Kona Sutra 650b : a Dank Build

2017 Kona Sutra 650b Conversion

2017 Kona Sutra 650b Conversion

This bike is now featured on Kona Cog Dream Builds!

Image gallery below at end of article.

There’s absolutely no reason to convert a perfectly good touring and adventure bike like the Kona Sutra to something other than what it is. No bicycle is perfect. People have different needs and wants. This bike happened to be a great commuter and touring bike. But I wanted something more. It is a great platform for upgrading. There wasn’t anything preventing me from doing it other than the expense. So over the course of a year, I waited: watching and comparing prices, gathering, mooching, convincing my SO of the need, nay, the destiny of my dear Kona. It must be rebuilt! I ended up with the dankest of dream builds.

I have had this particular Sutra since it debuted in early 2017. I was drawn to the metallic flake paint job and easy-going geometry. When commuting to work, I found it to be extremely comfortable. Out on the trail, it handled very well, making it not only an excellent commuter but a hardy adventure bike. With all the new categories of road/gravel/adventure bikes out there, the Sutra is like a do-it-most bike that seems perfect, albeit just a little too heavy. But that is Kona for you. Their frames are built very well. Steel, though. I will deal with the extra weight if I can have the durability!

Always on a quest to build my a better bike, stock off-the-shelf rides usually don’t last too long in my household. Even though this bike performs really, really well, I wanted to do a few things to it that required some major surgery. I agree that the bike is good the way it is, however, there is always room for improvement.

The Sutra standard (not the LTD) comes with a Shimano Deore mountain triple crankset. My relationships with the many front derailleurs in my life have been awful. Always adjusting, rejecting the new technology like SRAM Yaw and that tooth-pulling new Ultegra FD-8000 derailleur that Shimano dropped on us last year. I decided that the best place to start my Sutra upgrade was to convert the drivetrain to a 1x, and kill the FD with fire (seriously, I think i tossed in into a friends BBQ). I already had a Shimano XT M8000 crankset handy, but I wanted more teeth. I purchased a Wolftooth Components DropStop 38T chainring. Believe it or not, this part of the conversion was the easiest part.

Sutra9153

Shimano XT M8000 crankset with Wolftooth 38T DropStop chainring.

The harder part was getting the rear derailleur and cassette sussed out. I really like the way the Shimano XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur felt. For me, Shimano has always has had the smoother-shifting feel. Believe me, I realize that something like SRAM Force 1 would have been easier. But to build the dankest, one must be a bit of a nonconformist. Problem was, in order to use the XTR with the Ultegra shifters and the 11-42 cassette, I needed some Batman-style gadgets.

Wolftooth Components, being as clever as they are, had two nifty devices that I could use. The Tanpan pull-adjuster for the Ultegra-to-XTR cable path, and the Goatlink 11 which would allow the normally 11-40 XTR compatible with 11-42. Though it sounds like overkill, it actually works really well. The shifting is smooth and accurate. When routing the inner cable through the Tanpan, it must be really tightly pulled through the pulleys and the cable bolt. Otherwise, the barrel adjusters will have too much slack to tighten the action.

2017 Kona Sutra 650b XTR Goatlink Tanpan detail 2

2017 Kona Sutra 650b XTR, Goatlink, and Tanpan detail

I also wanted wider tires and stiffer wheels. So, again, doing something completely unnecessary, I decided to build some 650b wheels. Both are 32 spokes, cross three, laced to WTB Asym i29 rims. I also put a DT Swiss 350 rear hub in the back wheel.

The handling is pretty nice. Even with the WTB Byway 650×47 tires, the effective diameter is still just short of what they were with the 700s. I need to get smaller cranks. Other than that, the bike handles like a dream. The stiffer wheel gives a great response on the road and the dirt. The wider tire certainly allows for better cornering and comfort as well.

Because I am always upgrading, eventually I want to get some Paul Components Klamper brakes and a new headset (suggestions welcome). I already have some Simworks Honjo brass Turtle 58 fenders that I need to tweak to fit as well. But that is for later. I hope you enjoyed checking out my dank bike. Build list, image gallery and comments below.

Build list (other than standard equipment):

Quick Review: 2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

Gallery below!

