First Ride: 2021 Kona Honzo ESD Hardtail

Aug 10, 2020
by Mike Kazimer  


The hardtail has been declared dead countless times over the years, ever since the very first full-suspension mountain bikes hit the market. Despite those rumors, the hardtail is alive and well, and in recent years a growing crop of extra-long and slack options has emerged. These hardtails aren't featherweight XC machines with razor sharp handling; instead, they have geometry that mirrors that of long-travel enduro bikes, with build kits to match.

Kona have tossed their hat into the ring with the new chromoly Honzo ESD, which sports a 63-degree head tube angle with a 150mm fork, a 490mm reach on a size large, and a chainstay length that can be adjusted from 417mm to 432mm thanks to the frame's sliding dropouts. The seat tube angle is a steep 77.5-degrees.
Kona Honzo ESD

• Wheelsize: 29"
• Chromoly frame
• 150mm fork
• 63-degree head angle
• 490mm reach (size L)
• 417 - 432mm chainstays
• Weight: 32.8 lb / 14.9 kg (size L w/o pedals)
• Price: $2,699 USD, frame only: $665 USD
konaworld.com


There must be something in the Pacific Northwest rain water, because the ESD's closest geometry contemporaries are the Chromag Doctahawk, the Norco Torrent, and the Rocky Mountain Growler, models from companies that all located within a few hours drive from Kona's headquarters.

There's only only one complete model of the Honzo ESD, which retails for $2,699 USD. Parts highlights include a Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork, a Shimano SLX rear derailleur and cassette paired with an XT shifter, Deore 4-piston brakes, and a Maxxis Assegai / DHR II tire combo. Want to build up your own boneshaker from the frame up? The Honzo ESD frame is $665 USD.

Not quite ready for a hardtail with downhill bike geometry? Kona also updated the 'regular' Honzo, giving it a 140mm fork, a 66-degree head angle, and a 475mm reach for a size large, numbers that are close to those of the full suspension Process 134.



Frame Details

The Honzo ESD's sparkly red paint job is eye-catching, especially when it's gleaming in the bright summer sun. The key frame features are all in place - there are water bottle mounts inside the front triangle, as well as on the underside of the downtube, and all of the cables are externally routed for easy maintenance.

ISCG 05 tabs make it possible to run a bash guard or chain guide, and the threaded bottom bracket shell will please the anti-pressfit crowd. The 2021 Honzos have shorter seat tubes than before so that riders can take run the longest dropper post possible - the size large I was on had a 200mm Trans-X RAD post that comes with spacers for fine-tuning the amount of drop.

It's possible to run the ESD as a singlespeed or to adjust the chainstay length thanks to its sliding dropouts. Two bolts on each side hold the 12x148mm rear wheel in place, and a threaded bolt and nut helps prevent any slippage.




Geometry





Ride Impressions

I'll admit, the whole 'hardcore hardtail' movement baffles me a little bit - if I was planning on riding rough, DH trails most of the time a hardtail wouldn't be my weapon of choice. Apparently there are plenty of riders who don't agree, so I put my biases aside and headed out on the Honzo ESD to see just what this red sled could handle.

The seated climbing position of the large frame was comfortable for my 5'11" height, which makes sense, since the reach and seat tube angle match those of the latest batch of full-suspension bikes I've been testing. The steel frame and beefy build kit do prevent the Honzo from really rocketing up the climbs, but, as with any hardtail, the efficiency that comes from the lack of rear suspension does give it a little extra quickness compared to a long-travel enduro sled.

The handling isn't overly sluggish (remember, on a hardtail the head angle steepens up as soon as you sit on the bike), but the zippy, overgrown dirt jumper manners of the original Honzo have been muted. The ESD is more subdued, and it does take more effort to get it around tight switchbacks; I found myself weighting the back wheel and sort of lifting and pivoting the front end of the bike to get through those sharp turns. On straighter, rougher sections of trail that extra length and relaxed handling is a benefit – it's easy to stay on track, and the meaty tires provide traction to keep on churning upwards.

When gravity takes over the Honzo ESD is in its element, and at times I found myself forgetting I was on a hardtail... that is, until I was reminded by the vibrations coursing through my bones as I carried too much speed into a rocky section of trail. Having that 150mm Marzocchi Z1 up front is a big help when things get hectic – it helps take some of the sting off those bigger hits. Once it's up to speed, the ESD is much easier to handle, with loads of stability; it's the opposite of a twitchy XC whippet. My rides took place with the chainstays at 425mm, and while I don't think I'd want to go any shorter, especially considering the front center length, I could see pulling the wheel back to the longest position for a little better front / back balance.

If you're hardtail aficionado who's lucky enough to live somewhere with easy access to steep trails, the Honzo ESD might be the ticket. The standard-issue Honzo is going to be the way to go for riders looking for more of an all-rounder, something that's more manageable and engaging on mellower terrain.








254 Comments

  • 199 24
 I hope that Kazimer stating that 'he doesn't get the whole hardcore hardtail thing' is not him forgetting that all the rad bikes that he rides, have been sent to him free of charge. Lots of folks opt for a modern heavy duty hardtail, because thats what their budget allows. This complete bike costs the same as a top wheelset from DT, and only a bit more that a fox 38 for example.
  • 65 0
 Some people just like something different or a simple bike for the winter.
  • 26 0
 True, and also a few years ago you couldn't get a hardtail with geometry like this. Many of us bought full suspension trail bikes to be safer and not feel like the bike wants to throw us otb on the rough stuff. Those rocky/rooty bits of the trail are fun to plow through on a fully but those bits only account for a very small portion of most peoples rides. So a hardtail with nice higher volume rubber is fine for most of us.
  • 58 17
 The problem is that most proper hardtail builds cost almost the same as the cheapest full sus builds. Depending where you ride, it might be better to get $2600 fully than this Kona.
Every time I start thinking about a ht, I conclude that it makes no sense after seeing the prices.
  • 18 3
 @lkubica: You can find AL hardtails (or some steel hardtails) with a great bang to buck ratio. It's not always true, but nowadays you pay a premium for steel, even if it's basic stuff.
When you compare a $2600 (or around €2200 for us EU folks) hardtail (not necessarily this Honzo) with a full sus bike that costs the same, you're paying for different things. On the full sus you're paying for the frame, but you will most likely get a lower end groupset, lower end fork, and junk OEM wheels. Maybe that won't matter to you and you'll be happy because you have rear suspension, dunno. We are all different.
  • 12 9
 not to mention HT's make for a smoother, more skilful rider www.instagram.com/p/B_hEsxgjXvZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
  • 5 5
 I want a hardcore HT, but my shoddy ankles would have me hanged. Also, I can't really defend it's use case as a bike number 5...
  • 13 2
 @lkubica: yes but its about the fact hard tail DH and enduro is mega fun, it isn't about the price.
  • 11 4
 @g-sewell: And this is an argument which I accept. But let's not pretend that a HT with dropper, good wheels, tyres, brakes and fork will be for someone on a budget.
  • 13 0
 @lkubica: Define budget... It's different for everyone. A lot of people freak out in the comments when a a YT video or article is titled "budget hardtails" or something and they show bikes that cost €800-1000.
You won't get a hardtail with decent components for peanuts, but it will still be cheaper than a full sus with those same components. You also made the comparison between "proper" hardtail builds vs the cheapest full suspension builds. Is the lower end crap really okay on a cheap full squish bike, just because you get a rear shock? If you're fine with lower end components, then a hardtail can be way cheaper.
  • 17 1
 Getting a HT like this won't save you much money up front (vs buying a cheap FS bike), but it definitely saves a ton in the long run. You get better quality components to start, and don't have rear suspension with a shock and bearings that need frequent maintenance. If you actually ride your bike, maintenance adds up really fast. If you buy a bike with cheap components, it will add up even faster.
  • 6 0
 My thoughts exactly.
I bought my Commencal meta ht chromo a few years ago for just under 2k. With a 160mm fork, good brakes and decent drivetrain, it's very hard to beat.
I had a friend recently spend the same money on a full sus and i'm definitely happy i didn't go that route.

I've taken it to Windrock, and i'll happily admit that it is extremely rough (esp. on high speed stuff), but it's doable and fun if your up to it.
Also anyone looking to do this should run DH casing tires and inserts in the rear, because it will take some big hits.
  • 4 0
 @HollyBoni: For 2400 EUR you can buy this
www.pinkbike.com/news/rose-unveils-two-new-trail-bikes.html

And that bike doesnt have lower end suspension or brakes...
  • 7 0
 @lkubica: Well... Maybe. The frame for this bike is $665. That means for a budget rider, especially a person that may parts from a previous bike, getting a new bike is pretty low cost. This is especially true when you are building up a frame a bit at a time. I live in the northern USA and a lot of people get a new frame in November and get a part per a paycheck so by spring, when they can ride (non-fat) bikes again, they have a new bike ready to go.
  • 6 0
 What does ESD stand for???
  • 36 5
 @scottlink: Extra small d***
  • 5 1
 @Brdjanin: Yep, and you can buy a much better equipped hardtail for the same price, or you can buy a hardtail with the same components for a lower price (a steel Honzo is not the best example for bang to back ratio, especially compared to a direct to consumer brand like Rose).
Not sure why am I even trying here, it's no secret that hardtails are cheaper and always have been. Big Grin
  • 6 0
 @scottlink: Extra Slack Dude Wink
  • 8 0
 oh and also, the smugness derived from beating half the field at enduro race on a hardtail is hard to beat
  • 17 9
 For $2700 you can get a FS bike, like the Ripmo AL at 3k. Not to mention...chromoly? That's pretty much the base of the bunch materials wise. Yeah, I know steel is real. But for that price, how about a decent aluminum frame or a more premium steel. 33lbs for a hard tail? Why am I riding this thing?
  • 13 1
 It doesn’t matter whether he paid for them or got them free, his opinion is his opinion. Granted, Pinkbike is a for profit biking site, but Kazimer and crew are pretty straightforward in their opinions.

