Kona Africa Bike: Longer Term Review

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have replaced my Kona Africa Bike with a Raleigh Tourist De Luxe.  The Kona is currently awaiting a bit of maintenance and a clean-up before eventually going onto eBay.  I used the bike every day for about 3 months and was generally happy with it, but decided that a Tourist De Luxe at the price I saw mine at was too good to pass up.  I have decided that the Africa Bike deserved a second review covering its use over a longer period of time than my first review.

The Good:

1) The original single-speed gearing was very pleasant to use and didn’t give me any trouble, although it made riding longer distances and climbing hills more tiring.

2) The replacement Nexus 3-speed gearing was excellent, with enough range to increase the distance the bike could comfortable cover.  I particularly enjoyed the ability to gear down when stationary, along with the general smoothness and reliability of the transmission.

3) The coaster brake.  Both gearing systems came with a coaster brake, the first one I had used since being on holiday in Germany a few years ago.  Coaster brakes prevent you from back-pedalling which can be annoying when setting off, however the advantages of the coaster brake is in its simplicity, essentially being a chain-actuated drum brake.  It was quite liberating to be able to slow down gently when approaching traffic lights or to modulate my speed without the need for a brake lever.  I feel there is something quite intuitive about coaster brakes and may put on on the Tourist if I ever convert it to a 5 speed.

The Bad:

1) The basket.  The folding basket was brilliant, it made me appreciate baskets in general and I liked being able to carry a few things within easy reach and sight.  The problem with the basket was that it squeaks, a lot.  The squeaking got worse when two of the metal wires which make up the basket snapped.  This happened within 3 months of use.

2) The rear rack.  Whilst it was sturdy and I agree with the rationale of integrating it into the frame, the tubing was thicker than that on my Yuba, at around 20 mm it made carrying most panniers impossible.

3) The frame geometry.  The bike was comfortable to ride for distances less than about 25 km, after which it became uncomfortable, mainly due to the difficulty of putting power down onto the pedals.  This was a result of the hybrid frame geometry; mountain bike like seat and head-tube angles but with higher and closer handlebars.  This means that your quads do all of the work, all of the time.  For me this meant riding more than 25 km started to get uncomfortable, although I did manage over 50 km on it a few times.

The Kona Africa Bikes (One or Three) are ideal bikes for people who want to make journeys of about 15 km each way at the most.  This probably covers a great deal of what most people want from a bike, and probably all of it for some people.  As I found myself wanting to travel further by bike, whilst remaining upright, I decided that this wasn’t the bike to do that on.  The bike has many good qualities and hopefully it will end up with a new owner who it is fully suitable for.


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