Kona Sutra 2014 Touring Bike Review & Detailed Photos

Disclosure: I asked Kona’s UK rep to send me a demo model of the 2014 Sutra for review, to which he obliged. It was returned after the testing period was over.

The Kona Sutra 2014 reviewed in this article has been positioned by Kona as a mid- to high-end steel-framed adventure touring bike with significant potential for being used as a commuting/utility/fun-having bike on a variety of terrain.


Front badge detail

On paper, the 2014 Sutra features a nearly identical specification to its 2013 predecessor, which firmly and deservedly established itself as a top-quality long-haul road tourer with recommendations coming in from all over the place. It features 700c wheels, front & rear racks, mud guards, disc brakes and dropped handlebars, indicating that its core purpose as a long-haul load carrier for the developed world is still very much in place.

What’s Changed?

It’s difficult to review the new Sutra without drawing comparisons to its previous incarnations, on which I’ve ridden thousands of fully-loaded miles (specifically, the 2012 model). Having looked at the differences between them on paper, I guessed that there’d be relatively little difference between the two when it came to actually riding the bikes.

Kona Sutra 2012 Touring Bike

The biggest change turns out to be a very significant one, however: the frame, fork and racks are all new for 2014, changing the bike’s character and feature-set substantially.

Kona Sutra 2014

The wheelbase is now shorter and the bottom bracket positioning a little higher, which in theory and in practice produces a more nimble ride in exchange for a slight decrease in overall mile-munching effortlessness when heavily loaded. It does, however, introduce a couple of minor compromises, which we’ll come to later.

The feel of the bike is more sporty and fun than the previous frameset, particularly when unloaded, and the bike’s range of purposes has been broadened by this decision, giving it increased appeal for riders who envisage using it for more than just standard touring, in comparison to the older model which was an uncompromising out-and-out tourer (and a very capable one at that).

There are several side effects of the frame change, not least in terms of the touring-specific frame features of previous models. The third bottle-cage mount on the underside of the downtube has gone, which seems an unnecessary omission of what should really be a standard feature on touring frames. (Strangely, though, I’ve heard reports from the USA of new 2014 Sutras that do have the third bottle-cage mount.)

Another (less significant) feature missing from the new frame is the down-tube shifter mounts, meaning you’re stuck with bar-mounted shifters of one type or another.

Head tube and down tube detail

The headtube is now oversized in diameter, and the sloping top-tube has gone, replaced by a more standard, horizontal geometry. This all suggests a particularly stiff frame, and my test-riding confirmed this: you might almost say it feels harsh, though you certainly won’t begrudge its increased responsiveness if you’re manoeuvring on tricky terrain.

Head tube detail

Though the Project Two fork is still as sturdy and reassuring as ever, the V‑brake bosses are now gone, and with them the ability to run anything other than disc brakes. The second set of mid-blade eyelets and bolts have also gone, as well as the second set of rack/fender braze-ons at the front dropout — essentially reducing the fork to a disc-only rigid steel mountain-biking fork with limited rack-mounting options.

Front dropout detail

Loaded up, the stiff & sprightly frame and fork feel just as happy handling luggage as the workhorse of the previous model did, if not more so. It’s a fun and nippy bike to ride when luggage is attached, feeling less like a lumbering tourer and more like a nimble and sporty multi-purpose machine. Given tyres with a bit more tread and volume, it’d positively invite you to dive down every unpaved side road you came across.

Front end

In summary, the new 2014 frameset is significantly less fully-featured as a tourer than its predecessor. There’s an obvious reason for this; Kona have scrapped the touring-specific Sutra frame and fork of yore altogether and instead built a new touring bike on the frameset of the Rove, with a different paint job.

For me, the new frame wins out marginally in the (admittedly highly subjective) department of how it feels to ride, and the variety of terrain across which I’d be tempted to take it, which goes some way towards making up for the missing features. A standard road touring bike this is not.

Drivetrain, Crankset & Brakes

Most of the build components are sensible, given the kind of mixed riding for which the bike has been positioned. The drivetrain is made up of durable mid-range Shimano mountain-biking components, with a 26/36/48t crankset and an 11–32t 9‑speed cassette giving the bike the wide gearing ratio required by tourers for successfully tackling big climbs.

