Kona Sutra Touring Bike: Legacy Review & Detailed Photos

The Kona Sutra has undergone many changes since I wrote this review of the 2012 model after a two-month ride down the U.S. West Coast from Vancouver to Los Angeles. You can find the current version of the Sutra in my list of the all-time best touring bikes.

For a long-haul road trip it would be foolish to test-ride a bike that didn’t first fit my criteria on paper. The 2012 Sutra did indeed seem well suited to a two-month road tour of a developed nation. It’s been a pleasant surprise to ride and has exceeded my expectations.

The Kona Sutra has been positioned as a premium touring bike, and has been in production for a long time, changing little in design over the last few years. Rather than take a road bike, beef it up and add some racks, Kona’s designers started from the ground up, and it’s easy to see the results.

Put next to my steel Kona Honky Tonk road bike, the tubing is far beefier, particularly the weight-carrying rear triangle; the wheelbase is longer and the bottom bracket lower, the top-tube sloping off towards the seat tube in a style recognisable from Kona’s mountain-bike range — all in all, a very different geometry.

The centre of gravity is nice and low, and that results in a pleasingly stable ride, whether loaded up or not, with the steel frame and fork eating up bumps and uneven road surfaces. It’s an extremely confidence-inspiring and comfortable bicycle to ride.

Build Quality & Components

Off-the-peg touring bikes often come with sub-standard racks, and cyclists often fit aftermarket racks such as those from Tubus. The Sutra’s rear rack, on the other hand, is a stocky-looking thing, rated to 30kg and rigid as can be — so far, so good.

Drive components are sensible and durable choices; Shimano XT rear mech and gearing with a Sora road triple chainring up front, heavy-duty 700c rims with 36 spokes on Shimano cup & cone hubs.

Stock tyres are Continental Contacts; no Marathon XRs, but they don’t make XRs any more. I swapped mine out for Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, which are quicker, lighter and longer-lasting, though pricey.

Braking comes from Avid’s BB7 Road cable disc brakes, whose performance is almost indistinguishable from the hydraulics I’ve previously used.

This choice of brake will undoubtedly offend a proportion of veteran tourers who insist that only V‑brakes are reparable enough in the field to be worth considering. I’ve never used V‑brakes on a tour, which speaks for itself, really. I’d choose the guaranteed stopping power of a disc brake over the potential inconvenience of having to repair a broken one. When hauling a heavy load for several hours a day, control and stopping power are pretty important things.

Kona have designed the frame’s rear dropout section to accept a disc brake caliper in a position that won’t interfere with a rear rack’s mounting — a nice touch.

Cockpit adjustment is never more important than on a touring bike. The default handlebar placement is somewhere between an aggressive road stance and the laid-back upright off-road position — a compromise between riding efficiency and long-term comfort. Kona have stacked the steerer tube high with spacers and added a reversible stem. These oversize components are easy to swap out with alternatives from the diverse mountain-bike market to extend or reduce reach or rise even further. The brake levers have adjustable reach.

The dropped handlebars offer a good range of hand positions and are suitably rigid for swinging front panniers and bar-bags around. Bar-end shifters keep the mechanical parts of braking and shifting separate in the case of accident and repair or replacement; bosses for down-tube shifters are present if that’s your preference. These are thoughtful touches. 

Indeed, it’s the thoughtful touches that have been the pleasant surprise with the Sutra. Dispensing with a quick-release front skewer and seatpost clamp in favour of hex bolts is thoughtful — no worries about a well-worn Brooks saddle going missing, or a front wheel not locked to the frame. A third bottle-cage mount on the underside of the down tube is thoughtful — carry more water on the frame, or substitute a fuel bottle to avoid messy leaks inside panniers. Multiple fork mountings for a front rack is thoughtful — rough roads may well need more ground clearance; panniers vary in their design and effective mounted position. Full-length brake and gear hoses, minimising muck and rust on the cable inners, are thoughtful. Front-fork V‑brake bosses, for the fussy and for last-resort replacements, are thoughtful.


What would I change about this bike? It’s early days yet, but there are a few things, as I can be a fussy bugger. I’d like lower gearing — a smaller granny ring and/or a larger top sprocket on the cassette — to help with the steeper hills.

(UPDATE: I’ve now swapped the stock granny ring for a 24-tooth one (5‑bolt ATB); it took 15 minutes, a 5mm hex wrench and half-turn of the front derailleur’s lower limiting screw. Much better.)

I’d like a longer fender at the back — tourers often come in pairs, and I’d prefer not to have my leading partner’s road spray in my face.

The third bottle-cage mounts could be a little further back — no issues on Ben’s 59cm frame, but on my 56cm frame the front fender catches an average sized bottle’s mouth when steering. 

Very long-term tourers might question the durability of the headset and the modern Shimano 2‑piece crankset/bottom-bracket combo, but it needs pointing out that few (if any) bikes will get round the world in one piece, no matter what setup you choose.

There are a few things that would make the bike more inclined towards developing-world journeys. 

Schrader valves and valve holes over flimsy Prestas (though you could drill your own). A 26-inch wheel option might be an idea, though unlikely to actually happen. As Kona’s workshop guys tell me, wheelsets are so reliable these days that broken rims are less and less of an issue, but that doesn’t solve 700c tyre availability. Square-taper bottom brackets are far easier to find, replace and maintain, accept a wide variety of cranks and need no proprietary tools to be carried. 9‑speed kit still isn’t commonly found outside the developed world, although availability is increasing.

But these are small points, and overall the Kona Sutra has grown into a serious contender in the premium touring bike line-up. It’s a thoughtful bike, stable, comfortable, capable, and with durability a priority. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of them.

The current Sutra specifications can be found on the Kona Bikes website.

Comments (skip to respond)

151 responses to “Kona Sutra Touring Bike: Legacy Review & Detailed Photos”

  1. I’m in the market for touring bike and noticed that most, if not all the touring bikes in the price range and quality of the Kona, like the Masi and the Salsa do not use forged rear dropouts, I’ve always read that a plain stamped steel dropout can bend which is what happened to a 1987 Giant Rincon I own; so what is your feeling on this?

  2. Hi Tom ,

    I am considering a kona honky tonk over a sutra as I only tour a little and when I do its quite light touring .I don’t think I need the all out touring spec of the sutra. Do you know how the Honkytonk holds up as a lightish touer ? Thanks

    1. Hi Marty

      Big Kona fan here I have both bikes and have toured on both. To be honest light touring on the sutra is when I switch to front panniers only it still offers a very good ride. 

      Have done a 400k tour on the Honky, it was ok but the ride is quite sluggish with the back load only and the chain stay clearance doesn’t allow for full size ortleib back panniers. I was using my front ones and still had to be careful with heal clearance. 

      If you’re looking at even remotely hilly areas the sutra low end will help too. Having said that I run a compact double on mine with a 30t cassette. The sutra is my choice for weekenders though. The ride quality does t suffer with a front load, just the steering slows down.

      1. Hi Dan , thanks for the advice ‚but did you mean your choice for weekenders is the Honky and not the Sutra as you typed ?

        1. Nope, Sutra is my weekender choice too. 

          i’d even consider the rove over the sutra unless you’re tied to rim brakes for some reason. 

          Ideally get s test ride with a bit of a load to see what you prefer.

