I have been riding my Kona Ute for two solid weeks now. I pretty much put my other bikes away and have been using the Ute for all purposes in order to try to use the Ute in as many different ways as possible. I have ridden it to and from work daily over the two weeks, made a run to the bike shop on it, multiple trips to the grocery store, and on two family rides with our little girls in tow.
I do have an initial impression of the bike but it is hard to definitively give strong pros and cons as I have not ridden other bikes in its class. So I will use what I know of riding a bike to give my pros and cons list.
What I liked about the bike… The bike has pretty nice components and had all of its original parts including disc brakes on 700c or (29er type) wheels. It has comfortable mustache style handlebars for riding but had to change out the original grips because they had become sticky. The seat is surprisingly comfortable though I haven’t had a chance to take on a really long ride. The frame has a step through which makes it nice because if I lower the seat all the way down my wife can ride the bike. I bought a 2011 model which came with two large brown bags. These bags are pretty nice and can carry quite a bit. The bike has a comfortable ride with the 700cx47 tires and a very upright riding position.
I love that the bike came standard with fenders as it happened to rain a couple times in the last two weeks and my feet stayed extra dry when gliding through puddles. The bike also comfortable accepts our bike trailer for our girls to ride in since that can’t safely ride on the included deck.
The things I have been initially disappointed with…700c vs 26 inch wheels. I like the look of the 700c wheels and they ride smooth when unloaded but it feels like you are riding really high on the bike which would be ok if this bike wasn’t intended to hold cargo. I would think you would want as low of a ride as possible for carrying extra weight.
I have had the bike loaded up twice. Once I took my wife and girls for a ride on the included deck. When weighted down in the back the bike begins to get squirrelly and a little bit hard to manage. It also doesn’t bread confidence in the passengers on the back. Last night I decided to put the bike to the test by going to fill up two 5 Gallon jugs of water. This is where many of the flaws really came to light. The kickstand is nice but is worthless when loaded. The bike topples easily when loaded and is not easy to lean against a wall for support. The Water jugs were 42 lbs each plus my eight of 155 lbs put the total load at only 239. I couldn’t imagine carrying much more weight in the back without the bike becoming un-rideable without counter weight in the front. Since the front fork does not have cantilever studs or braze ons for a front rack it makes it difficult to counter balance the rear weight to the front. The bike really needs a front rack and I will probably figure something out in this regard. The bags did hold up the weight of the water jugs but began to tear when my bike toppled over loading it, even with the bike leaned against the wall. I think the bags are best used for typical grocery loads but not for extremely heavy items. I have seen review of the Trek cargo bike with the fold out decks for extra weight and this seems like a great idea for the Ute to add.
The bike has two water bottle mounts which I was pleased with but the one on the bottom of the frame will not accept a large water bottle with the fenders on the bike. The gearing is great when loaded but when lightly loaded commutes to work I was yearning for a bigger ring in the front. The stock FSA crankset are capable of holding a triple ring but instead have a chain guard where the bring ring would go. I rolled up my work pants either way and would rather just have the big ring. I think most people may be ok without the extra gearing but I think it would be an easy change at the factory with minimal cost to the bike company.
Even though I feel like I was hard on the bike it has been fun to ride and my neighbors have gotten a kick out of seeing my family and I on it. Although I haven’t ridden other Cargo style bikes I will say that I don’t think this bike is great at it. Also I don’t think this bike would be a great commuter bike as it is a bit bulky and slow and I find myself wanting to ride my road bike or single speed bike to work. I think this bike would fit into a grocery bike category, which I think to most people wouldn’t warrant a whole extra bike.
The thing that made me move forward in the purchase of the Ute was I wanted to try something that could be a good car replacement bike. In all practicality after two weeks of riding I think any bike can be a car replacement bike with the right additions such as racks, trailers, etc. You do not necessarily need a cargo / extracycle type bike and if you get one you will probably need another bike for other types of riding you might enjoy. The bike is fun and I think with a few changes the manufacturer could have a great bike, but right now it is a good bike.