Utility bikes that can carry a big load

Can a bike really replace a car?

Two new bikes due out in 2008 will make it that much easier.

The Surly Big Dummy and Kona Ute are built to be a daily workhorse. The methods are different but the goal is the same… make a bicycle that has a much larger carrying capacity than normal.

The Surly Big Dummy is built to work hand-in-hand with the Xtracycle system. The accessories available have a huge range of applications. You can add a child seat, panniers with huge capacity or foot pads for other passengers.

Surly Big DummySurly Big DummySurly Big Dummy

The downside of Surly’s offering resides in your wallet as the frame/fork will cost around $800. That’s what you’ll spend before you install the first component. I’ve ridden the Big Dummy and like it a lot, however the price tag could be a huge deterrent to many people.

The Kona Ute (as in ‘utility’) takes a different approach in the big-haulin’ category. The rear is a platform ready for any style panniers and the frame is built with holes ready for your bungee chord hooks.

Kona Ute Utility Commuter BicycleKona Ute Utility Commuter BicycleKona Ute Utility Commuter BicycleKona Ute Utility Commuter BicycleKona Ute Utility Commuter Bicycle

The place the Ute lacks in direct comparison is the placement of the cargo. If you compare side-to-side you’ll see the center-of-gravity of the Big Dummy is much lower which will have cause fewer balance issues at low speeds or resting. However if your looking to use the panniers and bags you already have, the Ute my be a better choice. Especially when you consider that you can get the entire bike for $800 instead of just the frame/fork.

Differences aside, the utility of these bikes is hindered only by your imagination. The whole idea that bikes are being built with this much carrying capacity is exciting and shows the continued shift in the bicycle industry towards offering a range of bikes that will meet people’s everyday needs.

What do you think of these two bikes? Is this something you would spend money on? What variations would you like to see available?

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0 thoughts on “Utility bikes that can carry a big load”

  1. Adam Durand says:

    And of course, there’s the original Xtracycle Free Radical – a $400 attachment with accessories that your bike shop can bolt on to pretty much any bike. I got to see one for the first time on Saturday, and it’s a thing of beauty.

  2. Quinn says:

    What are the weights? I’ve hear bike+Xtracycle is around 50lbs ?

    the Biggest problem I see with the Ute is space, I don’t own a car and like the ideas of heavy haulers, but there is No way I could fit one in my apt.
    The biggest problems I see with the big dummy/xtra cycle price, space and (for the xtra) is having to have a dedicated bike.

  3. Slippery Pete says:

    I noticed the Ute only comes in one frame size. Does anyone know if the Big Dummy will offer more sizes?

  4. Christopher says:

    What are the weights? WHO CARES!

    These are cargo bikes. Weight is a far second to sturdyness. Besides, if you load your bike with 120 pounds of cargo/passenger the fact that you saved a pound or two in the frame is meaningless. These beasts need gears, and you will use them.

    I have a xtra equipped steel cruiser with one piece wheels that is well over 50 pounds, and I love it. I have taken it offroad and up hills with no problem and it carries my daughter plus 6 bags of groceries.

  5. Russ Roca says:

    my vote would go to the big dummy, mostly due to the fact that the xtracycle bags are awesome and well thought out! i’ve carried any number of weird and oddly shaped items with my xtra, primarily made possible of the design of the bags.

    i think for the ute to be a good contender, it will need to release some bags that utilize the rear rack….

  6. Quinn says:


    The Point of the Ute is so that you can use bags that you already have.

    My vote is for the Ute, Cheaper not only in base price but also it utilizes stuff you already have And it is one solide piece of metal, no messing around with 2 halfs of a bike that bolt together.

  7. Mike Myers says:

    I think the Xtracycle system is much better. The Xtracycle bags(Freeloaders?) are HUGE and allow you to easily carry a bunch of large cargo. With the Ute you have to use your own panniers–and that looks pretty stupid, IMHO. Small pannier on a big rear end. Kona would have been wise to just license the design from Xtracycle. Having a standard will go a long way toward longbike acceptance. I like the modularity of the Xtracycle design.

