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  1. #1
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Kona Smoke vs Kona Dew Drop (or others) for beginner

    Hi everyone! I've been lurking here for a few days absorbing enough information to even begin asking questions. I haven't ridden in a long time (well over a decade) except for 20' or so on Sunday to make sure I could still get a bike going and not embarrass myself shopping. I will be moving to Boulder at the end of may (actually arrive early June) and want to get into biking to get myself back into shape. That said, I will be telecommuting back to the east coast, so I don't technically have a commute, but I wanted to be able to bike to do errands which is why I posted here. I would hope later to get into distance road biking and/ or mountain biking.

    There are other bikes I'm interested in (particularly the Jamis Ventura Sport) that do not appear to be readily available in boulder (one of the two shops listed on the Jamis site as distributors has none; the other has a single 2k+ bike) but focusing on these two allows me to look at both at the same shop (Full Cycle Bikes), which is highly rated according to the reviews of it I see. Here's how I see the two bikes comparing:

    Smoke:
    half the price of the dew drop
    includes fenders (only need to add rack)
    thick tires (I was never comfortable with skinny tires when I was a kid - always afraid I'd fall over)
    would probably "outgrow" very quickly if I started biking up into the mountains for fitness

    Dew Drop:
    more expensive
    need to add fenders and rack
    disk brakes
    drop bars
    would take me much longer to "outgrow" on long fitness rides

    Now, with the Smoke I could easily afford to get a second higher-end bike after making sure the habit sticks (I don't want to start with one in case even in Boulder I find riding on roads terrifying) but it seems to me the Dew Drop would let me put that off a lot longer, like until next Summer easily, but on the other hand, being half the price of the Dew Drop, the Smoke would make a better beater/ theft risk to leave locked up on the streets.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I don't want to start wit a used bike because I know nothing about bike maintenance now and while I want to learn I don't want to worry about any of that while getting comfortable riding again. I like the thought of getting a well-used one for my nicer bike, if I do really get in the habit, and picking all the componentry myself and putting them on (much cheaper than doing that on my car!).

    Thanks for any replies! I will be posting in the regional forums for CO soon, probably over lunch or this evening.

  2. #2
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    How out of shape is outta shape? Most stock bikes are designed for an average male, so 5'8"-5'10", 170lbs. If you're 6'6" and 350lbs, or 4'11 and 90lbs soaking wet, you're far enough from the specced rider that you might have fit issues or mechanical issues.

    Generally, I'd pick the bike that feels most comfortable... not fastest, not best handling, but most *comfortable*. A bike absolutely should not hurt on a 5 mile ride, and if it does, it doesn't fit your body right. Most shops will be ok with you taking the bike out on a few miles of test ride, and if you ask they should know things like where's the nearest hill. Only you can decide which bike is most comfortable.

    The other thing to look at is what kinds of errands you'll do. Mine are primarily to the grocery store (20-50lb loads) and the library, with occasional fits of other sorts of shopping. This means I need a bike that's well suited to carrying a heavy load. 50 lbs is more than a lot of bike tourists would put on their bikes, so I've learned a lot by paying attention to things bike tourists find useful on a bike.

  3. #3
    Senior Member MulliganAl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    Most shops will be ok with you taking the bike out on a few miles of test ride, and if you ask they should know things like where's the nearest hill. Only you can decide which bike is most comfortable.

    The other thing to look at is what kinds of errands you'll do. Mine are primarily to the grocery store (20-50lb loads) and the library, with occasional fits of other sorts of shopping. This means I need a bike that's well suited to carrying a heavy load. 50 lbs is more than a lot of bike tourists would put on their bikes, so I've learned a lot by paying attention to things bike tourists find useful on a bike.
    Can't second this advice enough.

    You must must ride a few different bikes so you'll know what fits you best, and don't just listen to what others say fits them the assume it will fit you. When I purchased my Specialized Tarmac I tried a lot of bikes, some frames had too much flex, some just didn't fit my body properly, but I eventually took the Tarmac out (twice) and decided it was the best fit for me at that time.

