I recently tested the new Safariland/Kona Patrol Bike, a purpose-built patrol bike with advanced features. This bicycle can really go anywhere, short of climbing telephone poles. Despite the all-day riding comfort and performance, it can tote a lot of cargo with surprisingly little effort.
This bike turned out to be such a smooth and efficient product that I’ve started to screen my calls in case Safariland wants it back too soon.
The Safariland/Kona Patrol Bike has some top-end features like a Shimano 30-speed drive train, which shifted smoothly and quietly. It did not jam, despite some added weeds, grit, and wet conditions. I run a similar drivetrain, with fewer gears. I have about 9,000 miles on mine.
The 7005 aluminum frame sports internal cabling, which not only looks good, it makes it snag free. The rear rack is integrated with the frame.
Testing the Rack
I kind of wondered about the rack. The specs said it could carry up to 200 pounds. The problem with that is how would the bike handle — would heavy weight whip it around or make it un-steerable?
I also wondered if the rack itself changed the handling of the bike.
I loaded the rack down, starting with 40 pounds. I could feel the weight, but the distribution made it manageable. The RockShox fork has a lockout, and I used it. This bike is not only capable of supporting cargo, the 30-speed drivetrain rolls seamlessly and the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes have a lot more “touch” and power than conventional brakes.
The technology to make this bike accelerate smoothly and brake smoothly can’t be overlooked. The hydraulic brakes have the smaller levers, because the pro setups no longer need only the fingertips to activate them. This advantage will be recognized when the officer is keying the radio while descending an embankment. The long travel shocks aren’t bad for this either.
The frame geometry allows for agile handling without compromising the ride stability. I have never before ridden a rack-equipped bike where the rack is actually useful. To top it off, a good rider could do some trail thrashing with this setup and not even know the rack was there.
It may be a patrol bike, but it’s also a Kona. Kona wrote the book on off-road insanity.
Big Wheels, Big Impact
There are a lot of studies on bicycle patrol effectiveness where “effectiveness” is an elusive term. Most measurements use dynamic observations like officer approachability, visibility, and maneuverability. Some have argued that bike patrol officers can have up to 50 percent more arrests than and several times the number of assists of auto patrollers.
Everything we know about patrol, EMS and even security professionals on bikes suggests the resources are optimized in many settings. In traffic-congested or crowded areas, a bicycle patrol or EMS response can be lifesaving. This past summer I personally witnessed coordinated LE/EMS — noting that a vehicle response would have been fatal for the victim and allowed the bad guys to evade capture.
I ran the Safariland Patrol Bike on every surface I encountered — jumping curves, descending stairs, dirt roads and off-road.
There is a great advantage to the 29-inch wheels, the fat tire equivalent of 700 mm. The additional three inches of wheel diameter allows users to negotiate larger obstacles, soak up trail hazards and optimize gear ratios. On the patrol bike, this creates a tactical advantage. The larger circumference allows the wheel surface to attack uneven terrain at a shallower angle.
Picture riding across a city park with BMX size wheels as opposed to large wheels with generous tires. This, by the way, is exactly what I did with this bike.
This bike is also offered with 26-inch wheels, but I don’t really know why an agency would opt for them.
The wheel size, head tube angle, and unusual sloping top tube contribute to the stability on uneven terrain. I know the top tube angle is for allowing easy standover height, but it seems to add to the flex of the frame.
By the way, I noticed the same thing that most riders noticed. The kickstand is on the left chainstay, not the center of the frame. Most riders didn’t like this. I was pretty indifferent about it.
The Safariland/Kona Patrol Bike is the only bike of its kind. It addresses almost all of the features that experts want in a patrol bike, in a single, durable package.