Monthly Archives: June 2018

Kona Dream Builds: Paul’s Multi-Surface Shred Machine AKA his custom Unit X

Words/Photos/Build: Paul Garcia

It starts with inspiration! Have you ever had a moment when something happens to fall in your hands and sparks a thought process that you begin building an idea around? For me, it was the Salsa Cutthroat fork. I had a buddy who was looking to unload the fork for a reasonable price. His build had changed and he was not going to need it. Before I accepted the offer on the spot I had some research to do. The fork met the aesthetic criteria. Straight blade 29er fork that had a ton of capabilities and was able to clear most plus tires. I was in 100%.

The second part of this build was major. The frame. The industry has built lots of bikes that really want to meet every person’s needs and at times, still miss the mark. Form follows function, the frame had to follow the forks lead. An aero carbon trail fork that was a practical design and was highly functional. In comes the Unit X.

Kona bicycles is not an ordinary bicycle company. I have owned a Kona Unit before. I had also worked for a shop that sold the brand and I really admired how they had maintained an “off the beaten path” philosophy. This bike build would have tons of capabilities and then some. The Unit X frame had a Reynolds tube set with a 44mm headtube, cable guides throughout the frame, slider dropouts, plus tire capabilities and a traditional threaded BB. Did I mention rack mounts throughout the frame and through axle capabilities as well as a third bottle cage mount? After months of combing the internet looking for the Swiss Army knife of bikes for my needs, I ordered a Kona Unit X.

The call was put in as a favor and the bike was now on its way to me as a complete build. This meant I would have to strip some of the existing parts off for my new creation. My idea was to replace the original fork for the Cut­throat and remove the 27+ wheels and install new 29er wheels. The front handlebars would be replaced for a Salsa dropbar flared touring combination to match the stem and seatpost combo. That placed the NX shifter on the bar via Paul Components adaptor. The original NX crank came off and I installed a better suited crank for my size which was a 170mm and new 38t ring with a Paul Components chain guide. I was able to lighten the rear end a bit by adding my SRAM 900 hub and XD driver system with the 1150 SRAM 11-42 cassette. For my bearing surfaces, I went with a Cane Creek headset and Wheels Manufacturing angular BB. On my touch points, I went with some Brooks tape and an All City saddle that was a carryover from a past build. Well broken in for this occasion. My rubber of choice are Maxxis Ardents on Raceface Arc 35’s.

The bike works as designed, a multi-surface shred machine that works for any variety of roads or trails and lots of bikepacking opportunities. Much love to Kona bikes for making rad bikes for everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Gardner Reports from Mammoth

Words by Kona enduro racer, Ryan Gardner.

 

2018 marks my 10th year of racing mountain bikes. During this time I have had seasons where everything seems to go as planned and the flow just came naturally. Others though required a bit more work. This season started off as the latter. With each race came a new hurdle. Mechanicals took me out of contention in Mexico and the TDS and a tough race in New Mexico had roused those little voices in the back of my mind that suggested that I might not have what it takes this year. As I continue to grow at my 9 to 5, the responsibilities there have become more demanding, personal relationships all require time and energy, and the number of hours in the day seem to disappear quicker each year. But despite all the fits and starts of this season, the effort it takes to rally after a 10-hour work day and get out for a training ride, and all the other little sacrifices it takes to be competitive at racing bikes, I keep coming back. It’s the little tastes of success, of progress, that makes all the work worthwhile. So after three lackluster races, it was time to pack up the van and head to my first California Enduro of the year, Mammoth Bar.

Mammoth Bar is not my favorite race of the year. It’s really pedally, really dry, and often really hot. But the racing is tight and it’s a good chance to get into the swing of things. After working three-quarters of a day I ducked out early and got a practice lap in on each stage Friday night for Saturday’s race. With only four stages of racing, each stage required 100% effort. I did my best to remember the stages, stay off the chicken levers, and put power down wherever I could. When it was all said and done I was able to round out the podium in 5th place. Though not the result I was aiming for, it was a step in the right direction; no mechanicals, improved riding, and a podium spot. I even got a feel for my new Satori which has been surprising me with its quick handling and snappy feel. It’s a much different bike from the Process, but its well suited to the fast and flowy singletrack found at many of the CA Enduro Races.

