2018 Kona Process 153 CR 27.5 DL
The original Process 153 was highly regarded at the time of its release. The bike's progressive geometry, lively suspension, and unflappable reliability quickly built a following and also seemed to influence how other brands approached the geometry and sizing of their own products. The original Process 153 seemed to stand the test of time against carbon constructed, feature-laden super bikes, but nothing is perfect and many Process fans were speculating what changes could make such a good bike even better. Fast forward a few years and Kona has unveiled the Process G2, which features new suspension, a number of design improvements, plus the inclusion of a carbon frame option.
- Good value
- Long term durability
- Well-chosen component spec
- Low standover heights across size range
- Room to play with shock tune and ramp in either direction
- More composed, predictable, and pedal-able than previous version
- Excels in moderate, rolling terrain compared to many 150-160mm travel bikes
- A bit hefty
- Frame protection is slightly lacking
- Heel rub may be an issue for some
- While improved, it's still not the most spritely climber
Kona Process 153 CR/DL 27.5 Highlights
- 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
- 153mm (6.0-inches) rear travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
- Kona DH carbon frame with 6061 aluminum chainstays
- Beamer Independent Suspension design
- 20mm ID bearings in main and rocker pivots
- Trunion-style Metric shock
- Three-piece locking pivot axles
- Water bottle inside front triangle
- PF92 bottom bracket
- ISCG05 tabs
- 1x drivetrain specific
- Boost 148x12mm rear axle
- Clearance for 2.5-inch tire on 35mm inner width rim
- Tapered headtube with internal headset
- Three year carbon frame warranty
- Sizes: S, M, L and XL
- Frame Weight: 6.6-pounds (3.0kg, size medium, claimed)
- Complete Weight: 31.5-pounds (14.3kg, size large, no pedals, actual)
- MSRP: $5,999 USD
"We felt that the realm of 150-160mm bikes had two camps: one long-travel XC bike camp, and one ‘send it’ camp. We knew that the 153’s heritage was in the latter and made specific changes to chase that goal." – Ian Schmitt, Kona Product Manager
New vs Old Geometry Comparison
The original Process 153 was highly regarded in terms of fit and geometry. Recognizing that they might have found ideal numbers for the 153 CR/DL’s intended purpose, Kona elected to avoid reinventing the wheel. Geometry is largely unchanged from the first generation Process 153. While the whole industry seems to buy into the ‘longer, lower, slacker’ mantra, Kona feels they previously found something that works well.
"We are quite pleased with the current geometry of the 153… the 2017 bike was a stepping stone to where we are now. The most notable difference is the seat tube angle: the new 2018 Process is steeper by about 1-degree and gives a better pedaling position," states Schmitt. Another notable change is a 0.5-degree steeper head tube angle.
At first glance it's evident that the Process G2 is much more refined than its predecessor. The old version was more utilitarian from an aesthetics point of view, whereas our test bike sat in the garage like a piece of jewelry in a case. The clean lines from the top tube to the seat stays and downtube to chainstays are nearly seamless, and the aqua blue paint is a perfect choice to show it off.
More subtle updates include a tidy internal cable management system, water bottle mounts within the front triangle, and three-piece locking pivot axles. There's even a hidden spare derailleur hanger located in the downtube internal cable routing port. Even though the Process G2 has all of the features necessary to call itself "refined," it retains its roots in functionality. The 20mm oversized frame bearings, Trunion-style Metric shock, and integrated frame protection all serve notice that regardless of the 153’s "refined" appearance, it is still ready to rumble.
Upon further inspection we also noted that Kona’s Product Managers are listening. The component spec is nearly faultless.
Upon further inspection we also noted that Kona’s Product Managers are listening. The component spec is nearly faultless. Just like the frame itself, the 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF front tire, 200mm front brake rotor, and 170mm RockShox Reverb dropper are further proof that the folks behind the scenes at Kona are riding the trails their bikes are designed for. The CR/DL model features RockShox suspension, SRAM drivetrain, WTB rims and saddle, plus a few in-house components that save buyers a few bucks. Even the ODI Elite Flow grips are thoughtfully chosen. We’re still waiting for thicker casing tires to come stock, but we’re really splitting hairs with that particular quibble and can’t say enough how much we appreciate such a well-equipped machine.
Kona had three priorities in mind for the new Process lineup: a progressive leverage curve that works well with air or coil, improved pedaling, and low standover heights.
