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First Impressions REVIEW

2021 Kona Honzo ESD

Words Cam McRae
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Sep 24, 2020
Reading time

The speed, those weightless feelings, the terrain you can ride; oh how I love thee full suspension mountain bikes! There's not much that can match that feeling when the bike gets light underneath you and seems to disappear. There was a time when I was a card-carrying Luddite and while I haven’t swung all the way to early-adopter when voting with my own dollars, I have fully embraced the march of mountain bike technology. So much so that I’d largely suppressed my long-held dream of buying a sweet chromoly hardtail with modern geometry and parts.

When my name came up to test the new Kona Honzo ESD, (Extra Slack Dude!) I was fine with the idea in principle, but not very excited in practice. In fact it took me a while to saddle it up for the first time after it arrived, partially because of travel, smoke, and COVID-19 issues, but also because the rides I wanted to join with my buddies were not appropriate for my first real hardtail ride in years. Or so I believed. Eventually I bit the bullet, spun on some pedals, and committed to some steel time.

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The Honzo cuts an unusual silhouette with slim steel tubes, 29" hoops, a 670mm top tube (XL), a 77.5º seat tube angle, and a mega slack 63º head angle. Someone even compared it to the Grim Donut.

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Honzo doesn't mean Ram in some ancient tongue. AFAIK it's man's name in Japan. The Kona art team simply thought the badge looked rad. I think it looks like a Dodge.

At that moment rain was on the horizon and my buddy Trevor was on me to ride a trail he'd been working on that can only be ridden, at least by mortals, when it’s bone dry. I joined the group of four for the climb but peeled away from the gnarl at the top toward a more civilized descent. I was a little bummed leaving my buddies but I was committed so I climbed a little further and tipped it downward solo, with humble expectations.

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The paint has a subtle metal flake that looks amazing in person, but difficult to capture in photos. It's a particularly sweet looking machine.

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I have loved the Honzo ESD on every trail with two small exceptions; a short section of old skidder/corduroy road with cedar slats as trail bed and a section of Ned's Atomic Dustbin, an old blown-out trail on Seymour that is basically rough concrete with some rocks in it.

After three or four undulating corners and a few small launches, I was hooked. Of course it wasn’t as smooth or as easy as the duallies I’ve been riding lately, but other elements made up for those deficiencies. I was feeling much more of the trail and having to be as dynamic as Batman and Robin put together. My attention focussed with more immediacy on the surface of the trail to avoid square edges that would hang up the rear wheel and kill my momentum, and injure my back. The overwhelming sensation was amplified engagement. My surprise about being so captivated multiplied the experience and like the Grinch, my heart grew two sizes. I was hooked after the first 2-minute descent.

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You can see that I have moved the wheel all the way forward using the sliding dropouts. The derailleur hanger and brake adapter are integrated so moving them is an easy job. The chainstay length moves a total of 16mm between 417 and 433.

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Yes, you could single-speed it and if you lived somewhere else, with fewer steep climbs and descents, that could be a good idea, but this bike wouldn't be a good idea in that place because of the geometry. Others are entitled to their opinions on this, no matter how wrong they are.

The downside was that at several points on the descent I had to stop and catch my breath because there was no way I was slowing down. My hands and my rear leg were tired and sore, but they recovered quickly and the hilarity continued. I rode a few lines I’d expected to skip and found myself covering ground with surprising speed, even passing a few groups. On top of my actual velocity being pretty good, my perception was that I was absolutely flying down the mountain, further broadening my grin.

The bike encourages speed and rewards an aggressive riding position with weight on the hands. It does relatively well when pace is accompanied by rough terrain, but there's no getting around the absence of rear suspension. It does nicely in berms, holds a line well, and it smoothly switches from side to side. It maneuvers well in tight spaces but the length of the bike makes it a little tricky to get around some obstacles. That may improve with time, as you'll learn below. I've ridden a few steep pitches but nothing sustained just yet, but I'm pretty confident this will be a blast on some of the trails in my regular rotation.

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The SLX drivetrain is a real performance highlight and the smart folks at Kona nailed it by adding an XT shifter.

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ISCG 05 mounts allow you to mount a guide or a bash guard.

Ride number two was with Pete who was riding a Transition Sentinel, a fast and capable bike in his experienced hands. At the top I let him go first without much sense of whether or not I’d be able to keep him in range. I was again surprised by the capability of the Honzo by staying pretty close to his tail for almost the entire ride. It was hard work with no time to rest or recover, but it was incredibly rewarding to discover what the bike could do. Did I mention fun? It was ridiculously fun.

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I haven't yet been keen on getting much air but I feel like I'll get there after a few more rides.