    2. I’ve done a couple of overnighters on the Honky Tonk. The tubing is too slight for heavy loads, in my experience, but a couple of light rear panniers and a bar bag are within its comfort zone. I use a Tubus Logo rack to set back the panniers and avoid the heel clearance issue Dan mentioned. But I wouldn’t take it on a long/heavy tour unless I had no other choice. HTH!

  3. […] I feel for the Kona Sutra 2013, Tom sums up quite well in his 2012 and 2013 […]

  4. Riding a 2011 Kona Sutra around the world through over 28 countries so far from June 18th 2011 to today ( July 3rd 2014 ). I’m currently in Montpellier France waiting to have the bottom bracket switched off. The ball bearings are small on the Kona Sutra and because of this they wear out much sooner than in a beefier touring outfit. This was one of the very few major flaws in the bike that never gets mentioned. I suppose most people just don’t do the kind of miles on the bike that we do but eventually this is what is going to wear out. The Freedom Ryder rims are outstanding and have to be mentioned. They will take untold punishment and absurd amounts of weight over long periods of time. I’ve broken two spokes on this tour and we’re carrying almost 100lbs per bike along with ourselves. The bottom bracket is a custom part that’s not easy to find and replace even in a cycle mad country like France. If you’re out for the long haul as we are I would be sure to swap out the drive train with something more robust or plan to order the new bottom bracket within your first 15,000kms. It’s a quick job to replace if you can get the part and it will run you about 75 Euros. Kona if you’re paying attention we’d love to hear from you! All the best and happy touring.

    1. Please feel free to visit us at http://www.facebook.com/roadsmitten to check out the tour

  5. Jules avatar

    Hi Tom: I have another question. I am, as I said before, very happy with the bike but getting less and less happy with the rear panniers I purchased to go with them for one simple reason, they are TALL and when filled, are difficult for me to get my leg over to get on/off the bike. Furthermore, although it isn’t an issue yet, it means that the top of the rear rack is not “flat” with the top of the panniers. However, there are 2 levels of horizontal rails on the rear rack, are the lower rails suitable for hanging the panniers from? I’d have to adjust the hook at the bottom of the pannier but I’m sure I could do that as long as I can lower the panniers to the lower rails. Thanks

    1. Yes, both the upper and lower racks should be suitable for mounting panniers, assuming you can adjust them to fit. You’ll probably also find this improves the handling of the bike…

  6. Jules avatar

    Bought a 2012 Kona Sutra last year (Sept 2013) for a great price and I absolutely love it. I took off the front racks for commuting purposes (don’t need to carry around empty racks). It tracks straight, very stable, rides smoothly over the unpatched cracks in spring pavement and is very comfortable. I have Avid Juicy 7s on my MTB which are very similar to the BB7s on the Sutra but the braking on the Sutra is much weaker so I’ll have to check the rotors and pads (same pads for both so I can stock up and supply both). I’m looking forward to light touring this summer on this bike but I’m afraid that it might be so comfortable, I might want to ride farther than my mapped-out plans and shorten the time out on my tour of Manitoulin Island (http://goo.gl/9h2bsI).

    1. In my experience this bike comes into its own regarding comfort in the long haul — it’s just what it was built for. I’d certainly have a look at the brake setup — while hydraulics will always beat cable for stopping power, there shouldn’t be that much difference if they’re properly adjusted…

  7. Elizabeth avatar

    my sutra frame has some dings and scratches, any recommendations for an easy repair or preventative from rusting?

    1. Yes, I purchased a 2011 Sutra that was unloved in a garage in London and bringing it back to life. It has many dings and scratches, which I don’t mind but any advice on touch up would be good, especially ahead of the great British winter!

  8. Michelle avatar

    Hi Tom,

    After reading your great review I have just purchased a 2013 Sutra. I’m planning on using it for everything from shopping to towing my four year old son with a Trail Gator and of course touring (aka mummy fun time). I’ve ridden it over the past week and am falling more and more in love with it. It’s so stable and I love not being tied to bitumen. I’m wondering if you’ve heard of a bike stand that would fit? My local bike shop didn’t have any that worked on the frame…
    Thanks again and happy travels!

    1. Hmmm… good question. I generally use the lamppost technique 😉

      Have you heard of the Clickstand? I’ve not tried it myself, but have heard good reports thereof…

      Enjoy the 2013 Sutra! (Where did you find it?)

      1. We are currently touring across Asia and are using the click stands with 2014 kona sutras. They work very well, although it does take a few seconds to set up (put on brake bands, undo click stand and put on the bike.) You also need to take care to put the stand in the right place. But once you get used to them they are quite good and can handle relatively uneven ground and good heavy loads well. They are quite versatile. Also good for chasing off angry turkish dogs…

        1. Really must try out one of these clickstands.

          It’d be fantastic to get your thoughts on the 2014 Sutra in the comments of this review!

  9. Hey Tom
    I’ve been riding the 2012 Sutra for some time now, mainly with no complaints– Great bike! Very sturdy, I love it. I read in someone’s comment, and I completely agree, that the fenders seem cheap, plastic-like, and rattle a lot. Today while riding I must’ve kicked up a rock or nail (the nail actually went straight into my tire, immediately flattening it — which is why I’m looking at the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 700x35 tires now) and the rock/nail chipped and broke off the bottom 3–4 inches of my back fender. Now, I’ve noticed that the 2013 and now 2014 models have different fenders. Since I’m having to replace mine now, what do you suggest as better, sturdier fenders, more like the ones on the 2013 and 2014? 

    Thanks Tom

    1. I’m afraid I’m no fender expert! They’re all pretty cheap & rattly — in fact as components go I consider them disposable items. I’d just get something similar and replace it again when need be. Older bikes use aluminium for the fenders, which may be more durable. Let us know what you find out!

  10. Beautiful bike. Wish they made one big enough for me!

    1. How big do you need it?!

  11. Dan Williams avatar
    Dan Williams

    Following my recent post (11 July). The front rack did not survive the rough stuff on Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway. Fortunately I met someone who was flying back to Europe and acquired their Tubus front rack.

    So stock front rack is great if you are going to stick to Asphalt, needs to be changed if you are going to be spending 100’s km on washboard dirt road.

    Just looked at the new specs of the 2014 model, will be interested to see a review of it but have a fear that they may have changed it too much.

    1. Thanks Dan. Looks like the front rack has been upgraded for 2014. Hoping to get a demo bike from Kona to see how it rides…

  12. Hi… Just starting my research and have read the really helpful review and all the comments above. It sounds like Kona do make significant changes in response to customer feedback when a new model is released. Do you have any observations to make on the changes with the 2014 Sutra that is now being touted online?… Not least the change to the frame. Many thanks. Paul

    1. The jury’s out on the frame, as I haven’t ridden it yet, but I’m all in favour of the upgraded front rack. Everything else looks pretty much the same. Having said that, this autumn will probably be a good time to get a 2013 Sutra in a clearance sale…

  13. I’m curious how others found the front rack. I just purchased this bike for touring with my Hyalite Panniers. Because of the slotted connection that is welded to the top pipe of the rack (the pipe your pannier grips on to) there are only two very narrow spots where the pannier can grip. If you pannier is not infinetly adjustable (mine is graduated, not a slider) you can’t make it work. I have to use other panniers. Also, with all the bolts and bolt holes on the fork, it seem ridiculous that you have to use pipe clamps with sharp ends to attach this front rack. Any tips on ways to use this rack that I’m not seeing? Thanks, Erin.