With the season moving into full swing, I’m going to keep focusing on finding the flow, enjoying the ride, and savoring those small victories week after week. Sometimes things don’t come easy. But that’s exactly when the most progress can be made.

Don’t Not Go – Joe Schwartz and friends tackle the North Shore Triple Crown

“Water everywhere. Cascading down the dark loamy hillsides, pouring in sheets from the steely, cold skies above the North Shore. The unsettling realization that maybe we pushed too hard, didn’t respect the conditions enough to back down. Those nagging thoughts pushed to the side as tires hook up in dark, dank Shore dirt, and we hoot and laugh as we descend, following the water.” Joe Schwartz

Joe Schwartz, along with riding buddies Andrew Shandro and Aaron Bradford recently braved the North Shores Coast Mountains for some serious Type 2 fun. The trio took on the infamous North Shore Triple Crown, a ride where you climb and descend three of North Vancouver’s mountains – Seymour, Fromme and Cypress – all in a single day. Taking it on in the dry is no simple (or comfortable) feat, but taking it on during Vancouver’s persistent winter/spring wetness is just a whole other level of suffering. Like Joe says, “It’s a little wet… But it’s ok, we ain’t made of sugar,”

Dressed in their fresh Pearl Izumi winter gear, the three riders were chased around the mountains by photographer Sterling Lorence and the crew from Anthill Films. The resulting stunning video and massive photo gallery really embeds you in the ride and gives you the feeling of just how wet and challenging the ride was.

Head to Pinkbike for Sterling’s full photo epic.

Bikepacking the Denali Park Road

Words by Kona Supreme, Delia Massey. Photos by Delia and her riding partner, Kinsey.

Two days before I left for a week-long vacation to Anchorage, I decided I wanted to bikepack the entire Denali National Park Road. My last-minute trip planning escalated quickly, from realizing that Denali was a 4-hour drive from Anchorage, to discovering that the 90-mile road through the park was only open to bikes and park buses, to finding blog posts from people that had bikepacked the whole 180 miles out and back. I had never full-on bikepacked (just done an overnight with a stay at a hotel), but I figured why not go big for my first real trip?!

My partner in forest crime, Kinsey, reluctantly agreed to my crazy idea, and we quickly rounded up some lightweight gear, packed our bikes and lots of warm layers, and got on a plane to Alaska. The night before we left, I sent an email to Revelate Designs, an Anchorage-based bikepacking company, asking if we could stop by and get some bags the next day. They responded yes, so we got off the plane, picked up our bags, and after a trip to REI for food, a bear can, bear spray, bear bells, and some other emergency supplies, we were as ready as we would ever be!

Fast forward to Sunday, May 27th. Kinsey and I drove up to Denali National Park, checked in with the ranger, and picked out our planned backcountry camping locations (both were around mile 60 on the road, assuming we would cover 60 miles a day for 3 days). We watched a video on park etiquette and safety, which was very useful, but also heightened my fear of having a bear encounter. We had our final meal of burgers and beers at 49th State Brewing, and did a practice run with our borrowed Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 tent at a local campground. Aside from putting on the rain fly inside out, we were dialed.

Monday morning, we got up early and drove to the Denali Visitor’s Center, where a couple of moose wandered the parking lot while we attached our bags to our bikes. We set off around 8:30, starting with the climb up the first 15-mile paved section of road (and the only section open to cars). Spirits were high, our fully loaded mountain bikes were cruising on the pavement, the sun was shining, and excitement was in the air. We got our first views of Denali around mile 9.5, and I was awestruck with how large it was. Rainier seems big, looming over my home of Seattle, but Denali is simply massive. At the 15-mile mark, we came to the gate that only allows bikes and buses through, and we saw our first grizzly bear, near a river. Seeing the size and speed with which the bear moved did not make me feel any better about camping in bear country!