You may not like their opinions, but then that’s your opinion, you’re a minion like me, we’re free to do what we want.

I completely agree with Kazimer’s opinion on hardtail, I just built yet another one, it rattles my bones, so it’s a second bike for friends and family to borrow.
  • 6 5
 @HollyBoni: The big thing is that by getting a full-sus with a lower end load-out is that it can be upgraded later into a full-sus with mid- to high-end load-out.

I hate that hardtails are often considered "beginner friendly" just because they can cost less or get better parts for the same price. Thing is that, in the end, that beginner with the cheap full-sus can slowly upgrade as parts wear or break, but the hardtail can't be just slowly upgraded to full-sus. And we know how fickle the used bike market can be, trying to sell a few years old hardtail frame is not something beginners (hopefully now intermediate) want to deal with, no to mention and they'll probably end up spending more than if they just started with a lower spec full-sus and upgraded more piece by piece.
  • 3 0
 @scottlink:
Extra Slack Dude
  • 10 12
 @oatkinso: Can't gain skills if you're not riding because you exploded your rear-wheel.

I really don't get this argument: "hardtails force you to be picky about lines". That doesn't mean a full-sus forces you to be sloppy with line choice, it's just more forgiving. I'm picky about lines all the time: it's super fun to rip something well known but on a different line and realize you used way less travel and it felt smoother and/or faster and/or more exciting. And it's also fun to rip a new line, almost wreck have a sick save, get cheers & jeers from the crew, and realize your rear suspension saved your ass and your wheel. Both of those are possible on a full-sus, but only one applies to a hardtail.

Would a boxer spar without headgear in order to be forced to get better at rolling with the punches? No, because mistakes are more likely to mean a concussion and having to take a break from fighting. However, the headgear doesn't mean they'll just stand there and take the hits, because that's a shitty experience, too.

So why would I insist on riding a bike that means the mistakes have higher consequences, while the more forgiving bike doesn't at all stop me from being smooth? Picking shitty lines on a full-sus is still a shitty experience, but a mistake is less likely to result in broken bike or body.
  • 8 0
 @foggnm: Why would you be riding that thing? Because you wanted it. No one is forcing anyone to buy this. It's still an open and free market. People are buying them, so they'll keep getting made.
  • 7 2
 Silly comment. For the price of this bike you can get a competent full suspension bike. Not to mention that HT is a minority market. Fun, yes, but still a minority market. Most people are on full suspension. So let's not try to make an argument by poor comparisons. I applaud Kazimer for being honest in stating that the hardtail arena is not his thing and still giving it his best. That is quality product journalism.
  • 2 0
 @CycleKrieg: that’s exactly what I did. It’s like the Johnny Cash song, “One Piece at a Time.” Also helps with the wife who’s wondering what you spent all that money on.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: at 15kg without pedals the value of this hard tail becomes even less when you can get an equivalent FS for the same weight.
  • 4 0
 @blackthorne: You guys shouldn't judge hardtails based on this bike. It's a sweet bike but a Kona with a steel frame is not the best when it comes to bang to buck ratio and spec sheets.
  • 1 6
flag tigen (Aug 10, 2020 at 8:51) (Below Threshold)
 @g-sewell: you can still get a full sus and lock out the rear when you want that hard tail mega fun.

For extra mega fun, pump your rear tire to 40 psi.
  • 33 1
 @thedirtyburritto, I totally get that a hardtail can be a great way to save money and get better parts than you would with a full suspension bike, it's just that at the $2,700 mark you can get a pretty well sorted full suspension bike that weights almost the same.

My sentiments about the Honzo are similar to the Norco Torrent we reviewed during the Value Bikes Field Test - the handling is going to appeal to some riders, while others will likely have a better time on a lighter, snappier bike.
  • 1 0
 @CycleKrieg: Thats what I am going to do with this very frame! I do not usually like red, but this frame and that awesome headbadge paired with the red Lyrik that came out recently...
  • 4 3
 @HollyBoni: true day. I'm closer to stating I don't understand the whole steel movement than I'm closer to stating I don't understand the hardcore hardtail one.

Steel is a much more boutique thing, while A LOT of riders -and many of whom live in third world countries and earn wages according to their location- would pick a hardcore hardtail if they were available before a dual suspension bike simply because the associated maintenance costs are a whole lot cheaper, and usually rear shock spares/service centers simply aren't available.

Steel OTOH is more of a romantic thing -something something something vintage something something something hand welded lugs- (seriously, who qualifies bikes as "handmade"??? Almost 99% of the bikes out there aren't welded by robots!!!). You pay a premium -and sometimes a big one- for a material which hasn't had major developments on the last 20-25 years. Talk about ROI and research costs...
  • 1 0
 a bit more than a Fox 38? lol. it's over double....
  • 3 0
 @southoftheborder: Yep, steel is a romantic thing. But I have no problem with it. I'm not anti steel (or anti anything) I was just trying to say that this bike is not necessarily about a good spec sheet for the money. Comparing it to a generic full sus bike from a direct to consumer brand doesn't make too much sense.
I have a steel bike right now, and i'm planning to build up a Cotic Solaris Max. Smile Some people buy titanium bikes, some people buy custom steel frames for a bucketload of money. It makes no sense but that's fine.
I hate that you have to pay a premium tho. Okay, in some cases I understand when it's fancy steel with fancy details from a small brand. But when bigger manufacturers pump out super heavy (even for steel) and basic 4130 frames and ask way more for them than AL frames, that sucks.
  • 6 0
 @southoftheborder: Sounds like something someone would say who hasn't ridden a modern steel bike (no offense intended, just observation). The ride quality between aluminum, carbon, and steel are each very distinct--coming from someone who rides all three every week of the year.

You aren't paying a premium for steel bikes, either. A tig'd Taiwan Starling for instance is between 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of the average carbon frame and on par with pricing for most aluminum bikes from reputable manufacturers.
  • 3 1
 @mikekazimer: could you name a few lighter snappier hardtails with progressive geometry? I’d be super interested in one. To me the only 2 advantages they have over full suspension is weight and low maintenance, and if it doesn’t meet both criteria then logically there can’t be a compelling reason for it to exist.
  • 1 0
 @HollyBoni: I get proper steel is a niche market when compared to alumiunium or even carbon these days. Titanium is at its own league also. I meant to highlight how steel is a way for many brands to leverage a higher price point into the progressive HT market. A progressive aluminium HT is many hundred bucks cheaper than a steel one, and as I stated above, a lot of low budget riders pick a HT simply because they can afford them better.

It's almost as if I'd buy a BMW X5: I might be able to afford it, but a couple of years later it'd be in a miserable condition, simply because I wouldn't be able to cope with both the montly payments and the inherent maintenace costs.
  • 4 0
 @HaggeredShins: I have ridden several modern steel bikes. I get it, they are "sweet" as in "they don't beat the crap out of you when going fast through chatter" as they aluminium cousins do. But being a rider from a developing country, with a limited budget, I can't justify the spending, as many other folk who maybe don't chime in here or simply can't read/write English do. Kona used to build respectable do-it-all aluminium HTs (as intended back in the 90s) back in the 90s. Maybe it's time for them to take another look in that market bracket.

As I answered a couple minutes ago, economy of scale plays a role in the premium you pay for a steel frame, but brand/material pedigree do have some responsibility for the associated price hike you get when throwing a steel frame in the mix.
  • 4 0
 @southoftheborder: Yes, I agree! I see plain and simple 4130 frames everywhere that cost way too much IMO. Not just progressive frames, not just MTB frames.
  • 5 0
 @zyoungson: Hardtails: not just for winter....
  • 2 0
 @southoftheborder: I just don't get where you're seeing a premium. You could go buy a factory Murmur today for 2k USD or a fs full custom geo 4130 frame from Marino for a hair over 500 US bucks. At least for squishers the average carbon frame is well over 3k USD at this point and the average aluminum frame, consumer direct or not, is hovering around 1.5-2k USD.

Economies of scale is relevant to the cycling industry as a whole but not really a given material or small outfit, which is more a factor of individual business scale and overhead effecting margins. Steel only seems more comparatively expensive because its usually the smaller shops with less profitable outcomes producing this kind of product.

