In the greatest irony of ironies (perhaps that’s overstating it a bit), I’m currently traveling for work, the week that my Carbon Beargrease comes into the shop. Arrrgh. So while I await time with the Beargrease, I wanted to give a few thoughts on the Kona Wo fatbike. There’s not a ton of information out there on the Wo, so when I had a chance to check one out at Brown County, I jumped at the chance.
Here it is…
VEE Rubber tires and aluminum fork.
Tire clearance with 4″ VEE Rubber tires. It should clear a 5″ tire up front, but not in the rear.
Think the front derailleur will be catching much crud from that rear tire?
Hefty rims with small drill-outs.
Tektro Novela mechanical disc brakes.
ISIS drive cranks with internal, English threaded BB.
How’d it feel?
It felt like an inexpensive, first generation, heavy fat bike. There wasn’t any real innovation in the design. The seat stay bridge and BB looked designed to trap mud and muck, and I can see how quickly they will pack full. The drivetrain was functional and had a good gear range, but wasn’t super-nice to shift and wasn’t ‘new’.
The aluminum frame felt dull and lifeless. Not really responsive, but heavy. Really, that’s probably bagging on the frame a bit much, because I’m guessing the problem is with the wheel and tire combo. I don’t know how much these wheels/tubes/tires weigh, but they felt incredibly cumbersome. The Tektro Novelas functioned decently (although they lack much adjustability), but they were challenged hauling the heavy wheels/tires down to a reasonable speed when going downhill.
The tires didn’t seem as responsive to changes in tire pressure as I’d expect them to be…the casings seemed to be pretty stiff. I was not impressed with the tread design–it functioned fine on clean, dry, buff single track, but did not like roots or rocks–even dry ones.
The bars looked like they would be a good idea, but weren’t–at least for me. The awkward angle of the bars put my wrists at a weird angle and, when combined with the simple, thin, chintzy-feeling grips, made control cumbersome and not confidence inspiring. The bike is clearly set up to weight the rear tire, and the combination of little weight up front plus awkward steering angle on the bars made riding the bike seem more like driving a school bus then carving single track.
I like Kona–I’ve wrote about their aesthetic a few months ago. I like a number of their bikes. I did not like the Wo. It didn’t have any standout features that made me think it was well-thought-out. It didn’t have any standout components that made me think, “yeah, that’s awesome.” It rode in a cumbersome fashion, and felt heavier than it should have. In the realm of fat bike rankings, I’d put the Wo above the Walmart offerings (clearly), but below the Trek/Specialized offerings and far below the Salsa and Surly offerings. I didn’t get a chance to put it on a scale but from what I’ve read, it’s within spitting distance of 40 pounds (I’ve seen weights from 37.8 pounds to 39.4 pounds). For an aluminum frame, that’s pretty surprisingly hefty, and shows the fact that the components are pretty entry-level.
I didn’t really enjoy the bike on the trail. I saw a few people riding it around the campsites, and that looked to be more to the Wo’s pace. If you want a fat bike to be seen on, to cruise around town on, this may be a contender. Otherwise, I’d keep looking.