2021 Kona Process X First Impressions Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.