Kona Ute—Rock solid cargo bike

UPDATE by Andrew: Wired linked to Dave’s review. Nice!

I got a chance to try out Kona’s upcoming integrated cargo bike, the Ute. I gotta say, this is one solid ride. The ute’s a longbike: a 29er (update: 700c x 47) with a giant rack built in capable of carrying 4 panniers, a couple of passengers, or just about anything else you can strap to it. Several longbike designs have been around for a while now, the Ute’s take is an integrated design – the extended cargo area’s built right into the frame. This makes the bike super solid. Add in smart design, great components and you’ve got yourself a one-stop cargo hauling go-anywhere machine.

The Ute’s integrated cargo area goes way beyond simply not having to bolt on a rack – being an integral part of the frame means it’s strong. This bike’s got no detectable lateral flex, even loaded with groceries and kids. No having to steer out of side to side way when hauling stuff home, and no trouble at all when standing on the pedals for a little extra power.


The long wheel base and gentle geometry contribute to a very stable ride with no harshness over bumps. Given this I was surprised at how nimble the ride was, slaloming the local playground went great. In fact the Ute handled everything I threw at it with aplomb: steep descents, hard climbs, up and down curbs, (shallow) stairs. Riding the Ute under load’s like driving a volvo station wagon.

Integrated design doesn’t stop with the rack and ride. Low, rounded top tube means you don’t have to tip the bike on it’s side to get your leg over, a huge bonus on a loaded bike. 29 inch wheels and wide Continental tires make for great rolling over any obstacles. Braking design is very intelligent – Hayse mechanical disc brake up front for power where you need it, v-brakes in the back for security. The wide gearing handled getting me back up the steep hills between my grocery store and my house easily. The bike comes equipped with wide, upright handlebars and very nice cork grips which were great for cruising and getting a bit of additional leverage when standing up. An integrated kickstand keeps the bike upright when you’re loading her up.

Carrying capacity is predictably huge. The well designed, large rear deck has cutouts to allow you to bungee odd sized loads down and the cargo area has space for 4 panniers. The bike came with Kona grocery bag style panniers, which were able to swallow just about everything I could put in there: jackets, hats, sweaters, extra helmets, several grocery bags, whatever. Being able to use standard panniers gives you lots of options as well – want water proof? Go for some oyster buckets! Passengers were no trouble at all. A stoker stem and some foot pegs let me haul my 6 year old all over our neighborhood.

My favorite part about the Ute was what it meant for my lifestyle. I was able to take the bike on many trips I wouldn’t have been able to make on a standard bike: Delivering Christmas dinner to some relatives a couple miles away; dropping my kid off at school; groceries and gift shopping were all easy as pie.

One thing to change? Make the bike easier to carry. The integrated rack moves the balance point back behind the seat post, making lifting and maneuvering the bike a bit awkward (especially up stairs to a gate). Adding a utility handle on the rack would help and add a hand-hold for passengers.

Check here , here and here for other Hugger impressions.

Update:: Production bikes will have rubber grips, and the included panniers have a rain proof integrated cover.


A very good introduction to the market, but there are some wrinkles to iron out.

The lifting issue is important: in/out of trains and apartment staircases, I want to get a bike up on one shoulder.  This doesn’t look like I can.

I do not see the point of disk-brakes myself.  I can stop a fully loaded bike on rim-brakes, and they are far easier to service.  I think it just sells the bike as ‘cool’.
The road/hybrid wheel standard is 700.  That’s what all my spare tires, etc. are.  Most people do not need to mess around with another size.

I am tired of cleaning and maintaining chains and derailers on my city bikes.  This bike needs an internal gear hub and full chaincase.

I’m wondering about these large wheels on a cargo bike as well. Smaller diameter would make for stiffer, stronger and easier to accelerate wheels.

The discbrakes actually make a change in wheel size possible (to a certain extent, 29” to 700c should be no problem, 26” could create a very low BB and change the trail). Shimanos Alfine 8speed hub or some Sturmey Archer 8 speed hubs will take disc brakes as well. Add a Hebie chainglider.

So it is “only” a matter of spending some extra money and time…

Look at the price point and that’ll answer the why to your points above, which are good. Also note that Kona got us a pre-production bike for this very reason, to see what worked, didn’t, and I’d also like to see a disk-brake in the back.

