Thursday, March 31

Astute Ute Salute

[with sincerest apologies to Dr. Seuss]

You have a bell on your bar.
You have a saddle of leather.
You can ply the roads in any kind of weather.
You're lean and long. And you roll where you roll. And you are the bike to take us where we'll go.

You'll cruise up and down streets. Pedal 'em over with care. About some you will say "I don't need to go there." With your bags full of goods and your deck as a seat, you're too sharp to go down a not-so-good-street.

Next time you are thinking about replacing one of your cars, or even the last one standing, make the right choice: buy a longtail bike. More specifically: buy a Kona Ute. I'm certain you won't regret it. From its happy little bell to its solidly built aluminum butted frame and fork, the Ute is a fun bike, but it is also a workhorse.

It looks great, rides great and is made to fulfill its purpose. What is that purpose? We'll get to that.

I say it looks great, so bear with me when I say it reminds me of a WWII-era European made motorcycle with its black finish, fenders, swept back Hand Plant handlebars with faux cork grips, wooden rear deck and waterproof pleather panniers big enough to haul a four year old princess and some groceries. But having said that, I have to say it has a certain elegance, a certain poise. The bike makes you want to ride it. The Ute turns heads, but not like a clown car turns heads. It still looks like a bike. It takes people a few seconds to figure out exactly what is different about the Ute. It almost fits into preconceived notions most people hold about what a bicycle should look like. And then they take a second look. And the second look is longer than the first. Then they ask questions.

The Ute has a very practical 16 speed drivetrain. For be-bopping around town and knocking down the small hills around home it's amazing. You can gear down and crank on, pulling food and family up suburban hills. On flat ground or down long easy grades the Ute is a dream, flying along like an elegant black bird. It's quiet, smooth, rolling over cracks and small potholes with its 700c wheels and Continental City Contact tires. Where it falls short is in the high end, lacking a big ring to really pull down ramming speeds on long commutes. And for the Ute that's probably not a bad thing. With eggs in your basket you don't want to be rattling along at 30 mph. With a kiddo or two surfing the Acacia wood deck you don't want to be laying it down in sharp turns. But that said, you can maintain a respectable 20 mph no problem and carve the turns on any bike path. The Ute handles like a bike.

The wood deck is ample for seating. A bit hard on the rump, but you can easily add padding. There is also a accessory composite deck (sold separately) that allows you to put an Xtracycle Pea Pod LT on the Ute. But for older kids or adult passengers a seat cushion and a tandem stokerbar make the Ute into a real sportster. The deck is solid and you can lash heavy loads to it. Check your balance and head off into the sunset with whatever you can imagine perching there.

The panniers are enormous. You can literally put a four year old girl in one where she will be comfortably supported by the nylon webbing that wraps completely around the bag for excellent kiddo support. The bags are waterproof and durable. They are a bit unwieldy, but empty you'll hardly notice they're there. The bike has a tendency to tip over when you only have one bag loaded and the kickstand down. Once you see the bags you'll understand why, they have such a broad, flat bottom the weight ends up far out from the center of gravity of the bike itself. Just make sure to distribute the load evenly between both sides or don't leave the half loaded bike unattended. It's a bit inconvenient, but then again, you're not fighting for a parking space.

In 2011 the Ute features TWO panniers and both front and rear disc brakes for the first time. While the bike looks to weigh a ton, the aluminum construction helps the beast to carry its weight well. There's no problem taking off or stopping with an unloaded Ute. With the step through frame you can wrangle big loads and once you get moving even the most wriggly kid is a breeze to haul.

I can't say enough good things about the Ute. I have risked divorce for the better part of a week, commandeering my wife's new bike for the sake of sharing with you, my Dear Readers, the pros and cons of owning a Ute. It is a fantastic daily commuter. The over-sized bags might be too much for good weather, but in cooler weather it has been nice to just stuff in a sweater and an extra jacket. I folded a week's worth of dress shirts flat in the bottom and they came out unwrinkled after the ride. The bike is a great grocery getter and errand runner. The bags allow compartmentalization and are large enough to cover and enclose whatever you can conceive to put within them.

The Ute is bigger than a standard bike, slightly longer than most, but it does fit in an elevator and I stored it all day in my cubicle with only a few inches of wheel sticking into the walkway, not enough to impede foot traffic in the office. In fact, with the two-legged kickstand the Ute almost took up less space than my other bikes normally do because it would stand upright against the wall of my cube.

The Ute fulfills many wishes, dreams and purposes. Ute is utilitarian. Ute is transportation, passenger hauling, cruise about town, weathering any obstacles, taking it home to meet your parents bicycling. I give it a big two thumbs up, five stars, the pros far outweighing any cons.

Go buy a Ute.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though the moto-fascists prowl. On you will go though the chinook winds howl. Onward up the trail of Clear Creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will bike. And I know you’ll bike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many lap dogs as you go. So be sure when you roll. Roll with care and great tact and remember that Cycling’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll haul mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your longtail is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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