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  1. #1
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    Choosing XC+ bike: Kona Hei Hei Trail 27.5 vs Anthem Advanced 27.5 (vs others)

    I'm having a hard time choosing between a few bikes. I'm updating from a 26er HT (2010 Trek 8500) (and a Stumpjumper 29HT that I never ride), and mostly ride XC-oriented trails. The two top contenders are currently:

    2017/2018 Kona Hei Hei Trail DL 27.5 (140x140 travel)
    and
    2017/2018 Giant Anthem Advanced ~1 27.5 (120x110 travel)

    Both have good specs, good reviews, and pretty similar geometries besides the travel difference. Neither are available for demoing locally (I did demo a 29er Anthem), and I can't even find somewhere to sit on a Hei Hei Trail.

    I've also considered the Intense Spider 275, Ibis Mojo 3, SC 5010, and Scott Spark (eliminated after parking lot ride).

    What I'm looking for:

    I recently moved to SoCal from central NC and the trails here are...different. I'm used to tight, rocky/rooty forested trails and am slowly adjusting to the long, dusty, loose, rutted climbs/descents here. I used to race XC/endurance occasionally, but don't have any plans to do that in the future. Nonetheless, I value agility/maneuverability, efficiency, and light weight (for feel/handling) in my bikes. Based on that, I should want an XC 29er... but I hate 29ers...I've owned two and just demoed another. I think they suck the fun out of riding and feel very sluggish to me (and that is supported by Strava times - I'm ~1mph slower on my 29er on familiar trails). I like sprinting up technical climbs (the few I can find around here), fast handling, and quick acceleration.

    I want to go to full-suspension because (a) I'm getting older and more fragile (b) the longer, faster, bumpy-if-not-technical descents are bouncing me around to the point that I'm almost losing control at times, and (c) there are a few places I ride here with some more-than-XC features. I'm less focused on bottom-line speed than I used to be, but since climbs here are often long and painful, I'm not willing to give up too much on the climbing side.

    So back to the bikes - of the two the Anthem has the advantage of being lighter (26 vs 28lbs) and more XC-oriented (although less so now than pre-2017). But multiple reviews noted the slacker (73 vs 75deg) seat tube hurt the climbing ability (compared to pure XC race bikes?). Despite the longer travel, the Hei Hei Trail has gotten great reviews in terms of climbing (compared to trail-oriented bikes?). I haven't spent enough time on FS bikes in general to know how much the travel ultimately effects efficiency/climbing/etc, but do hesitate going to 140mm with my very XC-oriented background. If it feels very inefficient, I won't be happy with it.

    And if it matters, I'm 5'11", 34in inseam, 200-ish lbs.

    Anyone have any suggestions? Any experience with these bikes for this type of riding? Should I take a longer look at some of the other options?
    Thanks for any help,
    S

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by buddh0 View Post
    I'm having a hard time choosing between a few bikes. I'm updating from a 26er HT (2010 Trek 8500) (and a Stumpjumper 29HT that I never ride), and mostly ride XC-oriented trails. The two top contenders are currently:

    2017/2018 Kona Hei Hei Trail DL 27.5 (140x140 travel)
    and
    2017/2018 Giant Anthem Advanced ~1 27.5 (120x110 travel)

    Both have good specs, good reviews, and pretty similar geometries besides the travel difference. Neither are available for demoing locally (I did demo a 29er Anthem), and I can't even find somewhere to sit on a Hei Hei Trail.

    I've also considered the Intense Spider 275, Ibis Mojo 3, SC 5010, and Scott Spark (eliminated after parking lot ride).

    What I'm looking for:

    I recently moved to SoCal from central NC and the trails here are...different. I'm used to tight, rocky/rooty forested trails and am slowly adjusting to the long, dusty, loose, rutted climbs/descents here. I used to race XC/endurance occasionally, but don't have any plans to do that in the future. Nonetheless, I value agility/maneuverability, efficiency, and light weight (for feel/handling) in my bikes. Based on that, I should want an XC 29er... but I hate 29ers...I've owned two and just demoed another. I think they suck the fun out of riding and feel very sluggish to me (and that is supported by Strava times - I'm ~1mph slower on my 29er on familiar trails). I like sprinting up technical climbs (the few I can find around here), fast handling, and quick acceleration.

    I want to go to full-suspension because (a) I'm getting older and more fragile (b) the longer, faster, bumpy-if-not-technical descents are bouncing me around to the point that I'm almost losing control at times, and (c) there are a few places I ride here with some more-than-XC features. I'm less focused on bottom-line speed than I used to be, but since climbs here are often long and painful, I'm not willing to give up too much on the climbing side.

