2017 Honzo AL/DL Review

 

 

I’m 20 and a student at WWU in Bellingham, WA. I have been mountain biking for about 4 years now starting in my hometown of Hood River, OR after I received a hand-me-down, full suspension bike from my dad. My favorite types of trails are steep, technical, and have plenty of jumps to send. Having started mountain biking on a 160mm full suspension and spending my time in Bellingham riding the ever-capable Kona Process, I was very skeptical about the idea of hardtails as aggressive and capable downhill bikes. I always assumed they were for XC trails and riders, or for the crazy few who like the challenge of not having rear suspension. My friends and coworkers at Kona argued my assumption saying I couldn’t hold that opinion until I rode the Honzo. After some convincing, I agreed to take one for a spin… and after a few months and many rides, I haven’t given it back yet.

Height: 5’7″ but I have long-ish legs

Bike Size: Medium
Weight: ~150
Fork pressure: ~72

Kona designed the Honzo as an “aggressive” hardtail, meaning it loves to descend just as much as it likes to climb. The Honzo features a long front center which provides the bike with stability at high speeds. It has a low bottom bracket and short chainstays for a lively, responsive, and playful ride. It also has a slack headtube angle of 68 degrees to inspire confidence on steep and technical terrain. It comes stocked with a 120mm Yari Fork, Sram NX drivetrain, and Shimano hydraulic brakes. The only thing I changed about this bike was adding a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 to the back in place of the stock Maxxis Ardent for extra traction on rooty PNW terrain.

I will admit, I was pretty skeptical at first about how this bike would ride. I hadn’t spent hardly any time on a hardtail mountain bike unless you count my 26″ dirt jumper. I anticipated that it would climb well but hold me back a bit on the descents.
For my first ride, I pedaled up the ridge trail on Galbraith mountain. The ridge trail is a steep and technical climb trail that the honzo handled effortlessly. The ridge trail features tight switchbacks littered with roots and rock rolls to grind up. I sometimes noticed the length of the bike on tight corners, but the entirety of the climb was a breeze and had me wanting to keep on going. It had good traction and low-speed stability for grinding up steep slopes, and the 29″ wheels provide rolling efficiency on all terrain.

The climb-ability of this bike was impressive, but I was still skeptical about its descending capabilities. I was honestly expecting calm and careful ride back down to the car. I put the dropper seat down, but had to also drop the seat post height down more because my long legs require the seat post to be out quite a ways when I’m climbing. I started down one of my favorite trails on Galby called SST. It has a little bit of everything from flowy berms to jumps to rocky chutes and steeps. I was surprised to feel immediately comfortable descending on the Honzo. I was expecting to skip some of the normal jumps that I hit on this trail, but the Honzo had me wanting to hit every jump and feature I could find.

The very first feature at the top of the trail is a gap jump into a tight berm that leads to a long sender jump that I cleared with ease. The rest of the ride followed suit; I was hitting all the same jump lines I do on my full suspension, even making some hard-to-clear jumps with the improved rolling efficiency of the hard tail. It was surprisingly confidence inspiring and insanely fun.

After hitting the bottom of the trail I pedaled back up to a less familiar trail; Air chair and Oriental Express. These trails feature more technical rocky and steep lines than SST. I noticed myself being more selective about my line choice in the rocky sections, but the Honzo didn’t slow me down at all. I felt just as fast and confident as I did on my full suspension, even on trails I was unfamiliar with.

My second ride was a bikepacking trip with Amanda, Zach, and Mitch. Amanda and I loaded up the Honzos with frame bags, saddle bags, and handle bar bags to hold cookware, sleeping bags, hammocks, coffee, beers, and burritos. We pedaled from town a few miles to the galbraith trails. Even with the added weight, the Honzo climbed with ease. We set up camp, caught an amazing sunset, and woke up early for sunrise coffee. I was able to stuff my sleeping bag into a backpack for the descent to get rid of my saddle bag and drop my seat post down. We were smiling ear to ear the entire 10ish mile ride down and back to the bike shop.

I’ve been riding the Honzo for a few months now and have taken it to most of my favorite trails in Bellingham. I’ve had a blast riding long XC routes in Mazama, WA and descending technical, rock-filled trails in Squamish. This bike made me reconsider my opinion of hardtail bikes, and I feel like I have yet to find the limits of this bike. The only thing I would change is add a longer seat dropper than the stock 125mm post. I like to be able to have the seat as low as possible when descending for better maneuverability, and I would need a 150mm dropper. I would recommend the Honzo AL/DL to just about anyone from a brand new mountain biker looking for a less-expensive first bike to an experienced downhiller or XC racer looking for a hardtail to complete their quiver.

looking forward to many more miles on this bike!

-Hannah B.