Erik Tonkin

Erik Tonkin – My Kona

While Erik Tonkin doesn’t technically “work” for Kona, the guy is undoubtedly part of our family. He’s raced cross for us, he’s discovered and mentored some of our most legendary cross country and CX racers and he’s been heavily involved in the testing and development of our bikes. When you throw into the mix that his bike shop, Sellwood Cycles, is a Portland institution, and the fact that he’s still, racing, scouting and deeply involved in the Portland scene, we think that featuring him in our staff series of My Kona videos is perfectly fitting.

Corn Cross race footage provided by: Drew Coleman

Ti Tuesday: Erik Tonkin’s Historic Hei Hei

We’ve been making Ti bikes for a long time. Last week’s Ti Tuesday was a perfect example of that. And because of this history, many of the bikes that are still out there have great stories to go along with them! This week’s Ti Tuesday comes from Erik Tonkin, long time Kona family member, and owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair in Portland. As usual, the stories are best from the source, and this is a good one!

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Words by Erik Tonkin, photos by Jake Ryder.

This is MY bike. It is my Kona – the one that means the most. I love this thing. (I don’t often feel that way about things.)

This was my first team bike. I got it in 2001 – the last rim-brake titanium Hei Hei made by Sandvik, out on the tiles of eastern Washington. Thanks to the post-Cold War peace-dividend, some military-industrial contractors made nice bike frames! Then Mike DeSalvo down in The State of Jefferson added the tabs and the guides – so now it’s got a shock and discs, as Wicks would say.

This bike – this individual frame – has won more OR and WA XC races than any other – and yet it’s lost a lot more than it’s won. That sounds about right – I can relate.

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It was stolen a few years back. I was heartbroken – and upset with myself because I hadn’t been careful. But then I got an email from Kona. A kid had it but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was – he was unfamiliar with the “Tonkin” model. They told him, “That’s because it’s Tonkin’s bike. You should probably give it back.” The kid did, and I’m so thankful.

It’s often a town bike now – an erstwhile commuter, kid-hauler. The 650b wheels give that away, but I guess that could make it a gravel bike, a bike-packer, or maybe just a touring bike, too. It’s hard to keep up with what’s up. I still have the 26″ XTR wheels. Maybe I could ride it for some blue jeans CX – or XC. It can do it.

It is just a bike – but it’s the bike, timeless and timed-out, perfect and flawed. I hope I can be like that.

Scroll down for the full photo set of Erik’s Hei Hei. For more Ti Kona goodness, check out the Ti Tuesday archives and #TiTuesdaysWithKona on Instagram. If you’ve got a Ti Kona bike, please do get in touch!

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