    So back to the bikes - of the two the Anthem has the advantage of being lighter (26 vs 28lbs) and more XC-oriented (although less so now than pre-2017). But multiple reviews noted the slacker (73 vs 75deg) seat tube hurt the climbing ability (compared to pure XC race bikes?). Despite the longer travel, the Hei Hei Trail has gotten great reviews in terms of climbing (compared to trail-oriented bikes?). I haven't spent enough time on FS bikes in general to know how much the travel ultimately effects efficiency/climbing/etc, but do hesitate going to 140mm with my very XC-oriented background. If it feels very inefficient, I won't be happy with it.

    And if it matters, I'm 5'11", 34in inseam, 200-ish lbs.

    Anyone have any suggestions? Any experience with these bikes for this type of riding? Should I take a longer look at some of the other options?
    Thanks for any help,
    S
    I just ordered a Hei Hei trail DL 27.5 (2017 on closeout 33% off at Jenson.com). I went through the exact same dilemma as you, and came to a similar conclusion. I thought about a 27.5+ bike (Yeti SB5+), a 27.5+/29 adjustable (switchblade, hightower, and I rode a friend's trek carbon fuel 9.9 as a 27.5+ in Sedona with a shit-eating grin), and a couple of other dedicated 27.5s (Yeti SB5, Santa Cruz 1050, and YT Jeffsy Pro/ Pro Race). In the end I figured I'd just get one 27.5 bike that "does it all," will take fat enough tires to grip blocky/loose terrain, and has easy adjustment for dialing in climbing vs descending, while doing a good job of both. I've read that this bike can take at least 2.5" DHF tires on front and back, which will bring it close to 27.5+ in performance (mostly on chunky/loose/rutted climbs, which we have a lot of in the mountains of New Mexico). I've even seen it mentioned that the bike will take 2.6" tires, which for me would be the technical climbing holy grail. I ordered Maxxis Minions in 2.5" and will try them out in front and back for starters. However, I'll probably drop down to lighter tires eventually (to take advantage of the already-light carbon rims). I may even put one of the minions away and go with something else lighter and slightly narrower in back.
    I was more interested in the other bikes listed above, but the Bike Magazine "bible of bikes" review really sold me on it. The line, "it climbs like a homesick angel" was particularly compelling to me, but there were a lot of other OTT comments that have me chomping at the bit to get out and ride on it:
    https://www.bikemag.com/gear/mountai...-hei-trail-dl/
    At $4K including carbon rims and bars, Fox Factory fork & shock, XT/XTR drive train and brakes and a weight under 28lb there were no serious contenders for value (Jeffsy is nearly as good even at list price with the straight Pro model, [$4K] but no carbon wheels plus over a month's wait time currently); Jeffsy Pro Race model seems like a wicked good deal with super high end components and longer travel with crisp handling characteristics, but is $5K vs the $4 I'm paying for the Kona.
    Anyhow, I should have a ride under my belt by middle of next week. I'll let you know how it goes.

  3. #3
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    Thanks. Yeah that Jenson deal is what I've had my eye on. Definitely a pretty awesome deal, and to get a comparable package for a similar price with most other bikes, I'd be looking at used options. And, yeah that bible of bikes review was definitely a big part of the Hei Hei making my top two...

    I'm not too concerned about fitting super wide tires, but that is actually another downside of the new Anthems - apparently they'll only take a max ~2.3 or so, which seems awfully narrow for a modern bike.

    I'll be interested to hear how you like it...

  4. #4
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    I got the Hei Hei and managed to get out for two good rides before they shut down the forests here because of fire danger. The wheel set came with 2.3" Maxxis Tomahawks with tubes but the rims were taped up ready to convert to tubeless (you just need the sealant). The first thing I did was remove the tubes and while I was at it I temporarily mounted a Minion (2.5") in back with the tube just to see if it would clear the stays and it did with what seemed like plenty of room. I'm guessing it'll take 2.6's front and rear for Southwest conditions (not a lot of mud).
    I decided to start out with the Tomahawks, figuring I had them anyway and I wanted to try the bike configured the way Kona meant it to be. I mounted them tubelessly with about 22lb pressure front and rear.
    With XTR pedals, the bike now weighs in at 27.4 lb.

