Kona Unit X Dream Builds: Alpine vs. Expedition

In their latest video, Francesco and Giorgio from Montanus assemble two Kona Unit X dream builds using select components and accessories. For comparison, they tailor each for the trips they love most: one for expedition bikepacking and another for alpine mountain riding. Watch the video and learn more about the builds here…

We don’t know exactly why we feel such visceral emotions for steel hardtails, but we certainly do. Maybe the romantic charm of Chromoly bikes brings us back to the 90s, the golden era of mountain bikes. Or perhaps it’s that the simplicity of the diamond frame gives off the aura of an elegantly modest and practical machine.

Not so long ago, we rode a pair of Kona Unit Xs on a bikepacking expedition in South America, where we saw for ourselves the wild side of the Chilean Andes. Along the 550-kilometer Cordillera de Fuego route (find the film we made linked in the Related Content grid below), we were able to ride the fully loaded Unit X along gravel roads, volcanic ash fields, singletrack mountain trails, doubletrack, and asphalt roads. During that expedition, we especially appreciated the Unit X’s versatility, so we decided to create two different bikepacking setups tailored to the types of trips we usually ride. The first one is conceived to take on alpine routes, whereas the second one is built to embark on expeditions in remote and desolate places.

UNIT X “Alpine”

The idea for the Alpine bikepacking rig was to kit out a bike capable of riding on the rough and narrow singletrack trails typical of alpine mountain environments. The first step to build this “Alpine” machine was mount a 120mm Cane Creek Helm MKII Air using a Cane Creek 110-Series headset (ZS44/28.6/H8 EC44/40). We also replaced the standard handlebar with a Roost Titanium bar—30mm rise and 80mm length—paired with a 35mm Roost Dominator Ti stem. We chose the Ergon GE1 Evo grips and replaced standard brakes with 180-180mm Formula CURA to increase the braking power.

The cockpit was completed with a BarYak Ultra with titanium cross bar (in place of the carbon one) and a TwoNav Cross GPS units. A special combo of Ergon SMC Core saddle and the Cane Creek EESilk+ takes comfort to the next level. The seatpost clamp is from Wolf Tooth. Stan’s Baron CB7 wheels combined with Vittoria Mezcal 29 x 2.6″ tires and 76 Projects HiFlow valves make the wheels/tires tough, lightweight, and fast.

  • Kona Unit X Alpine Build, Montanus
  • Kona Unit X Alpine Build, Montanus
  • Kona Unit X Alpine Build, Montanus
  • Kona Unit X Alpine Build, Montanus

On the transmission side, we replaced the standard crankset with the lightweight and bombproof Cane Creek Titanium eeWings and opted for a Wolf Tooth 30T Power Trac Elliptical chainring to help our legs on the steep climbs. All the bags are from Topeak. We mounted the Frontloader 8L bag (harness + dry bag with built-in valve) on the handlebar paired with the Barloader and drybag to keep cameras and lenses safe.

The Backloader X (15L or 10L) saddlebag is paired with the Backloader Wishbone, an anti-sway saddle mount that keeps the rear bag stable and can hold additional bottle cages. There are Fidlock bottles mounted there with magnetic mounting bases, a Twist uni connector, and a universal bottle holder with BOA—just in case we need to stash a beer for camp. The bag set is rounded out with the Midloader in the triangle (4.5L for medium, and 6L for large) and the Toploader on the top tube. Repair tools and spare parts are in the Gearpack, a compact bag with sections and an internal organizer.

Kona Unit X Expedition Build, Montanus

UNIT X “Expedition”

The Unit X “Expedition” setup is based on the Alpine setup except for a few details that make it more for carrying extra gear in remote places. The most significant differences are the rigid fork and rear rack. The P2 Kona fork has three-pack cargo cage mounts on each fork blade, where we mounted the Topeak Versacage system to carry extra food and gear packed in dry bags. Two more Versacages are on the triangle (one inside and one under the downtube) to carry a 1L Inox steel bottle for extra water and a liquid-fuel can for the stove, both secured with Voilè Straps.

  • Kona Unit X Expedition Build, Montanus
  • Kona Unit X Expedition Build, Montanus
  • Kona Unit X Expedition Build, Montanus

For the cockpit, we mounted the BarYak Expedition and the TwoNav Trail2 GPS units. The setup includes Topeak Uni Super Tourist rear rack paired with 15L Pannier Drybags, a must when you are in places where re-supply is few and far between. A drybag and a tripod are strapped to the top of the rack with Voile Rack Straps. For this setup, we chose the Ergon GA3 winged grips, since they provide more comfort and prevent numb hands on long rides. Last but not least, we replaced the SPD pedals with Roost Nero flat pedals, since flat MTB shoes are more versatile and comfy during a long bikepacking expedition.

Kona Unit X Dream builds, Montanus

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