  8. Mike says:

    for a larger load check out a bakfiets.
    175 pounds in the ‘bak’, another 75 on the rear rack.

    or 2 kids and groceries up front, where you can talk and play – and not have them staring at your back.


    ps – you won’t lift it to your apartment – but they were designed to be left outside. don’t ask what it weighs…

  9. Guitar Ted says:

    A couple of points that haven’t been raised yet…….

    #1. The Ute is 700c based. This wouldn’t bother me necessarily, but I feel that the lack of clearance for something like a Schwalbe Marathon 2″er is a big mistake. Put a huge load on this bike and fat tires would be a godsend on rougher paved or smoother dirt/gravel tracks.

    #2. Is this really the ultimate long distance, self supported touring bike of all time? I can totally see this as a great way to carry a load and have a long wheel base to help make the ride more comfortable over a multi-day trek across country. Having the ability to carry my panniers that I already own is appealing, and there is room to spare.

    That said, for a purely commuting/utility type rig, the Big Dummy wins hands down, even if it is “expensive”. This is a bit misleading; however, because you could transfer over any 26″er mountain bikes components and just add a longer chain/cables/housing. Minimal investment if you already own an mtb that is gathering dust in the corner. Add to that the fact that the Big Dummy can swallow ginormous front and rear rubber. This and the sheer versatility of the Big Dummy are unmatched in my opinion by the less featured Ute.

  10. Quinn says:

    the Ute is 700c, couldn’t tell, that makes me like even more!

    how fat of a tire can you put on it?

  11. Ghost Rider says:

    Xtracycle “Freeradical” kits come in 700c size, too. No big deal there. I hear it won’t accept a huge tire, though.

    With the Freeradical, the bags come with the kit. Being able to reuse your panniers on the Ute doesn’t seem that big of a treat — after all, they will only hold a fraction of what an Xtracycle can haul. Maybe if you strung three sets of panniers side-to-side on the Ute, it would make more sense as a hauler (or if Kona made some w-i-d-e bags to fit down the sides).

    Mike Myers’ comment “Kona would have been wise to just license the design from Xtracycle. Having a standard will go a long way toward longbike acceptance. I like the modularity of the Xtracycle design.” is one that I wholly share….in fact, I said basically the same thing over at another bike commuting website!

  12. Jason Crane says:

    I just converted my Giant Sedona into an Xtracycle this weekend. (As Adam noted above, photos and video are at rocbike.com. It’s amazing. My older son and I rode it around all weekend, and did our first commute on it this morning. (We usually commute with two bikes.) It’s heavy, but I didn’t buy it to race. And the bike I used as the base was a Giant Sedona, which weighs about 2 metric tons even without the Xtracycle conversion.

    I think the Sedona was a good choice for the base. It’s got a tough frame and big tires. I did a little bit of off-road this weekend and about 50 miles of city cruising. It’s the most fun I’ve had on two wheels in a long time.

    Whichever long bike you end up with, a big fringe benefit is the general aura of goodwill that surrounds it. I’ve had a dozen or so conversations with complete strangers about the bike since I got it on Saturday. I took it to a cyclocross race over the weekend, which was like bringing a candle into a roomful of moths. Fun!

  13. Steve says:

    Bionicon has some new commuter-specific bikes that I got to see at Interbike. They’re worth checking out. The first is a $700 “urban road” bike, and the second a beefy looking “Urban Cargo” bike with a lot of cool features. There isn’t yet any information on the web site about these 2008 models, but they’ll be worth keeping an eye on.

  14. ChunkyMonkeyBiker says:

    Make sure that the rear wheel is strong. I use a 48 sopke downhill wheel on my bike and have had no problems being out of true.

  15. Quinn says:

    IM waiting for the Salsa Gordo 29 it build a 36 spoke utility wheel, wrapped with a WeirWolf

  16. pc says:

    I bought an Xtracycle for my old maruishi MT18. Then I got cold feet in dedicating the beloved Maru so I looked at craigslist and next day bought a first-year (’95?) clear aluminum Zaskar – very inexpensively. Now I have an all-aluminum-looks-like-a-total-custom long bike.

    It takes up extra room in the garage, yes

    The design has some bugs in it like when you have the sideloaders on it’s pretty easy to wipe-out your achilles tendon by squishing it between the bar and the road when pushing off (you’ll understand when it happens to you) – that needs to be addressed.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m rigging a boat to go sailing then unrigging it when getting back to port. Lots of buckles and adjustments.

