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Kona Hei Hei Trail 2019 Review

Kona's Hei Hei Trail is a playful and balanced trial bikeand the winner of our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $2,399 List
Pros:  Balanced suspension feel, good front tire spec, playful XC attitude
Cons:  Long stem, Steeper head tube angle, Recon fork
Manufacturer:   Kona
By Jeremy Benson, Kyle Smaine  ⋅  Sep 10, 2018
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 8
  • Fun Factor - 30% 8
  • Downhill - 35% 7
  • Climbing - 35% 8

The Skinny

The Hei Hei Trail has a great all-around performance that feels a bit like a long legged XC bike. It's a spirited and comfortable climber with a moderate reach and a shorter wheelbase that help keep it maneuverable in tight and technical sections. On the descents, the 140mm of front and rear suspension feels balanced and the Hei Hei performs well at a range of speeds. Our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award winner, it has a lively and responsive demeanor and really excels on moderately pitched trails. This bike isn't exactly super aggressive, and when the going gets steep or especially rough the steeper head tube angle begins to hold you back. The build specification is generally good, although some minor changes could do wonders for this bike's performance. That said, if you're not an aggressive downhill rider or your trails just aren't that steep, then the Hei Hei Trail is undoubtedly a great trail bike that is worthy of consideration.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

This bike isn't for the most aggressive riders out there  but it is really a blast to ride on moderate terrain.
This bike isn't for the most aggressive riders out there, but it is really a blast to ride on moderate terrain.

Should I Buy this Bike?


One of the great things about mountain bikes is that they come in all different shapes, sizes, and geometries to suit the different tastes and styles of the people who ride them. In the case of the Hei Hei Trail this is exemplified in its slightly steeper, by today's standards, head tube angle which give it a little bit of an old school feel. Testers agreed that the Hei Hei felt a bit like a long-legged XC bike. This is not to say they didn't enjoy their time aboard this balanced and playful 140mm bike, because they did, so much that they gave it our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding award. It thrives on the climbs and moderately pitching rolling terrain where it comes to life and begs you to stay on the gas. When the pitch steepens or the trail gets rowdy is where you'll find the limitations of this bike's geometry. Of course, you can ride down just about anything on the Hei Hei, it's just better suited to XC style terrain.

If you're a more aggressive rider with intentions of smashing the downhills, then we suggest looking into our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Canyon Spectral AL 6.0. For the same price as the Hei Hei, the Spectral is better suited for getting rowdy with a more progressive geometry and a much burlier component specification.

Perhaps you're interested in a bike that climbs even better than the Hei Hei Trail? You may want to check out our Top Pick for Climbing, the Giant Stance 1. For a couple hundred dollars less, the Stance is 2 lbs lighter than the Hei Hei and boasts an impressive build for the price. This lightweight and sprightly climber has only 120mm of travel, and much like the Hei Hei prefers to be ridden on moderate terrain.

Fun Factor


Testers really enjoyed riding the Hei Hei Trail. Whether climbing or descending, this bike is comfortable and easy going, yet has a playful attitude that wants you to pop off rocks and seek playful lines. Testers agree that its geometry, the steeper head tube angle specifically, give it a long legged XC bike feel. Its 140mm of front and rear wheel travel feel plush and balanced in most situations, and the RockShox Recon Gold fork on the front end is the best performing Recon fork we've tested. It performs well at a range of speeds on moderate terrain, with precise handling and a relatively short turning radius. This bike is undoubtedly a blast to ride assuming you don't exceed its limitations, as it isn't a brawler and wavers somewhat when the going gets steep or rough. Overall, the component specification is good and ready to party, and this bike is trail worthy straight out of the box.

Testers were pleasantly surprised by just how much fun it was to ride the Hei Hei Trail.
Testers were pleasantly surprised by just how much fun it was to ride the Hei Hei Trail.

Downhill Performance


The Hei Hei Trail is a blast to ride downhill assuming your riding style and the trails you ride agree with this bike. It has a calm yet playful demeanor that does well at a wide range of speeds. It feels planted and stable at higher speeds, yet still feels flickable and fun at lower speeds and in turns. It performs well in most downhill situations, but the measured head tube angle of 67.4 degrees is noticeable and not especially confidence inspiring when the pitch of the trail steepens. Sure, you can ride steep sections of trail on this bike, just not as aggressively as you can on bikes with slacker angles.

