Miles’ Kuwahara Cascade and the Unicorn Farm
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After picking up a well-loved Kuwahara Cascade from the Unicorn Farm on Vancouver Island last fall, Miles swapped a few parts around to get it ready for some serious urban basket-klunking and bakery runs. Find a gallery of photos and the story behind the Cascade here…
During the early days of the pandemic, I was quarantining in Parksville, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. With the largest demographic between the ages of 65 and 69 and a quiet coastal community vibe, it was a great place to hunker down for the summer. It was during my time meandering along the roads and trails inland from Parksville that I first discovered the Unicorn Farm. As you can imagine, I was quite happy to stumble upon such a place, and I let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of what might lie behind its gates.
It wasn’t until several months later that I had my first real business at the Unicorn Farm. Although I may have preferred it to be under different circumstances (unicorn training 101, for example), I was quite happy to be picking up a vintage mountain bike instead. I had connected with Jeff, the current owner of the farm, a few months earlier, and after I put out a request for a vintage mountain bike he offered up his trusty Kuwahara Cascade. It wasn’t the right size for him or his wife, so I purchased it from Jeff with the hopes of building a basket-klunker of sorts—and to hopefully hear more about their farm.
Jeff’s father had purchased the Cascade in the late 1980s in Campbell River, BC, most likely in 1986, which we believe to be the same year as the bike. His father and a group of dirt biking friends were looking for a change of pace and all bought mountain bikes to make it happen. Jeff’s father described the Kuwahara Cascade as being “the best bike you could possibly buy.” In 2014, he passed the bike down to Jeff, who had intentions of restoring it but it ended up being quite low on his priority list.
The truth is, a lot of these 1980-1990s mountain bikes aren’t particularly comfortable without some modifications, at least by today’s standards. Just like Jeff, I was actually a little skeptical that I’d be able to make it a comfortable commuter rig, but I’m quite happy with the final product. The biggest change was the addition of the Velo Orange Klunker Bars, which serve up a massive 7.6cm rise, 45° sweep, and comfortable 680mm width for klunking around town and the occasional trail. I’ve also recently added some SimWorks Super Yummy 26 x 2.22″ tires and their new Bubbly Pedals by MKS, which really tie the entire build together. The Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack, Wald Basket, and Porcelain Rocket (now Rockgeist) Meanwhile Bag satisfy all my bakery hauling desires, and since the frame has dual bottle mounts on the downtube, I’ll never be left without water.
Kuwahara Cascade Build Kit
- HandlebarsVelo Orange Klunker Bars
- Stem SimWorks Rhonda Stem
- Rear Derailleur Shimano Exage Mountain, 7-Speed
- Shifter Falcon Friction Thumb Shifter
- Cassette Shimano
- Crankset Shimano Exage Mountain
- Brakes Shimano Exage Mountain
- Brake Levers Avid Mechanical
- Tires SimWorks Super Yummy 26×2.22″
- Wheels No Clue
- Grips ODI x Dynaplug Covert Tool
- Saddle Brooks C17
- Pedals SimWorks Bubbly by MKS
- Bell Spurcycle
- Front Bag Porcelain Rocket Meanwhile Bag
- Accessory Bags Sturdy Designs Top Tube Bag, High Above Dark Matter Tube Strap
- Other Forager Cycles Cable Cherry
The Super Yummy tires have been great for seamlessly passing between pavement and dirt. They’ve got a fast centre tread and a surprising number of feisty little side knobs to keep things in check on smooth singletrack and gravel roads. They also look great, and SimWorks’ Peanut Butter Sidewalls blend in well with the bike’s overall look. Plus, they’re tubeless compatible if I ever want to go that route. And before anyone asks why I have Dynaplug Covert grips if I’m running tubes, the answer is that I didn’t have any other grips and now I’ll probably be the only one riding around town on a 1980s mountain bike who’s ready to fix a tubeless puncture. The SimWorks Bubbly pedals work great for a bike like this, as I’m much more comfortable on a large platform. They grip my non-cycling footwear great, and their bearings are ultra-smooth for high-performance cruises around town.
So, what’s going on at the Unicorn Farm these days? The farm was purchased by Jeff’s wife’s Grandpa back in 1985, who named it the Unicorn Farm as a unicorn horn is said to purify water when it’s dipped in. In 2015, Jeff and Brianna purchased half of the property and currently operates as a hobby farm where they do a bit of everything—sheep, chickens, fruits, and veggies. The Unicorn Farm sign remains out by the road. Although my interactions with the farm and its owners were brief, I enjoyed chatting with Jeff to learn more about the history of the Cascade and their farm and I hope to make back it back out that way when it’s safe to travel again.
With the majority of production bikes completely sold out or delayed, 2021 is the year to dig up that vintage mountain bike in the back of your garage or find something used on Craigslist to make your own. Although I took things a bit further than you need to, it often doesn’t take more than a quick tune-up and new tires to get these old bikes rolling again. Beyond adding some new components, I haven’t given the drivetrain any love at all, and it actually works surprisingly well—the joy of friction shifters! Removing the front derailleur also allows my left hand to focus on braking and dinging my bell, and keeps my max speed at an all-time low.
The Kuwahara Cascade has been a fun winter project to turn to on slow days and evenings when I need something to tinker with. Thankfully, the days are getting longer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the sun and less time hiding under base layers and rain gear. To the unknowing eye, the Cascade may only earn a quick glance, and that’s partly why I’ve grown so fond of it. Sure, it’s got a few bits of serious bling on it, but I think I’ve retained the majority of its vintage charm. I’m excited to ride it to our local coffee outside meetup (@coffeeoutsideypw) this spring once local restrictions allow us to do so.
Got a basket-klunker of your own? Considering submitting it to our weekly Reader’s Rig series.