Back to Basics

Words and photos by Kona Ambassador Colt Fetters.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “the best bike for bikepacking, is the bike you already have.” Typically said by an experienced bikepacker (or blogger) who just also happens to have the absolute latest and greatest the industry has to offer. Dynamo hubs, custom bikepacking bags, and titanium frames. To be fair, I’ve said the same thing. I’ve found myself writing it in blog posts for prominent websites, preaching it at workshops and conferences, then I realized that it’d been an awful long time since I myself had bikepacked with the basics.

Mountain biking for me started with rigid single speeds. We’d tear through the humid forests of Alabama, all the while claiming there was no need for silly contraptions like suspension and derailleurs. But eventually bicycle technology got the best of me and I started riding more complex bikes. 

I miss the simplicity. So my plan was to get back to the basics. I borrowed a steel frame 29er, the Kona Unit. Complete with flat pedals, mediocre brakes, a sorry saddle, and one lonely cog. I grabbed a couple specific bikepacking bags, a luxury no doubt, but not necessarily extravagant for most. In the spirit of minimalism, I forwent a stove and a tent, instead opting for cold food and a homemade Tyvek bivy sack. 

I set out with an ambitious plan to cover a loop of techy singletrack around the La Plata mountains not far from my home. Just about as soon as I left the car, dark clouds rolled overhead. The monsoon season was in full swing in SW Colorado and it surely wasn’t going to take pity on me. Just as soon as the showers started so did the lightning. Up and over 12,000’ foot passes I’d alternate between pushing and riding. Careful to time the passes between bouts of lighting. Descending from the final pass, the cold set in. Drenched to the bone I hopped into my DIY bivy. There I lay shivering for the next hour. 

‘How silly of me,’ I thought. In an effort to get back to the basics, I minimalized to a point where my margin for safety was too slim. After fighting with my pride, I realized there was nothing to prove. So I packed up. And in the sliver of daylight left, I pedaled 20 miles to the nearest town. I paid for a hostel, took a hot shower, and found the nearest brewery. To be honest, I felt like a failure. I’d set out to prove that bikepacking could be simple. However, due to my minimalist kit, I couldn’t stick out the storm. 

There I sat, drinking my beer when a local approached. “Is that your bike out there? Are you on a bike tour?” he asked? And so we struck up a conversation. He shared stories of his cross country travel via bike and expressed how he missed those times. Through this I realized, although my tour didn’t go as planned, it was far from a failure. Perhaps this was the simplest style after all. Riding through the mountains, staying in towns, and carrying even less than I set out with. 

The next morning I pedaled back the way I had come. Typically I opt for loops during bikepacking trips but again I reveled in the simplicity.  No longer were dark clouds hanging overhead. Thunder and lightning were replaced with blue skies and singing birds. Slowly, the rhythm of grinding uphill single-speed came back to me. No worries of a dirty drivetrain or of rogue rocks that could easily rip off a derailleur. After an hour of moving through the mountainous landscape, my mind grew restless. Usually it’d be about this time that I’d slip in an earbud and listen to music or a podcast but instead, I refrained. I was set on embracing the ethos of the trip. And again, I surprised myself. Soon the boredom passed and my thoughts wandered, my brain unencumbered by its regular artificial stimulation. 

Maybe my original plan didn’t quite work out however, I found what I was looking for. A solo cycling experience carrying only the bare minimum. 

Kona Dream Builds: Ted Lincoln’s Kona Big Unit

I should probably start this Dream Build post with an apology. You see, Ted submitted his very custom 2012 Big Unit months ago but then it got lost in my inbox. He sent me a friendly reminder last week and I’ve dug up the images and now you get to see Ted’s Big Unit Dream Build. Sorry Ted and to Kona Dream Build Fans that this extremely custom Kona Unit took so long to make it to you!

