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Kona Ute "Review"

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Old 02-15-09, 11:15 PM
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pigeonfarmboy
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Kona Ute "Review"

"Review" because I'm no word wizard but I thought I'd bring up a couple issues I haven't seen anyone mention before. I'm happy to offer my direct experience with the bike.

So I found a 2008 Ute sitting in a shop on sale for 20% off about two weeks ago and snagged it. I've been looking for a cargo bike for a while and couldn't pass this up whether I ended up liking it or not. The 2008 model comes with 2 of the smaller pannier bags. While these are useful for small stuff I'm mainly buying a cargo bike to do my grocery shopping and other errands requiring more room. So I opted to order 2 of the larger orange '09 bags ($160 for the pair) I've gone shopping twice now with the large bags and they're plenty large for a week's supply+ of groceries. The bike does in fact feel better with some weight in the bags. No big difference in handling but you do notice the weight helping to build your momentum.

Hits:
-Hands down the best feature of the Ute is the price. The only comparable price would be to convert a bike with the Xtracycle Free Radical kit.
-Quality Components, I'm a heavy guy and if a bike feels solid under me then I don't even have to look at the name brands on the parts. (But they're all top brand name parts)
-Fenders, a small thing but it's nice not having to pay for them after the bike purchase.

Misses:
-Kickstand. This welded-on piece of crap just doesn't work when you're loading the panniers. Without propping the bike on something, it WILL fall over with a load. (How about an after-market Center Stand Kona?) The way the mount is welded on at an angle is just a pain for someone like me who will have to grind it off to replace it with a proper center stand.
-Rear V-Brake. I'd be much happier with a coaster. The long cable is just too mushy for my taste.
-Not Xtracycle compatible. Why?!? Don't they promote their great designs free for companies to use? This seems to be the biggest determining factor in people's decision not to buy the Ute. If you're not going to use this platform at least bring out some aftermarket stuff to make up for the lack of cargo you can carry compared to the Xtracycle system.
-Bag mount height. The orange bags help this because they hang much lower but you're still mounting weight a little higher than the Xtracycles.
-Aluminum Frame. Depending on how hard you're going to be on the bike this can be a very minor or non-existent factor. If you're off-roading or touring around the country however, this is a big one.
-700c wheels. When you brake hard with the front disc you can actually see the entire wheel shift inside the fork. I think 26" would have been a much better choice for the bike.

Modifications:
I noticed when storing the bike upright in the garage that the rear-most part of the frame hits the ground pretty badly. I'm a remote-control car nerd so I just cut a piece of rubber tire apart and zip-tied it around that part of the frame. Works great! I changed the seat out for a comfy gel one too.

Comparison shopping:
Like I said, I wasn't necessarily looking to buy a Ute but the price was right and I wanted to try it out. With more research I've really become enthralled with the Surly Big Dummy. Prices are not even comparable between the Ute and Big Dummy but neither are the capabilities when using the array of Xtracycle accessories. I've always been a fan of steel frames as well so it's an important issue for me. The Yuba Mundo also comes recommended for a good cargo bike and the price point is reasonable, but again no Xtracycle compatibility. The Xtracycle Free Radical conversion is really cool but everytime I read a review from someone that has had one and has ridden a Big Dummy says the frame is so much more solid. Important for a heavy guy like myself even more.

Conclusion:
I completely agree the Big Dummy could be overkill for alot of people that desire using a cargo bike. I know it's out of alot of people's price range for a bike as well. Which is why I think the Ute is still a great option for most people's needs and affordability. I'll definitely post up a comparison of the Big Dummy and Ute when I get mine.
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Old 02-16-09, 01:03 AM
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Sirrus Rider
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Originally Posted by pigeonfarmboy View Post
"Review" because I'm no word wizard but I thought I'd bring up a couple issues I haven't seen anyone mention before. I'm happy to offer my direct experience with the bike.

So I found a 2008 Ute sitting in a shop on sale for 20% off about two weeks ago and snagged it. I've been looking for a cargo bike for a while and couldn't pass this up whether I ended up liking it or not. The 2008 model comes with 2 of the smaller pannier bags. While these are useful for small stuff I'm mainly buying a cargo bike to do my grocery shopping and other errands requiring more room. So I opted to order 2 of the larger orange '09 bags ($160 for the pair) I've gone shopping twice now with the large bags and they're plenty large for a week's supply+ of groceries. The bike does in fact feel better with some weight in the bags. No big difference in handling but you do notice the weight helping to build your momentum.

