2021 Kona Process X First Impressions Review

Words Mike Wallace
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Jan 18, 2021
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Kona Process X First Look

First impressions are a big deal. We all know this. The first time I saw the 2021 Process X I was very impressed. It is a beautiful bike. It's meant to be a big and burly aggressive Enduro machine, yet the slim top tube, shaped seat stays, and blacked out livery give it a very lean look. The paint is simply called Gloss Black but that doesn’t do justice to the gold and green metallic flakes that reflect sunlight like nobodys business.

The Process X is one of the new breed of even more gravity-oriented 29”-wheeled enduro bikes. 161mm of rear travel is paired with 170mm up front. The 170mm comes in the form of a Fox 38 fork though so this means extra support and hard charging performance at the expense of some additional weight.

The best way to introduce this bike is to talk about another. To me there were two bikes in 2019 that almost revolutionized high performance aggressive mountain bikes. One was the Santa Cruz Hightower and one was the Specialized Enduro. Both of these bikes made huge gains compared to what was on the market for downhill prowness while maintaining ‘pedalability’ and climbing prowess. The new Process X is not in any way targetting the Hightower market but I believe it is 100% motivated (as it should be in my opinion) by appealing to the Specialized Enduro buyer. The Enduro (and bikes like it) has dramatically altered the speed and aggresiveness of your typical weekend warrior's experience on his or her local steeps.


Mike has some questions about the Fox DPX2 on a bike with this sort of capability.


The wide stance and burly stanchions of the Fox 38 hit the sweet spot however.

It's interesting to compare the geometry of the Process X to the Enduro. The head angle of the Process X is 63.5 compared to the Enduro at 63.9. Reach of the Process X (size L) is 490 compared to the Enduro at 487.

The Process X has adjustable chainstay (and therefore wheelbase) length. Chain stay length on the process X is either 435 or 450 (averaged for fun at 443) compared to 442 on the Enduro. The wheelbase on the Process X is 1268 or 1283 (average of 1276) compared to 1274 on the Enduro. So basically everything is within millimetres. The seat angle of the Process X is actually 78 compared to the Enduro at 76 and this will be discussed more in the complete test. Another of the new mean machines that is very similar is the 2021 Commencal Meta MA with the geo being very close to both the Enduro and Process X.


Geo and spec details provided by Kona.

The Process X is actually the cheaper of the two new 'X' bikes while the DL will set you back another 3K US. The biggest difference between the two is that the X comes with Fox’s Performance Elite DPX2 rear shock and Performance 38 fork (ie not Grip2 Factory with Kashima) whereas the X DL comes with Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock and Zeb Ultimate fork. The brakes on this Process X are Shimano Deore 4 piston and the drivetrain is a mix of SLX, Deore and XT. Rims are WTB KOM Trail i30 TCS with DT Swiss 370 hubs.


Tipping into the rocky bits.

The drivetrain is totally adequate. The brakes in my mind are a bare minimum choice and it will be interesting to see how they stand up to the Shore the next couple months. After my first couple of rides I can say they definitely have good power which is box number 1 checked. I have had one instance already where the bite point moved on the rear brake on a long sustained steep descent, but its possible a bleed will remedy that.


The Process X encourages full gas.

What I find very interesting is the suspension spec. Personally I have not ridden a recent bike of this ‘quality’ without a top tier suspension spec. It will be interesting to see how the ‘Performance’ level Fox fork and shock end up performing over time. People who buy this type of bike will be hard chargers for the most part so my feeling is that many will question the Kona suspension spec choices. Recently my son had one of his World Cup DH Racer friends over at the house. Hanging out in the bike room (of course) he noticed the Process X. He was very impressed by the look and the length and angles. However when his eyes settled on the rear DPX2 shock he said ‘what is that doing on here?” We will see.

More on the 2021 Kona Process X

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+1 TheSpangler
Merwinn  - Jan. 18, 2021, 11:25 a.m.

I admit I don't understand the hierarchy of rear shocks and their intended applications very well since companies seem to be over-shocking more often (e.g. the '20 Optic with a ST Super Deluxe; cool... but why?), but in all honesty, what is concerning with the DPX2 in this case? Is the X2's (travel, volume, adjustability, blah, blah) simply more appropriate on the Process X given its rear travel, partnered fork and racing intent? What could be the issue(s) with the DPX2 in this instance?

