Private Jake

Private Winter

Words and photos by Kona Ambassador Tim Wiggins

For me, the winter is all about limits… finding and pushing the limits of what, when, and how far I can ride.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

My winter bike of choice is the Kona Private Jake. The 2016 vintage frame has just ticked over an incredible 20,000 kilometres (12,500 miles) to date. There is barely an original component on it; they have all been worn into the ground through years of use in all manner of weather and trail conditions. It is still a joy to ride.

The KPJ keeps rolling, and it keeps me pushing the ride limits…

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Heavy Snowfall = Private Trail Wilderness.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Foot Deep Mud = Natural Facepack.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Storm Force 10 Winds = Fight into them. Fly home.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Keep riding. Whatever the winter weather. #KonaAmbassadors

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Kona Dream Builds: Spencer Paxson’s Single Speed CX World Champs Private Jake Gets a New Life

I think it’s fair to say that we mountain bikers here in Bellingham are spoiled. By the time August rolls around our trails are, by our standards, dried out, skitter, blown up and a chundered mess. Add to that the seasonal forest fire smoke plume that settles thick in these hills between August and September. It’s all relative (I’ve ridden in places that never ever get rain all year and places where the AQI is >200 as a standard day), but it was enough for me to build up a different kind of bike to get me through the late summer months this year. Enter the modified Private Jake. This is a reinvention of my 2016 Private Jake which I first rode back at the 2015 Singlespeed Cyclocross Worlds in Victoria, BC, a weekend I can barely remember. Three quick years later and the bike is still here, modified into a mix of fun, good for linking together logging road over-landers while the rest of the trails sizzle until Fall.

The Bike: Part cyclocross, part trail bike, part XC bike, part commuter, this bike is a little mix of everything. It’s taken me on everything from 70-mile mixed surface adventure rides and lots of vert through the North Cascades, opportunistic #dadlife power-hour rides on the bunny trails behind my house, and lately, really wet commutes back and for to my new business office in downtown Bellingham.

Drivetrain: First off, I needed a gear range that could get me over steep grades but still keep up with decent speeds on flatter grades. My solution was to install a Wolftooth TanPan adapter midline so that I could run a mountain bike rear derailleur and cassette. I originally installed the TanPan at my rear derailleur, but it made removal of the rear wheel a hassle, so I swapped the location to midline just under the handlebar. The rear derailleur is an XTR M9000 shifting across an XT 11-42. That said, I have also fit an XT 11-46, which came in handy on the even longer, steeper rides this fall. Up front is a 42-t Wickwerks chainring which fits well on the Ultregra R8000 crankset. The proprietary Shimano crank bolts aren’t precisely flush on the crank spider, but they’re tight to spec, which is what counts! For longer, faster rides I would opt for a 44t up front with an 11-46t cassette in back.

Wheels & Tires: Cushy WTB Horizon 650x47c tires have been reliable and smooth with plenty of Stans sealant inside. Now that it’s wet, a set of Byways would likely be the ideal choice, but for now, I’m sticking with the full slicks because that’s what I’ve got! The clearance on the chainstays is close but works. Tires roll on board a set of (arguably overkill but rad) XTR M9020 trail wheels. These are very strong wheels, but being non-boost and with a 24mm inner rim width, they’re essentially obsolete for anything other than “creative use”, so this was a good way to recycle and keep them going. Let’s just say the tires and body position are the limiting factors in terms of ground control. Once the rain set in, I found an old beat-up pair of SKS fenders which somehow survived the move from my Seattle days 10 years ago, and still hold the old Sellwood Cycles bottle flaps on the front and back. Team S&M heritage is what that is. And YES, I need an extra flap on the rear fender…the fender struts weren’t quite long enough for a full wrap.

Other Highlights: Things get weird out there, so to take the edge off, I’ve got a KS Zeta dropper post (35mm) set up thanks to some precision drill-work to accommodate the stealth routing, and some hardware store small parts (hose clamp) to connect a modified KS lever to the handlebar. And I’ll point this out on Kona’s behalf: if you drill holes in your frame, you void your warranty… Don’t do this at home, kids!

