Alasdair’s Retro Builds: Part 1 – 1997 Kona A’ha

Hello, my name is Alasdair. I grew up in the late 80s and 90s when mountain biking exploded into a global phenomenon. Riding a Raleigh, I spent my early teens pouring over Ordnance Survey maps looking for new singletrack, trying to emulate the stars in Mountain Biking UK magazine. In 1995 I spent my university student loan on the turquoise Cinder Cone and since then Kona’s have been the only bikes in my garage.

It’s my pleasure to present some of my bikes this week, all from the 1997 range. Why 1997? I love the combinations of the colors, jungle decal designs and the amazing selection of bikes that were available to purchase.

Looking at the catalog, every single bike looks superb and the range is diverse with steel, aluminum, titanium, hardtails, full suspension, cruisers, road bikes, for racing experts through to casual first-time shredders.

Alasdair McAlley

The A’ha was first introduced in 1995 to the North American market alongside its twin, the famously named Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. The 1997 A’ha featured a curved top tube as a throwback to the 1950s cruisers that mountain biking’s forefathers rode down Mount Tam on in the late 1970s.

Alasdair McAlley

First used as a color scheme on the custom built Hot, the A’ha features the iconic “stars and bars” livery.

Alasdair McAlley
Alasdair McAlley

Building up any bike presents new learning experiences and this build presented many challenges not least the wheels. Finding the right sized hub with the right period-correct rims was a mind-bender. The solution was a brand new Shimano DXR (BMX) hub laced to a pair of new-old-stock Sun rims that my local bike store found tucked away in their basement. The red and blue nipples echo the livery which continues with the classic Chris King patriot headset.

Alasdair McAlley
Alasdair McAlley
Alasdair McAlley

The A’ha cruises like a dream and can handle classic single-track with ease. It’s a miniature fat-bike with the wide Slick Rick tires providing maximum comfort for the frame’s geometry. The legendary P2 forks keep the steering agile and direct with a surprising amount of give on the bumps.

Alasdair McAlley

The original Cyclone BMX cranks and bottom bracket configuration mean the crank bolts screw the same peddling clockwise direction, so you need a lot of thread-lock to stop them falling off. No 19” A’ha frames were produced so this 18” creates a much more upright position than the longer, stretched out retro ride. Perhaps this bike was ahead of its time.

Alasdair McAlley

Future changes will include a different saddle and SPD pedals and longer term a conventional bottom bracket conversion. Stay tuned for more Retro Dream Builds tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Alasdair McAlley