We’ve been talking with Kona’s, Ian Schmitt, for the better part of a year, about their entrance into the fat-bike ring. Ian is from Milwaukee and is tight with some of our crew from brew city, so as soon as their new WO production bikes became available, Ian sent us one for testing. We’re going to have a hand full of our test pilots ride the WO and review it for you a little bit down the road, right after we address the elephant in the room. Since the first moment that we showed the first photos of Kona’s WO proto-type, it generated critical feedback concerning its aesthetics. I think some of that negative feedback is due to the large sweep bars. At the very least the unique stock handlebar acts as a polarizing feature of the bike. Some folks will love it and some folks will not. So to avoid letting the bar dominate our review of the WO, I asked Kona to send along a nice wide riser bar, in addition to the swept back bars, so you’ll more than likely see pictures of our test bike with both set-ups. Fully assembled, with the OEM handlebars, the WO weighs in at 37 lbs 8 ozs.
Keep in mind that this is not our review of the Kona WO. This is a mere introduction at best…..so here goes….Naturally, the moment we had the bike ready to test, it rained for 16 hours, rendering trails, unsuitable for responsible riding, so I took the WO out for some wet gravel riding instead. The OEM bars are not as bad as I thought they’d be and worked ok on the rail-trail gravel that I rode. The stock Kona lock on grips will work for folks who prefer a thin diameter grip, but with my big paws, they left much to be desired. (personal preference)
Everything else on the WO seemed to work fine for me on the initial ride, but a dozen miles of groomed gravel is hardly any kind of meaningful test of a fat-bike’s capabilities. We were just sort of getting to know one another, at this point. With the wet weather lingering into late Saturday night, I decided to take the WO out for a beach ride on Sunday morning with one of my good friends, OX. With some time on the beach, I hoped that I could begin to get some better insight into what the WO was all about.
We chose a section of the Lake Michigan shoreline, just south of the Wisconsin border that is nestled between an EPA Super-Fund site and a decommissioned Nuclear Plant, down in Northern Illinois. The sands of Illinois Beach State Park are normally pretty soft and that puts a premium on flotation. Fortunately with all of the rain that fell in the days preceding our visit, sand conditions were better than usual. The WO showed itself to be a nice neutral handling fat-bike. The Vee Mission tires did a nice job floating over the moist sand and the drive train components all worked like they’re supposed to. Ox and I pedaled our way south to the spot where tons of asbestos were off loaded and buried near a coal fired power plant and then turned around and headed up North to the old Zion Nuclear Power Plant. Sort of a tour of Illinois’ toxic wastelands.
By the time we rode back to where we had parked the cars, my hands were killing me from the thin grips, but everything else felt totally groovy. The WO did a stand up job out on the beach. Granted these were pretty good sand conditions, but not once during the ride did I yearn for the flotation of my moonlander. The next test ride I take, I’m going to take the WO out on some trails to see how well it handles some local dirt. Then the bike will go to the next tester to see what they think of it. Stay tuned for more, right here at fat hyphen bike dot com!
Click the Gallery Photos to Enlarge