As our tires hit gravel, the adventure truly began. No more cars, just buses full of tourists rumbling by every so often (and that only lasted to mile 53, where the buses turned around due to snow). I felt like we were part of the park as the people on the buses took photos of us and waved. We steadily pedaled mile after mile, with plenty of breaks for food, water, and bathroom breaks. There were bus stops and designated campsites with bathrooms and trashcans along the way, which was a huge help. Water was plentiful, with clear streams from snow melt along the way, so we never carried more than 2 liters each (treated with a Steripen).

We climbed over Sable Pass and Polychrome Pass, both of which offered spectacular views, and made our way to our first campsite on a gravel bar right near mile 60. The park rules dictate that you must camp at least a half a mile off of the road, and must be out of site of the road, which is why I chose to pedal in flats to make the hiking easier. We cooked our freeze-dried dinner, had some M&M’s, and stored our bear can away from both the cooking area and our tent. We attempted to sleep, with sunset around 11:30pm. I woke up at 5:00am with the sun and was convinced there was a giant animal walking around outside our tent, sniffing at our things. Kinsey woke up and poked his head out of the tent, and we didn’t see any evidence of any big animals, so perhaps it was just the wind and my overactive imagination. We did find that his helmet straps had been chewed by a hungry ground squirrel!

Day 2 was bright and sunny, and as we came over the Stony Hill Overlook, we had a crystal-clear view of the south side of Denali. It was absolutely breathtaking. I stopped and took the greatest photo I have ever taken with my self-timer, and after soaking in the views, we pedaled on to the end of the road. We passed many kettle ponds, formed when large chunks of ice detached from a glacier and become buried in sediment and melted, and finally reached Wonder Lake at mile 85, and pushed on to our final stop on the road, a beautiful outhouse between mile 89 and 90, that offered us shelter from the wind to cook lunch, and a stream nearby for water.

After that, we began the slog back up the 30 miles we had just descended. We paused for a bit at the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66, made friends with a marmot, and kept moving back towards mile 60. We saw a momma bear and 2 cubs around mile 62, headed directly for our planned camping spot. We decided it was safest to continue on a few more miles, finding a bluff at mile 58 with a good view of the surrounding terrain.

We survived without any midnight bear attacks and pushed through a headwind on Day 3 to finish up back at the car around 3:30pm. Tired, delirious, with sore butts and sore legs, we were full of joy and adventure! Riding through the park was the ultimate experience, something you can’t get on a bus or in a car, and I highly recommend it. The wildlife was abundant, and in total we saw 18 grizzlies, as well as caribou, Dall sheep, marmots, countless ground squirrels, ptarmigan, hares, and magpies.

I learned that nothing compares to the simplicity and teamwork of bikepacking. Your only goal for the day is to pedal, and your only concerns are food, water, warmth, and wild animals. It was challenging and painful at times, but I loved it, and I’m already planning my next big trip!

Gear list:

  • Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 (Thanks Mal and Kelly!!)
  • Enlightened Equipment Revelation down quilts, 20 degree
  • Cocoon silk mummy liner
  • Thermarest Neo-Air
  • Sea to Summit pillow (for delicate Delia)

On bike (Delia had a Kona Honzo CR Trail DL, and Kinsey was on an Evil Following MB):

  • Revelate Egress handlebar pocket: (snacks, map, gloves, hat, buff, Steripen)
  • Revelate Handlebar Harness and Salty Roll: Sleep system, synthetic puffy jacket, rain jacket and pants
  • Tent (Delia) or bear can with food (Kinsey) attached to harness with pocket
  • Revelate Ranger frame bag (1-L water bottle, fuel, tubes, toilet paper, charger/cords)
  • Revelate Gas Tank (Tools: pump, tire levers, tire plugs, multitool, derailleur hanger, master links, knife, headlamp, ski straps)
  • Revelate Pika Seatbag: full change of base layers, extra fuel, emergency bivy, emergency ponchos, MSR reactor stove
  • Swift Industries Sidekick Pouch w/ Nuun water bottle
  • All food aside from clif bars/shotblocks was carried in the bear can at all times unless cooking!

