Kona Sutra 2015 Touring Bike: A Preview

[UPDATE: Kona’s updated 2016 Sutra has recently been announced. Check out my preview here.]

The Kona Sutra has been my short-haul road tourer of choice for the last few years, ever since I rode a 2012 model of the Kona Sutra down the Pacific Coast of America in 2012.

When I reviewed the 2014 Sutra, it seemed to me that Kona had moved it away from road touring towards more adventurous back-road and rough-road tours.

This was probably a good move, as there are many well-established touring bikes to compete with, but not so many in the field of short-haul, mixed-terrain touring. It wasn’t perfect, however, and I noted as such in my detailed review.

What’s changed for the 2015 Sutra?

This week, Kona have unveiled their 2015 bike range, which includes (of course) an updated Sutra.

Here’s the current 2014 model, for comparison:

sutra (1)

And here’s the upcoming 2015 version:

 

sutra

The frameset is the same as last year, sharing its geometry with the Rove. But there are some welcome improvements in terms of specification, which appear to bring the bike into clearer focus regarding what it actually wants to do.

Most obvious (besides the new paint job) is the presence of a Brooks B17 expedition touring saddle and a pair of 35C Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus tyres as stock. The brake levers have also been upgraded. In short, the contact points have been improved. Comfort being critical on tour, this makes sense.

These are Schwalbe’s premier all-terrain expedition tyres, cementing the Sutra’s reinvention as a mixed-terrain adventure bike with luggage-carrying capabilities. And the B17 needs no introduction as the saddle of choice for 90% of serious tourers on all kinds of rides. It’s a definite statement of intent.

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6 (1)

It’s difficult to tell from the press release photos whether or not the 2014’s mudguard clearance issue has been fixed, but at least the front derailleur clearance appears to have been addressed and the third bottle cage mount has been reinstated.

The rear rack has been changed since Blackburn discontinued the one used on the 2014 model, and the new Sutra now sports a Chinese model from Bor Yeuh bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Tubus Cosmo. It’ll get you going; more demanding riders will probably swap out this budget rack for something more reassuring.

The front rack has been removed altogether for 2015. More and more short-haul tourers are going lightweight, so this is little surprise. (There are still mounts for fitting aftermarket racks, of course.)

Aside from a couple of other minor component swaps, all else appears to be very similar to the Sutra’s current incarnation.

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The Kona Sutra 2015 is sub-optimal as a true round-the-world heavy-duty touring bike, for reasons stated in the original review, but as a developed-world adventure bike with a much broader terrain range than your standard road tourer, it’s got a lot going for it.

As always, I’ll reserve further judgement until I’ve taken one for a test-ride, the experience of which says far more about a bike than photos and specifications ever could.

The Kona Sutra 2015 is available online in the UK from Evans*, Wiggle* and Cyclestore.co.uk*, the latter of whom will give you £120 of free accessories into the bargain – a pretty good deal. Only order online if you’re 100% sure of sizing and fit; if you aren’t, it’s really worth spending a few extra quid down the local bike shop.

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56 Responses to “Kona Sutra 2015 Touring Bike: A Preview”

  1. Jerry Cornish

    I love those Kona’s….I’ve still got one from 1995………..great bikes.

    1 question ….how long did it take you to break in your brooks ……cos my arse is wants to know ……

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      A few weeks, I think? Padded shorts take the edge off. They get better with age.

      Reply
      • Reuben

        Interestingly, I’ve found my B17 is more comfortable without padded shorts, and it’s yet to be properly broken in. To me it seems that the padded shorts make the whole setup too “bulky”, and I actually get more chafing with them on vs just wearing a pair of shorts (with high wicking underwear). Shorts are the Craghoppers Pro Stretch with Helly Hansen boxers – works a treat in this weather. 😉

        Reply
    • ferruccio

      if you ride in the rain without a mudguard, it’ll take a couple of miles.

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Having ridden on a new Brooks in the rain without a mudguard for several weeks in Europe, I would like to express a hearty disagreement!

        Reply
  2. Maddy @ I'm Not Home

    Currently cycling with the 2014 model and I thoroughly approve of the changes, although I couldn’t live without my front racks!

