By Singletrack.com Test Crew
Some people look at things in black-and-white terms. Others will see the same thing and see a million shades of gray.
That’s pretty much what occurred with the test crew after riding the Kona Hei Hei 100 when they stepped back to assess the four-inch-travel bike. The Hei Hei 100 has several strong character traits that dictated how the rig rode. Those were the main reasons why the black-and-white crowd felt the way they did about the bike.
“This Kona feels short and steep,” said a cut-and-dried tester, who prefers XC bikes with longer top tubes for better climbing and handling at speed as well as longer wheelbases for stability. “The Hei Hei 100 is great for low-speed, tight maneuvering, but trying to tip in at high speeds is a little nerve wracking.”
On the other hand, those same characteristics that made the bike cut like a butterfly knife were the reasons why other testers loved the Hei Hei 100. Two of the testers found that the bike’s quick steering was a positive attribute.
“I loved that twitchy feeling,” one of the testers said. “It was fast in corners; you could pump it through instead of pedaling. It felt effortless.”
Where the Hei Hei 100 dipped into the gray area — and that’s meant to be taken as a positive — for some of the testers centered around the bike’s price, an attainable $2,500; its spec, which placed it at a stout 27.7lbs; and what a few extra bucks in upgrades could do for it.
“The Hei Hei 100 is an absolute bang for your buck,” a veteran rider said. “It’s better than half as good as some bikes that cost twice as much.”
But what keeps the bike at its affordable price point is a parts spec that, despite its quick handling, make the four-inch cross-country pretty damn heavy. So is the Hei Hei 100 a four-inch trail bike or an entry-level, full-suspension XC racer?
To get the bike into shape for longer trail excursions, an upgrade mentioned by testers included an adjustable 100 to 120 or 130mm travel fork. A longer, taller fork would rake out the head tube and add a measure of stability that would be welcomed by a wider range of riders.
That change coupled with the Hei Hei 100’s workmen-like 4-Bar suspension suspension puts the bike into the before-mentioned gray area: a four-inch trail bike? Well, definitely maybe. Kona’s suspension, a Walking Beam, 4-Bar Linkage System, offers a very plush ride. We wouldn’t call it bottomless, but it easily uses the full travel that picks up small and large bumps very well.
“The suspension didn’t take anything away from the climbing and the braking didn’t take anything away from the suspension,” a tester said.
As already discussed in this piece, and over beers following our test rides, the Kona Hei Hei 100 is one type of bike: A chomping-at-the-bit cross-country racer that’s a little overweight but nonetheless ready to dive into corners.
“An excellent bike overall,” said a tester who has a XC-racing background. “It felt stiff, fast and predictable and is easily handled on all terrain.”
Or it’s another type of bike altogether: A four-inch rig that is borderline trail worthy pending an upgrade or two.
“I wouldn’t choose it for XC racing, except in the most occasional of circumstances,” another tester said. “However, with a few bucks invested in upgrades and maybe an adjustable travel fork, this is the one XC bike that I might choose for heavier-duty riding. I could see this bike doing double duty as a budget-friendly racer and an all-day fun bike at the same time.”