As it’s basic functionality, producing a longtail bike that isn’t a whip machine, the Kona does that very well. Another test is to load it up with [300 pounds of Clip-n-Seals](http://www.flickr.com/photos/huggerindustries/2066807275/in/set-72157600196743385/) and see how it does.


My comment was “why the rear V-brake”.  Disk brakes, especially the BB7, are soo easy to adjust and provide such an increase in perfromance.  They also seriously extend the life of the rim and helps to keep the bike cleaner.  Hopefully they included tabs for a rear disk brake and compatible rims.

my 2 cents

NIce review. The carrying issue would be an easy fix. My xtracycle has a small tube behind the seat post that goes back towards the rear wheel. It’s the perfect spot to carry the bike from, very balanced. Kona would just have to weld a small tube down low from the back of the seat post to the bridge of the chainstays.

I would disagree with James about the disc brakes. I have them front and back on my xtracycle, and if you live in a hilly area with a warm climate you need discs. I have been down the Pali (Hawaii) twice with a load, and would have been smoking the rims for sure. Hot rims = blown tires. Not a good combination at 40 MPH.

the 36 spoke rhyno lite rims are an acceptable choice for the price point, but for a hauler you want to ride and not worry about, say, hauling 200 pound loads with, you might be better with 40-48 spoke wheels like those built for tandem bikes.

I like the price and the integrated design, but my question is how do you haul stuff?  What if I want to carry a ladder or a guitar or whatever?  I can see how I might do that on the Xtracycle.  I’m waiting for more accessories besides panniers before I really consider one of these.

Does the UTE come in different frame sizes?  Or just a one-size-fits-all frame for the average sized human?

How tall are all the Bikehugger UTE reviewers?



This Hugger is 5’ 10”. The Ute is a one-size-fits-all affair. Low stand over height, a short seat tube and an adjustable stem should enable setup for smaller riders.

Some of the other riders may ave been a bit differently sized than me…

Tire size is confusing to me.  Kona runs the largest standard size (29”), and Surly runs the smallest (26”).  I think that tire-size preferences are more religion than science.  Surlyblog insist that larger sizes don’t work: http://www.surlybikes.com/spew19.html

On the other hand, the Surly BigDummy comes in four sizes: Kona sells one.  As a 6’1” person who needs a 63cm helmet, there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’.

These longtails are an interesting class of bike. You wouldn’t get people mentioning downhill at 40mph (64km/h) if this were a Christiania tricycle or a Dutch bakfiets. But it’s still a cargo bike.

So I understand the disc brake, but I think this bike could use a rear mudguard/fender and a front dynamo hub. Shimano sells a seven-speed internal gear hub which isn’t too pricey, and you can get reasonably priced dynamo hubs too. But again, if you want to do hills at 60 km/h, and be able to climb them too, you might have different priorities.

Any info on the footpegs? are they standard, or did you just add them to the regular axle position? I haul two small kids on my Xtracycle, and I’d like to see something equivalent to the wideloaders on the UTE to keep them safe.

A few corrections and comments:  for those wondering, “29 inch” and “700C” wheels are both based on the same diameter rim. So a 29er is a bike with 700c wheels.

And tires labeled as 29” and 700C are generally interchangable with one another, as long as the tire width is compatible with the rim (of course, this says nothing about frame compatibility, as a 700C road bike frame would not have the clearance for a 2” wide tire, even if you could get it on the rim).

Regarding disc brakes, according to Kona, the Ute does NOT have any disc brake tabs for the rear wheel, so a rear disc brake will never be an option, even as an upgrade. Too bad, otherwise, I’d have seriously considered snapping up one of these hot rods.

Internal Hubs have a bad rep as slow, because the bikes they are put on are set up to run out of top gears at about 26kmh (16mph).  There is nothing inherently slow about a Shimano Alfine hub, since its gear range of +300% is not far off a 3x8 derailer.  The problem is the chainrings (front) are too small, which is a problem easily customized for the end user.

Customization brings up a larger issue.  To make a customer do it at retail, after already paying for a full bike of parts, some of which they do not want, is an outmoded way of seling a bike.  More manufacturers have to realize the potential of the Internet, and offer customizable bikes built around several frames.