    Ride impressions:
    - It feels quick and nimble. Really goes when you stomp on the pedals, and is easy to redirect and get moving again if you get off your line on a technical climb.
    - Plushness varies a lot based on settings. Initially I had it mostly in "trail" (middle) setting even on climbs and it felt nice and plush yet still pedaled efficiently. However, I got a lot of pedal strikes in rocky sections of trail. Setting it to "climb" mode helped that significantly. I still have to time pedal strokes but I find that even when I hit rocks I'm more likely to get them right at the bottom of the stroke and am often able to pedal on through.
    - On downhills with the shock set to descend mode it feels plush and rides really well. This is the first bike I've owned with a dropper post and that in combination with the suspension makes this bike a ton of fun on descents. It's a bit of a pain to reach down and flip the switch on the shock between the 3 modes, but I think overall a small price to pay for having a bike that performs well both climbing and descending (and I expect with time I'll get better at working the switch on the go without fumbling around).
    - Probably most important to me, though, it always felt light and efficient, so I was able to maintain a psych even hammering up long ascents. I did lose ground to my buddy riding a 29er on a long, smooth, gentle downhill stretch of trail, but I'm OK with that as a tradeoff.

    So overall I'm very happy with the bike - as much as I could ask for in a fully warrantied, full carbon-framed, carbon-wheeled trail bike for $4K.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave00 View Post
    I just ordered a Hei Hei trail DL 27.5 (2017 on closeout 33% off at Jenson.com). I went through the exact same dilemma as you, and came to a similar conclusion. I thought about a 27.5+ bike (Yeti SB5+), a 27.5+/29 adjustable (switchblade, hightower, and I rode a friend's trek carbon fuel 9.9 as a 27.5+ in Sedona with a shit-eating grin), and a couple of other dedicated 27.5s (Yeti SB5, Santa Cruz 1050, and YT Jeffsy Pro/ Pro Race). In the end I figured I'd just get one 27.5 bike that "does it all," will take fat enough tires to grip blocky/loose terrain, and has easy adjustment for dialing in climbing vs descending, while doing a good job of both. I've read that this bike can take at least 2.5" DHF tires on front and back, which will bring it close to 27.5+ in performance (mostly on chunky/loose/rutted climbs, which we have a lot of in the mountains of New Mexico). I've even seen it mentioned that the bike will take 2.6" tires, which for me would be the technical climbing holy grail. I ordered Maxxis Minions in 2.5" and will try them out in front and back for starters. However, I'll probably drop down to lighter tires eventually (to take advantage of the already-light carbon rims). I may even put one of the minions away and go with something else lighter and slightly narrower in back.
    I was more interested in the other bikes listed above, but the Bike Magazine "bible of bikes" review really sold me on it. The line, "it climbs like a homesick angel" was particularly compelling to me, but there were a lot of other OTT comments that have me chomping at the bit to get out and ride on it:
    https://www.bikemag.com/gear/mountai...-hei-trail-dl/
    At $4K including carbon rims and bars, Fox Factory fork & shock, XT/XTR drive train and brakes and a weight under 28lb there were no serious contenders for value (Jeffsy is nearly as good even at list price with the straight Pro model, [$4K] but no carbon wheels plus over a month's wait time currently); Jeffsy Pro Race model seems like a wicked good deal with super high end components and longer travel with crisp handling characteristics, but is $5K vs the $4 I'm paying for the Kona.
    Anyhow, I should have a ride under my belt by middle of next week. I'll let you know how it goes.
    Hands down, I'd go with the Anthem, but I'm biased. The Aluminum version is awesome! I can only imaging the carbon version.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the great detailed review. Based on that I ended up pulling the trigger on the Hei Hei. I got my first ride in today and loved it. I immediately felt at home on it - there was really no adjustment needed to my riding style. It was the most fun I've ever had going downhill and actually felt more efficient on the climbs than my HT. A couple times I looked down to make sure I didn't accidentally buy an e-bike because I almost felt propelled upward. I was objectively faster too, with PRs on almost every segment on my ride (took >2 minutes off of one ~10min segment). I did find that the front-end is harder to get off the ground than my current bikes, but I'm guessing that's just a matter of adjusting to new geometry/weight distribution. Anyway, thanks for your input!

  7. #7
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    Just a heads up on wheel set:
    The tape on the "tubeless ready" rims must not have been on well, causing small sealant leaks at each spoke nipple. I called up Jenson and they sent me out new rim tape to fix the problem (I could probably have asked for another small bottle of sealant as well, but they've been really good about customer service and I buy my sealant in larger bottles anyway). If you find you need new rim tape, go to the manufacturer's site to make sure you get it right the "first" (second) time - in my case WTB Ci31 rims should get 34mm tape. The customer service person at Jenson probably won't know that unless you happen to get the guy I spoke with (Ryan).