    Now I'm looking to do the same testing for a true commuter bike. It takes some time but buying the wrong bike is a real pain in the @ss and back, and wallet.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. -Albert Einstein

    When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells

    The best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew--and live through it. -Doug Bradbury

  4. #4
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    How out of shape is outta shape? Most stock bikes are designed for an average male, so 5'8"-5'10", 170lbs. If you're 6'6" and 350lbs, or 4'11 and 90lbs soaking wet, you're far enough from the specced rider that you might have fit issues or mechanical issues.
    Thanks for the reply! Fortunately, "out of shape" is relative. I'm a little over 5'10", and 170lbs is probably accurate, though it may be a bit more by June (I love my grandmother, but she encourages a lot of eating). That said, my CV system is not what it was six months ago, and moving into the mountains will compound that. Fortunately it usually only takes me a month to make great strides with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    Generally, I'd pick the bike that feels most comfortable... not fastest, not best handling, but most *comfortable*. A bike absolutely should not hurt on a 5 mile ride, and if it does, it doesn't fit your body right. Most shops will be ok with you taking the bike out on a few miles of test ride, and if you ask they should know things like where's the nearest hill. Only you can decide which bike is most comfortable.
    Unfortunately, it's been so long since I rode that I wouldn't really be comfortable taking a bike out, as I've forgotten all the street biking laws I ever knew, which was not many (I grew up, and am living now, in the middle of nowhere in CT). Maybe if there is a very quiet road nearby. I would certainly at least try to ride them a short distance and make sure they are comfortable for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    The other thing to look at is what kinds of errands you'll do. Mine are primarily to the grocery store (20-50lb loads) and the library, with occasional fits of other sorts of shopping. This means I need a bike that's well suited to carrying a heavy load. 50 lbs is more than a lot of bike tourists would put on their bikes, so I've learned a lot by paying attention to things bike tourists find useful on a bike.
    One aspect of telecommuting is that I need to make sure I leave the house most days, so I go grocery shopping three to four times per week and never get anywhere near fifty pounds, and if I did need a major trip I would just take the car. twenty pounds might happen, though. I suppose I will look at people biking around Boulder (fortunately there are a lot of them!) but I was hoping to get one in the first week, while I'm still off work.

    Again, thanks for the reply!

  5. #5
    Senior Member ratell's Avatar
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    I would go with the smoke personally. The main advantage of the Dew Drop is the drops. If you're nervous about riding on the road you'll be more comfortable upright anyway. If your goal is fitness there's no real advantage to a faster bike (you just have to go faster to get your heartrate up). If you end up wanting to do long rides where the single hand position of the smoke is a problem you'll probably be eyeing something fancier than the Dew Drop anyway.

  6. #6
    The Fred Menace! RI_Swamp_Yankee's Avatar
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    I was looking real close at the Smoke before going the "30 year old beater" route. The 2009's have 29" wheels, which are very nice for speed and comfort with a road tread. (I think the Dews have these, too.)

    It won't have the same level of components on the Dew Drop. One review claims its bottom bracket is a cup-and-cone deal rather than sealed cartridge, the pedals are plastic and those flat bars could get real old on long slogs. (Drops, risers or city-bike style bars are cheap and easy upgrades. Bar ends are cheaper and easier.)

    It has a seriously serious steel mountain-bike-style frame, nigh indestructible, and makes a great platform for upgrades. It has fenders installed and aligned, a great seat, and is a well-sorted ride for daily commutes right out of the box. This is a bike you can invest in - and for the money, upgrading the Smoke as time and budget allow makes more sense to me than buying a more expensive ride that will still need to have work done to make it a commuter. (Upgrade the pedals and bars, first.)

    But, test-ride it and see if you like it first. Test ride a few other styles, too.

