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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-16-06, 11:01 AM   #1
Jim in KC
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Why Smoke?

I'm starting a new thread for this question instead of tacking it onto the end of the recent review of the Kona Smoke because I might gather more comments from non-Smoke-ers.

Please help me understand the popularity of this bike. I'm trying to nudge a friend away from purchasing it as his sole bike, but something is drawing him mysteriously towards it. I first looked at one when I was shopping for a commuter a few years ago. In their buying issue Bicycling had praised it highly, so I went to a shop to look at one. They had displayed it hanging from the ceiling, the least likely bike to fly.

My commute was 14 miles of roller-coaster hills and a one-mile steady climb, on the way in to work, of course. I didn't give the Smoke a second glance. On the street it had the disadvantages of a mountain bike (heavy, low-geared) without the advantages of a mountain bike (suspension, knobby tires) off-road. For commutes under 5 miles, OK. For a ride to the corner grocery, OK. But if this is your sole bike, won't you shy away from a 30, 40, 50 mile ride, where the fun begins.

Could this be a case of fashion trumping practicality? Like wearing combat boots for dancing? It gives me a sinking feeling to know that my friend will buy it and I can't do anything about it. Help me understand why he is making a good decision. Or give me more ammunition to dissuade him. Thanks.
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Old 06-16-06, 12:25 PM   #2
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Price may be one reason.
If you are so anti, why not post some comparable alternatives?
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Old 06-16-06, 12:28 PM   #3
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Its a fully outfitted commuter/city bike for a very low price. Sure, for longer rides it might not be as good, but that's not necessarily going to stop your friend from enjoying it. Heck, I've taken my fixed gear on 20+ mile rides and its fine. Its not optimal for everything, but its my only bike and I'm happy that way
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Old 06-16-06, 01:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim in KC
My commute was 14 miles...
What does your commute have to do with your friend's interest in bikes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim in KC
But if this is your sole bike, won't you shy away from a 30, 40, 50 mile ride, where the fun begins.
Has your friend expressed interest in road rides? Also consider that road bikes are significantly more expensive and your friend may not be interested in spending so much money on a first bike.

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Originally Posted by Jim in KC
Could this be a case of fashion trumping practicality? Like wearing combat boots for dancing?
Isn't using a road bike for short hops around town a better example?

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Originally Posted by Jim in KC
It gives me a sinking feeling to know that my friend will buy it and I can't do anything about it. Help me understand why he is making a good decision.
First off, I think you need to see things from your friend's perspective, not your own. Secondly, the underlying theme here is that you want your buddy to ride with you on longer rides. Maybe you should consider ways to expose him to the sport without trying to force him into a bike he doesn't want.
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Old 06-16-06, 01:56 PM   #5
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I'd typically side with you, that buying a 'all-purpose' bike should be one that can handle long hauls and short. But.

Having ridden mountain bikes (for commuting and distance) and flat bar road bikes, as well as single speed road bikes, I would have to say that anybody entering the sport (lifestyle) or looking for a commuter is better off on the bikes designed for that. Hell, I'm buying one now, because franking, coming back into the lifestyle I don't want to put a $1k+ bike in a bike rack anywhere in this town.

With that said, I've also convinced my wife to buy a Specialized Exp Elite as well, so she can ride with me. I'm more than certain after riding the bike for an hour at the bike shop that I can handle riding that thing for 50 miles. Its not the speed that always matters.

Just my 2cents.
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Old 06-16-06, 02:05 PM   #6
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I rode a bike like this as my only bike for many, many years. If I painted it flat black it might be mistaken for one. For an only bike, it's not a bad choice. I agree that there are "better" bikes for other uses, but that doesn't make sense to a person until they know what they want to do and why their current bike doesn't cut it.

