[UPDATE: Kona’s updated 2016 Sutra has recently been announced. Check out my preview here.]
The Kona Sutra has been my short-haul road tourer of choice for the last few years, ever since I rode a 2012 model of the Kona Sutra down the Pacific Coast of America in 2012.
When I reviewed the 2014 Sutra, it seemed to me that Kona had moved it away from road touring towards more adventurous back-road and rough-road tours.
This was probably a good move, as there are many well-established touring bikes to compete with, but not so many in the field of short-haul, mixed-terrain touring. It wasn’t perfect, however, and I noted as such in my detailed review.
What’s changed for the 2015 Sutra?
This week, Kona have unveiled their 2015 bike range, which includes (of course) an updated Sutra.
Here’s the current 2014 model, for comparison:
And here’s the upcoming 2015 version:
The frameset is the same as last year, sharing its geometry with the Rove. But there are some welcome improvements in terms of specification, which appear to bring the bike into clearer focus regarding what it actually wants to do.
Most obvious (besides the new paint job) is the presence of a Brooks B17 expedition touring saddle and a pair of 35C Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus tyres as stock. The brake levers have also been upgraded. In short, the contact points have been improved. Comfort being critical on tour, this makes sense.
These are Schwalbe’s premier all-terrain expedition tyres, cementing the Sutra’s reinvention as a mixed-terrain adventure bike with luggage-carrying capabilities. And the B17 needs no introduction as the saddle of choice for 90% of serious tourers on all kinds of rides. It’s a definite statement of intent.
It’s difficult to tell from the press release photos whether or not the 2014’s mudguard clearance issue has been fixed, but at least the front derailleur clearance appears to have been addressed and the third bottle cage mount has been reinstated.
The rear rack has been changed since Blackburn discontinued the one used on the 2014 model, and the new Sutra now sports a Chinese model from Bor Yeuh bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Tubus Cosmo. It’ll get you going; more demanding riders will probably swap out this budget rack for something more reassuring.
The front rack has been removed altogether for 2015. More and more short-haul tourers are going lightweight, so this is little surprise. (There are still mounts for fitting aftermarket racks, of course.)
Aside from a couple of other minor component swaps, all else appears to be very similar to the Sutra’s current incarnation.
The Kona Sutra 2015 is sub-optimal as a true round-the-world heavy-duty touring bike, for reasons stated in the original review, but as a developed-world adventure bike with a much broader terrain range than your standard road tourer, it’s got a lot going for it.
As always, I’ll reserve further judgement until I’ve taken one for a test-ride, the experience of which says far more about a bike than photos and specifications ever could.