Dirt Rag Magazine

First Ride: Surly Karate Monkey singlespeed 29


We couldn’t find a good stick to prop the bike up, so we just used the other bike.

The old Surly Karate Monkey got a few small changes over the years but, for the most part, it was the same bike that helped 29ers gain mainstream acceptance starting in 2002. It was launched that year at the very event we’re now detoxing from (Interbike). We covered the new Karate Monkey earlier this year and brought you a slightly more comprehensive first ride impression for the geared, 27plusser.


To be honest, it was bit of a fluke that I ended up on this bike. After finding long lines for most demo bikes, and being unwilling to interrupt my contacts to jump the lines, I retired to the Surly booth to steal beer and borrow a place to sit. Sitting next to a friend I’ve known for 10 years, he suggested we take a pair of lonely-looking single-speed Karate Monkeys for a ride rather than just sit around and drink. Even after a decade of seeing each other at bike events, we had never ridden together.


I owned an older KM for years and was immediately surprised at how differently this new model rode. I also was surprised at how easy it is to pinch flat standard tires with tubes inside. Swapping tubes made me notice the thru-axle fork, an awesome spec for those that might want to upgrade to a suspension fork down the road.

I’ve been riding mostly geared bikes lately, complete with squishy bits, so riding a rigid was a bit of a shock–but a good one. I did miss having a dropper but I just ran the post kinda low and stood up a lot. It was fine. I felt good.


This is not a complicated bike. Nothing hydraulic, nothing to shift, little to do but work on maintaining momentum and picking good lines. The modernized geometry moves the KM out of the more XC realm it previously occupied, and the addition of more braze-ons means it can play double duty as bike-packing rig.

While I had a lot of fun on the stock 29×2.4 Maxxis Ardents, I am glad 27plus tires can fit in this bike. As much as I love 29ers, when it comes to riding a rigid trail bike I will take any help I can get and plus tires help a lot.


Surly seems to have developed a way make bikes that consumers self-selected without the need for a lot of marketing talk or explanation. Some if that is because Surly makes simple steel bikes that are versatile and sturdy. This is either something you find appealing, or you don’t. Not much middle ground. Meaning, I’m not going to tell you if this bike is for you. You are going to tell you.

This purple beauty is $1,175, although the parts shown aren’t all the stock items. For a more comprehensive ride review, including geo numbers, read our test ride from Lake Tahoe. Or, check out the eclectic custom build our publisher has on his old Karate Monkey, which has become his go-to whatever bike. For complete details, hit up the Surly site.



440 Miles to 24 Hours – Part 2

Words and photos by Devon Balet

I came up with this great bad idea over beers at my favorite bike shop in my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado. Shop mechanic Alex and I were discussing ideas of how to spend the first two weeks of February when the shop was closed and he was left with ample time to ride. This being my first winter back in Colorado after three years of heading south like a bird, I was feeling the need for some hot winter days riding in just shorts and a jersey.

Looking over the calendar I noticed an unusually perfect alignment of two cycling events in Arizona: Single Speed Arizona in Cave Creek followed by the ever popular 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, just outside of Tucson. The two events were situated a week apart, and that was how my idea came to be: let’s ride the Arizona Trail from Flagstaff to Cave Creek to join the SSAZ party and then continue on to the 24-hour race for an even bigger bike party in the Old Pueblo.

Part one is in the current issue of Dirt Rag, Issue #193, detailing the adventures of getting to SSAZ. This online installment continues the journey from there to Old Pueblo.


Rolling away from Cave Creek after Single Speed Arizona almost felt comforting. The party was no let down—many friends, many drinks and many laughs. Waking on a couch outside the bike shop confused by my comfort, I had to only walk a few steps to hot coffee and food. Civilization was welcomed, but I wanted separation from the masses quickly.

Finding every possible roadside trail, Alex and I made our way out of Phoenix into the neighboring town of Scottsdale. Weaving our way through city park trails, we were soon climbing up on the far east end of town. We ascended far above the expensive homes lining the side of the mountain. Finding a clear flat spot we set up camp, looking out over the flickering lights of the big city.