The real benefit of steel as a fab material is that it doesn't require special processes or size-specific tooling otherwise required for forming aluminum or molding carbon--builders are generally locked into several set sizes with the more common materials because of the overhead, where steel is just some mitered tubes melted together that can be readily adjusted from design. That in mind, I don't really see the point of dropping the coin on a steel frame that isn't made to order, but as noted there are very affordable options comparative to the industry as a whole.
  • 2 3
 @just6979: line choice doesn’t really make that much difference. These modern hardtails are so good You’l ride everything you ride on your FS almost as fast. Also depends on what you want from your riding. A hardtail beats a FS in almost every category except charging over rough ground so honestly if you’re not an absolute shredder or doing races why do you even have a full suspension? It’s fun obviously hence why I’ve got one but given the choice I’d keep my hardtail over my full suspension.
  • 1 2
 @southoftheborder: other industries are developing tubing and steel and the bike industry rides of the back of it. Like T45 steel from race cars. A good quality steel will last forever. If it isn’t cracked it’s as strong as it was the day it was made and then there’s the feel. Because steel is so much stronger and stiffer than carbon and alloy you don’t have to use big chunky tubing which can make frames harsh And uncomfortable.
  • 5 0
 @thenotoriousmic:

Steel (including 853, 4340 and even 300m) has lesser properties than carbon fiber (broad range) in almost every measurable way. Carbon tensile strength is higher. Stiffness for the same cross section is higher. Endurance limit is higher. Carbon's downfall (and why I own 3 steel bikes) is that concentrated impacts (think rock strikes etc) dont allow the energy and stress to flow through fibers as designed and instead rely on the resin matrix properties which are relatively weak and brittle.

Steel does weaken significantly during use. Steel loses yield stress and tensile stress properties by almost 50 percent as it approaches its endurance limit where it then plateaus. If the designers used the materials initial advertised properties in the design and you proceed to stress cycle the frame several hundred thousand times you will eventually crack the bike. If they designed the frame to the diminisher endurance limit properties (again, almost half) then the bike will last forever as long as the loadings dont exceed what was designed for, or rust. That is known as infinite life design. It is much simpler to design, but you end up with heavy, stiff frames and extra material usage.

Then there are the weld cracking issues. Even if the material has an endurance limit that should allow infinite life, that is assuming there are no existing cracks. Assuming you get a good sound weld (lots of variables) the weld is still only accessed from one side leaving a root "crack." Even on beautiful welds on thin material there will be a tiny disconinuity in the grain structure. Much like a tiny tear in a piece of paper lets you rip the whole sheet. The stress cycles this crack goes through can be much larger which effectively ages this area at a faster rate and will likely not have infinite life even if the overall frame was designed for it.

Lastly, any material frame can be designed for compliance. Alum chameleon, spec chisel come to mind. Raleigh has a carbon xc hardtail that was so squiggly in the rear you thought spoke tension was zero. This was mainly due to the rear triangle not being a triangle. The was a small 4th side leg at the rear axle that made it function like a rhombus. Similar effect of the swing dropouts on the timberjack, hayduke and el mar that so many endurance racers use.

As for steel, if it is a comfortable compliant frame it will likely eventually crack. Whether that # of cycles to cracking is relevant to your use or ownership is another story though.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Ehhh. No. The best example of steel being a fashion thing in MTB is who makes the tubing, or who the manufacturers choose to buy from, to better put it. If it ain't Reynolds or Tange, nobody builds/buys a steel frame. Tell me qho is building from ASI or any other tube manufacturer.

And as @AccidentalDishing puts it below, the steel ages significantly worse than other materials, as it softens too much.
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: hardtails do not beat full-sus "almost every category except charging over rough ground". That's just ridiculous. Where I ride, traction beats saving a couple watts from suspension movement, by a lot. Full-sus adds both comfort (which lets you ride faster for longer) and actual max speed (if you care, but it is definitely fun to go fast).

Climbing rough trails on a hardtail sucks: both figuratively and literally sucks the energy out of you. It's way more work on a hardtail. I rode my hardtail while waiting for a replacement for a stolen full-sus, and while it was fun (of course, it's a bike!) especially on descents, it was relatively (to a full-sus) crap on the climbs because traction is just non-existent with the back wheel bouncing all over. Any energy saved by not having suspension is more than overwhelmed by the energy spent managing the rear wheel (both traction and just getting it out of the way of things).

I can go downhill with pretty close to the same fun and speed on the hardtail, but it has to be a virtually perfect run, and takes way more out of you regardless of the perfectness of the run. So honestly, if you’re not an absolute shredder or doing races, why wouldn't you ride a full-sus?
  • 3 0
 @AccidentalDishing: Yeah but #steelisreal.

Big Grin Just kidding.

@just6979: Personally i'm building a not super hardcore hardtail right now because I want to ride longer distances. On the hardtail I can fit a pretty decently sized frame bag with a water bottle or two. Big Grin Might sound ridiculous to some people (especially on pinkbike) but it's a big plus to me.
  • 3 0
 @mikekazimer: I hear you and totally understand your point here, 2700 bucks is easily a halfway decent squish-bike. I just wanted to make sure that we dont all forget that not everyone can (or wants) to spend 7 grand on a bike.
  • 2 4
 @just6979: Hardtails climb better, pedal better, more efficient usually less weight. You can ride them for longer before getting tired and get more runs in. They’re more responsive. They have generally better handling they just won’t carry as much speed through rougher terrain especially if it’s not that steep and the back wheels hanging up but that’s about it. The acceleration is ridiculous as soon as you put the power down they go, you don’t feel like you’re riding over a waterbed like you do on a full suss. Everything my full suspension does my hardtail does better except the previously mentioned and it’s a lot more fun than a fun. Honestly hardtails are so underrated. You’re not at a disadvantage if you pick one over a full suspension.
  • 1 1
 @AccidentalDishing: well assuming your using the frame for its intended purpose then it should last forever hence why you can jump up and down on a coil shock and the spring will never break. Like if you put it under more stress than it was designed to take then it will weaken over time and bend or crack.
My current hardtail is aluminium and it’s as compliant and as well damped as my steel frame I had before that but a lot of work has gone into making it ride a nice as a simple steel frame.
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: You're overgeneralizing things here. Hardtails only climb better on smooth terrain. The rougher it gets, the worse they are. They're more fatiguing to descend on, and once you're fatigued, they're horrible to ride (because they ride like shit and beat you up even worse when seated).

I love my hardtail, but I always choose my 160mm bike for long technical rides. I can ride technical terrain for hours, be super tired, and still feel comfortable when riding lazy.
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic:

Again, fundamental misunderstanding of materials. For metals there are "new" material properties such as tensile strength and yield which continually degrade with each stress cycle, no matter how small. For steels we are talking about (4340 and similar Reynolds 853) they degrade by a third by 10,000 cycles, and half at 1 million cycles where the degradation platueas indefinitely. Designing for infinite life would require using half of the new material properties. This would result in a VERY heavy and rigid frame. It is likely, especially if it is a light and compliant frame, that it was designed for finite life using new material properties. Eventually the strength of material will reduce below the expected loadings and it will crack. Whether that crack happens in your use time or not is debatable. But it certainly doesnt last forever.

Aluminum has no endurance limit. The degradation plateau never happens. Properties reduce to effectively zero, however failure like happens between 10k and 100k cycles where strength is down to 2/3. To last longer would require frames so overbuilt they would not be weight competitive.

How long it takes to reach a meaningful number of stress cycles depends on how much you ride, the amplitude of each cycle and likely the initial weld quality especially on aluminum.

4 years daily driver use is about my expatation on a quality steel frame. As a second bike of a casual trail rider that could be 20 years.
  • 1 0
 @AccidentalDishing: I think its going to be a little difficult to meaningfully quantify how long it will take to break a generically described frame regardless of the material--too many variables to control for.

When I was a kid riding exclusively DJ and street I road only steel frames. Of some of the frames I went through, it took me a month each to destroy two 4130 Azonic Steelheads, cracked tubes and welds. On the other hand, I still have a super old mid-2000s DMR, also 4130, that I've beaten the absolute ever loving piss out of and its still kicking. This frame survived nose case after nose case, 10+ foot drops to practically flat, and similar, repeated abuse from my shitty riding for years. Photo evidence after I cocked my stays a little shy of 15 degrees botching a big 540 stepdown on pavement, which trued right back up and continued to be ridden www.pinkbike.com/photo/19198807

I get we can try to have a classroom on materials science as it translates to building steel frames but at least in my experience and knowing I'm not capable of abusing a bike to nearly the extent I was 10-15 years ago, I have full faith in any high quality frame and workmanship on the current market. For even hard use 4 years seems like an utterly impractical estimate knowing what I've put these bikes through over my life.
  • 2 0
 @HaggeredShins:

Absolutely. About 4 seasons was just what my last two frames lasted. Id estimate 15k miles on each minimum. One was a chainstay crack at the crimp and the other the top tube/ST weld. This might represent a lifetime under a different use. The blanket "burly steel hardtails last forever, cllimb like xc bikes and descend like dh bikes" is a myth that really gets under my skin (obviously). I hear it from locals all the time and it sucks to see especially new riders fall for this and sink a large amount of cash on something they may later regret.
  • 1 0
 @AccidentalDishing: Fair enough, and yes, definitely bad food to feed new riders!

