Ireland

Kona Wozo in Ireland: A Microadventure

Microadventure: an adventure close to home; cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

A Local Microadventure
Bikes, beer and a break from life.
Words by William O’Connor, photos by Michal Dzikowski

This story begins at my house, in a small village in the west of Ireland where bank holiday weekend biking plans are being made. My usual plan involves packing a van, a motorway dash, service station food and a late night drive home. Our rule of thumb states that the time spent on the bike should be at least twice as along as the journey. So a two hour drive should equate to a four hour bike ride. A big day out on the bike might involve hitting the road the night before to conform to this rule.

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Lately, however, I’m on a newfound quest to make my biking life more adventurous by taking inspiration from the British explorer Alastair Humphreys and his idea of a microadventure. A microadventure, in Humphreys’ world, is an adventure that is short, simple, local, and cheap. By this reckoning, my usual weekend biking routine fails to measure up. It lacks adventure. It isn’t local. And it seldom works out cheap.

So working from this premise I started with three basic principles. Firstly there should be no cars involved. Secondly there needs to be camping involved. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, the mountain biking has to be worth the effort.

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This quest for adventure had been sparked a couple of years ago by my purchase of my first fat bike, a Kona Wo. Living in the west of Ireland official bike trails are very limited yet the Atlantic coastline – more recently christened The Wild Atlantic Way – is a landscape calling out to be explored. My fat bike opened up trails and areas previously ignored because of the type of bike I normally rode. No matter where you end up the fat bike will allow you to have fun and link sections of interest together.

I had just taken delivery of my new fat bike… a Kona Wozo. This is a fat bike with trail ambitions, an evolution of the Kona Wo that started me on this journey and a bike that just might be a match for my now-neglected full suspension bike on more challenging terrain. This adventure had to involve some good trails to have a blast on and see how a fat bike would ride the more technical and fast trails.

A plan started to unfold.

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Deciding that this trip deserved company, I pitched the idea to Garry, my biking buddy and local bike shop owner who had input to the design of the Kona Wozo. I plotted a route, linking various roads and bits of trail I had ridden over the years.

So the day came and myself and Garry headed off out my driveway to embark on this bikepacking microadventure. Bikes were loaded with gear and we were giddy with the thought of the 24 hours ahead.

On the road, we quickly settled into the natural rhythm of pedaling and banter. Ten minutes out from the house and the frantic life at home was quickly slipping away. As we came through Kilchreest, a small one-pub village (that’s how we measure the size of a village in Ireland) we passed the window of a small rural shop. I had passed this little shop numerous times in the van on the way to a local gravel grind and had always wanted to call in.

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The shopkeeper and a local farmer were inside chatting. It was a small room with basic wooden shelves stocked with everything from blue rope to beef nuts to porter cake and bread. A definite slice of nostalgia. A bit of chat and the inevitable checking of family lineage until ‘sure I knew your father well’ said the farmer, declaring his sadness when I mentioned my father’s passing two years previous and his sincere apologies that he hadn’t heard sooner.

On a bike the pace of life changes and stopping at a small shop and taking time to talk to local people, though strangers, seems perfectly normal. A simple pleasure that now passes us by in the blur of a car window.

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The route sees us cross the Slieve Aughtys, an upland in the south of Galway County. It’s an area off the beaten path and sees few tourists or visitors. The route is a mix of small country roads, gravel trails and singletrack.

We were aiming for the small lakeside village of Mountshannon (this one a three-pub village making it a ‘good size’ of a place). We needed to start covering ground and put a push on. Little gems of trail are unearthed along the way by way of small sections of sweet forest trail or classic gravel descents. It’s a magical time, a landscape of golden yellows, burnt oranges and amber browns. There is nothing subtle about this landscape. It’s a feast for the eyes.

