Review: Kona Dr. Good

By Josh Patterson

“Hello, my name is Josh. I own too many bikes.”

It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Something is always broken, worn out or in need of adjustment, tubes are always flat, and parts are always being robbed from Peter to fix Paul. It is especially frustrating when all I want to do is hop on a fully-functional bike and run quick errands without asking myself, “Wait, is this the bike without brake pads?” Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, and sometimes you must fight a severe infestation of velocipedes with more velocipedes. Kona’s Dr. Good is a new model for 2011. It is a simple bike with a simple mission: get you from point A to point B, and do it with a minimum of upkeep.

Kona has two families of daily drivers: The SimpliCITY line is intended for those who need to haul significant amounts of cargo (check out Bicycle Times #5 for a review of the Kona Ute) and don’t always stick to pavement. The Asphalt series is aimed at riders looking for a nimble city bike who don’t need to bring copious amounts of cargo with them. The Dr. Good is a member of the latter family. It is not to be confused with a flat-bar road bike or fitness bike—though it is capable of handing both duties with aplomb. The bolt-on wheels, rack and fender mounts, full-length housing and an internally-geared drivetrain make it known that the good doctor is designed as an all-weather commuter.

To this end, the Dr. Good comes smartly spec’d for its intended use. A Shimano Revo twist shifter was easy to use when wearing thick winter gloves. A Shimano mechanical disc brake up front and a 7-speed Nexus hub with an integrated drum brake in the rear meant no rim brakes squealing in the wet. When paired with a 38-tooth chainring, it provided a comfortable gear range for all but the steepest hills.

Speaking of hills, I have a lot of them in my neighborhood. I’m not talking about small rollers, mind you. More like “hors categorie” epics. That’s the price I pay for an awesome view of the city skyline… The Dr. Good’s handling is neither twitchy nor sluggish; I felt very confident going downhill at speed, and once in the city, the Dr. Good was still nimble enough to easily maneuver through traffic.

I spend so little time on bikes with internally geared drivetrains that I tend to forget how nice it is to be able to shift without pedaling, particularly when traffic lights conspire against me. I was able to roll up to stoplights in the hardest gear, shift into an easier one while waiting my turn, and as soon as the light was green, I was off—no slipping or lagging in engagement.

When it was time to head onward and upward, the hub’s narrow gear range meant I had to stand and mash on inclines that I would usually sit and spin with a derailleur-equipped drivetrain. Kona does offer several similar models with a full complement of gears. Not to worry, the moustache bar made it easy to rock the bike back and forth in a very natural motion while slowly making my way back to the house. The bike’s stiff and light 7005 aluminum frame kept the overall weight in check and meant I wasn’t lugging more bike around than I needed to.

Kona prides itself on offering more sizes than many other bicycle manufacturers. The Dr. Good comes in six sizes, so there’s one for just about everyone. I would describe my test bike’s fit as “upright, but not uptight,” meaning that, for a given size, the cockpit is shorter than many comparable bikes. This is just one more reason to try before you buy! Along with the aforementioned handlebar, the shorter top tube gave me a more upright position than I am accustomed to. Not to the point I was cramped, but certainly a few degrees shy of the Mary Poppins position. My fit was almost more cruiser than commuter.

When running quick errands it didn’t bother me, but during my 12- mile commute to the Bicycle Times HQ my lower back would tighten up as a result of my more upright posture and fully-loaded messenger bag. The Dr. Good’s upright riding position is great for spatial awareness, but shifts more weight onto your back. One solution would have been to take advantage of the frame’s rack mounts and use panniers to keep the weight off my back and on the bike.

This proved to be the perfect winter to test this bike’s all-weather capabilities. I rode the Dr. Good through four months of rain, slush and snow, and didn’t do more than clean and lube the chain. I didn’t need to. I’m happy to report the bike is no worse for wear.

The Dr. Good sits in the middle of Kona’s family of Asphalt commuter bikes that range from the $430 Dew to the $1,100 Alfine 8-equipped Dr. Fine. At $790, there are less expensive commuter bikes on the market, but in my opinion, a season of all-weather riding with a modicum of maintenance and no worn-out parts confirms it is money well spent. Mission accomplished!

Riders looking for a dependable, low-maintenance, four-season commuter should consider giving the Dr. Good a test ride.

Tester stats

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5”7”
  • Weight: 145lbs.
  • Inseam: 30”

Bike stats

  • Country of Origin: Taiwan
  • Price: $790
  • Weight: 25.5
  • Sizes Available: 46, 49, 53 (tested), 56, 59, 61cm

 
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