Our day seemed to end as early as the next started. Leaving behind our vista over the city to avoid contact with any local residents, we were gone before most people had their first cup of coffee. It seemed strange to ride only eight miles knowing we still had well over 150 to go. However, the promise of a home cooked meal and cold beers a-plenty helped settle my anxiety to keep moving. Our friends Bill and Julie were driving down from our hometown to enjoy a little slice of Arizona themselves and we planned to rendezvous.


As we rolled up to the Usery Mountain Regional Park campground in Mesa Alex double-checked the site number sent from Bill. The campground was nearly full, each site boasting a large, expensive RV or trailer. We rolled through the park aimlessly looking for site number eight, which we soon found.

Completely surrounded by nothing but RVs and campers, we set up a spot under a lone pallo verde tree in our site. Stringing up a tarp to shade the hot mid-day sun I removed all my clothes save for my shorts and relaxed beneath the sheltering canopy.

No sooner had we settled in before Alex took off for the showers. A few long minutes later he returned with a big smile and look of relief. “That was likely the best shower of my life.”

Leaving behind my cabana of comfort I headed for the shower myself. A double wash left my skin free from eight days and 200 miles of sweat and dirt—I felt like a new man. Taking advantage of the campground, I washed my socks and t-shirt in the sink.


Soon Bill and Julie arrived. The stories of our trip thus far began to fly into the evening sky as the four of us sat back, enjoying good food and great conversation. The cold beer and warm food prepared by someone else was a nice treat, quickly fading my pressing desire to keep moving.

Ocotillo arms reached out into the sky, catching the days fading light. Soon only the tops of the tallest saguaro held onto the golden glow. With the setting of the sun came a still calmness in the desert as the birds discontinued their daily songs.


Laying back into my sleeping bag in the dirt I smiled. All around us were expensive iron giants filled to the gills with stuff that goes unused day after day. Myself, I had already pedaled over 200 miles through the desert with only the things I could carry on my bike and one gear to move me forward. I smiled knowing I was the richest man in the campground that night.

Morning came quickly and my routine of rising with the sun was no different that day. I found myself readying my bike, preparing to tackle another long day with no real goal in mind except to go as far as we could until we felt like stopping. That day, Bill would join us for the first leg of the route. When I heard him curse another false summit on a rough doubletrack climb I chuckled. Welcome to the party Bill!

Rolling over the 300-mile mark that morning felt good, but I knew we still had a long way to go. The three of us took a seat under a lonely tree for an early lunch and beer before Bill went his own way. Enjoying a thick ham sandwich, it was exciting to know I had a second with me to enjoy that night. As soon as our beer cans emptied we sent off, back into our own unknown as we headed for the Superstition Mountains.


“Who the fuck came up with this route!” I screamed inside my head. They surely haven’t ridden this trail. It began as so much fun, but no person in their right mind would want to travel through this crap now. The trail was more like an empty riverbed filled with nothing but rocks ranging in size from softballs to basketballs.

The route was relatively flat but there was no way we could ride it. Seeing pin flags along the way I felt sorry for the person who might one day come out to clean this mess. For now, I simply put my head down and pushed my bike through the rubble.

Narrowly avoiding rolling my ankles with every step, I knew Alex was in his own personal hell so I made sure to wait for him at any questionable section of the “trail”. Once again, I was relying completely on my GPS to send us in the right direction because there was no true path to be found. This section could not be behind us soon enough.

Finally leaving the rocks behind we rolled into Gold Canyon. It hadn’t been long since our last resupply with Bill and Julie but I knew this was our last chance before “24 Hour Town” at the Old Pueblo. I loaded up on salty snacks, calorie dense treats and two tallboy cans of PBR—knowing they wouldn’t stay cold long I would still enjoy them just as well that night. We set off down Highway 60 in search of the power line road that would take us off of the scary main highway.

We were soon cruising under two massive power line rows. Each tower loomed above us like massive steel giants. As the sun began to set the power lines brought on a golden glow. Soon we found a place to rest, making sure to be far enough off the road, hidden from four wheelers and meandering cattle.

Watching the sunset in a beautiful display of blue light was our entertainment as we enjoyed beer and food. This whole trip we had been lucky, having plenty of supply and resupply to eat and drink well. As I finished the last sip of my beer I looked up to Alex, comfortably laid out on the desert floor staring up to the sky. Laying back thinking back on the trip so far I fell quickly into an exhaustion hazed sleep.