    1. I bought an Ortlieb Classic front pannier to my local bikeshop and it fitted onto the front rack with no problems. The guy in the shop didn’t think much of the bike as a tourer even though he’s selling it! I haven’t bought it yet and won’t until I find a more independent review. Sorry, Tom, I accept that you’re genuine in your views about the bike but you are being sponsored by Kona whether you care to admit it or not. They don’t just give someone a free bike without expecting something glowing in return. Taking free sample products from a private company basically makes your blog an advertising feature. As for the front pannier, I’ve seen people say that the bar can bend under weight. Not good, that, if true. I use the front panniers for my guidebook, maps, tools and wallet, phone, etc. The Tubus rack on my current bike does that just fine.

      1. Thanks for taking the Ortlieb Classic in for testing — that’s very useful to know.

        Just for your information, Kona do indeed expect me to be honest, not glowing, about their bike, because that was at the core of the arrangement I made with their marketing manager. I stated as much in the first sentence of the review. That they agreed to it is a demonstration of their own confidence in their product. If you’re too cynical to believe me, that’s entirely your call, but it doesn’t change the truth 🙂

        More on why sponsorship ≠ free stuff here, if you’re interested. I turn down offers of free stuff on a weekly basis exactly because I’m not interested in turning my blog into an advertising feature.

    2. I did some more investigation on the front rack and you don’t HAVE to use the pipe clamps. I was able to install the rack without them which is great. What’s not great is the rack is completley not compatible with panniers that have clamp type hooks (all higher-end touring panniers). Some grocery getter / commuter panniers have a simple hook and an elastic that you pull down to the bottom of the rack. 

      I am probably going to have to buy a different front rack. The slotted connection on the top is a flat plate welded to the tube that your panniers clamp onto. Most good panniers have a clamp function that completely encircles the tube. There is less than one inch of space for this type of clamp because that plate with the slotted connection blocks all the room. The clamps on my Hyalite panniers are just slightly too wide to fit in this narrow space. 

      This seems like a ridiculously big miss on Kona’s part. Has anyone found a good work-around that doesn’t require buying a new rack or new panniers (if there even are panniers with a narrow enough connector)?

      One reason I chose this bike over others I was considering is because it came with racks. Unfortunately, I’ll not buy a new rack. I also had to buy new, narrower handle bars because it comes with 44 centimeter bars. It’s designed for men with broader shoulders, but I’ve seen lots of women (like me) buy this bike and we typically won’t fit the 44 centimeter bars.

      1. There seem to be plenty of reports of the front rack being sub-optimal (as I mentioned in the review, I tour with rear panniers only, so I haven’t experienced this myself). But I’ll pass this on to Kona as it seems to be a genuine issue.

        At the mid-range price point there are necessarily some sacrifices to be made, of course, but the front rack isn’t really much use if it doesn’t work with a wide range of panniers, especially given how solid the rear rack is. But it’s worth mentioning that even after adding another £50 for a Tubus front rack it’s still a very good bike for the money.

  14. Dan Williams avatar
    Dan Williams

    Alan. Ive done trans-america and am currently doing trans-asia on my 2012. Rust is not an issue for the frame. My frame has been scratched in crashes or from the bike falling and it does show any sign.

    Front racks have been solid (In Kyrgyzstan one was for tools/toiletries and the other for water/food (bread, 5 litres and some beer) but I tend to carry weight on the back ones. If you get ortlieb front roller classics… you have to do alittle engineering on the racks to get them to fit properly. It involves cutting a 0.5cm piece of metal out to get them to fit properly.

  15. Does anyone here have experience of using the front pannier rack? I’ve read a few reviews and a number of people have commented on the front rack as not being very strong and bending a bit if any sort of weight is carried on them. I’m also concerned about the rust issue. Am still thinking of buying it but am doing my homework first!

    1. Hello, I have had my Kona for about a year now and i’m very pleased with it. I took it to the north cape (1700miles) this summer, fully loaded.
      I have had only little issues with rust, not more than you would expect, the weather was terrible.
      The front rack dident’t fit my Ortlieb panniers, so i had to “cut” a bit in them. As for the front rack i can say it is quite strong, but it is a part of the bike i’m looking to replace.

  16. Rob: Sorry for all of these questions, but when you say you had no problems with spokes in the back wheel, was the bike fully loaded? Also, I notice that the Sutra has no brake levers on the top of the handlebars which the Cannondale does. Now I’m used to cycling along holding the upper handlebars; I don’t like hunkering down on the lower handlebars. I presume the answer there is just to raise the handlebars, am I right? Any advice appreciated.

    1. No worries, keep them coming 🙂 The bike was loaded in the sense that I’m 117kgs or over 18 stone depending where you’re from. I’m 6′3″ with the 61cm frame, and had panniers on the back, but nothing more than a picnic in them. So, if you’re much lighter than me, then you’ll have a fair amount to play with weight-wise.
      Brakes are not a problem for me but then I’m not used to having brakes on the bars apart from on my mountain bikes. Doesn’t worry me really.

  17. Rob: When you say you had no problems with the wheels, are they the original factory wheels or rebuilds?

    1. All standard, as it came out the factory. Apart from bottle carriers which were added on day 1 🙂

      1. I would use one of my bikes to commute to work and keep the other for proper touring. Two touring bikes would give me the best of both worlds, I think. I’m not into roadbikes or racing. One bike would be for work and just going out for a spin on Sundays, 20 — 30 km or so. The bike that was stolen was a dilapidated Sirrus Sport with hand built wheels. That bike took a lot of punishment over some nine years with little proper maintenance or cleaning. If I go for something like the Sirrus Sport again, I’ll have to infest in a set of hand built wheels, setting me back some €400 — €500 +. I’m reluctant to do that if I get something like the Kona with decent wheels.

        1. invest not infest!

  18. If your review is accurate, the Kona might even beat the Cannondale and for a lower price. I bought my Cannondale for €1,600 in 2008. I don’t think Cannondale even make the touring model anymore. Funny that.

  19. I’m kidding!

  20. Sounds really good. You sure this isn’t a Kona-sponsored site? 😉

  21. The bar-end shifters look awkward. Are they? The Cannondale has gears and brake shifers in same mountings so you change gears and brake without changing hand positions.

    1. The only problem I have with the shifters is I quite often bang them with my knees when manouvering the bike. Maybe I’ll get used to them, but they do seem to stick out a long way.

      1. I’ve had this happen when manoeuvring, too, but not while actually riding.

    2. Daniel avatar

      Hi Tom, big Sutra fan here only done one major tour on my 2012 model, but it has been a brilliant commuting bike. I’ve only really upgraded the wheels on this one. 

      Anyway, for the question: I was hoping someone could help with rear derailleur cable tension. This seems like such a simple thing but I can’t get to the bottom of it. How do you adjust this with the bar end shifter/XT RD combo? There’s no obvious barrel adjuster on the rear mech, and nothing on the bar end shifter. Granted I’m more used to working on road bikes, but I just can’t get to the bottom of this one — everything I read assumes you’re using rapid-fire shifters, so rear cable position is always fixed with no adjustment barrel.