It does not have to hurt the ‘local bicycle store’, because it can be done with the stores as brokers.  The bike company is still going to have to rely on retail display to entice the buyer, for word of mouth and for advice to the buyer.  The store may get a lower cut per bike, but they will have to warehouse far fewer, and not have to commit to carrying as large an inventory.

I do think it is outmoded to expect me to pay what I would for a used car, but have no control over the options.

Greg, I thought a 700C was a 27”, so the main four sizes were: 29”, off-road niche; 27”/700C, road and hybrid; 650C, Kogswell and other porteur styles; and 26” mountain bikes.  I am not trying to be smart, so correct me if I am confused: I only have had to deal with 700C.

700c == 29”
27” == old, out of date road standard

Sheldon Brown, as usual, has all the details.  If you don’t bookmark his site - you should!

FYI - I’m 6’3” and had no problem with the Ute.  I don’t know about our friends closer to the 5’ range.

I think an important consideration here is that this bike is $800.  Sure - I’d think discs are a good idea, but the rear brake doesn’t buy you much anyway.  At that price, and with the features it already has I think it’s a pretty sweet setup.  If you want all the bells and whistles you can start with a frame and go for it.

As far as rear braking is concerned, you can get a lot more out of the rear brake on a bike like this once it is loaded up than you would on a “normal” bike.  The weight transfer to the front wheel still makes the front brake more effective than the rear, but the ability to load the rear axle makes the rear brake earn its keep, too.  As far as Surly is concerned, 700c/29” really won’t work, since they engineered the Big Dummy to be compatible with the original XtraCycle accessories.  This means that there is a maximum diameter of tire that will fit between the fore and aft frame members, and 700 X 42c (or so) is pretty much the largest tire that can be used.  This may be one reason that Kona decided to start from scratch, and build around the larger size.  I can only hope that they have left enough room to accomodate the newly available 2” street tires, which rule.

James, great comments about the current way of selling bikes as being totally outmoded. You cannot be more right. And the internet gives nearly anyone the power to do exactly what you suggest. I think you have just given away a huge trade secret: the first company(s) that are able to do this effectively will make some serious money.

About wheel sizes, yes, Sheldon Brown’s got all the good info. So, interestingly 29” = 700C, but 27” does not = 700C. Pretty crazy, but that’s terminology for you.

James, I think the usual way is to swap the parts you don’t want right at the time of purchase. That way you don’t have to pay for parts you don’t want. With that in mind, $800 for the basic bike with decent default parts is a steal. Especially if it can replace a car which requires insurance, gas, parking, etc.

Buying over the internet is good if you know exactly what you want, but only a real flesh-and-blood dealer will let you try the bike on that big downhill where you need the disc brakes.

On the Kona UK website the Ute is listed as having 26”(559) wheels. Does anyone know if they have a different specification over here?.

James, Erik

one attempt at doing something like what you suggest is visible at the Civia site—same frame, 3 different build options. Their bikes aren’t quite right for me, but I can appreciate what they’re trying to do.


Surly used to have a “virtual bike” program, which I think was similar, but I don’t see it on their site anymore.  Note that both Civia and Surly are part of QBP, which has the resources to make this kind of thing work. It might be harder for companies which aren’t parts distributors as well.

So bike dealers, who already are lucky to make 35-40% per bike when they sell it, are supposed to be behind a plan that would make them even less per bike? Just to save you the expense of upgrading? Do you understand that bike companies order x-amount of, say, LX deraileurs and get a deal based on the quality that they order, so, using your model, when you decide that you need an xtr deraileur on that 800 dollar stock bike, they would be stuck with the the lx, and have to order in the xtr, unless he ordered more of them in the first place. As you see, this can get confusing pretty quickly, especially when James and Erix decide that they want to swap out half the drivetrain, the wheels, the brakes, and the panniers. At the end of the year, the manufacturer is left with a pile of parts he has to sell somehow, which will end up at Performance or a similar blow-out chain, and further erode your local bike shop’s ability to compete.

This is Kona’s entry into a brand new market. It’s their first try, and by this review, they did a pretty good job. Is it perfect? Maybe not for you, but something tells me that if enough are sold, they’ll add features and upgrades and models for next year.