  7. #7
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Yes, I'll ride a few different ones. Does anyone have any suggestions for other styles of bike that might be good? It's taken me many hours of reading to figure out enough to even make a coherent question post. If I bike far and often enough that anything about the Smoke feels limiting I will just buy a nicer bike for the long slogs and the Smoke (or other cheap beater) can be used for errands. The budget is not so much the issue as not wanting to waste money on a good bike that winds up sitting around.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    I looked at the Smoke last year, the 2008 model. That was marketed as the Smoke 2-9. I liked it, but ended up with the '06 Smoke (26" wheels). Kinda wishing I had ponied up the $ for the newer model.

    Another brand you might want to check out is KHS. Something like the Urban Xpress. It's a decent starter.

    Having said that, the best advice is this: Know your budget, and don't budge from it. Don't obsess with one brand or model. Go to as many shops and ride as many bikes as you can.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
    Community guidelines

  9. #9
    Ridin' the Bitterroot
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    I've been commuting on a 2008 Smoke 2-9 for the past year almost and it is a great bike for the money. The only problem that I've had is a broken spoke from going over some rough railroad tracks. You can't go wrong with it, especially considering the price. The only changes that I made to it is I put on a rear rack and i swapped out the handlebars for some Soma Sparrow handlebars. I'm thinking of putting some drop bars on it with bar end shifters and making it into more of a touring bike.

    Here are some pics of mine:





  10. #10
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    no1mad: My only budget is I'd prefer to keep the bike plus all requisite accessories (helmet, locks, lights) under $1000 if possible, and I'd be willing to break that if I felt I was getting material advantage (like, say, a Cannondale made in Bedford rather than a Kona from China, but it looks like their beater-price bikes aren't made there, unsurprisingly). Still, if I liked it, I could justify a Bad Boy on that basis. Also, while this post was focused on Kona, I am going to test out more than that, but I'd really be far more comfortable with a major brand name, and I would like to get it at a bike shop within a few miles of where I will live, which cuts it down (for example, no Jamis).

    montanacyclist: That is a good-looking bike! May I ask what kind it is? I searched around but I have no idea which ones would fit a Smoke, since Kona themselves don't seem to make one. It's also nice to know drop bars can be fitted; I had read a post here somewhere about difficulty doing that with certain types of shifters, and had no idea how to tell whether that affected the Smoke.

  11. #11
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    Personally not a fan of the Dew Drop. I have not ridden it but I personally am not sure if the geometry works out since the Dew frame is originally flatbar.

    If you are planning on just general fitness and errands I would say go for the Smoke or a cheaper bike at the store. Beyond routine maintenance the Smoke will last forever. It will run perfectly for small rides and when you are ready to commit to a nicer road bike for longer rides you can.

  12. #12
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Hmm, I didn't know frame geometry affected the bar style that could be comfortably used. No one has suggested the Dew Drop over the Smoke, so I believe I will start with looking at the Smoke, and whatever else is available is that style and range and the LBSes. Thanks for all the comments! I will make sure to post my thoughts after trying them out five long weeks from now.

  13. #13
    Senior Member ratell's Avatar
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    A bike you could look at is the Kona Ute. It will let you carry a weeks worth of groceries, but will certainly be heavier than the smoke. It does seem like a great deal to me though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
    Unfortunately, it's been so long since I rode that I wouldn't really be comfortable taking a bike out, as I've forgotten all the street biking laws I ever knew, which was not many (I grew up, and am living now, in the middle of nowhere in CT). Maybe if there is a very quiet road nearby. I would certainly at least try to ride them a short distance and make sure they are comfortable for that.
    The rules of the road for bikes are generally the same as for cars. If you want a refresher, I'd look at Street Smarts by John Allen. Most states have a site explaining their particular variations too... Googling "bicycle manual" and the state name will turn it up.