Hits:
-Hands down the best feature of the Ute is the price. The only comparable price would be to convert a bike with the Xtracycle Free Radical kit.
-Quality Components, I'm a heavy guy and if a bike feels solid under me then I don't even have to look at the name brands on the parts. (But they're all top brand name parts)
-Fenders, a small thing but it's nice not having to pay for them after the bike purchase.

Misses:
-Kickstand. This welded-on piece of crap just doesn't work when you're loading the panniers. Without propping the bike on something, it WILL fall over with a load. (How about an after-market Center Stand Kona?) The way the mount is welded on at an angle is just a pain for someone like me who will have to grind it off to replace it with a proper center stand.
-Rear V-Brake. I'd be much happier with a coaster. The long cable is just too mushy for my taste.
-Not Xtracycle compatible. Why?!? Don't they promote their great designs free for companies to use? This seems to be the biggest determining factor in people's decision not to buy the Ute. If you're not going to use this platform at least bring out some aftermarket stuff to make up for the lack of cargo you can carry compared to the Xtracycle system.
-Bag mount height. The orange bags help this because they hang much lower but you're still mounting weight a little higher than the Xtracycles.
-Aluminum Frame. Depending on how hard you're going to be on the bike this can be a very minor or non-existent factor. If you're off-roading or touring around the country however, this is a big one.
-700c wheels. When you brake hard with the front disc you can actually see the entire wheel shift inside the fork. I think 26" would have been a much better choice for the bike.

Modifications:
I noticed when storing the bike upright in the garage that the rear-most part of the frame hits the ground pretty badly. I'm a remote-control car nerd so I just cut a piece of rubber tire apart and zip-tied it around that part of the frame. Works great! I changed the seat out for a comfy gel one too.

Comparison shopping:
Like I said, I wasn't necessarily looking to buy a Ute but the price was right and I wanted to try it out. With more research I've really become enthralled with the Surly Big Dummy. Prices are not even comparable between the Ute and Big Dummy but neither are the capabilities when using the array of Xtracycle accessories. I've always been a fan of steel frames as well so it's an important issue for me. The Yuba Mundo also comes recommended for a good cargo bike and the price point is reasonable, but again no Xtracycle compatibility. The Xtracycle Free Radical conversion is really cool but everytime I read a review from someone that has had one and has ridden a Big Dummy says the frame is so much more solid. Important for a heavy guy like myself even more.

Conclusion:
I completely agree the Big Dummy could be overkill for alot of people that desire using a cargo bike. I know it's out of alot of people's price range for a bike as well. Which is why I think the Ute is still a great option for most people's needs and affordability. I'll definitely post up a comparison of the Big Dummy and Ute when I get mine.
One of your misses was Xtracycle compatibility. The bike in question was designed before Xtracycle decided to release their specs as an open standard. In fact, it only occurred after Surly had been delivering BD frames for more than 6 months. I do agree with you that it blows that none of the BD alternatives are Xtra compatible, but Kona and Yuba were racing to get something out the door to catch up with Surly and working without Xtracycle's help unlike Surly.

Good Review though!
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Old 02-16-09, 07:59 PM
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LeeG
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I've had one for 1/2 yr. There's something about the trail/head angle that's kind of funny. It feels like the rear end is driving the front wheel in a turn more than both wheels following the same line. It should have a chainstay mounted kickstand as the op mentions. The 26/36 chainring are kind of small for flat brisk riding and the 170mm crank is too short for heavy loads and longer legs. I changed it to a 175mm triple and changed the swept back bars to straight bars with bar ends.
People taller than 6' should look at the 20" size if available. I'm all of 5'9" with 30" bb to seat measurment and I wouldn't want the seat/head tube distance any shorter. It makes no sense to have a lower seat position if I really have to pedal a heavy load up a hill so the 18" one-size-fits-all bike may be short for some. I think it's a fine bike. The 24" chainstay length is great, the extracycles chainstay length seems to be more a consequence of expanding a standard bike than starting with a load carrying design.
I bought one from a bike shop after they had just assembled it and put it on display. Surprised the shop you got it from felt the need to sell it at such a discount.

Last edited by LeeG; 02-17-09 at 10:25 PM.
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