On paper, we expected our 153 CR/DL to perform very much like the version it replaced. Geometry between new and old are nearly identical. Having spent plenty of time aboard the old Process 153DL, we felt like we knew what to expect from the G2: where it would excel, where it would struggle, and how much fun we were about to have...
On The Trail
Kona had three priorities in mind for the new Process lineup: a progressive leverage curve that works well with air or coil, improved pedaling, and low standover heights. Before leaving the house, one box is already ticked: the Process 153 CR/DL has excellent standover clearance. We mentioned earlier that Kona chose to leave geometry largely untouched. We tend to agree that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… our size large felt spot on and immediately comfortable.
Our second thought on the bike was just how supple the rear suspension felt. Kona’s Beamer Independent Suspension and new bearings in the upper shock mount are the key difference makers. The rocker-driven single-pivot design not only improves performance, but adds the option to run a water bottle inside the front triangle. Kona went the extra mile to reduce friction and improve longevity with larger bearings throughout.
The Process 153 CR/DL isn’t as sprightly as others we've tested when it comes to climbing, but it's on par with most and a substantial improvement over the G1.
Further refinement includes a raised main pivot to increase anti-squat and a now slightly regressive first third of the leverage curve, but the rear suspension remains active while pedaling. In the open setting there is still a bit of bob, however we found that the active suspension helped in technical situations where rear wheel traction was at a premium. The Super Deluxe RCT shock does provide the option for lockout, though we kept our shock in the open position and never felt as though we required the use of any shock gizmos for pedal assist. In addition to the active suspension, relatively short chainstays were also an asset in technical terrain where front wheel lifts or wheelies were required. The Process 153 CR/DL isn’t as sprightly as others we've tested when it comes to climbing, but it's on par with most and a substantial improvement over the G1. Second box ticked.
In spite of better stability, the 153 CR/DL doesn’t mute the terrain entirely – instead it retains the lively character of the previous generation with the added bonus of much improved composure.
Descending is undoubtedly and not surprisingly the 153’s strength. The Beamer Independent Suspension was designed around the Trunion-style Super Deluxe RCT shock, which comes with a middle-of-the-road tune with two Bottomless Tokens and medium rebound/compression tunes to leave room for further individual refinement. The updated leverage curve still provides excellent traction off the top, but with improved mid-stroke support and more resistance to bottom-out. We found the stock tune works great for fall riding, but may be a little light for the Whistler Bike Park or high-speed summer conditions. Compared to the Process G1, our 153 CR/DL seemed far more capable at all speeds. In spite of better stability, the 153 CR/DL doesn’t mute the terrain entirely – instead it retains the lively character of the previous generation with the added bonus of much improved composure.
Where the Process 153 CR/DL really shines compared to the previous version and among its long-travel peers is how well it performs on moderate terrain. Our three months of test rides consisted mostly of the Alice Lake region in Squamish, which is rolling and punchy rather than pure descents or climbs. Some long-travel bikes shine in certain sections and feel like a boat anchor or over-gunned in others. The lively nature of the Process 153 CR/DL holds speed well through punchy climbs and flat sections, then settles in easily when things pick back up. In our experience some long-travel bikes struggle on moderate descents because they’re so supple that rider input, like the trail, is muted. The Process on the other hand was responsive and rewarded an active riding style, without being punitive when we got lazy or made mistakes. The 153 CR/DL is well-balanced and remained comfortable and fun in every scenario we threw at it, but it shines especially bright when ridden aggressively.
By nixing the front derailleur mount and using a Press Fit 92 bottom bracket they were also able to widen the main pivot to improve lateral stiffness. "Compliance is good… but a lot of bikes are still quite flexy and don’t allow the suspension to operate properly when being ridden very aggressively," claims Kona.
As we mentioned above, Kona’s Product Managers deserve a pat on the back for their component choices. All too often we find ourselves swapping parts on new bikes, which was not the case with the Process 153 CR/DL – Kona’s highest-end but still reasonably priced component spec. You can compare the entire 2018 Process lineup here, including the 29-inch versions.
The RockShox Super Deluxe RCT shock deserves a ton of credit. While the new frame and Beamer Independent Suspension design have huge effects on the improved performance of the 153, the shock has nearly as much to do with the refined ride characteristics. The Process G1 required some mucking about with the rear damper to improve ride quality, but that is not the case with the G2. We found that the shock was straightforward to set up and tune, and required zero maintenance after months of riding. Subtle tweaks between rides to improve flat pedal performance versus clipped were also undemanding. Overall, huge kudos to Kona and RockShox for mating the Super Deluxe and the Process G2.