On Delia:

  • From High Above Cascadia hip pack, with 2L bladder
  • Bear spray!!

Food:

  • 3 dehydrated dinners
  • 2 freeze dried breakfasts
  • 1 freeze dried lunch
  • 4 tuna packets
  • 1 bag of beef jerky
  • 1 bag of roasted dark chocolate almonds
  • M&M’s
  • 1 bag of instant mashed potatoes
  • Various clif bars and shot blocks
  • Nuun electrolyte tabs

 

 

Ti Tuesday: Sean’s Slime Throwing Ti Honzo

We don’t know a whole lot about Sean’s head-turning Ti Honzo. We know it means business, what, with the Minion/Assegai tyre combo, the Custom RockShox Pike and the fact that it’s set up single speed. The slime green bottle cage and green ano cranks are the only real odd items out, but it’s not like Race Face are making cranks in anodized yellow. The rest of the build echoes those main specs choices with a slammed 170 Reverb, custom Stans Flow MK3 rims and a Chromag BZA bar/stem combo. Check the end of the post for the full detailed spec list.

Handlebar: Chromag BZA Tight Green
Stem: Chromag BZA
Grips: RF Grippler in Orange
Front Brake: XT 8020 Trail
Rear Brake: XT 8000
Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3 120mm Travel custom decals
Crankset: RF Atlas in green
Chainring: RF DM cinch 32t in Orange
Chain: Shimano XTR
Rear Cog: Surly 21t
Front wheel: Stan’s No Tubes Flow MK3 custom decals
Rear wheel: Stan’s No Tubes Flow MK3 custom decals
Front Tire: Maxxis Assegai 2.5
Rear Tire: Maxxis DHRII 2.3
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 170mm drop
Seat: Chromag Lynx DT tight green

2018 CDC CAPITOL FOREST ENDURO

Kona Supreme Hannah Bergemann reports from the CDC Capitol Forest Enduro race:

Capitol Forest has one of the most stoked and supportive bike communities of any riding zone I’ve traveled to. After a few hours of riding and hanging with the locals, you feel welcomed as part of the crew. Not to mention they work countless hours to build and maintain some of Olympia and Washington state’s best trails and trail systems. They host several events each year, including the Capitol Forest Classic XC race, and their events never fail to be some of the best. The Cascadia Dirt Cup started with their very first enduro race in the area back in 2013, and it’s cool to come back to the original venue and see the massive progression in racing over the last few years.

This year we got to race a completely new trail system on a different side of the mountain. In the past, Cap Forest has been known for its flowing XC trails and long descents. This year was quite different, with several short, steep, and technical descents on freshly built loamy trails.

The race was one of the shorter races of the season but definitely didn’t lack any excitement. We arrived Friday afternoon to pre-ride the course and were surprised with a late spring downpour. Despite getting completely soaked, the rain was happily welcomed as it revived the previously dry and dusty trails.

Just a little wet and muddy after Friday practice

On the day of the race, the sun came out and made the trails just slightly on the wet side of hero dirt.

Stage 1 was a short, technical descent down a trail called stormy. It was surrounded by bright green moss covered trees and ferns that made it feel like a trail deep in a tropical jungle. It was pretty greasy after Friday’s rain, so the main objective was to stay upright on the wet roots.

Photo: Chris McFarland

Stage 2 brought us to the top of the mountain for a longer descent. The first section raced through a clear-cut with fast bermed corners and a few gap jumps.

Stage 3 ducked back into the dense forest for a ripping descent down a trail called “Down and Rowdy”. It was quite fitting as the trail was scattered with jumps, ripping fast sections through the ferns, and technical steep bits.