      1. Some bright spark at Shimano decided to drop the barrel adjuster on the XT rear derailleurs as of a couple of years back. To compensate, Kona put barrel adjusters on the down-tube of the frame for the 2012 model, in the same place you’d have found down-tube shifters on older road bikes. 🙂

        1. Daniel avatar

          Brilliant Tom, thanks for the info.

    3. Once you get used to them they’re no more awkward than down-tube shifters used to be (less so, even, as they’re still indexed). I’m all for separating the brake/gear mechanisms for a tourer, as if or when one of them breaks/fails in the middle of nowhere, it won’t affect the other. Brake levers are particularly vulnerable in an accident and I’d rather not have the shifters reliant upon them too. The modern integrated shifters are great for efficiency in a race, but they’re complex mechanisms and the primary concern on tour is durability & simplicity.

      1. Thanks for that. My commute bike to work was stolen a few months ago so I only have the Cannondale Touring to get about on. I’d rather leave that at home than have it bumping and rattling all over the crap road surfaces we have here. I’d love to buy this bike after reading your review but my worry is that I can’t really leave it anywhere in the city centre without the worry that someone is going to steal it. The thief who stole my commute bike had a bolt cutters and just cut through the lock. Thieves here are becoming more daring since the recession hit. Maybe I should go for an old jalopy and ride that to work. Still the Kona Sutra looks good. I’m not mad about the paint scheme, though.

        1. You often see very expensive bikes roughly painted in London to deter thieves. Though if someone goes to the bother of having bolt cutters, then they’re unlikely to be your casual thief. Sorry to hear about your bike being nicked, but the Kona is a tough as nails bike, and if you don’t like the colour, paint it matt black, at least it would be less attractive to the scum.

          1. Yeah maybe I’ll buy it and “distress” it a bit, throw buckets of muck and grease on it! By the way, the disc brakes, I’m not familiar with using them, are they more problem-prone than traditional v brakes? The beauty of the Cannondale is being able to shift gears and brake just by tapping on the lever but as I said the back wheel gave me no end of trouble on my Italian trip in 2010.

          2. No worries for me. In fact I’ve got two other Kona bikes (and I’m definitely NOT sponsored, I had to pay for them) one is a Caldera with hydraulic brakes, and the other which is my normal muck-about bike here has the cable operated Avid brakes. It’s over 2 years old and has done 1000s of kilometres, but I’ve never had to do anything to the brakes apart from change pads.
            No problem with the spokes on the Sutra so far either. I’ve used it on some forest trails, and I weigh 115kgs. Wheels are still true after 1000 or so kilometres.

  22. In Ireland my local bikeshop are asking €1200 for the Kona Sutra

    1. That’s a little under the RRP — sounds like a pretty good deal.

      1. Tell a lie, it’s €1,299 here. What price is it in Britain?

  23. Hi. How did the back wheel perform when fully loaded? I know that wheels straight from the factory are never as good as hand-built wheels but has anyone had problems with snapping spokes on the Kona Sutra? I have a Cannondale Touring which gave no end of trouble with snapping spokes on my first big cycling trip abroad. I saw the Kona Sutra in my local bikeshop today and it immediately caught my eye. Am tempted to buy it.

    1. Not yet! 🙂

  24. Hi Tom,
    Like you, i can say more good thing about the Sutra. Me and my wife, did 2 years 28k tour with 2 Kona and it just solid.
    Tailwind to all
    On Roule La Boule

    1. Fantastic — 28k is a lot more than I’ve racked up! Great to hear it’s a good performer in the ultra-long-haul!

  25. Robbo avatar

    Thanks for the help in deciding to buy a Sutra, it’s awesome. Paid 970EUR from Chain reaction for the 2012 model including delivery. Very pleased with the purchase so far. Took it out for a 40km trip the other day with the complimentary allen keys chain reaction put in the box.
    I live in the south of France, so it’s quite hilly round here and I’ll definitely be looking to change to a lower ring on the front. Planning a few longer rides round here in the foothills of the Alps and also planning a weekend ‘en famille’ doing the Toulouse->Sete leg of the Canal du Midi, which is 250kms but fairly flat. Be good to see how it copes loaded up with camping gear.
    So, definitely a good choice, and I’ve sold my Trek 2.3 Alpha which is no longer going to be used.

  26. […] hundred bucks. It had relatively good reviews online for the 2013 model and it has proven itself on long distance trips. I also found the bike to be the most aesthetically pleasing out of the three. The problem […]

  27. BrianH avatar

    Great review Tom. 

    It pushed me into opting for a Kona Sutra over the Surly Disc Trucker. Pricing for the Disc Trucker is a bit cheeky here in Ireland at €1,499. That price doesn’t include fenders and racks, of course.

    I couldn’t argue with CRC’s current €1,046 for the Sutra. I’ve opted for the 59cm model to accommodate my 6′1″ frame and orangutan arms.

    1. UPDATE: 59cm model fits my 6′1″, log-armed frame perfectly.

  28. Matt Williams avatar
    Matt Williams

    Hi, Thanks for a very useful review and forum. I’m about to get myself a Sutra on-line. I was wondering if anyone could advise me on sizing? I’m 5′ 10″ with short legs (29.5″) and a relatively long torso. I originally thought I should go for the 53″ but am wondering whether the 56″ might be better. I have read some reviews saying that the Sutra can feel a little small compared to other frames due to the slope of the top tube.

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Matt,

      I would be inclined to go with the 56cm model. You can change the saddle height to suit your legs, but you need to choose the top-tube length to suit your torso from the outset. I’m 5′11″ with average proportions and ride the 56cm model comfortably, so I think it’ll be your best choice. If the size turns out to be wrong, return policies are usually forgiving due to the nature of the beast…

      Hope that helps!


  29. Tankred avatar

    Hi, I’d like to get one, but no local dealers have it so I’ll have to buy it online and of course I’m unsure about the size. I’m 1.80 mt. tall ( 5′11″ if I’m not mistaken), do you think the 56 cm size would be right? Many thanks for your advice.

    1. I’m 5′11″ and the 56cm is what I ride. If you have average proportions I’d guess it’s a good bet.

  30. Dan Williams avatar
    Dan Williams

    As a follow up to my post on MAY 21, 2012, I wanted to share my thoughts.

    In November I used my 2012 Sutra to cycle the Southern Tier from San Diego to Key West (3,407 miles) before Christmas.

    Changes made prior to the trip:

    30T chaingring swapped for 22T chainring. (http://www.wiggle.co.uk/ta-74-pcd-5-arm-triple-inner-chainring/) ABSOLUTELY essential for crossing over the rockies whilst fully loaded, I dont want to even think of the pain that could have been. (64,000 ft was climbed on my trip)
    B17 Special Saddle Added (http://www.brooksengland.com/catalogue-and-shop/saddles/touring+%26+trekking/B17+Special/)
    SP PD‑7 Dynamo Hub added (http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/dynamos/SP_6/index_en.html)
    E‑Werk power converter added )
    Added rear view mirror — great safety aid

    Picture: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/pic/?o=1&pic_id=1431123&size=large&v=1

    Luggage: 2x Ortieb Front Roller Classics / 2x Ortieb Front Roller Classics / Tent bungeed to back rack
    I had also fitted an Ulimate 5 Plus Bar bag but it was surplus to my luggage requirements.
    The Front Roller Classics cannot fit perfectly on the front rack (only 1 out of the 2 catches closes). This meant that they were 100% secured but they only came loose on 2 occasions (2 more than I would like though).