(I’d personally like the gearing to be lower still for the steepest and toughest of climbs with luggage, but despite 24t chainrings and 12–36 cassettes being available it’s rare to find such ratios fitted as stock on any tourer. I’ve never quite understood why.)

Drivetrain detail

The 2‑piece crankset features an external bottom bracket; easy to maintain or replace as long as you’re riding in the Western world. Likewise, the oversized headtube necessitates a non-standard headset — fine, as long as you’re within range of spares.

Crankset detail

The brakes are Hayes’ CX5 cable-actuated disc brakes, which don’t have the same track record of reliability as the Avid BB7s fitted to other bikes at this price point but which still bring the bike to a halt far better than any traditional rim brake could under load.

Rear brake detail

Due to its width, the front caliper does protrude slightly in comparison with the stock lowrider’s tubing, so some fettling may be required to prevent it interfacing with the back of a mounted pannier. (It’s unclear whether changing the brakeset would have any effect on this.)

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: front rack and disc brake

In general, the specification is conspicuously modern, drawing from new technologies rather than tried and tested hardware with worldwide compatibility, and in my view this restricts the bike’s use as a world tourer and makes it more suited to pedal-powered travels in the West.

Cockpit & Controls

The brake and shifting controls have been sensibly separated, with trusty Tektro brake levers featuring a handy adjustable reach mechanism, paired with the bar-end shifters favoured by many expedition-style tourers. The front shifter’s friction mechanism in particular is a good choice, allowing fine tuning of the front derailleur position to combat that all-too-common chain rubbing.

Bar-end shifter

The dropped handlebars have been flared slightly for 2014, bringing the ends of the bars to a position slightly outside of the drops themselves. I didn’t see the point of this until I rode it; the slight flaring alters the angle of the bullhorns to bring the brake levers into a more natural position for the hands. In short; they’re more comfortable for the kind of relaxed, all-day riding the bike’s designed to handle.

Handlebars (front)

There’s little room to manoeuvre in terms of adjusting the handlebar position, besides flipping the stem over to raise the bars by a few millimetres. I prefer a more upright riding position, as do many tourers; a few more headset spacers and a longer steerer tube would have offered more options in this regard.

The stock saddle is narrow, solid and makes no effort at being a perch one might seriously use for touring. Saddles being an entirely subjective thing with no rightful place in a bike review, I did what I always do and switched it for my Brooks B17 for the test rides. I’m assuming you’re going to do likewise.

Wheels, tyres & mudguards

The 700c 36-spoke wheels are built on cup-and-cone-bearing Shimano Deore hubs which have a strong reputation for being durable and well-sealed, with WTB Freedom Ryder rims. The stock tyres are Continental Contacts 32Cs; these represent a middle-ground of good value, decent longevity (though nowhere near that of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus) and a little tread for the occasional unsealed road.

Front tyre detail

If you’re planning to take the Sutra on more dirt-road-heavy adventures, however, you’d do well to change the tyres for something with a little more tread and volume (for example, the lighter Marathon Mondial or heavier Marathon Plus Tour). In theory, the new frame and fork accept tyres up to 40C in diameter (42C without mudguards), and the bike’s designers have touted this quality as one of the new frameset’s advantages.

Rear end detail

Let’s look at this in more detail.

Running wider (40C) tyres on the Kona Sutra 2014

The first thing I noticed when switching the stock tyres out for a pair of 700x40C Schwalbe Marathon Mondials was that while you can upsize to 35C slicks without issue, the skinny stock mudguards won’t accept larger-volume tyres with any amount of tread.

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: rear mudguard clearance

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: seatstay clearance

If you do decide that more cushioning and traction is what you need, you’ll have to make some modifications to or replacements of the mudguards, or take them off altogether (as I did for this test ride).

It’s by no means an unusual issue when attempting to put fatter tyres on a road tourer, but given that the bike is advertised with the ability to run 40C tyres with mudguards, it seems like an oversight.

Seatstay detail

On my 56cm frame at least, intruducing fatter rubber also brought the front derailleur worryingly close to the tyre surface, and a prime target for all the crud that riding muddy off-road trails without mudguards would fire at it — not ideal. Wiggle room in this part of the frame is severely limited; it’s unclear if switching to a high-clamp derailleur (such as that on the Rove) would be possible without affecting the ability to fit mudguards.