Day 11 had been long already. The sun climbed noon high and the heat grew thick and heavy on our brains. Dust clouded our eyes and mixed in with sweat. I had been in this place before. Not in a physical way but in my mind. Somewhat deliriously I pedaled up another long climb. In a hurry I grabbed for my bottle and gulped down nearly the whole thing without stopping for a breath.

Reviewing the route I saw no foreseeable spot to refill water anytime soon. I gave Alex fair warning of my findings, suggesting he start to ration his water as well. The trail began to level off and we are able to pick up some speed, continuing through the hot, barren landscape.

Several miles later the trail crossed a road. Not seeing Alex directly behind me I stopped to check my water levels. As I laid my bike down in a small patch of green grass I spotted a pair of one gallon bottles. Thinking someone must be a real jerk to litter way out here I walked over and discovered both jugs were completely full!


Hand written on the side was a message, “Please save until November 11th, thereafter water is fair game.” Halle-fucking-lujah! I quickly sat down and began filling my bottles. As soon as Alex rolled up I screamed with excitement, “I found water! Two gallons of fresh water!”

The two of us sat quietly in the shade drinking water as if it were wine. As we enjoyed our bounty, Alex shared with me that today was his birthday and this was the best present he had ever gotten. I raised my bottle in cheers.

Our final day had us starting on the Gila River. Thankful for the ample water stashes found the day before, I passed on filling my water from a murky brown river. With no real idea of how much farther we had to go or how exactly to get there I was starting to get nervous for the first time.


The day was tough—down right hard really. The trail seemed to go up and only up. Any amount of down was followed with more up. Eventually we crested a bit of a mesa as the sun began to set, I knew we would be in for a haul. I didn’t want to tell Alex the truth when he asked how much farther we had to go. Honestly I didn’t really know, but I did know we still had some long miles ahead of us.


Realizing my light had not been the most dependable so far I rode on into the darkness, wanting to save power for a time when it was really needed. We seemed to pedal onward forever. Now, going completely off of a map and my gut feelings, we zigzagged our way through the desert with a faint glow in the distance being my last hope that we were headed in the right direction.

With every rise in the road I would hope for a sight of 24 Hour Town. I told Alex we would see it from a long way out. Maybe it was from the exhaustion, but Alex was not convinced we would see any of this so-called “town”. No sooner did he doubt me yet again did I spot the far off glow of what I like to call “the can man,” the gatekeeper of 24 Hour Town were all that enter must donate a can of food to a local charity.

Thrilling joy overtook my body and I screamed out in happiness. I finally knew exactly where we were. We had finally made it! As we approached 24 Hour Town, Alex began retracting his earlier words, completely blown away by the scope and size of the gathering in the Old Pueblo desert.

The two of us, like tired and weathered cowboys limped our way into town. I squinted at the bright lights after riding in darkness for hours. It seemed as though I was simply a passenger on my bike, barely keeping upright.

As soon as we entered camp a voice called out my name and it took several seconds to even recognize what was happening and stop. Completely shot, without an once of energy left I put a foot down and carefully turned my bike and body around to find my good friend Dejay with two beers in his hands. We had arrived. We made it!

With open arms Dejay greeted us, quickly filling our hands with cold beer and food. I could hardly believe it. My mind did not fully comprehend what was happening. Everyone around us began asking where we came from, how far we had ridden. I couldn’t answer anything more than, “It has been a good, long ride” as I dove head first into a platter of food.


Sitting back I wiped the drool and bits of food from my chin. In the hours and days of dual solitude on the trail I found a renewed affection for myself through this temporary separation from civilization. Each day was a complete unknown—a rebirth backward in time and into primeval freedom on a singlespeed mountain bike.

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The Ultimate Ride to the Ride – Part 5, Hello Single Speed Kansas City

Catch up: A cross-country bike tour with a twist: Chris Reichel is riding his mountain bike from Colorado to North Carolina and hitting all the best trails along the way. If you missed earlier installments of the Ultimate Ride to the Ride, see them here.