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Geo numbers courtesy of Kona. The digits aren't quite as extreme as Chromag's Doctahawk, but those numbers (62º HA vs 63º for the ESD for example) reflect a 180mm fork vs. 150mm for the Honzo. Also note that CS length moves between 417 and 433mm

This experience reminded me that hardtails are fun on their own, but one with progressive geometry and an excellent selection of parts tips the needle past the redline. This is an incredible machine for 3600 CAD or 2700 USD and I there isn't a part I felt any need to change. The SLX drivetrain in particular is nothing short of spectacular. I've spent a lot of time on XTR 8100 and I can't say I could tell the difference in a blind test. It shifts so smoothly under load it goads you into doing it more often and the Deore 4-piston brakes are similarly excellent with abundant power and highly sensitive modulation. It makes me think Shimano made the lower-priced groups so good they are likely to cannibalize sales of XT and XTR.

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These images show clearance with the wheel all the way forward in the sliding dropouts. There is decent clearance for a nice beefy tire and of course much more than this when the wheel is slammed to the back.

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Lots of space for more rubber than the 2.4" DHR II WT.

When I first got on the bike it felt a little big and it looked huge. To compensate I cut the bars a little shorter than usual to 750mm and pushed the saddle a little forward. I was a little stretched for seated climbing but the bike felt great on almost everything. I found it a little long in some tight janky corners but it was getting better after each ride, and for my most recent trip I moved the wheel all the way forward in the sliding dropouts to shorten everything just a little.

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I couldn't identify a single error in the spec., right down to the Maxxis Assegai EXO TR 3C 29x2.5" WT front and Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO TR 3C 29x2.4" WT rear.

The word from Kona is that this bike began life as a mule for the newKona Process X. You can see there are a lot of geo similarities, but I wondered how a hardtail can help you figure out how a full suspension bike is going to ride, so I asked Kona Product Manager Ian Schmitt how that worked; "We wanted to check the fit of the geo more than anything. Really that kind of static position on the bike when you’re climbing etc. We wanted to make sure that some of the assumptions about how a rider would interface with the bike were actually correct and we weren’t getting lost in the weeds. You can definitely learn a bit about how the bike behaves as well, but that comparison between a hardtail and a dual suspension isn’t really gospel, more just another data point to make inferences from. Swapping back and forth between the X and the ESD is interesting, the dual suspension is much more dynamic and the way the two bikes behave on the same trail are wildly different and require slightly different riding styles and technique."

I also wondered if Ian had ulterior motives with this project, and it seems that may have been the case; " I have wanted a longer/slacker hardtail for some time and this seemed like a good opportunity to legitimize that plan. The group bought into my idea and now we have a sweet hardtail."

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Race Face handles bars, stem and cranks...

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as well as wheels.

My Top Ten Reasons for Riding a Hardtail (or adding one to your stable)

  1. You can grow a mustache or a neck beard, wear knickers, grumble about standards, and hate on e-bikes and fit right in
  2. Hardtails force you to ride with solid technique and to be more dynamic, making you a better rider
  3. There is very little to break (no rear shock! no pivots!) so it will generally be there when you need it
  4. You will feel a little superior to all the 'sheeple' on carbon duallies
  5. Hardtails make trails you've been riding for years feel fresh and new
  6. Your full suspension bike will feel like you're riding on a cloud when you go back to it - and you'll be ripping
  7. To hear smart-ass comments from your buddies like, "Hey Cam, somebody stole your shock."
  8. A slight handicap keeps things fun when you are riding with slower riders
  9. If you plan correctly, you can use wheels and fork etc. as back ups if something fails on your full suspension bike (if you have one)
  10. Because it's a shitload of fun (particularly on the Honzo ESD) for a very reasonable price
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Deniz thought we should start adding photos of the rider with the bike. I'm not so sure. The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 is one hell of a fork. While it's a perfect match, I'm going to pump up the travel to 170mm and try some other forks for giggles. And shits. The 200mm TransX dropper was welcome and can be fully inserted if needed.

When Deniz was taking these photos I noticed a sticker behind the seat tube where it clearly showed this was an XL frame. I was certain I would have received a large frame, considering the 490mm reach is generally as long as I go. When I got home I pulled out my tape measure and confirmed this was an XL with a monstrous 525mm reach. While it's only 35mm, or about an inch and a half beyond my normal limit, the wheelbase at 1285mm is 40mm longer as is the front centre at 875. I think a little broken telephone is to blame for the size mishap, but we're going to swap it out since another publication wants to get their hands on the XL anyway. Hopefully it won't feel tiny under me and those switchbacks will feel a little more natural, but I don't want anything else to change.

