Blister Brand Guide: Kona Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Kona

Kona was started in 1988. They’ve made all kinds of bicycles throughout the years and today, their lineup spans from mountain bikes to road and gravel bikes. They make bikes out of steel, aluminum, and carbon, and have price points for everyone from beginners to those looking for the latest-and-greatest in mountain bike technology.

They are currently headquartered in Ferndale, Washington, USA.

Current Warranty (for the original owner)

  • Lifetime warranty on all frames if the bike/frame is registered within three months of purchase.
  • Three year warranty on all frames if bike/frame is not registered within three months of purchase.
  • Two year warranty on complete bicycle (EU)
  • One year warranty on complete bicycle (USA & CAN)
  • For more information, visit Kona.

Kona’s suspension design: Kona Independent Suspension with three different platforms – Beamer, Fuse, & Rocker

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Kona’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.

We’ve included some notable information for each model:

Available build kits & their MSRP

  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Kona bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Kona Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Hardtails

Kona makes a variety of hardtails designed for use on mountain bike trails. The geometry of each of these bikes is strikingly similar, with most of the differences coming down to wheel size and components. These bikes range from $600-$1400, and they are all worth looking at if you are trying to get into the sport while on a tight budget.

Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Aluminum, Steel, or Carbon

This slightly aggressive-geometry XC / Trail hardtail inspired many bikes that followed it. Not a very XC-race-oriented hardtail, more of a “fun” hardtail.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate hardtails, but want one that has slightly more aggressive geometry
  • You often ride trails that are slightly steep, bumpy, and technical

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride very steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, cross-country race-style hardtail
  • Honzo: $1,499
  • DL: $2,199 – Best Budget Build
  • ST: $2,299 – Most Performance for the Price
  • CR frame: $1,599
  • Specialized Fuse 29”
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 29”
  • Trek Stache
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
  • Transition Vanquish
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5"+
  • Aluminum, Steel, or Carbon

Based around the Honzo, but features a longer fork and plus-sized tires for more traction and a plush ride. Compatible with 29” wheels and tires.

More like the Honzo than the Hei Hei.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate hardtails, but want one that has slightly more aggressive geometry
  • You often ride trails that are slightly steep, bumpy, technical, and loose
  • You are looking for a bike with plus-sized tires
  • The Honzo is appealing to you, but you’re looking for a more plush ride with more traction

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride very steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, cross-country race-style hardtail
  • Big Honzo: $1,699
  • DL: $2,299 – Best Budget Build
  • ST: $2,399 
  • CR: $2,999 – Most Performance for the Price
  • ST frame only: $575
  • CR frame only: $1,599
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 27.5”+
  • Trek Roscoe
  • Giant XTC Advanced+ & Fathom
  • Rocky Mountain Growler
  • Devinci Kobain HT
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: 100 mm
  • 29"
  • Aluminum

Kona’s short-travel, full-suspension Trail bike. Updated geometry for 2020 provides what Kona calls a “more comfortable ride.” Features Fuse Independent Suspension platform.

More like the Process 134 27.5 than the Big Honzo.

Consider If:

  • You are looking for a bit more fun out of a full-suspension cross country bike
  • You appreciate a dropper post
  • You race or ride cross-country style on slightly bumpy, steep, and technical trails
  • You ride or race long distances

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride very steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • Hei Hei: $2,599
  • Specialized Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Blur (TR builds)
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • Yeti SB100
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Rocky Mountain Element
  • Cannondale Scalpel-Si SE
  • Mondraker F-Podium DC
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 140
  • Rear: 134 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Aluminum

Kona’s best Quiver Killer / do-it-all Trail bike. Features Beamer Independent Suspension platform.

More like the Process 134 29 than the Hei Hei.

Consider If:

  • The trails you ride are somewhat bumpy, steep, fast, and technical
  • You are looking for a well-balanced bike in terms of climbing and descending

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride trails that are mostly flat and smooth
  • You are looking for an exceptional climbing bike
  • You are willing to sacrifice climbing ability for a bike that crushes descents
  • Process 134 27.5: $2,399 – Best Budget Build
  • DL: $3,699 – Most Performance for the Price
  • DL frame only: $1,699
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5” / Stumpjumper ST 27.5”
  • Santa Cruz 5010 / Juliana Furtado
  • Giant Trance Advanced
  • Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt
  • Ibis Mojo 3
  • Norco Torrent FS
  • Evil The Calling
  • Cannondale Bad Habit
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 134 mm
  • 29"
  • Aluminum or Carbon

Kona’s best Quiver Killer, do-it-all Trail bike. Features Beamer Independent Suspension platform.