    On the trip:

    This was my first long distance trip, so I was not sure what to expect with regards to the bike. The bike performed very well… it was not flawless but thats because Im not a machine.

    Bolts — I didnt do enough daily checks of my bike and every once and a while I would discover a bolt had shaken its was loose and had gone. This happened twice with the back rack (again, this comes down to my experience and Ill be making sure I do such daily checks) and to my front light.

    Tyres — The Conti’s are fine if you are doing short rides… but they werent up to the long distance job. Wear and tear was normal but they couldnt handle the pieces of wire from lorry (18 wheeler in Americanish) tyres that you would pick up on the Interstates. The three of us each had different tyres. 

    Puncture summary:
    Continental Contacts: 9 (1 thorn / 8 lorry wire)
    Schwalbe Marathon: 12 (2 thorns / 1 glass / 9 lorry wire)
    Schwalbe Marathon Plus: 1 (Lorry wire)

    If budget is of concern to you, 20 of our punctures were on the rear, so at least get a rear Schwalbe Marathon Plus.

    Mine were the Conti’s, I ditched one in Phoenix for a Marathon Plus 35 for the front and ditched the other in New Orleans for a Marathon Plus 28 to go on front (front 35 went to the back).

    Overall Im extremely pleased with my Kona and its great to see they have taken into account the changes discussed on this blog as it will certainly make me interested in buying a 2014–2015 version. If they keep it up, there will only be myself to face blame!!!

  31. I just bought a 2012 Sutra and love the bike. Do wish it had lower gearing in the front like the 2013’s. But the one big, yet minor, complaint I have concerns the front rack. There is a big flat bar across the top making it impossible to fit the ubiquitous Ortlieb Front Rollers without finding equipment to drill a hole in the bar, which I unfortunately do not have. The other option is to buy a new rack, but that, I have found, is difficult to find reasonably priced. Other than the gearing and front rack, a great bike!

    1. That’s an interesting point — thanks, David. I’ll pass it on to Kona as I’m sure they’d like to know about the compatibility issues with the most popular top-end panniers in the world…

      1. I actually passed on that info to them and their response was not at all one of concern. They seemed to have more concern about just having a front rack rather than having it be useful for a wide range of panniers, especially the most common and widely used panniers. I understand they can’t tailor to each pannier manufacturer but…

        1. Perhaps this is more about the catch-22 of buying online? We can all go down to our local bike stores, test combinations of gear, and change parts to our satisfaction. It will probably cost more. But it’s up to us, not the manufacturer, whether we choose to roll the dice in exchange for saving money…

          1. I didn’t buy it online, but rather new at a bike swap for half price being sold by bike shop, unfortunately they are out of town. Just a lucky find really. I really can’t complain, especially for the price, just a litte annoyed at the suboptimal reaction from Kona regarding my questions and concerns.

          2. Perhaps what would be useful to get with an off-the-peg touring bike is a list of common pannier makes/models that are compatible with the stock racks? Hmmm… now there’s an idea…

  32. Touring Kona Sutra is good as Trek 520 but those 2 bikes do not beat my old trusted Cannondale 1000 X I use in Europe. I do hate to use my Trek 520 for everyday commuting so I got someting more agile with disc hydro brakes so I can stop on dime if need it . Only modification is Schwalbe Marathon Tires and I did replace front Alivio derailer for Deore and install 52 crank because I do cover 75 km in fast bicycle lines on daily bases … Just want to ask , some idea to replace Kona freewheel body King Kong (Kona hubs 8 speed) for freewheel body better quality on my Kona Dew Plus I use in any weather condition for commuting ? Thanks for help .

  33. What is the main reason to go with a 38 over a 35 or even a 32…weight, terrain? I have Continental Contact 32’s on my 2011 Sutra. I am 220 lbs, load my panniers and these tires have been fine.

    1. Usually it’d be for comfort on rougher roads (greater air volume at slightly lower pressure = suspension), and/or increased traction on unpaved surfaces (larger surface area in contact with the ground). You sacrifice a little speed into the equation. It’s really a case of matching the tyre to the demands of your tour.

  34. Hi, great review.
    I’m hoping to upsize the tyres on my 2012 sutra, but notice the WTB rims recommend 32c max tyre width. I’d like to put on schwalbe marathon 38 or 40c and I’m satisified the frame should accomodate these but concerned about stepping outside the rim manufacturers recommendations.

    What consequences do you suggest I might face, if I fitted 38 or 40c tyres to these rims

    1. I wouldn’t imagine you’ll have issues with a 35/38C, but much above that I’m not sure what will happen! I’m running 35C Marathon Mondials on mine with no issues.

    2. I have 38 marathon plus tires on mine… I had to remove the front fender to fit them, but otherwise they fit fine on the stock rims. (I have the sutra 2011)

      1. I had the same experience fitting Marathon Mondial 35Cs — they fitted the rim/fork just fine, but I had to do away with the stock front fender.

        1. Hallo, a month ago I bought a Sutra frame from 2012. I would like to put on fenders such as SKS longboard 45. Will it be good if I order a Marathon supreme 32 for the front and 35 in the back? Because I understand that 35 will not fit me with the fender on the front. Thanks for answer ?

  35. I just bought a 2012 for 30% off two days ago. LOVE IT! Although, like your review, I will be changing out the cranks for lower gearing. As for the size, I generally ride a 55cm to 56cm road bike frame but the Sutra I bought is the 59cm. As I am short in the legs but long in the torso, it works really well for me. It stretches me out over the top tube and it’s really comfortable for me and I can still stand over it. I plan to put a Brooks B‑17 on it and perhaps a Ragley Luxy bar (with possible retro thumb shifters attached at the brake levers, in the near future. Looking forward to a three state park loop in March.

  36. D@mmy-Cycle » Kona Sutra: два обзора одного «туриста»

    […] tom’s bike trip, road.cc Характеристики модели на официальном […]

  37. Would you put interrupter brakes on it?

  38. Would you recommend the Crosso Twist panniers (which I saw hold 60L per rear pair) or Ortlieb panniers (40L per rear pair). I’m a little more familiar with Ortlieb brand, but I’m open to your recommendation. Thanks

    1. I haven’t used Ortliebs myself, so can’t comment, except to say that they seem to have earnt a well-deserved reputation for reliability. The Crosso Twists have served me really well. I’ve only had one hole to patch, and that was after they were chucked about by airline baggage handlers! Check that they’ll fit your rack as they use a different attachment system to many panniers.

  39. Just bought the 2013 Sutra today, I put a 24 granny a Brooks B17 and brake levers on the bar. Did you keep the front stock rack or upgrade it and what type of panniers worked well for you. thanks jed

    1. I removed the stock front rack as I didn’t need the capacity. 2 rear panniers and a bar-bag do me fine. I’d like to hear a report of how durable it is, though.

      For panniers I used the Crosso Twist. These aren’t necessarily the best but they kept my kit dry for a month of rain!

  40. henric meldgard avatar
    henric meldgard

    Hi Tom
    Thanks for taking the time to post a terrific review. I will throw in my 2 cents worth on some of the components. I totally agree with all the people who have swapped out small chainring to get lower gears…maybe the people that so the spec and ordering should come out and ride a fully loaded tour bike up some steeps. Maybe you lose a little snap to the shifts with a bigger spread but the comfort with lower gears is a must. I also applaud the move up to a Deore crankset.

