Trek Slash 9.8 Vs Kona Process X

Lester Perry | Fri 4th Sep 2020 03:00

We got our hands on two of the hottest enduro rigs for 2021 and battled them out. If you are in the market for a long travel 29er and can't decide between a new Trek or Kona, this review might help.

Having put both these bikes through the wringer over the last month we wanted to put them head to head and highlight their differences to make it simpler to decide which is more suitable for you.

2021 Trek Slash 9.8
2021 Kona Process X

Trek Slash - Fast is good.

Treks flagship Enduro race bike. With 160mm rear travel and a 170mm fork, and a solid parts spec, the Slash gives you all the tools you need to hit the podium!

The Good:
  • Plush, sensitive back end with great progressivity. A huge step up from the old Slash.
  • The torsionally stiff frame matches the component choice. Snappy pedalling and no deflection off obstacles, simply point and plough!
  • It’s really quiet, helped by the plush suspension, redesigned chainstay protector, and increased compliance in the wheels (vs previous model Slash)
  • Exceptionally active under braking = better traction
  • Good across a wide range of terrains. Not quite as slack in the head angle as Process X.
  • The stiffer 34.9mm seat post feels super solid while climbing.
  • Knockblock 2. This revised steering stopper saves you pulling cables out or getting tangled up while crashing.
  • New Line Elite wheelset is more compliant and, according to Trek, much stronger than the old model.
The not so good:
  • Long seat tube. The Kona has a 50mm shorter seat tube than the Trek, meaning for me the 170mm drop puts the seat too high.
  • To remedy this I’d have to source a shorter overall stack Seat post or change to a 150mm drop.
  • Bontrager’s Line Pro carbon handlebar is a polarising number and takes a fair bit of tweaking to get it just in the right place. And at 820mm wide out of the box it’s pretty excessive!
  • Tyre choice on the Slash could be better. It’s good they’ve specced the “SE” (Super Enduro) versions with decent casings, but there are better tyres in the market than the specced SE5 and SE4 for this type of bike.
  • Only two positions on the rear lockout (Open and Firm), and no real ‘mid’ point. Even with the 3 compression levels available it would be nice to have a ‘mid’ setting.
  • We’re still not sold on running Carbon wheels on a bike like this, regardless of how good Trek say they are. Go to any bike park for a trip, or decent enduro race and you’re still seeing a higher percentage of exploded carbon wheels than alloy ones, regardless of what brand they’re from.

Kona Process X - Gnarly is good, so is fun!

Fresh for the 2021 season, the Kona Process X takes the tried and true Process 153 bike and makes it a bigger hitter. Featuring 161mm rear travel, and 170mm up front, when thees numbers combine with a long reach, steep seat tube, and super slack head-angle you’re in for a good time. Process X remains playful and composed when the terrain gets steep and things get burly!

The Good:
  • Embodies modern but not extreme, Long, Slack, Low geometry.
  • The short seat-tube length (50mm shorter than the Trek!) allows for a long-travel dropper post and keeps stand-over height nice and low.
  • Slack 63.5 degree head angle. Bring on the steeps!
  • Adjustable Wheelbase from 435mm to 450mm (Play or Plow). Increases the versatility of the bike.
  • Its steeper seat tube angle (by 2.4 degrees) puts you in a really good seated climbing position.
  • Mullet capable. Great to see an easy to use, true Mullet (27.5” wheel) option for those who want it with the use of the Flip Chip on the seat-stay.
  • Tyre choice. You really can’t go wrong with the Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR combo, and it’s good to see them here with EXO+ casings. They don’t roll well on flat hardpack but this bike shouldn’t really see that surface type much.
  • Alloy wheels!
  • FOX 38 over RockShox Zeb. This is the best FOX fork we’ve felt straight out of the box, and immediately it felt smoother and seems to ramp up better than the ZEB, although not quite as stiff (although this may have in part be a combination of the fork, frame, wheels) Sure you can internally adjust tokens etc to tweak how the forks feel, but we were comparing box stock items.
  • The 200mm Dropper Post (on size large bike), adjustable in 5mm increments for up to -30mm less drop. Allows the rider to get the most drop they can.
  • Quality Alloy bar with a good sweep and width. Can’t complain about this setup!
The not so good:
  • The overall bike isn’t as stiff as the Slash and you do notice more trail feedback.
  • To get the most out of the bike it needs to be ridden for its intended purpose - steep trails, the super slack head angle takes more body language to be fun on the flat or mellow trails.
  • The back end isn’t as plush as the Slash, and it doesn’t track quite as well. It is a bit of a trade-off though as you get a more playful and nimble feel.
  • Shimano Deore Brakes aren’t as good as the SLX on the Slash, they’re close but not quite as powerful.
  • No Chain Guide. While we’ve not dropped a chain aboard the new Shimano 12 speed chainrings, inevitably it will happen. The Slash’s guide incorporates a bash guard which is pretty handy on a bike of this genre.

Riders / Reviewers:

Matt Berry, 19

An EVO ambassador for the last few years, Matt’s been riding and racing every type of bike since he was born and has gained a wealth of bike experience far beyond his years. While he started on a BMX, Matt’s main focus is now Enduro MTB but he was a force to be reckoned with on the road and track through his later school years.

Instagram: @mattsberrys

Lester Perry, 39

Much like Matt, Lester has been riding and racing bikes of all sorts since his early years. Kicking off the two-wheeled experience on a BMX, then moving on to Mountain Biking (back when one bike did it all). Lester dabbled in Road, and Track racing along the journey. His main focus has been on racing Enduro since 2013, but all the different types of bike in the shed still get used from time to time. Lester is part of the Marketing team at EVO and has been in the bike industry most of his life.

Instagram: @lesterperrynz

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