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: front derailleur clearance

And strangely, the rims aren’t officially rated for tyres wider than 32C. So if you do run fatter tyres, you’ll either have to do so against WTB’s advice (unlikely to be an issue in reality, as long as you don’t run them at too high a pressure), or invest in a new wheelset (if you’re particularly paranoid about the rims failing under prolonged and very heavy loads).

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: tyre compatibility

Taking the Sutra on a long and muddy off-road ride with the 40C tyres was a revelation, however: it felt utterly right for the job, if a little heavier than you’d really want a cyclocross-inspired bike to be. Ditching the racks would lighten things up and free up the handling; ergonomics would be improved by switching to integrated shifters.

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres

But then, of course, you’d basically have a Rove.


One of the most welcome upgrades for 2014 is the new front rack. The no-name rack fitted as stock to the 2013 model brought in numerous reports of being flimsy, difficult to adjust and incompatible with many popular models of pannier. The 2014 Sutra features a Blackburn FL‑1 lowrider, which is a long-established mid-range model with many years of proven service behind it.

Front rack detail

The rear rack has also been switched out for Blackburn’s flagship touring rack the TRX‑1, which is slightly set back for heel clearance to compensate for the shorter wheelbase of the frame, and allows for bags to be mounted at two different heights (roughly 2 inches’ difference).

Loaded up with rear panniers

While it seems burly and well-built, it’s also significantly narrower than the previous model’s rack, which featured plentiful space for attaching rack-top luggage. This rack, by comparison, feels rather slimline, and while bringing in the panniers a few centimetres will no doubt slightly increase the bike’s nimbleness, I’m unsure that the loss of space is worth it for tourers who value the ability to strap all and sundry to the back of their bikes when the fancy takes them. But perhaps that’s no longer where the Sutra’s strengths really lie.

Rear rack

Though they have an excellent reputation for reliability, these Blackburn racks are both aluminium rather than weld-friendly steel, confirming that the Sutra’s forte isn’t going to be in round-the-world expedition-style riding but in excursions in the developed world.

With the new frame, racks and mudguards share the same dropout mounts. I don’t feel that this is ideal, partly because of the increased leverage on the bolts (increasing their chance of snapping over time) and partly because it’s a reduction in versatility and potential compatibility with other racks.

This particular combination of frame design and rear rack also has a quirk, as I discovered when I removed the mudguards. It turns out that the Blackburn’s lower mount features an extruded flange surrounding the bolt, designed to sit flush to a frame, presumably to minimise the amount of movement and play between the rack and the frame. But the frame’s mount is too skinny to fully interface with this, meaning the flange overlaps the edge of the frame. (It’s easier to understand this in pictures!)

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: rear rack dropout mounting

I got round the issue by adding a spacer between the rack and frame. (Workarounds like this are relatively common when attempting to match the immense variety of frames and racks out there.)

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: rear rack mount

A similar issue cropped up with the front rack: the clearance between the tubing, the quick-release and the brake caliper was affected by the removal of the mudguard, necessitating the addition of a spacer.

Kona Sutra with 40C tyres: front rack mount


Someone recently emailed me photos of their new 2014 Sutra and said that there seemed to be a problem with the paint job. There isn’t — that’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Bottle cage mounts

The 2014 Sutra’s styling is… unusual. It’s not even a paint job at all, in the true sense of the word. Instead, it’s a kind of tinted lacquer over bare metal, with the metalwork, welds and brazings fully on show. The finishing kit is prediminantly black, rather than chrome, and so ‘black, gold and steel’ is the overriding theme.

I can certainly see why some might be put off — and on the other hand, there’ll be folk who are attracted to its unusual looks and its obvious steeliness.

For me, though, the most important aesthetic quality of a touring bike is that it should draw minimum attention to itself. And in this respect, the Sutra certainly falls on the understated side of things.

Criticisms & Comparisons

Let’s get one thing straight: the 2014 Sutra is still an absolutely capable touring bike with a full complement of tried and tested components and a solid frame that’ll take you more or less anywhere if you pedal long and hard enough.

