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  1. #1
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    2010 Kona Sutra Review

    2010 Kona Sutra Review - October 13, 2009



    The Kona Sutra is a steel-framed road touring bike with a mountain heritage - it brings the best of both worlds together into a tough, adaptable tourer that comes equipped to tackle pretty much anything you can throw at it. Like its namesake, the Sutra is all about versatility. At an MSRP of $1199, it won't break the bank, but that price point puts it up against some other popular mid-level tourers. Despite the stiff competition, the Kona stands tall with its good design, nimble-but-stable ride quality, and smartly-chosen components.

    My Background & Purchase Decision

    Let me first say that over the years, I've owned more bikes than I can count - mountain, road, cruiser, and even a freestyle BMX with pegs and a gyro (locking brake levers anyone?). These days, I am a regular bike commuter, and my vehicle has been an older aluminum mountain bike turned into a commuter - racks, fenders, lights, and 'street' tires. The ride is a solid 15 mile round trip which includes some significant elevation changes - mostly downhill on the way there, and mostly uphill on the way home. I live in one of the rainier cities in the USA, Portland, Oregon, where we have, on average, 152 rainy days a year and an average annual precipitation of 36.30 inches (92.2 cm). It's not the rainiest place in the USA, but the rain does fall often. In fact, it's raining as I write this.

    The mountain bike has been wearing out, and was never meant to be more than a cheap around-towner anyway. It's also been wrecked into a car and has a bend in the top tube. After commuting with it for a while, I decided it was time for a real road bike - one that could carry the weight of my work gear and double as a weekend road bike as needed. So, I began to search for a new bicycle, while keeping in mind what my daily ride was like and how much I could afford to spend.

    My screening process was simple - I began with the "must-have's": 1) Steel touring frame for durability, comfort, and utility; 2) Disc brakes for the morning descent and wet weather; 3) Triple front gears for the evening hill climb; and 4) A price under $2000 (for the wallet).

    These requirements, particularly the disc brakes, thinned the list considerably. Popular steel touring bikes like the Trek 520, Fuji Touring, and Surly Long Haul Trucker were out (no disc brakes). Many mountain-touring hybrid bikes like the Trek Portland, Cannondale Touring 2, and Novara Safari were out (aluminum frames). All sorts of fun commuting bikes from Electra, Globe, and the others companies mentioned here were out (lack of gear range for climbing steep inclines). High-end customish touring bikes from Rivendell, Waterford and Bruce Gordon were out (no disc brakes, price). Locally made, hand-built touring frames from Vanilla Bicycles, Ahearne Cycles, and others were out (price & multi-year wait time).

    After the winnowing process, I ended up with three candidates, all of which are good bikes - The Raleigh Sojourn, the Salsa Fargo, and the Kona Sutra. All three bikes met my must-haves, so the final decision was very difficult. I finally settled on the 2010 Kona Sutra, mainly because of the value/money ratio - for me, it provided the things I wanted most at the most reasonable price. Like several of the other bikes listed here, it was also available at my local bike shop, Bike Gallery.

    The Bike - An Evolution over Time



    The Kona Sutra has evolved considerably since it was first introduced in 2005. One thing that's always impressed me about Kona is that they pay attention to reviews of their bikes and make changes accordingly. While the 2006 bike was largely unchanged, the 2007 saw an upgrade to 36-spoke wheels (important for wheel strength on those long hauls), and the 2008 saw a change to bar-end shifters and the addition of front and rear pannier racks. When owners asked for a stronger rear rack, they got it in the 2009 model. The 2010 model is further evolved, with included fenders and a redesigned rear dropout (and seatstays) that makes mounting the included rack, fenders, and rear disc brake caliper a much simpler process. This was achieved by mounting the rear disc brake caliper between the chainstay and the seatstay. Another change for 2010 are the Alex XD-Lite rims, which replace the Mavic A317 rims that had been used for all of the previous models. While these wheels are similar, the Alex XD-Lite appears to be the lighter of the two, so this change may have been to shave some weight.



