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Posts Tagged ‘kona’

Show Report: The Bike Place

Friday, January 27th, 2012 by Mick Allan

It was in Harrogate, just up the road. Bike shows are one of my favourite things (like flying on an airliner, no matter how many times I do it the wonder never leaves me) and so I couldn’t very well pass it up. It’s a small show and trade only. The UK cycle trade show scene is in a constant state of flux. There used to be just one or two giant shows every year, London and perhaps one ‘oop North’. But over the years many of the major brands left the circuit to start their own. It made sense for them, if a trade show is for generating trade there are a number of advantages to having your own dedicated show. Although this strategy wasn’t very popular with dealers – as a retailer the more brands you carry the more individual dealer days you have to attend. Companies like Marin and Raleigh were amongst the first to defect, and it worked very well for them, but for smaller companies who sell fewer bikes such an event just isn’t cost effective. The big shows still exist – doing very well in spite of the absence of Marin, Raleigh and the rest – but they are expensive. Too expensive for many of the micro companies. And with the public demand for more ‘public days’ adding costs – even more so.

Which is where The Bike Place comes in. They’ve spotted a gap in the Bicycle Trade Show market and rushed in to fill it. What they’ve done is create an inexpensive trade-only show, bringing together a group of smaller, often niche suppliers to create a classy event without the crowds and freneticism. If that’s even a word.

Not expecting to find anything particularly new I went to meet up with one or two people who represent companies who are presenting their bikes in the Cyclorama book. But I did find one or two interesting bikes and other doodads which I hadn’t seen before.

This morning, in addition to the joy of waking up to discover that the car had been hit by a bus in the street, I discovered that my big camera is toast. Time for a new one, but in the meantime I had to resort to the happy snapper so aologies for the quality. And apologies also for the horrid carpet which appears in some of the images. As ever, right click and ‘view image’ to see it biggered up.

Sanderson Solo

Sanderson Solo

Sanderson bikes, steel, UK centric hartails. Very nice and earning a cult following.

Electra Flashback
Electra ‘Flashback’ Ticino

When I started in the industry this kind of bike was out-moded and behind the times. My how things have changed. I certainly like it, and there are several companies doing similar things, Nirve and Trek included. But will people buy it/them? I certainly hope so. We shall see.

Electra

Transition

Santa CruzHow can something so hardcore look so lithe?

Isaac TT frame

Niner

Swoop.

KonaThere are only one or two places in the UK where a full-blown DH bike makes any sense. Our mountains just aren’t mountaneous enough. So say hello to a much more sensible weekend weapon, the Kona Entourage, a full blown DH bike in all but travel -170mm is all this needs to do its thing. Proving that it’s not about how much you’ve got, it’s the way that you use it..

Inspired

Danny’s own trials brand. Note thru-axle front hub. Nice.

SabbathThis thing has so much work in it. Very impressive indeed, and though it looks very nice this isn’t a stylig excercise, each and every tube junction is the way it is for a reason. More on this later – fingers crossed…

Magura Tri brake

Colony BMX

Purple anodising never left my heart.

Sorry I didn’t get pics of any Kogas which were there in force, and KCNC’s UK importer appear to be stocking the full range now – incredible stuff. But you’ll just have to take my word for it…

Anyway. Product of the show was the nifty Colony adjustable threadless headset spacer. More of which in a future post. Thought of the show? People are still spending big money buying high end bikes.

The Really Useful Bike project.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Mick Allan

Thank you mountain bike, you made cycling sexy again and got people pedaling. But the time has come for the next big thing in the cycling world.

The Useful Bike.

Regular readers will have already encountered my Africa Bike – first pictured on these pages wearing its winter outfit. The nice folks at Kona UK gave it to me as a thank-you for contributing to the design of the Smoke. Initially I just wanted it to function as a city bike – for commuting or trips to the shops – but as I clocked up the miles it I came to realise that it had the potential to be more than just a city bike.