I am slowly getting to like Specialized. I mean, if you’re going to purchase a crabon bike to shed grams and pretend like you’re on a team, then Specialized, I think, is one of the better big-company bike companies out there.  I am not doing this review here to claim that Specialized is the best. Far from it. I am merely giving you a run-down of what I would choose if I were in the market for a crabon endurance bike. That said:

The 2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

Since I have made the conscious choice not to race anymore, I have resigned myself to near-Fred status. Yes. Expensive bicycles capture my attention. The only differences between me and an actual Fred is that I cannot afford to purchase the above-pictured bike and I possess the intellectual capacity to realize that I don’t really need it. I can, however, borrow one for a whiles to assess its potential for actual Freds who can afford one.

The extremely long and exhaustive name of the Roubaix Comp Disc gives away its most noticeable attribute: the Shimano 785 hydraulic road disc brakes. Finally,  a really heavy person (I don’t discriminate based on gender, but some of you dudes are huge) can ride a really light crabon bike and be able to stop on a dime. And though I am pushing a hefty 160 pounds, I found the brakes to be extremely responsive and quick to get used to. And when I say “get used to” I mean it takes a couple of stops at a slower speed to master not falling down (the bike is really light and the stoppage is immediate). Not only that, but the calipers have fins on them for those people who love good heat dissipation.

Moving on to the drivetrain, I found the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed setup quite nice. No Di2 needed here (especially at this price point). The Ultegra shift levers are quite responsive and almost Fred-proof. The PraxisWorks 50/34 compact-double chainrings were a nice addition and a good way for Specialized to keep the build cost down. Not to mention, it’s kind of cool having a crankset named after an exploded Klingon moon. A full Ultegra drivetrain is not necessary unless you are looking to brag about having a crankset that is overly expensive. And I wouldn’t bother bragging about anything less than Dura Ace or SRAM Red anyway. My only gripe is that I would rather have an external bottom bracket rather than the press-fit BB30 that comes on this frame. I can see lots of loosening and noise in the future especially if a climber buys this bike.

Speaking of climbing: there is a noticeable frame flex when climbing. Out of the saddle, it started to feel a little noodly on the long climbs we have around here.

The geometry is awesome. I am 5′ 10″ and I tested the 54cm. I felt relaxed and not too aero. For a long-distance ride, I think this bike would be perfect. I also had my reservations about the effectiveness of the Zertz inserts on the fork, seat stays and seat post However, they proved to be quite effective. The bike certainly lived up to its cobblestone-inspired name as it did a really great job of dampening vibration. The bike does glide, people.

For the 54cm  model, the 72-degree headtube angle was just slack enough to give me a comfortable ride. The steering was extremely responsive and smooth. At slower speeds (read: in a footdown contest), it was great. However, I don’t think I will be playing bike polo with it anytime soon. The wheels are another story. The Axis wheels are good, but I found them to be a little heavy to match with this frame. If I were suffering from chronic Fredness, I would definitely upgrade to a set of Mavic Kysirium SLS. But if you’re actually looking at the price of this bike, those would set you back at least another six large on a swap with your LBS, bringing this beast to over four grand.

Conclusion

If you have enough cabbage and want an effective crabon endurance ride, I would recommend, nay, advocate for the Specialized Roubaix Comp Disc.  It’s just at the bottom end of Fredness while still being pretty awesome. In fact, I would say that the only thing holding this thing back from complete Fredability is the fact that it doesn’t say “S-Works” on the downtube. And, like all of the SL4 road bikes that Specialized puts out, it makes a great platform for future upgrades.

*End of line*

 

 

 

Light Action: A Lesson in Patience

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter on Paul Components Thumbie

If you’ve read any of my posts you would probably infer that I hold bicycles pretty high in the hierarchy of super important things that humans have invented. Indeed, the bicycle as we know it evolved from a long history of rich people’s toys and false starts. I find it rather unfortunate that the modern bicycle finally began to be taken seriously about the same time cars and airplanes were invented. Indeed, if horses didn’t poop so much and weren’t so damn skittish, maybe we wouldn’t have bothered with the automobile. Imagine a world where people went places by bicycles and horses. Nope. Too easy. Humans would rather go to great expense to suck oil out of the ground to make a vehicle so energy inefficient that the only plus side is that it makes it easier for teenagers to make out in private.

