Kona Hei Hei Mountain Bike Review

After over 150 miles and about 14 hours of riding, all single track trails, the 2012 Kona Hei Hei gets a thumbs up!   LOVING this bike.   It’s fast, comfortable and handles great.    A beautiful bike, white with blue and black trim.  This is my third Kona, I think they are a cool brand, and I like that they aren’t so common that every other rider is on one.   Other bikes I was considering were the Giant Anthem and Salsa Spearfish, but the Kona Hei Hei has something that stirs me to want to go ride it.

Longest ride so far has been 40 miles, all single track.  Not a single issue or problem with the bike.   It is GREAT on fast, curvy, flowing single track and I’m getting around on the super tight trail sections at least as quickly as the 26 inch wheeled GT it replaces.    I do plan to take both bikes out one day and ride the same trails, same day on both and see what Strava tells me about them!


I started with a 19 inch framed 2012 Kona Hei Hei 29r at closeout pricing, then made a few upgrades shown below…


2012 Kona Hei Hei  Upgrades…

  • RockShox Reba RLT fork, tapered steering tube
  • Stans Crest Wheelset
  • 11×32 Sram 1050 cassette
  • Alligator Windcutter Rotors
  • Carbon Seatpost (take off from previous bike)
  • Stem and Flat 23 inch Carbon Bar (take off from previous bike)
  • Bar Ends
  • Bar Taped Grips
  • Xpedo Pedals
  • Tires running tubeless Maxxis Advent front / Maxxis Ignitor Rear on the Stans Wheels with homebrew sealant
  • 2nd set of wheels with the Kenda Komfort 700×40 tires / 11×36 cassette / Alligator Windcutter Rotors


Weight – 25.1 lbs.  ready to ride, including pedals, bar ends, water bottle cage


Some issues and challenges I ran into during some of the upgrades, I’ve NOT kept up with the changing standards in the MTB world and had to re-order a couple things to get everything in order.

  • Front Fork, the original fork was 9mm quick release, the new Reba RLT fork is 15mm thru axle.  Stock front hub could not be converted.  Ended up getting a separate set of wheels to replace the stock wheels for the Kenda Komfort road tires.
  • Frame has a tapered headtube, but the original fork had a straight 1 1/8 steering tube .  When I ordered the RLT fork, I got a tapered steering tube, ended up having to order a separate crown race to fit it.  Didn’t realize this until I was ready to assemble.
  • Original wheels had rotors riveted to hub, I did not see any easy way to remove them, so had to order another set of brake rotors for the new set of wheels.
  • Stans Crest rear wheel/hub did not come setup with 142×12 axle setup which the Kona has.   Had to buy a separate conversion for the rear hub to make it work.

None of the above is anyone’s fault but my own as I worked through the new ‘standards’ that have come about since my last MTB purchase.    I’m up to speed now!


I originally was leaning toward an 18 inch frame, just because I normally have to decide between Medium or Large, or 18 / 20 inch size, and I’ve found I do better on the smaller size rather than larger. But Kona offers 18, 19 and 20 inch frame sizes (and others), so the 19 really sits right between the Medium and Large that I would usually have to decide between, AND  since my only option at the closeout price I was paying was a 19 inch, that’s what I got.  Any worries that it would be too big were completely unfounded.   I have never given it a thought while riding, all of those miles single track and some rather technical terrain.   Size is perfect and I’m glad I couldn’t get the 18.


Only one set of water bottle bosses, on the downtube, which seems to be almost a standard for many MTB bikes now.  I hate that, I prefer two water bottles at least, SOMEWHERE.   I hate using a Camelbak unless I just have to, and even then, I like being able to have additional fluids or calories available in bottles.  Florida is HOT in summer.


I have already done a temporary 2nd mount UNDER the downtube, and carried two 28oz bottles  on my last ride of 40 miles and 3:30 hours, much of that rocky/rooty single track.  Worked great and I’ll probably keep that 2nd mount there, really wish it was on proper water bottle bosses though.

After getting the tires sorted out, the 29 inch wheels are awesome and the bike just eats up flowing single track trails.   I’m getting more comfortable and faster on each ride.


I moved the carbon handlebars from my old bike, 23 inch flat bars, with short barends.    Can’t see any reason to change them, they are MUCH narrower than the current trend to wide, riser bars like the Hei Hei came with, but I like them, maybe from a lifetime of road riding that width just feels right.

When setting up the levers/ grips/barends on the bars, before cutting the rubber grips or making any permanent modifications ,  I decided to wrap the grip section with some leftover padded tape from my road bike, just until I was sure how I wanted everything to be laid out.  I’ve not given it a thought while riding, and I’ll likely keep this setup for now.    It weights nothing, is easy to replace and I’ve been comfortable on it.



The bike came with Maxxis Ignitor tires front and rear, after my first ride I ordered a replacement front, going with a Maxxis Advent.   The Ignitor in front was washing out too easily for me, but I did have a little too much pressure in them.  The Advent feels more planted, though I’ve found I have to lean it over pretty good to get those side knobs to hook up in sand/leave/pine needles, but do that and it rails around nicely, with some slide in the rear with the Ignitor not hooking up quiet as well.  ( At least that is my experience with the the surfaces I’m riding on.)   I’m comfortable on them now and will keep this setup.


It took a few hours to get the Front Fork and Rear Shock dialed in, both seemed stiff initially, but now have loosened up and are working great.   I’m very happy with the Reba RLT, but with so many adjustments its taking time to get it sorted like I want.  The rear shock, which I seriously considered upgrading right off the bat, is actually working fine.   If it breaks, I’ll put a better shock on, but for the riding I’m doing it is doing its job just fine.  It did take 4 or 5 hours of riding and before it seemed to really start working for me.



The 2012 Kona Hei Hei comes with an Sram X5 3×10(22/33/44) crank, which I prefer over the  2×10 crank that the 2013’s come with.   I am always in the middle ring when off-road and usually close to the middle of the 11×32 cassette, and never need to move the front derailleur.   Honestly, I ride the bike as if it was a 1×10, and would consider converting  to 1×10 if there was a reliable way to do so without having to add a chain retention device.  The large chainring will be used a good bit on the road.

I’ve never had disk brakes on a bicycle, and in Florida I can’t say I need them.   But these certainly work well enough, and after riding them, I do like them better than rim brakes.


At this point, no additional changes needed or planned for the Kona, just spending more time riding it and preparing for some race events.   Next on the agenda is the Hammerhead 100 mile in Ocala.

It’s a great bike for the cross country type riding I’m doing and I couldn’t be happier with it.


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