Libre

Time Travel Through the Olympic Peninsula

Words and Images by ambassador Lita Monaghan.

I recently embarked on a multi-day bike ride with an amazing group of women cyclists, as well as my husband, “The Eric,” who provided luxury SAG during the ride.  The route took us not only on a tour around the Olympic Peninsula but also took us back in time, sharing a bit of history of the various places we encountered along the way.  My customized 2019 Kona Libre turned time machine served as the perfect instrument for this little bit of time travel.

On Day 1, everyone met at my house, loaded up the van with our gear, and then we departed from Fircrest, WA.  Fun fact:  Fircrest, incorporated in 1925, was the last “dry” town in the state, which prohibited the sale of alcohol by the glass.  Fortunately, in the November 2015 election, voters overwhelmingly overturned the law. A lesser-known fun fact: The back of the van may or may not have been equipped with a wine refrigerator!

We stopped for lunch at Manchester State Park, a 111-acre camping park with 3,400 feet of saltwater shoreline on Rich Passage in Puget Sound.  The Eric provided a white linen vegetarian lunch buffet while we enjoyed beautiful views of the water. Fun fact: The picnic shelter was a former torpedo warehouse, built-in 1901, built to protect the shipyards at Bremerton.

We spent the first night of our ride in Union, WA, a small community that lies along the southern shore of Hood Canal, at an area known as “the Great Bend.”  We stayed at quaint cabins at the Robin Hood Village and Restaurant, built in 1934 by a Hollywood set designer that had worked on the classic Robin Hood film.  Fun fact:  Robin Hood’s star, Errol Flyn, was an early visitor of the Robin Hood Village and Restaurant.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Day 2 of riding was a nice, mostly flat spin, taking in the views as we rode along Hood Canal.  We stopped for lunch at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, an outdoor restaurant flanked by old-growth forest and the west shore of Hood Canal at the mouth of Lilliwaup Creek. Fun fact: Hama Hama started out as a logging company in the 1890s and is now a fifth-generation family-run shellfish farm.

At the conclusion of the ride on Day 2, we loaded up our bikes and drove to Port Angeles to spend the night.  The next morning, Day 3 of our ride, would come too soon as Hurricane Ridge was our next big challenge, destination: 5,420 feet.  Olympic National Park is nearly a million acres and hosts several distinct ecosystems from glacier-capped mountains to old-growth temperate rain forests to miles of coastline, and is home to Hurricane Ridge.  


Hurricane Ridge is named for its whipping gales and winds, which can exceed 70mph.  Fortunately, when we reached the top, it was calm and almost achingly scenic. Much of the Olympic National Park could be viewed from the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint, which we thoroughly enjoyed in between cheering each other on as folks arrived to the top at their own paces.  Fun fact: Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard opened in 1958 and is one of the few lift service ski areas located inside a U.S. national park.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Continuing the theme of natural diversity in Olympic National Park, we settled into Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort for an evening of relaxation and recuperation after the day’s long climb.  A dip in the hot springs, as well as the bone-chilling Sol Duc river, helped flush the lactic acids out of our tired legs. Lack of cell service and internet made for a perfect evening, reliving the day’s accomplishment under a perfect pitch-black sky dotted with millions of stars. Fun fact:  The name, Sol Duc, is a Native American term meaning “sparkling water” and its namesake, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, was originally built in 1912.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The ride for Day 4 was a “downhill” ride and a much welcome route after a few days of riding.  We rode along several parts of the Olympic Discovery Trail, a 130-mile trail comprised of road and more than half on multi-use path. The ten-mile stretch along Mary Clark Road engulfed us in thick, luscious green forest and nothing but the sounds of our cranks turning and laughter from the stories we shared.  The ODT It is a must-do!