Stage 4 was my favorite of the day. It was a newly-built downhill track with fast berms, large jumps, and plenty of steep off-camber sections of trail.

Stage 5 was another short, technical trail similar to the first stage with a few crucial line options to save time.

I landed on the podium in 2nd, with Delia right behind me in 3rd! Once again, the Capitol Forest crew never ceases to impress me with their incredible community and trails. Looking forward to next year!

Kona Dream Builds: Scott’s mix’n’match single speed Explosif

You’ve got to admit that Scott’s steel Explosif is a little bit of a mix’n’match selection of parts. Nothing really goes together on paper with this build, if you were describing how your old orange ANVL stem was going to look rad, matched up to your blue bars and your purple pedals. Well, you just wouldn’t believe it. But there is something about this build, maybe it isn’t a full-blown dream bike, but damn it if I’m not a bit jealous of just indestructible and versatile this thing is. On one ride you can hit the pump track, go for a trail ride, hell I’m sure you could even wind it back and send it down some classic Vancouver stair gaps on the way home.

How would you build a dream Explosif? Let us know over on Facebook or Instagram.

An ANVL cockpit an ESI silicone grips keep the bike pointed in the right direction.

Our new Wah Wah PP Composite pedals keep things moving forward…

…While an old XT crankset and North Shore Billet chainring drive the rear wheel.

Almost slammed out the back.

TRP’s Slate T4 four-piston brakes slow this rig down.

Some “re-branded” Fox 32’s suspend the front end.

 

Becky Gardner Scores Two Podiums in Colorado

Becky Gardner had a a great weekend of racing in the high altitude events of the Vail Mountain Games and the FIBARK cross country race. She landed in third in the enduro and scored a victory in the XC event. Congrats Becky!

“For the past few years, the first two weeks in June I have taken a break from DH laps and gravity enduro competitions to compete in two endurance oriented races, The Vail Mountain Games Enduro, and the FIBARK cross country race. I skip the full spandex kit but try and give it my best to compete against some very fit ladies.

 

First up is always The Vail Mountain Games. This event is really cool for me because it is the only race that combines my love of bikes and whitewater sports. My day job is running marketing for a Colorado rafting company, Dvorak Expeditions. So, when I am not on a bike I am on the river rafting, whitewater SUPing or exploring new and amazing rivers and canyons. The Vail Mountain Games brings both these worlds together with tons of whitewater events, bikes, and all sorts of outdoors inspiration. It’s awesome to see such diverse athletes at a single weekend event.

 

Although the atmosphere of the Vail Mountain Games is spot on, the enduro course has always put me out of my comfort zone. The Enduro is located just outside Vail in Eagle Co. The courses are buff, fast, dry, loose, and pedally. Not really the forte of an east coast downhiller, and to top it off the big prize purse brings in a lot of heavy hitters- especially in the cross country world.  But over the years of living in Colorado and training hard on my endurance, the Vail Mountain Games Enduro has become a race I can succeed in.

This year I opted out of practice because of work commitments and showed up the night before the race. I quickly got ready the next morning, picked up my plate, timing chip, ate some food and got on my way to start the race. The first climb takes about an hour to reach the top of stage one which was one of the faster trails of the day. This stage has a few steep pitches, fast and flowy turns, and one major hill in the middle of the track to really make your lungs burn. I finished stage one seamlessly and was sitting in second place which felt awesome since most times my first run of the day is always a little slower than the rest of my stages. We immediately started our transfer to stage two which is a hot, long climb with little shade. Once reaching the top we quickly went onto stage 2 to try and finish our laps before the hottest part of the day arrived. Stage two had the most pedaling of all the stages but I felt strong and tried to really let go in the fast areas trying to gain as many seconds as I could. I pedaled as hard as I could and felt happy with the effort given and went on the repeat the same climb to get to the last two stages of the day. Stage 3 was another awesome lap and I felt confident going into the shortest, easiest, and last stage of the day. Unfortunately for me, I took a corner a little too hard and a rock flew up breaking a spoke into my cassette. I quickly stopped, wrapped the spoke up, and got on my way to finish the run. Luckily I didn’t lose too much time and I ended up sitting in 3rd place at the end of the day. This was my best finish at the Vail Mountain Games Enduro and I can’t wait to keep working hard and get faster.