Blackburn frame bag and lights keep the picnic and visibility factor on point.

2 for 2, Thoroughly Gnarly, Totally Balmy – Spencer Paxson Checks in from a Weekend of Kona’s Backyard ‘Cross Scene

Barreling down through the mud and the snow at the ever raw and rugged Cascade Cross Series. Photo: Matt Curtis

Team Rider Spencer Paxson checks in from a messy weekend of local cyclocross action in Kona’s back yard in western Washington. While our cyclocross superstar A-Team of Helen Wyman and Kerry Werner tear up the international and national ‘cross season, Adventure Team rider Spencer has been keeping his racing craft sharp (and flying the Kona flag high) at the epicenter of Washington’s cyclocross scene.  Spencer claimed back-to-back wins amidst brutal conditions, one aboard a Private Jake, the second aboard our new Super Jake. Read on for a brief recap and on how you can get your bike to look this good.

It’s not always pretty!‘ That’s what I thought as I pedaled back home after Saturday’s race at the Hannegan Speedway in Bellingham. Round #3 of the Cascade Cross Series.  It was 33 degrees, squinting as huge flakes of snow pelted my face. We had just spent the last hour racing through a horrifyingly muddy yet amazing track on the outskirts of town.  I kept the pace up to retain the dwindling warmth in my extremities. I could feel the thick mud caked across the front of my clothes begin to stiffen and freeze.  ‘Even after all these years…it’s remarkable that we do this kind of stuff.‘ But that’s part of the point, perhaps.  The bewilderment combined with the exhilaration keeps you coming back for more because it’s all just a mystery. Or maybe that’s only for crazy people like me…

‘Squish, squelch, squash, plosh’ – the real sounds of ‘cross. Photo Matt Curtis

But finally, cyclocross conditions worth reporting on! Until this past weekend, each race I had done was warm enough for bare arms and legs.  This weekend was deep, deep in the opposite direction.  One degree above freezing, with snow and rain mixed into a marrow-chilling breeze, as if there were such a thing as cold steam.  And hundreds of bike riders keeping the mud churned all day long.

Cascade Cyclocross promoter Kip Zwolenski marveling at the carnage from Saturday’s course. Photo Matt Curtis

Sunday’s race brought me south to Tacoma and Round 5 of Seattle’s flagship MFG Cyclocross Series.  I’ve been in a hot (now cold) off-season “battle” with friend and fellow Bellinghamer Steve Fisher for the series overall this year. Of course, I’m sitting second, and all statistical analysis points towards me sticking in that spot (the perennial Bride’s Maid!). But on Sunday I edged closer with a win (Steve wasn’t there). It was not without drama, however, as shortly after the start, while taking a strange line with a big bump, I dropped a chain and fell to dead last.  Ever experienced from weathering setbacks, I was able to slither my way through the field, back to the front, and hold a lead through the pelting snow and claim a discreet victory…it was snowing so hard, I don’t think anyone could see.

“Snow-Aero” – It was coming down so heavy during the MFG race on Sunday that a thick coating formed on the leading edge of all surfaces. After an early mishap, Spencer fought through these conditions and the field to take the win.

lofi cross

Crappy picture? “That’s the point,” said Spencer. In conditions so wet and cold that fingers could barely work to use cameras, “a crisp-looking ‘Insta-perfect’ shot just wouldn’t do it justice.” Here channeling his inner Erik Tonkin and Team S&M spirit, thus loving the conditions.

Stay tuned for more updates from Spencer’s “B-Team” cyclocross action, and some even more unappealing “off-season” activities.

Bicycling Magazine Reviews the Kona Private Jake: “More than a cyclocross bike…”

Bicycling Magazine has just published their review of our versatile and capable Private Jake. Just as we hoped it would, the Private Jake’s character as more than just a ‘cross bike shone through, and reviewer Hannah Weinberger found herself well beyond the race course with the bike.