So what does this have to do with the picture above? It’s to illustrate my point at how awesome bikes are. There’s beauty in simplicity and patience. How such dysfunctional race of beings that infest a planet they don’t care about can make such a simple machine that, despite its drawbacks (it’s not as fast as a car) can get us where we need to go just blows my mind. Seriously: we can ride a bike anywhere given enough time. Not only that, bicycles have a low cost of entry (pretty much anyone can afford one), they are cheaper to fuel (burritos give the best milage per unit), and they can be stunning examples of simplistic beauty. No matter what kind of bike you ride, they are all beautiful not only because some can be aesthetically so. But even the cheapest POS from REI still does the same thing as a Rivendell or S-Works Tarmac Disc…it has two wheels and moves you forward. You need at least one leg and a lot of patience to operate one.

<nonconformist_view>
         Patience, Dear Reader, is something that cars have destroyed — a hundred years ago. They have literally sucked it out of the earth as if they drank our milkshake.
</nonconformist_view>

I’m not saying that we should all hate the automobile. I just think that, deep down inside, they are ugly and dirty.

End of line.

Cyclocross Films: For the Love of Mud

I am going to try something new here. Usually I don’t feature work that is not my own, but I just saw the teaser for a new cyclocross video and I am so excited about it. It is called For the Love of Mud by Benedict Campbell.

I am excited about it for two reasons: First, because it is about cyclocross, a sport that I have been following for a while now. But because there are so few ways to explain it to people. I think this film, will do that. Second, the videography is amazing. The feel of the visuals and the music mixed in with the pain of the riders just gives me goosebumps.

When the full film drops, I will get back to you all here for a review.

Steel is Real: Stinner Frameworks Open House

Stinner Frame Works Open House

Stinner Frame Works Open House

Free beer? Costco pizza? Yes please.

I knew it was coming but I’d somehow thought that I was busy Saturday night. It wasn’t until towards closing the shop at the end of the day that I’d realized a lot of the other Velo Pro bros were heading to Stinner Frameworks open house out by the airport. I felt like kind of a douce driving my car out to a bike event so close to home. But it was night time and F didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. I made it clear that we couldn’t miss it, so after we closed up the shop, I rode home and F and I got in the car and headed out to far Goleta.

I first ran into Aaron Stinner a few years back at the 2nd Annual San Diego Custom Bicycle Show in 2011. It was in a huge conference hall in downtown San Diego and there weren’t quite enough booths to fill the space. So it looked disappointing almost from the outset. There were, however, some pretty awesome booths. Serotta, Soulcraft, and Velo Cult (when they were still  in San Diego) were all repping their skills. After taking loads of images and trying to keep my then girlfriend from getting bored, I decided that I needed a beer or two. On the way out, I noticed Stinner’s booth and (much to the chagrin of my GF) went to go check out his stuff. He had a couple of frames on display and his booth was unimpressive by trade show standards. However, his steel frames were sitting there, easily competing with everyone else’s. The workmanship was phenomenal. I noticed that there were no lugs (pretty much every custom frame in there had lugs). While nice, lugs are super time consuming and have a significant effect on the cost of the frame. In my opinion, I can take them or leave them. Seeing his frames, I decided that I could leave them.

I seriously doubt that he remembers, but I chatted with him for about five minutes. He’s a great guy. I plan someday to get a custom frame made for myself. Now that he is in my neck of the woods, having something local would be epic. Looking at what he offers in the way of custom frames, the whole range is there: mountain, road, cyclocross and custom projects are all offered. You can even design your own paint scheme and graphics. The shops workflow and layout looks solid. The current projects on display were out of this world. If you’re in the market for Santa Barbara steel, look him up. It’s a true small shop with a friendly staff. Check out the gallery below for more pics.