Arriving in Mountshannon I thought it would be rude not to reward ourselves with a quick pint. This is where things quickly deviated from the plan. It was small country pub. No TV, open turf fire and one of the aforementioned little grocery shops attached. Seven locals sitting at the bar. The sight of two fully loaded fat bikes being wheeled into the pub immediately spun the locals around on their bar stools.

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Garry was assured the bikes were fine in the pub and would be watched as we had our dinner across the road. Upon our return to the pub Garry was in shock. The bikes were gone. In their place were two old high nelly bikes fully loaded with our gear. The bar erupted in laughter. The locals had switched them and had been awaiting our return.

The next few hours were spent chatting, explaining the weird bikes and laughing with an incredibly welcoming and open group of people. A few more pints, and a whiskey or two and it was time to go get some sleep.

A little fire and a huge starry night sent us off to bed. The pints always help with sleeping and I was almost instantly asleep. However as I have discovered previously I was almost as quickly in need of the toilet.

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The morning came. I was feeling sore from the previous day’s ride and fuzzy headed from the socializing but it was a fine dry morning so stoves were lit and coffee was quickly brewed. That was about all that happened quickly but eventually we hit the road.

We spent the morning grinding out the distance on tarmac to get to the trails but these quiet country roads are a pleasure to ride. There is always something over a wall or around a bend to catch the eye and not much by way of traffic to intrude.

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We stashed away the bags and dropped our seats. The trails here are steep and fast and just what I was looking for to test the new bike. The Wozo really is a trail bike and the big wheels give the confidence needed to stay off the brakes. You know (or hope) they will eventually grab something and keep you pinned to the ground.

Between trail sections, Garry explained the details of the bike that he helped design with Kona that give it trail credentials. Super short chainstays, long reach, aggressive geometry. Stuff I always read about in magazines but never really pay attention to.

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We had a great day riding super trails which are a real credit to the local trail builders. The day finished as we sat on a bench high up on the hill overlooking Lough Derg and the hills we crossed to get here.

We managed to leave from the front door of my house on bikes and have two days of adventure, with the feeling of so much more accomplished than if we’d sat back and done our usual motorway trip. The idea of a microadventure, something small yet achievable by anybody, changes the way you can approach your regular spins. Adventure biking doesn’t have to be far away in some exotic corner of the world. It can be found just outside your front door.

Keep up with Garry and William at Disruptive Adventure.

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For their microadventure, Garry and William rode our Wozo fat bike. For all the details on the Wozo and our original fat bike, the Wo, head to konaworld.com.

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Leah Maunsell and the Kona Big Honzo in Ireland

The Kona Honzo was built for rugged terrain, and the Big Honzo is a natural extension of that initial purpose: all the fun of the Honzo’s snappy handling and progressive geometry, with the traction, control, and confidence of high volume 27.5+ rubber. In creating a video around this bike, we wanted to find a location that was suited to its character. We hooked up with rising enduro star Leah Maunsell and headed for her home county of Cork, Ireland.

The Sheep’s Head peninsula is a rugged sliver of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s southernmost tip. Big views and big skies set the tone as the landscape undulates, offering up some of Ireland’s finest coastal views. The trails here run along the spine of the peninsula on a mix of upland and rocky outcroppings, setting the perfect stage for Leah’s outing on the Big Honzo.

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Evolution

From a design perspective, the Big Honzo retains the successful DNA found throughout our Honzo line, with subtle adaptations that make it more than just a 29er with room for wider tires. A new yoke at the bottom bracket junction maintains the Honzo’s tight 415mm rear end, while the bottom bracket drop has been adjusted to optimize Honzo-like ride qualities around 27.5×2.8” tires. We call it an evolution of the bike everyone else is already chasing.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Honzo. The original steel prototype was the first Kona prototype I ever had the opportunity to ride. I came back with the bike and told my co-workers something to the effect of “well, that just ruined every other hardtail for me”. It’s been a long road of evolution and expansion for the Honzo line and I’m grateful to be a part of it. The Big Honzo embodies all the traits that “ruined” other hardtails for me and I can’t say enough positive things about the bike.” – Ian Schmitt, Kona Product Team

kona-ride-2017-8464Ian puts his pre-production Big Honzo through the paces in Squamish, BC.