Funny (not for your frame) that you mention the chainstay dimple being a source of failure--every steel frame I've broken which have failed along a tube all occurred at this crimp. I'm extremely happy to see a number of builders migrating away from dimpling and instead building custom yokes or using oval tubes for tire clearance.
  • 1 3
 @DaneL: yeah you might get a bit of wheel spin on a hardtail when climbing on rough ground where a full suss will grip but that’s it. You’l still get up the hill faster using less energy on a hardtail. Personally I’m the other way around. I can ride my hardtail tired better than I can my full suss. I’m not wasting any energy pedalling and I don’t have to fight the suspension to lift the bike over things it’s was easier to hop a hardtail to get over stuff. By the end of a long ride bunny hoping a full suspension sucks where it’s still not an issue on a hardtail.

@AccidentalDishing Ok mate well I won’t argue you certainly sound like you know what you’re talking about but I was under the impression that if you stay within its design limits steel doesn’t fatigue like how you can compress a coil over and over and it won’t break?
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic: It's not just an issue of traction; the suspension losses are also an issue; if you hit a bump big enough that your tire doesn't soak it up, your entire bike has to move out of the way (plus part of your body). Sure, a hardtail is more efficient on certain climbs, but there are definitely climbs where a full suspension bike will be more efficient. The terrain around me is loose and rocky. There are plenty of areas where I can sprint faster on my 160mm bike than I can on my hardtail, even while using less energy on the FS bike.

To the argument on fatigue; you're right in that there are certain obstacles that will always be easier on the hardtail. If that's all you're riding, though, there would be no reason to even be considering a FS bike in the first place. For me, I tend to ride trails that are fast, chunky, and lose. I can ride them on my 160mm bike while exhausted because the suspension does most of the work and a small error won't send me off a cliff. The same can't be said for my hardtail (which is as well suited for the terrain as a hardtail can be).
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic: "You’re not at a disadvantage if you pick one over a full suspension."

Where I usually ride, a hardtail is at a huge disadvantage. There are many climbs which take much more effort and are much slower on a hardtail. I won't explain why, I think @DaneL covered pretty much everything very well.

I'd rather be forced to ride a hardtail at a shuttle- or lift-accessed bike park, than be forced to use a hardtail to climb local terrain.
  • 1 0
 @just6979: Funny you mention riding a hardtail at the bike park. I've been tempted to take mine to ride the flow/jump trails. My only hesitation is driven by the massive amount of brake bumps on the blue/black likes that I'd be riding.
  • 2 0
 Dirtyburitto , you 100% get it. This is Mountain biking for many today, and what Mountain biking will be for many in the future. It seems many have completely lost the plot with regard to the average persons budget. Mountain biking is open to many more people than a lot of the bike media would have you believe.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic:
You’re out to lunch as usual.
  • 2 0
 @DaneL: Just gotta go fast enough to skip over the tops, and the hope the berm that everyone else is braking for is big enough to keep you in. ;-)
  • 1 3
 @just6979: this isn’t a debate. I’ve explained why you’re not at a disadvantage on a hardtail. It’s up to you if you listen or not but I won’t change the facts. It really isn’t a difficult concept to grasp if you actually think about it properly.
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic:
Those aren’t facts.
They’re your opinions.
  • 3 0
 @bigtard: they're his alternative facts
  • 1 0
 @scottlink: Extra Slack Dude
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Oh, I didn't realize you were the last and final word in all things rear-suspension. I guess my opinions are worthless. The terrain in my area must be very very specific and there are no other areas anywhere in the world with similar topography at the meter to decimeter scale.

I sure hope you don't curse my rear suspension to explode on my next ride, since you are obviously a powerful suspension god, and I have offended you. Please allow me to continue riding full squish! I will sacrifice my first born hardtail (1997 Giant ATX-890 Tomac Edition, being rebuilt as a retro cruiser) to the hacksaw altar if you please don't hurt my precious suspension!
  • 2 0
 Some people just a challenge. Full suspension enduro rigs are couches on downhill and sometimes on up too. Hardtail rider want to make even mellow BC blues fun to ride. No need to get a full suspension hardtail are where it is at...
  • 84 1
 Rad, I love hardtails and feel no need to compare them with full suspension bikes, when I'm on my hardtail I find new lines and it feels like I am going 100mph, when I'm on my full sus bike I don't give a shit about hardtails and sometimes question why I own one. Whiskey or beer, steak or fish, it's all good.
  • 6 1
 I just love that teetering on the edge almost out of control feeling I get riding my Stif Morf down the same trails the Patrol just ploughs through. It's easy to forget you're on a HT sometimes until you find some rocky rooty section that you've carried way much too speed into, or at least think you have, then career haplessly through it and come out the other side unscathed Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @veero: has anyone heard anything about a new frame from Stif? Apparently it is in the making.
  • 10 0
 YUP! Took a 2 year break from my FS to build and ride an aggressive HT. improved riding skills, technique and line choice selections in so many ways. Back on a FS again, but no longer 'monster trucking'. I think everyone should hit the trails on a HT every now and then.
  • 1 0
 @alpha-bio: no idea. About time though. Doubt I'll replace mine, it's too good a work horse.
  • 2 2
 So get a gravel bike and you will feel like going 300
  • 51 4
 I yearn for a day where a hardtail review doesn't start with the typical set of full-sus comparisons - we know it's not the same! Hardtails are common on many trails and lots of riders use them as their go-to. PB should just give hardtail reviews to someone who gets it.
  • 2 5
 No kidding. At the local bike parks on a average day you see nearly as many hardtail bikes, from 90’s xc bike to a super slack Chromag, as you do dh bikes.

Would be nice if the reviewer said that this frame is intended for smooth climb up with climb switch on the fork or to be used as a standing up all the time singlespeed hammer machine. That seat angle isn’t really intended for seated xc type riding. Or that it’s a great frame only option to build up something nice for a much better price than the one complete on offer from Kona directly. Or what a natural fit it is for those modern jump trails. How does it feel on a four foot drop. Etc etc etc.
  • 4 0
 Yeah that's true, I see a lot of hardtails out on both gnarly and less gnarly trails, ridden by both gnarly and less gnarly people. And who doesn't love eyeing a section of trail for a line as a dude on a hardtail charges into it and makes it look pretty chill? Always gets me stoked to send it lol.
  • 33 4
 So. Its chromoly -4130? Its 32lbs. It costs over 2k. There are much better agro Reynolds frames out there that are lighter and a similar price. I would point you in the direction of most UK brands like Cotic, Stanton, etc.
  • 37 15
 PB actin like USA invented the hardcore hardtail
  • 3 0
 Yeah.. but this thing is bright red! Big Grin
  • 10 1
 @millsr4 The DMR Trailstar, Azonic DS1, Club Roost Stinger, 24/7 Dark Angel, Orange MS-Sile, Spooky Metalhead, Ellsworth Specialist.

All awesome. All from both sides of the pond. Does anyone even know, or care, which came first?
  • 3 1
 How much lighter would the same frame be in Reynolds vs. 4130? And...does it really matter?
  • 8 0
 @Civicowner: the 2012 Honzo may have not been there first, but it kicked the door off the hinges...
  • 3 0
 @VtVolk: Reynolds makes 4130 as well. Smile
The weight matters to some people. Yep, it's steel, it's never the lightest option. But there can be big differences in weight. Personally i'm not a weight weenie. What I find ridiculous is how much a lot of brands charge for these plain old 4130 frames (not just MTB frames, gravel, road etc.). Yeah I get it steel is not the main material but still.
  • 6 0
 @swansejack22: Probably DMR Trail Star came first, if you want to draw the line back to hardtails that were built with "aggressive / none XC" riding in mind. It started in dirt jumping but has obviously grown to cover trail riding.