There was a time when I used to see DH racers training by riding hardtails in the winter and the few rides I've done so far make me wonder why that doesn't seem to happen much any longer. Of course you want to get intimate with the bike you'll be racing on, but riding a hardtail gives you super powers when you return to double-ended damping. That alone is worth the price of admission for me.

The next step is to try the ESD on some more challenging trails and really learn how to ride a hardtail again.

More on the Honzo ESD...

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Age - 54

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 165lbs/75kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 33"/84cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 770mm

Preferred Reach - 475-490mm

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Comments

UFO
+7 Tremeer023 Sean Chee Pete Roggeman Mammal Cam McRae bushtrucker Dan
UFO  - Sept. 23, 2020, 9:49 p.m.

I'm so glad you got the chance to try a real hardtail Cam. 

I gave FS a semi honest try, but back to the hardtail I go for what, where, and how I like to ride.

Let me know when you work up the desire to drop TOTW on a hardtail ;)

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 UFO
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:16 a.m.

That's a serious commitment! Sounds fun though.

Reply

cooperquinn
+6 Jonas Dodd Andrew Major twk AJ Barlas MountainBikeBarbados . Michael
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 23, 2020, 10:57 p.m.

Man, the c/s length (or, uh, lack thereof) on this bike is such a miss for me. Winter is coming, I'd like to swap out my current hardtail frame... and this would be a really solid contender if it weren't for 26" worthy rear center. Its a super odd number in the middle of a bunch of nice, progressive geo.

Reply

D_C_
+1 Tremeer023
DMVancouver  - Sept. 23, 2020, 11:37 p.m.

I’ve only ridden hardtails with super short chainstays (Chromags and Konas) but it hasn’t felt weird to me. Could it be that, because the rear wheel doesn’t move vertically relative to the rest of the frame under load and pumping like a full suspension, a shorter rear end on a hardtail will give a similar sense of balance? I could see long chainstays on a hardtail making it potentially quite difficult to get the front end up, and might be a bit overwhelming when the rear end goes over a square hit, which is translated directly to pitching you forward. Just my theory...

I’d be interested to hear from people with experience with both short and long rear ends on hardtails.

Reply

olaa
+6 twk DMVancouver Andrew Major AJ Barlas Cr4w MountainBikeBarbados .
olaa  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:52 a.m.

As Tremeer023 I have a Moxie, where i started out riding it at 425mm. Eventually i went longer and longer and am now maxed out at 441mm. Seems like most Moxie owners are going that way, and especially those that ride tech trails. The stability is a lot better on rough trails and flat corners are easier to rail. 

If i was riding smoother trails with bermed turns long chainstays probably wouldn't matter much, but for steep tech riding it is so much better! Manualling, take-offs off lips and going over square hits is something you get used to quickly and adapt the balance and timing.

Reply

twk
+5 Andrew Major Cr4w Tremeer023 olaa MountainBikeBarbados .
twk  - Sept. 24, 2020, 6:23 a.m.

I can only second that sentiment -- my moxie rides way better with longer chainstays. Putting the wheel further behind me translates to more balanced feel given the long reach, and less jarring impacts coming through from the rear.

Reply

Tremeer023
+4 twk Andrew Major Cr4w Cam McRae
Tremeer023  - Sept. 24, 2020, 2:42 a.m.

417mm is an odd number.  I assume that's the shortest setting so could be lengthened by 15mm or so.  

This bike is not dissimilar to my Pipedream moxie which has the same sliding dropouts (but 425mm - 441mm).  I was running mine slammed at 425 but have recently put an extra link in the chain (ss setup) to extend to about 438ish I think.  Liking the extra cornering support and stability on jumps, but it is more difficult to manual.  Very tight cornering is a bit worse but not unmanageable.

Reply

Bikeryder85
+1 Andy Eunson
Bikeryder85  - Sept. 24, 2020, 4:14 a.m.

How tall are you? The Cotic BeFe Max may be up your alley...440 chain stays I believe. They have been pushing long rear centers for a while now (I think the owner Cy is tall). I can verify they make nice riding bikes as well (I have a Soul 27.5) may want to give them a look.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 6:36 a.m.

The BFeMAX CS are 444mm.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:46 a.m.

This is classic Kona. Just like the Sartori from a few years ago where they boosted the seat tube angle but didn't add to the reach to compensate for the lost cockpit room. This is kind of the same. It's like they can't manage too much change at once.

I've ridden hardtails with long and short chainstays: longer is better. I'm surprised this bike didn't go 425-435 given that steep seat tube.

Reply

xy9ine
+3 Mammal Cr4w Tremeer023
Perry Schebel  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:12 a.m.

why you ditching the SICK, coop? you not progressive enough to be a leader of the new school?

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:03 a.m.