By Chris Reichel

I didn’t have much of a schedule or timeframe for this trip, but the one place I really wanted to be was Single Speed Kansas City. I begrudgingly left Wilson Lake, Kansas, on a 95-degree afternoon and pointed it toward Kansas City. That same morning I also got a message from my buddy James wanting to know where I was, because he wanted to meet up and ride along. James owns the bike touring oasis, Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas. It is conveniently located smack dab in the middle of the Trans American touring route. One part bike shop and one part hostel, it’s a great place to take a rest day in the middle of the country. Although I was about 100 miles north of his shop and it was the busiest time of year, James still snuck away to ride with me for a couple days.


James is one of those guys that has contagious stoke and it was just what I needed. The miles and heat were finally starting to grind me down and it was great having his positive energy around. We proceeded to laugh, drink beers, curse the wind and pedal our way across the prairie for two days. When we finally went our separate ways outside of Salina, my batteries were recharged and I was ready to knock out the last miles to KC.


Single Speed Kansas City was born out of an internal feud amongst the singlespeed community over who would host Single Speed USA for 2015. What resulted was the best solution to any feud, ever. The race was held one week before Single Speed USA in Wisconsin and, if you were an ambitions driver, you could make both events back to back. I was really looking forward to this event. I would be hanging out with the 8-Lumens crew members, who know how to ride some bikes and throw a party. They would not disappoint.


I arrived in KC to a surprise delivery from Oskar Blues Brewery. They must have thought that I looked thirsty riding across Kansas so they sent an actual truck-load of beer for me to share at the event. That’s enough to bring a man to tears after towing a trailer for 600 miles.

We all met at a bar downtown on Friday night for a little registration party and some socializing. The night then degraded into a local-led group ride around the industrial side of town. Stairs were ridden and new friends were made. It was the perfect warmup for a proper singlespeed death march the next day.


Saturday morning came too early and I was sufficiently late for the start of the race. Riding across town, following the map on my phone, it was hard to believe that there were mountain bike trails around. But much to my surprise, when I arrived at Swope Park, there was just that. Punchy, rocky and technical singletrack right there in the middle of Kansas City! I jumped in the course a half-hour late and went for a little mountain bike ride while everyone else raced, including stalling out at a classic heckling spot on one of the final climbs. It was complete with a drummer and a guy playing the dobro.


After the race was finished and awards were handed out, the after party moved to the Pirate XC skills course, a Kansas City tradition and the sick brainchild of frame builder Sean Burns. We faced a mini time trial on skinny bridges, teeter totters and over a series of small jumps. It was more fun than should probably be legal and the winner received the biggest prize of all: bragging rights.


Kansas City knows how to throw a bike party and the trails inside city limits are downright amazing.  I wanted to stay a little longer but St. Louis was calling and 300 miles of Missouri was standing in the way.


About the author: Chris is the chief stoke officer and head cat herder at drunkcyclist.com.  He has recently escaped the grip of Corporate America and set out to see all that FUNemployment has to offer a mountain bike addict. Follow him on Twitter: @dirtybiker, and Instagram: @dirty_biker

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Continue reading about the journey in part 6


Blast From the Past: Pimped Reader Ride from 2003


Editor’s note: The following reader letter appeared in Dirt Rag issue #116, published in February 2003.

Hey Dirt Rag,

Not too long ago, I decided that my perfectly good paint job of stock primer gray on my 2003 Bianchi S.I.S.S. was just too familiar. So in a quick decision, it was stripped, primed and painted again. This is my result, and I’ve had it this way for about five months now. Friends and fellow shop mates told me to send pictures to Bianchi to show them, but I thought you guys may appreciate them more.

It’s pretty rough looking due to my only using one can of clear coat, and basically having inferior supplies. I did all this with just auto spray paint, a Testors airbrush and Testors enamel paint. Not to mention the three fans I used to circulate the fumes produced by the highly carcinogenic automobile paint. It’s my own design I thought of while I should have been doing math homework, and the head tube features my official logo of Chaz the Penguin, who is throwing the horns in recognition of singlespeeds being awesome.

Well that’s it really, just tell me what you think and if you even plan to put it somewhere because that would be ridiculously cool. Ha, ha. Well, thanks for making the great mag. I’ll keep reading.

