When a little crack began to appear in the frame of my trusty old Kona Explosif, I wasn’t too surprised. The thing had been dragged fully-loaded more than ten thousand miles across large swathes of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including more than a couple of rather large deserts, and along thousands of miles of seriously shit roads.
The lovely people at Kona Europe (full disclosure: they sponsored my bike!) replaced the frame without fuss, even if I did have to hand over more than a hundred dollars in ‘fees’ to the Armenian customs department to get my hands on it. The bike was rebuilt and off I traipsed to Mongolia, and later southern Europe and the Scandinavian Arctic. Great tool, job done.
The expedition bike sits in the basement, needing a new rear hub and drivetrain, and otherwise waiting for its next adventure. I wonder what it’ll be?
I’m glad I hung on to the cracked old, though. Not for sentimental reasons – I never felt attached to the thing, gave it a name, nor canoodled with it in my tent at night. With a lick of a welder’s torch and a thorough rummaging in the spares box, it’s been brought back from retirement as a rigid, puritanical single-speeder. I love riding it. There’s nothing to think about, nothing to go wrong when you’re flowing through a city’s channelled streets or down to a mate’s house, nothing that looks worth nicking when locked to a railing.
It’s poetic, free-floating, robust, elemental, and – from second-hand parts – it cost almost nothing to put together.
On the other side of the fence is a shiny new addition to what’s in danger of becoming a fleet! A few hundred quid got me a Kona Honky Tonk – steel again, with bits for mudguards and pannier racks, simple and decent components and skinny-enough tyres and drop bars to go out and blast around the countryside with a peloton or do 100 miles a day with luggage (atop my well-worn Brooks). It’s a classic, utilitarian, road & light touring bike. Different tool, different job.
I’m now looking forward to the next on-road adventure as much as the next off-road one, and to putting these tools to use. Exciting plans are already afoot for both, and I have a feeling that this will be a perennial thing for a long time to come!
And respect to Kona for building proper bikes, designed to be used rather than polished. Check out their Ute, for example. Doesn’t get more useful than that! (Full disclosure: they gave me a discount on the Honky Tonk. I’d have bought it at full-price anyway.)
Lastly in this little teaser of things to come, a possible outlet to daydreams of spontaneously deciding to float off down some far-flung river:
Summer’s here… I’ll leave the possibilities to your imagination!