The 2009 Kona Ute gets a BIG bag!

Last year’s Kona Ute came with 4 little bags which left us scratching our heads wondering why not a big bag like the Freeradical… The 2009 Ute comes with what seems to be a BIG waterproof bag, we will contact Kona so they can give us the skinny on their ‘Big Ute Bag’.


  1. Tacticus

    I wonder if the bag will be available seperatly and fit on the 08 ute

  2. Russ Roca looks orange-ish too…Nice!

  3. Joe

    If only a steel frame.

  4. Ghost Rider

    What’s wrong with aluminum in this application? Is it because you like your cargo bikes whippy at speed under a heavy load?

    Whenever I hear a complaint about a flexy, poorly-handling cargo bike (particularly Xtracycle conversions), it is almost always because the “parent” frame is steel. I rarely read about such complaints when the parent is an aluminum frame. Flex is good in some respects — it can make the ride smoother over rough roads, but on a cargo bike, that flex is quite disconcerting when you’re pulling 300+ lbs.

  5. Jon Grinder

    Ghost Rider,

    The whippy frames aren’t whippy because thay are steel. They are whippy because they use a relatively small-diameter tube, unlike their aluminum counterparts.

    I, for one, would rather see this bike built from a large-diameter, thinnish-walled steel tubeset for one reason – Failure Mode.

    Aluminum tends to fail catastrophically, with little warning, whereas steel tends to bend, then break. Three hundred pound loads will surely shorten the frame life of an alloy bike.

    Also, anyone with a brazing torch can repair a broken steel frame, in some manner, but alloy frames are not easily patched back together unless you have some rather specialized welding equipment (and, sometimes, not even then).

  6. Mike Myers

    I have no problem with the aluminum construction. I’m sure it will hold up just fine. But why not build this with 26 inch wheels? That seems like a no-brainer. I guess Kona wanted to differentiate from the Xtracycle product.

    I know I’ve said it before, but Kona would have been better served to just license the design and make their bike Freeradical accessory compatible. Why re-invent the concept? I will wager that Surly sells every Big Dummy frameset they can produce, and Xtracycle sells Radishes, complete bikes, and kits as fast as they can make them. Why? Because they’re cool and well thought out. As GR knows, the Xtracycle concept is more than just a couple of big bags.

  7. grrsh

    Right on Mike. This is my big criticism of the Kona Ute as well. Why reinvent the wheel, so to speak? You can also see in the picture above that they now have a “snapdeck,” another innovation pioneered by Xtracycle.

    I totally understand why companies would innovate on the concept to IMPROVE it, but why change something that already works? What possible competitive differentiation can result from this? Seems like a waste of resources and (as someone in business) I have to wonder why they made this decision.

    There are many many ways to differentiate that are not related to reinventing the rack, snapdeck and bags that would allow them 1) to tap into the rabid Xtracycle community and 2) solve unmet problems in the market (think about things like carrying kids on a longtail).

    It doesn’t take much poking around on Flickr to see what people are using their Xtracycles for… why not build to emerging needs, rather than be a market follower?

    Watch what happens when a major manufacturer offers an Xtracycle compatible bike. The market will gel overnight. Gary Fisher are you listening? Specialized? Kona this could be you… hint hint.

  8. Ghost Rider

    Gary Fisher’s already tinkering around with another “alternative” to the Xtracycle…and Grrsh, I think I’ve seen your comments on those announcements. I think GF (or Trek, or whoever) is gonna drop the ball on this one. The TrekWorld announcement was just silly — compromise the load carrying ability by adding a child-size stoker position that may or may not actually get used by a child! It’s so sketchy that in their AD PHOTO, the child pictured is sitting back on the deck, not in the stoker seat. Could that little girl read the writing on the wall?!?

    I tend to follow right behind you on these issues, agreeing wholeheartedly — hell, I like to sneak over onto your own blog and post comments occasionally — your “10 ideas for Kona” is a CLASSIC!

  9. Stuart M.

    Come on, let’s cut Kona a little slack! I think every company that jumps on the long-tail bandwagon deserves our praise. Remember how long the Surly Big Dummy was “in development”? We were all told about the advantages of a fixed long-tail frame vs. the Xtracycle concept, but just about died holding our breath till one appeared on the market. Now the Yuba Mondo and Kona Ute have joined the Big Dummy. I think we should sing hallelujah! The more the merrier!

