And Another Thing About Rigid Steel Frames

Last week we covered the excellent Kona Unit X, a rigid, steel frame workhorse of a bike. If you haven’t read it (and come on, whaddya waiting for?) I gushed about its do-it-all-ness. Sure it won’t handle black diamond singletrack as well as a full suspension bike, or even a hardtail, but the simple elegance of the bike makes general riding in the dirt, on the street, to the store, so fun it almost doesn’t matter. 

But I forgot a crucial element of the beauty of a basic rigid bike with a practically immortal steel frame. The Unit X will never go out of style. It will never be obsolete. I may grow tired of it at some point, though that’s hard to believe, but by its very stripped-down, basic nature, I also know it will forever remain something that doesn’t need to be upgraded.

Dignified final resting place? Or long-term parking? That’s the beauty of simplicity. Photo: Tassilo Groper

This is very unlike my beloved full suspension rig, a Marin Rift Zone, which at this point, four model years old, is still a top of the line bike, but doesn’t quite have the halo of new its 2024 cutting edge siblings do. I know that in another handful of years, the geo and suspension will seem embarrassingly quaint. Usually I replace bikes like this every couple years because they seem…old, and the resale value plummets dramatically. Got to keep up with the Joneses, of course.

Nothing to gain by upgrading one rigid steel frame to another though. Maybe a different paint scheme, but really, that’s it. The upgrade was made in just getting the Kona into my garage. I can easily imagine my daughters riding it long after I’m gone, just for the sake of dear old dad. 

Long live long-lived bikes, in other words. 

Top photo: Just hose it off, oil it up, and you’re good to go. Photo: Avishek Pradhan

Words by Justin Housman




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