Ted’s 29er Big Unit is from 2012 and is made from Kona Scandium 69 butted tubing and is set up to run both 27.5″ plus and 29″ x 2.4″. He’s painted the bike himself in Black Chrome and he even made up the custom gold Kona Cog head badge just for this build.

The fork is a carbon Whiskey No.9 with 100mm spacing and 15mm thru-axle. The cockpit consists of a Chris King InSet 2, our in-house Kona XC/BC DLX 31.8mm x 80mm stem with a Niner Flat Top Carbon 720mm bar. Deity Enoki grips finish it off complete with OG OID lock-on end-caps.

The one geared Unit is propelled by a Shimano XTR M960 crankset from 2003 (the one with three different bolt patterns), Ted has “customized” it, cutting the big chainring tabs cut off, and then sanding and polishing them to a mirror finish. The chainring is a 32T Blackspire Super Pro (4 bolt x 102bcd).

The Gold KMC X9L Ti chain drives an 18T Surly cog. The seat post is a Thomson Elite setback with a Selle Italia Flite OG ’90s saddle and a King stainless steel bottle cage. Shimano XT RT86 6 Bolt Ice-Tech 160mm rotors and matching levers slow things down.

As pictured the bike is set up in its 27.5 guise. The rear wheel is built around a 135mm Chris King hub with Funbolts (the OG version with the removable disc rotor adaptor), the rim is a 322 hole DT Swiss FR 570 with three-cross lacing and features 33mm outer 29mm inner width.  Spokes are DT Swiss Competition with DT Swiss alloy nipples. They are set up tubeless with 3.5oz Orange sealant 1tbls gold glitter. The front wheel is a 24 hole Roval Traverse alloy also laced three-cross/radial lacing, to a 15mm Roval hub.  Both tires are set up with Schwalbe Nobby Nic’s 27.5″ x 2.8″, with Ted’s “customized” nob trimming on the rear.

When the bike is set up in 29″ (not pictured) the Wheel details are as follows.
Hubs: Shimano XT M8000 Centerlock , Rear XTR M988 Ti Freehub, 135mm, Halo XL Hex-Key skewer, Front 15mm thru-alex
Rims: Stan’s Arch 32 hole Three-cross lacing, 24.4mm outer 19mm inner width
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition, Dt Swiss alloy nipples
Tubeless Setup: Stan’s NoTubes rim tape, 3.5oz Stan’s sealant 1tlbs red glitter
Tires: WTB TrailBoss 29″ x 2.4″

Kona Dream Builds: Nik’s “It Takes a Village” Custom Kona Unit

When we spied the Nikolas’ finished Unit on Instagram boy oh boy we were excited. He’d custom painted it himself (the quality is off the charts) and he took one simplest bikes in our line up, and somehow time made the bike completely drool-worthy. Read on to find out exactly how this one-of-a-kind Unit came to fruition.

So the story on this build starts with working at Hesitation Point bike shop here in Nashville, Indiana. We had ordered in a couple Kona Units for the shop and I found I really wanted one bad, but alas, no funds… or so I thought! Little did I know that my lovely wife had ordered one to surprise me with, which she did! This bike was a big deal for me: it was a gift from my wife, my first Kona, my first 29er, my first full rigid, and my first single speed, and I was absolutely in love at first ride! I pretty much shelved all my other my bikes for the rest of the year and just rode my Unit! Way to much fun. I feel like Kona bikes have a flavor that is a perfect blend of new school tech progression and old school simple fun, and I think the Unit exemplifies the latter better than most bikes of its kind out there! I really dig Konas approach to riding bikes of all types.