Big Honzo DL

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Frame Material: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted
Wheel Size: 27.5+
Wheels: WTB Scraper STP i40
Front Suspension: 120mm
Fork: RockShox Yari 120mm
Crankset: RaceFace Aeffect SL
Drivetrain: SRAM GX 1x 11spd
Cockpit: Kona XC/BC 35 bar and stem, Kona Race Light Log grips
Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic
Front Tire: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5×2.8″
Rear Tire: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5×2.8″
Saddle: WTB Volt Sport

Big Honzo

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Frame Material: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted
Wheel Size: 27.5+
Wheels: WTB Scraper STP i40
Front Suspension: 120mm
Fork: RockShox Recon Silver RL 120mm
Crankset: RaceFace Aeffect
Drivetrain: SRAM NX 1x 11spd
Cockpit: Kona XC/BC bar and stem, Kona Race Light Log grips
Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic
Front Tire: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5×2.8″
Rear Tire: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5×2.8″
Saddle: Kona Trail

Get all the details on the Big Honzo and Big Honzo DL here.

Fat Biking on the Wild Atlantic Way with a Murder of Wo’s

Galway, Ireland Kona dealer Garry Davoren loves fat bikes, specifically our Kona Wo and he recently teamed up with the folks behind the Wild Atlantic Way tourism to produce this epic video. It captures the stunning Irish coastline mostly using drone footage and ensures that if Ireland was a place you were thinking about visiting, well you’ll be booking tickets by the end of the week. Read on to for the full blurb or for more info head to the Wild Atlantic way website here.

“One of the most fantastic features of the Wild Atlantic Way is the variety in topography you’ll encounter as you travel along its craggy nooks and crannies. Around each corner, a hugely diverse range of attractions unfurl from the lofty cliffs at Slieve League to the inimitable karst backdrop of The Burren to the sandy beaches and impressive landscapes of the Ring of Kerry. Among spectacular scenery, shining sunsets and glistening surf, the ground beneath you can change from beach to bog to mountain in moments.

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For these reasons, one of the best and most adventurous ways to traverse the Wild Atlantic Way is astride the top of two fat wheels. A fatbike is an off-road bicycle with over-sized tyres, typically 3.8 inches (97 mm) or larger with rims of 2.6 inches (66 mm) or wider. It is designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. The improved traction when riding through sandy or swampy ground is a result of a set of monster tires that allow a bike to roll where it’s never rolled before.WAW_Fatbike_Slieve_league

All this provides cyclists with a freedom to explore terrains that were never possible on mountain or trail bikes, opening up an array of hamlets, coves and hidden pockets. For example, the beautiful landscapes of Connemara contain a wealth of scenic trails begging to be explored. The Maumturk Mountains and the pewter-tinged peaks of the Twelve Bens are a trove of biking discovery. Further north, among some of the highest maritime crags in Europe, the Slieve League Sea Cliffs will exercise your eyes and legs as you climb towards spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay. For a Ring of Kerry cycle with a difference, go off-road to explore some of the glassy lakes, rolling hills and stony trails situated along the route. The video above shows just some of the views you can expect to see from the saddle.

If freedom, adrenaline and unique experiences sound like your thing, iFatbike offers fully maintained and serviced fatbikes for rental. Located in Moycullen, County Galway, the surrounding countryside provides a kaleidoscope of beach, bog and mountain. For a more detailed account of conquering wild Atlantic ways by fat bike, you can read iFatbike owner Garry Davoren and his friend Mark Peterson’s account of their adventures in north Donegal. Of course, for those with less of an ‘over, under, through’ mentality, there are plenty of alternative cycling options available all along the route.”