Sunset pic

Under close scrutiny, though, I’m not sure quite sure what the new Sutra wants to do — particularly in comparison with last year’s model, which in my opinion was an almost perfect long-haul touring bike. Having ridden the previous model extensively makes it very difficult to review this new version objectively.

I can see that where previous iterations of the Sutra invited you to sell your house and pedal off with your worldly possessions in tow, and while the 2014 model will still happily do this, moves have been made to encourage the rider to shed a few pounds, get off the beaten track and shake things up a bit; even to ditch the luggage altogether — hence the shorter wheelbase, the stiffened front end, the slimline racks, and the wider tyre options. Light-weight, action-packed, all-terrain touring with the riding itself as the focus of the trip is what I’d naturally want to do with it.

But if that’s the case, why not fit fatter tyres from the outset? Or why not at the very least fit more versatile rims and mudguards capable of accepting wider-diameter rubber (as Ridgeback have done with their new Expedition), or simply leave mudguard and rack choice to the buyer (as Surly do with their now-rather-similar-feeling Disc Trucker)?

‘Adventure’ cycling (as opposed to old-fashioned cycle touring) is a growing phenomenon. Surly’s Troll and Ogre framesets and Salsa’s Fargo are some popular choices to build up for this kind of riding. Even Specialized have launched an adventure bike this year which on paper looks remarkably like this updated Sutra — except with fatter tyres and mudguards fitted as standard.

If the Sutra frame was changed for this reason, it would surely make sense for the same logic to follow with the rest of the specification. But I don’t feel that quite enough has been done across the board to fully achieve this.

Profile of the Kona Sutra 2014

I get the suspicion that the 2014 Sutra is currently about halfway to what it could be in a future incarnation. But in my mind, that would be a different bike to Kona’s flagship road tourer and it wouldn’t really deserve to share the Sutra name. In short, this bike isn’t yet quite as well-defined as it could be.

If it were up to me, I’d suggest that Kona might resurrect the bombproof, feature-packed 2011–2013 frameset, tweak it for bigger tyre clearance, spec it out with this year’s racks and components (but with 40C-compatible rims/mudguards); then launch another ‘adventure’ bike alongside it based on the bike I’ve been testing today but more clearly focused on what it wants to do.

How Does It Ride?

The proof of the pudding, of course, is what happens when you take a bike like this for a few nice long rides and see how the whole package feels.

Kona Sutra 2014 with rear panniers

And in that department, I found the 2014 Sutra every bit as reassuring as the previous model, and even a little more fun to ride, and with a more comfortable cockpit setup. That goes for long days on the road, as well as excursions on unpaved trails.

The bottom line is that the 2014 Sutra is a bike on which I’d happily while away the hours on a varied tour of many weeks or months. It wouldn’t take long for me to forget the handful missing features that it’d be nice to have (especially given the various hideously inappropriate bikes I’ve toured perfectly happily on in the past).

It may not be perfect, but the Sutra is now a versatile beast indeed.


There’s an awful lot to like about the 2014 Sutra — mainly how it actually feels to ride. It’s a real beauty in this most important department.

Loaded up with rear panniers

There are a couple of things to dislike — mainly the incompatibility of the rims/fenders with the advertised tyre clearance, though only an issue if you’re actually wanting to change the tyres. You may well be able to have your local bike shop do this at the time of purchase. Or you may not be bothered about this at all.

If you’re after a bike for pure developed-world road touring and want something that’s optimised for that job alone, the Sutra will certainly do it — yet there are plenty of other 700c-wheeled steel touring bikes at this price that’ll roll out of the shop doing just as good a job. And if maximum speed, efficiency and tarmac-munching capabilities are your thing, you’ll probably find lighter and road-ier bikes elsewhere.

If you’re after a bike to take you round the world or on extensive developed world tours, there are several expedition-oriented bikes that’ll be a more sensible choice due to wheel size and component choice — perhaps the Long Haul Trucker or Disc Trucker in 26-inch models (slightly more expensive), or the new Expedition from Ridgeback with an upgraded set of wheels and racks (slightly cheaper).

But if you’re after something that’s solid, durable, fun to ride, luggage enabled and ready to tackle a variety of terrain, and which will allow you to stray into uses beyond what you’d expect a bog-standard tourer to put up with, then you should certainly consider taking the 2014 Sutra for a test-ride.

