Words by Alasdair McAlley

In 2019, some of my Kona bikes were featured in a week-long Dream Build special. At the end I commented that I was searching for a 1997 Kona Kapu. I am super-stoked to share my unicorn!

The Kapu started production in 1995, in a glorious red, followed by gun-metal grey in 1996. In 1997, it came in the brilliantly titled “Happy Go Lucky Green”. It is a glorious, unique colour scheme of green, grey, yellow, and white, and totally spell-binding!

They were made in small, numbered batches throughout the years, no more than 50 at a time, and only in the low hundreds in total. The 1997 model is especially rare, to the point that until 2017, the only online photographic evidence of the bike was the catalogue. 

Alasdair is running a vintage Campagnolo drivetrain on this beast.

She is a little different to the stock bike. Her serial number is just few numbers on from my 1997 Explosif team edition (featured here) and shares the same 1998 head-tube decal and Columbus top-tube sponsor decals. She also has a shorter seat-tube extension. Could she have been made for competition like the Explosif, or as a demo / show bike?

One major production difference is the Mudshark fork: they were painted green not grey. After sharing the build story online, I was able to purchase a pair from a 1992 Kona Haole and that gave me the chance to have them resprayed.

A key turning point came when a 1996 custom Kapu became available. I performed the ultimate sacrilege, and repurposed her components for this build, including the stem which meant I could get a fork colour match.

Finding butterscotch Tioga tyres was a stretch too far and whilst white bar tape is lovely to look at, as a rider, its impractical to use. Instead, I used Jagwire grey cabling and Elemental bar tape to compliment the front-end and make the green and yellow pop. The stretched, low-down riding position, with the high gearing and 21cc width tyres, all held together by the wafer-thin Columbus Genius tube-set mean she eats up miles for breakfast. She is wild and must be ridden with respect, especially downhill.
Thank you to everyone who helped piece together the history and got her looking like this. I have fulfilled the unicorn itch but there is 1 more special 1997 build underway…