More like the Process 134 27.5 than the Process 153 27.5.

Consider If:

  • You’re looking for a do-it-all trail bike
  • You appreciate a good, fast, technical, and / or steep descent, and are willing to climb for it
  • Your ride a mix of terrain and styles

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a bike that is a quick, lightweight climber
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You want a very capable and forgiving bike that crushes descents and are willing to sacrifice some climbing ability
  • Process 134 29: $2,399 – Best Budget Build
  • DL: $3,699
  • CR: $4,999
  • CR/DL: $5,999 – Most Performance for the Price
  • CR/DL frame only: $3,299
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29” / Stumpjumper ST 29” 
  • Santa Cruz Hightower / Juliana Maverick
  • Yeti SB130
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Commencal Meta TR 29
  • Transition Smuggler
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct
  • Intense Primer 29
  • YT Jeffsy 29
  • Ibis Ripmo
  • Norco Sight 29”
  • Devinci Troy 29
  • Evil The Offering
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 153 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Aluminum or Carbon

Kona’s Enduro / long-travel Trail bike. Features Beamer Independent Suspension platform.

More like the Process 153 29 than the Process 134 29.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You like to ride fast and push yourself on descents
  • You race enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want a more freeride style long-travel bike
  • Process 153 27.5: $2,799 – Best Budget Build
  • DL: $3,499
  • CR: $4,699
  • CR/DL: $5,499 – Most Performance for the Price
  • CR/DL frame only: $3,099
  • Santa Cruz Bronson / Juliana Roubion
  • Specialized Enduro 27.5 (2019)
  • Pivot Mach 6
  • Yeti SB140
  • Trek Remedy
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • YT Jeffsy 27
  • Norco Sight 27.5”
  • Canyon Spectral
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: 130 mm
  • 29"+
  • Aluminum

Kona’s Enduro / long-travel Trail bike. Features Beamer Independent Suspension platform.

More like the Process 153 27.5 than the Operator.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You want the benefits of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want a more freeride style long-travel bike
  • Process 153 29: $2,799 – Best Budget Build
  • DL: $3,499
  • CR: $4,699
  • CR/DL: $5,499 – Most Performance for the Price
  • CR/DL frame only: $3,099
  • Santa Cruz Hightower LT
  • Specialized Stumpjumper 29”
  • Pivot Switchblade 29
  • Trek Slash
  • Scott Genius
  • Canyon Strive
  • Ibis Ripmo V1
Blister Brand Guide; Blister breaks down the 2020 Kona mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 29" or 27.5"
  • Aluminum or Carbon

Kona’s dedicated DH bike. It has the ability to run either 27.5” or 29” wheels. Features Beamer Independent Suspension platform, adjustable chainstay length, and adjustable reach.

Consider If:

  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps
  • You participate in downhill races
  • You like the ability to fine-tune your DH bike

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • Operator: $3,699 (27.5” wheels) – Best Budget Build
  • CR: $4,999 (29” wheels) – Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Demo 8
  • Santa Cruz V10
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Trek Session
  • Commencal Supreme DH
  • YT Tues
  • Devinci Wilson
  • Canyon Sender
  • Scott Gambler

4 comments on “Blister Brand Guide: Kona Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020”

  1. Dylan,

    If I’m a 20 year old female with zero experience on a mountain bike, unless you count the time my boyfriend took me behind our college, what would you recommend? Important: color means everything. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks!

    P.S. Your review of Kona is tight

  2. Kona rocks, but make sure and check out Liv (Giant’s sister brand). Designed for women, by women — that happen to rip.

  3. Looking for a bike for my 13 y.o. son. How do the lower end HTs stack up quality and component. I’m considering the Lanai, fire mountain, or blast? Any other brands or models to look at? We’re relative beginners that like flowy trails. Want a bike he can grow into but not break the bank… thanks

Leave a Comment