Work out upgrades at the time of purchase with your local dealer, the same guy who will fix your broken spokes and install that kid seat. If you run him out of business, who’s going to fix your bike when it’s broken or worn out?


Various buy online websites that have tried custom spec’ing your bike and failed—you can order a frameset from the catalog sites, then get your parts, anyway you want or do that with an IBD. Or just buy the Ute as it, remove the parts you don’t want, sell them on eBay or put them in a parts bins for another bike, and thank your local bike shop for being there for you when you need a tube on a ride.

It’s naive to think that the industry hasn’t tried online, maybe they will again, but I don’t think it’s going to be just for you and your dislike for how a bike is spec’d. As others have commented, it’s all about volume and price points—part of the reason that the bike companies can give you a good deal on bikes is that they pass on the savings by buying parts in bulk that you might not want. By all accounts that price point on the Ute is very good. (we’ll take up China economics in another post).

Personally, I wasn’t down with the trigger shifters on the Ute at all, others may love them, I like twist shifters for a sport-utility bike. So what I’d with the Ute, is either live with the trigger shifters or replace them with twists.


I am not “naive”, nor am I asking for something “just for [me] and [my] dislike for how a bike is spec’d”.  I think it is a promising business model, that would also suit my needs.


‘To address ‘gob’: you have a valid point, but there are ways to address it.  It would be financial suicide for Kona to allow unlimited substitutions on the Ute.  They could allow a limited number of substitutions, and require the customer to wait some extra period for that to be filled.  They would still have a certain purchasing power.  The choices:
- a stock derailer or stock internal-hub drivetrain
- stock seat and pedals, or some discount for ordering neither
- a choice of two wheelsets/tires depending on road type the user intends it for
- full fenders or none
- full chainguard (internal-hub) or none
- two or three handlebar choices


That wasn’t meant to be personal, just picking up on the rest of the comments that presumed the industry wasn’t aware or isn’t aware of the Internets. The other problem is staffing—imagine getting your order right from the warehouse picker when it’s all those choices—that’s what buying a frameset is about and maybe Kona would just offer that, but you’re not going to get it all for the same price as the complete bike.

James -

As a picky consumer, I would love to have custom choices available for many of my purchases.  Alas, the bike industry is not set up very well for this, as I’ll try to briefly (probably not likely) illustrate.

In order to get a complete, custom bicycle sent to a consumer (or even your Local Bike Shop), there must be some place where said bike is assembled with custom parts.  I see there being two choices here: either at the bicycle factory (which certainly isn’t BC for a bike at this price point), or at the distribution center (DC).  Any other option would be another link in the chain, requiring more cost.

IF the bike is customized at the factory (very likely in Asia), the bike needs to be singled out and kept track of individually from the factory to the DC.  If the ordering takes off (which would be the point, yes?), this could be dozens to hundreds of bikes per shipment (realize that in order to keep prices down ocean shipments only occur when there is enough a large enough quantity to warrant the cost).  This becomes a logistical nightmare at the DC, where instead of having - let’s say - 200 SKU’s (one for each size/color/style), there are instantly THOUSANDS of possible combinations.  More time spent sorting, more space to file, more errors made, simply much more money spent and passed on to the cost of the product.

Next scenario: customization at the DC.  Instead of a simple warehouse/shipping venture, the business now also deals with bicycle assembly.  AND, at the labor costs required here in North America (I’m not complaining about this (I like my paycheck just fine!) - just stating fact). 
Also, don’t forget that components cost more now, due to reasons explained by gob above. You can see that the price will rise exponentially, becoming much less attractive to prospective buyers (did I mention added cost for website design/time spent filling and servicing orders?).

If you think that having the bike assembled at your LBS is a good option, I’m not so sure . . . First off, that LBS would be get stuck with all of the unused parts ($$ tied up in inventory that was unwanted in the first place).  Next, the LBS is required to spend more time for each bike assembly - removing and then replacing parts takes twice as long as just putting ‘em on.  Lastly, a good chunk of the LBS’s business is in parts and accessories - custom ordered bikes could put a serious dent in these categories.