Africa-ca-ca-ca

It came out of the box as a heavy one speed and, as I’ve never been able to leave a bicycle unmolested, it wasn’t long before I set about the task of reducing its kerbweight. Replacement of its OE heavy steel racks, basket,  bars, stem and seat-post with lightweight aluminum parts took pounds off it. Removing the original (O-M-G heavy) thorn-proof tubes was the next upgrade and a move to 1.4 high pressure street tyres completed stage one of the transformation from a sluggish rhino to a speedy antelope. We don’t have many hills here in York but we do have wind and the one speed coaster was soon swapped out for a SRAM Torpedo 3 speed coaster hub which I had laced onto a robust Mavic 321 rim. A used Profile Racing BMX chain-ring replaced the stock pressed steel one, added a bit of old-skool-BMX shabby bling and shaved some more rotating weight.

An adjustable stem has allowed me to fine tune my position – one of those things you can’t truly appreciate until you use one.

The big surprise was that deep down under all that cheap Chinese componentry lurks a high quality tig-welded chromoly steel frame. It’ll never be the fastest bike on the road but it’s certainly no slow-coach. What I ended up with after all that work is a (relatively) light bike which has a commanding riding position, is stable and easy to ride, is simple to maintain (with only two control cables) and which can carry a load. And it’s this load carrying ability which is the bike’s true strength.

africa bike in the snow

One evening in the summer I was returning from work via the organic nursery with a front basket full of laptop bag and a trailer full of root vegetables when I spotted Daughter #1 sauntering back from school. She sat sideways on the rear rack – Dutch style – for the last couple of hundred yards She’s no great lump but even so it became a load for which most folk in this part of the world would turn to the car. I’ve been shopping with it – full-on-weekly-shop-for-seven-people shopping – and it didn’t baulk. Nine supermarket carrier bags handled with ease, a task that none of my other bikes could ever hope to achieve.

My Africa bike has so far only hinted at what it’s capable of. Over the coming months I want to realize its full potential as a heavy-duty load-lugging commuting iron but more importantly to use it to demonstrate that with the right equipment it’s not just possible but easy to go car free.

africa_bike_upgrades

The long term goal is to morph this already quite useful bike into something even more useful using off-the-shelf parts. I added a top-tube mounted child seat which has been a great success in the area of carrying small humans. The next stage will be the addition of a new (very special) rear wheel and I want to explore ways of adapting it to carry an access-platform/step-ladder and several boxes of tools. And in the far-off distant future I would like to explore ways of moving bikes by bike.

We aren’t going to persuade people out of their cars until we can demonstrate that it’s not just possible but easy to move stuff and people by bike.

The acknowledged UK experts on such matters are Practical Cycles, a Cyclorama Featured Retailer.

Plycycle

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Mick Allan

I discovered the African Bicycle Design Contest through Bicycle Design Blog recently. Unfortunately I discovered it too late to qualify for entry but I did have a good old think about the subject. Regular readers will be familiar with my Kona Africa Bike and my on-going efforts to make it a more useful machine.

We lived in Africa when I was a child; my father worked as an engineer in Malawi for many years and I remember vividly the big old-fashioned black Raleigh roadsters which were the bike of choice for well off Malawians. With heavy components, single speed transmissions and woeful rod-brakes the only real performance feature was their durability. Raleigh has long since been elbowed out of the market by cheaper Chinese manufacturers but the 100 year old technology has hardly changed. Bicycles have moved on substantially since I was a lad but most African cyclists are still lumbered with those heavy old tanks.

To a rural African the value of a bicycle cannot be overstated. When school, market, the next village or even the water supply might be several hours walk away, ownership of a bicycle can transform a life. Many cycle folk recognise this and work tirelessly to supply bikes to Africans. We’ve discussed the Kona Africa Bike Project at some length but there are very many more dedicated people and organisations working to populate Africa with bikes. Depending on the individual project these include new bikes  (such as the Kona Africa Bike) and schemes which deliver unwanted pre-owned bikes. To my knowledge there is no bicycle factory in Africa, every bicycle from each of these programmes is shipped in.

At the core of the African Bicycle Design Contest is a subtly different approach. The contest organisers invited designers to submit ideas and visions for affordable and sustainable bicycle designs ; ‘Important criteria for the submissions were the usefulness in the African context, innovative aspects in design and manufacturing and market feasibility. Another very important criterion is the sustainability – durability of the design, possibility for local manufacturing, utilisation of local available and sustainable materials‘ (my italics). This is an invitation, not just to start from first principles from a design point of view but to actually create the seed of an African bicycle manufacturing industry.

