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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 06-24-08, 11:52 PM   #1
Morgan23
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lucky me: got to ride the Big Dummy and the Kona Ute in the same week

I've been obsessing about getting a SUB since I saw my first Xtracycle online. I currently don't have a bike so originally I thought I'd buy a decent bike and add the FreeRadical kit to it. Then I'd mod it to carry a passenger (stoker bar, some kind of seat on the snapdeck) so I could more easily drop my 6yr old off at school in the Fall. We live in a hilly area so I was looking at a hybrid or MTB with plenty of gears and disc brakes...thought I had found one that was workable and put it on order (about $300 on clearance- last year's model). I still have to test drive it when it comes in, as they didn't have my frame size (small)...if it doesn't fit, I won't be buying it. If the bike does work out, I was gonna order the FreeRadical kit ASAP so DH could install it for me.

Then I went up to Portland on a vacation last week and realized that Clevercycles is based up there and they have Big Dummies. So off I went to take a test ride and my o my, is the BD ride SWEEEET. Ummm...but it's also out of stock and the next batch will be costing about $1800. *sigh* What did I love about the Big Dummy? Big balloon tires that smoothed out all the road bumps. Freeloaders that will swallow small children whole. Albatross style handle bars. Twist shifters (fun! never used those before). We threw some weight onto the bike and I didn't even notice (about 50lbs worth). Sadly, the BD is about $700 more than I wanted to spend on a SUB.

So I came home and raved about the BD to anyone who would listen, but just kept waiting patiently for my special-order bike to come in. Today I went by another LBS and they actually had a Kona Ute!!! I jumped right on and had a very enjoyable ride. I'm not a bike fanatic, but IMO it rode a lot like the BD. Almost no flex on the frame (we loaded it down just for fun)...The position was about the same, with a similiar albatross-ish handlebar, and similar styled seat.

Things I liked about the Ute vs the BD: price (shop had it for $899, but I'm sure we can work with them). More gears (prolly work better on our hills). Plastic 'snapdeck' as opposed to wood.

Things I didn't like: 700c/29er tires. They were Continentals 'no flat'(?). I'm short so I generally prefer 26inch tires. The 700c tires made me feel a bit 'perched' on the bike. Plus I do a *bit* of light offroad with DH and the kids, which I thought 700c tires weren't very suitable for. Does anyone know if they make balloon-style tires for 700c/29ers?

Also, some people have complained about the panniers....I think they'd work fine for my useage (mostly grocery shopping. I wish the bike came with 4 panniers instead of two. I'd have to get two more panniers for sure. They are pretty big and will fit a paper grocery bag perfectly. For my uses, they will prolly work just as well as the Freeloaders.

Things that were different but didn't make a difference to me: BD: disc brakes front and rear. All steel. Brooks saddle.
Ute: disc brakes only on the front (v brake rear). Al frame (but steel fork?).

Dh and I will be going back to the LBS to check out the Ute together, and so he can ride it. The Ute may be a good alternative to the bike+Freeradical we were thinking of putting together. The cost of the bike + FR would be about $700, but I'd have to add disc brakes so another $200ish?

Anyone with any input on other things I should consider?
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Old 06-25-08, 05:47 AM   #2
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I'd say the Ute is great if it fits you, the single size is the major weak point to me. It is nice for lighter duty being a bit shorter than the xtra.

The major pro for the Xtracycle/Big Dummy, I'd say is the unrivaled versatility of the freeloaders. With a couple reusable grocery bags or lightweight stuff-sacks kept in their inner pockets they will carry anything you can stow in six panniers, and so much more. Without some DIY solution, the Ute would require much laborious lashing of many things swallowed quickly by the freeloaders.

As far as your concerns about light off road use, the Big Dummy's offroad prowess is well proven (www.ridingthespine.com), but the Ute should be fine. I'm unaware what the clearance is like on the Ute, but they do make 700c big apples in 2.0 and 2.3. There's also plethora of knobby 29er tires now, and a whole spectrum in between knobby and slick. If you feel too high up on the Ute, that could make handling a little more difficult though.

I think Xtracycle even now has some 16" big dummy framesets, though you're looking more at completes.

I'm guessing that the benefits in torsional stiffness between the big dummy and a regular xtra conversion become less noticable to smaller riders. have you gotten a chance to ride a regular xtra?
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Old 06-25-08, 10:32 AM   #3
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Maxwell, thanks for the input. I'm 5'4" with freakishly long legs (even for a girl), so I usually feel most comfortable on small/medium/16ish inch bike frames. The BD I rode was a 16" and fit me perfectly. The Ute fits really well, too, despite being a one size frame.