“At $1,999, with the given spec, the Kona Private Jake is a decidedly affordable bike — especially if you aren’t planning to buy other bikes to supplement it. It’s capable and confidence-inspiring in techy terrain, and incredibly dependable between the course tape.”

“The Private Jake makes easy work of mountain bike trails, road rides, gravel paths, commutes, and (naturally) ‘cross courses. It took pushing the bike to the edge of what it can reasonably be expected to tackle to even see it flinch.”

Read the full review at Bicycling.


10,000 Kilometres on the Kona Private Jake with Wiggle’s Tim Wiggins

“With ten thousand kilometres on its wheels, the Kona Private Jake has proven to be one of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden.”

This really does go above and beyond – a great testament to the versatility of our Jake series of cyclocross bikes. It doesn’t take 10,000 km to get to know the character of a bike. In fact, most bike reviewers would be content to put 1,000 km on a bike before writing it up. So, when Wiggle‘s Tim Wiggins chose to spend nine months doing all sorts of riding on our Private Jake, it says something.

Over those nine months, Tim has ridden the Private Jake for big single day efforts, long distance commuting with all the fun detours, and some impressive on-road bikepacking feats.

“There are some bikes that are useful, practical, and reliable; they perform faultlessly, and get the job done. There are some bikes that are loud, interesting, and bold; they draw comments from other riders, and make you feel like a fighter pilot when you’re riding them. There are some bikes that just make you smile; they feel perfect, and your ride feels like a ‘state of flow’. For me, the Kona Private Jake has ticked all of the above boxes.”

The Jake series has long been our workhorse, the bike riders choose to ride day in and day out, on the cross course or, as you can see with Tim’s experience, almost anything else you can imagine. Dig in on Tim’s writing on the Private Jake at the following links:

Tim Wiggins on the first 1,000 km with the Private Jake

Tim Wiggins on 5,000 km with the Private Jake

Tim Wiggins on 9 months and 10,000 km with the Private Jake

1,900 km in 12 days on the Coasts and Cols tour


Spencer Paxson Takes His Private Jake to the Win at Woolley Cross

On October 8, the second stop of the 2016 Cascade Cyclocross Series saw 150 racers take on the soggy fields of the Northern State Recreation Area in Sedro Woolley, WA. Known for being a small town cyclocross production with a big heart, fun atmosphere, and great courses, the crew from Cascade Cross and Team Racepace developed a truly Belgian-level challenging track through old dilapidated barns, sweeping views of the Cascade foothills, and lots of deep mud.


Kona Endurance Team rider Spencer Paxson piloted his mud-devouring Private Jake to a commanding victory. “It’s hard to ask for more in a local race series where the community is so great, and where I can have an outlet to keep my skills sharp in the off season,” says Paxson, who regularly focuses on mountain bike events during the spring and summer.

“It may be a local series, but the population of resident elite-level athletes in Bellingham and Seattle makes every weekend a good, challenging race. Not to mention that the courses are wildly entertaining and challenging… in a good way! It’s also great to have friends come out and race – I can vouch for several friends who have now done their first ‘cross race because of the support that Kona provides at the races. It’s great to see more people catch the ‘cross bug.”

Indeed, Kona Bicycles has been flying the flag high at the series by providing neutral support and free Private Jake demo bikes.


Paxson has been building steam on his cyclocross campaign, with a 3rd and 2nd place finish at the last two MFG Cyclocross Series events in Seattle, and now a win at the Cascade Cross Series. Up next is the penultimate round of the hotly contested MFG Series in Tacoma, followed two weeks later by the MFG series finals “Woodland Park Grand Prix”. Meanwhile, the next stop on the Cascade Cross series takes place on November 5th in Ferndale, WA at the DeltaTech industrial park.

Thanks to Sarah Paxson for the photos. Follow Spencer on Instagram for racing updates and general nerdery.