So I’ve been painting for a couple of years now and this is my first “real” bike paint job. I stripped it down to metal, (which as an aside, the paint on this Unit was super tough, I have no idea what materials Kona used but kudos, it was good stuff and took quite a bit of time to strip!), then using a little known ford GT-40 that was rebadged as a mercury as a source of inspiration I started the paint work. This was a really fun project since I had 100% control over it. I tried really hard to make sure I had a cohesive build aesthetically at the end of it. I also wanted to take some weight off and it went from a little over 27 lbs stock to 24.2 lbs as is. I love Thomson stuff so that was a no brainer, Wolf Tooth, Shimano XT, Brooks, and Chris King round out the parts. Wheel builder extrordinaire Gonzo Diaz at the shop laced the Stans Flow MK3s to Hope Pro2 hubs and I put the blacked out sticker kits on them which are cool. I also wanted to try to use a plus-ish type tire so that’s where the 2.6 Rekons came in. There is a load of grip on this rig for the midwestern trails I ride. I also love the Whisky fork on this bike, it’s beautiful and super strong. At the end of the day I didn’t need to do anything with this bike since it was a ton of fun right out of the box but since I’m a sentimentalist I wasn’t ever going to get rid of this bike from my wife so it was a great candidate to paint. Speaking of my wife, in so many ways I wouldn’t have done this build without you Jordan, I am incredibly fortunate to have you! The crew at Hesitation Point bike shop, especially Tad Armstrong and Gonzo Diaz helped enormously with the parts, encouragement and the awesome wheels, and Kona was very helpful with questions about fonts and artwork. You guys rule!

A Shimano XT crankset and bottom bracket drives a KMC X10SL chain via a Wolftooth Powertrac Elliptical 32t chainring up front to a 20t Wolftooth cog out back. Crank Brothers Candy 7s, handle the contact points.

Shimano XT brakes and Shimano XT rotors 160mm slow things down. Hope skewers hold everything in tight.

Whisky’s no.9 carbon fork will accept up to a 29 x 3.0 tire (or a 27.5 x 3.25″).

Nikolas loves Thomson.

A Brooks Cambium c15 saddle is matted to the ever classic Thomson Elite Seatpost.

ESI silicon slim grips are mounted on a Thomson XC uncut handlebar which is in turn mounted to a Thomson Elite X4 50mm.

Stan’s NoTubes Flow MK3 rims are laced to Hope Pro 2 hubs, both a shod with Maxxis Rekon 29×2.6 tubeless tires.

It wouldn’t be complete without a Thomson Chris King headset.



The Kona Unit Moves into 2019

You are an artist, and the Unit is your canvas. Singlespeed singletrack machine? Yep. Loaded up for a quick overnight or an extended bikepacking trip? Yep. Add whatever drivetrain you like? Yep. Reynolds 520 cromoly gives that unmistakable smooth ride, and the simplicity of a single speed drivetrain keeps your options open. Because you want to do it your way, and we’re cool with that.

Kona Unit
Multiple personalities can be a great thing. The Reynolds Cromoly Unit has many faces and you get to decide which to use. Whether you need a bikepacking guru, or want a fully rigid single speed masher, or perhaps the ultimate steel 29er, the Unit makes the perfect companion. Spec’d with 27.5+ wheels but capable of running 29” wheels, the Unit comes with a full length freehub body in case you want to run gears. Whatever you can dream up, the Unit can do it all!





Kona Unit X
For those who love the idea of the Unit’s versatility but want something a bit more capable of climbing, we offer the Unit X. Sharing a Reynolds 520 Cromoly frame with the Unit, the Unit X brings a SRAM 11 speed drivetrain, SRAM Level T brakes, and standard 135QR dropouts in a dropper post-ready frame. The Unit X can also be built with an internal hub to keep moving parts out of the elements. With the ability to run either 27.5+ or 29” wheels, the Unit X is the perfect bike for any type of terrain.

Bike Packing Tip: Making Your Own Handlebar Harness

Bikepacking isn’t new, but it’s certainly growing in popularity. We’ve shared our love of bikepacking with our Not Too Far From Home Videos and the with the launch of our Remote eBike.  If you’ve been considering dabbling in bikepacking, one of the more creative aspects to consider is how you’re going to carry all of your gear. A while back Bicycle Times Magazine posted a really clever DIY handlebar harness for your gear. They used a Hei Hei Trail DL in their write-up, but we offer a ton of bikes that are awesome for bikepacking. Check out the link to learn howto make your very own handlebar harness with only a couple dollars and a few supplies.