If someone had a MTB and asked me what they should do to make it a better commuter, I'd send them a picture of a Smoke.
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Old 06-16-06, 02:12 PM   #7
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The Smoke make's a halfway decent mtb if he puts knobbies on it. It's a rigid mtb frame afterall. As for doing long rides, I have a mtb and a fixie. I've done 60 mile rides on both and quite comfortably w/ no ill-effects afterwards. I could've done the same rides w/a road bike and probably been faster w/ less wear and tear, but in the end, you get used to what you ride and as long as you're comfortable, you can tackle long rides at your own pace.
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Old 06-16-06, 03:17 PM   #8
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Damn, I thought this was a thread about pot.
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Old 06-17-06, 07:47 AM   #9
Jim in KC
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Thank you for your responses. I agree that if his attraction to this bike gets my friend on a bike that's a good thing. I work at converting my fellow employees to bike commuters and encouraging the ones who try it. Kansas City is very car oriented, and once you get used to the interstates and trafficways as a way to travel, basically point to point with no awareness of what lies in-between, you miss a great deal of the city. I'm not particularly interested in his riding longer rides with me, just in his not being hindered from them by his choice. And I commuted 10 miles on a Raleigh with a coaster brake for three years, so I'm not saying it can't be done. As for alternatives there are many hybrids, both lighter and with a wider spread of gears. When I moved deeper into the city, I bought a KHS hybrid to navigate downtown with it's heavier traffic. When I get a picture of it, I'll put it on the commuter picture thread. I don't think the Smoke is a bad bike, just that its niche may be narrower than most when so many posters on the forum are looking for a one-bike solution. Thanks, again.
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Old 06-17-06, 10:32 AM   #10
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I think the name has alot to do with it. If it was called the El Segundo or the San Fernando or something it would probably be pretty much ignored. I'm not saying it has everything to do with it but if it's between the Kona Smoke and other similiar bikes some people will pick that one based on the radical name.
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Old 06-17-06, 08:15 PM   #11
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That's similar to how I started; on a no-suspension mtb. Not as well set up, but I still did quite a few 20 mile commutes, on pavement with knobbies. Sometimes I just have to know how to do something wrong before I can really understand how to do it right.
My interest was falling off a bit, and then I tried some slick tires for whatever reason. Zoom! That did it. I've been hooked ever since.
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Old 06-18-06, 07:44 AM   #12
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I have a heavy steel MTB frame I put thinner slicks on. Test drove the smoke and its a very smooth ride.

Mine has got the SUV feeling, that if I ram my drunk ass into a car door, the door is gonna get the worst of it. potential for touring/xtracycle conversion, and general sturdiness and longevity, and better commuting handlebars make this style more useful (as a single bike) than a road bike for me.
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Old 06-18-06, 08:53 AM   #13
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I think as long as we can get another cyclist on the road here in KC,that's all that really matters. I ride a Kona Muni-Mula as my everyday commuter and I ride my Giant FCR on weekends. Kona puts out a good solid frame and mixes in good componates. Besides your friend can always upgrade somewhere down the road if he decides he wants something a little more flashy. There are plenty of bike options in the KC area as you well know, maybe take him out on a saturday and visit the LBS's.
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Old 06-18-06, 09:18 AM   #14
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Yeah...The Smoke looks a lot like my commuter bike, which is a 1990's Specialized Hardrock with steel frame and no suspension. I'm real comfortable with mine, riding carfree 15 to 30 miles nearly every day, and I think I'd like the smoke just as much.

The big difference is the price. The smoke is around $400, while I paid $100 for my bike in cherry condition. Both frames are good and the components are similar. Test-ride and decide! Keep in mind that if you go with the rigid MTB you'll have to purchase slicks and fenders to make it comparable to the smoke.

As to whether the smoke is "as good as" a road bike, that's a matter of use and preference. You can give your friend information pro and con, but you can't decide for him unless he's a Mini-Me.
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Old 06-18-06, 06:46 PM   #15
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I’ve ridden my Smoke 50 miles in a notoriously hilly area and it was fine. The gearing is a little low but it works much better than my more expensive MTB with slicks.
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Old 06-18-06, 06:59 PM   #16
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The Smoke is a fairly well thought out, well priced commuting bike. Just because your friend doesn't want a Madone doesn't mean it's not what he would USE most of all. OP sounds a bit like the marketing department for Bicycling magazine's wet dream, either full on roadie or MTB with nothing in between. Some of us don't have cars to tote our bikes to where the pavement is pristine, so we tend to like practical bikes.
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Old 06-19-06, 10:45 AM   #17
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I have a Sirrus for commuting, but the Smoke would be great for many of my shorter trips... what's wrong with it? No stupid suspension fork, slick tires yet wide for that plush feel, fenders, racks, what's not to like? Good price.
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Old 06-21-06, 08:00 AM   #18
Jim in KC
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Thanks again for all the responses. I have enjoyed reading and learning from them. The
Smoke is a good sturdy bike. Instead of discouraging my friend from the Smoke, I will encourage him to test as many different kinds of bikes--road, mountain, cross, hybrid--as possible to give him an idea of what's available and their different riding characterisitics.
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Old 06-21-06, 10:23 AM   #19
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Good idea. Tell him to try a few different bikes. Who knows, maybe he'll like one of these:



Or if he's stuck on Konas...
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Old 06-22-06, 07:49 AM   #20
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Right, iyossarian. Road, mountain, cross, hybrid,...singlespeed and fixed.
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