Its been an interesting experiment, and its part of why I think the stays on the Honzo are waaaaaaaay too short. 

Ultimately the STA on the Sick is too steep for comfort if you leave the S2S, and there's a few other... geo tweaks/oddities. It'll go on the wall, until the fine people at the MTB Hall of Fame calling me wanting a specimen for their collection. 

Honestly... I'm not sure what to replace it with, though. But the new Marin El Roy looks pretty cool, and is very progressive?! I'd prefer sliding dropouts; the rest looks pretty skookum, especially for a brand my headspace generally associates with like.... boring peope in boring places?

Reply

xy9ine
+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - Sept. 24, 2020, 12:03 p.m.

yeah, based on my parking lot test ride, i'd agree re: too steep sta. seems many of the aggro ht's are in the 77-78 range tho (including the marin, which i otherwise kinda dig, perhaps even moreso because of the uncool brand factor). seems that everyone has (finally) figured out that ht's require extra slack ht's, but forgot that sta's also steepen under sag. *shrug*. 

have you looked @ cotic bfemax? numbers look to be in the ballpark.  the pole taival has similar "balanced"numbers as well (longer rc, not so steep hta).

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Vik Banerjee
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 24, 2020, 1:08 p.m.

I'm fussy, but the BFeMax is close? I'd be a size large, which I'd argue I shouldn't be (that said... i do usually ride a large.); the large has a lot of stack, and I'd probably put a 160mm fork on it, instead of 140mm. This'd slacken out the Kinda Too Steep HTA, raise the Very Low BB a bit, but also increase stack. 

Dunno. I've been thinking a lot about this lately - winter is coming - and haven't come up with something I actually properly want yet. I just know I'm not particularly stoked on what I've got.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 5:36 p.m.

One issue with the BFeMAX is the next batch are not due until Dec 2020. Add in a COVID supply chain delay and shipping to Canada and that could easily slide to Jan/Feb 2021. So if you want a bike to ride this winter it may not be rolling on the trails early enough to meet your needs.

RideStrength
0
John Hyatt  - Sept. 25, 2020, 2:59 p.m.

I love my BFeMax, set up as a SS with a 150mm fork. I have no problem climbing anything squamish or the shore has to offer on it.

D_C_
+3 Cam McRae Mammal Vik Banerjee
DMVancouver  - Sept. 24, 2020, 1:54 p.m.

All this being said, there is no consistent way that effective STA is measured across brands and varies with saddle height. Steep STAs are fashionable and help sell bikes to non-hardtail riders looking at the numbers, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting until you sit on the bike.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Cam McRae
Morgan Heater  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:24 a.m.

I really like short chainstays on my hard-tail (416mm), but I use it for commuting, dirtjumps, and messing around the city, in addition to trail riding. I'm not looking for all out speed on my hard-tail, that's what my squishy bike is for, and it has 450mm chainstays.

Interestingly, the XL reach and seat-tube angle on the ESD is nearly identical to the L reach and seat tube angle on the geometrons.

Reply

JVP
+3 Cam McRae MountainBikeBarbados . Dan
JVP  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:47 a.m.

Looking at other reviews, they say the stays adjust from 417-433. Not terrible in the longest setting, but 8-10mm longer would be a better range. 

NS Billet or someone like that could easily make longer dropouts for this rig (make 'em 180 post while you're at it), if there were enough demand. Or Kona could just do it, but that doesn't seem to be Kona's way.

My heart and my budget are having one hell of a battle over this bike right now. Haven't had the wants this bad in a long time.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:18 a.m.

I think the CS length in the chart above is for the shortest setting (awaiting confirmation) and in the tech video Ian mentions 417-433 which is likely the entire range.

Confirmed. That is the case.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 Mammal Andrew Major curbwzrd
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:04 a.m.

433mm is... more reasonable. But that's still the least-progressive number on the geo chart by a fair ways. 

I'm not saying everything needs to be extreme all the time, its just odd to have one number that seems so incongruous with the rest.

Reply

Ddean
0
Ddean  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:09 p.m.

My Naked has a short rear end like this one does and perhaps that’s one of the things that makes it a bit more demanding to ride - as in you MUST be hard and dynamic on the bars or the front will wash out.

But once you do that - MY GOD. 

Hard on the bars. Always. Maybe it’s one of those things you need to try or maybe it’s not for everyone.

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Sept. 25, 2020, 8:33 a.m.

Naked frames are so nice to look at...

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Sept. 25, 2020, 3:40 p.m.