    Speaking of which, a primary criticism of the Kona Sutra in the past has been that it is heavy - the 2009 model weighed in at around 30 lbs. While this is certainly heavy compared to a carbon fiber racing frame, it's not surprising for a steel frame touring bike with two racks and disc brakes. Also, check out the size of the downtube compared to other touring frames - big and super strong. Personally, I would rather have a tough, durable, go-anywhere frame and component setup rather than a bike that is ten pounds lighter but becomes ten times more fragile when carrying 30 pounds over each wheel. Since planes, trains, and automobiles are all weighed with their engines included, it makes sense to weigh the bike that way too. For example, since I'm 170lbs, the 200lb total weight would only be reduced by 5% if they could cut 10lbs off the weight of the bike.

    Frame Construction

    This brings us frame construction. The Kona's frame and fork are TIG-welded butted chromoly steel. From 2005 to 2008, the Sutra was built with Italian-made Dedacciai butted chromoly tubing, but a change was made in 2009 for Kona's in-house chromoly. Whether this was a change for better or worse, it's hard to say - the build quality seems fine to me.



    Some riders, however, reported problems with frame quality on the early Sutras, mainly with braze-on attachments breaking off or being poorly aligned. From what I've read these were covered under the warranty. So far, I don't have any problems to report, and all of the braze-on points look fine and line up well. On the fork however, a Kona Project II, the braze-ons are a little crooked - nothing that's going to get in your way, but not perfectly dead-on either.

    Regarding looks, the 2010 is a bit of a departure for the Sutra. While it retains the retro-style banded Kona logo on the downtube (introduced in '08), this is the first time the bike has been equipped with dark brown tape and a brown saddle (previously all black). Given the beautiful metallic brown and powder blue color scheme, I can see why - the saddle and tape only add to the retro appeal and they really do help complete the look of the bike. For big spenders, an upgrade to a brown Brooks Saddle and Brooks leather wrap would look great as well.



    All of the frame essentials here are Kona's own - frame, fork, stem, handlebars, and seatpost. As this is the 'third generation' Sutra frame (compare the pictures of each year's model), there are no longer extra posts for cantilever/linear-pull brakes on the seat stays, of which I fully approve. There are still three water bottle mounts (although the bottom one had better be a small bottle or pump), and plenty of eyelets on the fork, seatstays, and rear dropouts. In fact, the fork has two pairs of side eyelets, plus front and rear eyelets at the dropout, plus the unused brake posts, so you're looking at ten mounting points on the front fork alone.



    As I mentioned above, the rear dropouts are different for this frame, and the seatstays are curved toward the ends instead of straight. The handlebars are Kona's take on the classic drop-bar randonneur design, with an angled grip for the drop position (as opposed to the retro smooth curve look, which I find less comfortable). The bars are wrapped in a stylish brown gel from Velo, which appears to be a faux-leather material - good for those rainy days.

    Frame Geometry

    As usual, Kona has done a great job in specifying different components sizes for different frame sizes. The crank length, handlebar width, and stem length all change as the frame size changes. Due to the sloping top tube, the bike has a very comfortable and confidence-building standover height. As a side note, the change in the rear dropout for 2010 changed the frame geometry slightly for the first time since the Sutra was introduced. The change caused the bottom bracket and standover heights to increase by about a half centimeter over last year's measurements, which in my opinion
    is a negligible change.



    Kona markets the Sutra as a Touring frame, so I decided to take a look at how its frame geometry stacks up against some competitors. Based on the various web charts, my own measurements, a test ride of a 2009 Sutra, and my own bike history, I bought the largest size available, the "60 cm". For the record, I am exactly six feet tall (183 cm) with a 35 inch (90cm) inseam (measured up to the bone) and the 60cm Sutra fits me fine so far, although due to my weirdly-proportioned body, my long inseam dictates the larger size more than anything. I may downsize the stem from an 11.5cm down to a 9 or 10cm in order to accommodate my short torso.



    Things I looks for in a touring frame are long chainstays (to avoid hitting panniers with your heels), a long wheelbase (for stability on those long rides), a 'right' amount of trail relative to the wheelbase and how I'm going to load the bike, and, if possible, a low standover height (for help getting on and off the bike when fully loaded). Because of the Sutra's mountain bike parentage, Kona already has the standover nailed, so let's look at the other three. The peer group I used for comparison includes the following bicycles: Cannondale Touring 2, Fuji Touring, Raleigh Sojurn, Salsa Fargo, Surly Long Haul Trucker, and Trek 520. I chose these because they are popular, in the right price range, and the geometry was available online. I then gathered frame geometry data the manufacturer websites, always using the closest available frame size to my 60cm. The average of these six bikes was 59.2, so I think I got it pretty close (not all companies make exactly a '60' frame).

