More well-known in the freeride world, Kona quietly hums along with a strong following in XC, road and now 29er markets. There’s no doubt that Kona knows how to make bikes that are built to last a long time while absorbing repeated abuse on the trail.

Kona has also figured out just the right mix of efficiency without sacrificing downhill capability.  As a result, the same people that have brought you the gap-jumping Kona Clump isn’t afraid to show their mettle in the fickle 29er crowd. That said, how would this 3.5-inch full suspension bike handle the rock gardens and drops of Bootleg Canyon? How well would it climb? Pretty darn well, actually. Lets take a look.

2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 29er Bike Review

About the 2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe 29er

Built as an XC-friendly 29er, the Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe sports a high-zoot Scandium front triangle and the Kona signature rear triangle. With the added stability of the rocker-arm design, this bike is built to handle trails that would devour other 3.5-inch travel bikes. The Deluxe build sports all the goodies you’d expect from a bike in this price point with a smattering of XT and XTR bits with a Fox RP23 rear shock and a Fox F29 RL fork. Here are a few more details:

  • Frame: Kona race light scandium front and aluminum rear triangle
  • Sizes: 16, 18 (tested), 19, 20, 22
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX, XT and XTR mix
  • Brakes Shimano XT (nice!)
  • Shock: Fox RP23
  • Fork: Fox F29 32 RL 80mm
  • Wheels/Hubs: FSA XC-290
  • Cockpit: Kona XC/BC stem and riser (not your typical house-brand parts)
  • MSRP: $3599

2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe 29er Bike Review

2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe 29er Bike Review

Maybe this should be called the Woo Hoo 2-9 because this bike is a complete hoot on the trails. When I first hopped onboard, I was impressed at how fast it accelerated. Maybe that’s because it’s been years since I’ve ridden anything with less than 4-inches of travel in the rear. Every ounce of energy was immediately transferred to the rear wheel and up the trails.

The climb up Bootleg Canyon was a breeze. This bike climbs uphill extremely well–what else would you expect from a honed XC machine? It’s obvious that climbing isn’t going to be an issue on this bike, but how about the down?

With 29-inch wheels, you can get away with less travel while still enjoying a plush ride. The 3.5 inches in the rear and just over 3-inches in the front had me a bit uneasy before pointing it downhill. But, all it took was a few strong pedal strokes and a couple of hard corners before I realized that this bike (though it sits squarely in the XC world) would still handle like a Kona so I could enjoy the best part of the ride.

2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Bike Review

Twisty, turny singletrack, rock gardens and drops didn’t phase this bike at all. I couldn’t believe how “plush” this bike felt and how stable it was. No doubt this bike isn’t going to feel as squishy as a Coilair, but the beauty of the 29-inch wheel is just that… you don’t need all that squish to make a bike feel “plush”. The suspension soaks up everything equally well from high-speed stutters to drops. This bike is a very capable all-mountain machine that would be killer on all-day epic rides.

Only once did I feel the suspension lock-up when I applied the brakes while pedaling over a bump–something that does appear, albeit rarely, in single-pivot suspension designs. I’m picky, so most people won’t ever notice, but this by no means detracted from the overall fun factor of this bike.

The cockpit felt super-comfortable right out of the box–something you can’t always say with stock bikes sporting house-brand components. The shiny Kona stem/bar combo looks sweet and has just the right stem length and rise, and the bars have the perfect upsweep and rise to put you in the right position to enjoy this bike on the trail.

Good Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe

  • The most plush 3.5-inch travel bike I’ve ridden
  • Can tackle terrain that would devour most bikes in this category
  • Very comfortable right out of the box
  • Climbs straight on steep fire roads or narrow singletrack
  • Feels very light, but still remains stable when pushed hard
  • Flickable and fun in all terrain–not something commonly said about 29ers
  • Love the 6-sided downtube… nice touch
  • Worthy component spec

Bad Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe

  • Single-pivot design can have brake jack or pedal feedback, though it’s rare
  • Come on… put a quick-release seatpost collar on there guys!

2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Bike Review

The Bottom Line on the 2009 Kona Hei Hei 2-9 Deluxe 29er

I had a complete blast on this bike. Going into it, I was expecting it to feel completely cross-country, but I was surprised when it handled as well as it did on the rocky, technical terrain in Bootleg Canyon. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear as I pointed it straight through sections that would make most bikes in this category keel over and die. The rear end is stout and tracks perfectly straight and the ultralight Scandium frame keeps things easy while pounding out that epic climb. For the money, this one is hard to beat, but if you’re on a budget, the standard Hei Hei 2-9 drops a grand in price and likely performs just as well.

More Info: Visit to Find a Local Dealer

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. I agree with you that some of the other bikes in the lineup are nicer-looking. Especially the new Coilair… that bike looks sweet.

    One of the things about this particular frame is that since it’s Scandium, I’m sure they are trying to be minimalist on the paint to save weight. The bright chrome with minimal Kona colors actually looks pretty sweet in person IMO.

  2. While I’ve owned alot of loud and proud bikes, I rarely ride them for over a year. As a shop owner I appreciate the minimalist graphics approach that I can sell to anyone looking to ride the same bike a long time. Thanks Kona for knocking it out of the park!

  3. Pingback: Salsa Big Mama 29er Quick Bike Review -

  4. Hey Jason,
    Just wondering how tall you are and what your inseam is. I am switching to a 29er and I am trying to figure out how to fit myself. I test rode the Hei Hei yesterday and I can’t sleep at night anymore. Sometimes a bike just makes you smile.

  5. Pingback: Kona King Kahuna 29er Review -

  6. Jason, great review. I’m 5’8″ – 5’9″ and can’t decide between a 16″ or 18″ frame. I saw that you chose a Medium (18″) for your height and inseam. Which of these 2 sizes do you think would best fit me?

  7. FVA

    So, sizing is one of the more difficult things to do over the Inerweb, but here’s my take:

    Top-tube length: I like a 23.5-24″ top tube
    Standover: Make sure you have enough room for your boys

    Stand over some other similar bikes and see how they feel based on top tube, standover and size, then go from there. Whatever you do, you don’t want to have a super-long stem. Getting into anything longer than 90mm provides awkward handling, IMO. Best of luck!

Leave A Reply