    I disagree however with the thoughts on square taper bottom bracket and really appreciate the fact that I am able to remove my shimano LX 2 piece crankset with and allen key. If I had to to I could change the external bearing bottom bracket with a pair of channel lock pliers. With a square taper bottom bracket/crankset typically I would need a crank puller (or self extracting crank bolts) and a bottom bracket tool and wrench. Also a pair of external BB bearings is far lighter than a square taper BB and when we are in third world situation I carry a spare pair.

    As to the Shimano wheels: I have a lots of pairs of them over the years and have finally gotten rid of them all. No more loose bearing/cone style wheels for me. Last time in India I must of taken the rear hub apart 6 times to tighten up the 10mm allan bolt that holds the freehub to the hub. Another member of our group broke the freehub pawls and we ended up lacing the cassette to the spokes with a spare shifter cable and creating a fixie…try no coasting for a day of riding and trying to find a new freehub. The only thing that the shimano wheels, for touring, have going for them is reasonable cost and that is why they are spec’d on a mid range bike as the Sutra. I have switched all my wheels over to DT Swiss with the star ratchet system. No tools required to clean and service, the ratchets are replaceable and if you have to replace the sealed bearings in the hub they will spin like brand new…I could never do that with any of my shimano wheels. A worthwhile upgrade. And I don’t have to carry cone wrenches and a 10mm key.

    To get even pickier I wouldn’t ride bar end shifters any more. I never liked having to have both hands at the same time out on the bar end shifters so that I could shift chain ring and a couple of compensating rear shifts at the same time. I have gone to mtb riser bar with sram shifters. The Sram shifters pull more cable per shift than shimano and as a result stay in tune easier and are less affected by dirty cable housing. Shimano has finally gotten their act together and gone that direction with dyna-sis but I think that is only available in 10 spd. 

    those are my comments. If you have the patience and a little technical skill or a good LBS that you trust, or some bike techy friends, then it is not that difficult to build a bike from scratch and get exactly what you want and the best fit. The Kona Sutra is as good or better than any offering from Surly or others but it still isn’t the perfect tour bike for me.

    ride safe.

    1. Henric, thanks for the insights, especially re the bottom bracket…I’ve usually been a die-hard fan of square-taper, but I can see how an external BB could require less need to carry extra tools. A very worthwhile perspective!

    2. Interesting point about the BB and the tools. In counter-point, I think you’re much more likely to find a mechanic with a square-taper crank puller, BB tool and wrench in most of the world, and its this ubiquity which I’d prefer in the long term. I wouldn’t carry these tools myself, because a BB is unlikely to fail instantly — much more likely to deteriorate over time, i.e. enough time to find the aforementioned mechanic and a replacement square-taper BB.

      That freehub bolt needs some real torque behind it — I’m talking about putting the wheel in a vice and using a seatpost or similar to extend the leverage of your allen key. That’s likely the issue with it loosening. Those freehubs are pretty much interchangeable between almost all Shimano hubs across the range from the last few years. But I am beginning to agree with you about the bearings…

      As for shifters, I started out with risers and 8sp index shifters. Having moved over to drops and bar-ends I much prefer them. I can’t say why — one of those personal preference things I guess!

      Thanks again for your comments — I think the overall message is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to bikes, how they’re set up, and how you make provisions for breakdown…

  41. Tom Seest avatar
    Tom Seest

    Great review, and very accurate. I purchased my Kona Sutra 2012 last October when they first came out. I’ve ridden just over 6800 miles since then on it. I’ve been riding to lose weight, and still have 130 pounds left to lose. My only add to the review was that I had my LBS modify the gearing extensively for climbing. I have a 44–33-22 crankset on the front, and a 11–36 on the back. Even with packs, I can pretty much spin up any hillside now. Great bicycle. Anyone had any luck with testing the weight bearing load on the front rack? I haven’t run with any packs on it yet.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts here — much appreciated. I too have swapped out the front gearing and am now running a 24-tooth granny ring. I haven’t tried loading up the front rack — would be interested to hear some reports…

  42. Great review. Thanks for the coments re: 2013 improvements. I will be ordering my 2013 Sutra next week

  43. My experience with cyclestore has been extremely frustrating. 3 weeks after purchasing and receiving my Kona Sutra, I still can’t ride it. Firstly, they forgot to post a seat post and saddle. Then they said they couldn’t find it so I had to settle for an alternative. Upon receipt of it, I went to assemble my bike. I then find out the front wheel doesn’t fit in the fork. I contacted cyclestore to make them aware of the problem and was told to send pictures. After not hearing back from them, I chased it up saying I was getting quite frustrated and rightly so I think. They are offering me a black fork and seem to think that is a reasonable alternative/solution. A black fork on what is a blue bike that I paid over a £1,000 isn’t really a suitable alternative and I can’t believe they think it is! I just want to ride my new bike…

    1. I’m sorry to hear about that. You have legal rights as a consumer — check out this guide. If Cyclestore don’t resolve your issue, let me know — I’ve no interest in providing custom to companies that don’t care…

  44. I was wondering if your Marathon Supremes were 700x32 or 700x35. I’ve been looking to upgrade, but wasn’t sure if the 35’s would slow me down?
    Also, what kind of panniers do you use?

    1. I tested the 32s and then went for the 35s for the tour. I noticed an increase in comfort due to the larger volume, which was more important to me than the *tiny* increase in rolling resistance. I’d suggest the 35s.

      Click here for my full write-up of the Supremes. Hope it helps!

      1. Hi, I just put the bike on the new 2012 sutra frame. Happy 🙂 Please tell me if the Marathon Supreme size 35–622 will fit at front with the fender? I think there’s more space in the back and I can do it, but I’m worried about fork. I am going to buy SKS Longboard 45mm. I read the comments and I’m not sure if I understand correctly.

        1. I had to remove the stock fender to fit a 35mm tyre up front.

          1. Thanks for answer, so I have to put the Supreme 32c on the front to have fenders. Or maybe you have been testing something else that will come under the front fender and will go better in the field/gravel? I’ve only read about the usual Green Guard Marathons, but are twice as heavy as supreme? Why did you quit Continental Contact stock in the 2012 Sutra?

          2. I just went outside to check the bike, and right now I’m running Marathon Mondial 700x35Cs front and rear with no fenders at all. I’ve ridden off-road with these for a few years and they seem to offer a good balance of weight, traction and rolling resistance. The only reason I changed out the stock tyres in 2012 was because Schwalbe had sent me a pair of (then newly released) Supremes to road-test on my way down the West Coast of the USA. (I do have a Crud Catcher-style downtube mounted front fender that I haven’t fitted yet, but my Polaris seatpost pack takes most of the road spray at the back.)

  45. Hey Tom -
    You seem to ahve good insight into what they changed btw 2012 and 2013 on the kona… any idea of the upgrades/changes they made between 2011 and 2012? I just found a Kona in a 53cm after searching for weeks and its a 2011 — therefore ~30% off, which is awesome, but I want to make sure that all the great things you listed about the 2012 are there as well. Thanks for any insight!

    1. Hi Amy,

      The 2011 and 2012 Sutras look identical on paper — just the colour scheme changed for 2012 by the look of it. 30% off sounds like a good deal! Hope that helps!