    Chainstays

    Regarding chainstays, the Sutra's chainstays are 44 cm long, regardless of frame size. In my opinion, 44cm is about the shortest you would want for a touring chainstay, but it is still much longer than an average racing bike's chainstays of about 40cm or less. So far, I have attached my two very large Trans-It waterproof panniers to the stock racks and have had no problem at all clearing the panniers with my heels (foot size 11.5 US). In fact, despite sitting in the middle of the rack, I have far more clearance than on my old mountain bike. By the way, those panniers are well-designed but poorly constructed, and have worn out completely (broken rivets, attachments, seams) after only a few months of regular use. Avoid them.



    Chainstays
    Sutra: 44.0cm
    Peers: 45.5cm (average)
    High: 46.5cm (Salsa)
    Low: 44.0cm (Fuji)

    One of the reasons for these relatively short chainstays is probably Kona's 'compact rear triangle,' for which they list the following advantages "Short chain stays and seat stays provide a perfect balance of stability and power transfer when out of the saddle and hammering. Shorter seat stays also have less deflection during braking and accelerate quicker than longer stays." So there you have it: the rear triangle was designed with shorter chainstays in mind, which in turn affects the total wheelbase.

    Wheelbase

    Naturally, the wheelbase decision is a trade-off. A short wheelbase will make a bike more maneuverable and quicker to dodge obstacles than other, longer-wheelbase bikes. Conversely, a longer wheelbase bike is usually more stable on the long haul and at high speeds. Just like cars, a longer wheelbase means that the bike tends to travel in a straighter line. For example, it's a lot easier to spin out in a Mini Cooper than in a Mini Cooper Limo.

    As far as wheelbase goes, the Kona is also on the shorter end of the touring bike range. For the largest available frame (60cm), the Sutra's wheelbase measures 104cm, shorter than the wheelbase of the other bikes in my peer group, where the average of the peer group was 107.6cm. Granted, we're only talking a difference of three centimeters or so, but this is important to know for those of you who have size 17 feet or just prefer a long wheelbase. That aside, the Kona's wheelbase is still longer than your average racing road bike, which is typically around 100cm for a 60cm frame, and is similar to many commuter bikes.

    Wheelbase
    Sutra: 104.0cm
    Peers: 107.6cm (average)
    High: 109.9cm (Salsa)
    Low: 106.4cm (Raleigh)

    So what causes that shorter wheelbase? The Sutra has a relatively short top tube when measured horizontally (TTH), which is measured from the top of the head tube back to the seat tube, on center, pretending that the top tube is horizontal and not sloping. Kona's '60cm' Sutra has a TTH of only 58.5cm, whereas most other touring bikes seem to have little difference between TTH and their advertised size. So basically, it would appear that the Sutra frames run a bit on the small side, at least when measured by TTH.

    Another factor affecting wheelbase is that the Kona has a straight mountain-bike style fork, rather than a curved road-bike-style fork. I noticed that the other bikes equipped with disc brakes all have straight forks, while those not so equipped all have curved forks, so I can only assume that this fork choice has to do with the brakes and the strength needed to bear the load they place on the front fork. Depending on the fork offset, a curved fork could easily add a centimeter or more to the overall wheelbase, assuming all else equal. So there you have it - the wheelbase comes from a few cm less in the compact triangle discussed above, a few from the fork offset, and a few from the smallish frame.

    Besides overall stability (where the Kona excels), wheelbase also can come into play if it results in a short front-to-center measurement. This will cause your toes to hit the front wheel when you make sharp turns at low speeds. While I have occasionally notices this, it only happens when I'm going about 1 mph, so it's not much of an issue. The front-to-center does decrease by about a centimeter from the largest frame to the smallest, your shoe size would decrease as well if you needed a smaller frame.

    Trail

    A bike's trail is one of the key factors affecting its stability, especially at high speeds. In brief, the higher the trail, the faster you can go without getting front wheel shimmy. Trail can be increased with bigger wheels/tires, decreasing the head tube angle, and decreasing the fork offset (a.k.a. fork rake). From my experience, most bikes have trail measurements in the 5.0 to 6.5cm range.