–Paul McIntyre
Purcellville, VA

Keep reading

We’ve published a lot of stuff in 25 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.



Trail Talk With Cush – We have a winner

Editor’s note: Last weekend Dirt Rag’s “sponsored” SoCal racer Lance Nicholls lined up for his first cross-country first race of the new year. While the rest of the vet pros (and open pros) were on geared bikes, Lance races only on a singlespeed. Here’s how his winning ride unfolded. Congratulations Lance and thanks for doing us here at Dirt Rag proud.

singlespeed racing

By Lance Nicholls. Photos by Chris Jones

It was the first round of the Southridge Winter Series in Fontana, California. Laps are approximately 5.5 miles with about 1,200 ft of climbing—Southridge is known for very rocky, technical singletrack and steep punchy climbs. It’s great early season racing to get back into competition mode.

I ride the Vet Pro class for the extra laps compared to the singlespeed class and to also just have more competition. There were eight guys on geared bikes and myself on an Ibis Tranny 29 singlespeed with a Gates belt drive. My game plan was to try and get out front early to put time on everybody since there is a long flat finish where “geared” riders can easily ride away from me while I’m spinning out. We started two minutes behind the open pros.

singlespeed racing

Since the start chute is fairly narrow I was on the second row. The horn sounded and we were off. I went way inside into the first turn, got to the front and tried to control the pace as well as my breathing. I was able to stay there for a mile or so through some rocky singletrack. Once we hit the initial climb one guy got around and I stayed on his wheel up that climb until we hit a long, steep asphalt ascent. I made my move around him as soon as we hit the pavement and went hard up the hill until it turned left onto singletrack. By then I had a good gap and continued to put my head down to increase it.

With the first lap down, I had about a 30-second gap and was catching younger riders in the Pro class ahead. I kept trying to control my breathing and heart rate so I could hit the climbs hard and keep opening the gap farther. By the end of the second lap I had caught two guys from the class ahead and had about a minute lead going into the final lap.

Maintaining my pace, I caught one more guy and then started to relax some knowing my lead was good enough to stick as long as I stayed upright and without any mechanical issues. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour and 21 minutes, which was 1 minute and 12 seconds ahead of second place in the Vet Pro class. I also ended up third overall out of all the pros on the course. It was a good day for singlespeeding.


Blast From The Past: The Tao of Singlespeeding


Editor’s note:The Tao of Singlespeeding first appeared in Dirt Rag #110, published in October 2004. Adapted by Corvus Corvax from The Tao Te Ching, translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Random House, Inc., New York (1972), with apologies to Lao Tzu. Illustrations by Michael Pfaltzgraff.


The ride that can be finished is not the perfect ride.
The frame that can be broken is not the perfect frame.
The ride is the beginning of sky and dirt.
The singlespeed is the mother of the ten thousand gears.
Ever desireless, one can see the trail.
Ever desiring, one can see the bike.
The two spring from the same source, but differ in name;
this appears as riding.
The gate to all mystery.
Sky and dirt are ruthless;
They see the ten thousand gears as useless.
The wise are ruthless;
They see the riders as fools.

The space between sky and dirt is like a tire.
The shape changes but not the form;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More gears count less.
Hold fast to the trail.
Sky and dirt last forever.
Why do sky and dirt last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The singlespeeder is behind on the downhill, and ahead on the climb.
He is unencumbered, thus at one with all.
Through flow, he attains fulfillment.
Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Make the bike too light, and the handling will suffer.
Adorn your frame with XTR, and no lock can protect it.
Claim medals and podiums, and drug tests will follow.
Drink beer when the ride is done.
This is the way of singlespeeding.
Thirty-two spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape latex into a tube;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Drill eyelets in a rim;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness comes from what is not there.
Accept difficulty willingly.
Accept pain as the human condition.

What do you mean by “Accept difficulty willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with your heart rate.
This is called “accepting difficulty willingly.”

What do you mean by “Accept pain as the human condition”?
Pain comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be pain?

Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to ride any trail.
Love your bike as your own self; then you can truly ride anywhere.
The masters are subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The skill of their riding is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Delicate, like riders crossing a winter stream.
Alert, as if on tight singletrack.
Balanced, as if negotiating a switchback.
Focused, as if on a long climb.
Yielding, like fine steel.
Simple, like track hubs.
Smooth, like machined bearings.

