This week’s Reader’s Rig comes from Christoph Laue, whose 1989 Kuwahara Panther all-rounder is a perfect example of a bike that didn’t cost a fortune and doesn’t boast the latest or greatest standards, but serves its purpose and looks mighty good doing it. See the details here…

Words and photos by Christoph Laue (@elektrozwist)

Hi, I’m Christoph. I grew up in a hilly part of western Germany and spent much of my childhood and adolescence riding and racing bikes, both on and off the road. I quickly developed an interest in the technology that makes the wheels turn, so I started tinkering with bikes and doing repairs at a very early age—much to the dismay of my parents.

Kuwahara Panther

After finishing school and spending some years in university, I did an apprenticeship in a bike shop where I’d worked part-time as a student before. I learned a lot during the three-year apprenticeship and finally got my Gesellenbrief, but felt I needed to broaden my horizon further.

I went back to university, where I obtained a degree in technical writing in 2000. I have since been working as a technical writer, most of the time for a music tech company based in Berlin. In July 2019 I moved back to my hometown and immediately was reminded of why I loved riding my bike in this area so much. These days, I mostly ride for fun (which includes my commute of 65km per day), with the occasional brevet and other long-distance ride strewn in.

  • Kuwahara Panther
  • Kuwahara Panther

Since the late 1980s, I’d always wanted a Kuwahara and had admired the colorful and visually outstanding paint jobs on the Kuwahara bikes on display at the local dealer where I did my apprenticeship back then. During my time as a part-time mechanic, I set up and upgraded numerous Kuwaharas, many of them from the top end of the range. I didn’t get to own a Kuwahara until my friend Simon passed the 1989 Panther frame set on to me in 2017, though. I immediately knew it would make for a perfect town and country bike, with all the braze-ons in place and a geometry that’s much more versatile than what’s on most modern mountain bikes.

My parts bin contained most of the parts needed to complete the build, so it didn’t take long to revive the Panther. I wanted the bike to be my year-round commuter and touring bike, so it needed dynamo lighting, a rack, and fenders. I had a leftover hanging black SON Edelux that perfectly matched the Pelago Commuter front rack, as I could attach it directly to the rack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a tail light connector, so I’ll have to replace it when I install a dynamo-powered tail light, which will happen soon.

  • Kuwahara Panther
  • Kuwahara Panther
  • Kuwahara Panther
  • Frame/Fork 1989 Kuwahara Panther
  • Rims Ryde Zac 2000, 36h
  • Hubs Shutter Precision SV-PV8 (front) / Hope RS4 (rear)
  • Tires Compass/René Herse Rat Trap Pass
  • Handlebars Nitto Albatross
  • Headset Tange cartridge bearing headset, 1” threaded
  • Crankset Shimano FC-MT60, 170mm, 24/38T
  • Cassette Shimano HG-90 8-speed, 12-27T
  • Derailleurs Shimano FD-M732 (front) / Shimano RD-M735 (rear)
  • Brakes Shimano Deore XT BR-M732 (front) / Deore II BR-MT63 U-brake (rear)
  • Shifter(s) Shimano SL-6401 8-speed (rear) / Shimano BS-64 bar-end (front)
  • Saddle Brooks Cambium C-17
  • Seatpost Nitto S-65, 27.0mm
  • Stem Vintage Nitto Dirt Drop
  • Front bags Inside Line Equipment Porteur Rackbag, Karrimor vintage panniers
  • Accessory bags Restrap Tech Bag
  • Other accessories Velo Orange stainless steel fenders, Pelago Commuter front rack
  • Lights SON Edelux front light (hanging version), Cateye LED tail light

The Velo Orange stainless steel fenders were reused from a previous project, and, while rather heavy, are a lot less prone to denting than the aluminum version. I first installed an old wheelset with Mavic 217 Ceramic rims, but the ceramic coating was so worn that braking in wet conditions was completely unpredictable. The new wheelset was a real upgrade, as it features a Hope RS4 rear hub with a steel cassette body and a Shutter Precision dynamo hub, both laced to Ryde Zac2000 rims with Sapim Race spokes and brass nipples. I also installed a pair of Compass/René Herse Rat Trap Pass tires, the best tires I can think of for this bike.

It took me a while to figure out the perfect cockpit setup. First, I used wide riser handlebars with a bit of back sweep that I had taken off of my Retrovelo city bike. They looked nice but put too much strain on my wrists on longer rides. When I replaced them with a Nitto Albatross I had borrowed from my friend Simon, I wasn’t sure it would be a permanent solution. I thought of the setup as a nod to the Rivendell concept of an all-round, do-it-all bike, but didn’t expect I would like these handlebars so much. Actually, riding the Albatross’ed Panther has inspired quite a few of my friends who have built great bikes around these handlebars in the meantime. I guess it’s time to say thank you, Grant Petersen.

You can find Christoph and his many interesting bike builds on Instagram @elektrozwist.

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