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

We finally reached our destination at Rialto Beach, located on the Olympic Peninsula near the mouth of the Quillayute River.  The skies were blue and we were serenaded by the sounds of crashing waves. This lesser-known beach has breath-taking views of offshore islands known as sea stacks with plenty of seating on giant drift logs all along the rocky shoreline.  Fun fact: The beach was named after, Claude Alexander Conlin, a famous magician of the Rialto theater chain. Conlin had a home at the beach in the 1920s until it burned in the 1930s.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Planning, organizing, executing, and riding in a multi-day ride with a group of diverse women provided memories and bonds that will last a lifetime.  This trip flew by and now we can’t wait to do another multi-day ride again next year! My time machine awaits…

Dirty Kanza, Round 2

This past weekend saw the annual migration to Emporia, Kansas for the Dirty Kanza, often called the most hardcore gravel race on the planet. Kona Adventure team rider and 24-hour solo World Champion, Cory Wallace took his Libre to the event to try to better his 15th place from last year’s event. The event route is nothing short of extremely challenging and takes its toll on both riders and equipment over the course of the 200+ miles riders endure throughout the day.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Cory’s race report on his blog gets into the gritty details of the day.
“The first 25 miles of the race started out pretty neutral as we all eased into the long day ahead but soon we hit a gauntlet of rough and rutted out roads. Here the chaos began as riders started crashing and flatting all over the place. There was a lot of sketchy riding going, especially from those riders sporting aero bars, so I hopped on the wheel of Geoff Kabush as he had some smooth lines and generally finds a way to end up at the front of races. Unfortunately, he soon flatted the road-looking tire he was running, so I followed another guy, who crashed hard into a mud puddle, and then another guy bounced off me as he went down in a rut.  Eventually, we hit some smoother gravel roads again with the lead group having gone from around 500 to 50 riders.  From here we hit some rolling hills and by the time we rolled into the first feed zone at kilometer 100 we were down to just 17 riders in the lead group.  My pit crew was awesome with Marco from Velo Plus and Jordan from Kona getting me in and out of there in 30 seconds, just in time to catch back onto the group as it was charging and no one was waiting around.” 

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG Cory’s Support Crew

Eventually, Cory would meet his maker with a stubborn lock ring. “A few miles later the rear tire sprung a leak, plugging and Co’2ing it, I was back rolling again soon but it would give out a few miles later requiring another plug.  This plug would also eventually fail, and with just one C02 left it was time to put a tube in which is never a good thing.  From here the day unfolded into a total meltdown as the lock ring nut on the valve stem was pretty much welded on.  In 15 years of racing, I’ve never failed in removing a lock ring nut.  I have some tough fingers from tree planting so many years, but they were no match!  I used rocks and my multi-tool to try and loosen it but there was no way.  I have no idea why that thing would be on there so tight but given it was a new bike it was something I hadn’t even considered to check.  Thus I hopped back on my bike and started riding the rim.  It was shocking how few riders passed me as apparently our lead group had destroyed the rest of the field pretty good!”

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

What happened next is like something out of a book as he needed assistance from a good Samaritan. Cory eventually fixed his tire and was able to claw his way back to a 28th place after being in no man’s land without food and assistance. Cory has a very in-depth report of the race, which is quite entertaining over on his blog.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Gran Fondo Magazine Reviews the Libre and Rove ST.

Stefan Trocha of Gran Fondo Magazine spent ample time aboard the Libre and the Rove ST in Madeira and had positive reviews about both bikes.

The Kona Libre is the ideal choice for mountain bikers who want a bike with dropper-bars but don’t want to lose the familiar riding characteristics of a mountain bike.”

“The Rove LTD loves long distances, gravel tracks, and demanding terrain. Despite the steel frame and progressive geometry that goes beyond the usual gravel and racing standards, the handling is nimble and sporty. The harmony of the steel Reynolds tubing and stiff carbon fork provides great acceleration. This superb package offers countless possibilities as a commuting bike, touring companion and even a racey gravel-rig. The Rove LTD is an attractive option for those who want to do it all and also love embarking on adventures from time to time.”