The guys at the LBS looked at me like I had two heads when I asked about bigger balloon-type tires for the Ute. "But they'll slow you down!" they kept saying. Well, I'm more interested in a cush ride than going fast LOL And the Big Apples on the Big Dummy felt plenty fast to me. I think putting fatter tires on the Ute would make the ride not only more comfortable, but more stable. 26" tires is what I'm used to, so the 700c/29ers just seemed skinny/squirrelly.

I agree that the Freeloaders are great for large loads. But I'm hoping that Kona comes out with bigger bags in the future. Or I might just make some of my own (sewing is a side hobby).

I really wish I had had a chance to ride an Xtra conversion. Clevercycles only had one in their shop and it belonged to a customer so no test ride. The Xtra conversion is still on our radar, I just have to test ride the bike we ordered, which should come in next week sometime. DH likes the conversion idea because he likes the Freeloaders a lot, plus the modular accessories that Xtracycle has come out with. And if we can always take the conversion kit off and add it to another bike if we want. With either the BD or Ute, you are stuck with the whole bike (tho that's not necessarily a bad thing!).

Decisions, decisions! LOL
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Old 06-25-08, 11:44 AM   #4
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Maxwell, thanks for the input. I'm 5'4" with freakishly long legs (even for a girl), so I usually feel most comfortable on small/medium/16ish inch bike frames. The BD I rode was a 16" and fit me perfectly. The Ute fits really well, too, despite being a one size frame.

The guys at the LBS looked at me like I had two heads when I asked about bigger balloon-type tires for the Ute. "But they'll slow you down!" they kept saying. Well, I'm more interested in a cush ride than going fast LOL And the Big Apples on the Big Dummy felt plenty fast to me. I think putting fatter tires on the Ute would make the ride not only more comfortable, but more stable. 26" tires is what I'm used to, so the 700c/29ers just seemed skinny/squirrelly.

I agree that the Freeloaders are great for large loads. But I'm hoping that Kona comes out with bigger bags in the future. Or I might just make some of my own (sewing is a side hobby).

I really wish I had had a chance to ride an Xtra conversion. Clevercycles only had one in their shop and it belonged to a customer so no test ride. The Xtra conversion is still on our radar, I just have to test ride the bike we ordered, which should come in next week sometime. DH likes the conversion idea because he likes the Freeloaders a lot, plus the modular accessories that Xtracycle has come out with. And if we can always take the conversion kit off and add it to another bike if we want. With either the BD or Ute, you are stuck with the whole bike (tho that's not necessarily a bad thing!).

Decisions, decisions! LOL
Freakishly long legs eh?

I wanna see?
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Old 06-26-08, 12:35 PM   #5
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What is the third utility bike called? The name is on the tip of my tongue.

Remember also--the Big Dummy is only the frame and fork; almost everything else is customizable.
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Old 06-27-08, 03:18 AM   #6
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Yuba Mondo? In the UK, it's no cheaper than the Ute, and it weighs 59lbs. I can't find a weight for the Ute.
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Old 06-27-08, 09:23 AM   #7
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What is the third utility bike called? The name is on the tip of my tongue
I think it's the Yuba Mondo, as Sammyboy said.

DH went and took at look at the Ute yesterday. He was very impressed with the overall feel of a longtail, but didn't feel the Ute was much better than an X conversion. He also felt the panniers on the Ute weren't as useful as the X's Freeloaders (which I totally agree with).

So we are still waiting for my test-ride bike to arrive at the shop. We're actually looking at two different bikes....I'll be riding both and trying to discover which feels better and will work with the X conversion.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:11 AM   #8
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You can get Big Apple tires in 29", which is probably what was installed on the BD you rode.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:42 AM   #9
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You can get Big Apple tires in 29", which is probably what was installed on the BD you rode.
Is there room on the Big Dummy for 29'er wheels and huge tires like the Big Apples???

Here is what Surly says:

"700c/29” wheels- The largest 700c tire that fits in the rear end of the Big Dummy is approximately 28mm (with fenders). In our opinion, this size does not have enough volume to spread the loads and protect the rim over bumps and curbs. If you want to run a 29” tire on the front (with 26” rear), you’re likely to have toe overlap problems and very slow, awkward geometry. That’s why we didn’t bother trying it"
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Old 06-27-08, 11:56 AM   #10
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Yuba Mondo? In the UK, it's no cheaper than the Ute, and it weighs 59lbs. I can't find a weight for the Ute.
That's it. From what I've read, I'm not sure if I'd swear by it or swear at it.
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Old 06-27-08, 12:46 PM   #11
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Is there room on the Big Dummy for 29'er wheels and huge tires like the Big Apples???

