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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:58 am 
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Where to start with this? Well, take a read of the wanted thread to give you an idea of why I'm very, very excited and proud to say that I finally have my hands on a Kona Kapu:

viewtopic.php?f=43&t=239743

I will always be a mountain biker at heart. Singletrack is the best, you can't beat burning around a forest, a field, wherever - on your favourite steed - gurning like a crazy person on that edge between falling off and nailing that section that usually catches you out.

What I can't ignore is that I spend 95% of my cycle time on the tarmac thanks to the daily commute and the urban environment of surburban and central London. I also can't ignore that whilst I really, really don't like the roadie look and in some cases the attitude, I really do like watching the grand tours. I can't help be inspired by our recent UK successes, but the late 80's of watching the TDF with my Dad and trying to keep up with him on his Rapide - his pride and joy - also contributed towards a niggle that since joining retrobike in 2009 has grown and grown. In fact, the project to restore his Rapide was the final nail in the coffin ( viewtopic.php?p=1708760#1708760 ); I needed to get my hands on a road bike.

But what road bike?

Well, choosing that was the easy bit. It would only ever be Kona. It would only ever be from the 1997 range; my absolute favourite year for Kona's. They had the best range, best spec's, best colours, best schemas and graphics.

So that leaves 1 option:

Image

The Kapu.

That's where the plan falls down. I've kept in touch with Kona over the last year or so, ever since I started looking for one; they've been really nice and provided some nice pictures and info regarding the A'ha (see the build thread here: viewtopic.php?t=239073 ). They revealed (and guessed) that they probably sold no more than 200 that year, maybe even less.

Thanks to Anthony - IMO the Kona specialist here - I got in touch with JP Saville, the original UK importer of Kona's back in the day and he confirmed that to his knowledge they never imported any Kapu's full stop to the UK. The exception was a Haole and that was for himself!

So what on earth was I going to do to scratch this itch?


Last edited by al-onestare on Mon May 16, 2016 1:38 pm, edited 11 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:18 am 
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So a bit of context.

Kona as we know are and were predominately a mountain bike brand and manfacturer. Like most similar brands at the time throughout the 90's, they started to broaden the range to cover other bikes; cruisers, hybrids and of course road bikes.

But who would buy them? We're all pretty tribal when it comes to our riding preferences; we're either roadies or those lunatic mountain bikers. Nowadays it's even more complex with courier nazis, single speed geeks and 29'er snobs vs 27.5" beardies :wink:

Would mountain bikers go to the dark side? Why would a road cyclist choose a mountain bike manufacturer for a road bike? Well, as the sales numbers indicate, they didn't sell many. But they did sell a few...

Generally, in the Kona range there were 2 offerings on and off from the early 90's to 1998 (where I stop paying attention!); the Haole and Kapu.

The Haole was a custom built ultra expensive but super cool Ti beast. In the 1994 catalogue, Kona ran a competition to re-name the Haole for the 1995 season:

Image

It's not clear what happened next but somewhere a long the line in 1994 and maybe even before Kona decided to offer a production road bike and so in 1995, the Kapu was launched. The Kapu (meaning "forbidden" or "gate" in Hungarian!) was the name that won the competition:

Image

Image

And since 1995, the Kapu has been a regular stalwart. Those early years, from 95 to and including 97 all used the same Columbus cyber tubing before they changed it to Reynolds in 1998, then in 1999 and onwards to aluminium or steel variations.

In fact, I'm pretty sure the 1995, 96 and 97 are exactly the same frame and forks along with most of the components. Could it be they simply ran very small production runs each year testing the market? Who's to say that some were shot blasted at the end of the year if they weren't sold and re-painted? Probably not, but you never know.

So back to the story, how was I going to scratch that itch?


Last edited by al-onestare on Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:35 am 
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About a year ago, I got into the habit of every Friday lunchtime, running a google search for "Kona Kapu for sale" set to the last month.