    However, trail is a complex issue. As you increase trail (holding all else equal), the bike will remain stable at a higher speed, but it will also increase the minimum speed that you need in order to ride hands-free without wobbling. So adding more trail increases your minimum stable speed, but also your maximum stable speed. Many geometry wonks will tell you that a trail of 5.7 to 5.9cm is ideal for an average road bike, where you have a good trade-off between lower speed stability, maximum stable speed, and easy of cornering.

    However, this "5.7 - 5.9cm" number is assuming that everything else is equal - you have an average wheelbase and no load on the front end of the bike. If you load up the upper portion of the front end, either with a handlebar bag, high-riding panniers, or by riding on racing aero handlebars, then you would want less trail, all else equal. Many randonneuring bikes have a very short trail (around 3cm seems common) because they typically carry all their weight on the handlebars. This weight would cause a bike with high trail to swing the handlebars about in a wobbling way, especially at slow speeds, due to the 'correction effect' of trail.

    If you have a particularly long wheelbase, you need less trail to achieve the same stability. For example, tandem bikes often have trail measurements of about 5.0cm. Earlier, I took a look at the wheelbase and trail measurements of the six bikes in my peer group, and the Kona came out with the shortest wheelbase. However, regarding trail, it was in the middle of the pack either when measuring trail using rim radius alone (31.1cm radius for all bikes) or when measuring trail using the specified tire radius for each bike (33.5 to 36.5cm radius, depending on the tire). The Salsa had the highest trail due to its huge "29er" tires; mounting regular 700cx32 tires would place it closer to the middle of the pack. With tires included, the average trail of six peer group bikes was 6.42cm, and the Kona near the middle at 6.16cm. Likewise, the peer average with no tires was 5.07cm, and the Kona was near the middle with 5.09cm.

    Trail with Tires (r=33.5 to r=36.5cm)
    Sutra: 6.16cm
    Peers: 6.42cm (average)
    High: 7.28cm (Salsa)
    Low: 5.87 (Trek)

    Trail with No Tires (r=31.1cm for all)
    Sutra: 5.09cm
    Peers: 5.07cm (average)
    High: 5.95cm (Salsa)
    Low: 4.75 (Trek

    Overall stability is much more affected by trail than wheelbase - note that an average tandem bike has a wheelbase about 50% larger than that of a conventional bike but only sees a 15% drop in trail, if that. With just a bit higher trail than the 'ideal' for an average bike, and just a bit longer wheelbase than the average road bike, the Kona should remain very stable without sacrificing too much low-speed handling. Indeed, I found this to be the exactly the case - the geometry of the Kona is perfect for its intended purpose.

    While the 60cm Surly Long Haul Trucker, with its 6.8cm trail and 108cm wheelbase, is renowned for its stability, it felt too wobbly to ride without hands, and I would definitely not want to ride it with a loaded handlebar bag. Where the Surly shines is at high speed on the open road, where that long trail and long wheelbase is really going to keep you plowing along in a straight line. However, the Kona is still very stable on the flats, and unless you were going really fast downhill, I think I would choose the Sutra's handling over that of the LHT. Interestingly, the venerable Trek 520 had the lowest trail of the peer group (5.9cm), and an about average wheelbase, and yet it is still a very stable and popular long-distance touring bike.

    I know this has been quite a bit on geometry, but in my opinion, frame geometry is very important for ending up with a comfortable, long-term bicycle, especially one as versatile and useful as the Sutra.
    Last edited by thermador; 10-11-10 at 01:00 PM. Reason: fixed image

  2. #2
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    Ride Quality

    Thanks to the well-thought-out geometry discussed above, I didn't notice any stability issues with the Sutra. In fact, I would say that it is one of the more stable bikes I've owned, especially when carrying weight. I enjoy riding hands-free on those long, flat stretches with high visibility and no obstacles - the Kona never leaned, wobbled, or wiggled. Riding handsfree uphill in your climbing gears is a bit more difficult because of the slower speed, but it's still doable.



