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Review: Kona Hei Hei

Posted by Jeremy Yang On July - 21 - 2008

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Who:
The Kona Bicycle Company designs, manufacturers and distributes more than 60 models of purpose-built, high-performance mountain, road and urban bicycles. Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Ferndale, Washington, USA, Kona bicycles are distributed worldwide in more than 60 countries through independent specialty bicycle dealers. Kona funds several professional road, mountain and cyclo-cross racing teams that include World Cup Champions, World Champions and National Champions.

Product Tested:
2008 Kona Hei Hei

Website’s MSRP:
$ 2,999


Posing in the San Gabriel mountains

Specs:
Frame sizes: 14″, 16″, 17″, 18″ ,19″ ,20″, 22″
Frame tubing: Kona Race Light Scandium Butted, 2.5″ Travel
Fork: Rockshox Reba Race 85mm
Rear Shock: Fox Float RP2
Headset: FSA Orbit DL
Crankarms: Race Face Evolve XC X-Type
Chainrings: 44/32/22
B/B: Race Face Evolve XC X-Type
Pedals: Shimano M520 Clipless
Chain: Shimano HG53
Freewheel: Shimano LX (11-32, 9spd)
F/D: Shimano XT
R/D: Shimano XT Shadow
Shifters: Shimano XT
Handlebar: RaceFace Evolve Low Riser XC
Stem: RaceFace Evolve XC
Grips: Kona Race Light
Brakes: Hayes Stroker Carbon V6
Brake Levers: Hayes Stroker Carbon
Front hub: FSA XC-300 Wheelset
Rear hub: FSA XC-300 Wheelset
Spokes: FSA XC-300 Wheelset
Tires: Maxxis CrossMark 26 x 2.1 Kevlar
Rims: FSA XC-300 Wheelset
Saddle: WTB Rocket V Race Carbon
Seatpost: RaceFace EVOLVE XC
Seat clamp: Kona QR
Color: Ball Burnished/White

About Me:
6’1” 210lbs, 28 year old male. I’m a mountain biking enthusiast who enjoys XC riding.

Testing Grounds:
San Gabriel Mountains, Fullerton Loop, Turnbull Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains, San Juan and many other trails in Southern California.


Kona Hei Hei performed excellently on a 6 mile, 3000+ foot climb

First Impressions:
The Kona Hei Hei is a race bike! At first glance I wanted to name the Hei Hei “Stumpy” for its tiny rear shock. The travel on the Hei Hei is a meager 2.5 inches and in proportion to the large sized frame, the rear shock looks well… stumpy.

Visually the Kona is a sweet looking rig. The ball burnished finish on the front triangle’s front half is matched by the polished finish of the Race Face cranks. Even the graphics on the FSA wheels, which some don’t care for, I find make the Kona Hei Hei look like a fast bike even when it’s standing still. You are going to get some looks from other when you’re on this beast.


Ball Burnished front triangle offsets the white nicely

Strengths:
This is a race bike through and through. At 24.5 lbs, the scandium framed bike is very light for a full suspension. Personally, if I was going to spec my bike from scratch I would follow the philosophy Kona took with this bike. While not using very top of the line components Kona did spec the Hei Hei with high end, light weight parts with an eye on durability. You can see this with the XT shifter/derailleur’s, Race Face Evolve level cockpit parts and Rock Shox Reba/Fox RP2 suspension. Very high end, lightweight, but durable parts spec.

I am impressed with the suspension. In my experience, scandium frames have a propensity to feel a little brittle but I never got that impression with the Kona and that’s saying something since I normally ride steel. I found that the Hei Hei frame blends good frame feel and lightweight together. I also think the solid feel of the frame can be partially attributed to the four bar suspension. The suspension was exceptional for its purpose of XC and light trail riding. As long as you’re not hucking this bike off of 3+ feet drops the suspension will be choice for much of your riding.


On the trail, the Hei Hei easily devoured small rocks, climbing and descending.

I especially enjoyed how the rear suspension firmed up when the pro pedal was flipped on while on the flip side I experienced a ton more traction when I went to open the shock up. This was especially fun to experience on technical versus non-technical climbs. On flat fire road climbs, I flipped the pro pedal on and climbed easily without a loss of traction and just a tad bit of bob. When the trail became technical with either a steep grade or rocks/loose dirt, I flipped the switch to open and I immediately felt gobs of traction, at a small efficiency penalty. This penalty is worth it if it helps to keep me from dabbing or hike-a-biking.

