Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Kona Paddy Wagon



If you're looking for an off-the-peg, sensible single or fixed, look no further

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

What the scores mean

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

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 test report

Make and model: Kona Paddy Wagon

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

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

Chainrings: 42T


Pedals: N/A

Chain: KMC Z-50

Freewheel: Dicta LMA-8 (16T) and Dicta LMA-7 (16T)

Brake Calipers: Tektro R538

Brake Levers: Tektro RL340

Headset: FSA

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.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork

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.

Riding the bike

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  3

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.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:

It's absolutely fine for the intended purpose

Rate the bike for sprinting:

Seeing as it's not built for sprinting, it works pretty well.

Rate the bike for high speed stability:

Lovely, tracks around corners really well

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
Rate the bike for climbing:

It's not the lightest bike I've ever tried, having said that, it climbs pretty well.

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:

Neither the cog or the chainwheel are particularly round. I wouldn't expect them to be at this price point.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:

I haven't seen any evidence yet, but I suspect the drivetrain components are going to be slightly shortlived as they are 3/32

Rate the drivetrain for weight:
Rate the drivetrain for value:

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.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:

Neither wheels nor tyres are massively light, but I'd prefer them to be strong rather than light. Which they are.

Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:

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.

Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:

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.


Rate the controls for performance:

I thought the brakes were a bit spongy. Swapping out the pads should sort this out.

Rate the controls for durability:

One gear. Not much to go wrong / wear out really.

Rate the controls for weight:
Rate the controls for comfort:
Rate the controls for value:

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.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

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

Add new comment


Furry Mommy | 12 years ago

Mmmm....not too sure what to say to this review or the comments above, considering that the bike being tested is a 2011 model but my 2009 model has it's issues but none of them I would suggest affect safety or the ability to ride it hard.

OK the brakes could be better but by the simple expedient of replacing the brake blocks with Swiss Stop Flash Pro (black) and stripping out the brake cables before lubing up the brake sleeves resolved nearly all the brake lag issues.

OK the drive train could be better though after over 3k miles running this beastie around the Chilterns and commuting between the Chilterns & Northolt (40 mile round trip) and the occasional trip from the Chilterns to Greenwich it's been fine. The Dicta freewheel is rather cheap and nasty but once replaced with a Shimano SF-MX30 16T freewheel (after >2k miles) not a crunch heard (while going up some of the steep hills where I live). As for the issue of tightening the chain, well it can be a bit of a bother after a puncture away from the workshop at home but not impossible to get it "bar tight" if you want, with the application of a bit of elbow grease.

Now the ride you have described is accurate especially at speed on cruddy roads around the Chilterns or in London though to be honest with a stiff steel alloy framed single speeder as this is, is it not surprising, but the handling of this bike is exceptional because of it. While the wheel base is slightly longer than the other Kona's that I have or have ridden, it does make the power transfer from your legs equate to both excellent acceleration (>30mph), a cruising speed (around 17-20mph) and quite a good hill climbing ability.

The wheels on the 2009 model seem to be pretty similar to the 2011 by the sound of it but they need to be stronger rather than lighter as you alluded to but they do suffer with the same problem that many Kona wheels have, they do need to be introduced to a wheel trueing jig to get them spot on true which is the same for the dishing. The Continental Ultra Sport's are great all round tyres though these too need a little help in the puncture protection area - which is resolved with Panaracer FlatAway aramid liners, then you really are ready to ride it anyway you like.

So overall it is a great bike to ride and ride like a loon if you want to (once you have modified/adjusted the brakes) and at the price it was it is a smasher - yes there may be better bikes but you do have to spend a good few more pennies to get one.

aloadofpants | 13 years ago

Half-link chain is how to do it, unfortunately Kona should have done this as standard OR at least recall the bikes to swap the chains out at their expense, not mine.. Even this review states that it is not possible to tighten the chain!

workhard | 13 years ago

half link chain or a simple half link in your existing chain would set you right aloadofpants surely?

aloadofpants | 13 years ago

Kona messed around with the geometry of the Paddy Wagon this year, and as a result the chainstay length is not compatible with the chain length and the 42t/16t ratios.
Chain tension is impossible to get right as either the chain is too loose (runs out of horizontal drop-out), or too tight (shortening the chain by one section), and you cannot take the back wheel off. Flawed designed and potentially life-threatening problem as my chain almost came off riding fixed. Kona have been informed, but so far have refused to acknowledge problem - should be a recall. Buy with risk..

Latest Comments