That said, I was riding back in 1996 / 97 / 98 and people would get a super small Spesh hardtail for jumping or really small Konas so its one of them. Kona also dropped a "hardcore" hardtail with triple clamps in 1999 I believe (cant remember its name) so they were pretty early to the party
  • 1 1
 @usmbc-co-uk: Yep don't forget the 07 Kona Hoss (that was my first bike) basically a stinky hardtail, unfortunately my lineage does not go back as far as yours. I think even Gary Fisher tried what the Honzo achieved, just doesn't seem like it stuck around until the 2012 Honzo.
  • 1 0
 @bananowy: @usmbc-co-uk--definitely the 1999 Kona Chute. I remember being really intrigued by that bike too. Cheers!
  • 2 1
 First thing I looked at was the weight. 32lbs hardtail = no way for me. I have a few bikes, XC-type, Enduro-type, and a steel hardtail. What makes the hardtail so fun and different from the full suspension bikes is that it's much lighter than the FS bikes, so it climbs like crazy. 32lbs and super-slack hardtail just doesn't compute for me.
  • 1 0
 @usmbc-co-uk: For sure. My first bike was a 16" Cannondale Beast of the East so I could pretend I was Martyn Ashton, and my riding buddy had a 14" GT Zaskar. We rode trials, dirt jumps, street, and trails and didn't give an eff about head angles and chainstay lengths. Back then any bike was a hardcore hardtail if it was small and you slapped some Z1s, D521 on Hope Bulbs, and Azonic bars on it. I agree that the DMR is perhaps the first production frame I can remember that was built specifically for tackling all the abuse, although I have vague memories of the Spooky being the first such bike I read a review of in MBUK.
  • 2 1
 Personally, I consider 26" bmx cruisers from the 70's to be the first hardcore hardtails.

www.pinkbike.com/photo/10839281
  • 2 3
 @swansejack22: I had the first Specialist in Wales back in 1998.pretty much learned bike handling on that bike. Sold it for more than I paid for it and bought the mark 2 version. That was amazing too. Steel is better though, although I still ride Ali hardtails too. Loving it ????
  • 1 3
 @swansejack22: pretty sure the Metal Head came first Clart...
  • 1 0
 Don't forget BTR, some seriously agressive framesets in their lineup and have been for a while. Handbuilt in the UK as well
  • 28 2
 As a hardtail aficionado, there are a few things to be aware of if you are thinking of getting something like this ESDor a Chromag. Just my opinion and trying to save someone from the same frustrations I went through. The long front center/crazy short stays makes for a VERY rear-wheel-heavy static weight balance about the bb. The super short stems that trend with long reach reduces the contribution of you bar weight to offset the rear weight. I am 160 lbs and ride very light. I can keep Stans Crest wheels and ardent race tires alive in chunky descents in marathon xc events no problem at 19 psi on xc geometry. On these same descents I have major issue with rear wheels and tires on a frame with similar geometry as this ESD. Yes, I am obviously riding more aggressively, but I am running upwards of 30 psi, cushcore xc, and a variety of exo+ and DD tires on spank spike 33 dh race wheel and still having problems. Super stiff frames add to wheel and tire punishment. So you're running stiffer rims with burlier tires and higher pressure, which punishes the rider even more than just the stiff frame. For me, half the fun of a hardtail is the "do everything" attitude. These super aggressive bikes are too stiff (and require heavy rear wheel and tires and jarring pressure) to do the majority of trail riding, at least for me. That said, fire road winch climbing and straight bombing dh is where it shines. But at that point having an enduro bike would make more sense. If you back off the aggro geometry a bit, say 66 HA, 430ish stays, 30 mm less reach, 130/140 fork and a 50mm stem with a more compliant rear triangle, suddenly you can run lighter rear wheels and tires at lower pressure. Comfort goes up. Trail speed goes up. Climbing singletrack is much less taxing and jarring. It really becomes a do all bike that can rail dh 95% as hard and still be at home on your local xcish rides.
  • 5 0
 Accidental Dishing:

So true. In the short-wheelbase days I was a nut for short chain stay maneuverability, but with new school long front centers—- the weight discrepancy can easily become too much and the pressure differential between front + rear tires gets out of hand (quickly leading to traction and handling differential).
  • 2 0
 I totally agree. I tried several brands and now have settled for a 2020 Nukeproof Scout 29 with a 140mm fork. The 440 chainstays and the super low BB height was the balance I was looking for. They also softened up the aluminum frame from the prior generations. I do wish the Scout's ST angle was 1 degree steeper, but not too steep as hardtail ST angles steepen as the fork sags.
  • 3 0
 Yea I've already hammered the shit out of my rim on the Torrent, seems like the rear end slams down more
  • 2 0
 AccidentalDishing; you perfectly described my daily driver '15 Transam TR29 w/ -2deg HA that i keep hanging new parts on.. still i'd love to take this Honzo for a rip.. i miss demo days
  • 1 0
 You forgot to mention sure shoulders / upper body from constantly having to weight the front around corners a result of the F/R balance being out.
  • 3 0
 Have to agree, my last HT was an NS CroMo with 425mm stays and got beat up,a combination of stiffness and weight distribution. Recently got a Cotic Solaris with 444mm stays and the difference is amazing.Better tracking, a muted feeling in the chatter and balanced in the corners.A bit less"playful" but a solid trailbike that can go anywhere.
  • 2 0
 @fartymarty:

Interesting that you say that. I have been riding so much extra this year that I have basically eliminated gym outside of legs and core from my schedule. My arms and shoulders haven't schunken to xc whippet boy size as expected. You definitely have to be hard down on the bars or you will wash the front out while slow cruising on your bro sled...bonus workout?
  • 1 0
 @AccidentalDishing: I've got 445CS and a 515 reach and still notice it. With a shorter rear it would be well worse.
  • 6 0
 This should be the top reply.
Another point: Kazimer mentioned that HA steepens when you sag the bike, but equally, so does the SA, and if it's already 77.5, then it just gets silly.

I'm currently running two Honzos: a 2020 Honzo with a -1.5 Angleset and an Auron at 150mm (Same reach/stack/BB height as no angleset @140.). The bike is an absolute weapon, and I have a hard time taking out my full suspension because of the fun I have on it, that said, I'm not sure how much the angleset benefits it's performance. Second Honzo is a 2016 with a 140mm Auron that is set up with a longer (60mm) stem and Single Speed (30-20), it's a totally different beast, but equally as much fun as the other bike.

Hardtails don't need to be ultra slack and low like an enduro rig. On paper, the Honzo looks pretty bad, but anyone who's ridden one knows what they can do.
  • 3 0
 I have only ridden aggressive hardtails with very short rear ends (Kona Taro [same geo as OG Honzo but no sliding dropouts], Chromag Rootdown). Neither have felt weird to me. My theory is that impacts transferred to the rear wheel on a hardtail pitch the rider forward as opposed to being somewhat absorbed by rear suspension, so having a shorter moment arm behind the bb results in a similar fore-aft balance distribution as a full-suspension with longer stays. This is just a theory, though.

I fully agree that hardtails do not ride well with a super steep static seat angle, though. My Rootdown at 76 degrees STA feels borderline too steep, pushing weight onto my bars when seated on anything but very steep climbs.
  • 15 0
 Ok, low hanging fruit here: I have now owned, ridden, and sold a Process 153 -fs, a Wozo -fb, and now a big honzo dl -hardtail, all due to the terrific customer service by my LBS. I am pumped to support the boys down the block, and subsequently the Kona brand, but am growing increasingly suspect of the build spec from the Kona factory for the price of each bike. On the latest iteration of the Big Honzo DL-top build spec, (2020, I know there is now a new one out), I'm looking at NX/SX drivetrain (plastic parts), Shimano not-even-SLX brakes and WTB rims with in-house cockpit. At nearly $3K CDN, something doesn't add up or rather, everything adds up too much. I have really liked the ride quality of the Kona as it has progressed, but am I missing something else? Is there a brand that rides like the Kona hardtail I"m used to that offers more for the money? FWIW, I'd rather put an extra $500 in the pockets of the LBS boys and have a great-spec'd bike than pay way too much for SX eagle parts from the factory.
  • 10 0
 "arts highlights include a Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork, a Shimano SLX rear derailleur and cassette paired with an XT shifter, Deore 4-piston brakes"

I won't comment on the overall value of the bike, but that's a near perfect "best-bang-for-your-buck" build if I ever saw one.
  • 13 0
 Hardtails are just a gateway drug to single speeds, cut off shorts, spd sandals, and 2x4 roof racks. Don't do it!
  • 10 0
 The geo on the old Honzo was perfect. Most hardtails are either xc race hardtails or "freeride" hardtails. The old Honzo was the perfect in-between for general trail riding. Personally, I don't see the need for >120mm fork and super slack geo on a hardtail.
  • 3 0
 The Salsa Timberjack is another one that fits perfectly into this category.
  • 3 0
 When you live somewhere with steeps and big rocks on the trails and you normally ride them on a FS enduro bike, it’s fascinating to ride it with the same travel fork and no rear travel
  • 1 0
 i have 160mm on my Production privee shan GT. its awesome and is capable of riding almost all of the trails i ride on my yeti SB150. its just rougher and a bit slower. it certainly doesnt feel slower though...
  • 1 0
 @mathewnz4936989: I don't have anything against "hardcore" hardtails, it just seems like there are already a lot of models available, as well as many XC models, but relatively few in-between trail hardtails like the outgoing Honzo. Oh-well, I already have the "legacy" Honzo and have no plans to get rid of it, but it is quite porky, wouldn't mind similar geo on a lighter frame.
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: I’m not sure if you saw but they updated the Honzo ST with a 66 HA with a 140mm fork as a frame only option in addition to the ESD.
  • 12 0
 Pretty sure this is my next bike.
  • 2 2
 I was interested until I saw the price. So expensive for what it is, I was expecting better and am very disappointed in Kona.
  • 1 1
 Do it bro, they are RAD. I have a 2018 steel Honzo, tweeked out with offset headset 64.5deg head angle, fatt ass tires, 1x12, 150mm fox 36 fork and most important thing and highly recommend is rev grips. They are expensive but worth every sent, your arms and hands will thank you for it ! Awesome bike for all of NZ trails
  • 8 0
 I have a Honzo ST from 2018, best and most versatile bike I’ve ever owned, I’ve raced everything from gravel, to downhill with my bike, even singlespeed cyclocross. I just finished the 550 mile bikepacking Colorado Trail event last week on mine.
  • 1 0
 Agree ! I have the same bike, best thing I added to it was some REV GRIPS, expensive but worth every cent !
  • 7 1
 Would be interesting to see (visually) how the head angle changes as the fork compresses. Like what is the angle at 30% sag? Guessing that’s a simple high school geometry problem. And then we compare that with a full squish example assuming front and rear compress at the same rate.
  • 9 0
 Well, in sag that seat angle must be totally stupid... will move to almost 80%? I get it with FS enduro bikes where the seat angle changes a lot when sagged, but on a HT?...
  • 7 1
 @ice29: completely agree. You don't need the super steep seat angles found on modern full sus bikes as it gets steeper as soon as you get on the bike. This does not look very well balanced at all.
  • 3 0
 You can calculate that with this tool, and if you want a visual representation (in the virtual world), bikecad can do it.