Ya I'm not sure why manufacturers are so fixated on short chainstays. Steep seat angles help with climbing performance but they also seem to necessitate taller bars which exacerbates the short rear centre issues when climbing. I like em short on my everything else bike but it sees primarily road, dirt path and the pump track its the play bike but on the trail bike I'd prefer not to have to fight the front end end when I'm already struggling up a gnarly switchback. In all cases the days of hunching over my bike are long over I want a nice comfy cockpit which means higher bars with a touch more sweep please.

Reply

wzrd.
0
curbwzrd  - Oct. 2, 2020, 6:13 p.m.

couldnt agree more.

Reply

jonas-dodd
0
Jonas Dodd  - Sept. 23, 2020, 11:17 p.m.

This version of the Honzo sounds like an excellent update to a great bike.

One thing though, how is it for pedal strikes? The crank length isn't given and the BB height is 312.5mm. My 2017 Patrol BB height is 339mm and I have to ratchet the pedals all the time to avoid clipping projections while climbing on undulating terrain (cranks are 175mm). I would guess that anticipating potential pedal impacts would be even more of a necessity with the Honzo.

Reply

D_C_
0
DMVancouver  - Sept. 23, 2020, 11:28 p.m.

Only the fork sags, so the sagged bb drop is probably similar to many full suspensions. You definitely would not want a hardtail with a 339 mm static bb height.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:20 a.m.

I haven't had any issues at all actually. It's been great in that dept.

Reply

D_C_
0
DMVancouver  - Sept. 23, 2020, 11:26 p.m.

How did the super steep seat angle feel on the hardtail? Because only the fork sags, the seat angle gets even steeper that what’s stated. Based on my experience with other hardtails, 73 degrees feels pretty normal and 76 feels borderline too steep. But I’m interested in your thoughts.

Reply

Lynx
+4 Andrew Major Geof Harries bushtrucker Andy Eunson
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 24, 2020, 6:03 a.m.

I'm going to 100% agree with you on this one, a HardTail with a STA steeper than 74* static is not a pleasant all day bike unless you only ride in the mountains and go up and down, on long pedally days with a good mix of flat, rolling, mild climbing etc, no bueno.
[EDITED to ADD] I love my rigid Kona Unit, it's such a fun bike, always makes me smile, even if after the ride I'm more achy than if I was on my FS and rode slower, always, always fun and more capable than most would expect.
Also, own a '08 Monkey, Banshee Paradox and those super short rear ends just aren't for me, have always used/run the 10mm Monkey Nuts to keep the stays about 17.1", run the Unit with the stays slammed all the way back to fit 29x3" rubber in there, barely, but actually leave it there when running 29x2.6" as well, although 5mm shorter wouldn't hurt,  makes mud clearance actually a thing.

Reply

mammal
+3 Andrew Major MountainBikeBarbados . bushtrucker
Mammal  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:54 a.m.

Agreed. Mine is at 73.5 deg, and with a sagged 150mm fork, I would not want anything north of 75.

Reply

craw
+3 Christopher Daniel Geof Harries Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:57 a.m.

I have a 36" inseam. My first custom HT had a 77' ESTA. That was a little too much even at a huge seat height like that. My second had 76' and this is a lot better but even at 76' my seat is slid quite far back. It feels a bit odd on flat ground but not bad. It's incredible for climbing when combined with 448mm chainstays.

*edit: 78' ESTA for a hardtail for average height riders would seem very very steep unless you have absurdly short femurs.

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gdharries
0
Geof Harries  - Sept. 24, 2020, 8:46 a.m.

That last photo of Cam leaning on the bike shows why overly short seat tubes on the largest size available is a bizarre trend. Add about 4” of saddle height and you have me, and many others.

Love the tall stack height though. Cool looking bike.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Cam McRae
Morgan Heater  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:21 a.m.

Nope, it just shows that he needs a longer dropper.

Reply

gdharries
+1 MuscogeeMasher
Geof Harries  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:57 a.m.

Ha. Even a 250mm dropper would barely be enough.

And let's not get started on the aesthetics or strength concerns.

Reply

Lynx
+1 Geof Harries
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:16 a.m.

Agreed. Going by my Unit with a 530mm long ST on which I run a 150mm drop post that's already 35mm out the frame, this would be ridiculous, AND I run 180 cranks. My guess is they're going for people upsizing to get more Reach without loosing the ability to run a longer dropper - so 5'10" person on the XL.

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:45 a.m.

I don't really *want* to run a super long dropper, tho.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Dan
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 2:22 p.m.

I didn't want to run a super long dropper either. Until I tried one. Now I hate even a 170. I love my OneUp 210 and I have a pre-production 225 on the way to try from another brand. The 200 on the ESD for L and XL is bang-on IMHO

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:44 a.m.

To each their own - I'd be swapping it for 170mm, or maybe less. Sometimes I'll run a longer post on hardtails, but generally run 150mm. And its not that I haven't tried longer.