- Confused


+1 Merwinn
Bikes  - Jan. 18, 2021, 12:49 p.m.

I'm confused by names.

RS has 6 shock models not including coil/air versions.  Is a Vivid higher/better than a Monarch?  How would anyone know that?  The only two names that tell me remotely what they are in comparison is Delux and Super Deluxe.  I am assuming super is better?  Maybe?

FOx.  DH, Float, X2, DPS, DPX2...DH.  Is that downhill?  DP?  Down piste? pogo? perfect?Is "S" better then X2?  Why?

I do know that shock size has little effect on actual damping and more to do with thermal control to keep damping consistent (assuming you can get the desired damper physically in there).  On air shocks, the larger bodies would make them less progressive and theoretically more tunable for progression, so there is that.  But non of the names tell me which shock is which.


Warhorse  - Jan. 24, 2021, 9:37 p.m.

This is an interesting topic. My experience is a 2019 Fox float X2 lacks midstroke support (even with extra volume reducers) on a 2016 Transition Patrol (155mm Horst link) vs the stock Monarch RT3 Debonair. The X2 felt good on descents but was not obviously better than the Monarch, and it wallowed on climbs. However, I’ve had good experience with the DPX2 replacing the stock Rock Shox Monarch RC3 Debonair (non-piggy back) on a 2017 Transition Scout (125mm Horst link)  and as a stock shock on a 2020 Ibis Ripmo (147mm DW link). I’ve also noticed that Transition went to a DPX2 on later Patrol models. My conclusion at this point is that the DPX2 is better than the X2 for all mountain riding.


+6 Andrew Major Merwinn Deniz Merdano solar_evolution Chad K Sanesh Iyer Neil Carnegie Marc Fenigstein Mike Wallace DancingWithMyself
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 18, 2021, 12:31 p.m.

DPX2>Float X2. 

Change my mind.


+2 Mike Wallace DancingWithMyself
sticko  - Jan. 19, 2021, 2 p.m.

I am not sure it's our job to "change your mind". You have your opinion and that's it!


+1 Merwinn
paulc  - Jan. 18, 2021, 12:39 p.m.

@Merwinn I've often wondered the same. For example, Yeti specs all models of the SB130 with a DPX2 and where they offer an upgrade it is just to get the Kashima of the Factory model. If you read the Yeti forums you'd think the bike would hardly be rideable with a DPX2 the way some people talk about how the X2 "transforms the bike." I read somewhere a Yeti engineer talking about the characteristics that make the DPX2 preferable for the SB130 and I've been totally happy with it. It was easy to swap a volume spacer and add a few more PSI than recommended to get it working well for me.


Chad K  - Jan. 18, 2021, 7:35 p.m.

As someone who owns a sb130, this is news to me as I really like the shock set up pretty much as directed, just with a larger volume spacer. 

If you're someone who likes a progressive suspension, I'd imagine a x2 is actually less beneficial.


+4 Paul Stuart mrbrett Mike Wallace DancingWithMyself
Znarf  - Jan. 18, 2021, 1:11 p.m.

If it is a Performance "Elite" DPX2 it comes with all the bells and whistles of the Factory shock, but without Kashima. In my experience it works absolutely as good as the Factory version. The Performance (without Elite) is simpler, there might be a noticeable difference. X2 versus DPX2 is totally depending on the linkage/frame. I owned three bikes with these shocks (Giant Reign 27.5, Orbea Rallon 29" and currently a RAAW Madonna) and rode them extensively and owned an X2 and a DPX2 shock for each bike (all Factory shocks). I swapped back and forth and have to say that at 75kg I absolutely prefer the DPX2 on my Madonna, because it just works better. It was a toss up on the Rallon with a slight advantage for the X2. And I absolutely didn't like the X2 on the Reign. (that was one of the earlier X2s) 

The frame probably has a bigger impact on function than DPX2 vs X2 - as long as the DPX2 is shimmed right for you...

The Performance level fork is not all that bad. Either ride it and be happy or drop in a GRIP2 cartridge at the first annual service. The Rhythm series forks are crap though. Different CSU with different diameters and threads sometimes, cartridges and air shafts might not fit etc.

