Ute disappointment

A little over a week ago, we bought a pair of Kona Ute cargo bikes; yesterday, we returned them. Some who may know of my original enthusiasm — and how long we’ve waited* — may wonder why.

  • The brakes on C’s bike just didn’t work all that well. Also, his bike was missing the bell. The rear derailleur on mine was a little sketchy/jumpy, although I think that could’ve been adjusted.
  • They only came with one bag each, which was a serious WTF when we picked them up. The webpage says “panniers,” which I assumed meant two, and it’s impossible to tell from the photo that they only come with one. Plus it doesn’t many any sense to only have one bag if you’re going to be loading it down. So that would’ve been an extra $80-100 each.
  • The bags themselves were disappointing. Floppy, awkward cinching. The material screamed “waterproof,” but the zippers weren’t seam-sealed, and there was a huge gap at the front & back of the bag that surely would’ve collected a lovely puddle.
  • It’s impossible to use any other bags. The deck and loops were obviously designed specifically for the bike and its bag, and holding up both my buckets and my commute panniers, I could see there wasn’t any way to use anything else.
  • The info that came with them, and the info on the website, doesn’t say how much weight they can carry. Which seems like a small thing, but when the plan was to use them in place of a car, it matters.
  • And we didn’t really have anyplace to put them. They spent most of the week in the living room, being used as sideboards and coat racks. Not a long-term solution.

So yesterday they went back. The Bike Stand was very accomodating, the staff were great and the return was really easy.

I’m disappointed. Not just because I wanted to have that cargo-carrying bike, but because the actual ride, the position on the bike: that was fantastic. Maybe the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced, as much as the Townie and maybe even more so.

Perhaps Kona will get the cargo aspects right in a future model, or maybe we’ll just convert the Townie to an Xtracycle. (For half the price, and with a lively community!) For now, I’ll keep riding my Smoke for commuting, and we’ll share the Townie for small grocery runs.

* I test rode a 2008 Ute in July or August, and almost bought it right there. We pre-ordered the ’09s, and orginally they were supposed to show up in September.

4 Replies to “Ute disappointment”

  1. Hey another idea I saw it in a show talking about how portland had became a YEA bike riding town there is a bike that is the three wheeler and has a huge cargo area but it would still be the where is the room thing. So, maybe either get that taken care of or get something you can add to the back of the townie to hall stuff that folds flat. For storage but I am sorry that the Ute did not work out because I know how much you wanted it.

  2. I’ve been looking at buying a Ute and I’d appreciate it if you could answer a few questions.

    Were the brakes on your bike adequate? I’ve read that the Hayes discs leave a bit to be desired and planned on upgrading anyways.

    What frame size did your partner (I’m assuming) have and how well did it fit him?

    Were you otherwise satisfied with the components/build quality/price?

  3. Elizabeth: Bakfietsen? Those do look freaking cool, but wow! spendy. And thanks for the sympathy. 🙂

    Nathan: My brakes were pretty decent, nothing notable either way. I’d never had a bike with disc brakes before, so I don’t have a lot to compare to.

    C is over 6′, he got the 20″ and it was okay, maybe a bit small. (He likes a fairly large bike.) I’m about 5’8″, had the 18″ and found it just about right.

    As for the other components: the shifters were “meh,” kinda plastic-y, but I’m a bit partial to grip-shifters just from having more experience with them. As I mentioned, my rear derailleur was not quite right; it had trouble keeping in the right gear in the middle gears, although I think it could’ve been fixed with some adjusting at the shop. (My Kona Smoke 29 had the same problem when I first got it.) The cog guard (?) on the front gears was a nice touch. The handlebars were very comfortable, the seat was decent.

    If the bags and all that had been what we needed, I think the price would’ve been about right. Certainly competitive to similar options. (It’s my opinion that Kona should’ve just included a 2nd bag and increased the price $50 or so.)

    I hope that’s helpful.

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