Here is what Surly says:

"700c/29” wheels- The largest 700c tire that fits in the rear end of the Big Dummy is approximately 28mm (with fenders). In our opinion, this size does not have enough volume to spread the loads and protect the rim over bumps and curbs. If you want to run a 29” tire on the front (with 26” rear), you’re likely to have toe overlap problems and very slow, awkward geometry. That’s why we didn’t bother trying it"

Probably not.

You might have misunderstood me. What I was trying to convey was that 1) the BD they rode probably had Big Apple tires (on 26" wheels) and 2) Big Apple tires were available in the 29" size.

They were looking to put them on the Kona Ute, not the BD.

I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone try to run 29" wheels on the BD. Partly because there's little point, but mainly that there would likely be multiple clearance issues.
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Old 06-27-08, 08:47 PM   #12
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...the next batch will be costing about $1800.
I'm confused, aren't current Big Dummy completes $1800? You're not saying the frame is doubling in price are you? I've heard the next run will be more expensive but nothing concrete as to how much.
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Old 06-27-08, 11:53 PM   #13
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I'm confused, aren't current Big Dummy completes $1800? You're not saying the frame is doubling in price are you? I've heard the next run will be more expensive but nothing concrete as to how much.
Sorry, meant to say that the entire BD build I rode was around $1400. They currently only have frames in the smaller sizes for sale, which I believe are still $899. You're right, current BD builds are about $1800.
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Old 12-26-08, 12:26 AM   #14
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I note that apparently for 2009 the Kona Ute has some changes. It is now listed as coming with 700 x 47C tires and is listed as available in two sizes.

The original post in this thread indicated only one size as available and mentioned the relatively narrow tires as an issue.

For a cargo bike I would still prefer a steel frame. A fatigue crack on a aluminum frame with a full load would not be any fun.
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Old 12-26-08, 02:21 AM   #15
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The Yuba Mundo. Its a complete integrated steel bike. If all you want to do is schlep around big cargo loads or your girlfriend or future kids, it may be the ticket. If not, look elsewhere.
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Old 12-26-08, 10:00 AM   #16
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Is it possible to put 26 inch tires on the Ute?
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Old 12-26-08, 07:01 PM   #17
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Is it possible to put 26 inch tires on the Ute?
Probably not. The rear brake is a V brake so the brake mounting bosses are going to be too high for a 26" rim by about 1.3".

Only bike I have seen with a disc front and V brake rear arrangement. Discs at both ends would allow greater versatility in wheel sizes but probably raise the price.
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Old 12-29-08, 11:50 AM   #18
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I'm horribly biased, and haven't ridden the Kona, so...with that as a context...

...I'd recommend holding out for a Big Dummy: Make a down payment on the next batch of 16" BD's at your LBS. Scrounge up the cash in the coming weeks/months.

You won't regret it buying the Dummy.
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Old 12-29-08, 06:03 PM   #19
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Is it possible to put 26 inch tires on the Ute?
26" with IGH & coaster brake maybe?
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Old 02-21-09, 08:41 PM   #20
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Thumbs up 2009 Ute

I bought a 2009 Kona Ute about month ago and have been commuting on it every day. It's the most comfortable & practical bike I've ever owned. It does exactly what it's designed to do.

I did quite a bit of research and test riding before deciding on the Ute. I know there are a lot of Xtracycle fans out there and for good reason. I thought seriously about the Xtracycle and even test rode a friend's. However, if you plan to haul over a hundred pounds of cargo on a regular basis the xtracycle is probably a better fit. I was looking for an every day commuter, grocery getter, and kid carrier. The Ute has been everything I wanted!!!

My only disappointment with the Ute is that it comes with only one large cargo bag. Don't get my wrong, the large orange rainproof bag is great. I just thought there would be two. That being said, one bag vs two is not a deal breaker. You can order a second from Kona. Also, one bag can hold a lot of groceries!

I also read a lot of concern about the Ute only have one disc brake. I've found this to be a non issue. The Ute has responsive breaks and feels like you're riding a smaller bike. The only times I've noticed the length is on very sharp U-Turns, which are rare.

If you're thinking about a cargo bike, I'd recommend matching your bike to your needs. We are lucky to now have more than one choice in cargo bikes. If your needs are similiar to mine, I'd highly recommend checking out the Ute.
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