Considering venturing out on a bikepacking adventure? Be sure to check out the Unit, Unit X, Rove LTD, Big Honzo, Remote, or a Sutra LTD.

Not Far from Home – Destination North

There’s a common saying that life is like a wave and our existence is essentially surfing whatever kind of water comes our way. Metaphorically there may not be a better way to justify the ebbs and flows of good and bad that everyone undoubtedly experiences. What sets certain people apart though, is their ability to ride the waves in their own, unique way. Erkki Punttila knows that the best way to reset is to embrace the tides and sail away into a different mindset.

The setting is the far north of Finland in the Lapland area. It’s north of the arctic circle. It’s dark and cold; exactly what you think northern Finland would be like in the depths of autumn, except it’s also stunningly beautiful. Erkki’s path has led him to sell most of his possessions and move his life onto a sailboat. The S/y Sanibonani was built in South Africa in 1978. She has a luxurious history of cruising the Caribbean and Mediterranean, but now she’s finding her home in the cold waters of Finland. “Living aboard a sailboat has been a great experience,” Erkki said. “Extremely limited storage space makes you focus on the stuff you really need. Enjoying a sunset with good coffee really beats having eight pairs of shoes you never wear and a metric ton of random stuff around you.”

Erkki’s preferred method of transportation while in port is his Unit X. “I had the Unit on deck ready for grocery runs and the occasional bike packing trip,” he said. “In the spring, the boat was still bound in the ice so I had to haul 20-liter diesel canisters for the heater with the bike, which was no problem with a sturdy front rack.” Erkki’s need for adventure runs deep and he recently took his Unit X to explore Finland’s largest national park, Lemmenjoki. Known for its gold digging claims, Lemmenjoki spans 2,850 square km, and is peppered with huts where travelers can spend the night out of the extreme cold.

Follow along with Erkki as he traverses Lemmenjoki National park during Finland’s centennial year alongside herds of reindeer and takes in the astonishing views from one of Finland’s greatest treasures. Sometimes the best way to find yourself is to get lost in the beauty of nature.

Photographer: Jaakko Posti

Le nuove Kona Unit a Unit X

Cos’è meglio di Uno?

Dal bikepacking al singletracking, su per salite vertiginose o giù per discese a rotta di collo, la Unit è una mountain bike assolutamente versatile costruita in acciaio Reynolds 520 cromoly. Nata come una trail bike singlespeed, nell’ultimo anno la Unit è diventata ancora più versatile grazie alle ruote 27.5+ . Protagonista del cortometraggio Not Far From Home che ha meritato il riconoscimento di Video Del Mese su Vimeo.

E ora abbiamo non uno ma due modelli di Unit per saziare il tuo desiderio di una adventure bike versatile in acciaio. Quest’anno il telaio Unit ha un passaggio cavi migliorato – lungo il tubo orizzontale e per i foderi posteriori – e un reggisella telescopico da 31,6mm con passaggio cavi interno. E sia la Unit che la Unit X hanno cerchi WTB Scraper i40 con copertoni WTB Ranger 27.5×2.8”. Passa a vederle dal tuo negoziante Kona di fiducia!


La Unit è stata per lungo tempo la nostra singletrack in acciaio Reynolds 520, adattabile agli utilizzi più disparati e resa ancora più versatile dall’aggiunta delle ruote da 27.5+. Per la prima volta vi proponiamo una Unit con un gruppo cambio – uno SRAM NX 1X11 per l’esattezza – e siamo davvero entusiasti delle opportunità che si aprono. Sia che tu stia cercando una bici per divertirti lungo i sentieri o che tu stia cercando un perfetto attrezzo da bikepacking, la Unit X è


Tu sei un artista, e la Unit è la tua tela. Una macchina da singletrack monomarcia?  Yeah! Equipaggiata per un giro notturno o per una impegnativa avventura bikepacking? Yeah! La possibilità di aggiungere qualsiasi gruppo ti piaccia? Yeah! L’acciaio Reynolds 520 assicura l’inconfondibile comfort nella pedalata, e la semplicità del gruppo single speed non pone limiti alle tue possibilità. Perché tu vuoi farlo come piace a te, e noi ne siamo entusiasti.