  46. I have a 2008 Kona Sutra, and love it. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlietyack/3845918773/)

    It looks like Kona have sorted all of the issues with the older versions, most notably the position of the rear brake caliper, and the very flimsy rack they used to supply. 

    I have had mine since new, and in over 10000 miles of riding have subjected her to all sorts of abuse. The hubs have needed a couple of services, but apart form that all is well. I have taken her off road, and she keeps up with friends on “proper” mountain bikes. 

    Touring-wise, she’s a fabulous bike — so comfy compared to any other road bike I have ridden. Which is the weird thing — so comfy on road, yet so agile and alive off-road. I am not sure how Kona managed this, but they’ve definitely managed to instil the bike with some Kona magic.

    With the subsequent improvements, this is a superb bike, and certainly one you can use for practically anything!

  47. Kona’s 2013 Sutra has addressed the biggest criticisms of the 2012 model, mainly with regards to the gearing. Read my quick rundown here.

  48. UPDATE: I’ve now swapped the stock granny ring for a 24-tooth Middleburn one (5‑bolt ATB); it took 15 minutes, a 5mm hex wrench and half-turn of the front derailleur’s lower limiting screw. Much better.

    1. Was the drop down to 24t not too big a jump. When I contacted Middleburn they only recommended a 28t for this chainset

      1. No — it’s now ideal for steep loaded climbs. No shifting issues at all. Very low gearing though — the 26t might be a good compromise if you’re unsure.

        1. Jacques avatar

          The 24 tooth works very well for me. I live on Vancouver island with lot,s of steep hill. No bit.….ing!

          1. Hurray for Vancouver Island! Canada Rocks !

  49. Hello,

    I am trying to decide whether to purchase the Kona Sutra as opposed to Surly’s Cross Check for a trip through the Rocky Mountains… I am pretty sure I will need to change the chainring on either of the two, as I will be climbing a lot of high passes. I definitely need that granny gear… What would you recommend? Have you heard of someone putting mt. bike gearing on a touring bike? Trying to figure this out before I order it… 

    Thanks for all the great info!

    1. My previous expedition bike had mountain bike gearing — an XTR rear mech/titanium cassette and a Raceface 22/32/44 crankset. That bike still has the original components with about 20,000km on them, even though I’m now riding the Sutra — extremely long-lasting kit.

      The Cross Check doesn’t really look like the right kind of thing for hauling bags through high mountains, in my opinion — more like a utilitarian road bike. You’ll certainly benefit from MTB gearing for a mountainous road ride, and the Sutra comes with Shimano XT MTB gearing at the rear already (as well as luggage racks), leaving you to either change the front crankset from Sora to Deore/LX or similar, or just to change the inner chainring for a 24- or 26-tooth one. I have a 24-tooth Middleburn inner chainring ready to put on my Sutra, just need the tools to remove the cranks. I’ll post back here once I’ve made the switch and let you know how it went.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks, Tom!

        After hearing from you and talking to my LBS, I am 99% sure that I have decided to buy the Kona Sutra. One more question though: Is there anything that you REALLY don’t like about it?

        Thanks for your help!

        1. There’s nothing that I really dislike, no — just a couple of things that are sub-optimal, like the front gearing. One thing I can’t comment on is the stock saddle as I replaced it with my very well-worn Brooks. But I expect most riders do the same with their favourite saddles!

          Glad to be of service and let us know how it goes…

          1. I purchased the Kona Sutra from my local shop, The BikeSpot in Anacortes, WA. I’ll post a photo when I have finished making my adjustments: Deore triple crankset and Tiagra STI’s. Thanks for your advice, it’s going to be a sweet ride for the rest of my life!

  50. dhawal avatar

    Thanks Tom — appreciate your inputs! Looking at finalising the 59cm/700C; will let you know how it goes.

    Thanks again! -{db}.

  51. I was so close to buying the Sutra for my trip but I had trouble finding much in the way of first hand experiences to give it a better assessment — no local stock to check out. In the end I went with a Surly LHT for the 26″ rims, solid rep and I could buy the frame to build up myself — lots of fun. Good to hear its treating you well so far, seems a solid bike.
    Envious of the quiet forest roads you look to be riding at the moment, a polar opposite to the roads in Java.

    1. The LHT sounds very similar to the Sutra in terms of overall setup, although (having ridden with an LHT rider for a couple of weeks) the Sutra’s frameset/fork is significantly burlier. Both great bikes.

  52. dhawal avatar

    Just a couple of points to add to my post above — 

    Re: the randonneuring bit — I would describe my randonneuring rides (yet to be), as thus — Will be looking at carrying upto ~15kg of supplies on the back rack (depending on ride distance). Don’t expect to use the front rack (atleast till I graduate beyond 600kms). As for the ride routes (atleast around Bangalore, from what I’m aware) — while they have good climbs and descents, they don’t really involve going up/down hills. So beyond some load carrying capacity, how good the bike is for doing decent speeds (30–40km/hr) on flat to medium gradients, will be an important factor for me.

    As for actual touring — say few 2–4 day rides for the first year or so, hopefully going up to a week for the next year, and much longer rides after that, all going fine — yes, the classic touring capabilities would be important.

    In my mind, I feel this bike might be a bit of an overkill for me for the first year or so, but after that, I expect I’d have grown into it. And also, as per the bike shop guy, this bike will encourage me to take my cycling to the next level (which I do want to, and hope I can). For the past 1–1.5yrs (out of the 2yrs that I have cycling), I have been doing upto 200km day rides, on my Trek4300D, fitted with a rear carrier, and fenders. 🙂

    Thanks again for all the inputs. -{db}.

    1. I think the Sutra will be ideal for you. It’s a solid bike, noticeably heavier than a road bike, so I might look at some faster slick tyres for the shorter rides. The gear ratios lean towards flat/medium gradients which will suit your description of routes very well.

      As for sizing, my brother is 6′2″ and rides the 59cm. If you are long-limbed and want a relatively long reach, I’d go for this size. 56cm will definitely be on the small side.

      Let me know how you get on!

    2. Woo, sorry for the long post, that was a short story. Lol

  53. dhawal avatar

    (Apologies in advance for a long post.)

    Thanks Dan / Tom, for the follow up.

    My primary worry when I saw the mention of rust, was the frame itself. The only bike I have owned before this, is the Trek4300D (2009 model, just before they switched to hydraulic brakes). I have to say I’ve not been very diligent in cleaning it promptly after long rides (no off-roading, btw), etc. Yes, it does catch rust around the nuts and bolts, and on the chain if not lubed well (or in time) after a cleanup. But it didn’t seem a ‘critical’ problem to me. Also, I haven’t really bothered to see if the nuts/screws that sit on the frame (those holding bottle racks, rear carrier, fenders) are rusting, and if they need to be oiled to keep the rust out. 

    So I was wondering if with a steel frame, I would need to be checking all the nooks and crannies regularly, especially on the frame around the nuts/screws. (Not that I have an issue with that; I just need to know what it takes to maintain such a bike. And ofcourse, develop the discipline for it. :P) For that matter, even the paint aspect; due to an odd fall, or carrying the bike on a general luggage carrier rack on a minivan, or simply the constant rubbing of the lock cable, the paint on my 4300D has come off in some places. I treat it more as a cosmetic issue; with a steel frame, is that a real concern?