To read the full review head on over to Gran Fond’s site.

Vojo Mag Reviews the Libre

Belgium’s Vjojo Mag just wrapped up their review of the Kona Libre and they were thrilled with the versatility of the bike.

“We waren aangenaam verrast door het veelzijdige en efficiënte karakter van de Kona Libre. Voor een gravelbike kan je er best ruig terrein mee aan. De geometrie zorgt voor een geslaagde mix aan comfort en speels rijgedrag. De Libre is snel en stabiel, houdt van acceleraties en klimt bijzonder goed. Wie wil kan er behoorlijk ruig terrein mee aan en op flowy trails kan je lekker speels tekeergaan. Voor de bikepackers zijn er onvoorstelbaar veel mogelijkheden om tassen en dergelijke te monteren. En de door de lichtinval veranderende kleuren maken er een ware eyecatcher van. Waar we minder opgetogen van zijn, is de bandenkeuze die voor ons gebruik wat grover mocht zijn en de lage plaatsing van het bottom bracket waardoor we te vaak met de crankarmen de grond raakten. Maar daarvoor heeft Kona de Libre DL in het gamma.”

“We were pleasantly surprised by the versatile and efficient nature of the Kona Libre. You can handle rough terrain with a gravel bike. The geometry ensures a successful mix of comfort and playful driving. The Libre is fast and stable, loves acceleration and climbs particularly well. Those who want to can do pretty rough terrain with it and on flowy trails, you can play nicely. For the bikepackers there are unimaginably many options for mounting bags and such. And the colors changing due to the light make it a real eye-catcher. What we are less pleased with is the choice of tires that may be a bit coarser for our use and the low placement of the bottom bracket, which means that we often hit the ground with the crank arms. But for that, Kona has the Libre DL in its range.”

To read the full review and check out their gorgeous photoset (that purple just never gets old) please head on over to VojoMag!

Find out more about the Libre here.

Kona Dream Builds: The Colour Purple, Deirdre’s Libre

Having a husband who obsesses over every aspect of every single bike build is always going to result in a cool bike and despite only subtle upgrades,  Deirdre’s cute little 46cm Libre is no exception. Deirdre has somewhat of a lighter touch than her husband and to that end, she has left the Ultegra drivetrain and brakes in place, but she’s swapped out the wheels and tires as well as tweaking a few of the key contact points on the bike.

How about those hoops? The wheels are Reynolds Assault ATR 650b wheels. The deep profile and stealthy appearance look so good paired with the Libre’s epic paint job.

The 650b carbon Assault ATR’s feature a 23mm internal width and the whole wheelset weighs in at 1615grams.

The wheelset is shod Panaracer’s hugely popular gum wall Gravelking SK’s

The Reynolds Allroads hub is CNC and engages every 10 degrees, that’s 36 points of engagement.

The cockpit has been swapped out for Easton’s EA70 AX bar and a Race Face stem.

Crank Brothers Stamp 3 pedals come in two platform sizes and given Deirdre’s smaller feet shes running the um… smaller ones…

The Thomson elite seatpost and Fizik Vesta seat round out the subtle build.

Madere en gravel (avec Kona) direction Porto Santo.

Veloroute has posted their second piece on riding the Libre in Madeira – specifically Porto Santo island.

“Pour notre deuxième jour en terre portugaise, nous avons mis le cap sur l’île Porto Santo. Porto Santo c’est le lieu de villégiature des habitants de l’Ile de Madère. Les lieux seraient calmes et les plages merveilleuses. A la manière de l’apôtre Thomas, nous sommes partis vérifier ces dires.”

You can check out the full story here.

 

Bike Rumor Post First Look at Libre DL

Bike Rumor‘s Zach Overholt is about to set off on a final bike packing trip to give their Libre test bike one last through shakedown before he posts his thoughts before Christmas.  So it seems like the perfect time to get reacquainted with the Libre via Bike Rumor’s original first look post from back in August.