    Reply
  3. Jane

    A significant problem for me with the 2014 model was the difference in frame size – specifically the standover height, which, from memory, was at least 2cm higher than the 2013 model (maybe more). This totally ruled it out for me as even the smallest frame was now too high for me. Haven’t compared the specs for the 2015 model so would be interested to know. But for a bike that’s at the other end of the spectrum, I have just completed Stockholm to London on an Airnimal so if there are any other Airnimal riders out there I would be interested in hearing from you.

    Reply
  4. Tom Allen

    It’s the same frameset as 2014, so I doubt there’ll be any change on the sizing front. The sloping top tube of the 2013 and previous models was indeed a good thing; shame it’s gone.

    Reply
  5. Jerry Cornish

    I’very had a Salsa Fargo for a few years now……lovely bike ..but that all the descent bikes are pretty much good quality and nice to ride .

    Reply
    • Jerry Cornish

      Also I would recommend Salsa wood chipper bars ….they’re very comfortable

      Reply
  6. Bryan

    Hi Tom

    I am a newbie and been devouring your site for the last few days so first of all thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I am looking to get into bike touring. It will be mainly the UK and Europe to begin with and I am quite interested in the Kona Sutra. Is there any release date and price for this 2015 model?

    Reply
  7. Robert

    Hi Tom,
    What about gearing? I’ve read that some people think it lacks lower gears when touring, have 48/36/26 front and 11-32 rear 2014. Any Changes there? Like a 24 or 12-34 back?

    Reply
  8. Gerry

    Looking forward to seeing one of these in the flesh. Very keen to try one out. There are several of the 2014 models around with discounts but would rather the 2015 model. Prefer the colour scheme of the 2015 version too. Comes with the saddle and tyres I am currently using too.

    Reply
  9. Gerry

    Just put a deposit down on the 2015 Sutra. Due in the Northwest of England December 22nd according to the shop. Nice Christmas pressie for me, from me! Will submit a review in the new year after some use. Gerry

    Reply
  10. Robert

    I really like the changes they made on the Sutra but I would still like to have some opinion on competitors that I can get here in Sweden (no I do not like to buy bikes on internet, call me conservative. I’m not very handy with bike mechanics and at some dealers I get a life time service agreement.) e.g. Cinelli Hobo and Specialized AWOL. They look similar but I’m not an expert. Anything that’s a deal breaker?

    Reply
  11. Atle Norheim

    Hi Tom!
    This model look’s great, even if it’s the same frame and most of the same spec as the previous model. The color did the job. I’m living in Norway, and bike dealers don’t sell touring bikes, so i have to buy online. There is a Kona agent in Bergen, which make’s it more easy for me than order from other countries, but they don’t have anyone for test riding.

    So i’m looking forward to your review, and totaly depend on it.
    Is this a bike a can trust to take me anywhere(almost)?. I’m thinking about the disc brakes. would a surly disc trucker be a better choice?, or would you recommend lht.

    I realy like the look’s and shape of the 2015 kona.

    Thanks in advance
    Atle
    (sorry for my English)

    Reply
  12. Robert

    Cinelli have apparently a new Hobo Geo with 26″ wheels, disc brakes and a straight handle bar (eurobike 2014), something to consider?

    Reply
    • Atle Norheim

      Interesting, but i’m looking at two choices. Surly lht/disc 26, or koga randenneur. Randonneur is a fully equipped steel touring bike with xt drivetrain, dynamo hub, tubus rear and front rack, and butterfly-bar.

      Surly has to be equipped with everything, but is a great looking well tested bike with disc brakes or Canti. Randonneur has xt rim brakes.

      decision, decision…., but i thing i go for the fully equipped KR.

      Reply
    • Robert

      I was wrong, it’s 27,5″!

      Reply
  13. Alyn

    Do you have any idea when they are usually released? Will it be 1st January. Even a rough idea would be helpful.

    Reply
  14. Melissa

    Any thoughts on the Sutra as an urban commuter?

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Only that road tourers generally tend to make good commuting bikes… particularly if you later intend to tour on them.

      Reply
    • Pete

      I’ve been commuting (about 15 miles a day) on a Sutra since August 2012. I put my B17 on it, swapped to lower great ratios and eventually swapped the bar end changers for a pair of the new Sora break/shifters because there’s a lot of gear changing and dodging about in traffic. (they work well and don’t look out of place on the bike). I use it for carrying AV kit around Leicester as I work at different venues all the time. It is solid as a rock with whatever I load onto it and is the most comfortable ride I’ve experienced (this has became increasingly important since the Sutra was a 60th birthday present). Part of my route is on rough track (NR63 north of Leicester) and the Sutra’s manners remain impeccable throughout. I noticed Jules comment about paint scratches; I must have been lucky since a touch up bottle was supplied with the bike by my LBC, a good thing since the paint is quite soft.