Stock of the 2014 Sutra is drying up as the 2015 bike season begins, but Kona have made some welcome improvements for the new year. Check out my preview of the 2015 Kona Sutra.

P.S. Though it may well be cheaper, I don’t really recommend ordering a touring bike online unless you know what you’re doing. Better off getting the size, fit and specification nailed by supporting your local Kona dealer. (Find yours here.)

Comments (skip to respond)

31 responses to “Kona Sutra 2014 Touring Bike Review & Detailed Photos”

  1. […] across the spectrum, including the Surly Disc Trucker, the Ridgeback Expedition, the redesigned Kona Sutra, and a mid-range model from the increasingly popular Oxford Bike Works. Tim and Laura were also […]

  2. Hi Tom,
    How do you like that Crosso panniers ?

    1. Great – I’ve used them for years and reviewed them here.

  3. Hi Tom,
    I’m curious about the front rack and disc brake caliper clearance, it appears that the caliper protrudes out from the rack; wouldn’t this stop your panniers from laying flat against the rack and also affect the caliper movement? Seems like a big concern. Could you put spacers between the front rack mount and eyelet mount or would that stretch the rack too wide?

  4. Hey!
    I’m buying my first Kona Sutra mod. 2015. I’m 185cm/6.04f high and I don’t know what to order — size 56 or size 59. I ride Scott CR1 road bike in size 56, but, as I found on the forums Sutra could be size 59. What do you suggest?
    Thank you!

  5. Hi Tom
    I wonder if I can ask your advice please mate, I am thinking of buying a 2014 Sutra after reading your excellent review along with numerous other positive reviews.
    My main purpose is more for general use/ commuting, days rides 40–60 miles and some light weekend touring with 2 panniers and a tent on the back. It seems the new Sutra fits the bill perfectly.
    I had a test ride at the weekend on one at Evans cycles and it seemed ‘almost’ perfect, I just felt slightly stretched out drop bars but this may be because I’ve been used to my flat bar hybrid for the past few years
    looking at the Kona size guide I can actually fall between 3 sizes — 53cm, 56cm and 59 cm
    I am 5ft 11 with an inseam of 31 inches, also there was only about 1cm of clearance between my crotch and the top tube so I reckon a 59 may be too big.…It’s a lot of dosh to shell out and I just wondered if yourself or any other Kona riders could suggest if the 56cm (which I tested)based on my height and inseam would be the most suitable. I know I can change the saddle, stem length etc but any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Andy. The Sutra does sound ideal for what you’re planning. I would probably go with the 56cm frame as a starting point, given your height (same as me). But if you’re dropping £1200 on a bike, Evans really should be taking care of the fitting for you. Theory is all well and good but there’s no substitute for a professional bike fitter tweaking the cockpit setup with you on the bike until it feels right to you. Any bike shop worth its salt should take this seriously. Hope that helps!

      1. Hi Tom

        Many thanks for your help and quick reply,
        As you said I thought myself the 56cm would be the best starting point but just needed a second opinion, I’m afaid I did not get much help in terms of sizing from the guys in Evans apart from he usual ” have 1–2 inches of standover clearance” etc.…I am just a bit more worried about the top tube length, as with my existing bike I have tried various stem lengths, saddles, seat angles, etc but I still get niggling pain in the back of my neck and knees 

        My plan is to buy the closest frame size (e.g. 56cm) and then I’m going to Alpine Bikes who do a TrekFit sytem for £100, a 2 hour session in getting the right stem length, seat angle, cleat position etc etc
        The Sutra I’m buying is a ‘soiled’ one from Evans so for a tiny paint impairment on the down tube and it’s missing mudguards , I’m getting it for £960 and insited on a pair of SKS Chromplastic mudguards…always good to get something off but I would rather pay full price for a bike knowing it’s the right fit or at least can be tweaked to be the right fit than get a discount and buy the wrong size frame to start with
        anyway thanks again for your help mate and all the best

  6. Eaglos avatar


    A friend is looking for the 2005 model but hates the disc brake idea and was thinking
    of mounting long reach road like brakes at the fender mount holes. Judging by your
    photos, the distance from the rim to the mount holes seems a bit long.

