Ben has been testing the Kona Process 134 DL 27.5 through the winter to see if top spec can give the smaller wheeled, shorter travel Process the same fizz.
Kona’s Process range has long been a favourite on the trails, and the Kona Process 134 DL 27.5 sits at the top of the shorter travel, smaller-wheeled end of the spectrum. Can this £3,799.99 trail whippet stack up to the competition?
Slotting in between the modern classic Process 111 and the Process 153 enduro bike, the Kona Process 134 DL 27.5 aims to be a capable trail bike at home on all but the maddest of trails. I spent 5 months finding out how the green machine fared on some of the South West’s finest tracks.
Frame and Build
Short travel, highly capable trail bikes are bang on trend right now, but they mostly seem to be carbon with big wheels and that makes this short travel ripper from Kona stand out. It has 27.5” wheels and a solid looking aluminium frame, and cuts an aggressive profile with its curved down tube and low slung top tube.
The frame is utilitarian and without any fuss or frills. Cables are routed along the top of the down tube, the welds and gussets are plain to see and the rear of the bike is very stout with its oversized rocker linkage and industrial styling.
Geometry is bang on what I would expect for a bike like this, with the size large featuring a 475mm reach, paired up with 425mm chain stays and 66 degree head angle leading to a capable ride across a wide variety of terrain.
Suspension is provided by Rockshox with their new 140mm Pike Select RC fork with the Charger damper paired up with a Deluxe Ultimate shock controlling the 134mm of rear travel.
Gears and brakes are all SRAM with a mixed GX/NX drivetrain. This includes the cheaper and heavier NX 11-50t cassette that runs on a traditional Shimano style hub body, not an XD driver body, making future cassette upgrades more tricky. Despite the money saving on this part of the build the whole drivetrain was faultless throughout despite being ridden in some really thick mud and being put away wet.
Finishing kit was mostly decent quality Kona parts with the only component to let things down being the Trans-X cable operated dropper post which never felt good from day one and only got worse with wet winter riding conditions.
The sturdy build and aluminium frame mean that this is no featherweight, but the 76.3 degree seat angle and supportive suspension platform meant that it climbed remarkably well. The front of the bike felt roomy for my 176cm height and the short rear end made it easy to get around tight switchbacks and turns.
Most of the rides on the Process were spinning up fire roads to access technical DH tracks. I found that there was very little bob from the rear of the bike despite it feeling pretty plush and it generally climbed as if it were a good couple of kgs lighter.
On techy, rooty, natural terrain I absolutely loved the Process 134. It really surprised me with its ability to simultaneously make 134mm of rear travel feel both supportive and also plush. The whole bike was very balanced and easy to ride with the Rockshox suspension holding you just high enough in the travel without being harsh and then using just enough travel to give you grip and comfort when you need it most.
I was pretty sceptical about the Minion DHF front and rear tyre choice in the light weight EXO casing and feel that the new EXO+ would be a better option for negligible weight difference. The DHF does roll fast but lacks a bit of bite for UK winter riding and I do tend to puncture EXO tyres so I swapped the front for a Maxxis Assegai in EXO+ casing for the second half of the test. In this setup the bike felt really fun and fast and you could get the rear end pretty loose.
I did have to run the EXO casing rear tyre pretty hard to prevent punctures and this obviously reduced grip and comfort a bit. The other downside to this setup though was the lack of braking edges on the rear DHF for steep, loose tracks.
On flat, more pumpy trails the Kona had an energetic feel to it that rewarded a loose, flicky riding style and encouraged you to lean the bike deep into turns. I generally don’t like really short chainstays, but on the Kona the overall poise of the bike meant that I really enjoyed dropping my heels and pushing the short rear end around turns. Combined with the DHF rear tyre this led to some big shapes being thrown and wild moments on wet roots and rock.
The Process 134 handled all but the steepest tech in its stride and the Pike Select fork really surprised me with its level of composure and performance across a wide range of surfaces. If you wanted to ride a lot of steep stuff then you may want to increase the fork travel to 150mm which would also slacken off the head angle a bit, but for 90% of what I do, it was bang on.
When things get really fast and rough, the short travel and short chainstays can make it a handful to keep on track, however it was a fun handful and if you could stop yourself from pulling the brakes it motored on just fine. You just need to keep loose and let it move around beneath you to get the most out of it.
As always with short travel, 27.5” bikes, it rewards a lot of rider input. You need to pump it for speed, pick it up over roots and rollers and put it down where you want turn. It is just a very active and engaging bike to ride.
The stiff dropper post lever was the only issue I encountered.
All the other short travel trail bikes I have ridden recently have been 29” and all of them very capable and fun. I really enjoyed the playful nature of the Process and found it to be pretty similar to the NS Snabb 130 I reviewed last year.
The Kona is a bit shorter and more playful in nature than the NS. On tamer trails and up my local woods I would choose the little green Kona, but on steeper, gnarlier tracks the NS would leave the Kona for dead.
What do we think?
27’5” ain’t dead yet and the Kona Process 134 is a great example of how a modern trail bike should look and ride.
Good times on every ride
Rockshox Pike Select fork
Could Do Better
Dropper post lever sucked.
You can check out the full Process range including the Kona Process 134 DL 27.5 on their website here.