Presentamos la nueva Kona Unit y Unit X

Qué es mejor que uno?

Desde Bikepacking hasta Senderismo, con alternativas, o minimalista, la Unit es una versátil bici de montaña hecha en acero Reynolds 520. Desde su raíz como bici de sendero con una sola velocidad, la Unit se volvió aún mas versátil el año pasado al recibir ruedas 27,5”+ el año pasado, que fue cuando apareció en nuestro corto Not Far From Home, que fue premiado con el Vimeo Staff Pick.

Y ahora, no tenemos solo una, sino dos modelos Unit para saciar tus deseos por una bici de acero capaz de aventuras. Este año la Unit recibe una actualización en sus pasadas de cable, ahora por el tubo horizontal y luego por los tirantes, también hemos cambiado la tija por una d 31,6mm y hemos dejado todo dispuesto para montar una tija telescópica con cableado interior. Ambas Unit vienen de serie con neumáticos WTB Ranger 27,5×2,8” tubeless ready montados sobre llantas WTB Scraper i40. Anda a conocerlas donde tu revendedor mas cercano!


La Unit lleva tiempo como nuestra destructora de senderos en Reynolds 520, adaptable para una amplia variedad de tareas y ahora aún más versátil gracias a las ruedas 27,5+. Por primera vez estamos ofreciendo una Unit con cambios, específicamente con SRAM NX 1×11, y realmente nos emociona pensar en las oportunidades que se abren con esta configuración.  Ya sea como una vivaz y alegre bici de sendero, o como una bestia de carga para el bikepacking, la Unit X está lista para la acción.


Eres un artista, y la Unit es tu lienzo. Máquina de senderos? Si. Cargada para una salida con acampada? o una semana de bikepacking? oh si. Ponerle la transmisión que se te ocurra? si que si. El cromoly Reynolds 520 le confiere ese andar inconfundiblemente suave, y la simplicidad de la transmisión de una sola velocidad te hace mantener todas las opciones abiertas. Porque tu quieres hacerlo a tu manera, y porque a nosotros nos gusta eso.



Jetzt neu: das Kona Unit und Unit X

Was ist besser als eins?

Von Langstrecke zu Singletrack, ob voll ausgerüstet oder nur mit dem Wesentlichen versehen, das Unit ist ein vielseitiges, aus Reynolds 520 Cromoly geschmiedetes Mountainbike. Seit seinen Ursprüngen als Singlespeed-Trailbike wurde das Unit dank der Ausstattung mit 27″-Laufrädern im vergangenen Jahr noch vielseitiger – zu sehen in unseren Kurzfilm Not Far From Home, der als Vimeo Staff Pick ausgewählt wurde.

Und jetzt haben wir nicht nur ein, sondern zwei Unit-Modelle, um euren Wunsch nach einem leistungsstarken Stahl-Abenteuerrad zu erfüllen! Der diesjährige Rahmen des Unit erhält eine aktualisierte Schaltzugverlegung entlang des Oberrohrs und der Sattelstrebe, sowie eine 31,6 mm Sattelstütze mit interner Zugverlegung für Vario-Sattelstützen. Und sowohl das Unit als auch das Unit X fahren WTB Ranger TCS 27,5×2,8“ Tubeless-ready-Reifen auf WTB Scraper i40 Felgen. Teste sie bei deinem örtlichen Händler!