    Am based on Bangalore, India — weather is dry for most part of the year, except ~2months of monsoon (about to start). It’s a bit like the Bay Area, California. (Hence the Silicon Valley comparisons.)

    Tom — re: Randonneuring — the first few lines on this wiki sum it up well — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randonneuring (Also see the ‘Time limits’ section.)

    Doing randonneuring rides (upto 600kms for the first year or two; they go upto 1200kms), will be one specific aim of mine, with this bike. (Assuming I do buy it; at this point, looks like I will, in the next month or so.) So, my fitness levels aside ;), wondering if anyone has inputs / experience on how this bike will be for such rides.

    Finally — re: the fitting. Touring bikes like these (even from other known brands) aren’t readily available in India, so I can’t just try one out before buying. I’ll discuss again with my bike shop guy (he’s quite good :)), but just thought I’d ask for inputs here too. I’m 6ft tall, and have slightly longer limbs (atleast that is what I think). I wonder if my 19.5″ Trek4300D frame is a bit small for me — Even after I put sidebars on the handle bar, to extend the reach a bit, and shifted the saddle back most of the way, I find that while riding fast, I’d like to push back a bit more in my saddle (Bontrager, what came with the Trek4300D). So I wonder if the frame is a tad small for me. Then again, while riding relaxed, I sometimes find myself sliding front to the tip of the saddle; so maybe the fitting is ok now.

    The guy at the bike shop (and myself too) feels 59cm frame is what I need, but I just wanted to double check — should I be looking at the 61cms? (Certainly not 56cm, I take it? :)) Note that ‘tweaking’ the fit later by changing some parts will be possible, but_not as straightforward as in other countries, as I may need to order some part specially, pay a higher price than one may normally imagine, etc.

    Thanks for all the responses; very helpful, and much appreciated! -{db}.

  54. dhawal avatar

    Thanks for the review — very helpful. Any thoughts on how this will be randonneuring? Also, bit worrying to see the ‘rust magnet’ comment above; is that so?

    1. Dan Williams avatar
      Dan Williams

      dhawal. Ill put my rust comment in context. 

      I live by the sea (so there is a salt factor too) and took it out for 3 hours in the winter. During the last 2 hours it absolutely rained down on me and I got home in 1–2 degree C temps and just chucked my bike in the garage so I could recover in a warm bath. Did not wipe the bike down or anything.

      Although the main frame of the bike is steel, it is largely protected by the good paint job. However upon opening my garage 2 days later some rust had appeared. Off the top of my memory: on the bolts that connect the front rack to the frame, on some parts of the chain that evidently didn’t have enough lub and on the teeth of the smaller chainset cog. 

      Ive subsequently cleaned the rust off, applied a generous amount of GT85 to the chain/chainset and put some petroleum jelly on the front rack connection.

      I guess I just needed to be a bit more wary when subjecting it to the foul British rain.

    2. Cycling for a full month in daily rainfall along the coast of Washington and Oregon, I haven’t noticed any unusual rust issues. I’ve kept the drivetrain properly lubricated (pretty much a daily chore in wet weather) — failing to do so would of course attract some oxidisation on the chain and sprockets/chainrings, although that’s nothing to worry about in the short term. 

      A couple of the steel bolts on the stem are showing a little rust, but this is to be expected given the conditions and is nothing specific to the Sutra.

      Making sure that the steel frame’s paintwork is protected against cable rub would be a good idea in the long run too.

      I don’t know what ‘randonneuring’ is — but if you let me know I might be able to offer some thoughts!

  55. Anthony Yeates avatar
    Anthony Yeates

    Just want to add in a big thumbs up for (at the least the front) wheelset on the Sutra. Lost control coming down Cheddar Gorge in Somerset yesterday, ended up going into the rock face front wheel first at 20mph or so, front wheel is still almost perfectly true.

    1. I second the thumbs-up after taking the bike through the dirt roads of the Northern California Lost Coast — not a wobble in sight.

  56. Anthony Yeates avatar
    Anthony Yeates

    I bought a 2012 Sutra last month, only done a few hundred miles on it so far, but I’m loving it. Really stable and quicker than I thought. I’ve yet to load it up for touring, but I’m heading to Cornwall on it next month to visit a friend, can’t wait to let it stretch it’s legs. I’ve added a Brooks B17 and an Abus O‑lock (needed some bodging), but other than that the only other think I might change is the gearing, as you say, the low end is still a bit high for steep hills.

    1. I’ve just ordered a 24t inner chainring — will let you know how the swap-out goes!

      1. Jacques avatar

        IJust bought the 2012 Sutra and love it with the 24 tooth chainring. No problem for the switch and the change even if the ratio is quite different between the small and the middle ring. THanks Tom

  57. Dan Williams avatar
    Dan Williams

    Got my 2012 Sutra in September of last year. Racked up about 2000km over the lovely British winter. Bought the bike after it fit my specs (tourer, disk brakes, decent racks and bar end shifters) for a trip I am doing on the US’s Southern Tier this summer. Have to say that the review is pretty spot on.

    Gearing definitely needs to lower in my so called “b*tch” gear. Ill probably replace mine with a 24 or 22T.

    To those unfamiliar… this is a heavy sturdy bike but it can take some hellish punishment. 

    Tip: if you do cycle in the rain be sure to wipe it off. It is naturally a rust magnet.

  58. Nigel Francis avatar
    Nigel Francis

    Very good review. 

    I had a Kona in the past as a MTB. I always refer back to it, as the best off road frame I have ever had.

  59. Thanks for the write-up Tom! What’s the tyre-frame clearance like on the Sutra? Could you rock wide (say, 2.1 to 2.25) tyres for occassional gravel-road diversions?

    1. The fork is Kona’s tried and tested Project 2 MTB fork, with touring bolt-holes and braze-ons and sized up for a 700c wheel, so it’s certainly up for wider tyres. As for the frame, I’ve just measured and there’s just under 2.5″ of clearance, so you should be OK with 2.0–2.1″ tyres, although it looks like 2.25″ would be a bit of a squeeze.

      1. Will Green avatar
        Will Green

        Hi Tom, just for your info, Chain Reaction Cycles are now selling 2012 Sutras for £839, I’ve just bought one after reading your review and I love it, Thanks Tom

        1. Carlos Melo Correia avatar
          Carlos Melo Correia

          The 2012 Kona Sutra is £929 on chain reaction cycles. Where did you see that price?

          1. Carlos Melo Correia avatar
            Carlos Melo Correia

            I´ve seen it. I had a different configuration on my pc. thanks.
            great review by the way.

        2. Brillant — thanks for the tip! (Click here* for anyone interested in taking them up on this…)

      2. Hi, Tom!
        how the “Project Two forks” works? I want to buy a Kona Sutra and I need to know if it works well on bad roads. Thank you

        1. They’re rigid steel forks. I’ve found the bike handles well on unpaved roads, considering it’s a touring bike.

      3. Hey Tom ‚Trevor here in Calgary. I have this very bike and it’s one of the most comfortable bikes I have owned. I’m cycling from Vancouver to Calgary this summer about 1000k so I’m all set and looking foreward to the ride.

        1. Sounds fab! Let us know how you get on…!

          1. Tom, I don’t use pay pal is there another way to get your signed book?

          2. You should be able to use a credit/debit card via Paypal without having an account. You’ll see this option at the bottom right of the screen when you click the buy button.

Something to add?