Kona Hei Hei 1991 British Championship Contender


Devout Dirtbag
Thank you for taking an interest in my rather special (IMHO) Kona Hei Hei. This bike has some great history, enjoy the read and comments welcome.



The bike was purchased new in 1991 from Stif cycles in North Yorkshire, as a custom race XC bike. Who would spend so much…, a Mr David Harmon the ex-Eurosports cycling commentator, he had the bike from 1991 to 2016, until I purchased it (2 owner only). A lifelong cyclist, until he had some ill health, hope your well David.

David was a serious British Championship XC contender, where he had his best placing of 5th in 1991 on this bike. When I was buying the bike, he confirmed ‘it has a scrap on the right chainstay caused by a massive chain suck in the 1991 nationals. The damn thing jammed good and solid and cost me 4th place or possible a podium.’ It’s not often I welcome damage, but what history! He dabbled with trying to turn full time professional during this time being sponsored by Epping Forest MTB club along with a stable of other talented riders. This is covered quite well in this www.thewashingmachinepost.net/david_harmon.html where he fondly references this Kona Hei Hei. I think the Kona needed to be sold but he didn’t want to let it go, hence the auction finishing at 4.30am British Summer Time on a week day! I had a sleeping bag and alarm in the front room to avoid waking my young family! When I picked it up, he was somewhat relieved, as I do ride and it would be used and cared for, plus I’m relatively local being in the next town.

The bike was only available as a frame only build in the UK, as indicated in the original sales brochure- https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hPaICOwGseivFaruuYAdD3yx1S-WyGmF/view So its never been fitted with Kona finishing kit, it was built to be as light and fast as possible, without much regard for cost.


Whilst this is very subjective subject, I believe I have generally done right by the bike whilst enhancing it for performance and aesthetics, so be kind!


The bike was fully functional when I received it and had a huge amount of stories associated with it, I didn’t want to destroy this but did want to get it to fit better and replace some of the younger period editions, which were replaced out of necessity /availability. Obviously being titanium I didn’t need to worry about paint, a true bike for life.

Finishing Kit - The originally fitted Orange stem, which was very long and clearly suited to David’s build, was not to my taste and too long, so I sought to change this and rebuild it to enjoy the bike to its full potential. Additionally, being a bit OCD, I didn’t want a ‘Orange’ stem on a Kona. The decision was made to change, so either an original Kona Velocity or something more exotic. The problem with the Velocity is that I didn’t need the noodle and the weight penalty of typical Velocity stem when compared to other high end kit. Being a custom build from the original purchase, I thought I had licence to go for something more exotic. Additionally, I wanted the finishing kit to match, so whatever the stem brand was I wanted the seat post to match. To minimise the amount of brands, I already had a Ringle Holey seatpost binder and front wheel quick release, an icon of a brand, so the decision was made, original Ringle components wherever possible. Eventually I managed to obtain a Ringle Zooka stem at 120mm in silver, coupled with a silver Ringle Moby seatpost. The quick releases were non-matching, so again I managed to source a replacement Ringle holey rear quick release wheel skewers that had long since perished previously with David. Whilst I know some of the original period Ringle components can be ‘delicate’, they have performed faultless to date and are very lightweight. I retained the beautifully constructed handlebar, as it is an original Merlin titanium product. I think the replacement kit suits the bike necessarily but I am always on the look out for the special edition original Kona titanium finishing kit and fork, but I don’t hold much hope!




The saddle looked a bit scruffy, was relatively heavy and the yellow didn’t match anything else. I didn’t fancy a Kona Avocet saddle as they look very heavy and at odds with a featherlight XC bike. I used to use Selle Italia flight saddle on all my early bikes, so that was an easy choose. The one chosen was from my bosses 1992 Diamond Back Axis, which he could no longer get on with. So that was a good score being period correct.

The groupset fitted when I bought it was generally ok, except the mech’s were not XT M370/372/375 series. Whilst tempted with XTR, the bike was purchased in 1991 and XTR M900 was not released until 1992, so I decided to stick to the XT in period groupset. To find good quality components meant I had to broaden my search, a number items came from Portugal as NOS (front and rear mechs). The chain was changed, I never found a quality NOS XT 7 speed chain, so went for a quality 7 speed from KMC. Whilst the KMC is a modern compromise, it does mean I don’t ruin the rest of the groupset. No pedals were supplied, so I managed to get some period correct XT pedals in excellent condition.


The decals had more than weathered, I like patina but some were missing and some had been replaced with other stickers (for instance the CTC sticker on the headtube, from when David was ‘off-road access officer' for CTC in 1998. Rightly or wrongly, I wanted replacement decals (where possible, Ti Sports is unobtainable so that was kept, despite being unreadable). Quite a lot of discussions were needed as the bike is a 1991 and one of the fitted stickers appeared to be from1992, according to Gil. I never got to the bottom of this, so went with what David said, and bought a mix and fitted the replacements for what is currently fitted (seat-tube decal is 1992, the remainder 1991).


Next was the bling, once you start with Ringle, I had to get the bottle cages. At first I had red Ringle cages to match the Tarmac brakes, but then found a green cage in Germany, I liked the idea of it matching the decals better. I’m not really a green fan typically but I do like these for this build.

