Sturdy and comfortable, Kona’s load-carrier feels surprisingly conventional to ride. It’ll cheerfully swallow your weekly shopping, but options for bigger and more unusual loads area bit limited.
The Ute is a ‘longtail’ cargo carrier, an idea borne from Xtracycle’s bolt-on Freeradical kit (www.xtracycle.com). The Freeradical attaches to your existing bike, opening up options of carrying anything from boxes to ladders. A longtail like the Ute makes for a stiffer set up because the frame is all one piece.
Ride & handling: surprisingly conventional easy rider
The Ute feels surprisingly like a conventional bike, albeit more mellow. While the longer wheelbase makes for a larger turning circle, you soon adapt to the way it handles.
It carves through trafﬁc well and feels more compact than its overall 215cm length. The steel, backswept postman’s bike bars add to the styling, with the stubby stem giving an upright riding position.
A long wheelbase bike will never be as easy to park or shufﬂe around at trafﬁc lights, but at under 17kg the Ute’s just within the realms of being easy to pick up and swivel round. When piled high with goods there’s a small amount of ﬂex in the frame but once you adapt your pedalling style – sitting and spinning rather than swinging side to side out of the saddle – it rides well, with light but stable steering.
When it comes to loading, the large deck makes cinching on boxes or crates pretty straightforward. Although basic, the two open side panniers are capacious and easy to use – they’re boxy, so swallow up shopping easily, and fold away neatly.
The design could be better though: the bungee hooks do little to stabilise the boxes side to side and the lack of drain holes is an issue for the UK – in heavy rain they’ll just act like buckets. Unfortunately the 19.5mm tubing diameter of the loading bay is too wide for most brands of panniers – we could only just get Ortlieb’s Backroller Plus to ﬁt (the Classic models won’t).
Apparently more baggage designs are in the pipeline but until they’re here, options are limited. Hauling larger payloads is also complicated by the fact that, unlike some longtails, there’s no lower loading platforms, so carrying larger boxes or long objects like ladders is out of the question.
There’s also no weight limit speciﬁed by Kona, and our general feeling is that the Ute is more suited to generous weekly shops than particularly heavy loads.
Frame/Chassis: versatile & sturdy – one size fits all
There’s no doubt the Ute’s an eye-catching bike. Its aluminium, long wheelbase frame has a heavily sloping top-tube for two reasons. When the bike’s fully laden it’s easier to mount and dismount, and since there’s only one size available – 18 inches – there’s enough clearance for a wide range of riders.
The Ute ﬁtted our 5ft 5in tester just ﬁne, and once the 350mm seatpost was substituted for a 400mm one and the 60mm stem for a 100mm, it ﬁtted our 6ft 1in tester pretty well too.
To limit ﬂex in the long frame, the down-tube is oversized and the top-tube triangulated.
The back end features a generous platform, measuring 83x15cm, with cutaways for straps or bungee cords, as well as bungee eyelets on the frame.
There’s no mudguard, as the platform does a good job at shielding road crud from your back, though it won’t protect your bags.
There’s also an integrated kickstand. Up front, the straight bladed, disc-only P2 fork offers precise steering with little ﬂex, with eyelets for a mudguard but not a rack, but there’s no disc tab at the rear.
Equipment: geared down for hauling
The Ute’s kit is nicely thought out. A simple, double chainring set-up and 11-32 cassette offer a suitably low 22-88in gear range; we had no trouble winching up the steepest streets and rarely missed the lack of bigger gears. The 8-speed chain is hardwearing, while Shimano’s Alivio shifters offer continually crisp gear changes.
Although Hayes’ mechanical front disc brake isn’t as powerful as Avid’s more expensive BB7, it’s easy to maintain – it’s just a shame the lack of a disc tab at the rear means the rim brake isn’t open to a future upgrade. …
Wheels: big rubber options
Kona has opted for 700c wheels, with clearance for 29er tyres up to 2.2in. The Ute comes with Conti’s fast rolling City Contacts, whose 47mm width offers plenty of comfort. While 29er wheels roll over bumps better than 26in wheels, they’re less strong laterally, which isn’t ideal for a serious load hauler. They’re also more likely to cause toe overlap, which did occur during testing with the mudguard ﬁtted, and they make for a taller bike, with the knock-on effect that loads are higher off the ground and less stable.
With a change of rims – we’d recommend Spa Cycles’ ultra tough Alesa Sputniks – more could be on the cards, though the basic Zac 19 wheels supplied have 36 holes and are well built with strong, plain gauge DT spokes. A tandem-style 48-spoke build would be tougher still.