Kona Process 153 CR 27.5 Review
Cons: A little heavy, sluggish low-speed handling, less well-rounded than competition
Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
The Process 153 CR 27.5 is a long-travel trail bike that is a good option for the trail rider who prioritizes downhill performance and is willing to pay a slight weight and low-speed handling penalty. This bike charges downhill and comes to life at speed, and is very capable of tackling super aggressive terrain. The modern long and slack geometry help to give this bike it's unflinching stability and thirst for speed, while its short chainstays keep the rear end of the bike feeling sporty and more playful than you might expect. This bike begs to be manualed, pumped through whoops, and pressed hard into berms. Handling is quite responsive, but quick isn't a term we'd use to describe its performance in tight or low-speed sections of trail. The Process is a reasonably efficient climber, especially given its portly 31 lb 8 oz weight. It's not exactly zesty feeling on the uphills, but it's quite comfortable with a steep seat tube and longer reach. It's not ideal, but you can take it for all days rides, and it won't give you any trouble pedaling back up for more laps. If you crave high speeds, aggressive descents, or you might enter the occasional enduro race, the Process 153 is a solid option to consider.
The Santa Cruz Bronson is an intriguing comparison to the Process. It also sports 27.5" wheels and has 150mm of rear and 160mm of front wheel travel. It boasts a similarly aggressive geometry although it has a slightly slacker head tube angle and marginally shorter reach measurement. The Bronson is capable of getting as aggressive as you want on the descents, though it feels a bit more nimble in tight terrain and at lower speeds. It doesn't have quite the same playful vide of the Process, though it scoots uphill a little more easily than the Kona thanks to the supportive VPP suspension platform and the fact that it weighs nearly a full pound less. The Carbon S model we tested comes with an impressive and shred-ready build at $5,199.
The Editor's Choice Award-winning Ibis Ripmo is hands down our favorite long-travel trail bike. The 29-inch wheeled Ripmo has 147mm of rear and 160mm of front wheel travel and very similar geometry numbers to the Process. It has a much more well-rounded performance, however, and a very automatic feel that is impressively comfortable in all situations. It charges downhill just as hard and feels notably more energetic, lively, and maneuverable. It also climbs better than any long travel bike we've tested. If you're looking for a long-travel trail bike that can do it all well, we don't think it gets much better than the Ibis Ripmo V2.
The CR in the Process 153 CR refers to the carbon fiber frame. In this case, the front triangle and seat stays are made of Kona DH Carbon and the chainstays are crafted from 6061 aluminum. The 153 is a reference to the bike's 153mm of rear-wheel travel that has been paired with a 160mm travel fork. The frame design has a very clean look and aesthetic with a slightly swooping top tube and a very low standover height. Kona has employed their Beamer suspension platform which is a linkage driven single pivot design. The main pivot is attached at the base of the seat tube directly above the bottom bracket, there are two pivots at the bottom of the seat stays just above and forward of the rear axle, and the beefy rocker link is attached to a trunnion-mounted shock mid-way up and slightly in front of the seat tube. The frame features internal cable routing, integrated down tube protection, and space for a water bottle within the front triangle.
We measured our size large test model and found that it has a lengthy 633mm effective top tube length and a 478mm reach. The head tube angle was 65.6 degrees with a 75.6-degree seat tube angle. The bottom bracket sits 344mm off the ground with a long 1220mm wheelbase and short 428mm chainstays. It weighed in at 31 lbs and 8 oz.
- Carbon fiber front triangle with 6061 aluminum chainstays
- Available in carbon fiber (tested) or aluminum frame
- Offered with 27.5-inch (tested) or 29-inch wheels
- 153mm of rear suspension
- Beamer suspension design
- Designed around 160mm travel fork
- Complete builds ranging from $2,999 to $5,999
The Process 153 CR is definitely a downhill oriented machine. This bike has a preference for being pointed down the hill and it comes to life as gravity takes hold and speeds increase. Its long and slack geometry along with generous amounts of travel make it especially adept at smashing through rowdy sections of trail and carrying speed. We feel that its downhill performance is a bit one-dimensional, though its short chainstays and 27.5-inch wheels help keep it playful, poppy, and on rails through berms.
The Process 153 really shines when it's brought up to speed and our testers generally found it to be happiest in the fall-line and traveling in a mostly straight line. The long 1220mm wheelbase and 478mm reach measurements are instrumental in giving it excellent confidence-inspiring stability, though it's also responsible for making it feel a bit sluggish and vague at lower speeds. That said, it never felt twitchy and there was no amount of chunk or steepness of trail that it couldn't handle competently thanks to the slack front end and burly suspension package. Despite the overall length of the Process, they managed to give it short 428mm chainstays that make getting the front end off the ground for airs and manuals a breeze. This bike is not reluctant to jib off trailside features, but again speed is your friend.
