|It's hard to convince her to keep the bike throttled back a bit.|
Because Big Sis has been rapidly progressing in her bike skills and because she's grown tall enough, I put together a mountain bike with 20-inch wheels for her. I found a 2007 Kona Makena on Craigslist a while ago. The bike had a couple of positives going for it; it's a well-built, good quality frame. It also has a surprisingly nice Suntour suspension fork with about 50mm travel. The Kona is also an acceptable, not frilly, color. As much as I don't want to admit it, the color of a bike does come into play as far as the successful acceptance of its intended rider. So the present compromise is sort of a Joan-Jett-tough-girl version of pink rather than some nauseating Disney-pastel-princess pink.
|2007 Kona Makena, rebuilt and upgraded.|
When I got it, the bike also had a few negatives, with some worn out and/or sub-par parts and was in dire need of maintenance. So, of course, I stripped it to the frame and rebuilt it from the bearings outward. I replaced the boat anchor bar and stem with aluminum versions, the battered Tektro brakes with Avid levers and v-brakes, and the saddle and seat post with nicer versions. I also installed a 7-speed freewheel in place of the worn 6-speed, and gear changes are accomplished via a new SRAM chain through a vintage Deore XTII M-737 rear derailleur controlled by a Suntour XC Comp 7-speed thumbshifter. As a nod to the preferences of my little mountain biker, I found a pair of hot pink Oury grips. She chose the pink bottle cage, and is overjoyed to finally be able to carry her own water.
|She seems more appropriately sized to this bike than to her old bike, as valiantly as it served.|
One thing that I couldn't do anything about was the solid cast steel 140mm cranks with riveted 40 tooth chainring. It's a crime to equip a kid's bike with any single part that is so egregiously heavy when a better aluminum version can't be much more expensive. These cranks alone are about 3+ pounds. Ordinarily I'm not overly concerned with bike weight. After all, I ride a Big Dummy, a Pugsley and Denver B-cycles regularly. However, looking for ways to reduce the weight ratio of a 25-ish pound bike to a 48-pound rider, thoughtful changes can make for a nimbler, better experience when learning to ride off-road. A 34-ish tooth chainring would also make for much better off-road gearing for the 7-speed rear end. As soon as I can find a better setup, I'll swap the cranks and chainring out.
|With Chloe, riding through the park.|
The little Kona is still equipped with the Duro brand imitation Panaracer Smoke 20x2.0 tires that it came with, but I'm looking for something with a little rounder profile. I've found the selection of real mountain bike tires, as opposed to BMX tires, in the 20-inch size somewhat limited. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open.
|Rocketing on the new bike down the local dirt track.|
So far, she's done well learning to use hand brakes only, as her previous bikes have had coaster brakes. She's also figured out the shifting, and seems to really appreciate the lowest gear to climb on the dirt trail, and has remarked on how the suspension fork smoothes out some of the bumps. The larger diameter tires seem to have increased her speed, in a similar manner that moving from 26 to 29-inch tires can do for an adult. I can only imagine how fast she's going to be once she's gotten the bike completely sorted out.
|A celebratory rock climb in lieu of fireworks.|