As you may guess, I’m a big fan of the LBS.  They will certainly save you money (and more importantly headaches) in the long run - ESPECIALLY if you bring them a six pack every once in a while when you bring a dirty, rusty ride into their shop ;)

(/end rant)

What a bunch of whiners. No matter how this remarkable bike is made, some baby wants something else. Design your own bike or modify it. Is this what we’ve become?

I’ve just ordered this bike - but am confused as to what I’m getting, as there wasn’t one available for viewing at my local shop.  I’ve seen two differing Kona studio shots of the Ute, leaving my order a bit of a gamble.  Any knowledge on the following would be useful.
1) Cork grips or black rubber/plastic?  If black, where can I order the cork ones?
2) Brutal straight Dutch handlebars, or more curvy ones?  If curvy, where can I get the Dutch style?
3) Brown seat or black?
4) 700 wheels or 26”?
5) Chromoly frame or aluminium?

Again, any knowledge vastly appreciated!

Can’t wait to get this baby

Hey Sam,

As far as I know, the production bikes have rubber grips. Check Rivbike.com (http://www.rivbike.com/products/list/handlebars_stems_and_tape?page=2#product=16-103)or other retailers for cork grips.
The bike I reviewed had very wide, curvy handlebards. No idea on the seat. Frame is The bike is definitely 700c wheel size. Aluminum as I recall.

Yes and no—sure, cargo, but one funky ride.

Little late on the draw here, but…
I am considering this bike over the Surly primarily for $ reasons.  There is a reason that the Surly comes in more sizes and with nicer components - it costs more.  I am thrilled to have an affordable choice and may one day upgrade if I indeed am able to use this bike as much as I hope I can.  I like the trend that is going on.  Now if we can only get drivers to adapt with us…

Don’t forget about the [Yuba Mundo](http://www.yubaride.com/). We’ve got that on test now with posts to follow.

Do you know if any Seattle area shops have a Ute available for test rides?

I think they’re all sold out. Here in West Seattle, Alki Bike and Board had them.

Custom component spec production bikes will happen, and won’t depend on the INTERNET per se (although the INTERNET will always provide a retail conduit) but rather on basic production facility layout and methods compatible with computerization.

Think of the changes in auto production, with stockpiling of components on site practically eliminated. Of course custom spec’d cars is old news. Custom order bikes shouldn’t increase the cost significantly if at all, once systems have been switched over.

Suppliers of components will be able to provide parts as needed “on demand”, and much more quickly and easily than is the case with automakers (due to size and weight) and pricing will depend on total volume over a period of time rather than committing to, say, one big order of XT dérailleurs.

As bikes become more of a transportation commodity rather than a hobby item, consumers will demand bikes built the way they want them.

Although we all can think of things that we would want changed or things we think would make the Ute a better bike,it seems like one major screw-up from Kona is, why is the bike missing part of the frame that is the wideloaders on the xtracycle? You know where passengers put their feet and the fact that without this frame area,it severly limits what you can carry for cargo.In other words pretend for a minute the xtracycle never had the wideloaders.Isn’t this the case now with the Ute? How the hell could that be?


The version we test rode came with motorcyle passenger pegs and they worked great. The problem I think readers are having with this bike is their comparing it to an xtracycle and it’s not the same thing. This bike is intended for lighter loads.

Is there a cargo weight limit listed somewhere? I really like the looks of this bike,it looks well integrated and tough to boot.I was thinking of gettin one and have someone fab some kind of wideloader frame deal.But you say it cannot handle the larger loads,so I guess that’s out.Oh well,maybe there will be a UTE 2 someday huh. Thanks Tim.

We’re running 350 and over on the Bettie—our Big Dummy. For this bike, that weight limit is set mostly by the 700c wheels. Kona has not published weight limits, but I’d guess it’s at 100 pounds stock. Now that’ll depend on your weight, where you put it, etc. Like, add a front basket for groceries and use the rear for beer and milk.

Don’t let the playah haters here dissuade you. Same thing with the Gary FIsher Ranchero—more longtails are good and those are made by different companies so they’re going to differentiate themselves with their own bags and mounts and whatever. The news that xtracycle has open-sourced their platform is very interesting, but I can’t imagine a competitor wanting to build something for QBP (xtracycle distributor). Small builders sure.

