?

Not too long ago, had you turned up at the start line of an XC race with a bike sporting 120mm travel and a dropper post you’d have been laughed at, or at the very least told to get to the back. I’m glad to say things have changed. Thanks to accelerating advances in technology and bike design, riding an XC bike is no longer a choice between all out speed and technical capability. With one of the new crop of trail capable XC bikes you can enjoy both, and more to the point, you need both because race courses and event routes are evolving to include obstacles and terrain which would have been unheard of a few years ago.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
120mm front and rear travel

The new 2020 Kona Hei Hei is the latest XC bike to jump on the bandwagon, and is targeted specifically at the XC/trail market. The previously race-proven Hei Hei has been redesigned and updated to improve its capability on more technical terrain, with updated geometry, 120mm travel both front and rear, and some other features which combine to attract the typical trail rider. If you believe the soon to be released promo video, it even offers the potential for gnarly freeriders to ride with XC race whippets without falling out.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Not a 26in hardtail any more.

Despite Kona’s reputation for bikes at the rowdier, fun end of the spectrum, the XC focused Hei Hei has been something of an ever-present in the range. It’s been through quite an evolution since it first appeared in 1991. It spent its first decade as a titanium 26in hardtail, switching to a scandium full-suspension bike in 2007 after a break of a few years, to a 29er in 2009, a carbon version in 2013, to what was the latest model in 2016. And so, to the 2020 model we have here.

The Bike

The Hei Hei CR/DL on test here, retails at £5,249 and sits at the top of the Hei Hei range, with an impressive spec list, sporting a Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate shock, Pike Ultimate Forks and a SRAM Eagle XX1 drivetrain. For those who are more disposed to Fox suspension the CR model has bounce provided a Fox Float DPS Evol Performance rear shock and 34 Float Stepcast Performance forks. The aluminium Hei Hei completes the range, with updated geometry, but keeps the suspension design and travel specs from the 2019 model.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
SRAM XX1 on this model.

The geometry has been completely revamped, and it will be no surprise to discover that it’s now longer and slacker, by around 20mm and half a degree respectively, with the stack reduced by between 5 and 10mm depending on the size, with a shorter stem to compensate for the increase in reach. Other notable aspects are the steep 75 degree seat tube angle, and shortish 430mm chainstays which are both steeper and shorter than similar bikes in this category.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
430mm chainstays

The full carbon frame features a remodelled front triangle. The large profile head tube junction and straight top tube remain much the same, with the seat-tube and down-tubes departing from the previous traditional looking profile to encompass significant bends, giving more room inside the front triangle and behind.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Bendy swoopy curves
2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Remodelled front end

Most significantly the shock has been moved from a vertical position to horizontal, attaching to the underside of the top tube via a very neat carbon fibre swing link which partially protects the piston. Thanks to the extra room, two bottles can now be accommodated in the front triangle, which is a major benefit for anyone embarking on longer rides with no resupply stops.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Horizontal shock and bottle space.

Out back the rear triangle consists of a single piece carbon monocoque, and the chainstays have been beefed up to keep handling tight and predictable and power transmission at an optimum. The cable routing is almost entirely internal with one particular tidy feature being the way the cable retention clips keeps the cables away from the frame to prevent any rubbing.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Internal routing.

The new Hei Hei again uses the single pivot Fuse suspension platform, where the seatstays are thinned vertically compared to their lateral profile, providing a small amount of flex, effectively acting as a leaf spring as the suspension goes through its travel. It features 120mm of travel both front and rear, and the new Rockshox Super Deluxe shock is set up to be regressive in the first third of the travel to provide small bump compliance which then switches to a big-hit absorbing progressive profile for the rest of the travel.

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Regressive then progressive shock tune.

As well as an open and closed switch, the shock also features a 3-position slow speed compression adjuster, enabling on the trail adjustment of 15% above or below the base middle compression setting. Up front the Pike Ultimate forks provide more of a trail-bike experience than usual XC specs, hinting further that this bike is targeted at a wider audience than the racing clique.

The new frame and suspension setup is complemented with an impressive list of componentry. WTB i27 rims on DT Swiss 370 hubs provide a light, durable and fast rolling wheelset, with SRAM G2 RSC brakes to slow them down. The drivetrain consists of a mix of SRAM Eagle XX1/X0 components with a Carbon Descendent Crankset, and the cockpit maintains the high standards with Race Face Next Carbon 760mm bars and a Race Face Turbine 60mm stem.  