You can check it out here and we’ll be sure to let you know when Zach posts his final impressions.

Bike Packing Reviews the Libre DL “Climbs extremely well, and feels exceptionally fast on gravel and pavement.”

“Nice geometry that hits a sweet spot between comfort and performance—surprisingly nimble, climbs extremely well, and feels exceptionally fast on gravel and pavement.” – Logan Watts, Bikepacking.com

Logan Watts at Backpacking.com has been putting a whole bunch of time on our new multi-surface and super capable light touring bike, the Libre DL. In typical BikePacking.com fashion, he has gone pretty darn deep with this review and tested the bike in multiple configurations and on varying terrain ranging from smooth gravel to full-blown MTB trails.

Check out their very thorough review here.

Cycling Weekly Rides Madeira

Cycling Weekly recently took part in our gravel trip to Madeira. They just released their report on what it’s like to ride around the small but incredibly hilly island. With amazing gravel and tarmac roads and for being well known for incredible singletrack for mountain biking, plus views that are straight off of a postcard, could Madeira be the ultimate bike destination? Read on to find out!

 

For more information on Madeira, check out Visit Maderia!

Dr Dew Does Madiera

Kona’s legendary Dr Dew recently skipped across the Atlantic with product manager Mark “Donny” Allison to help launch our line of drop bar/gravel bikes to the European media. The setting was the ever-so-scenic island of Madeira- the perfect terrain for Libres, Sutra LTDs, and Roves. We’ll be rolling out reviews from the press as they come in, but for now, please enjoy this recap of riding and local culture by the doctor, himself.

I was aware that I had a work assignment coming up in the second half of October. I would be attending a gravel launch in Madeira with Mark Allison, a.k.a. Donny, Kona’s most junior product manager. As I pondered his recent 21,000 vertical single day achievement, I began to think of the story of the old bull and the young bull only we wouldn’t be walking down the mountain. We met in Vancouver airport and three planes later landed at the Christiano Ronaldo airport in Madeira. Known as the most dangerous airport in Europe it was good to be on terra firma.  Once at the hotel we were warned of the impending hurricane forecast for the next day. I thought back to the plane landing somewhat relieved that our flight had been so smooth. Timing is everything.

The following morning, we awoke to a pleasant hurricane. The brunt of the storm was passing us to the north and we were looking at a promising day with light rain, wind and high seas. After breakfast, we were introduced to the guys from Madeira who would be our guides for the launch. The morning was spent assembling bikes. During the afternoon we weathered the storm and checked out one of the planned rides on the west side of the island. The following day was much the same spent detailing bikes in the morning and riding another trail in the afternoon. Trail guide Joe Sanchez would clear trails and Kona lensman Joonas Vinnari scoping the best photos opportunities. The riding reminded me of California meets Hawaii. It was going to be exciting to have a large group on the ride.

Day one of the launch started at breakfast with introductions. Some of the journalists arrived late and were a bit groggy. Everyone’s spirits were high. Madeira has had good riding reviews lately and everyone was anxious to get on the bikes. After bike assignment, we were shuttled off to the east side of the island. We arrived high in the hills above Machico and had a light rain to contend with. Twisting mountain roads gave way to a modest gravel climb. We ascended up the gravel road until we entered a single track that was part of an old aqueduct system. Banana trees, eucalyptus and sugarcane provided a cover from the wind and rain as we wound our way across the side of the mountain.  About a dozen mountain bikers shot us bewildered expressions as we passed them on our drop bar bikes. After maybe 24 kms of singletrack we came out into dry warm skies and continued onto more twisting roads traversing the mountainside. An exhilarating decent led us to a piazza with great views of the ocean. After a quick traditional lunch, the bikes were loaded into the van and it was off to the west side of the island. The west side had slightly denser vegetation and was the same area where the enduro trails are located. This ride was more open and led into some sweet single track. The single track turned into urban trails and finished with a stunning steep descent down to the ocean. At the beach, we hung at two little Rasta bars. Everyone relaxed and reflected on the day’s riding with beer and poncha. Poncha is Madeira’s traditional drink and can help to cure a cold among other things. One of our guides named Alex had his board shorts and convinced everyone to jump into the Atlantic. As we were bobbing in the Atlantic he gave us some advice. “Go where the current takes you,” and, “The waves come in sets of seven. Don’t panic.” After the swim it was back to the hotel for dinner. Everyone looked content after dinner and we retired soon after. Tomorrow would be an early start.