The Hei Hei has a playful feel that hod our testers catching little airs all over the place.
The Hei Hei has a playful feel that hod our testers catching little airs all over the place.

Testers found the suspension on the Hei Hei to exceed their expectations. The 140mm of front and rear wheel travel feels supple and balanced with a relatively plush linear feel on both ends. This comes as a bit of a surprise since our experience with RockShox Recon Silver forks have generally been pretty mediocre. The Recon Gold fork spec'd on the Hei Hei, however, has beefier stanchions and a more consistent stroke, both in compression and rebound. Our only real issue with it is that it can feel a little harsh on bigger hits at higher speeds where it is easy to blow through all of your travel. The RockShox Deluxe rear shock also performed admirably and feels especially plush over small bumps and high-frequency chunder.

The Hei Hei is a comfortable and confident descender  it falters only in the steep and super rough stuff.
The Hei Hei is a comfortable and confident descender, it falters only in the steep and super rough stuff.

The bike's geometry is relatively conservative by today's standards and that translates directly into its downhill performance. With a medium length reach of 458mm, a shorter wheelbase of 1171mm, and a steeper headtube angle of 67.4 degrees, it stands to reason that this bike feels more like a long travel XC bike than an aggressive trail bike. Kona also spec'd a longer stem on this bike which just feels a little off based on our current short stem trend.

Uphill Performance


The uphill performance of the Hei Hei Trail is solid and climbing on this bike is a delight. For an alloy frame, this bike is fairly lightweight at 30.5 lbs in the size Large we tested. This bike's reasonably steep seat tube angle puts the rider in a comfortable climbing position with weight distributed nicely above the cranks. The short wheelbase and moderate reach bring your weight forward while giving it a short turning radius that handles tight uphill switchbacks and technical sections well.

Climbing is comfortable and efficient aboard the Hei Hei Trail.
Climbing is comfortable and efficient aboard the Hei Hei Trail.

The rear suspension has two positions, fully open or locked out, and the Hei Hei feels relatively efficient while seated and climbing on trail in the open position. The suspension remains active and sucks up small bumps on the trail while also helping to maintain traction, and it doesn't seem like there is much wasted energy. Out of the saddle climbing results in noticeably more suspension bob, but not so much that it's an issue. Testers used the lockout on the rear shock for extended periods of fire road or pavement climbing, but that setting is too firm to be useful on the trail. A climbing setting in between the open and locked out settings would be nice, but this bike still scrambles up trails quite well regardless.

Out of the saddle climbing on the Hei Hei isn't as efficient as some other bikes in our test  but it still holds its own.
Out of the saddle climbing on the Hei Hei isn't as efficient as some other bikes in our test, but it still holds its own.

One aspect of the Hei Hei's build that may affect its uphill performance is the 1x10 speed drivetrain. It wasn't an issue for our testers, but the spec of a 30 tooth chainring paired with an 11-42 tooth cassette may not be enough range for less skilled or powerful riders when climbing.

Build


As with most mountain bike builds in this price range, the component specification on the Hei Hei Trail is a mixed bag, but it gets the job done. Out on the trail, it works, but there are high and low points for our testers.

The Hei Hei Trail's build gets the job done  although a few upgrades would go a long way.
The Hei Hei Trail's build gets the job done, although a few upgrades would go a long way.

The 140mm of front and rear suspension is handled by a RockShox Recon Gold Solo Air fork and a RockShox Deluxe RL Solo Air trunnion mounted rear shock. We're not huge fans of Recon forks, though the Gold version spec'd on this bike works far better than expected. The Deluxe rear shock also works well and provides a relatively balanced feel with the Recon fork up front.

The suspension felt quite balanced and plush  with a RockShox Deluxe RL rear shock and a RockShox Recon Gold fork.
The suspension felt quite balanced and plush, with a RockShox Deluxe RL rear shock and a RockShox Recon Gold fork.