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:21 a.m.

The steep SA felt a little odd at first but I'm on a frame that's too large and the saddle is a little forward. I think it'll be fine once I get on the Lg. At least for me. And wouldn't this be solved by pushing the saddle back on the rails?

Reply

Vikb
+3 MountainBikeBarbados . Velocipedestrian bushtrucker
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:36 a.m.

> And wouldn't this be solved by pushing the saddle back on the rails?

You've got a small amount of rearward adjustment on most saddle rails if your STA is too steep. The problem is that with your weight focused on the rear of the saddle if you slam the clamp to the front of the rails you will bend then break them. 

So if the STA is really close to what you want sure you can adjust that last bit to hit perfection by moving the saddle rearward. If you need a significant amount of rearward movement you really need to get a dropper with a setback head. 9.8 is currently the only quality dropper that I'd recommend with 1" of setback.

Interestingly if the STA isn't steep enough you can move the saddle all the way forward on the rails since your weight is now right above the clamp and you aren't putting that force through a long lever.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Greg Bly
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

I assume these are issues for the >200lb crew. Not an issue for me.

Reply

Lynx
+3 Cam McRae Vik Banerjee MuscogeeMasher
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:41 a.m.

Nah, doesn't matter if you're a lighter weight person, say 140-180lbs (add a pack, kit and now you're 160-200lbs>), if you've got the saddle slammed way back on the rails, inevitably, at some point you're going to bend and break the rails.

Concur with Vik about the 9Point8 posts, they're only viable option out there if you want/need a setback head and while when I bought mine it was $425 US (one of the most expensive) in the 4 years I've had it I've not had one issue with it, only done colar re-lubes basically, only now have the seals come to need replacing.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Vik Banerjee
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 2:24 p.m.

TBH, now that I think about it I haven't had to push mine back recently so I can't say if I would have issues or not.

Vikb
+1 MountainBikeBarbados .
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:48 p.m.

MBB - I have a hack that could potentially save you the hassle of the collar re-lubes. I have stopped doing them for a long time [over a year]. I just wipe the stanchion clean and put a small amount of slick honey on it pre-ride. I have not had any issues with seals wearing out and I have not had to open up either of my 9.8 droppers. I use a Mudhugger rear fender so my dropper stays, somewhat, clean even in winter.

The nice thing with these droppers is that you can swap them back and forth between inline and setback heads. On my COTIC with its super slack STA I have gone back to an inline head.

Vikb
+2 Cam McRae bushtrucker
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:41 p.m.

> I assume these are issues for the >200lb crew. Not an issue for me.

Cam you don't have to be particularly heavy to bend/break saddle rails that are clamped at the front of a saddle to get a slacker STA. You have a very long lever trying to support your weight while bouncing along.

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Lynx
+1 Vik Banerjee
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 25, 2020, 3:59 a.m.

Vik, thanks for the tip, already do that one most of the time, but sometimes you just need to undo the collar and get some fresh grease in there. I only just used my homemade version of slick honey the last time, was using regular grease before and the time before that tried a special marine anti seize grease, which I think may have lead to the dust seal degradation. Also doesn't help living where it's either hot, hotter or way too damn hot, eats plastic and rubber stuff.

fartymarty
+4 Cr4w twk Christopher Daniel Geof Harries
fartymarty  - Sept. 24, 2020, 6:32 a.m.

"Yes, you could single-speed it and if you lived somewhere else, with fewer steep climbs and descents, that could be a good idea, but this bike wouldn't be a good idea in that place because of the geometry. Others are entitled to their opinions on this, no matter how wrong they are." .... grabs popcorn....

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mammal
+7 Poz Carlos Matutes Christopher Daniel Geof Harries MountainBikeBarbados . bushtrucker Andy Eunson
Mammal  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:55 a.m.

You just know Andrew Major is biting his tongue (sitting on his hands) on this one.

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fartymarty
+3 Mammal Cr4w Dan
fartymarty  - Sept. 24, 2020, 8:30 a.m.

Hopefully drafting a suitably witty response.

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Poz
+2 JVP Mammal
Poz  - Sept. 24, 2020, 8:37 a.m.

I think it was actually a veiled shot fired in his direction

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mammal
0
Mammal  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:53 a.m.

Absolutely. Semi-veiled, even.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Geof Harries
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 10:26 a.m.

LOL. just a joke. Andrew rides the climbing trail on his single speed FFS. The man is a beast on the climbs it seems - and I am not. He'd likely love this as a single and if he's keen, and the large fits him, we can add that to the test.

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mammal
0
Mammal  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:43 a.m.