bikegeo.muha.cc
  • 6 0
 @HollyBoni: Before I saw your link, I quick sketched up the bike. Take a look here for head angle as the fork compresses: www.pinkbike.com/photo/19191114. 69.5 degrees at 150mm of travel (feel free to fact check my math).
  • 5 0
 For normal fork sags (20-25%) account for a 1,5° steeper HA, just as a simplistic rule of thumb. The same way as FS HA tend to slacken 0.5° when sagged.

Obviously, the precise number will depend on initial HA, wheelbase, etc
  • 2 0
 @znelson: You don't want me checking your math... Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @ice29: 20% would be 30mm approximately 0.8 degrees steeper
  • 1 0
 @ice29: duh 1.2 degrees steeper, stupid mobile site doesn't let you edit
  • 2 0
 Now figure out how close the crank-arm comes to hitting the ground at bottom-out ;-)
...my guess is you'd have about an inch of clearance with the cranks at 12 & 6 o'clock.
  • 3 0
 My hardtail has an unsprung HA of 63deg too but with a 120mm travel fork (BTR Ranger, 26" wheels) so when sagged, my head angle is still more slack than the sagged Honzo. And it feels perfectly controllable and fine on climbs, flat sections and obviously the descends. The Chromag Doctahawk is slacker with a longer travel fork, but sagged I think it is more or less on par. I feel hardtail designers have found a sweet spot now for general trail riding. For actual hardtail downhill riding (the ones that will win you an iconic denim jacket when you win) I think head angles can easily get into the 60deg or so for a 160mm or 170mm travel fork. That's my guess at least, based on my experience that a 63deg head angle with a 120mm travel fork is just perfectly fine for general blasting about in the woods.

Can't tell much about the seat tube angle as I don't sit on my saddle. But I'd say that the chainstays of this Honzo can go shorter than we typically see on full suspension bikes (especially considering the fact that on most full suspension bikes, the rear center stretches as the suspension sags into the travel). So to have the saddle in the same position with respect to the rear axle, I think seat tube indeed should be a bit steeper than you'd see on a full suspension bike. Just my theory, maybe someone could chime in on this.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: on most full-sus bikes the rear center shrinks overall when going through the travel. Might grow a couple mm in the first bit of travel, but unless it's a high-pivot design, the rear axle path pretty much always ends up moving towards the front of the bike.
  • 1 0
 These steeper STA’s (76+ degrees) I’m seeing lately on hardtails has me curious. What is the ideal STA range, including sag, for seated pedaling and is this different for MTB’s than road bikes. Please help with topic PB @mikekazimer. Thx.
  • 1 0
 @PNdubRider: Very personal, but it seems that around 76-78 effective angle is seeming pretty good for most riders on most modern (long reach, long front-center, short rear-center) full-suspension, so 75-77 should be pretty sweet for a hardtail. Nice combo of not requiring crazy forward upper-body leans or slamming the seat forward on the rails (lengthening effective rear-center) to keep the front wheel tracking, but also not so steep it feels like you're fighting for rear-wheel traction (can be a problem with too long of a rear-center).

My own bike is about 77 effective at the top of the dropper, and that's accounting for the seat being slid forward about 10-15cm (not _all the way_, but enough to only barely be able to fit a gopro mount on the rails behind the clamp. Gotta get some footy of my dog chasing me!), and that feels great for balancing front and rear traction without having to make huge fore-aft moves with my upper body.

(It's a tough thing to measure consistently, though, because most saddles and seatposts don't have an indication of "the middle" of the rails and clamp.)
  • 1 0
 @just6979: Ok, I might have to look this up in one of the cat-eye articles. To me it seems that the rear center usually stretches at least towards the sag point and only shrinks after that. So at the sag point, the rear center is typically longer than it is in the unsprung situation (which is the number you see in the geometry charts).
  • 1 0
 @vinay: around sag (though I think most current designs hit max before the 25-30% of typical sag) might get a few mm growth. Maybe 10mm on a few, but it's definitely less then the overall shortening. But people like to say that going up steep things makes the seat tube extra slack on a full-sus due to extra sag, so that's would apply to rear-center shortening as well.
  • 1 0
 @just6979: Yes, you're correct! Just looked up one of these articles:

www.pinkbike.com/news/behind-the-numbers-5-trail-bikes-compared.html
www.pinkbike.com/photo/19003811

At around the sag point, the axle is at it's rearmost position but indeed it is quite minimal.

Makes me wonder about the bikes with a way to switch to climb geometry, like Bionicon or the Canyon Strive. Would these go with a slacker seattube because the rider can always steepen it up for the climbs.
  • 8 0
 Kona nailing it with the 2021 lineup. Previous bikes havent really done it for me but this and the new 153 hit the spot. This especially, no nonsense spec and dialled geo.
  • 9 0
 EXO casing on the back of a hardtail is brave...
  • 4 0
 I've been managing fine with an EXO casing 2.5" Aggressor and CushCore on my hardtail in rocky terrain, but yeah... It would be sketchy without an insert.

I'm sure I'll slice my tire at some point and move on to a DD casing plus CushCore.
  • 5 0
 It's interesting that they pushed the geo so far. The standard Honzo is still quite conservative, while this is super progressive. From Kona, I wouldn't have expected this bike at all. When I first heard they were going to release it, I was expecting the standard Honzo geo with 10mm more reach and a 1-2° steeper HTA. Glad they gambled on making something different, but the geo really limits how many people should actually own one of these.

BTW anyone who knocks on slack steel hardtails really needs to try one first. They're incredibly fun on steep, flowy, not overly chunky terrain (though they can plow better than you'd expect).
  • 2 0
 Not sure if you saw it or not but they did update the "standard" Honzo ST - same reach as before but static 66° HT and 76° ST.
  • 2 0
 @sturt: Yeah, I saw that. The 66° HTA is still pretty conservative IMO (would be closer to 67.5° at sag). That's not a bad thing when they have a slack version, but they left a huge gap between the two models. I expect a lot of people will continue to run anglesets on the new version to get a slack but realistic HTA (64-65° static).
  • 6 0
 If I didn't have wife, kids, and a budget I'd probably have one of these already. But like many I'll have to stick with one aging full squish for my do it all rig (1st world problems).
  • 3 0
 You sound like me
  • 5 0
 For the love of riding bikes, if you can appreciate riding a full suspension bike, having a second bike like a hardtail is brilliant.
It’s great for mixing it up when you’re tired of the way your full suspension bike rides, it’s humbling as f to ride a hardtail after spending a lot of time on full squish, as it calls for the rider to pay way more attention to body mechanics and skill set of riding the simplest terrain. I really like having one as a back up for when my full suspension is needing some sudden maintenance or a repair too. It’s kind of nice to have a bike that forces you to slow down more than you usually would, I feel like the riding lifestyle can be so fast paced it’s easy to forget to stop and smell them roses. (PS I own a Chromag rootdown Wink )
  • 5 0
 We know its a hardtail. I don't think its right to keep comparing its ride quality to a full suspension bike. The target market for this bike is not deciding whether to buy a Honzo ESD or a Process 134. They're deciding whether to buy a Honzo ST, ESD, Chromag Surface, Norco Torrent, etc. This review should be weighing the pros/cons against those.
  • 4 0
 What a time to be riding bikes! Most companies have figured out what the shredder wants when he cant smash the bike park! Way overdue to get these amazing bikes straight from the box and not having to number crunch the geo and source angled headsets etc
  • 4 0
 I recently went from FS to Hardtail for the following 4 reasons:

1) budget
2) simplicity
3) versatility
4) climbing efficiency

I super happy with my decision, I was able to get a super capable bike for under $2000 CAD that rips on trails here in Vancouver and requires way less maintenance than my FS. I picked up the Fuse 27.5 (growler was sold out along with the 29er Fuse) i have been riding the bike 3 times a week and it has been a complete blast with few if any headaches.

