The Longer-Travel Hei Hei Hei Hei Goes Big-ger
We’ve already covered the big-picture story on Kona’s 2017 line up—the changes to the Process models, the addition of 27.5-wheeled Operators, carbon Honzo hardtails, Honzo’fied fat bikes and more. If you missed all that, check out the story here
Kona recently invited a host of dealers and media hacks to ride some of the new goods on the trails of Squamish, British Columbia. It was the perfect opportunity to get some real saddle time on another of Kona’s new models—the 2017 Hei Hei Trail.
Hei Hei Trail DL Details
• Intended use: trail riding
• Fork travel: 140 millimeters
• Rear wheel travel: 140 millimeters
• Wheelsize: 27.5
• Carbon front and rear triangles
• Internal dropper post routing
• Boost (12x148-mm) hub spacing
• Sizes: XS/ S / M / L
• Price range: $5,999 (USD)
Though the Hei Hei has been in Kona’s line for years now as a cross-country whippet, the bike returned in early 2016 in a different guise—a sort of streamlined, aggro version that took serious inspiration from Kona’s Process models. The Hei Hei still bore traces of its cross-county lineage, but the bike was slacker and lower-slung than its predecessor. It was, in short, a much more capable flavor of Hei Hei.
Unlike the Hei Hei’s that rolled out in 2016, the new Hei Hei Trail wears 27.5 (rather than 29)-inch wheels and sports a full 140-millimeters of suspension travel, front and rear. While a day of riding doesn’t qualify as a legitimate test by any stretch, it was enough to get a taste of what the new bike is all about. Kona is offering three Hei Hei Trail models this year, ranging in price from $4,199 to $7,499. The model shown here, the Hei Hei Trail DL, is the middle child option and sells for $5,999.
This new Hei Hei Trail model takes things up a notch, so to speak, with an extra 40 millimeters (1.5 inches) of rear suspension. As with the other Hei Hei models, however, the frame relies on the same Fuse Independent Suspension design, which eschews seat and chainstay pivots for a rear flex pivot.
“Flex is actually happening through the whole seatstay—not just at a single point in the seatstay,” says Kona product manager, Paddy White. “The shape and material layup has been optimized to accommodate the flex, which isn’t as much as you might expect—in total, you’re talking about 2.67 degrees of flex.”
Though the Hei Hei Trail frame looks similar to its shorter-travel Hei Hei siblings, it bears an entirely different front triangle. There are also a few new additions. The Trail is the first Kona model to wear one of the new metric, trunnion mount rear shocks, as well as a tidy cable routing port on the downtube that makes snaking dropper post lines less of a hair-tearing venture. The port also holds a spare rear derailleur hanger. Tre’ SWAT.
The Hei Hei Trail’s geometry is surprisingly similar to that of the 2014-2016 Process 134, what Kona is now calling First-Generation Process geometry (the 2017 Process models have grown slacker and longer). While the Hei Hei Trail might seem like a lighter version of the Process 134, Kona is adamant that the bikes are different in a way that geometry charts simply don’t convey.
“This new Hei Hei Trail just isn’t as burly as the Process,” explains Kona marketing manager, Caleb Smith. “The Process comes from an all-mountain lineage and the Hei Hei Trail still comes from a lighter, more cross-country lineage."
Squamish is not a bad place to ride a bike. And by "not a bad place" I really mean, "a ridiculously awesome place to ride a bike, but I'm too jealous of the place to outright admit it." According to Trailforks and local advocacy group, SORCA, there are no fewer than 218 trails lacing the mountains above town and providing riders with 155 miles worth of sheer awesome. You want mellow XC rides? Squamish is your place. You want challenging intermediate trails? Squamish is your place. You want high-pucker factor descents? Squamish is your place.
Our day's ride was centered around Diamond Head. The route included a meandering grunt up Stl’lhalem Sintl’ and Legacy Climb, then a descent down Upper Half Nelson, Recycle, Fred, Tinder, a wee bit of Deliverance, Your Mom and Pseudo-Tsuga Part 3. In short, a good afternoon spent climbing and descending technical cross-country trails. Or, at least, “intermediate XC” by BC standards, which is to say there were still plenty of roots and rocky bits to max out those 140-millimeters of suspension.
I’ve spent a good chunk of the past four months riding the Hei Hei DL—the 29er version, so I’m more than familiar with the general feel of the Fuse Independent Suspension. As with the 29er option, the Hei Hei Trail gets up grades with minimal fuss. It’s a lightweight rig and, though it doesn’t scoot up climbs with quite the same alacrity as the 29er version, you can easily pedal up most climbs with the rear shock run wide open. I’ve noticed a bit of pedal kickback when muscling up rocky trails on the 29er—something that was, if anything, a bit more noticeable on this longer-travel 27.5 model. Not a deal breaker, but one of those things that makes itself known, particularly when you’re running flat pedals.
I’d need more time to figure this bike and its limits out, but at this point I can say that I’d happily take it on most of the trails that I normally reserve for longer-travel models. On one hand, the Hei Hei Trail is lively—a bike that likes to be preloaded and popped around. On the other hand, it feels calm and centered coming into and out of dicey sections of trail. While the Hei Hei Trail doesn’t possess the same outright bomber feel of the Process 134, it’s not as far off the mark as you might suspect, given the weight savings.
How does the 27.5 Hei Hei Trail DL match up to Kona's 29er Hei Hei DL? Both bikes are capable of handling the same terrain, but the 29er feels decidedly quicker on the climbs and rolling sections. The wagon-wheeler also skips nicely over the tops of root balls and rocky sections. This 27.5 version, by contrast, feels spunkier and offers more margin for error when you misjudge a line. Some people will dig the latter. Others the former. Me? I’m more into the 29er, but I can see how someone looking for a more playful version would prefer the Hei Hei Trail. Either way, if you’re looking for a simple, lightweight and capable trail bike, the new Kona is worth checking out.
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