It’s just a bike. We mean that in the most complimentary way — Kona’s Wheelhouse is a bike, plain and simple, which is what makes it such a joy to ride. If you aren’t looking for a fashion statement, a marketing ploy, or the next revolutionary technology, the Wheelhouse is terrific for day-in, day-out riding. And it’s damn affordable.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Kona’s cost-savings lead to some notable performance losses. Twenty-four pounds is heavy for a road bike. We noticed that weight on the road but soon came to terms with it. Some of that can be chalked up to the Reynolds 853 steel frame. Kona also builds this bike with a square-taper bottom bracket (go read about it on Wikipedia, kids) and a 10-speed drivetrain.
Like the weight, those items are noticeable, but not deal-breakers. The TRP Spyre brakes, however, are one component that was more problematic. The calipers are a bit tricky to adjust and feel spongy. To be fair, most cable-actuated discs lack the snappy feel of hydraulics.
With those complaints aside, the Wheelhouse has great geometry, with a laidback 72-degree seat angle and a long 1,003-millimeter wheelbase. It would be a great bike for touring (naturally, Kona built in fender and rack bosses, even on its carbon fork), and you’d have no trouble using it for long commutes around a city, with tough, wide 30-millimeter Schwalbe Spicer tires. Kona also deserves credit for the wide gear range afforded by a compact crank and 11-32T cassette. This classy bike would be at home on gravel roads and paths, too, but maybe not at the races or in a fast group ride.
Riding the Wheelhouse is just plain fun. The steel frame is an anachronism amid all the carbon bikes in this Buyer’s Guide, but that’s okay. It offers a playful, smooth ride at a reasonable price.
We know, waxing poetic about steel is cliché and vague, so give one a test ride, if you can, and maybe you’ll see what we mean.
Component highlights: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed drivetrain with 50/34 crankset and 11-32 cassette. TRP Spyre disc brakes; Alex CXD6 wheels.