Das Unit war lange Zeit unser Reynolds 520 Singletrack-Schredder, vielseitig einsetzbar und mit 27,5+ Reifen noch variabler. Jetzt bringen wir zum ersten Mal ein Unit mit Schaltung raus – eine SRAM NX 1×11, um genau zu sein – und wir sind von den neuen Möglichkeiten, die es bietet, echt begeistert. Egal ob du ein verspieltes Trailbike suchst oder ein Bikepacking-Ross fürs Hinterland – das Unit X ist bereit fürs Abenteuer.


Du bist ein Künstler, und das Unit ist deine Leinwand. Eine Singlespeed-Maschine für den Singletrack? Jupp. Bepackt für einen schnellen Overnighter oder einen ausgedehnten Bikepacking-Trip? Jupp. Und man kann sich die Schaltung selbst aussuchen? Jupp. Der Reynolds 520 CroMoly-Rahmen sorgt für das unverkennbar geschmeidige Fahrgefühl, und die einfache Technik des Singlespeed-Antriebs lässt dir alle Optionen. Weil du es so machen willst, wie es dir gefällt – und für uns ist das okay.



Introducing the New Kona Unit and Unit X

With new Kona models arriving in your local bike shop over the next couple of weeks, we’re doing a series of posts here on the Cog to introduce the new bikes. Keep an eye here all week for rad new bikes and updates to current models. Next up: the singlespeed Unit and the new Unit X…

What’s Better Than One?

From bikepacking to singletracking, geared up or stripped down, the Unit is a versatile mountain bike made from Reynolds 520 cromoly. From its roots as a singlespeed trail bike, the Unit became even more versatile with the addition of 27.5+ wheels last year, featuring in our short film Not Far From Home – which was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick.

And now, we have not one, but two Unit models to satiate your desire for a capable steel adventure bike! This year’s Unit frame gets updated shift cable routing – along the top tube and down the seat stay – and a 31.6mm seat post with internal dropper post routing. And both the Unit and Unit X sport tubeless-ready 27.5×2.8″ WTB Ranger tires on WTB Scraper i40 rims. Check them out at your local shop!


The Unit has long been our Reynolds 520 singletrack shredder, adaptable to a wide variety of purposes and only made more versatile with the addition of 27.5+ wheels. For the first time we’re offering a Unit with gears – a SRAM NX 1×11, to be specific – and we’re truly excited about the opportunities this opens up. Whether you’re looking for a fun-loving trail bike or a backcountry bikepacking rig, the Unit X is ready for action.


You are an artist, and the Unit is your canvas. Singlespeed singletrack machine? Yep. Loaded up for a quick overnight or an extended bikepacking trip? Yep. Add whatever drivetrain you like? Yep. Reynolds 520 cromoly gives that unmistakable smooth ride, and the simplicity of a single speed drivetrain keeps your options open. Because you want to do it your way, and we’re cool with that.


Keep an eye here on the Cog throughout this week for more new Kona models!

Winter Bikepacking with the Kona Sutra LTD and Unit

Words and photos by Morgan Taylor.

This past weekend being a long weekend here in BC, myself and some friends decided it would be a good idea to head out for our first overnight of the year. With overnight temperatures near freezing it was sure to be a cold wake up call, but the weather forecast was for sunny days, and we headed out with good spirits to meander the Sunshine Coast and hang out with good people.

I’ve recently put together a Sutra LTD, which happens to be the perfect size for my sweet polka dot Porcelain Rocket frame bag. Add the matching seat pack, a front rack with Monkey Wrench Cycles basket bag, my trusty Ortlieb panniers, and a set of full fenders, and the Sutra is quite the all-weather hauler!


My friend Pat was stoked to get out for the first fully loaded trip on his new bike, which happens to be the only European-model Unit on this side of the Atlantic. He’s outfitting the powder blue Unit for an extended trip on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route this summer, with an 11-speed drivetrain on the way and a dialed bikepacking setup coming together piece by piece.


To see the rest of the portraits from this set, head over to The Radavist.