      Reply
      • Eamonn

        Hi Pete,

        Did you have to change the entire handle bar set up to install the new gear shifters and breaks or could you leave the drop downs on the bike? Cheers.

        Reply
        • Pete

          Eamonn, I bought the STI levers (road) from Ribble cycles on-line and they came with all the cables etc. I just un-taped, and swapped the levers, fitted the new cables and set up the cable tension. You could probably even get away with using the existing cables. The 2012 Sutra came with BB7 road brakes fitted so the levers work perfectly with them. You’d need to check compatibility with other disc brake models. Hope this helps, Pete…

          Reply
        • Pete

          I didn’t move the bars or stem. I removed the bar tape, brake levers and bar end gear levers. then fitted the replacement 9 speed Sora STI road levers ( they came with a full set of cables) I adjusted them, re-taped and Job Done.

          Reply
  15. Stephane

    Ordered one, will be here before christmas!

    Reply
  16. Jules

    Still loving my Sutra 2012. I’m having to deal with cable scratches on the paint though, fork and head tube, and need to try to get a paint to match it.

    What I do like about the Sutra 2015 is the extended rubber flaps on the fenders (can these be purchased separately?) and the new brake levers.

    Reply
  17. Gerry

    Just a quick question to anyone who already has this bike or seen one. What tyres are on the Sutra. The Kona website mentions they will be ‘Marathon Plus Tour’ however the detailed spec on the same page says they will be ‘Plus Tour’ not the Marathon version. The stock pictures show the bike with the regular Plus Tour tyres NOT the Marathon version. These are two different tyres and the Marathon version is the one I would rather, I have these in the non-tour and tour versions on both my bikes. Not a deal breaker but worth considering if puncture protection is something you feel you would require for touring or commuting. I will probably get the Marathon version once the non-Marathon version look a little worn if that’s what’s supplied. Thanks Folks. Gerry

    Reply
  18. Gerry

    Just picked this up today from CycleAddicts of Rochdale. Very pleased so far with initial impression. Comes with chain guard not shown in photos but the tyres are the Plus Tour version not the Marathon ones. Rack is tory sturdy too so hopefully it will take my Topeak rack bag despite it not having the matching rail. Will post more once frame protection and pedals and bottle cages are on and I have had a chance to get it out. Very lightweight too almost seems like an aluminium frame. Gerry

    Reply
  19. martine

    Hi Tom – I have a 2011 Kona Sutra and the front rack is a pain in terms of wheel removal and disc brake adjustment. I wondered if you knew if another rack would fit – preferably a low rider style.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      I don’t use front panniers on the Sutra so I can’t help from first hand experience, unfortunately. The best thing to do would be to take it into your LBS and see if you could try a few options out. For lowriders in general, there’s little better than the Tubus Tara and Ergo…

      Reply
  20. Marty

    Hi Tom ,
    I’m trying to decide between a Disc Trucker and a Sutra . One of the most important things for me is to get the handle bars at least level with the saddle .I.m looking at either the 62cm Disc Trucker or 61cm Sutra . Unfortunately the bike shops dont stock these sizes unless ordered in . Do you know which of the bikes has the longer steerer tube/ scope for adjustment ? Also whichever bike I get will be 50 per cent for loaded touring and 50 per cent for unloaded leisurely day trips . I’ll only be touring locally , no trips to outer Mongolia planned . which bike do you think would be more suited ?Thanks
    Marty

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Either of these bikes would be suited to what you want. Unfortunately there’s no substitute for test-riding when it comes down to which is more suited to you.

      Do Kona/Surly have this info on their website? Can you visit your local bike shop, try a similar-sized bike they do have in stock, and ask them about stem/handlebar options?

      Reply
  21. Cyclestore Click Online And Collect | Click and Collect

    […] Kona Sutra 2015 Touring Bike: A Preview – Tom Allen’s … – The Kona Sutra 2015 is available online in the UK from Evans*, Wiggle* and Cyclestore.co.uk*, the latter of whom will give you £120 of free accessories into the …… […]

    Reply
  22. Peter

    Based on your recommendation, I purchased the 2013 model and love it. Brooks sadle went on before my first ride, and it mahes all the difference. The b17 needs brooks oil treatment every few months to help with the breakin period. Question: I have been using the stock conti’s contacts…will the schwalbes sold with this years model offer improved rolling resistance?