He wouldn't be able to get over the 433 max stay length (because they COULD have made it longer), and the 76deg seat angle. Guaranteed.

reini-wagner
+1 Cam McRae
Reini Wagner  - Sept. 24, 2020, 12:23 p.m.

yes please do so, I'm also very interested in his angle on that bike. I wonder if the frame only will every be available here in Europe. But as you wrote, the complete build comes with a very fine kit anyway, so it is a viable option.

Vikb
+5 Allen Lloyd Pete Roggeman Cam McRae bushtrucker Tremeer023
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:09 a.m.

Thanks for the review. The Honzo ESD is the first Kona I'd be keen to own. Unfortunately I just got a 2nd aggressive HT in a Cotic BFeMAX and even I can only justify so many MTBs. My custom Daambuilt has short-ish CS and I intentionally got a 2nd HT with longer front and rear centres in the Cotic to see what that's like. I have been a short CS person the last 8+ years and I wanted to make sure I gave the alternative geo a fair shot. If for some reason the Cotic doesn't rock my world after this winter I could see myself swapping the parts over to this Honzo frame.

I would have told you HTs were silly for Costal BC trail riding until I got the Daambuilt and experienced the "modern aggressive" HT geo for myself. I kept riding that bike more and more until I was riding 95% of my normal FS bike trails and loving it.

As I explained to a friend...I don't ride a HT or a SS bike because it's "better" than FS or gears. I ride HT/SS because I love the experience of riding them and they also happen to have some interesting benefits I can point to which is a bonus.

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reini-wagner
0
Reini Wagner  - Sept. 24, 2020, 12:28 p.m.

Vik, bummer to hear that the BfeMax doesn't float your boat. What is it you don't like about it?

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:36 p.m.

Reini - I have no issues with the BFeMAX. That's not what I typed. It's too early to have a real opinion. I give any new bike 6 months to earn its keep or I move it on. So I'll make a call on the BFeMAX in the spring just like I would do with any new bike I started riding in the fall. At the moment I am not planning on selling it.

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reini-wagner
+1 Vik Banerjee
Reini Wagner  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:25 p.m.

Ah sorry, my bad - i missed the IF in your sentence.

I was asking because the BfeMax is also on my radar. As you noted above, availability is a bit tight currently, but my horizon is about 12-18 months currently. However the long CS on the BfeMax is definitely a major difference to the Honzo. I'm riding Honzos since '14, and a 26" Bfe since '19. I'm naturally biased towards the ESD (and as an alternative the Moxie for that matter), but the BfeMax looks sweet as well.

Thanks for your insights!

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 25, 2020, 6:34 a.m.

HTP likes short CS normally. Here is his review of the BFeMAX.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnVF14VuKKE&ab_channel=hardtailparty

Unfortunately I'm leaving town for a month and bringing my Daambuilt as it's better suited to the less gnarly riding where I am headed than the BFeMAX so it will be a while before I get back and can get time on the Cotic.

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rigidjunkie
0
Allen Lloyd  - Sept. 24, 2020, 7:31 a.m.

The only issue I have when riding my hardtail is I tend to be rough on rear wheels.  This winter I plan to add some kind of protection to the rear wheel to try and mitigate this.  On rolly terrain there is nothing like pumping backsides on a hardtail.  

I would also agree with the others about a longer rearend.  I have an old Nimble 9 and it is great in tight stuff, but gets nervous when the speeds go us.  A longer rear end would help this and make the bike more balanced.  BUT then it would stop being a wheelie machine, which is one of the things I like most about it.

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skyler
+3 Vik Banerjee Cr4w MuscogeeMasher
Skyler  - Sept. 24, 2020, 9:25 a.m.

Totally - No rear suspension to maintain/break, but rear wheels and cranks instead!

I finally added Cushcore to the rear of my hardtail this year, which has made it possible to ride irresponsibly, as if on a full suspension bike. I'd highly recommend it for a bike like this. And I'm having better luck with Shimano cranks on the hardtail after going through several sets of these RF ones.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Vik Banerjee
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:18 a.m.

Inserts FTW. After the first two rides I put in a mismatched pair of Rimpacts (Pro rear and standard front) and we'll see how that goes. Based on the rides thus far, I may end up on Tannus Tubeless but that's just a hunch without enough data.

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:56 p.m.

I finally caved and put a Tannus Tubeless insert in the rear of my HT. I am/was a insert doubter so it will be interesting to see where I land on the issue after a winter of use.

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mammal
+6 Sanesh Iyer Pete Roggeman MountainBikeBarbados . Cam McRae Dan Tremeer023
Mammal  - Sept. 24, 2020, 8:32 a.m.