  10. Mike Myers

    GR—why should this be any different than the multiple times GF/Trek have dropped the ball? Remember the Simple City 8? All GF had to do was look at the well-established geometry for porteurs, but no. No, they put a big basket on a high trail bike, making it less useful than it could have been. How about Trek’s decision to make their track bike out of aluminum, when the fixie guys have made it clear they want steel?

    Sometimes I think the big companies are just out of touch.

  11. Rod

    I appreciate the argument for extra cycle compatibility but I’ve just bought the Kona Ute because it suits my purposes better than extra cycle. I will only be using it for hauling my dog around town and taking trips to the market on the weekend (with my dog who is 26kg). I will not be hauling really heavy weight. So the aluminium isn’t a problem for me and in fact I like to ride aluminium. So please cut Kona some slack, understand that there is a market for the ute (I am one of them) and I hope more bike companies bring out some different concepts so we aren’t all forced into the “extra cycle” concept. There may just be a better solution than extra cycle or the ute and if companies aren’t willing to take a risk on a new design concept then we may never see something great. As for my ute, I have put some wide mtb handlebars on, a brown brooks saddle and changed the rear hub over to a shimano alfine 8 speed. Thanks Kona for stepping out of the square and setting a great price point.

  12. Ghost Rider

    “…if companies aren’t willing to take a risk on a new design concept then we may never see something great.”

    Rod, that’s a good point. The Xtracycle concept is already considered a “great” one, but you’re right — there could be an even better idea out there if someone’s willing to buck the trends and try something new. I’m not sure the Ute is that “great concept”, but they are definitely pushing the envelope.

    Companies also have to worry about patent infringement, so something’s going to have to be radically different than the Xtra concept in order to succeed.

  13. Vik

    Assuming for a minute Kona’s choices with the Ute are not half-baked then their real failure is not effectively communicating their vision for this bike. If they really felt that another Xtracycle/Big Dummy wasn’t needed and the Ute fills an important niche in the utility bike market than they need to let us know what that niche is. Since they haven’t everyone that comments on the Ute tries to evaluate it compared to the Big Dummy/Xtracycle. Perhaps we should be looking at the Ute in a totally different light, but ultimately the folks that designed it and are selling it are the ones that need to let us know what they had in mind.

    safe riding,


  14. Rod

    GhostRider, I take your point and agree that the Ute isn’t the next “great” concept (nor is it totally original) but unlike most of the readers on here (god I’m going to get hammered for this comment) I really don’t like xtra cycle. I’ve had a look at them and they seem a bit “put together” (if that makes sense). Whereas the Ute is a complete solid unit. As for accessories, yes I agree it’s nice to be able to buy off the shelf stuff, but I actually don’t mind getting stuff custom made since I tend to be a bit particular about quality and wasn’t impressed with xtracycles accessories which seemed a bit flimsy (in their defence maybe they are made to be lightweight).

    Vik: I still can’t figure out why everyone is so critical of Kona for the Ute. I don’t mean to be argumentative but why does Kona have a responsibility to “let us know what the niche is”. I would have thought people can make the choice when they do their own research. I chose the ute over the extra cycle as will some others. Sure, I agree that better marketing may increase sales for Kona, but that’s a matter for them. I personally hope more companies don’t adopt the extra cycle concept and bring out some more choices and better designs. Ultimately it’s up to the individual to do some research and buy the bike/concept which best suits them. I just wish one would build a hub gear as standard with horizontal dropouts. That makes sense to me since the last thing I would want is grease and chain flopping around my cargo. By the way, nice website Vik.

  15. Vik

    Hey Rod,

    As a consumer and cyclist interested in cargo bikes I think it’s totally fair game to share our feelings/evaluations about a product like the Ute. Since I am one of the people in the demographic Kona could potentially sell the bike to I’d suggest this kind of feedback should be very useful to them. Many companies pay for such market research.

    As for your comment that Kona doesn’t owe the consumer any explanations at all. They don’t need to put out a catalogue or a website. They don’t need to have a dealer network or really do anything at all. Of course that assumes they don’t care about selling bikes. If they actually want to sell a bunch of Utes they would do well to give people the info they need to decide what the bike is and isn’t good for. So if they built it primarily as a commuter bike that can carry cargo [as some have suggested] then let us know. That will avoid having people buy it as a full on cargo bike and be disappointed and some commuters who wouldn’t have considered it if it was sold as a cargo bike might buy one when they realize it is a fine commuter. Who better to know what the Ute was made for then Kona???

