As the popularity of multi-day mountain cycling soars to new levels, many manufacturers have set out to build specific models for bikepacking and aim to split the difference between a mountain bike and touring bikes.
And this is where the Kona built a capable and comfortable bikepacking machine— the Honzo AL/DL.
But does it live up with the hype of best hardtail mountain bike? Let’s find out!
Kona Honzo Mountain Bike Overview
Back in the year 2012, Kona unleased the powerful Honzo which is an aggressive steel hardtail bike that features slack, low and long geometry before those forceful angles were common in trail bikes.
In five years, Kona has expanded its Honzo line with aluminum, carbon, titanium, and steel 29er options— the Big Honzo AL/DL.
Who is this product for?
For avid cyclists and multi-day backpackers wanting a versatile 29er hardtail and are willing to shell out for a few upgrades.
- Super Short Back End
What makes the Honzo apart from other 29ers trail hardtails is its very short 412 mm rear end. Kona slams the rear wheel besides the curved seat tube and forgets the facility to fit a front mech completely. It is a very clean design, where the chainstays are positioned to the outer edges of the PF92 BB shell for maximum tire clearance.
Forwardly curving the seat tube to provide the needed clearance for the rear wheel, made the seat post more vertical that you sit mostly directly on top of it. This offers a great seated position in keeping your weight forward on climbs, particularly with those very short chainstays. However, this also means that the seat post flexes less and can feel very bumpy.
- Superior Suspension And Extra Steering Precision
When things get nasty and bumpy, the Hanzo does not get left behind. The Honzo features a RockShox Sektor fork suspension which might be basic regarding spring sensitivity and damping, but with a tapered steerer tube and a 15 mm Maxle, it improves stiffness and provides extra steering precision.
The performance of the fork suspension add extra air to increase support and run the rebound to the open end of the adjustment rang and stopped the fork taking down on repeated hits. Moreover, there are a tortoise and hare markings above the rebound adjuster, making it easy to work out which way you need to turn the dial.
- Heavy Components
With a 60 mm stem and 760 mm-wide handlebars, the Kona Honzo is ready to rock any trails. Kona’s in-house saddle scoops up at the back and helps in keeping your weight forward when on a seated climbing. Not that you will be able to sit down and spin up steeper grades with a 32/36 gearing.
However, Kona needs to add a hop-up cog on the rear or smaller chainring for its 1 x 110 drivetrain to work for most riders.
The Kona Honzo boats heavier, steel-bead tires to save money and a more durable build but the rotational weight made it slower out of the blocks and labored swapping between turns.
- Good Trail Performance
Although 29ers bike is a lot harder to jump, they are safer and stable in the air. The Honzo is quite hard to manual, however with its super-short 412 mm chainstays, it is easier to keep it up after the initial pull.
With the roomy effective tube and a 75-degree seat angle, you can attack hard climbs. Despite its gearing, the Honzo is still a rapid climber.
- The roomy top tube that improves stability and comfort
- Stable handling at slippery and speedy conditions
- Big wheels that bring extra comfort and speed
- Great for longer climbs
- The heavy rolling stock provides a slightly lazy feel
- Needs a GR seat clamp
- Over geared for some riders
- Poor build specs
Bonerpotpie: “The 2014 Honzo was the most fun bike I’ve ever owned. It could ride XC trails all the way to downhill. Incredibly capable bike. The latest release should be more of the same, except lighter in aluminum.”
SchmeddyBallz: “The brakes are the weakest link since they are some generic Shimano. Not sure if they are Deore or something worse, but that’s the only thing that jumps out at me as “bad.” Otherwise seems like a great bike especially for the price.”
Born_for_banning: “So I picked up a Honzo AL a few months ago, and it’s incredible, I was looking for an all-mountain hardtail and kept coming back to the Honzo.”
FAQ and Additional Tips
Can I upgrade it?
Yes, you can. While the Kona Hanzo Mountain Bike is certainly rideable right out of the box, it can use some nice upgrades to maximize its full potential.
What are some of the suggested upgrades?
The most obvious and budget-friendly upgrade you can do is to take the stock tires off and opt for a wider one. You can go with a 29×2.5 inches Maxxis DHF on front tires and a 29×2.4” Minion DHR II at the rear to improve the traction and reduce bumpiness and harshness over rocks.
For those who live in an area with lots of long climbs, you can downsize the front chainring. A 30-tooth chainring, in particular, can make the climbing more pleasant. You can upgrade the brakes as well and try a Shimano SLX with an Icetech rotor without breaking the bank.
Kona has offered a straightforward 29er hardtail performance with the Honzo. It I a pleasant and light climber that is easy to manual up and over hurdles and obstacles. Thanks to its sharp handling skills and modern geometry, the Hanzo is quite capable and reliable.
There are a few issues with the build kit which prevents it from reaching its full potential. The steel-bead and heavy tires are also a downside plus its 1 x 10 transmission is quite restrictive. But with a few upgrades, it will do just fine.