    The short rear deck I replaced with a longer one to make xtracycle portion look more connected to the rest of the bike

    Overall a great thing to have

  17. off the back says:

    Surly / Kona are imported , as are most brands in the US.

    so I offer another option along the Bakfiets line , but made in Eugene Oregon:
    see: http://www.catoregon.org/hpm.htm.

    the “long haul” is small batch made and you can specify brakes and drivetrain to suit your preferences. Sram 9×3 and V brakes , triple crank and disc brakes are on the option list.

    3 styles of cargo carrying, though the hand laid up fiberglas waterproof case is a weight penalty ,it can be locked.

  18. rob bushill says:

    The Yuba mondo is a dedicated load carrier…£498 for 6 speed…really strong frame….rides well…3 main players…all offering something different (but in the same format).

  19. Boston at work says:

    I used an Xtracycle for a while. It was great, but frame flex was a problem. I rigged up braces from the empty rear brake bosses to front of Xtra, which helped marginally. With the back loaded over 125lbs, flex affected handling to the point that it slowed me down in many situations.

    The Electra Townie and other “fun” frames with long thin graceful (wimpy) tubes are not a good idea unless you carry only puppies and light groceries.

    If I wanted the long-load capability, I’d spring for a Big Dummy for sure. But, I’m glad that there shorter/stiffer rides for toolboxes and dense/small loads.

  20. Tom P says:

    I own a couple of Xtracycles added to Stumpjumpers. The other day rode a Kona Ute. One thing noticed right off is that the Ute handled more like a normal bike. I am not sure what the overall wheel base is but the xtracyle free radical kits are long and do not handle particularly well. You wouldn’t add an xtracycle free radical kit to to a bike to enter a slalom race but still….
    If the center of gravity is an issue versus the Surly you have to ask yourself just how heavy of loads are you really going to haul. I don’t have kids and own an economy car so if I am contemplating a 125 pound load I am going to not go to eco heaven and take the car. The one big complaint above is that the Ute does not come with big bags, well it appears for 2009 that they have been reading the blogs and came out with full size bags every bit as big as the xtracycle ones. However the bike only appears to come with one of those cargo bags on one side. Also it will probably not be long before enterprising folks start making attachments for the Ute if you can’t make them yourself. The difference in price would allow you to have a number of custom made attachments made for the Ute and probably still have it cost less than a Surly Xtracycle set up.

  21. With great interest I have studied your website and you have a lot of good information. I think that the market for portable cranes is almost without limit since there are many obvious advantages. It makes life easier for the staff, who have to take care of handling many different products during a working day, they do not have to bend so much, they do not have to lift heavy stuff thus hurting the back and the small, adjustable cranes are easy to use and the price level is very attractive compared to the many plus sides of this product. I can furthermore see from your information that the fields of applications are almost limitless and thus offers many opportunities to the manufacturers of these products that come in various designs and models. On top they can be produced as a standard product meaning very fast delivery time, they are easy to pack and ship and the shipping costs are fairly low.

  22. I scoped the UTE in Anchorage last month and it didn’t measure up the 45mm Hakkas. If it kan’t run the Hakkas then I kan’t buy it.

    I have a buddy on the Xtracycle and it is great – feels bizarre to the first timer. But you adjust quickly. I would seriously like a Big Dummy (oh, but why kan’t they adapt the Karate Monkey into a niner BD?).

    Email Surly and tell them (a) you rock, and (b) give us a niner BD

    sorry about the kan’t thing – I really can’t think why it seemed necessary to do that…

  23. […] A. In-dept. Look. at Various Heavy Duty Utility Bikes […]

  24. MidtownFlyer says:

    Too bad you didn’t mention the Yuba Mundo. I have tried all four – Big Dummy, Kona Ute, Yuba Mundo, and an XTRACYCLE conversion. The Mundo wins, hands down. Better thought out cargo rack, 48 spoke wheels, mounts for disk brakes, 26″ wheels, fenders standard, comes complete with SHIMANO Acera group. and the whole bicyle comes ready to ride in the box at $1000.00 complete. The new model is actually nimble enough to make a commuter bicycle out of it. And it’s as big as a motorcycle – you get more respect from the Soccer Moms in the SUVS!

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