Great to hear you've rediscovered the joy of hard tails, Cam. I went back to trying bone shakers in 2013 after picking up a sweet industry deal on an Aperture. Geo keeps getting better, and the bikes get more fun, but your top 10 list is timeless. Fully agree on all those points. 

One of my favorite parts of riding hard tails, is how different the experience is from riding a nice comfy dually, even on the same trails. I regularly swap between 160/150 29er, my DH bike, and my hard tail, and really only needing a trail or so to reacclimatize between. The adaption process and differences between riding experiences just brings so much satisfaction.

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sanesh-iyer
+3 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae Mammal
Sanesh Iyer  - Sept. 24, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

The only reason I'm getting a fully is that I have trouble teeing up new big (for me) moves with imperfect landings or runouts on my hardtail. Even familiar moves with blown out landings have caused me some grief this year. Otherwise... 3 years of had tail life after 10 on squishy and I am happy. Even have many PBs on my hardtail.

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BertLTP
+1 Vik Banerjee
Albert Steward  - Sept. 24, 2020, 11:19 a.m.

The published geo numbers are static, right? Given the longish travel fork those reach numbers are going to grow and that STA will be pushing 80deg at sag, no? I wished manufacturers worked with sagged numbers for hardtails

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flattire2
+1 Cam McRae
Brian Tuulos  - Sept. 24, 2020, 12:13 p.m.

Yes the reach will grow but the stack will also shrink.  People focus on the reach number in isolation  but you need to consider both reach and stack together for sizing.  I just did a quick sketch in solidworks and the reach grows about 7mm with the fork sagging 40mm.  Not massive.

For example, 2 bikes, bike A has reach 436mm, stack 650.   Bike B has reach 450mm, stack 620.  Wich bike is bigger? 

Answer - they are the same.  Bike A will just require fewer stem spacers.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 24, 2020, 2:28 p.m.

A 170mm fork will be interesting for several of these issues. The static STA will slacken some, reach will shrink a little, bb will go up... Should be a worthwhile experiment.

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Vikb
+2 Andy Eunson DMVancouver
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 24, 2020, 3:54 p.m.

I would love it if they provided 25% sagged and static geo numbers for hardtails. I mean once you have the CAD program fired up it's not that big a deal to offer both sets of numbers. It makes comparisons easier [since you come across both types of geo numbers] as well as understanding the shape of the bike when a rider is aboard.

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xy9ine
+1 Greg Bly
Perry Schebel  - Sept. 24, 2020, 4:41 p.m.

i find a 1" fork drop = -1* angle rule of thumb works reasonably well. no idea what the reach ramifications are, but generally not too significant (for me to worry about, anyways).

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Lynx
0
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 25, 2020, 8:46 a.m.

I actually go 20mm=1 degree, which seems about right after trying different travel on the same fork and measuring with a phone app. I go by actual travel, not total height from ground to crown, so would be interesting to hear what an engineer had to say. Guess to be accurate you would need to also take HTA into account.

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Evil_Bumpkin
0
Evil_bumpkin  - Sept. 25, 2020, 9:03 a.m.

This thing looks great! But the price tag...wow...the build kit is pretty well thought out but I feel like this bike should be $500-$1k less for what you are getting.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:47 p.m.

Do you have a comparable to share? I haven't spent much time looking for complete steel hardtails but the value seems there to me.

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tehllama42
+5 Pete Roggeman Vik Banerjee MountainBikeBarbados . Cam McRae Deniz Merdano
Tehllama42  - Sept. 25, 2020, 10:37 a.m.

I feel like the ultimate rallying cry of NSMB.com has been the ultimate stable is a 2+2=4 kit, with one good do-everything FS, and a proper steel hardtail. You'll always have a bike for mucky winter conditions with the chunky tire wheelset, there's a combination that flatters fitness, a combination that flatter skills, and multiple great options for longer rides.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 25, 2020, 12:24 p.m.

That's a pretty well thought out combo for most, I'd say.

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dirtreynolds
0
dirtreynolds  - Oct. 1, 2020, 7:04 a.m.

This is absolutely the dream!

My fall/winter project has been putting together an all-season steel hardtail that is fully parts-compatible with my regular trail bike. This was an itch that came up every September, but this seems to be the year that it finally gets scratched.

Coincidentally, it was the teaser shots of this ESD that got me excited again about the prospect. That said, I ultimately ended up ordering a 2020 Chromag Rootdown for a couple of reasons:

  • We get a lot of snow on this side of the Rockies and the Rootdown will let me run 27.5x3" wheels in the winter.
  • The local Kona dealer was exhibiting some major Covid-burnout and didn't seem all too interested in ordering me a frame.

In the end, the Rootdown has quite similar geometry to my trail bike and I think it's going to be a stupid amount of fun out here.

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