The suspension felt particularly good on one of my last rides with the Hei Hei at Sullivan Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. I especially enjoyed how, as we were flowing through the singletrack canyon floor, the suspension ate up the trail making for a rather smooth ride for me. The trail is not difficult by any means, and I could have ridden it with a rigid, but it was so much more comfortable being able to just point and shoot through the small trail debris trusting the suspension to absorb the harshest of it.

The Hei Hei was also a winner in my book also due to its light weight. When I looked at my stable and saw the Hei Hei with a 3×9 drivetrain and full suspension then compared it to my 9 speed rigid 29er, it was easy for me to pick the Hei Hei to ride. The decision was made even easier when I compared weights and found that the Hei Hei weighed even less than my 29er. Ouch!


Small shock, but very capable of smoothing out the trail and providing a bit of traction for the climbs

Weakness:
The wheels. The FSA wheels are probably the only downside in this component group that Kona spec’d. They fell out of true quickly admittedly under a clydesdale and although still ride-able the wheels are not confidence inspiring. The wheels were not to the durability level as the rest of the components. But, although the wheels are a little weak, I am actually fine with Kona not spec-ing a higher end wheelset. The reason being if I were to purchase this bike as a race bike I’d probably go tubeless. Tubeless, theoretically, gives you less chance at flatting while also reducing weight. And although the FSA wheels can be set up tubeless, purchasing wheels designed for tubeless use will be lighter and stronger.

I was also not impressed with the grips but I’ve always found this to be more of a personal preference. I found the grips to be a little too small without a great feel. But again, this is more of a personal preference. I’m sure many of you will love the grips.

Summary:
The Kona Hei Hei is an outstanding contender in the light weight XC full suspension category with an eye towards racing. It is light enough that you’re not at a weight penalty against hardtails but you also gain the benefits of rear suspension to aid in soaking up the rough trails or gripping the more technical climbs. The Scandium frame is especially comfortable and the parts spec were completed with the idea of combining high end, light weight and durable parts together.

The Kona Hei Hei is definitely a bike to take a look at if you’re going full suspension for racing, endurance riding, or ripping the trails with your buddies.

For more info on the Kona Hei Hei, click here.


Ready to rip the trail

12 Responses to “Review: Kona Hei Hei”

  1. Carl Martens says:

    Excellent review…contact us if you’d ever like to get paid for writing any reviews! This is professional quality.

  2. tornadoes28 says:

    That bike looks awesome. Where is the last picture from?

  3. Jeremy says:

    It’s a great bike. The last picture is from San Juan Trail.

  4. RL Policar says:

    So uh Carl…are you recruiting my staff member?

  5. Rish says:

    thats a sweet looking rig.

  6. rich says:

    I’ve been riding this bike for a month. Rock solid but I agree, the wheels are weak. I’m going Stans tubeless and his rims. I’m not sure on the rear travel but the Kona webasite says 3.5 inches of travel.

  7. rich says:

    I just notices that the bike in the pictures has a different rear suspension rocker arm then what I have and whats on the Kona website?

  8. Jeremy says:

    Hey Rich,
    Thanks for the comments. The 26″ Hei Hei, on the Kona website, looks exactly like the one I tested. The Hei Hei 2-9 has a different suspension rockers, but the same suspension design and has 3.5 inches of suspension. Could you be referring to the Hei Hei 2-9?
    Jeremy

  9. david tommons says:

    What size is the seatpin, I have a carbon 27.2 pin 350 and was hoping to buy this bike.

    Thanks.

    I have a Ti Hei Hei and so would like the FS version.

  10. David says:

    I Love the bike, I would love to hear your opinions on changing the fork for a fox rcl 100mm ??

  11. Jeremy says:

    No idea David as I haven’t ridden the Fox RCL 100. Numbers alone would suggest it would slow down the steering a tad, but not by much as you move from an 85mm to 100mm travel. It may not even be notice-able. Good luck with the switch and let us know how it goes.

  12. Matt says:

    The stock Reba has a couple spacers in it and can be adjusted to 115mm travel. I am going to change mine to 100mm and see how it does. This bike rocks and is really fun to ride.

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