Who can wait quietly for the ride to begin?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Followers of singlespeeding do not seek advantage.
Not seeking advantage, they are not swayed by a desire for change.
Do you think you can take my bike and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

My singlespeed is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will lose it.
If you add a suspension fork, you will ruin it.

So sometimes I am ahead and sometimes I am behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes the trail goes up and sometimes down.

Therefore the singlespeeder avoids extremes, complacency, and
heavy traffic on climbs.
Give up gears, and put an end to your troubles.

Is there a difference between the granny and the big ring?
Is there a difference between uphill and downhill?
Must I ride what others ride? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying their full suspension.
In spring some go to the trails and descend the mountain.
But I alone am riding, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and wandering.
I am different.
I am nourished by the trail.
To ride one gear is natural.
Sprints do not last all morning,
Descents do not last all day.

The follower of singlespeeding
is at one with his bike.
He who rides smoothly
Experiences flow.
He who loses the trail
Becomes confused.
When you are at one with your bike,
The trail welcomes you.
When you conserve your momentum,
The flow is always there.
When you are at one with pain,
The pain is experienced willingly.

He who does not get out of the saddle
Will not make it to the top of the hill.
He who has his weight forward is not steady.
He who sprints cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to the followers of singlespeeding,
“These are extra gears and unnecessary weight,”
They do not bring happiness.
Therefore followers of singlespeeding avoid them.
Spinning is the motion of the singlespeed.
Flow is the way of the singlespeed.
The ten thousand gears are born of singlespeeding.
Singlespeeding is born of not riding.
The wise rider hears of singlespeeding and practices it diligently.
The average rider hears of singlespeeding and thinks of it now and again.
The foolish rider hears of singlespeeding and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, singlespeeding would not be what it is.

Hence it is said:
The smooth trail seems rough.
Going forward seems like retreat.
The easy climb seems hard.
Singlespeeding is quiet and without artifice.
One gear alone nourishes and brings the ride to completion.

Keep reading

We’ve published a lot of stuff in 25 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.



Blast From The Past: Kona “A” bike review from 2003


Editor’s note: This bike review first appeared in Dirt Rag issue #102, published in August of 2003.

By Philip Keyes

Kona is one cool company. Case in point: these guys are offering the first-ever production, dual-suspension singlespeed. They had to know that they weren’t going to sell millions of these things, but they had the cojones to make one anyway. Helmets off to a company with some singlespeed soul.

Pronounced the “Ahhhhh,” the Kona A is the brainchild of Kona’s resident mad scientist, Dr. Dew El Grande, a hardcore North Shore rider, racer and founder of the legendary Cove Bike Shop. “Hey, no one else was doing it,” says Dewey, “so I thought it would be pretty cool.”

Making a double-boing SS is a challenge because the rear end has to move up and down while the chain-line stays exactly the same length. The $1,600 A does this by pivoting the rear triangle around the bottom bracket. Once Dr. Dew found that the bottom bracket configuration wasn’t controlled by a bunch of patent lawyers, he decided to make a go of it. The rear swingarm clamps around the bottom bracket shell using two oversized sealed bearings, and the whole operation looks nice and clean, and is good and stiff.

Although the A looks like their other dualies and offers 3.5 inches of travel, the pivot around the bottom bracket sets it apart. Kona’s website sums it up perfectly: “A achieves the Kona quest for the shortest name in the biz and a quirky need to build a bike that has more suspension than gears.”


Riding a dualie singlespeed takes a little getting used to. In contrast to hardtail singlespeeding where you’re frequently out of the saddle and hammering the pedals on the climbs, this bike ascends better seated and spinning smoothly, like other full suspension bikes. The rear Fox Vanilla RL shock has lock-out, but its lever placement is a bit of a reach and is tricky to get to while dicing it up. If there were ever a bike crying out for a remote lockout lever, this is it. However, with a decent amount of preload, I was pleased with how little the rear end bobbed. But the key is preload, and this doesn’t make for a super plush ride. It’s always a trade-off.