    1. Don’t forget that you can have brake studs added retroactively to steel frames by companies such as Argos Racing Cycles

  7. Peter avatar

    Quote.…” V‑brake bosses are now gone, and with them the ability to run anything other than disc brakes. The second set of mid-blade eyelets and bolts have also gone, as well as the second set of rack/fender braze-ons at the front dropout — essentially reducing the fork to a disc-only rigid steel mountain-biking fork with limited rack-mounting options.””

    Plus the 700 28inch wheel makes this bike totally non interesting for long distance travelling. I am not saying anything about the quality, but No V brakes possible??? what were they thinking?

    I think a serious fork has V brake bosses for both 26 and 28 inch wheels. even though I have never seen a fork like that.

    1. You probably never will. Frame/fork geometry differs significantly between the two wheel sizes. They have to be designed for just one or the other…

      1. I know, it was basically an extreme emergency, just in case never mind the looks — fork.
        I would not mind getting rid of my suspension fork, but it is kind of hard to find a decent ‘replacement’ fork without changing the axle to crown distance.
        Anyway good blog, always interesting.

        1. On-One do a suspension-corrected cromo fork that’s long been used for touring conversions. Kona Project 2 forks are another good bet if you can find them.

          1. Yes, I read about these two forks. However, I did find and ‘old’ steel mountainbike, such a simple bike; no suspensions and cantilevers, and I put in the bb 55 square Shimano, I ll give away my other bike, even though that one is much newer and definitely better looking…!
            Great blog , keep on writing. Thanks for all the information you share.

  8. Frank Hanlan avatar
    Frank Hanlan

    I love the detail in your review. I learned a lot and that is important for me because I want to go on a 1 or 2 month touring ride in Europe this fall.

    One comment on your review. I bought a Raleigh Exage LT mountain bike in 1991 and it had a short top tube (21.5″ ?). I was younger, more adventurous and had better reflexes then. Thanks to a comment by the owner of my LBS I realized that it is time to sell that bike. My reflexes are slower and I am less confident especially on the bike so I no longer have the same yearning to get out and ride it. 

    For the first time I went to Yuma, AZ in Nov. 2013 until Jan. 2014 so I bought an inexpensive hybrid with a front shock. I rode 4 or 5 days a week and sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it even if the shifting was not great going up hill. As a result I thought that I would get a hybrid for touring in Europe but reading a couple of blogs I began to wonder about cobblestones and rough country roads and it occurred to me that I might still prefer a 29er with mountain bike tires.

    An inability to run fenders attached to the stays would immediately put me off a bike. It is one of the first things that I look for. I also look for good components such as an XT or equivalent rear derailleur. 

    Thanks for all the great info.

  9. Shane Craig avatar
    Shane Craig

    Hi Tom, the 2014 Sutra has caught my eye as I am after a bike that can tour some shorter road trips but also a bit of a day tripper and gravel explorer. My only reservation is the riding position. I like an upright position with the bars at or slightly above saddle height. Looking at your photos, and comparing the headset length with other competing bikes like the Salsa Vaya or Specialised AWOL, it seems this position might be hard to achieve. Unfortunately my LBS doesn’t have a Sutra (or a Rove) and I must put a deposit down before they will order me one. Whilst they claim they can achieve my preferred position, I am a bit reluctant. Can you expand a bit further on the riding position as I am happy with all other aspects of the bike. Thanks

    1. Hi Shane. Let’s see if I can help.

      I too prefer a slightly more upright riding position. The stock stem is reversible and you can flip it for a slight rise, but you could achieve a more significant rise by seeing if your LBS will swap the stem out for one with a much steeper rise (or an adjustable stem). Given that there isn’t much room to add more headset spacers (at least on my 56cm model), this would be the easiest way of raising the handlebar position. If you tried to add too much rise, of course, you’d eventually alter the geometry of the bike altogether, but it’s certainly possible to raise it above where the stock configuration puts it.

