Home > Biking

Kona Bicycles’ Comeback: Founders Buy Dying Brand Back

In a reflection of the cycling industry's post-Covid-19 woes, Kona Bicycles sadly announced last month that it was for sale.
Kona Ouroboros from logo detail image,
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Kona Bicycles tore down its display at last month’s Sea Otter Classic, one of the largest cycling industry gatherings. To pack up during the most visible industry event on our shores was a shocking reminder that the cycling business is hurting. It felt like a dark omen of things yet to come.

But just shy of a month after what seemed like a signal that Kona Bicycles was circling the drain, we received the happy news that the original owners have purchased the brand back from Kent Outdoors. Kent Outdoors is best known for owning watersports brands like BŌTE, O’Brien, Liquid Force, Hyperlite, and other well-known names.

In addition to reclaiming ownership of Kona Bicycles, Dan Gerhad and Jake Heilbron announced that the brand will return to independent bike shops in full force. Kona started in 1988 and has been a staple in independent shops through the decades.

The brand stated that the top priority was renewing relationships with 1,000 North American and European dealers. As a testament to this mission, Kona Bicycles is pausing all direct-to-consumer sales immediately.

The Kona Bicycles press release on this buyback states that new inventory is heading to its warehouse and distributors. It also states, “We’ve got some incredible bikes in the pipeline that we are looking forward to unveiling.” This signals that the move will have at least some consumer benefit in the near future.

Kona Bicycles: A Telltale Path?

KONA "N+1 Sale" graphic
The Process full-suspension bikes of the Kona BOGO sale in December; (image/Kona Bicycles)

As a cycling editor, I have had a sinking feeling about Kona Bicycles over the past half-year. It started with an almost unbelievable sale the brand announced in December of last year — a buy one, get one free deal that seemed so crazy.

The “N+1 Sale” offered a free additional bike when purchasing any in-stock process full-suspension model. Knowing roughly what retail margins are, the N+1 event felt financially dire even as a direct-to-consumer sale. Today’s press release actually states, “We’ll never do a BOGO Sale again, so don’t ask.”

Then, in January, the manager of a local independent shop that I frequent asked me if I knew what was up with Kona. When I asked him why, he told me that his application to become a retailer for the brand was suddenly pulled, and he wasn’t given a reason. This gave me pause after the BOGO sale event. My brain bubble said, “If I was a brand heading for the dumpster fire, this is also what I would do.”

Then, the final nail in the coffin was the startling news that Kona Bicycles had packed up its display at Sea Otter. I was bummed as I saw Kona Bicycles as one of the best value brands, offering no-nonsense rides at affordable prices. GearJunkie has enjoyed reviewing these mid-tier rides, and they always felt like a great buy.

The Future’s So Bright

Kona Ouroboros standing in a creek bed.
The recently released Kona Bicycles Ouroboros; (photo/Mark Wilson)

Today’s announcement that Kona Bicycles is bouncing back with the original crew is great news, which has been scarce in the cycling world. After the record-shattering pandemic-induced buying spree, manufacturers got overextended, retailers had a glut of inventory, and outdoor consumers cooled considerably on swiping their cards.

With the brand’s latest unique gravel bike, the Ouroboros, Kona Bicycles has some positive momentum. We loved the bike, which is on-brand, as it’s a great value for the money.

The Ouroboros is an “adventure” gravel bike, if there ever was one. This seems fitting, as Kona Bicycles and the original owners embark on the adventure of saving a brand that is worth saving. Here’s to those owners and longtime employees — best wishes as you claw your way to a hopefully prosperous future. You have loyal customers awaiting the “smallest biggest bike company in the world.”

Kona Rove HD E-Bike Review: Good Bike, Great Price

The Kona Rove HD offers terrific value and an exhilarating ride experience for daily commuters and adventure riders. Read more…

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!