    Your final point about not wanting another major company to jump on the Xtracycle standard so that you’ll see loads of new cargo bike innovations is a bit off the mark as it assumes there is a big market ready to support all these new products. The cargo bike market is pretty darn small. Xtracycle has been able to do some good work and get a comprehensive line of products out there only because they had the whole market virtually to themselves. If we see one or two more cargo systems” appear do you really think a big company like Kona or Trek will spend loads of money on R&D plus marketing to develop competing products to the Xtracycle system so they can have a small slice of an already small pie? And if they do that will take $$$$ away from Xtracycle so they won’t be able to continue to develop their product as well.

    If the cargo bike market was huge several competing standards would be good as it would force innovation and competitive pricing. In a small market all that will happen is all the systems will stall out not making enough $$$ until the less successful ones give up and then we’ll be back to one standard again. Unfortunately that will set us back several years while the competing systems battle it out.

    I certainly don’t think Xtracycle products are perfect and I have criticisms for them as well, but they are proven to work well and I’d rather see them stay strong and have other companies work together than see a VHS vs. Betamax or Blu-ray vs. HD DvD battle go down that won’t be good for anyone.

    safe riding,


  16. Rod

    Vik, I take your point about the reality of the cargo bicycle market and the comparison to VHS vs. Betamax etc. Please don’t interpret my comments as being argumentative but the point I was making was directed at your approach:-
    “That will avoid having people buy it as a full on cargo bike and be disappointed and some commuters who wouldn’t have considered it if it was sold as a cargo bike might buy one when they realize it is a fine commuter.”

    Bike companies can market their bikes as whatever they like and put a particular spin on it and even if they act honestly and in good faith there will always be some consumers who complain that the bike company said it would do this or that, but in my humble opinion ultimately the responsibility is with the consumer to do their own research and use their own judgment and to take responsibility for their own decisions. That’s why these forums are so great. I undertook that exercise and compared xtra cycle to the ute, in fact I even called a couple of welders to see if I could have a bike custom built to serve my purpose. In the end my conclusion led me to buy the ute. Perhaps this is a nice little market segment for custom bicycle builders. For me the cost was no object as my bicycles replace a car and to spend what it costs for registration and insurance per year for a car, on a bicycle is an easy decision. I’m still working out a solution to carry my dog and after experimenting with a couple off the shelf solutions I will have no choice but to to have something custom made.

  17. Vik

    Hey Rod,

    I agree people need to understand a bike before they buy it and make sure that it does what they want. And as you point out some folks won’t bother and be unhappy no matter what. The reason I made the posts I did about the Ute is that the people that seems confused or uncertain as far as that model goes are a bunch of hardcore bike geeks who usually don’t face that kind of uncertainty. This is also the group that would be likely early adopters of new models/concepts and get them out on the street getting the ball rolling. If Kona got the word out to these people they’d spread it and that would be useful to Kona. They don’t owe it to us, but it would be a good idea if you want to sell a bunch of Utes.

    Regardless sounds like you are the right customer for the Ute since you are willing to fab DIY parts or get them custom made. One question though if price was no object why not get a Big Dummy which seems far more versatile or even go full custom?

    BTW – did you get the 2008 Ute or the new spec 2009 with the big bags?

    safe riding,


  18. Rod

    Hi Vik, your point is a good one and I agree with you. Re the big dummy choice, I actually liked the ute build better. As I previously wrote I don’t really like the way the xtra cycle accessories are made up of components. Some of the negative items people have identified about the ute, I actually liked. For example the aluminium frame. I like aluminium and the light weight of the ute is really quite a shock when you lift it. For a big bike I expected it to be much heavier. I understand that alum. isn’t as tough or long lived as chromol, but I didn’t need anything hardcore for my purpose. The Ute just rides so beautifully and I can seriously imagine riding it as a tourer. I love the big 27″ wheels and it feels like driving a 4×4. I did about 30kms on it over the weekend with my 26kg dog on the back and I had so much fun that I will probably ride it in preference to my badboy, even if I’m not carrying cargo. Re going custom, I also considered that option and spoke to fabricators. I figured that the ute was ultimately the best choice for me as I wanted something pretty much as soon as possible and it did everything I wanted. My ute is the 2008 (green) model (here in Australia we are a bit behind in getting stock) . I may eventually put a Rohloff hub on it but for the time being the Alfine is serving my purpose beautifully. I kept one chain ring on the front (not sure of the size but it is a smaller one) and although top speed going downhill is a bit limited I haven’t had any trouble getting up really steep hills. I figure if I’m loaded I will not be wanting to go too fast downhill anyway.
    The current solution with a big wicker basket on the back isn’t satisfactory since the centre of gravity is too high with my dog. (If I can figure out how to do it I’ll try to post some pictures).
    I am looking into getting some big custom panniers made, possibly wicker as a permanent attachment. For others who wanted a soft option it would be dead easy to get a trimmer to make a big bag (similar to Kona’s 09 model bag)to fit. I think something from a heavy canvas or fabric like sunbrella (since it’s waterproof) would be good and for a little style it could be trimmed with leather. Something similar to the Basil canvas & leather panniers, only much longer would be nice. I expect that other manufacturers will start coming out with longtails (as Trek has) and I’m pretty excited about what will develop.