Grass Racer Reincarnate

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

I have always wanted a nice townie to ride around the city. Santa Barbara is not super hilly and we have a lot of beach here. But I wouldn’t be caught dead on a beach cruiser nowadays as they can be a bit of a a bummer to ride anywhere.So a while ago I bought this double top tube bicycle frame online. It is a Mercier Kilo track frame but with a double top tube reminiscent of an old grass track racer. I think having a double top tube made the bike more rigid. In any case, the original paint job and component spec for the Kilo OS is not great, so I stripped the paint and clear powdercoated it. Instead of the crap wheels and components that come on most track bikes, I speced a build kit that would rival…nay, put all the other townie bike companies out there to shame. I envisioned something completely different while building it up from the frame. This isn’t quite Rivendell quality. But it turned out quite nicely.

First things to add were the Velocity A23 rims and Shimano Alfine 8 hub. I had the folks over at J&B build them for me through the bike shop. They are fantastic wheels. Combine those with Challenge Limus 33 Cyclocross tires and an IRD Defiant Track crankset and I was in business. The final touches came when I was working out the geometry of the frame. The 56cm frame fit me okay with the standover height, but the top tubes are almost horizontal so they are pretty long. Drops, although cool and traditional for a grass racer just wouldn’t do. I decided to make this a more upright and sophisticated ride. So on went some Ahearne MAP bars and a Paul Components Flatbed basket. I tightened everything up with a Chris King GripNut headset.

So to rival a Linus or a Public or a Civilian or the like, this is my attempt at making the perfect townie bike. Before you say anything, I know the tires are too knobby for the street. So I will take the demerit on that. But people are throwing kale and carrots directly into my basket at the Farmer’s Market. How badass is that? See the gallery below.

Quick Review: The 2015 Kona Humuhumu

Yours truly on the Red 20-inch Kona Humuhumu

Sexy chicken leg. Yours truly on the Red 20-inch Kona Humuhumu.

Its not often that a bike company will bring an older model back to its original glory simply because you wished it so. I don’t normally subscribe to faith or the belief that positive thoughts always have a physical manifestation…but in this case, maybe I should actually read that copy of The Secret my mom gave five years ago. I wonder what else I can come up with? Anyway, read below and check out the gallery.

Up for review today is the 2015 Kona Humuhumu. A bike that was once thought lost and given up on. A bike that started out awesome and had a good run with a longer moniker, the Humuhumunukunukuapu’a. It was awesome…chromoly all over the place! That is, until the brain trust over at Kona R and D decided to replace it with the Humu…a bastard aluminum homunculus of the original that looked like it belonged in the back alley of a favella grog n’ puke. But I digress. As mentioned above, I was wishing in the back of my mind that Kona would get their shit together. They did. Well…almost. Lemme ‘splain:

The 2015 Kona Humuhumu, a partial revision of the original klunker-inspired piece of awesomeness that was the original (don’t make me type out the name again), has almost already sold out of its first production run. Chromoly butted frame and converted to a 29’er (with a 700c x 19 WTB disc wheelset), the new incarnation is not quite the phoenix I wished it to be, but it is a damn nice piece of metal and rubber. Seeing that the trend for cruisers seems to be foregoing the traditional in favor of the accommodating-giant-dude variety, it’s no surprise that Kona converted this machine to a 29er. The tire variety alone is enough to please any of the hardcore customizers. I’m sure I will be seeing this thing with 700 x 23 tires on it rolling down the street soon. The disc brakes and modern rear dropout configuration add a nice feeling of adaptability and stability. And who can resist the new klunker crossbar handlebars? Well played, Kona. Well played. But I have some questions for you:

<rant>Why would you stop so short, K-dog? I thought we had something, you and I. I thought we had a telepathic connection. I thought that if the bike ever did unfuck itself, it would be perfect. I wanted you and I to go all the way! But alas, that is not reality. Gone is the original Cook Brothers Racing-inspired curved top tube of the past. And don’t even get me started on the saddle: it looks like you all just threw in a bunch of reject Dew saddles that you had laying around, it almost as laughable as the Wellgo Christmas-stocking gift pedals you graced this bike with. And the buffalo logo on the seat tube? Did someone let a hipster slip into the graphics department in the middle of the night? Am I supposed to imagine riding this thing around the campsite whilst drinking craft-brewed IPA from a mason jar in the latest Wes Anderson film?</rant>

That’s all I got against this thing, really. Even with the few things that I dislike about it, I want it. Badly. Not because of the nostalgia factor, but because it looks awesome, it rides very well and I look awesome riding it. WOB recommendation: Buy it. Customize the shit out of it and kill some street. Full specs here. Gallery below. Check it out.