I've dived back years worth of internet information from forums all over the place; threads long since dead, members long gone. I've followed up emails to try and find out if the mention of a Kapu was something from the 95-97 era. I've had a few false starts but broadly absolutely nothing.

A few times a 98 version came up - even here - but they'd be re-sprayed, the wrong size or not in good condition. 99's come up a little more often but they are a completely different frame and sadly I really don't like them. I even had a moment of madness earlier this year and bought an orange/silver modern Kapu frame...and sold it within a week. I hated it to be honest - rubbish Italian finishing quality. Haole's are even rarer and when they do come up, rightly, very, very expensive.

Even Kona who at this point were having a look for me, came up with nothing. They don't even have any other pictures on file of the 1997 version apart from the catalogue shot - I've never seen a different picture of one - do they even exist?! Bless them, Kona even sent me a link to their new Honky Tonk which looks a bit like a Kapu...if you skwint hard enough :wink:

Fast forward to September this year. I was in NY with work (yeah, yeah - tough times), and ran the search and something rather curious popped up - on page 3 of the search - an add from Kijiji (I thought the same - what the hell is that? Turns out it's a Canadian fee-add site) with the words Kona Kapu.

No pictures were supplied but my spidey senses were twitching big time when I saw the magic words "Race Light" - this appeared on all Kona MTB's back in the day during this era. I fired off an email expecting nothing:

Quote:
I just spotted you ad about the Kapu. I just wondered what year it's from? I'm desperately looking for the 1997 model and since you say "Race Light" it might be what I'm after. Whilst I'm based in the UK I'm happy to pay the shipping. If you could email me some pictures that would be wonderful.


At best, I just wanted to see a picture of a Kapu - from that era - and share it here 'cause there are so few pictorial references outside the catalogue shots.

What I got in reply was beyond my expectation:

Quote:
Apologies for the picture quality - more of a cyclist than a shutterbug. Couple of more details: frame is Ritchey, wheels are Mavic 700c, all the rest is Campy. Pedals are the Look/105 style (have cleats if needed).I did have an overhaul summer of 2011 after triathlon season (Ben Instone the former UK time triallist - he was training and working here). Oh, he replaced the saddle with a Unity and the tyres are Michelin Sport. Frame serial number F4050715.

I am keen to hear from you as I recently sold an older Cannondale Sport touring bike (after much difficulty) to a former bicycle mechanic. Any and everyone who had inquired after it sniffed at it but I must confess it warmed the cockles of my heart to see him dance for joy - literally. I'd like to see this one go a new home as well - hope it's what you are looking for.

Cheers
P.S. Even if it isn't, I'd love to hear the back story.


Image


Last edited by al-onestare on Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:58 am 
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So this is where Anthony - the don - kindly stepped in after I fired off a few questions. On first glance it's looks like a 1995 model right? The colour, the spec...

...look again. What's this? Top tube cable routing on the top, not the bottom. The front mech has a clamp fitting, not a direct bolt on. And most obvious, the "Race Light" decal is from 1994 - not from 1995 - that had "Bici Strada" aka "Road Bike".

So what is it? Let's check the serial number:

Quote:
F4050715


This means it was built at the Fairly works, built in May 1994, the 715th bike than month. That means it was made very, very late in the 1994 cycle if you think most new ranges are launched in the late summer/early autumn and how manufacturers build months if not years in advance of release.

So what is it? We'll never be 100% sure, but we can guess that it's a late 1994 season Kapu - even before Kapu's were officially launched. How many were made? A handful. Who for? Employees? Dealers? A few lucky punters? Who knows. I pretty sure none have ever made it to the UK, let alone Europe, or if they did, they are long since gone (or very well hidden!).

Back to the story. I exchanged emails with the seller who thankfully is a lovely guy and best of all was willing to organise for it to be shipped. That's where the fun and games began. Shipping from Canada directly to the UK was going to cost in excess of £1k :shock: even with the all tricks of the trade factored in.

