Kona Process 134 SE 2018 Review
Cons: poor front suspension spec, poor climbing performance
Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy this Bike?
If you're into the long and slack trend in mountain bike geometry, the Kona Process 134 SE has got you covered, on the long part of that equation anyway. With a long wheelbase and a long reach, the Process 134 is definitely more of a downhill oriented machine. It lacks the all-around performance, versatility, and especially climbing prowess of some of the competition, but if having a blast riding downhill is what you're into, then this is a great bike to consider.
If you're on a budget but looking for a bike that can tackle the descents with authority while still performing reasonably well on the climbs, then check out our Best Buy Award winner, the Giant Trance 3. For $200 less, the Trance has a more well-rounded performance and a nicer build that is still plenty capable of getting aggressive on the descents.
If you're looking for a more aggressive trail bike and you're willing to spend a hundred extra dollars, then our Editor's Choice Award winner, the YT Jeffsy AL Base is worth a serious look. The Jeffsy features modern long and slack geometry with a very impressive build that blows the Process 134 out of the water, and comes seriously ready to party.
Testers found the Process 134 SE to be a heck of a lot of fun to ride as long as it was pointed down the hill. On descents, the bike's long wheelbase and long reach made it super stable and confident at speed, yet it maintained a playful and poppy feel that had testers managing and popping airs whenever they could. Testers were comfortable letting it run on the Kona and liked the centered rider position this long-legged bike had on the descents. That said, testers also felt the Process 134 SE was a bit of a one trick pony and lacked the versatility of some of the other bikes in our test selection. If you're less of an XC rider and your typical rides feature long climbs followed by long descents, then the Kona Process 134 SE could be a good fit.
The Process 134 SE really came to life on the descents and as speeds increased. The downhill prowess and stability of this bike are largely due to its long geometry, with a 1238mm wheelbase and 489mm reach on the size XL we tested. This was one of only 2 size XL frames in our test selection, but for comparison the size Large Process 134 SE still has a 1198mm wheelbase and a 475mm reach, longer than all the other bikes in our test selection other than the Kona Satori. Despite having such long geometry numbers, Kona has managed to have the shortest chainstay length, 425mm, making this bike easier than most to manual and giving it a more playful demeanor on descents. We measured the head tube angle at a steeper than expected 68.1 degrees, although on the trail the bike feels slacker than that number suggests.
The long wheelbase and reach make for a more centered rider position when descending which provides for excellent stability, great traction, and confident cornering abilities that are enhanced by the spec of grippy Maxxis Minion DHF tires front and rear. This bike was incredibly confidence-inspiring at speed, yet still sought the playful line and begged to catch air whenever possible.
The cockpit of the Process 134 is roomy due to the long geometry, a nice wide 780mm handlebar and a short stout stem with a beefier 35mm clamp enhance the responsiveness of its handling at speed. It also maintained its composed feel when pointed down steeper and rougher terrain. The TranzX dropper seat post also helped to get the saddle low and out of the way when ripping downhill.
At this price point, one of the major sacrifices in components is in the suspension, and the Rock Shox Recon fork proved to be a low point for our testers. The fork works, but something slightly beefier with a more supple stroke and more tuneability would have been preferred. In the rear, the Rock Shox Monarch R shock handled bigger hits well but left testers wanting in the small bump compliance department. The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on the Kona also worked reasonably well, but a more powerful option would have been preferred for the speeds this bike likes to travel.
When pointed uphill, the Kona proved to the least favorite among our testers. The same long geometry that makes this bike such a blast to rip downhill has a negative impact on its climbing performance. Out of the saddle, the Process 134 was among the most comfortable to climb on due to the long reach and roominess it provides, but when seated this made the rider position and weight quite far back and over the rear wheel. This seated weight distribution kept weight off the front wheel and it was easy to get it off the ground and had a tendency to wander whenever the trail got steep, making it difficult to manage in tighter turns.
The Process 134 SE is also spec'd with a Shimano Deore 1x10 speed drivetrain with a 30 tooth front chainring and an 11-42 tooth cassette. This drivetrain offers adequate range for most situations but may leave all but the strongest of riders wanting for an easier climbing gear when the climbing gets steep.
For the price, the Process 134 SE has a decent build, but it is outdone by some of the other bikes in our test selection, notably the YT Jeffsy and the Polygon Siskiu. The component spec does get the job done, but testers feel that the bike's performance could be improved with a nicer fork and a 1x11 speed drivetrain that offers more range.
The Process 134 SE has 134mm of rear and 140mm of front wheel travel. They spec'd a Rock Shox Recon Solo Air for without boost spacing for the fork. Testers universally disliked this Recon due to its limited tuneability and pogo stick feel, although 2 bikes in our test selection had this same fork. We question the lack of boost spacing on the fork, as the Recon is available in Boost and could add some stiffness and tire width versatility to this bike. The rear suspension is handled by a Rock Shox Monarch R Debonair with rebound adjustment only. The Monarch shock provided good big hit performance, but testers found small bump compliance to be lacking.