It'll be an interesting review - Kona makes interesting bikes, but the spec decisions / price ratio seems mediocre imho. This one isn't all that bad, I'd guess most components are pretty rideable.


+3 Cam McRae TheSpangler DancingWithMyself
Mike Wallace  - Jan. 18, 2021, 8:23 p.m.

For me the DPX2 vs X2 debate is not about progression.  I have tried a large range of volume spacers.  The DPX2 is great in 90% of situations. Pedaling platform is great of course.  Even on big compressions I find it fine.  Where I can't get it to work well is to the high speed rough stuff.  It just doesn't feel planted.   I spent the summer on a X2 on my DH bike (always a coil before) and I was super impressed with how calm/quiet/balanced/planted it felt.  I am searching after that feeling.  Big bikes like the Process X are meant for near DH style speeds and support (long, low, Fox 38 etc).  So far the bike has what it takes but I am not sure the shock is up to the task.  To be clear I haven't tried an X2 or coil yet to see if that is the answer. 

A large percentage of the Process X riders that I have seen are riding coils.  This makes sense to me as there is no quicker way to eliminate the fluff and get that planted feel.


Znarf  - Jan. 19, 2021, 2:40 a.m.

I think the DPX2 can also work great for high-speed-chatter - if the tune is right (and that's very dependent on rider weight and style). 

On my Madonna there ist absolutely no difference - both DPX2 and X2 are very, very good for high-speed stuff/repeated hits etc. But on my Rallon, like your experience, the DPX2 was harsher/less capable for high speed stuff. 

I do feel however that, also like you describe, the X2 ist really fantastic in the last 20 percent of its travel. And I think that is so, because of the fat rubber bottom out bumper it has since 2019. It's like the bottom out bumper on a coil shock and no matter what, it just "deadens" the really harsh impacts really effectively and also maybe has a positive effect on rebound in these last millimeters of the travel. I think that this applies to coil shocks as well. I think that a good part of what makes some people love coil shocks on Enduro bikes so much is the generous rubber bottom out bumper. 

It is just these last 10% of performance where the DPX2 isn't as good. On my Madonna it feels much livelier and snappier and still very capable in the remaining 90%. But I am only 75kg and while I am using some potential of this very capable bike and also have access to nice rough trails, I am not an extremely aggressive or fast and hard on my shock. 

I somewhat agree that if you are on a bike as aggressive as the Process X and hurling around a 2,5kg Fox 38 the DPX2 seems to be more a cost saving than a weight saving matter.


Mike Wallace  - Jan. 19, 2021, 7:45 p.m.

Agree 100% Znarf.  It’s about keeping the price point down.


+1 Cam McRae
mike  - Jan. 18, 2021, 8:26 p.m.

Just noticed it has twisted seat stays. I considered this bike. But with no aluminum version . I looked at a different brand. Call me old school , I still prefer a alloy frame . I also wanted a coil over shock . Having owned 2 previous Process models. This one IMO is one of the best looking.


TheSpangler  - Jan. 19, 2021, 9:37 a.m.

What are you thoughts on the brakes? I have this bike coming and currently plan on upgrading them to XT 4 pistons or Magura MT7s.


+1 TheSpangler
Mitch Stockwell  - Jan. 19, 2021, 10:40 a.m.

If you like lots of modulation and a more traditional feel, Magura. If you like a more on/off feel, then Shimano. I run Magura on all my bikes and Galfer green pads, the Magura Gold pads are awesome but expensive and don't last long. Maguras are a tad harder to bleed, but once you figure it out, its pretty easy.


+1 TheSpangler
Mike Wallace  - Jan. 19, 2021, 7:59 p.m.

The Deores are surprisingly strong. I am still a little concerned how they perform over time as you get what you pay for as they say.   

Agree with Mitch.  Maguras have a learning curve to service but are very powerful.  The lever is a much larger feel on the finger than the narrow shimano blades.  Shimano parts and pads etc are much easier to come by in NA.  Much easier to access Magura bits in Europe. 

I have tried several brakes lately and in my opinion if I was going to spend the dollars I would go with Code RSC.   Just seem to be less issues with them.


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