We had a similar experience with the RockShox Lyrik RCT3. Again, the simplicity of setup, tuneability, and low maintenance has made us fans of this fork. Kona’s more affordable build kits feature basic dampers on the Super Deluxe shock and a Yari fork.
The SRAM Eagle X01 drivetrain was faultless throughout our test, only requiring the odd adjustment of the B-tension screw. The Guide RSC brakes also performed as anticipated, plus we appreciated the often overlooked addition of a 200mm front rotor.
In sum, not a single part is out of place on the Process 153 CR/DL. Build it, adjust settings, and go.
Seatpost duties were handled by a 170mm travel RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper. Again, kudos to the folks at Kona for building a bike with such great standover with the capability to handle a long-travel seatpost. RockShox's new Reverb lever would be icing on the cake, but the original works well enough.
Kona chose WTB i29 TCS rims for the CR/DL, which are plenty wide for aggressive tires. Our rims survived a handful of trips to the Whistler Bike Park, a trip to Finale Ligure, and daily driving throughout Squamish and the surrounding areas. The rear wheel is showing signs of abuse, but it wasn’t unexpected after a few major impacts with square edges. In spite of the beating they took, the wheels are still doing the job without complaints. The 153 CR/DL also features SRAM hubs, which are a welcome improvement compared to the Process G1.
Wheels are wrapped with Maxxis Minion DHF tires with a 2.5-inch 3C EXO MaxxTerra up front and 2.35-inch 3C EXO MaxxTerra out back. As we mentioned earlier, we prefer the ride quality and durability of the Double Down casing, however we spent plenty of time aboard the stock setup with no issues.
In sum, not a single part is out of place on the Process 153 CR/DL. Build it, adjust settings, and go.
Things That Could Be Improved
The integrated frame protection is great, but we feel that size could be increased in order to provide additional coverage. We managed to put a good-sized rock into the carbon downtube, and the driveside chainstay now shows a number of battle scars.
Unfortunately heel rub near the dropout remains an issue, and the width of the rocker will have riders with large calves readjusting their pedal stroke slightly.
Long Term Durability
Our Process 153 CR/DL stood the test of time admirably. It experienced frequent mistreatment and infrequent care, yet every time we hopped aboard it felt solid. The updated axles and oversized bearings not only compliment suspension fluidity, they’re bomber. No loosening over time, creaking, or other issues, even after riding in some really gross weather. Kona’s carbon seems more than capable as well. We flung a good number of rocks at the downtube, did our fair share of shuttles, and even managed to crash a few times with no signs of frame damage, just a few scuffs and paint chips.
"The bike needs to hold up and we knew that folks would be riding bike parts and shredding these bikes. The new normal is having a single long-travel bike in your quiver and we wanted to make sure our carbon bikes met this need head on." – Schmitt
Our components were also issue free. We mentioned that our rear wheel is a little worse for wear, but the WTB i29 rims are not at fault. We will gladly accept the odd ding or nipple replacement over a much heavier product, and in spite of the damage wheel performance remains unaffected.
What's The Bottom Line?
We were pumped at first glance and over time we’ve only grown to appreciate the Process 153 CR/DL even more. There is no doubt that the Process G2 is a significant improvement over the previous generation. It outperforms its predecessor in every regard, without compromise. Moreover, the updated Process 153 CR/DL puts itself squarely among the best all-mountain and enduro bikes at a competitive price. The Process has always had a reputation as a reliable workhorse, and the G2 is no different. What is different is how well this workhorse handles all types of terrain and riding – the Process 153 CR/DL now rides with the poise and predictability that the G1 lacked, without sacrificing the agility and pop that it always had. Regardless of the task, the Kona Process 153 CR/DL is up to the challenge.
Visit www.konaworld.com for more details.
Vital MTB Rating
- Climbing: 3.5 stars - Very Good
- Descending: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
- Fun Factor: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
- Value: 4 stars - Excellent
- Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent
About The Reviewer
Joel Harwood - Age: 34 // Years Riding MTB: 20+ // Height: 5'11" (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)
Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings.
Photos by Jessie McAuley