Yesterday, something happened that wasn't supposed to happen. The night before, I saw a custom built steel Kona mountain bike (turned into a hybrid of sorts) on Craigslist for only $300. The guy powder coated the frame, handlebars, and stem all white, which actually looked kind of ugly to me. I'm not really into hybrids, but this bike was equipped with a practically new X7 rear derailleur, X5 front derailleur, Specialized Milano saddle, and an X5 crankset with external bearings, all of which would make nice upgrades for my Airborne Guardian 29er. After swapping the parts, I could basically flip the bike and sell it for close to what I paid for it. What a deal...basically upgrading my 29er for free!
I didn't bother to call the guy that night, but called the next day, thinking the bike would be gone. I would not get off work until 6:30pm, and the bike was miraculously still for sale. Someone was coming over to look at the bike before I could get there, and I was sure this person would buy it. The seller promised to call me either way and tell me if the bike sold.
At about 7:30 pm, I got the call. The bike was still available because the guy who was going to look at it had some family business to attend to, and had to cancel. I could get it and do my upgrades. I was pumped!
I knew I was going to buy the bike, but I gave it a quick test ride just to be sure. After all, there was a small scratch on one of the brake levers, and that scratch could mean the whole bike was junk.
The seller had spent $600 on upgrades for the bike, but because the frame was too small, and because his parents bought him a very nice new Specialized bike, he just wanted to get rid of it, in spite of only putting about 50 miles on it, on pavement. Now, he did say the bike was about 10 years old, but the upgrades and powder coating were basically new. In my brief test ride in a small parking lot, there was nothing special about the bike, but it was an obvious no brainer so I bought it. Heck, the bike was even kind of ugly!
I loaded the bike into my SUV, travelled a few miles down the interstate and through some Omaha neighborhoods, and joined a friend on her bike ride. This is where everything changed.
For the most part, I've only ridden relatively low end entry level bikes. The nicest part I've ever upgraded to was a $300 Manitou Tower Expert fork, which proved to be money well spent on my trip to Sedona Arizona, but I've never gone on a ride with a bike with external bearings, and I've never been on a ride with a bike with good wheels. A few months ago, I did purchase a nice Cole Lite 29er wheelset, but still had not tried them out because I was thrown off guard when I discovered I needed a 9mm adaptor and new disc brake mounts. Being a bad procrastinator, and not knowing exactly what parts I would need to buy, I put that on a the backburner. That will change tomorrow...
When I met my friend and started pedaling, I experienced something I had never experienced on a bike before. I was moving very quickly. Well, ok, I have moved quickly on a bike before, but not with so little effort. I was actually faster on this ugly white Kona mountain bike than my friend was on her very new Diamondback road bike! I know, its a only a Diamondback, but still!
Turns out the Kona was equipped with a very good set of Mavic X138 wheels with Shimano STX RC8S hubs. Nothing special from what I've researched online, but they rolled faster than anything I'd ridden. The Sram X5 crankset with external bearings, also nothing special, was pretty amazing compared to the cartridge cranksets I'd previously ridden.
Toward the end of our ride, we switched bikes so she could check out my new "find". After a few seconds and accelerating away from me very quickly, she exclaimed, "WOW!". Yep, this bike was something special!
At this point, I was kind of torn, because I had just purchased this bike to upgrade my other bike, but I also didn't want to ruin it with "lesser" parts. Since the bike was a tad big (depending on how you measure the seat tube, its either a 16" or a 19"), I figured I'd pick up a zero setback seatpost to shorten the top tube length, a shorter stem, handlebars with a higher rise, mtb tires, possibly different grips, and a suspension fork. Two years ago, I wouldn't have wanted it since it was only v-brake compatible, but at this point, I could care less. I knew it performed well on road, but what about off road?
After swapping out the pedals and lowering the seat a little, I met my friend at the trailhead to see what the bike could do off road. I did notice that the bike handled rather smoothly, and was pretty fast. On other sections, not so much, and I noticed my 29er was better suited. I didn't like the bike as much as I thought I would off road, and after about 20 minutes, I told my friend, "I think I'm going to get rid of it". So much for my upgrade plans. Or so I thought.......
As usual, when we arrived to the section of the trail with lots of climbing, I wasn't excited about it. Since we were running out of daylight, I asked my friend if she wanted to ride that section of the trail, or the flatter section of the trail. She opted for the harder route.
I let her lead the way. Not long into one of the climbs, she stalled and I passed her. Then I took off!
I was flying. Up hill. Down hill. Especially down hill. She even said I was really speedy, which she usually doesn't say.
When I met her at the bottom of the hill, I turned to her and said, "I'm keeping the bike". Dang. That wasn't supposed to happen.
Below is a photo of the bike. It might be older than what the previous owner eluded to, because from the photos I've researched, the frame looks very similar to a mid to late 1990s Kona Hot. I will probably make the upgrades I previously mentioned. I will also likely get rid of my cyclocross bike, since the Kona is probably almost as fast, and I really don't need 3 bikes.
As I've done in the past, I'm also going to do some time trials and see how this bike stacks up against my 29er offroad, and my cyclocross on road. Its not a very good comparison, because the gearing is different in both cases, but I get a real kick out of time trials, putting one bike against another.
Anyway, this is one very ugly, but special bike, so I wanted to share. Thanks for reading!
Results 1 to 13 of 13
Check out the hottest mountain bike products from these brands!
See All Interbike Coverage - Click Here »