 

Next up is a race I would never have thought I would enjoy competing in, the FIBARK Cross Country race. This race is held on my local trails in Salida, Co. It’s also held during the busiest weekend of the year in my town which for me means working long days and nights. I showed up to the race a few minutes beforehand after catching up on some much-needed sleep and went straight into the start gate. Before I knew it the race started and we were on our way! I thought I had a great start and was feeling confident in my fitness but then I noticed a lady pulling way ahead of me up the fire road start. She looked strong and I knew I couldn’t pedal that hard or I would be spent in a few miles. So I let her go and I kept a solid pace for the first 20 minutes. Once we reached the trail I felt on fire, I was riding fast, taking clean lines and felt like I could go forever. Finally, I reached the woman that seemed impossible to catch. I passed her in a rock section and kept pedaling as hard as I could. I wanted to get as far ahead as possible because I knew on lap 2 she could catch me on the uphill. I charged my way through lap 1 and went on the lap 2 with no one in sight. I finished the race in first place and minutes faster than last year. Although the downhiller in me is laughing I am really stoked how far my fitness has come and I’m excited to see the benefits of it in my DH and Enduro racing!”

 

A Heavy Weekend of Racing for Cory Wallace

Kona Adventure Team Rider and 24 Hour Solo World Champion, Cory Wallace, had a somber start to his racing last weekend. Prior to the Squamish Spakwus 50km race, he received word that one of his close friends had passed away while racing his bike in Nepal. Cory took his grief and poured all of his emotion into a powerful victory in the race. He followed it up with a 120km race in Alberta the next day. Cory is a true machine with a huge heart.

Cory wrote about processing his friend’s passing and channeling it into his racing in his most recent blog post. Our condolences to you, Cory. Thanks for always being a true champion.

Racing in Alberta has its perks

Solstice Madness

Spencer loves massive days in the saddle.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we’re celebrating the summer solstice today. It’s annually a day where we pack as much into a single day as possible, taking advantage of the gratuitous daylight that mother nature has granted us. We thought it fitting to take a look back at last year’s amazing solstice achievement by Kona rider Spencer Paxson as he packed in more vertical in one day than almost anyone else in the world ever has on two wheels.

When I heard Spencer was attempting to ride one of Bellingham’s most awesome trails as many times as possible during daylight hours, I became really intrigued. Spencer is freakishly athletically talented, but that climb is a MONSTER….not in length but in steepness. The average grade is puke-inducing on a good day. I remember polling my friends asking, “How many times do you honestly think you could climb to the top of that trail in a day? Honestly?” Some said two, three, four. One said six…but he’s also freakishly talented. While I’m not the most talented rider on the planet I consider myself to be in good shape and I think I could maybe do it four times. That four times includes me crying, barfing, screaming, trying to quit at least once per lap, and consuming as many cookies as my body could handle. In other words, four would be a massive stretch for me… but if my life were on the line I could probably make it happen.

Spencer climbed that climb FIFTEEN TIMES. Over 32,000 feet of climbing. My mind is still blown. Every single time I ride that trai

Spencer, no doubt planning some sort of Type 2 mega sufferfest.  Photo: Sarah Paxson

l I am in awe of that accomplishment. You can read all about it in this feature from Bike Magazine.

Today Spencer and Kona product manager Mark Allison are attempting another brutal feat that includes climbing an actual mountain on foot (the North Twin Sister off of the Mount Baker Highway) and a bit over 100 miles of riding their Honzos on some of Whatcom County’s most epic trails.

Stay tuned for an upcoming report of their day. Do you think they’ll make it?