This is where NY stepped. I have a friend who after a few beers agreed to help me out (top man - that's another story!) and be the inbetweener so to speak. We'd organise shipping to Brooklyn, then from NY to London. It would cost less that half the price, just take a bit longer and of course be at greater risk of damage. I was willing to take the punt.

In late October it made it to Brooklyn in one piece and after a few false starts on delivery to my flat (a day too early when no-one was in, then Friday last week at the one time my other half wasn't it), it was sitting in the flat yesterday evening (complete in a Kona box).

Image


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:06 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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Great story is great. Watching with interest.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:10 am 
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So here we go - the initial inspection and mock up needed to serve two purposes:

1. Is everything straight, true and functioning?
2. Does it fit me?

For 1 I'm pleased to report that there were no dents - always my biggest fear. There are some spots of patina which you'd expect but nothing I can't deal with. There is some decal damage to the N of Kona on the down-tube. Experience (check out my Explosif build: viewtopic.php?p=1588264#1588264 ) has taught me NOT to remove and replace; the reproductions whilst admirable are just not quite right. The front mech doesn't want to shift at the moment but I'm sure that can be easily remedied. Bar the saddle which will be replaced with a Flite and the tyres (undecided) everything is original as far as I can tell.

For 2 thank the lord it does. It's a 62cm frame - spot on - that or a 60cm would have been fine. Let's hope my back agrees.

Image

Image

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What's next? Like all my builds it will be stripped and thoroughly cleaned, lubed and fixed. On top of the saddle and tyres it'll get a new chain of course and maybe new bar-tape. All cables will be retained, especially the outers because a) they are super smooth already and b) they are Campy. Campy equals cool. I'll begin that this weekend.

There are other subtle variances with the spec 1995 model; the stem is different (not the Velocity 0 degree rise version) and I have a sneaky feeling the bars might be as well. The headset is Campy, not the Kona branded Impact headset. They are original to this bike though :mrgreen:

As you may have guessed, I am a complete novice in road cycling so please excuse things like...well the bars set too high :lol:

It's been one hell of a journey - this alone travelled from north-west Canada to NY to Memphis to Stansted to BR1. Any feedback, suggestions or LOL's are welcome!


Last edited by al-onestare on Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:30 pm 
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...Canuck enter's the unchartered territory of the road bike section...

Not ventured here before so I'll tread lightly, but carry a very BIG stick :shock:

So this is where you've been spending alot of your time mate! :lol: I have to say I'm well impressed with your perseverance and congrat's for finally finding one! I know you have a hard on for the '97 Kona's but in my opinion what you ended up with trump's the '97 edition - what a beauty!! And a great story behind finding it as well! It's a shame it's so damn expensive to ship anything out of Canada ('cause it's an absolute treasure trove!!) but well done in finding a way :wink:

Hmm, it's not so scary in this part of the forum is it :D Quite like the idea of getting a road bike myself as....OMG! It's contagious!!
I'm outta here...you know where to find me! 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:26 pm 
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:lol: I know the feeling Canuck, I still feel it now - I'm an imposter in these parts!

Glad you like it - I'd still hanker for a 97 but I've convinced myself they don't exist so I'm falling in love with my paprika red iron horse. Glad you like it 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:09 pm 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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My first foray into the road section as well!

What a splendid write up Al, congratulations finding your unicorn and having the tenacity to bring it home :)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:52 am 
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So on closer inspection last night, new cables are the way forward. The original Campy inners are shot. No bother though.

Taking a look back to the 97 Kapu, it really was a mish-mash of colours; green frame, grey fork, silver components and cream tyres. For this, we're sticking with red, silver and black. So what's on the menu? Chainreaction continue to have a some great deals at the moment so (thanks to Kerplunk for the heads up!):

Image

Image

Image

The Flite from 93/94 has the red Selle Italia logo on the back. The tape will be the usual Cinelli cork black bar tape. Bar a new chain, that's it (I hope).

Strip down commences this weekend!

(How does Pendle witches sound as a first proper outing?)


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