(It’s been done before with wheelchairs. In 1980something I was working in a London bike shop when a guy came in in a wheel chair and had me fit a pair of protective discs to his wheels. He was about to embark on a journey to India. Twelve years later I was working in a Bristol bike shop when he came in (sporting the same wheel discs). This time around he was director of a charity; Motivation, which works to improve the quality of life of people with mobility impairment. One of the ways they do this is by designing and making affordable wheelchairs for people in developing countries. Motivation now produces wheelchairs from local materials in 17 countries and to date 25,000 wheelchair users world-wide have benefited from his endeavours.)

So. A local bike for local people. There’s a complex set of parameters to consider including fairly straight-forward stuff such as what the range of sizes should be, how many gears, what frame materials and methods of construction. Specifics about how will it be used and therefore what individual features should it have and then more complex considerations; from a spare parts perspective should it use component standards which are already commonly available locally or start with a clean sheet? Should it all be wholly manufactured locally or assembled locally from shipped-in kits? Most importantly (when my local supermarket can sell a ‘full suspension’ mountain bike shaped object for less than the cost of a tank of petrol) how do you design a bike to be useful, durable and yet inexpensive enough for an African wage.

Well I’ve had a think. Furtling my own Africa Bike has been a useful exercise for this and I think I’ve come up with a pretty good design. Modular, versatile, tough and inexpensive. Think plywood sandwich. The Plycycle! (rhymes with bicycle)

Rubbish sketches to follow.

George would like to point out that this is a vast improvement over the original sketch and that it should *not* therefore be labelled "rubbish"

Keep your eye on that competition, I’m really looking forward to seeing the winning entry.

Nnooooooooo!!!!!

Monday, August 9th, 2010 by Mick Allan

Without any warning or prior notice Kona have gone and changed the Africa bike. Painted it white! And made it out of aluminum. Sigh.

It’s like when an old friend gets a facelift. Ok maybe not, more like when an old friend turns up wearing completely different clothes than they would normally wear. And you think: ‘OMG did you even look in the mirror before you left the house’??!!

And breathe……

It’s Ok. I’ve calmed down now…

I’m exaggerating of course, it’s not that bad. It just came as a bit of a shock!

africabike_three

Come to think of it, it’s quite nice actually. Aluminum eh..

er…  does anyone want to buy a slightly used 2008 Africa bike? one careful owner…..

Give a man a fish….

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by Mick Allan

As the song goes; ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever’. Which strikes me as more than a little condescending, people know perfectly well how to fish. If they are lucky enough to live far enough away from the industrial scale exploitation of the world’s dwindling resources to find an unpolluted body of water of course.

At this time of year the road from Lands End to John O’Groats is packed with individuals and groups pedaling for good causes. Cycling seems to attract charity events but individuals and companies connected to the actual business of making and selling bicycles are no more likely to be involved in charity work than the folk who make double glazing. The cycling industry is no more given to charity work than any other.

Which is why we particularly admire and wholeheartedly support Kona’s brilliant Africa Bike programme. It’s a clever concept; Kona designed a bike which is suitable for the needs of African cyclists. And a bike designed for to be tough enough for Africa works pretty well on the streets of your average North American or European city. They sell them through their international network of dealers and for every two units sold to western buyers they send one out to Africa. They are given to health visitors, midwives, small holders to get their crops to market and the like.

An Africa Bike very far from Africa.

The fact is; it’s a great bike. I have one myself and I love it. I have a garage of flashy road and mountain bikes at my disposal but I invariably select my Africa Bike for the half hour ride to the office. It’s not fast but it can haul a huge shopping load, happily tows the kid’s trailer without a grumble and can be locked to a railing with little risk of attracting thieves. It’ll take a full sized mountain bike tyre too. Fitted with IRC tungsten studded 1.95s it got me to work safely all through this year’s icy winter. Kona have produced a winner. If you know someone who’s in the market for a cheap to run, durable, easy to use ’step-thru’ you could do a lot worse than steer them towards an Africa Bike, it’s a worthy cause.

And a brilliant, brilliant bike.

Give a man a rod!: Read about the Africa Bike in Cyclorama