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Originally published Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Getting in Gear

Beefy bikes for getting you around town or around the block

A review of two heavy-duty bicycles by Kona: the Kona Sutra and the AfricaBike.

Special to The Seattle Times

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With gas prices bound to increase again, it makes sense to reduce your driving as much as possible. Why drive a few blocks to the store, or even a few miles to work, when a bike will get you there just as quickly (or nearly so)? And biking will also give you a bit of exercise. In short, you'll save money, improve your health, and burn off stress.

Binational Kona Bikes — headquartered in both Ferndale, Wash., Vancouver, B.C. — offers two-wheeled solutions to your gas-guzzling woes.

The Kona Sutra blends old-school strength with modern technology to form a bike that's tough enough to handle the rigors of jumping curbs and pounding city streets, while still being comfortable enough to log long miles between home and office.

The Sutra features a stout chromoly steel frame and forks for strength and durability. The bike comes standard with front and rear racks so you can toss on panniers to haul your business papers, laptop and a change of clothes — the racks are rated to carry up to 30 kilograms of cargo (about 66 pounds).

That stout frame sports sleek disc brakes, providing incredible stopping power when zipping along city streets. Shimano derailleurs provide smooth shifting from click-levers mounted on the ends of the drop bars. We tested the Sutra cruising the Foothills Trail and secondary roads from Tacoma to Carbonado near Mount Rainier, as well as rushing through city traffic in Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. The bike rolls comfortably on long cruises, and is nimble enough for the stop-and-go of the city. Available in six frame sizes, the Sutra sells for $1,199. More information: www.konaworld.com.

If your commuting tends more toward trips to the grocery store, or around your neighborhood, consider the beefy Kona AfricaBike. This single-speed cruiser was developed to be the primary transportation for AIDS workers in rural Africa, where a bike can be the difference between treating two patients a day, or 20. The all-steel AfricaBike is stout enough to handle rough dirt tracks, but cruises well on suburban streets. With an integrated tail rack and a deep handlebar basket, the AfricaBike offers the tools you need to carry home the shopping. Also available in a three-speed version, the AfricaBike also provides the opportunity to help others: A portion of each purchase helps donate more bikes to African health care programs. The AfricaBike One (single speed) sells for $375, and the AfricaBike Three (three-speed version) runs $449. See www.konaworld.com.

Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of four to six weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Dan with gear-related questions at gearguy@adventuresnw.net.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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