The tyres fitted by David were the venerable Schwalbe racing ralphs, something I have fitted to other modern bikes but it didn’t feel right, being so out or period. I use this bike so deliberately didn’t attempt to get +30 year old tyres for it. So a set of classic Panaracer Smoke’s were fitted as a good compromise.. They Look the part and in the correct conditions adequate, but I have to admit somewhat compromised when compared to what was fitted by Dave (I still have them), and do swop them around depending what I’m doing.

The fitted grips were pretty worn, so these were replaced with some period correct Onza grips. The fitted bar ends were a no brand heavily scratched set. So a matching set of unmarked Onza bar ends were also sourced.


Whilst I didn’t change the forks, they are worth a mention. Originally David raced on Pace RC30 forks, these he retired some time ago. They were replaced by a custom set by renowned frame builder Justin Burls. Whilst I fancied getting some original Pace forks for it again, these have proved so what harder to find, I then thought about getting a pair of the original Kona Project 2 forks but being steel I felt this was a backward step. I know Kona did a titanium finishing kit back in period but that’s true unicorn parts. Therefore if titanium was offered by Kona, why not have some custom forks by a renowned frame builder. I might have made a mistake adding the 'project 2' stickers to them though, it wasn’t may intention to deceive and who am I deceiving, myself, but I thought it finished the forks off nicely with matching decals throughout, if I get suitable comments I maybe persuaded either way.

Another upgrade by David was the brakes. Originally when he was sponsored he was obliged to use Shimano, so XT which were fitted from new. With the demands on the brakes at the pointy end of the race field, David changed these as soon as he could to the Magura’s with plenty of stopping power, being the Tarmac version they are quite sweet too. David removed the brake boosters for performance (weight). I did toy with adding them to stiffen the frame locally but then thought, the frame has lasted 32 years without them, why worry now. I toyed with fitting the original XT brakes but it does seem a backward step and also against the bike ethos.


This bike has been on my local trails within Shropshire, including the Wrekin, Long Mynd, Haughmond Hill and Eastridge. For fully rigid bike it performed outstandingly, very balanced where you can trust it impeccably. When chatting with David previously, he said he would purposely race fully suspension bikes downhill for smugness, obviously embarrassing them! I previously used it daily for dropping my son off at school, often causing a stir with the Dad’s who knew what it is. I couldn’t tell you how many people have said ‘I wish I’d kept mine’ and ‘I had one of them but not in that condition’. The next chapter for the bike is to do some of the retro bike races with a mate who has a 1996 titanium Bontrager.

Full Specification

Frame: Kona Hei Hei 1991, B19013

Fork: Burls custom Titanium

Headset: Mavic 316 11/8” 28.6 x 26 MTB
Stem: Ringle Zooka
Handlebar: Merlin (Metalworks)
Grips: Onza
Barends: Onza

Brakes: Magura Tarmac
Brake Pads: Magura
Brake Cables: Magura (Hydaulic)
Cantilever cable hangers: NA
Brake Levers: Magura Tarmac

Shifters: M732 Deore XT 7 Speed thumbies
Front Derailleur: FD M735
Rear Derailleur: RD M735
Derailleur Cables: Jagwire (modern)
Cassette: XT HG Hyperglide
Chain: KMC (modern)
Cranks: FC M730 (175mm)
Crank Bolts: FC M730
Chainrings: FC M730
Chainring bolts: FC M730
Bottom Bracket: Unknown – Shimano XT?
Pedals: Deore XT

Hub Skewers: Ringle Holey
Rims: Mavic M231 CD

Hubs: FH M732 / HB-M730
Nipples: Unknown (original though)
Spokes: Unknown (original though)
Tyres: Panaracer Smoke Classic (modern reproduction)
Tubes: Schwalbe (modern)

Saddle: Selle Italia Flight Titanium
Seatpost: Ringle Moby
Seatpost Binder: Ringle Holey

Weight: 10.7kg (Circa = bathroom scales)


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A great write up, for me the Maguras are a scruffy fit, the red & the awkward hose routing, that ti noodle deserves a cable inside it.
Lovely bike - personally I’d change the Tomac Maguras out for a traditional cantilever, XT or similar.

I thought you were exploring the bikes value with a view to moving it on?
As much as I like Maguras, especially on a race bike, I have to agree with others in regards to the brakes, and with the current spec, XT would be a good choice, though that is a novel use of that nice rear noodle :)
Lovely bike - personally I’d change the Tomac Maguras out for a traditional cantilever, XT or similar.

I thought you were exploring the bikes value with a view to moving it on?
Because I wasn't using it much, I did think it was a waste, but I can't let it go yet, its too nice. I'll try and do some events on it, to give it a purpose.
I thought you were exploring the bikes value with a view to moving it on?
Did someone mention a race pedigree Kona Hei Hei could be for sale😃 i'm getting all giddy thinking about it with Peatys race bike i've got 😁😅

Lovely build though and you definitely need to get out on it 👍 I'd probably switch it over to XT cantilevers as some have mentioned.
Did someone mention a race pedigree Kona Hei Hei could be for sale😃 i'm getting all giddy thinking about it with Peatys race bike i've got 😁😅

Lovely build though and you definitely need to get out on it 👍 I'd probably switch it over to XT cantilevers as some have mentioned.
The Peaty bike had some unique components from memory, didn't think he would sell that, as he has raved about it previously in articles. I'll bare you in mind though, if I change my mind about keeping it. Need to switch out the brakes now though, so on the hunt for XT brakes in good condition with the Ringle mojo cable connector in green, that should keep me busy hunting for the right one...