2020 Kona Hei Hei CR/DL
Pike Ultimate.

A small point on the weight. As is common these days, Kona don’t publish the weight in their specs, so I’ve measured it at 10.6kg (23.4lbs) which is very respectable. This comes with a large caveat however as I don’t possess a fancy digital hanging scale, and the one at ST Towers has been unavailable due to the lockdown. So until I can get my hands on something more accurate, you’ll have to trust my digital bathroom scales. (They always overestimate my body weight, so it’s probably lighter!)

The Ride

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Daz 2020 Kona
A worthy competitor to Intense’s Sniper Trail?

Kona Hei Hei CR/DL Specification

  • Frame // Kona Race Light Carbon 120mm Travel
  • Fork // Rockshox Pike Ultimate DebonAir 120mm
  • Shock // Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate
  • Hubs // DT Swiss 370, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // WTB KOM Light i27 TCS
  • Tyres // Maxxis Rekon EXO TR 3C 29×2.25”
  • Chainset // SRAM Descendant DUB Carbon, 34t X-Sync Eagle chainring
  • B/B // SRAM Dub PF92
  • Rear Mech // SRAM XX1 Eagle
  • Shifters // SRAM X0 Eagle
  • Cassette // SRAM XX1 Eagle 10-50t 12spd
  • Brakes // SRAM G2 RSC, SRAM centreline rotors 180mm front/160mm rear
  • Stem // Raceface Turbine R35 60mm
  • Bars // RaceFace Next 35 760mm
  • Grips // Kona Key Grip
  • Seatpost // Rockshox Reverb 175mm
  • Saddle // WTB SL8 Pro
  • Size Tested // Large
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Price: £5249

Hei Hei CR

  • Frame // Kona Race Light Carbon 120mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox 34 Flaot SC Performance 120mm
  • Shock // Fox Float DPS Evol Performance
  • Hubs // DT Swiss 370, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // WTB KOM Light i27 TCS
  • Tyres // Maxxis Rekon EXO TR 3C 29×2.25”
  • Chainset // SRAM Descendant 6K DUB, 34t X-Sync Eagle chainring
  • B/B // SRAM Dub PF92
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle
  • Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle
  • Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle 10-50t 12spd
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide R, SRAM centreline rotors 180mm front/160mm rear
  • Stem // Kona XC/BC 35 60mm
  • Bars // Kona XC/BC 35 760mm
  • Grips // Kona Key Grip
  • Seatpost // Fox Transfer w/1x 175mm
  • Saddle // WTB SL8
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Price: £3799

Hei Hei

  • Frame // Kona Race Light 6061 Aluminium 100mm Travel
  • Fork // RockShox Revelation RC Debonair 120mm
  • Shock // RockShox Monarch RL Solo Air
  • Hubs // Shimano centrelock, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // WTB ST i27 TCS
  • Tyres // Maxxis Rekon EXO TR 3C 29×2.25”
  • Chainset // SRAM NX Eagle, 34t X-Sync Eagle chainring
  • B/B // SRAM Dub PF92
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle
  • Shifters // SRAM SX Eagle
  • Cassette // SRAM NX Eagle 10-50t 12spd
  • Brakes // Shimano MT401
  • Stem // Kona XC/BC 35 60mm
  • Bars // Kona XC/BC 35 760mm
  • Grips // Kona Key Grip
  • Seatpost // TransX Dropper
  • Saddle // WTB Volt Sport
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Price: £2399

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Review Info

Product:Hei Hei CR/DL
Tested:by Daz Hall for Five weeks

Comments (4)

    Looks great, apart from the press fit BB and internal cable routing. Totally ruins a decent looking bike.
    Press fit BB’s and internal routing are the work of the devil as far as I’m concerned…

    Has this over £5000 bike really got DT Swiss 370 hubs? Seems a major low point in the spec…surely a drop in groupset to X01 would have allowed at least 350’s or preferably 240’s.

    Lovely looking bike and sounds like it rides well.

    +1 on I don’t like internal cables, don’t like press-fit, don’t like Reverb reliability and SRAM is not allowed on my bike after a few years of wobbly mechs, short-lived BB’s, iffy brakes and self-jamming shifters.

    So, what short travel, efficient 29er…?

    How does it compare to the sniper trail?

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