    Going down the windy, heavily wooded multi-use path poses no problem - the handling is sharp and agile enough to easily navigate the twists and turns. Besides the multiuse path and residential roads, my commute also takes me through some rough dirt paths and down a rocky trail alongside railroad tracks. I wouldn't recommend the rocky paths for this bike - my suspended mountain bike with wider tires did much better. However, if you put on some wider, knobby tires, which the Kona can accommodate, you've got yourself a fire road tourer that could easily compete with the Salsa Fargo.



    Regarding comfort, the bike comes with a very nice looking brown WTB Rocket V Comp, which has been acceptable so far. I personally don't care much for road bike seats, preferring a cushier seat to having to wear ridiculous padded lycra shorts, but that aside, the WTB is a fine saddle. The matching Velo gel grips are superb, offering plenty of hand comfort. This was a wise choice, as a rigid fork usually transfers up more of the bumps in the road than a curved fork, so you're definitely going to need that extra padding. Overall ergonomics of the bike work out well, and climbing out of the saddle is comfortable. As noted above, cruising handsfree is easy, and despite the bike's weight, getting down in the drops can really get you going pretty darn fast. As others have remarked about the Sutra, it rides like a much lighter bike - it just feels like it wants to go, go, go.

    Components

    Kona has kept the components fairly similar over the years since the Sutra was introduced. In general, the component list is pretty normal for a bike in this price range. The 2010 model's components are mainly Shimano - both derailleurs, shifters, and hubs, as well as the chain and freewheel. The cranks are FSA Omega triple, with 50/39/30 chainrings.



    The rear cassette is a nine speed Shimano HG50 11/32. This makes for a 27 speed layout, with plenty of gearing for spinning up hills. After a quick calculation of the gearing of this bike, the range is nice and broad with a difference between top and bottom gain ratios of 7.10, and that 50-11 top gear certainly won't slow you down on the flats. However, if you're going to be spinning up passes in the Andes carrying 100lbs, you may want to go up to a 34 in the rear and/or down to a 28 in the front.



    The Shimano bar-end shifters take a little getting used to (if you're accustomed to thumbies like me), but once you get in the groove, they're actually quite nice. The left shifter has no pre-determined gear stops, but the right one has a D-ring that allows you to switch between a clicker to help you find the gears or clickerless friction shifting. I really enjoyed riding with the clicker until I got used to the 9-speed layout. Both the rear XT derailleur and front Tiagra give you smooth and accurate shifts.



    The wheels are 36-spoke Alex XD-lite double-wall disc-specific 700c diameter. While the 700c vs. 26inch debate goes continues, let me just say that because the bike is equipped with disc brakes, it is possible to switch to 26in wheels, provided they are equipped with the same brake rotors and tall enough tires that the overall diameter doesn't change too much.



    The rear rack is a Racktime Add-It (Racktime is a Tubus subsidiary). The rack has a lower set of rails so that you can haul panniers and a 'bike trunk' bag on top of the rack at the same time, as well as mounting points on the back for lights and reflectors. This rack is incredible - it's tough, well-designed, and sits far enough back on the bike that you can load up some pretty big bags.



    The front rack, an MEC Front Suspension Lowrider, includes a hoop for stability and is adjustable enough to fit nicely around the disc brakes, which can be an issue for other racks. However, the front rack is not nearly as well built as the rear one, and it seems like it could have came with more washers at the attachment points. I grabbed a few extras out of my garage, so this was an easy fix. I only have one set of bags right now, so I wasn't able to test the front rack in a loaded state. While plenty strong in their own right, both racks are aluminum alloy, so they won't be as durable for rough-road, long distance, third-world touring as more expensive steel racks.



    Brakes were, of course, an important factor for me. Since the beginning, the Sutra has been equipped with Avid BB7 Road disc brakes with 6 inch rotors. These are non-hydraulic disc brakes, so while you will have to occasionally adjust the cable tension, you won't have to flush the brake fluid, bleed air out, or worry about the brake fluid boiling on long descents. The stopping power of the BB7s is pretty incredible - I kept thinking "Oh my God, these brakes; these brakes, oh my God."



    Disc brakes have many other advantages as well, but the most important one for me was the fact that they typically stop equally as well in wet conditions as dry. I won't get into a detailed discussion of disc brakes and touring here, but rather I think it suffices to say that a) the BB7 is one of the best cable-pull disc brake on the market today, and b) many people have successfully toured with them. New pads cost $18 to $24 a pair, and you will typically have to replace them more often if you ride in the rain. The pads took a few rides to get seated, so know that when you first hop on the bike, you won't have full braking power.



