When you reached out to me it had been eight years since we last met. My heart started racing when the screen of my phone suddenly flashed and buzzed with “Kona Bicycles.” Memories came flooding back. My favorite was when we gathered in Bellingham, USA, where I got the chance to connect with the whole Kona family. I vividly remember when this older gentleman in a ripped-up hoody came to sit next to me at dinner. He was intrigued about who I was and asked me hundreds of questions about what it was like to grow up in New Zealand and how I was enjoying living/riding in the Canadian Rockies. After an hour or so he got up and left the table. I reached over to my dear friends, Wendy Hall and Cory Wallace, and whispered to them, “What does that Jake guy do?” They both looked at me smiling and replied, “He’s Jake the Snake.”
My mind was blown. Here I am, a clueless kiwi who just spent an hour talking with the owner/founder of Kona Bicycles. It gave me so much respect for Kona as a company. To Jake Heilbron, everyone who rides a bicycle is family, and forever will be. So, after all these years, to pick up the phone and be asked if I was interested in going on a bikepacking trip through the remote rugged mountain passes of the South Island of New Zealand with Kona Bikes—how could I say no? Especially when it comes to family!