I didn't get the bike to be different or to fill some fancy fetish.
  • 3 0
 Ended up with getting a hard tail after comparing build specs to full suspension options, you just get great value with a hard tail. Added bonus that there are no pivot bearings to maintain and you get to roast your friends when you still crush them on the DH. Much to my younger selfs disbelief, hard tails rule.
  • 3 0
 I like it. I'm old AF now, but we grew up throwing hardtails off stupid things. I love my Slash, but I still load my Rootdown onto the rack from time to time. It's a different ride, but it tears up trail. Nothing like the bike showing you how lazy and complacent your "enduro-couch" has made you. Glad big companies are putting these out there.
  • 4 0
 Wish I had this about 17 years ago racing DH Hardtail class instead of a 26" dirt jump bike with QR axles... I would have smoked the field!!
  • 3 1
 Everyone should own a hardtail. As a 2nd bike if nothing else. This particular one would be a bit much for my local trails, but if things got steeper for longer for me I could see where it would be a fun bike to have. My current Big Honzo ST sees more miles these days than my Sentinel. I'm sure I'll get bored of it and that will change at some point, but anyone who thinks hardtails are dead is either a MUCH better rider than me or much worse. Likely the latter in most cases
  • 2 0
 Meh. I'm guessing the ESD is going to wind up in the hands of some very frustrated beginners.

I dread to think how easily the front wheel on the ESD washes out if your body's a hair too far back.

Even on a steel HT with much mellower geometry (Chromag Wideangle), it took me a while to get in the habit of making sure the front wheel was affirmatively weighted, even in slow corners. The ESD looks like it would be significantly less forgiving of such mistakes.
  • 6 1
 I'm feeling a hardcore hardtail throwdown coming
  • 5 0
 My knees go weak for high end steel hardtails
  • 7 3
 Nice but very expensive when compared to a Cotic who have been using this kind of geo for years already...
  • 5 0
 I disagree on the "very expensive compared to a Cotic" part - the Cotic BFeMax in the comparable SLX build costs 2275 sterling, with 2 pot brakes, Shimano wheels and much worse tires. And that price is direct to consumer, so there's not really a probability to get it for significantly less. To which extent the Cotic frame is superior is hard to say - it does have a Reynolds down tube, but all other tubes are their "own" FM tubing, on which no details are available. Maybe Hardtail Party can get his hands on an ESD to compare it to the BFeMax.
The Honzo ESD has a listed price of 2700 Sterling, which hardly any customer will actually pay. If you look at probikeshop.com they usually sell Konas for 20-25% off.
Finally concerning the geo, the BFeMax is a bit less aggressive with a 64° HA with a 160mm fork, and the reach 15mm shorter throughout.
  • 2 0
 @rynee: Keep in mind that Cotic lists all of their geo numbers under sag.
  • 1 0
 @HollyBoni: fair point, you're absolutely right!
  • 1 3
 @rynee: I disagree. You are only looking at a full build. If you sit down and price a Cotic frame up with better components than the Kona it will come out cheaper.. How do I know??? I've built up many, full Shimano, bit of Chris King, RS forks, under £2k.gotta do your research.
  • 1 0
 @rickydicky: correct, i'm looking at the full build. granted, when you're comparing frame only prices, the cotic is unbeatable at 550 quid. probikeshop had a 2019 honzo frame for 510 euros a few weeks back, no idea why that listed price for the ESD frame sits at 800 quid - over here it will probably be listed for 1000 euros.
  • 3 0
 @rynee: Kona frames are so much more expensive in Europe. I wanted to build up a Sutra LTD. At that time that frame was around $400-450 in the US. I messaged a few places in the UK and everyone quoted me £750...
  • 1 0
 @HollyBoni: absolutely - completes can be much more easily had at a bargain, especially towards year-end
  • 1 3
 @rynee: also remember, Reynolds tubes on the Cotic compared to 4130 on the Honzo.... I know where I'd be putting my money.... Cotic all the way.
  • 5 0
 @rickydicky: Cotic is sweet and i'm planning to build up a Solaris, but on the BFe only the downtube is 853... Everything else is cromoly.
  • 1 3
 @HollyBoni: I know. I've got two of them. Both are great. Current wait but worth it.
  • 1 0
 @rickydicky: hi, one more comment on the price difference for the frame sets of the ESD vs the BFeMax: the Kona has a tapered headtube and sliding dropouts, plus the more sophisticated seat stay design, and a shorter seat tube throughout the sizes. for me, those points are well worth the markup in price. As for the BFe's Reynolds downtube: I have a 26" BFe from the last batch, and I honestly don't feel any magic coming from that Reynolds steel...
  • 3 1
 I’m only on my seat when I’m going uphill with little to no fork compression, so thank you for the proper STA. Going downhill, it really doesn’t matter what the seat tube angle is because I’m not on it.
  • 2 0
 It might interfere with your legs, however, if the angle is too steep and your too far backwards.
  • 4 3
 Ok, but hey like Kazimer infers this super slack geo (and the weight) misses the ht target. I been building up hardcore ht frames for a few years (now - a Kingdom Vendetta X2). Love the lower cost, lower weight, perfect clean looks that most fs can’t match, simple set up and maintenance. Riding, they are never going as fast downhill as my fs rigs - anything over 80% your eyeballs are rattling, legs and wrists shakin and the one you don’t see kicks your rear like a bus - this whatever the geo. Good for fun riding esp on shorter and smoother trails or for me groomed park flow trails with berm jump jump repeat. Reckon this one is too heavy and cumbersome for ht fun.
  • 1 0
 I’m not 100% sold on the long, low and super slack for hard tails (on my old 160 full sus I’m all for it). I think the low bit is key for hard tails and a reasonably slack head angle. Because you want to be able to pop them about so the back doesn’t hang up on things. But I guess if you want a hard tail that goes Fast AF then long and slack is what you want.
  • 1 0
 @CustardCountry: I recently moved from an L to an XL size Dartmoor Hornet, adding about 30mm to the wheelbase. In my opinion, the longer frame is much more stable and predictable on choppy terrain, calming the "see-saw" effect on multiple hits and returning a smoother ride.
Now, I would like to push it even further and try something around 1300mm wheelbase.
  • 1 0
 @CustardCountry: If you get the chance ride a Stanton Switch9'er. Long low, 65 deg HA and a very short back end. Its like riding a 29'er BMX, crazy fun !
  • 2 0
 @poppagee: yeah exactly how I feel on my Bird Zero 29. Ok it’s Al and stiff as , but same sort of overgrown BMX feeling. It’s such good fun.

If I ride a HT on some techy trails I normally ride a FS on it makes me think more and I concentrate on getting down smooth rather than fast. If your not a racer , not every ride has to be hammered as fast as poss down the descents. Sometimes it’s cool to pick your way down on something less forgiving , look for good lines and you lose the pressure of feeling you should always be riding faster and just enjoy it.
That’s my two-penneth anyway Smile
  • 2 0
 @poppagee: my current 29er hardtail has a 65.5* head angle (140 forks) but the reach is only 440 so it doesn’t feel that short. It still has that fun, lively hardtail feel that my old school hardtails had but much better at speed.

To be fair most of the older HTs that my friends and I used to ride were either a Norco Sasquatch or an overforked jump bike (GT Moro, Giant STP, DMR Trailstar, etc) so we’re low and short. But great fun.
  • 1 0
 @Molesdigmyjumps: absolutely ! one of my friends always likes to follow me on my hardtail as i tend to pick the smoother lines or he just likes to watch the back end dancing through the rock gardens haha
  • 4 1
 Spec for the money is perfect. Geo looks great and the adjustable stays are a very nice touch...also that new head badge is sick. You killed it on this one, Kona!
  • 1 0
 I totally agree. Drivetrain, brakes, fork and cockpit really look decent, and the tires are mint.
  • 5 0
 I can't wait to throw a leg over one of these.
  • 7 0
 Stoked to hear your thoughts on this one. I'm so tired of seeing reviews of hardtails here that just complain about them not being full suspension.
  • 1 0
 @ajreed: Hopefully I can find one locally to test.
  • 4 0
 some poeple dont get it...its not for them and it doesnt have to be
  • 1 0
 If I find one here in Prescott, I will let you know. Its a good build kit for sure. A little heavy and slack for my personal preference, but I am old school trying to remember how to ride these new school geo rigs. I love a good steel, but not sure this one will have the magical steel is real feel to it.
  • 1 0
 @ridealongside: sweet I share the same concerns about ride quality, but we'll see. I think it'd be a blast in the dells and around sedona.
  • 1 0
 @ajreed: agreed. A lot of reviewers also haven't ridden many hardtails. Kaz seems to be the exception. But so many reviews I read say "it's been years since I've been on a hardtail, and I forgot how fun and capable they can be."
  • 3 0
 Are we going to ignore what is definitely the best head tube badge in years!? It’s got a frickin demon sheep leading the charge
  • 4 0
 Why is it so hard for bike companies to list maximum tire size somewhere in their specs?
  • 1 0
 I went from a worn out Specialized FS to a Chromag Rootdown HT. It took me a bit to get used to it, but it was worth it. Fun as hell and Cheaper than a full suspension and less maintenance. Will it replace a FS? No. Two different bikes. Im slower on the Chromag on the nasty rooty descents. But on the climbs,Its little more efficient. I get a lot of looks and comments at downhill parks. From good to bad. I dont care. Its about having fun and sometimes gratifying when a HT shows up a FS Shit talker. It has made me a better rider in some aspects. But I do miss a FS and will be getting one in the future.
  • 1 0
 I am firmly in the "buy a bike for what you ride 90% of the time" category. I get the idea of this bike because I don't live in Squamish, Whistler, Moab, Park City, or even Asheville. I've been riding mountain bikes for 30 years, still find time to ride every day, but 90% of the riding I do today ranges from trips for ice cream with the kids to moderate trails, but that doesn't mean I don't want to point it straight down and get a little sketchy once in a while! This bike will more than fill the needs of most weekend warriors in my area for that 5 - 10% of the time. As what could be considered an old man by today's standards I don't understand the hate or judgment on what others ride. Do I think it's ridiculous that I ride with some guys who's bikes cost more than their cars despite they are riding the same trails I sometimes cut through on my full rigid? Sure! But it's their money, their life, and their experience. I've also got kids in my area who are pushing their BMX bikes up some pretty gnarly trails, just sending the crap out of it, and all I can give them is a high five and an impressed look on my face. No reason for hate. Ride what you wanna ride. Kaz gave an honest and qualified opinion from HIS PERSPECTIVE. This bike wouldn't make sense considering the price for anyone like him when you can get (quality) full squish for barely any more.