Kona spec'd a set of nice stiff Race Face Aeffect cranks with a 30 tooth front chainring to efficiently transfer your power into forward motion. The rest of the drivetrain consists of a Shimano Deore 1x10 speed derailleur and an 11-42 tooth cassette. This drivetrain setup shifts smoothly and the clutched derailleur helps prevent dropped chains, but offers limited range compared to the competition with their 11 and 12-speed drivetrains.
Testers loved the spec of beefy Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5 x 2.3" tires. These meaty tires offer excellent traction and are well suited to the Kona's downhill prowess and speeds. The tires are mounted to a set of WTB SX25 rims with Shimano Deore hubs. The rims are tubeless compatible but don't come setup tubeless from the factory.
The cockpit of the Process 134 SE consists of a Kona branded 780mm wide XC/BC handlebar and a short and stout Kona XC/BC stem with a beefy 35mm clamp. This handlebar/stem combo felt very stiff and provided responsive steering, and the Kona lock on grips provided excellent bar feel. A TranzX internally routed dropper seat post with a vertically oriented paddle style lever rounded out the comfortable cockpit setup.
The build is finished off with a set of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with a 180mm front and a 160mm rear disc brake rotor. The brakes do a reasonable job of slowing and stopping this machine, but testers felt a more powerful set of brakes would do wonders for a bike that craves speed like the Process 134 SE.
With a retail price of $2,199, we feel that the Kona Process 134 SE is a good value for the consumer looking for an entry-level enduro style full suspension mountain bike. This bike is a blast to ride downhill but lacks the versatility of some of the other models in our test selection.
The Kona Process 134 SE impressed our testers with its playful and confidence inspiring downhill performance. This bike likes to party and it was truly a lot of fun to ride downhill. Testers were not impressed with its climbing abilities, all-around performance, or component spec. That said, if you're on a budget and are looking for a bike that likes to rip on the downhill then this might be a good entry level option for you. If you're in the market for an aggressive trail bike and can justify spending $400 more we would highly recommend checking out the Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 that offers a more well-rounded performance and a much more impressive build.
Other Versions and Accessories
Kona makes a full line of bikes for all types of riding including 7 different models in their Process Range including the Process 134 SE reviewed here.
The top of the line Process 153 CR/DL 27.5 retails for $5,999. This 27.5-inch wheeled bike gets 160mm of front and 153mm of rear suspension travel. This carbon framed beauty comes with all the bells and whistles including a Rock Shox Lyrik RCT3 fork and Super Deluxe RCT rear shock and Reverb dropper seat post, as well as a SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain and SRAM Guide RSC brakes.
The Process 153 CR 27.5 is a slightly more budget conscious carbon framed model with a retail price of $4,799. It has the same shreddable geometry and suspension travel of the 153 CR/DL version, but with differences in suspension like a Rock Shox Lyrik fork and Deluxe RT rear shock, and a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Guide R brakes.
The Process 153 AL/DL is an aluminum framed version that comes in both 27.5" and 29" versions and retails for $3,599. Both wheel sizes get 160mm of front and 153mm of rear suspension travel and feature the same build, but with subtle differences in geometry due to the different wheel sizes. This model comes with a Rock Shox Yari fork, Deluxe RT rear shock, and Reverb dropper seat post. It also features a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, Guide R brakes, and beefy Maxxis DHF tires.
The Process 153 AL has an aluminum frame and comes in both 27.5 and 29" versions and retails for $2,999. Again, this model has 160mm of front and 153mm of rear wheel travel, both wheel sizes have the same build but slight differences in geometry due to the different wheel sizes. The 153 AL models feature a Rock Shox Yari fork and a Monarch Deluxe RT rear shock, SRAM NX 11 speed drivetrain, SRAM Level T brakes, and WTB STP i29 tubeless wheelset.
Kona's longest travel Process model is the 165 which retails for $3,999. It rolls on 27.5" wheels and has 165mm of rear and 170mm of front wheel travel. It come ready to rumble with suspension handled by a Rock Shox Lyrik RC Solo Air fork and a Super Deluxe Coil R rear shock. It features a SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain and powerful Code R brakes, with a WTB Asym i29 tubeless wheelset.Kona's Process 153 SE is another budget-friendly model with a retail price of $2,199. It has 153mm of rear and 160mm of front wheel travel with a SR Suntour Aion RC fork and a Rock Shox Monarch R rear shock. It features a SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain, otherwise, it has the same components as the 134 SE.
— Jeremy Benson