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Kona's Paddy Wagon has been around for a while and I reckon the current version is the best looking one yet with its beautifully understated paint job. Ever since it came out (in 2004 if I remember correctly), I've wanted to get my hands one.
Why? Because in my opinion the Paddy Wagon is one of the few sensible off-the-peg singlespeed/fixed bike packages you can get: 42 x 16 gearing (that's 70.1" on 28s) that'll get you up hills even if you're not endowed with Cancellara-like thighs, and clearance for 28mm tyres and mudguards. Like.
It's not just sensible, it's also pretty dependable. It's made from steel, and although you won't be very impressed by its weight when you pick it up, you will be by the ride quality that Kona cromoly butted provides. Super-strong wheels, Kona own brand hubs laced to TunnelTop rims, have withstood everything I've thrown at them. The bike tracks beautifully, you can really chuck it around corners. If you're running it fixed, be careful of pedal strike, it's so happy cornering that even its high bottom bracket won't necessarily keep you out of trouble.
Although the spec on the Kona website lists Continental Ultrasports - which I don't rate - to go on those TunnelTops, the test bike came with Maxxis Detonators which in my opinion are much better. They stick well, and have so far withstood visitations from the puncture fairy. Worth putting on the shortlist if you're shopping for a fast commuter, audax or winter trainer tyre.
Both hubs are attached with tracknuts, which is good, but they are going decidedly rusty, which is not so good. The rear is a flip-flop hub with a 16 tooth freewheel on one side and a fixed cog on the other, also 16 tooth. Flipping the hub is easy with rear facing dropouts.
There are braze-ons for mudguards on the frame and forks and as mentioned above there's plenty of clearance for them too. If you're planning on fitting mudguards, bear in mind you'll need some space for the wheel to come out. SKS secu clips are good solution to this problem. Braze-ons for a rack would have been a bonus, but I suppose you have to stop somewhere. Talking about braze-ons, there are bosses for 2 bottle cages. There are no pump pegs, but if you like yer frame pump, a Zefal number 2 fits securely in front of the seat tube.
The track nuts keep hold of the rear wheel as well as any other fixed bike I've ridden: it's worth tightening the chain up every 100 miles or so if you like it just so. Part of the problem is likely to be that the drivetrain is not the sturdier and harder wearing 1/8" width, but rather the more widely available 3/32". Easily swapped out when worn out.
The front end of the drivetrain is an FSA Tempo chainset with a 42T chainring. The cranks are 170mm which is a bit shorter than most will be used to. Shorter cranks really help you spin the bike down long descents when running the bike in fixed mode. Like.
My main gripe with the bike is the braking. If you're riding in fixed mode, great brakes are actually a bit of a disadvantage in my opinion. Because you've effectively got 2 back brakes (assuming you run 2 brakes on your fixer) it's much too easy to lock up the back wheel. So in this respect I suppose the Tektro units fitted are pretty good. Riding single though, I wouldn't have minded something a bit less spongy and more grippy. I suspect swapping the brake blocks out will sort out at least some of this.
On longer rides I noticed that shock absorbing properties of the frame were not quite matched in the cockpit. I can't put my finger on whether it's the bars, the stem or the straight steel Kona retro road forks - probably a combination of the three - but I felt bumps coming through the cockpit a bit harsher than I would have liked. I found the saddle OK, but prefer my Brooks. Of course all bottoms are not the same so it may be just fine for you.
The best thing about the Kona Paddy Wagon is that nothing stands out. It quietly gets on with the job, gets you to where you're going with no complaints Shop around and you can find it well below list price too - we found one for £380. What more do you want from a bike?
If you're looking for an off-the-peg, sensible single or fixed, look no further
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Make and model: Kona Paddy Wagon
Size tested: 56cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Material: Kona Cromoly Butted
Sizes: SC49, SC53, SC56, SC59, SC61cm
Fork: Kona Retro Road
Crankarms: FSA Tempo
Chain: KMC Z-50
Freewheel: Dicta LMA-8 (16T) and Dicta LMA-7 (16T)
Brake Calipers: Tektro R538
Brake Levers: Tektro RL340
Handlebar: Kona Road
Stem: Kona Road
Seatpost: Kona Thumb w/offset
Seat Clamp: Kona SeatClamp
Grips: Kona Cork Tape
Saddle: Kona Retro Road
Front Hub: Kona Rat Pack
Rear Hub: Kona Rat Pack Flip-Flop
Spokes: Sandvik Stainless 14g
Rims: Freedom Tunnel Top
Front Tire: Continental Ultrasport 700x28c
Rear Tire: Continental Ultrasport 700x28c
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Kona says: Our singlespeed/fixie cult classic continues to be cherished amongst downtown traditionalists looking for a bike that blends performance and style like a finely minted cappuccino. The same classic steel frame with Tunnel Top rims and a flip-flop rear hub with standard road drop bars for urban efficiency. Custom everything and a cherry black paint job with silver trimmings make this the most stylish Paddy Wagon to date.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The usual Kona build quality, really nicely made.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from Kona's own Cromoly butted.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is fast commuter / winter trainer, not really a full on racer. Definitely not track geometry.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The bike was slightly short in the top tube, but that's actually quite nice on this kind of bike. The stem fitted is fairly short, so it's really easy to lengthen out the cockpit if you wanted to.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike overall was pretty comfortable, the frame is great. The combination of bars, stem and fork transfer road shocks a bit too readily for my liking.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Bearing in mind that this is not a race bike, it's plenty stiff enough.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yep, if you kick, you go faster!
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No toe overlap, even with mudguards fitted.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Steering is on the lively side of neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I absolutely loved the handling of the bike. It tracks really nicely around corners. It'll definitely get you going around corners faster.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I couldn't quite put my finger on whether it's the stem, the bars or the forks that are responsible for transferring a bit of road shock. I reckon fitting some gel padding under the bar tape would sort it.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I would say there's scope for fitting a stiffer wheelset. I wouldn't recommend forking out for this until they're worn out though.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I suppose you could fit faster tyres. But you'd probably get more punctures. I think the efficiency is fine.
It's absolutely fine for the intended purpose
Seeing as it's not built for sprinting, it works pretty well.
Lovely, tracks around corners really well
It's not the lightest bike I've ever tried, having said that, it climbs pretty well.
Neither the cog or the chainwheel are particularly round. I wouldn't expect them to be at this price point.
I haven't seen any evidence yet, but I suspect the drivetrain components are going to be slightly shortlived as they are 3/32
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I'd say the drivetrain is fairly basic as fixed drivetrains go. A Campag Record Pista would blow the chainset out of the water, but that would also be a third of the price of the bike. It's not particularly round and if you want your chain perfectly tight you might get frustrated. Fine for actual riding though.
Neither wheels nor tyres are massively light, but I'd prefer them to be strong rather than light. Which they are.
I haven't ridden the bike long enough to really assess durability, but from what I've seen I'd expect these wheels to last a long time. Especially if you look after the bearings.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
I absolutely loved the Maxxis Detonator tyres. Really grippy and no punctures.
I thought the brakes were a bit spongy. Swapping out the pads should sort this out.
One gear. Not much to go wrong / wear out really.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
As I mentioned above, I think the brakes could be better. This is more important if you ride single than if you ride fixed in my opinion.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Age: 32 Height: 1.78m Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cervelo Dual
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, fixed/singlespeed, Audax