Donny-not working on his tan.

Day 2 started with a 6:30 breakfast. By 7:15 we were off on our bikes equipped with lights heading to the ferry terminal. A 1.5-hour ferry ride ensued as we headed to the island of Porto Santo. Northeast of Madeira this island makes for a great day trip. Porto Santo “Holy Harbour” has lots of sandy beaches that are sheltered. The stark landscape is a result of feral rabbits that were introduced back in the 1400’s. They decimated the island and left it sparse with vegetation. We set out and really experienced what these bikes are all about. Smooth twisting tarmac got us to the top of the island where we rode off into gravel singletrack that circled the island. Singletrack opened into “German Gravel” that was smooth and fast. The riding was excellent and the views unbelievable. It wasn’t until mid afternoon that we completed the ride down at the beach, exhausted. Lunch was relished. Soon after the lunch Donny, Joe, Henry and Joonas took the journalists to a small airport where Tourism Madeira had them booked on a hopper flight back to Madeira. I settled on a swim with Alex, Jim and Bart before boarding the ferry back with the bikes. At dinner everyone seemed to be glowing. Two good days of riding left everyone feeling content. Most of the journalists were talking about the next time that they would be back to ride. We chose to walk back to the hotel from the old town and enjoy the night air. A lot of journalists had early flights so there was no time for any shenanigans.

For our last day in Madeira we had been invited to play a round of golf at the Palheiro golf club. Despite this tempting offer I graciously declined so that I could spend the bulk of the day riding the bikes and exploring Funchal. Joe was kind enough to take some of the remaining journalists along with Donny and myself on a little tour. Tight cobbled roads, coffee bars, the fish market, old forts were just a few of the spots that we visited. It was like old world meets Hawaii as we finished watching the sun traverse the ocean. As we shared a beer and some beans the journalists were comparing the hours that they had between this launch and their next. I was reminded that this was their work and in fact it was our work as well.

I would like to thank everyone but especially Joe www.bikology.pt and tourism Madeira for their hospitality. Everyone else I hope to thank in person next time I am back in Madeira. Oh yeah there better be a next time.

Cycling Weekly Post Their Libre First Impressions “It’s one of the most versatile and well sorted gravel bikes we’ve ridden.”

“We were impressed by the Libre: it’s one of the most versatile and well-sorted gravel bikes we’ve ridden.”

Cycling Weekly have just posted up their first impressions of our new Libre multi-surface bike after returning from our European launch in Maderia. After their initial first few days on the bike, it seems they have nothing but praise. Head to their website here to check out the in-depth write up in full.

“The Libre proved a confident companion, handling the damp mud and dry gravel equally effectively.”

GRIT.CX Post Their 2019 Rove LTD First Impressions “The Rove feels planted without being boring or heavy”

Tom Hill from Grit.CX has just returned from a few days on the Portuguese island of Madeira where he was taking part in our intimate European Kona gravel launch. The launch focused on our new Libre line of multi-surface drop bar bikes, as well as our 2019 Roves and Sutras. He’s just posted part one of Grit’s three-part series covering the trip, as well as his first impressions of the 2019 Rove Ltd. Head over to Grit.CX to check out the story in full.

“The Rove feels planted without being boring or heavy, zingy without being energy sapping or overly flexible.”