For me this bike was actually a little too slack and pricey so I ordered the new aluminum Honzo DL frame, 12-speed Deore drivetrain, a Bomber Z2, a new dropper, and covered the rest with extras I had from my parts bin. All said and done I spent $1300 and have a killer ride that will cover everything from trips to the park with the kids, woodsier weekend bikepacking, and nearly 100% of the trails I want to ride. Seems to make sense?! Love to all...be safe and have fun!
  • 4 1
 Yep, just gone to the top of my list o f HC Hardtails, look epic, fair play Kona.
  • 2 2
 I'd do more research if I was you and try before you buy. That seat angle looks way too steep for a hardtail. Reach increases and angles get steeper as soon as
  • 4 1
 ...you sit on the bike. Compared to your full sus id say the reach on the jardtail should be less, seat angle slacker and head andle slacker.
  • 1 1
 @MattInNZ: Agreed. Short people have no chance with 440 reach on the smallest size, which will increase once sagged and even more so when deep in the travel.
  • 3 0
 @MattInNZ: have you actually ride bike like honzo esd? I have ht with almost same geometry. Im 173cm and 480mm reach. Feels great. Very good climber with steep sta.
  • 1 1
 @stumpe90: I own a Ti honzo and a stanton switch9er. I've ridden a lot of hardtails and I like mine to be a bit shorter than my full sus. However I live in queenstown, new Zealand and everything I ride is steep.
  • 2 0
 How does the Stanton ride compared to the Honzo?@MattInNZ:
  • 1 0
 @MattInNZ: Thanks for chippin in! - I'll take my chances - been riding HT's for a looooong time in the UK and beyond, so know what works / doesn't work - this will rip in any lift assisted areas. ie CHCH.
  • 4 0
 Jez at 32lb that thing's going to survive a nuclear strike!
  • 6 0
 They could have called it The Cockroach.
  • 2 0
 my 27.5 HCHT is 35lb lmao
  • 2 0
 If nothing else, a HT gives you a real appreciation for rear suspension and how good it is. They also make you HTFU and pick better lines.
  • 4 0
 as Linkin Park once asked, why is everything so heavy?
  • 4 0
 so this is the grim bagel?
  • 1 0
 How do people rage on hardtails while not having a rim and tire sponsor? I rip rear tires and ping rims more than I'd like and that's with a decent amount of squish softening the blow.
  • 1 0
 I think I qualify as a hardtail aficionado since I've had at least one in the quiver for 2 decades but I cannot get my head around a hardtail that weighs the same as a full squish enduro rig.
  • 5 1
 That thing is a beauty..
  • 4 0
 NICE!!
  • 3 0
 I'd like that with a Box 9 spd for simplicity, as a winterbike.
  • 1 0
 I run a hardcore hardtail with box 9 and its perfect
  • 6 5
 The most annoying comment I always see on here besides "looks like a session", is " hard tails make better, more skilled riders". ....And that is just plain bullshit.
  • 3 0
 I have to disagree with you. I have been riding mountain bikes since the early 90's, when you either had a fully rigid bike or maybe a suspension fork. Learning to ride fast on a rigid bike does take more skill. If you take a person who has only ever ridden a FS bike and someone who learned on a hardtail, then switch them to the opposite bike, I am pretty sure which one will smoother, faster, and fresher at the end of the ride a large majority of the time.
  • 3 2
 @Offrhodes: I too have ridden since u-brakes in the chainstays were a thing.

And I’ll straight up say that the notion that you learn better on a hardtail or riding bike is a load of crap. You learn bike handling skill by riding at the edge of your competency level. Do that on a hardtail and you’re more likely to get injured, which slows or stops the learning process. Also, you learn by riding a lot. If you’re getting after it on a hardtail, you need more days off or easy to rest your wrecked ankles, wrists etc.

At this point I’d say the hardtail is an anachronism. It’s a great 4th or 5th bike (if you can afford it). But it’s not better at anything. And (based on this review) it isn’t cheaper or lighter either.
  • 2 0
 @peleton7: There are some hardtails that are better than some FS. i.e. the Entry level Giant 2020 stance. There are a number of similar priced hardtails that outperform this bike period, Growler, Fuse, Honzo.

I would venture a good hardtail is better than many entry level FS. If you are on a budget, have room for one bike only and your budget is under $3,000 CAD you are going to be taking long hard looks at hardtails over a FS given the performance.

Of course if budget is unlimited, FS is going to be he bike of choice and the higher end models are going to outperform HT's.

When it comes to buying a bike, Its not about HT being better than FS or FS better than HT. Its about what bike regardless of being FS or HT gives you best performance for the money you have to spend.
  • 1 2
 Here come the downvotes from the hardtail posse.....my aluminum Slash weighs 31pounds with XT 12, sturdy wheels and tires...........AND PEDALS. This bike is a pig-and you could get a Commencal full squish at the same weight and price!!!!
  • 2 0
 My Ragley HT weighs 36 lbs with XTR 10, sturdy wheels and tires, and pedals. It’s only 1lb less than my 180mm FS bike, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • 3 0
 They should have just called it the Chute.
  • 3 1
 Surly, if you are listening, please do Instigator 3.0, something close to Honzo ESD, but Surly.
  • 3 0
 What about the Grim Donut???
  • 1 0
 I noticed the seat tube gusset on this test bike... that gusset is missing on the images from Kona's site.
  • 2 0
 Maybe it's only there on certain frame sizes?
  • 2 1
 Finally a hardtail that's uncomfortable riding on flat terrain due to the seat angle.
  • 3 2
 DH geo on a hardtail seems pointless. The standard Honzo, at 66 degrees looks like a pretty sweet trail bike though.
  • 1 0
 While I agree that this is really nice looking bike, 15 kg for hard tail kinda porkish
  • 1 0
 Great job by the product manager with the build kit. It's the ultimate min-max setup.
  • 2 0
 Another nine pound hard tail frame. Sweet!
  • 2 0
 any hardtail this hardcore deserves flat pedals
  • 2 0
 Looks great just sitting there, wish I could try one.
  • 1 0
 So I could technically take this downhill? it has almost the same headtube angle as the Demo 8.
  • 2 0
 Want
  • 2 0
 Kona nailed it!
  • 1 0
 Now that's a good hardtail.
  • 1 0
 Rad, but what does ESD mean?
  • 2 0
 extra super duper
  • 7 0
 Extra Slack Dude apparently. They lost me right about....there ????
  • 2 0
 Duuuude?
  • 3 1
 Enduro Sux Dummies?
  • 1 0
 Especially Strong Descender? (for a hardtail)
  • 4 0
 Eat shit and die?
  • 2 0
 @speed10: that's what I heard too.
  • 3 1
 Looks like a Moxie?
  • 3 1
 Looks awesome
  • 2 1
 Specialized will sue them over that head tube badge.
  • 4 2
 Specialized will probably try to sue them because they have used the word ‘bike’ and that is a word that Specialized have used before so probably try to protect it????
  • 3 1
 @CustardCountry: Ah, maybe it wasn't this apparent. I could clarify myself here, but let's turn this into a quizzzz Wink .
  • 1 0
 @CustardCountry: The quiz isn't popular either. Ok then, just look at the forehead of the head tube badge.
ep1.pinkbike.org/p5pb19176382/p5pb19176382.jpg
  • 1 0
 Also bike specked with no-no-hardtail wheels on the picture
  • 1 0
 I already put a longer spring in my 2019 Honzo and it rides much better.
  • 1 0
 Top tube sticker says Wind. Now you can unsee it.
  • 1 0
 Seat tube angle is too steep for a rider with short legs.
  • 1 0
 Slack.As.Fek
  • 1 1
 This 77 deg seat angle looks proper vs the process 77 sa.

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