      The other way of raising the handlebar position is to add spacers below the stem, but you need a certain amount of extra steerer tube to do that safely. You are correct that there are other bikes with more room to manoeuvre in this regard. I haven’t ridden either of the bikes you mentioned though, so I can’t comment from experience. Finally, depending on how you ride, you might consider changing the whole handlebar setup to one with mtb-style riser bars. (I generally prefer this.) That would entail changing the shifters and brake levers, so it’d be quite a major modification.

      Hope this helps, in any case!

      1. Quick comment here. I have a 56cm 2014 Kona Sutra and find that the stock riding position is quite good — good in the sense that it is very upright and remarkably comfortable.

        I agree with a lot of what is said in this review about the capabilities of this bicycle. It is a lot of fun but lacks a few things touring bike specific. For me, that is not a big deal since I bought it as a bicycle I could frankenstein nicely and for long haul commuting and off the beaten track exploring. For that, it is fantastic. I have something like six or seven thousand km on mine at this point in time. It is funny, every time I look at some nifty custom steel bicycle, I think, “Hey, how is it in any real way better for what I am doing than my Sutra?” and walk away wallet intact. That is a nice feature in a bicycle as well. The silly thing just makes me grin.

        I tried a B‑17 on mine, and hated it. I could not get comfortable on it no matter what I did. It is a shame because this is the kind of saddle which should go on a bicycle like this. I am planning a Selleanatomica leather saddle purchase sometime this year — same kind of look, better fit for me personally.

        1. Me again. Got the Selle Anatomica NSX saddle — perfect fit for the bike both in terms of looks and comfort. Wonderful buy.

  10. Hi Tom,
    I couldn’t agree more with your questions about some of the eclectic parts Kona decided to piece together for the Sutra. If Frankenstein’s monster was reincarnated in bike form, this woul be it. However, after riding 1,500 miles on my 2014 Sutra, I think that some of the seemingly contradictory parts can be overlooked. I ride fully pressurized 35c tires on my Sutra and haven’t had any problems with the wheelset, and although the mudguards are small (personally, one of my largest frustrations), they are big enough to cover non-knobby 35c tires in rainy conditions. Although other aspects of the bike make it less expedition-friendly, overall, I think that it is still a very functional touring machine. The concept behind the rear rack is one I can appreciate, but I understand your reservations with its top-loading ability. I have a few 600 mile self-supported trips planned for this summer which will be the true test though. Thanks for the accurate and thorough review Tom.

    1. Hi Ben! I agree that anyone using it for touring on the stock 32C or 35C slicks won’t notice the slight lack of ‘ideal’ touring features. It’s something all but bike nerds will instantly forget about when they start their trips, because we generally get used to our circumstances very quickly and then just work with what we’ve got. I’ve had word from Kona since writing this review that their designer is aware of the shortcomings and they’ll be looked at for the next edition…

  11. Hi Tom,
    I owned a Kona Sutra 2013 and really love it. I bought it specially for touring but used it as my every day bike and even if it’s not a “nervous” road bike I add a lot of pleasure to ride it in town and every kind of situation.
    Unfortunatly it has been stolen last month in my garage. My insurance will pay a new bike and I was exited to order a Kona Sutra 2014. But it’s impossible to find one in my area (Quebec province, Canada), the few avaible were already sold and Kona said that there are no more in stock/production. My misfortune don’t stop here, I visited all the bike shop in a big range trying to find a Kona Sutra 2013 to replace mine, no one left.
    I finally add an idea and would like to have your opinion about it. Since the frame of the Sutra 2014 is alsmost the same of the Rove 2014, and 70% of my rides are more cross-country style with small load or nervous commuting…why not the Rove 2014 with the addition of racks and some other tweaks to gear it for touring ? On the paper it’s seems to be a nice compromise. Long ride touring remains 30% of my usage and I asking myself if the option is a good one ? 

    I’m a newbie in bike gearing and geometry, never tested the rove, any guess/concern about this idea ?

    Thanks you for your nice site full of really interestring article and conversation !
    (sorry for bad english :))

    1. Martin, I’ve found out from my LBS that their Kona shipments are really delayed in Canada because of the port strike in Vancouver. No one really knows when shipments are going to make it across the country 🙁 I’ve also been searching high and low in Toronto for a Sutra (or even a Rove!) in a smaller size to try out. So more Sutras may be coming, but it might be a while yet.