  19. Rod

    as a matter of interest, just got an email from David Hembrow, a wicker basket maker who makes beautiful cutsom wicker baskets for bicycles. He rides an extra cycle. I sent him a pic of the Ute and he can make a nice long pannier for it. Very reasonably priced also.

  20. Lycra Unitard

    This bike would be perfect with a Panasonic li-ion electric pedal assist drive tucked into the space behind the crank wheel.

  21. Rod

    update: Kona now has the big Ute pannier bag for sale on their website.
    Still I think a good marine trimmer could make something even better.
    Re the electrics, could be a nice aftermarket add on kit, Lycra.

  22. MattG

    This was the most polite argument I’ve ever read on an internet blog. Kudos! Since I’ve started riding, I’ve really chilled out… maybe that’s universal of riders? 🙂

    Anyway, as a nonmechanic I think the strength of the xtracycle is that you get all the functionality without buying a new bike and the strengths of the Ute and Yuba are that you get a slightly stonger bike without having to build it yourself.

    Those new big panniers for the Ute might push me over the edge and “make” me buy one! I was able to resist those tiny bags, but those great big orange ones screams “Groceries!” at me!

  23. Ghost Rider

    MattG…we’re lucky that we’ve got good people here — polite arguers and friendly souls who appreciate differing opinions on topics.

    You summed up the Xtra vs. Ute/Yuba nicely, too. Good work, and you’re right…that’s just about what it boils down to.

  24. BryanB

    I am thrilled about the new Ute. When I get back to the States next Aug. I will definitely get one. I love the orange bags.

  25. Max Power

    I think the Big Dummy is an awesome bike and would have got it if money was not an issue. Was planning on getting the 09 Ute but ended up getting the 08 because the store wanted to get it off the floor and gave me a great price on it. I needed something to take the kids to school and pick up groceries from the store. Kids love riding on it and now I just need to setup some footrest for them and get ready for winter riding in Winnipeg.

    Longbikes Rule

  26. Truehiker

    I have a 09 Ute on order due in late winter/early spring. I need some ideas on a foot rest for extra riders on the deck…any ideas

  27. justathought

    Just as someone who is interested in finding out about the Ute and the Big Dummy but never wanted or trusted the “free radical,” I wish this whole Xtracycle versus the world argument didn’t spill over into every forum on the web where the Ute is mentioned. Those guys didn’t invent the cargo bike. There’s been rickshaws and carts since the Mesozoic Era.

    Moreover, I remember trying to talk to those Xtracycle guys at their Earth Day booth in Davis one time when they were first getting started and it was just like, if you aren’t in Guatemalan development then talk to the hand loser. I thought those guys were completely arrogant Stanford jerks, so don’t treat them like they’re some kind of plucky underdogs who deserve to own the market.

  28. BikeWhenYouCan

    justathought, it’s my understanding that Xtracycle is under new management or ownership – and has been for a least a year or two. I’ve had fairly good experiences when talking with them about products and purchases.

    Yes, I own an X and have for about 2 years. No BD here, at least not yet. I’ll consider the Ute, but may simply go with another X if we wanted another cargo bike.

  29. SevenMoreDays

    Very informative discussion! As someone on the cusp of leaping into the longtail world, I’ve read lots of pluses and minuses but none so thorough as on here. Thanks everyone!

    @ Max Power – fellow Canadian here – are you using the stock Ute bags or something else? something custom?