Ever since I’ve owned a longtail, I’ve wanted an all-weather set of panniers for it . . . so would Ortlieb ever make a set of panniers to fit an xtracycle? Oh, how I wish they would.

I have been to a gazillion websites looking at
the big 3 longbikes.Anyway while reading an article review by some women,she stated the Kona has a weight limit of 110 lbs.So if correct,DL was almost smack on.

Thanks DL,I’m slowly learning…Tim

That’s what them internets are for!

Hey DL,
Do you by chance remember between the Ute and the Mundo,which you liked better when the bikes were not carrying any cargo? Anything really like speed,braking,tire grip,ease of shifting.Anything.

Thanks Tim

I have put about 100kms on my Kona ute since I’ve had it. I have a huge basket on the back which my 26kg dog sits in. I also have an Shimano Alfine 8sp internal hub, brooks sprung saddle and standard wide mtb bars. The setup is a very sweet ride. Standard tires are very comfy but still efficient and the wide mtb bars shift my weight forward which is required for heavy cargo. The internal hub gears make so much sense for a cargo bike since I can change gear without the need to be moving.  Really handy at traffic lights or for tight quarters.  All in all the ute is ideal for my purpose. There are a lot of people on the net who are critical of it by comparing it with an extra cycle.  It’s not an Xtracycle ok!!! Do your research and find out what you want/need in a longtail.  For me the ute is perfect. Thanks Kona. My only gripe is that the paint chips incredibly easily.

@Tim - I’ve ridden the Bettie (Big Dummy), Kona Ute, and the Yuba Mundo.  I’d certainly have to give the Ute the nod on value alone.  That’s a lot of bike with some good spec for $800.

Anyone know how much the UTE weighs? I found the weight for the Mundo to be 27kg,which i think is 60lbs.But I cannot find the ute’s.

Thanks tim

The UTE weighs just under 40lb unladen. I’ll second a previous poster’s comment about the paint chipping. And also the comment about lack of outriggers.

But remember what the Ute’s target market is. The Yuba is for serious hauling. The Ute is for carrying your groceries and shopping. That’s fine for me, I don’t need to lug flatpack furniture or sacks of cement.

Guys, has anyone ridden/owned both the Kona Ute and the Surly big dummy?

I am looking to get a long tail and am wondering which of the two would siut me best. I am 5’8”, 160lbs and have a good cycling base. I am thinking of using it as a town replacement for my car, commuting and hauling groceries and kit as well as some self supported overnight camping trips.

Opinions and suppoering reasons would be gratefully accepted.


Read above in all those comments and you’ll find opinions of both. Summary: the Ute is for light loads and the Big Dummy is for big. Base the decision on what you plan to carry. As a grocery getter, errand bike, the Ute is solid, but won’t handle the big loads like we carry here at Hugga HQ. Ignore the Cargonista playah hating on anything that isn’t made by Xtracycle.

;) No, this is a cargo bike…


Alu, Full XT, loads of carbon, disc brakes, 150 Kg. carrying capacity (excl. rider), half the weight of a Bakfielts and very fast….and great customer service. (Hans in the original shop in Copenhagen)
They’ve now got quite a few dealers in the US. They’re not cheap, but comparable in price to other well known caro bikes, just lighter, faster and better built.

I’ve posted a review and video of the new Electric Ute on my blog at http://mycargobike.net/2010/06/15/first-look-at-the-kona-electric-ute  .

In my opinion, the addition of a motor makes the Ute practical for a wider range of riders, especially people who need to haul small loads up reasonable grades.

I’m coming up to 1000 miles now on a 2013 ute. It is purely used for commuting to work, 32 mile round trip. Does this with ease and averages 15 - 17mph on the flat comfortably. I was concerned about the small front ring but it is all it needs. Sure it is a little slower on gradients and a lot slower in a headwind but it is an easy ride and well specced for the price. My only concern is the rear brake needs upgrading as it does not slow the bike quickly. I have a hydraulic disc assembly to fit but I will put up with it for now as the front brake is sufficient to stop in a hurry.
I think you need to do a lot of miles on this bike to fully grow into it. At first it is good but after a few miles it gets even better as you and the bike become more acquainted. The paint is quite soft as my cable on the steerer tube has already started rubbing alloy. Easy fix though and there is paint supplied with the bike.

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