The white saddle, pedals and bar tape of this bike made me think of “style” in the leisure-suited seventies. If you’re too young to recall the period, this link might help decode the post’s title.
Every now and then someone comes into the shop and says, “Argh! You guys are terrible. You’re always showing me sweet new stuff and it’s just too much for my defenses!” Let me assure you: the exact same thing happens to us all the time. In fact, it might even be more cruel: we must (test) ride and be around cool bikes every day. (I know. Sucks to be us.)
I’ve been grinding along on a single-speed cross bike for about a year now, and recently started thinking that I should have something with gears. My thought process was that a geared bike might allow me to consider gravel rides and races that would be just too much on the uni-gear.
Thus I began looking at available cross frames. Frames? Frames. During the bizarre period in which I was without a road bike, I kinda (completely) freaked out and purchased a complete bike and a drivetrain at the same time. Not the most logical process to which I have been part, but sometimes you have to roll with it.
For pure cross bikes, it’s tough to beat the Kona Jake series. There are several schools of thought regarding “proper” cyclocross geometry, but Kona seems to have gone its own wonderful way. They aren’t set up in the traditional style (short top tube, tall head tube, high bottom bracket), nor are they road bikes with fat tires. As far as carbon cross bikes go, I like the fact that the Jakes are a bit more compliant than some. There are those who believe cross bikes should be mega-stiff in the rear triangle. I’ve owned and enjoyed such bikes, yet I remember the fist time I rode a carbon Jake and thought, “Hmmmmm. Delicious.”
So I built this bike. It’s a Kona Super Jake frame, a Rival 22 drivetrain and a set of Stan’s Iron Cross wheels. Other semi-interesting bits are the TRP Spyre brakes, Fizik saddle, Ritchey bar, Time pedals. Slightly less than 18 lbs. as you see it. Pretty awesome.
The frame is deluxe. It’s very light, has a smooth ride and looks very sharp. The included fork is also full carbon and very light. Kona is very funny with the frame thing. If you buy a frame, you get a frame, not a frame and headset. Not a frame and a few doo-dads. You get a frame. A frame and fork yields two parts: frame, fork. They figure that if you’re going to build up a bike of your very own, you’ll likely be picky about the headset and seat post clamp. Are they right? I don’t know, but after building up bikes from Kona frames, at least I’m used to it. For the record, I’ve been using a Cane Creek 40 on a few bikes, and it seems like a very good blend of price and function.
Oh how I once resisted disk brakes. As a guy who owns/owned a pile of rim brake wheels, disk brakes looked like another monetary black hole. And so they are, but by now I’m used to it. Rim brake users know that the best braking happens about the first time you squeeze the lever. With disk brakes, particularly mechanical disks, braking performance actually improves over a period of time. Why do I bring this up? I dunno. PSA I guess.
Traditional mechanical disk brakes are of single piston design. This means that you pull the lever and one piston (typically on the outboard size of the bike) pushes against the brake rotor, which bends until it hits the (fixed) pad on the other side of the caliper, at which point braking starts to occur. It works, but it’s not 100% great.
For this bike I thought I’d try a dual piston brake, the TRP Spyre. In this design, pistons push from both sides of the caliper to squeeze the rotor in the middle. It’s a nice design because bending the rotor is not part of the equation, and expectations are pretty high. I went this route despite the fact that I’ve had terrific luck with Avid BB7s on other bikes. As of this writing, I don’t have enough miles on the bike to properly rate the braking quality. I hope to remedy this situation soon. Sorry for the letdown.
Twenty-two speed drivetrain! Who can’t get fired up about that? Luddites, that’s who. For the rest of us, the future looks bright. I put Rival 22 on this bike for the following reasons:
- I had it handy
- I was running out of money, fast
- I can be something of a crasher in CX and am not made out of dollar bills
- I had it handy
I have no beef with Shimano drivetrains, but I kinda like SRAM on my CX bikes. I treat my cross bikes rather unpleasantly and tend to think that SRAM stuff holds a tune a little longer. Is this bunk? Maybe, but such is my experience.
I’m not sure that I’m 100% on board with yaw front derailleurs. Sometimes they work great with minimal setup hassles. Sometimes there are significant setup hassles. On this bike it worked pretty great from the start. Rear shifting is typical SRAM: bang, bang, bang through the gears. Very nice.
If I have a weakness, it is for wheels. Drivetrains stir my tactile feelings. Frames are beautiful or not. However wheels make my little heart go pitter pat. You can make whatever wheels you want. You can go for super-light; you can go for super-durable. You can spend a fortune. You can spend considerably less. You can try to hit some idyllic middle ground, which is the place I typically seek.
I already own two sets of disk cross wheels: HED Ardennes +, which are almost unreal in their awesomeness, and Velocity A23s, which represent a very nice value. For this bike I thought I’d get something pretty cross oriented, but not as spendy as the HEDs. Thus I have the Stan’s Iron Cross which was developed to provide superior tubeless burp resistance, maximum strength and light weight. No, you can’t run ‘em at high pressure for road tubeless, but who cares? That’s not the point of this bike.
Kona loves cyclocross and so do I. I first rode this bike on the Barry Roubaix course with a good friend. As we rolled out I began kvetching about the fiscal questionability of building a carbon cross bike when I have a nice steel bike in the garage. “What are you talking about?” asked my friend. “This is your favorite thing.”
Yes. It is. And this promises to be an excellent companion.