Back Between the Tape with the Kona Private Jake – Morgan Taylor

Just over a week ago, I was meant to be racing this bike, in my first ‘cross race in a very long time. The Friday night before the race, I pre-registered to make things go more smoothly on race day, and had everything ready to go. As it turns out, I wasn’t going to make it to that race.

I’d been convinced to jump back inside the tape this year. With a baby on the way, Stephanie and I figured it’d be fun to get out to some races and hang with friends and yell at people riding in circles. The first year I raced cyclocross – exactly a decade ago – I did so on my old single speed conversion, and had a blast. Having fond memories of the simplicity of that first season, I chose to return to the ‘cross course on a bike with just one gear.

Kona only made the Private Jake for two years, 2016 and 2017. It made waves amongst die hard ‘cross racers with its sliding dropouts, through axles, internal cable routing, 1x drivetrain, and race-proven Jake geometry. Lots of good stuff that mountain bikes have passed on to drop bar bikes in recent years and which are now the norm a few years later. I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to ride an aluminum frame, but they have their place and this is one of them.

I spent the couple weeks preceding the race running around finishing the build: pressing in bearings, cutting hydraulic lines, borrowing parts from other bikes, and nerding out on gear ratios. For how quickly the bike came together, it turned out super rad! Some stuff from the parts bin, some borrowed parts, and a few key new pieces. The wheels are currently the wrong size, and it doesn’t matter one bit. It’s a single speed ‘cross bike!

If all of those people talking about how cool the Private Jake was had actually bought one, it might still exist in Kona’s lineup. Yet for all that fanfare, it just didn’t sell, and so it was destined to be a cult bike. I’m just happy Kona happened to have a three-year-old frameset hanging around in my size! It’s been long enough since I rode a single speed that my body is still in shock, but damn if it hasn’t revived that simple fun that I remembered.

As for why I didn’t make it to the race that Saturday? Well, it would appear that registering for a race is a good way to encourage your wife to go into labor. Before 8:30 on that Saturday morning, Stephanie and I had welcomed our new baby girl into the world. This upcoming weekend might be her first ‘cross race, and this bike’s as well.


Follow Morgan and Stephanie on Instagram.

  • George Thoma

    Congrats on the new addition! (the baby. the bike is cool too though…)

  • Ben Reed

    I think it would have sold better in carbon. I thought it was a great bike and I loved the sliding dropouts, but I really didn’t want an aluminum frame.

    • Carbon woulda been nice!

    • Yeah, quite possible it could have been more popular if it was carbon, though it would have been such a big investment into a single speed platform. The sliding dropouts are what makes it so rad for single speed, but only that very small niche of people actually wants them. Tough to make a business case for a carbon bike with sliders, since sliders inherently make a bike more complex and therefore heavier, and more expensive to produce.

      • benreed

        I forget living in the Midwest that single speeds are considered niche everywhere else.

  • Nathaniel D’Souza

    Congrats on the baby! Bday Bike Buds for life!

  • Tim Guarente

    Congrats on the new kiddo! The bike looks rad!

  • barry mcwilliams

    Congratulations!!! As a father of a daughter & owner of a Kona SSCX, I happily welcome you to the very small club :)

    I have an even older Major One that I still ride a bunch but this one looks a lot nicer. Thanks for the photos. If I could get a new bike today, it‘d be a 650b SSCX & I‘d turn my Major One into a coffeeshopper.

    • Tim Rice

      what size 650?

      • barry mcwilliams

        56 is my usual. My Major One is 54 and feels a bit too small.

        • Tim Rice

          No I mean what size 650? 650×47 or 650×43 for a 650 SSCX

          • I’m running 650×42 on this one, it clears 43s like a Rock n Road, wouldn’t clear a 47 I don’t think, but most available 47s aren’t really good ‘cross racing tires anyway.

          • barry mcwilliams

            Ah, duh, sorry! Ideally I’d have clearance for 47s. The bike I’m imagining would be ridden way more than actually raced. Don’t get me wrong, I love racing CX, but the verstatility of a CX bike makes it (for me) such a great every day bike.

          • Tim Rice

            I was thinking a SSCX bike on 650×43 would just be a super fun bike to tool around on and do what ever. I dunno, like a big kids big bmx with drop bars.

    • Small club indeed! A good one to be in. I still want a coffee shop bike in my life.

  • Superpilot

    Sick! I got a free ’09 Jake the Snake and built it SS with a cheap tensioner. It isn’t without technical issues, but I just love turning up and going backwards through the field at a race every once in a while. That’s the great thing about it, the challenge and line choice make it fun even if you’re a grinning loser like me, plus you never have to clear out a derailleur on course.
    Congrats on the new additions

    • The Kona ‘cross bikes have been rad for a long time!

  • Frank

    What … no photo of the little girl?! Congratulations!

    (You’ll be looking for a Big Dummy in no time). Best, Frank

  • Rob Kristoff

    Baby beats racing every day of the week. Congrats!🚼

  • Mr Sun

    What a beast !! Single speed ?

    • 40/19 as you see it, I’ve also got 18 and 17 cogs.

  • FatherOfThreeBoys

    Father hood is wonderful. Congratulation. It is terrible for riding your bike, but is wonderful in so many other ways.

    That bike is awesome.

  • mark rothschild

    Reminds me of,”MAX the Cyclist”…Blog

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Yooooo, congrats on the rugrat!

  • Michael

    Congrats on the babe. Dude you got a good eye for building beautiful bikes. Lovely.

  • mykl2e

    My first child arrives 30 years ago. My Private Jake arrived a few weeks ago. I’v been having so much fun ridding that bike it makes it feel like my first child didn’t arrive 30 years ago.

  • @disqus_g2KMtHTS0V:disqus Such a fun little whip. Can’t wait to get my SSCX out of storage when we come back to Vancouver(?) this winter.