PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Words by Mike Kazimer, photography by Anthony Smith
The Kona Honzo has become a modern day classic, a bike that's earned countless fans over the course of its eight years in existence. There have been titanium, carbon, and steel framed options offered during that time period, but it's the entry level, aluminum version that we brought in for testing.
Priced at $1,499, the Honzo comes equipped with a 120mm RockShox Recon RL fork, SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, Shimano Acera brakes, Trans-X dropper post, and 2.25” WTB Trail Boss tires.
The Honzo's geometry hasn't changed all the much since it was first introduced, other than the reach, which has lengthened slightly since the initial debut. There's a 68-degree head angle (the steepest out of all 8 bikes in the Field Trip), a 475mm reach on a size large, 75-degree seat tube angle, and short, 420mm chainstays.
Kona Honzo Details
• Travel: 120mm fork
• Aluminum frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 68°
• Seat Tube Angle: 75°
• Reach: 475mm (L)
• Chainstay length: 420mm (size L)
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 32.3 lb / 14.7 kg
• Price: $1,499 USD
At 32.3 pounds the Honzo isn't exactly light, but it was one of the lighter bikes in the Field Trip, and it has the easy maneuverability you'd expect from a trail hardtail. It's a much livelier, more responsive bike than the Norco Torrent at slower speeds, and it felt like it wanted to dance uphill rather than stomp and plod.
Longer and slacker bikes can feel like they're on autopilot while climbing, while the Honzo delivers a more engaging experience. It'll dip and dive through tight, awkward sections of trail with minimal effort, and manuals are a breeze thanks to that stubby back end. Rolling terrain is where the Honzo is in its element; it feels like an overgrown dirt jumper, and it shines any time the trail resembles a natural pump track. Descending
The Honzo's snappy manners remain in place on the descents, and as long as the trail isn't too chunky it's an entertaining ride. If the trail does get super rough and steep the brakes and the fork become the limiting factors – there's not a ton of stopping power from those Shimano Acera brakes, although the brake levers give you enough room to use two or three fingers to try and slow things down. On the RockShox Recon, that 120mm of travel only goes so far, and it needs to be overinflated to keep it from blowing through its travel. There's also the fact that the tires aren't tubeless compatible, so choosing the smoothest line is even more imperative if you want to avoid fixing a flat.
The Honzo does require a more attentive pilot than the Torrent - the Torrent's long and slack geometry makes it possible to get away with the occasional 'point and pray' moments, while there's less room for error on the Honzo. It's not a bike that encourages seeking out the gnarliest descents around; instead, it's an energetic companion best suited for slightly mellower adventures.
Swapping out the stock tires to a tubeless compatible setup is a highly recommended first step, but otherwise the Honzo could serve as a great gateway into the world of mountain biking for riders looking for an easy to handle hardtail that won't break the bank.