The cockpit setup is mostly dialed, with a nice wide 780mm handlebar and a Trans-X dropper seat post. It also has a comfortable and crowd-pleasing WTB Volt saddle that's easy on your underside. We were a little dismayed by the spec of a longer-than-we're-used-to stem, but other than it looking weird we didn't really notice it negatively impacting the bike's steering or performance. The vertically oriented paddle style dropper post lever isn't our favorite either, sure it works but we prefer the ergonomics of the 1x style levers.

The cockpit on the Hei Hei is mostly dialed  although testers would've preferred a shorter stem and a 1x style dropper remote lever.
The cockpit on the Hei Hei is mostly dialed, although testers would've preferred a shorter stem and a 1x style dropper remote lever.

The Hei Hei rolls on a WTB ST i29 wheelset with an up-to-date internal rim width of 29mm. The wheels are mounted with a 2.3" Maxxis Minion DHF up front and a 2.3" Maxxis Tomahawk in the rear, both set up tubeless. We're huge fans of the Minion DHF and it gives this bike an aggressive and predictable steering front end. The Tomahawk in the rear works well and provides decent grip when climbing, but it has a somewhat drifty cornering feel. The rims are nice and wide and can easily accommodate some of the wider tires that are popular these days.

A Minion DHF up front is always a good call.
The Tomahawk is a fast rolling rear tire  but it doesn't offer much in the way of braking traction or cornering bite.

Kona chose a set of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with a 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors for slowing and stopping this machine. This brake set does a surprisingly good job of regulating your speed, and testers really like the short throw brake levers as opposed to the longer throw option that is often found on budget-friendly bikes.

The drivetrain is one of our tester's least favorite aspects of the build. The Shimano Deore 1x10 speed has a 30 tooth chainring mounted to Race Face Aeffect cranks and paired with an 11-42 tooth cassette drivetrain. This setup works relatively well and shifting is crisp and precise, but we're accustomed to seeing 11-speed and even 12-speed drivetrains on bikes in this price range. This is not to say that the Deore 10-speed drivetrain won't serve you well out on the trail, because it probably will, we'd just prefer something more modern with a little more range.

The Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain works well  but we'd prefer an 11 or 12-speed for the price.
The Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain works well, but we'd prefer an 11 or 12-speed for the price.

Value


In this day and age, with a retail price of $2,399, the Hei Hei Trail qualifies as being a relatively affordable bike. It's far from the least expensive model we tested, but it is a very capable XC oriented trail bike whose trail manners and all-around performance will likely suit a lot of riders needs. Again, it comes down to riding style and preference, and if you're an XC style trail rider who doesn't aspire to "get super gnarly" on your mountain bike then the Hei Hei is a great and reasonably priced option to consider.

Other Versions and Accessories


Kona makes a huge range of mountain bikes, including 4 models of the Hei Hei Trail which all share the same geometry. The Hei Hei Trail we tested is their most affordable option, and the other models are as follows:
The Hei Hei Trail DL, $3,499, features an alloy frame and notable component upgrades like a SRAM GX 1x12 speed drivetrain, Guide brakes, and a Reverb dropper post.
The Hei Hei Trail CR, $3,999, is built around Kona's carbon frame with a RockShox Pike fork, SRAM NX/GX 12 speed drivetrain, Guide brakes, and a Reverb dropper post.

For $5,999, the Hei Heir Trail CR/DL is Kona's top of the line carbon framed model in their Hei Hei Trail range. It has a RockShox Pike RC fork and a RockShox Deluxe RL rear shock, both of which have remote lockout capabilities. It features a SRAM GX 12-speed drivetrain and Guide R brakes, as well as a Race Face ARC 31 carbon wheelset.

"I like this bike." -OutdoorGearLab Tester
"I like this bike." -OutdoorGearLab Tester

Conclusion


The Hei Hei Trail feels a lot more like a long legged XC bike than an aggressive trail bike. Our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award winner, it excels on the climbs and in moderate terrain where it performs well at all speeds. It's quick, responsive, and playful, yet still manages to maintain composure at speed. The steeper head tube angle holds it back a bit when the trail gets steep and rough, but this bike does well in virtually all other situations. The component spec isn't especially noteworthy, but it gets the job done without any upgrades. If you're a trail rider who leans a little more towards XC than enduro, then we think the Hei Hei Trail might be a great option for you.


Jeremy Benson, Kyle Smaine