    Reply
    • Gerry

      I used the stock Plus Tour tyres on my new 2015 for about three months until I needed winter tyres for a few weeks. The supplied tyres are okay but are not near as strong as the Marathon Plus Tour tyres. They are lighter but lack the reassurance that the Marathon versions provide. I have put regular Marathon plus tyres on as the weather has improved and I don’t require the meatier thread of the tour version. I would get the Marathon or Marathon Tour if I was replacing tyres on any Sutra these are more expensive that the non-Marathon as supplied, no noticeable rolling resistance with either but that’s not a concern for me with a touring bike anyway. Hope this helps. Gerry

      Reply
      • Peter

        Terrific, thanks. I plan to tour PEI (Canada) and the Magdalen Isles this Spring, and will swap tires as per your recommendation.

        Reply
      • peter

        Are the marathon tour similar to marathon supreme? The supreme are recommended by my local bike shop, but the smooth tread design makes mer nervous if I encounter gravel etc

        Reply
        • Gerry

          Hi Peter never used the supreme tyres to be fair but I would much rather some thread if I was to encounter an amount gravel even just on the unladen commute. The tour Marathons are nicely threaded. I stick to regular or tour Marathon pluses and never less than 35mm. Used to them now and comfortable using them. Gerry

          Reply
  23. Harry Barber

    Just got my Kona Sutra after recommended by my LBS and after checking the Kona website plus this site as well. Very helpful comments thank you. I’m a born again short haul tourer having done extensive touring over 30 yrs ago on a Peugot AE8, I think that was it anyway. That too had a Brooks saddle and I can remember how comfortable it became. Well a few sort trips later and I’m loving my bike although the the gear changers will take a little getting use to. For the last 15 years I’ve been riding a Raleigh hybrid which was great for going down to the pub on but now needs retiring.

    Reply
  24. atle norheim

    Hi Tom. I’v got more work for you. take a look at this.

    http://www.ternbicycles.com/bikes/verge-s27h

    Reply
  25. Mika

    Hi Tom,
    I’m planning to cycle from Vancouver to Mexico and will most likely add long distance tours in Australia and Asia at some stage. I’d like a bike that can run on 700 wheels, but can also fit bigger tyres and handle off-road parts and dirt tracks. In my size, the Surely LHT does only come with 26”, so I’m considering the Kona Sutra. I did a test ride and liked the feel of it. My only concern is that the shortened wheel base will make it a less comfortable ride for long distance? What are your thoughts? Would a classic tourer feel much different?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  26. Peter

    The Sutra is a bullet-proof, comfortable ride. I installed an 11-34 cassette on my 2013 model, and it greatly improves my climbing abilities. A brooks saddle with rails, and you are good to go.

    Reply
  27. Gerry

    Just seen the new Sutra for 2016. Not at all keen on the colour but it is £100 less than last year. Some subtle changes but nothing too drastic. There is a second Sutra this year too. Again not too sold on the colour but seems a nice bike just the same. Will look at specs again later but prefer the 2015 I currently use everyday. Gerry

    Reply
    • Rob

      Love the new Sutra Ltd with 47 mm tires and 1×11 SRAM, would be perfect for my type of biking (not like Tom, more like max 20 kg packing and credit card living in B&B and cheap hotels).

      Reply
  28. Harry Lewis

    I purchased a 2015 Kona Sutra on ebay brand new for 700…U.S. Largely due to this site. I did not test ride it. Today it’s my way to work, only 6 miles to and fro. I have an 83 Specialized Sequoia, someone was discarding. I toured it in Northern California, San Francisco to Petaluma (Laguanitas brewery RECOMMEND) and then back down the coast to San Francisco. It was slightly wobbly when loaded at low speed. So I researched and came up with a great bargain, great bike. Thanks for the hard work and diligence you do on this site. Next plan- watch Janapar Love on a Bike, because my wife is now interested…gotta find her a good tourer now! Sincerely, thank you Harry

    Reply
  29. MAJED

    hey guy
    I am from the USA I live in Pittsburgh PA and I would like to try the bike before I buy it. My question is do you have store around me to see and try the bike?

    Thank you

    Reply

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