    ... And some more thoughts about wheels (tires, really) to customize the bike:
    Jenson also swung me a really good deal on 2 new tires since I mentioned I was thinking about trying something bigger than the 2.3" tomahawks. I got a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 for the front and a Maxxis Aggressor 2.5 for the rear for $40 each. The entire setup should be here next week and I'll mount them up right away. Unfortunately, with the forests closed around here I won't be able to get them out too soon on sustained technical climbs - the situation I'm most psyched about given the extra climbing traction, but also somewhat concerned about given the extra weight/rotating mass of the larger tires. Hopefully getting up difficult sections of trail first go will balance out the extra work involved in moving more rotating mass uphill.
    I'm also interested in seeing what a set of larger tires with more XC/trail hybrid characteristics like Maxxis Forekasters in 2.6" will do to the bike's performance. Those tires tend to have larger rotating circumference compared with their width (one mtbr.com member posted 28.25" for the Forecaster in 2.6" on a similar internal diameter rim, which by the way measured just a smidge under 2.5" in width so I expect they'll fit on the bike), should be able to safely run as little as 20 PSI for my style of riding, and are pretty light weight (just under 800gm for the Forecasters). I'd imagine that would make the bike more efficient on XC type terrain, and have performance characteristics more similar to a 29er.
    I've found some posts posing these questions, but haven't found answers. I'll try to post some over the next few weeks!
    Last edited by Dave00; 06-22-2018 at 01:59 PM.

  8. #8
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    I just mounted new tires and got a chance to try them out over the weekend.
    I had my choice between the Minion/Aggressor combo and a matched set of Maxxis Forekaster 2.6" EXO/3C/TR's that just arrived in the mail. I went with the Forekasters since local trail closures have left us with mostly non-technical terrain. However, I did get to test drive some short, moderately technical sections of trail; overall, I am even more impressed with the bike! With tires inflated above 20 psi it seems to roll a lot more efficiently, carry momentum better, and suffer from fewer pedal strikes. Cornering is really smooth with these tires, too. Airing down to below 20 psi (I weigh 140 and don't ride super aggressively) improved grip for technical climbing without sacrificing much in the way of the other advantages. Overall I think a big improvement in efficiency and capability while maintaining the bike's nimble feel. Interestingly, despite being larger tires than the Tomahawks and apparently well constructed, they weigh almost exactly the same.
    Here's a link to more detailed info I just posted on this topic (tires for the Hei Hei trail):
    http://forums.mtbr.com/kona/max-tire...l-1074840.html
    The only thing I'm not super happy with after my first several rides is the wide bars. I smacked the ends on trees a few times over the weekend and don't love the wide geometry. I suppose I could trim the ends but may decide to upgrade to carbon fiber for the added benefits of weight reduction and vibration dampening.

    EDIT: My Hei Hei is the Trail DL version, which comes with 31mm internal diameter rims. As per the "Max Tire Width" post linked above my experience with tires probably would not translate well to the 29mm internal diameter rims on the base carbon fiber model.

    EDIT again: Went for a few more rides with the Forekasters on the bike, now dialed in at 17 PSI front and 21 PSI rear. Nothing short of amazing how well the bike carries momentum and how fast it takes off when you stomp on the pedals, particularly with the rear shock in climb mode and the fork at mid-stiffness. It's also very nimble in tight switchbacks. Feels pretty plush and stable descending, too, though I have to admit I'm not a very aggressive descender. I'm getting better at flipping the shock lever back and forth on the fly, though the location is a bit awkward with a long downward reach. I'm amazed at how huge a difference there is going from mode to mode - much more than on my previous bike. It feels like a cross-country 29er in climb mode and like a trail bike in descend. I'll be interested to see how differently the bike behaves with the Minion/Aggressor combo, but I'm pretty certain the increased rolling resistance will be noticeable. Given how much I like it with the Forekasters on, though, I'm not sure how soon I'll get around to swapping them out.
    Last edited by Dave00; 07-10-2018 at 10:59 AM.

  9. #9
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    The one other thing about the bike aside from the Tomahawks I decided I couldn't live with was the Kona-branded aluminum handlebar. So I picked up a RaceFace Next 35 carbon fiber bar online for $130. Went for a 2 hr ride this morning and loved every minute! The bike is pretty much perfect for me now. Grand total stands at $4300 and I couldn't be happier with something that would have cost a good $3K more.
    Choosing XC+ bike: Kona Hei Hei Trail 27.5 vs Anthem Advanced 27.5 (vs others)-hei-hei-new-bar.jpg
    Last edited by Dave00; 07-13-2018 at 09:16 PM.

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