    It's entirely normal to get startled easily, or to be scared if a car comes close. The thing to remember is that drivers (if they're sane) really and truly don't want to hit you. Hitting a cyclist is *expensive*... think about how much auto body repairs and a windshield cost. Most drivers are sane enough to remember that. You'll also find that bike shops really try to be located near bike paths if they can... and they'd rather send a newer cyclist off on the path while they get their bike legs back together.

    As far as other bikes to try... I'd try as many bikes as you can. Even if it looks weird or totally stupid, I'd try it. I'd never ridden drop bars before last year, and I adjusted to them very quickly on a test ride. I'd never ridden a folder before either... and it turns out 20" wheels aren't anywhere near as bad as people make out. I didn't end up with either because between my physical limitations and my desire for 25lb bags of rice, it wasn't sensible. But I learned a lot from trying. The more specific you can be about what you want to do, the better the shop's staff can help you.

  15. #15
    Ridin' the Bitterroot
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
    montanacyclist: That is a good-looking bike! May I ask what kind it is? I searched around but I have no idea which ones would fit a Smoke, since Kona themselves don't seem to make one. It's also nice to know drop bars can be fitted; I had read a post here somewhere about difficulty doing that with certain types of shifters, and had no idea how to tell whether that affected the Smoke.
    The bars are Soma Sparrow bars which you can find here:http://somafab.com/barsparrow.html

    I just kept the grip shifters and brake levers and put them straight on. They're not technically drop bars, but they are close and they give me more of an aero position for the winds.

  16. #16
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    If I were looking at Konas, I wouldn't look at either of these bikes. I'd consider, instead, the Dew Plus or the Jake.

    The Dew Plus is a little more expensive than the Smoke, but it's got disc brakes, which is nice for a utility bike, and better components.

    The Jake is a little more expensive than the Dew Drop, but I think it's a much better bike. It doesn't have disc brakes, but it does have a lot better components, and it is a frame designed to be used with drop bars. I ride a Jake, and I love it.

  17. #17
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
    Hmm, I didn't know frame geometry affected the bar style that could be comfortably used.
    It doesn't.

    ----

    You're not seeing recommendations for the DD because it's an odd bike. Most people who want a road bike want a stereotypical road bike, not what they see as a hybrid with drops. It's just about perception.

  18. #18
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    It doesn't.
    Two people have said it does... ah well, it's Friday so I'm not worrying too much about it. If I like the Smoke, I'll probably get it, and I'll try a bunch of others anyway. I'd hoped to narrow my selection down, but it's actually increased. Thanks anyway guys, at least I know what to look at!

  19. #19
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    I'm no bike mechanic, but from what I've read, switching from a straight bar to drops can present some problems that can get tricky (if you're not a tinkerer) or expensive, depending on what kind of brakes and shifters you have.

    For the brakes, you will need different brake levers than what comes with your straight bar, and if you have v-brakes (aka linear pull), the brake levers wouldn't be compatible without a travel agent.

    If you have the grip-twist shifters on your straight bar, there won't be a convenient place to mount them on drop bars if they can be mounted at all. Changing the shifters could become an expensive proposition if you can't find replacements that are compatible with both drops and your derailers because you may end up having to change derailers, cables, etc.

    I have ordered a set of aluminim Titec h-bars from nashbar to give myself some more hand positions for long rides. The twist shifters I have and v-brake levers won't involve anything extra to move over, and the bar-ends that came with my bike (craigslist special) will go in the front to give me something similar to aero bars (again, at a minimum of cost and tinkering).

    If you think you might want to make a switch to drops in the future, you should discuss that with the LBS before you buy. They should be able to tell you how much of a problem that switch would be and they can point you in the direction of a different bike that would be comparable to the Smoke for now but would be easier to upgrade later.

    Oh, and if it were me and those were my two choices, I would go with the Smoke because it will do everything you want it to do and costs less. Bike fit is a personal thing and there's no need to break the bank on a bike until you have a better idea of what YOU want out of a bike to fit YOUR needs.

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