    2. Francis avatar

      Hi Tom,

      First, thank you for such a detailed review. Since I am a newbie, I learned a lot just in this one article. 

      I will add to Martin’s question in that I just visited my LBS and the guy there was trying to talk me into a Rove, instead of a Sutra. His thinking was that he can get a Rove for just a little more money, but the components on the Rove were superior to the Sutra, and since they use the same frame… Is he right? Would the Rove substitute for the Sutra at this point?

      I’ll also add that I am hoping to use this bike some day on a solo Trans-Am ride (that a dream anyway). So, with that also in mind, would the Rove suffice?

      Again, thank you so much for sharing you knowledge!

      1. It depends entirely what you’re going to be using the bike for. If it’s cyclo-cross, commuting, gravel roads, etc, and you’re riding without luggage, the Rove is probably a better bet. But if it’s primarily touring, the Rove offers no advantage over the Sutra, and you’d have to spend extra fitting it out with racks. Gearing is also worth looking at — the Rove is just on a double front chainring, while the Sutra has its tour-friendly triple. Hope that helps!

  12. Interesting view on the external bearing BB — I would have thought they would be better for a tour:
    — the cranks can be removed without a crank puller (or without risking damage to the crank arms if removed sans puller),
    ‑the bearing lifetime is significantly longer than an isis bb
    ‑the bearings can be removed using a vice, stilson, molegrips, g‑clamp, etc, rather than needing a bb-tool.
    ‑replacement bearings are compact and lighter than carrying a spare BB.

    Is it the lack of provenance that makes them worse? I may worry a bit about hollowtech crank arms not standing up to 10,000s of miles.

    1. Hi Doug

      I should have expanded a bit on this. There’s no denying that they’re easier to work with in many respects, particularly removal of the cranks. And I don’t have any issue with them at all, as long as I’m riding in parts of the world where I can easily find spares or replacements in case of unexpected failure.

      But if I was cycling in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, and was spending weeks or months at a time away from any city likely to have a Western-style bike shop, I’d just rather have a simple square-taper bottom bracket and crankset with loose bearings, because it’s going to be a hundred times easier to get fixed or replaced due to the fact that the vast majority of bikes in the world use them and every back street mechanic knows how to fix them.

      That’s the main rationale for top end expedition bikes like the Surly LHT being fitted with bog standard Shimano UN55 square taper BBs — breadth of crank compatibility when they wear out in the middle of nowhere.

      Not a fan of ISIS for touring for the reasons you mention. Tiny bearings with a much lower physical limit on longevity and strength.

      Of course a BB wearing out isn’t generally something that happens overnight — you usually get a few days (or weeks if you’re lucky) of rattly riding before it disintegrates altogether.

      Hope that clarifies the comment! 🙂

      1. It’s been my experience as well as my friends experience that unless you are rumaging through a used parts bin in a village that external bottom brackets are easier to come by for the most part. This has been true via first and secondhand experiences in Central America, South America, and Southern Africa. Especially since I run a Rohloff I am switching to a standard Shimano X type crank since I highly doubt I can find a square taper in the 121 mm that I was using previously without having to order and wait for it. I’ve read of other bike travelers who had to purchase newer outboard crank sets when they couldn’t find a square taper in South America. I think things are changing rather quickly in that respect.

        Good review of the Sutra. It seems not all things change for the better.

        1. If my BB suddenly broke in the back of beyond (unlikely; a slow deterioration is more likely), I would expect to be looking in the used parts bin of a back-street mechanic’s workshop for a solution. Same would go if my cranks sheared. Most bikes on the road today still run on square taper BBs, because most bikes on the road today were manufactured before external BBs and other alternatives existed, which is why I’d choose one for a true world touring bike (which the Sutra isn’t).

          If, on the other hand, I was pedalling short trips on well-worn routes in the places you mention, on a bike like the Sutra, an outboard bearing model might well be fine.

          Worth mentioning is the pre-emptive approach many world bicycle travellers will take of installing an ultra-durable, tried-and-tested bottom bracket unit to vastly lower the chances of breakage or deterioration in the first place. These are inevitably square taper (Chris King, Phil Wood, etc), simply because they’ve been around for that much longer to prove themselves. Shimano still make several square taper units such as the UN-55, of course.

Something to add?