When I bought a Kona Dew Plus late last year as a cheapy backup commuting bike, I didn’t plan on making any changes to it.
Then, something strange happened – the Kona started to become my daily ride. The cheapest, ugliest bike I’ve ever bought became my (almost) favourite bike.
It’s the perfect commuter bike — it’s inexpensive (I paid about $400 new), has front and rear disc brakes, 700mm road wheels and being painted a rather metallic minty green, it’s hardly a theft magnet.
Most of the components on this Kona are low end and will get replaced with better stuff as they wear out. However, there were a couple of additional changes I made to improve the daily ride.
The first thing I changed were the pedals. I have Crank Brothers Eggbeaters on my other bikes, so it only made sense to add them to the Kona. It was a little strange that the backup bike now had the nicest pedals, but at least I could hop on without having to worry about changing shoes as well.
It’s been years since I rode with a rear rack, as I could never find a good one that would fit nicely on either of my other bikes. Because of the disc brakes, your choices for racks are limited, and even within those there are some good ones and some not so good ones.
Eventually, I settled on a Topeak Explorer Tubular rack with the disc mounts. It fits nicely, installs relatively easily and has good mounting points for my panniers.
Handlebars and riser stem
There was nothing really wrong with the stock flat bars that came with the bike, but they didn’t give me enough hand positions for comfort.
So, I added a set of Salsa Bell Lap cyclocross drop bars, which also required different shifters and brake levers because of the bar’s different tube size. I found a set of Shimano bar-end shifters and went to work swapping things around. After a few hours work and lots of derailleur and brake finessing, it was ready.
I didn’t like it.
The bike is fairly short (front to back) for me and I felt really scrunched when I was riding. Adding a longer stem didn’t help either, and I started getting some nasty back aches. Off came the drops and back on went the flat bars. And off came the bar end shifters and road levers… grr…
I started looking around at tri-bars, but didn’t like the prices and they’re not really (IMHO) a good commuting bar. I also discounted the Titec H-bar simply because of the price. Eventually I landed on a set of Norco trekking bars, also known as butterfly bars. They were cheap — about 1/5 the price of the drop bars I bought — and I could use the original shifters and brake levers.
I loved these bars, but my knees didn’t. Again, because the bike is fairly short and because the trekking bar setup brings the shifters closer to you, my knees would hit the shift levers ever time I got up in the pedals.
A bit of fine tuning on the angle of the bars and the addition of a longer stem and a stem riser helped solve the problem, and I’m now a huge fan of the trekking bars.
The Kona Dew Plus came with Hayes MX4 manual disc brakes. They are okay, but when the time came to replace the pads, I found out the pads weren’t overly cheap at any of the LBSs.
Looking online for pads, I stumbled across some Avid BB7s on sale at Performance Bike. They were half the cost they were locally, and only $10 more per brake than simply getting new pads for the MX4s. I have the BB7s on my Cannondale and love them. The ones on sale also had larger rotors than the stock Hayes ones, which means better cooling and better stopping power.
One of the things I’ve always liked about the Avid BB7s is how easy it is to install them. Within about half an hour both front and rear ones were installed and tuned. Sweet!
I’m trying to keep in mind that this There are always things to upgrade on a bike. (Or at least I can always find an excuse to upgrade things.)
Next on the list is:
- An upgrade to the rear derailleur
- A better chain
- Winter tires (Schwalbe Winter Marathon) – this will be my first try with studded 700mm tires