Low-speed handling is a different story. This bike is pretty long and the front end is pretty slack at 65.6 degrees. This makes it feel pretty sluggish at lower speeds and especially in tight, technical terrain. That said, the 27.5-inch wheels help to keep it reasonably maneuverable, and paired with the short rear-end of the bike it rips around bermed corners quite effectively. The Beamer suspension platform is a relatively simple linkage driven single-pivot design. Paired with the RockShox Super Deluxe RCT rear shock this suspension platform offers good small bump compliance and solid deep stroke support. We found it to stutter a bit over high-frequency chop, but we can't complain about the uncompromising stiffness of the rear-end and solid tracking otherwise.
The component grouping is largely excellent on the descents. The RockShox Lyrik fork is sturdy and easily handles the front suspension duties while the Super Deluxe RCT provides the squish in the rear end. The 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF is the gold standard of front tires and is excellent on the front of this bike. We aren't as big of fans of the DHF as a rear tire, although it corners quite well and is better than plenty of other options out there. The cockpit is comfortable with a stout Kona branded 35mm handlebar and stem combo, comfortable grips and saddle, plus a RockShox Reverb dropper seat post with a 1x style remote lever. The SRAM Guide R brakes work well enough, but given the speeds this bike craves it would be nice to have some more powerful stoppers.
The Process 153 isn't the most impressive climber, but its uphill capabilities are quite respectable nonetheless. This doesn't come as a huge surprise given the downhill smashing intentions of this bike, and our testers found it to be comfortable and relatively efficient on any length of climb. It wouldn't be our first choice for those big backcountry epic days, but it'll get the job done if you don't mind pushing around a bit of extra weight.
The Beamer suspension platform remains relatively calm during seated pedaling efforts though there is noticeable pedal bob during out of the saddle efforts. Thankfully the rear shock has a climb switch that we'd recommend using for those long fire road ascents. The seated pedaling position is comfortable although the reach is definitely a bit on the long side. It holds a line quite well and powers up and over obstacles in the trail with a bit of momentum. You definitely notice the long-wheelbase in tight technical terrain or switchbacks and maneuverability suffers a bit a result. The short chainstays are noticeable when the going gets steep as the front end tends to wander and loop out more than some. It's also worth noting that while the effective seat tube angle measures at 75.6-degrees the slacker actual seat tube angle can result in your weight being further out over the rear wheel the higher your saddle gets.
The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain gave us nothing to complain about. This setup provides crisp shifting, reliable performance, and plenty of range for even the steepest of climbs. The Minion DHF rear tire has large and aggressive tread knobs and provides ample traction on all surfaces from solid granite to loose DG soils. The WTB Volt Pro saddle is a common OEM spec on complete mountain bikes and it is a comfortable place to rest your haunches as you grind away the vertical.
At a retail price of $4,999, we feel the Process 153 CR 27.5 is a relatively average value. Obviously, this bike will be more appealing to the rider who puts a premium on high-speed stability and getting a bit rowdy while maintaining a poppy and somewhat playful attitude. For those riders, this bike comes pretty dialed with a nice carbon frame and a generally stellar component specification. Kona also makes two aluminum-framed versions at more approachable price points.
The Process 153 CR 27.5 is a downhill oriented long-travel trail bike with a distinctly playful attitude. If you're the type of rider who likes high speeds, aggressive descents and likes to pull manuals and pop off every obstacle in the trail, the Process has you covered. Add to that respectable climbing abilities and this is a solid all-around trail bike for descent focused riders or even the enduro crowd.
The Process 153 is available with either 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels. It is offered in four different builds, 2 carbon and 2 aluminum, in each wheel size. The 153 CR build we tested is the less expensive of the two carbon-framed models.
The 153 CR/DL is the top of the line model that retails for $5,999. It features the same carbon frame with notable component upgrades including slightly fancier suspension, a SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain, carbon cranks, and SRAM Code RSC brakes.
The aluminum-framed Process 153 DL is offered at $3,699. It comes clad with a RockShox Yari Charger fork, RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 shock, a SRAM NX/GX Eagle drivetrain, and SRAM Guide T brakes.
The base model Process 153 is available for $2,999. It has a serviceable build kit that includes a RockShox Yari fork and Deluxe RT rear shock, and SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain, SRAM Guide brakes, and a Trans-X dropper post.
— Jeremy Benson