2014 Annual Fiesta Cruiser Run

2014 Santa Barbara Fiesta Cruiser Run

Bicycles are family here in SB. A common thread.

The first Sunday of August is usually sort of a relief to locals. It marks the last day of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. A 90-year-old celebration of Spanish and Mexican tradition and culture here in Santa Barbara. It’s a great draw for tourists to spend their money and college kids to get drunk. Most of the locals tend to steer clear, only taking advantage of the food stalls and the barbecue opportunities. May of us Santa Barbarians like to call it Old Spanish Days Fiasco. Despite pretty notable things like featuring the largest equestrian parade in the United States, most locals are left wondering what the hell it is all for. Sure, we get to learn who Saint Barbara actually was and watch white people dress up like Mexicans for a day. It’s a big five-day city-wide party. But we are still left with millions of pieces of confetti lining the gutters and the subtle effluvia of horse shit.

It’s no wonder that many of the locals have created their own event to look forward to. The annual Fiesta Cruiser Run, now in its 32nd year, is an unsanctioned (illegal) ride that started out with a few cruiser/klunker riders riding north from Santa Barbara to Goleta on the beach. It soon evolved into a massive cluster of thousdands of riders taking over the streets, hitting liquor stores and beach parks along the way. Indeed, it has become so popular, that the police have shut down many of the rest-stop festivities. But that doesn’t stop the majority of Santa Barbara true bloods planning all year long and building bikes especially for the ride. The preferred conveyance is the straight-bar cruiser decked out in BMX/klunker livery. Chris King headsets and SE Racing Landing Gear forks are ever present. But the best ones are the restored original Mongooses, Gary Littlejohns and Cook Brothers bikes. It is a veritable history lesson in single-speed legacies.

May the (SRAM) Force Be with You

It’s the simple things in life that keep us happy. For me, it was when my good friend Tyler was adjusting the shifting on the SRAM Force rear derailleur after that long San Diego ride. Like I said. It’s the simple things.

Stephen and the Titanium Express

Rides a Moots Vamoots CR with Campy Super Record 11.

Rides a Moots Vamoots CR with Campy Super Record 11.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA

Moots bicycles are not super popular in Santa Barbara. I expect this is because, even though these things have a significant dollar value attached to them, many Santa Barbarians would rather stick to the bigger name brands. When most people of my economic status think of this bike, I think of a Fred who forks out a huge wad of cabbage for something he really doesn’t need. He would then get kitted out in his finest spandex emblazoned with the latest team to achieve a victory in the most recent big race (Omega Pharma Quick Step from Paris-Roubaix). Setting out to do a hard 20 miles of flat, sun-drenched coastline ride, he makes sure to choose a good route where he is sure to attract the attention of other Freds and hopefully, the Lycra Mafia with his expensive steed and brilliant team (which has no idea who he is) colors. But this is not the case with Stephen. Stephen is from Portland, Oregon. Portland, or PDX if you’re cool, is where riders are made of tougher stuff than us California folk. Most of us tend to be fair-weather riders only. It rains nine months out of the year in Portland. The weather sucks yet it is home to a huge cycling culture. Even Chris King, who used to have his workshop right below our little bike shop here in SB, moved there and now employs something like 80 people. People in Portland tend to know their bikes…well.

The bike that Stephen rides is a Moots Vamoots CR. For those of you who don’t know, Moots is all about handmade titanium frames. This being the first time (right?) that I have seen a Campagnolo Super Record 11 gruppo on a bike, I grabbed my camera so fast I almost broke the lens from the sheer G-forces I placed on it moving it up to my eye. This bike is pretty cool, and you can tell Stephen rides the shit out of this thing. It is not sparkling clean. It is a well-used and well-cared-for bicycle. That makes it all the more awesome. Please check out the gallery below for some rad closeups of this fine conveyance.