Kona spec’d the bike with a solid international parts pick: an 80mm travel Marzocchi MX Comp fork, RaceFace’s ISIS-compatible singlespeed crank and bash guard protecting a 34-tooth chainring, Avid Single Digit brakes and Speed Dial levers, and a Koski stem, bar and seatpost. The wheelset mates Shimano QR and KK singlespeed hubs with Mavic X221 rims wrapped with diminutive Tioga Red Phoenix 1.9 tires. While I had never heard of the hub manufacturer before, it worked well and created a strong, no-dish rear wheel.

In short, it’s a fine parts selection though I never got used to the skinny race rubber, which slipped out on honking climbs and cornered skittishly. I also wouldn’t have minded a lower gear ratio, and I’ve never understood riders’ predilection for a straight 2 to 1 ratio—I guess my legs are just weak and spindly. On this dualie, having a lower ratio would have made seated climbing a bit easier on my knees, but that’s a personal preference.

The frame itself is nicely welded out of butted 7005 aluminum and is built around 71/74-degree head tube/seat tube angles with 16.9-inch chainstays and variable top tube lengths depending upon which of the three sizes you pick: 16, 18 and 20. This presented a slight problem for me since at 6-foot-2 I would have fit better on a bigger frame than the 20.

The A feels like an XC race bike, and at 26.5 pounds, this dualie was raring to go fast. While not twitchy, the steering is quick and responsive. With the handlebar lying about 3 inches below my saddle height, I always felt like I was in an “attack” position. This took some getting used to since my other singlespeeds are set up in a more relaxed trail riding style. This is a matter of preference, and for me, I would have swapped out the stem for a more upright stance and put on some fattie tires for more stability and grab. On the other hand, if you’re into a racy setup, the bike is probably perfect as is.

My biggest grins on this bike were had while zipping rolling trails at a decent clip and keeping up a solid, high-speed spin. As long as there weren’t any long and steep climbs, the bike was a ton of fun to ride, but the grin-factor declined on technical climbs where brute leg strength is needed to muscle the bike up the minefields. The suspension worked admirably, and for the most part I didn’t even realize that it was a dualie, yet it did a good job taking the edge off choppy trails and let me pedal through sections of trail that I would normally stand in.

Dr. Dew tells me that next year’s A will be offered as a frameset only, which is probably a good idea since most people who’d consider getting into a dualie singlespeed are most likely hardcore riders with a good idea how they want their bikes set up.

While I wouldn’t recommend the A as someone’s only singlespeed, it’s a great bike to add to the quiver, have a bunch of fun with, and take pride in owning the first-ever production dualie SS. Part of the bike’s dilemma is its somewhat racy set up—did I mention the skinny tires?—which contrasts with the more trail riding appeal of dual suspension. True SS racers might shy away from a dualie rig and trail riders would probably go for a more laid back trail bike, but the latter can be easily attained by a few inexpensive modifications. But singlespeeding is all about fun, and this is definitely a fun bike to ride.


Ruckus Composites hosting NWSSCX race for ladies only

Courtesy of Ruckus Composites:


(Click here and you’ll understand the cow image.)

Calling All Single (Speed) Ladies! Everyone knows SS ladies have more fun. If ya didn’t, now ya do.

And girl oh girl do we have a race to prove it. We’ve built a special course with interesting twists and turns, a few kegs of great beer, great people, and – dun dun dun – Huge payouts for the Women’s field! Gals bring your guys, but there’s no payout for guys except a super fun course and gag prizes.

Ruckus Composites is excited to announce the first annual NWSSCX race featuring a women’s single-speed category during the Corvallis Cross Classic on November 15, 2014. We have reworked the schedule a bit to have the women’s SS field race at 3:30 during the open SS field.

We have worked hard and came up with an awesome prize list that includes

  • a limited edition SSCXWC frameset from Raleigh Bikes
  • All-City SS hub set laced to Velocity rims by Sugar Wheel works
  • Castelli’s awesome winter gear!
  • Yakima racks and schwag
  • PDW lights!
  • a bag of Stumptown coffee for everyone woman that pre-registers for the SS field

The women’s field gets all the prizes. Guys will get various gag prizes.

Registration: $20/$10 adult/junior preregistration; $25/$15 day of.

Head on over to www.nwsscx.com to register.


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