  30. JR

    First day out on my 09 ute. Goes good, 58 lb of stuff on the rear, and the bike handled nicely.
    I think Kona has done a good job with the Ute………
    I like the big bag, but thinking 2 smaller bags have some advantages. If I had 2 smalls and a big I could always leave the big at home and ride balanced with 2 smalls- then flip the 2 smalls to the one side to get the big back on………..

  31. happy-uter

    for what it’s worth, the Ute isn’t trying to do everything and be everything xtracycles are. Especially with a Big Dummy costing $2700. How useful is a utlitity bike if you can’t afford to buy it? I got my ’08 Ute off craiglist and paid $500, even though I probably could have talked the guy down to $400. but I figure, good karma, give them what I think it’s worth. I’m not going to haul lumber with it and I don’t care about plug and play xtracycle accessories. whatever happend to re-use, recycle and just figure it out? why do you have to BUY an accessory for a utility bike? Get some scrap wood, pipe, scrap metal and a hacksaw and make whatever you need out of what’s available. do you think all those people in India, China and Cambodia hauling livestock and sacks of grain on their bikes need xtracycle accessories? Kona gets props for making an affordable and useful bike…something not so common in the bike industry. As far as Kona being a “big” company…last I remember, you still get good personal service from those folks at Kona. Their a popular brand, but they ain’t exactly the Giant-Trek-alized behemoth.

  32. Joe K

    I own this bike, have had it since June ’09. Mounted a car seat on back for my kid. Haul groceries, milk, eggs, etc.

    Bought it at REI.

    I just tested it, thought a week or two and then bought it. Have taken it on several road trips through several states, over thousands of miles. Works great.

    Some of you guys seem to complain a lot. Glad I didn’t see this site beforehand. Wanted to make this post so the Kona Ute’s reputation didn’t fall to the intellectuals who don’t ride it.

  33. Steve

    Hi, Can anyone who has a Ute please comment on the frame size. Long story short I can get a great deal on a 20″ that I can’t try before I buy – too big a distance away. I’m 5`10″ with a 31.5″ inside leg. From what little I have read on the web I think it will be ok (stand over is same as 18″ and reach is only 1″ more I believe)


  34. Utebago

    I purchased the Ute about 4 days ago. I had seen it by accident on Kona’s website while looking for a “family” bike. I.e. a bike to pull the trailer, trail-a-bike, ride with the kids to the park, camping etc. Living in Portland, I have been able to see many options riding around town. I really like the idea of the xtracycle, but when I did some research, it appeared that for my needs and budget, it would end up being too much money after all was said and done. I didn’t need a bike that could carry several bags of concrete and what not (an exaggeration I know). When I saw the Ute I thought that it would be great. Riding it was even better. It’s a little heavier than my mountain bike, but it doesn’t feel that much more, and it rides similar to upright urban bikes. Relaxed geometry, fun, and stable. I put a stoker stem on the post and a bontrager mustache hb on the back for the kids. My 9 year old and 4 year old love it. I just need to craft a removable cushion for the deck and some foot pegs or something. It really works well for my needs. Trips to the park, grocery store, to work. I’m stoked to make some of these parts as it personalizes it and progresses the “long tail” arena. I give it two thumbs up, or five stars or whatever.

  35. Utebago

    One more thing. The frame I have is a 20″. I’m 5’7″ and I wouldn’t go any smaller. I have a 29″ inseam, and have plenty of clearance.

  36. Don at

    If you’ve read this far into the comments, you would probably appreciate my review/video of the new Electric Ute at The addition of an electric motor makes the Ute accessible to an even wider range of riders, especially those who want to haul small loads up moderate grades. It’s a very interesting bike at an attractive price.

  37. John

    I am at the cross roads on an 09 gray ute or converting my older Klien that has dated parts but stil works. I like the options the Xcycle has, but not sure I need them. course I say that now and wish that later.

    but i like the fact the UTE has disk on both front and back. which my bike has niether. where my Klien being a mountian bike makes it really hard to find fenders to fit or do much good.

    I think I have decided on the UTE at $700 cause I also like the bigger 29ers and disk brakes and fenders. will change out the tires to knobbies or studs due to time of year here in Montana.

    I also like the UTE bag material for there bags. where the X’s are just a canvise type material.

    anyway just thoughts.

    and thanks for all the input on opintions.
    I am jsut sick of seeing all these Utility bikes mostly X’s bikes and me not on one. lol

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