    Side note: if you're thinking of equipping your bike with disc brakes, know that forks, rear triangles, and wheels as specifically designed to take the extra force that disc brakes exert. Installing disc brakes on a bike not meant for them is a recipe for a broken fork and a nasty wreck.
    Last edited by thermador; 10-11-10 at 01:04 PM. Reason: fixed images

  3. #3
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    Building a Better World

    To me, an important piece of a purchase decision is who I am buying something from. Everyone can affect change in the world by voting with their dollars. Why do I buy most of my beer from New Belgium? Besides making great beer, they are a great company, and I would like to see more companies follow their lead.



    Like many bike companies, Kona is involved in cycling advocacy and event sponsorship, but where they really shine is with their AfricaBike program and Basic Needs program. For every two AfricaBike's sold, Kona donates another one to a 'good works cause in challenged areas around the world.' Typically, this is Africa, where Kona has donated over 2,500 bikes since 2006. The Basic Needs program helps organize the donation program and raise funds for other humanitarian bicycle projects. Kona has also received the "Silver" accolade from the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Business.

    As far as my local bike shop, I won't deny that the main reason that I purchased the Sutra from Bike Gallery is that it's the closest bike shop to my house and it's is on my way to work. That aside, however, Bike Gallery is currently one of only four businesses that has won the "Platinum" Bicycle Friendly Business award (New Belgium is also a Platinum winner). They are very active in the local cycling community with advocacy, outreach, and charitable giving. My only gripe about Bike Gallery is that they must have got distracted halfway through putting my bike together, as I found a lot of loose bolts, including three eyelets in the frame that I could unscrew by hand, and the rear wheel quick release being loose enough that I could open and close the cam with just my pinky finger. Of course, everyone should inspect their bike bike before riding it - maybe I'm just a perfectionist.

    Pricing

    It is pretty rare that the MSRP of a bike decreases over the years. The 2005 Kona Sutra was introduced at $1,299, which in 2008 dollars would be about $1,420 (based on the CPI). Instead, the 2009 and 2010 models were both priced at only $1,199 - that's about 15% less. While the components have changed somewhat (downgrade of cranks, brake levers, and front derailleur over time), Kona has undeniably improved the overall frame design over the years, and the price is still very fair. This was probably done in order to keep the bike priced well versus the competition - there are many fine touring bikes selling for just-over-$1,000 range, but not so many in higher ranges. People spending over $2,000 are more likely to go with a custom built bike to their specifications.

    One thing I like to do when looking at a bike is to add up the cost of the components - anything I can find a price for - and see how much the frame and fork cost. For the Kona, I averaged the prices I could find at two popular online retailers, and I came up with a frame-and-fork price for the Kona of about $430 - pretty comparable to other touring frames, such as the Long Haul Trucker, and cheaper than the Salsa Fargo frame. Note that I used estimated prices for handlebars, stem, seatpost and spokes by finding the cheapest available.

    Given everything I have discussed in this review, it's no surprise that the first batch of 2010 Kona Sutra's is already sold out in most sizes - I predict this will be a very popular bicycle this year, as more and more people look for versatile, do-anything machines like this one.

    Conclusion

    Pros:
    - Versatile, well designed frame
    - Tons of attachment options
    - Strong and stable ride
    - Excellent brakes
    - Nicely equipped, especially rear rack
    - Good company
    - Good price

    Cons:
    - No kickstand (although there's nothing to stop you from mounting one)
    - The very tall and/or big-footed might have trouble finding a frame that fits
    - If you don't need the durability and carrying capacity, there are lighter road bikes available

    Specifications

    Bike: Kona Sutra (2010 model)
    MSRP: $1199 (Suggested Retail, Price Subject to Change)
    Frame sizes (cm): C49cm, C52cm, C54cm, C56cm, C58cm, C60cm
    Frame sizes (in): 19.3in, 20.5in, 21.3in, 22.0in, 22.8in, 23.6in
    Frame tubing: Kona Custom Butted Cromoly
    Fork: Kona Project 2 Disc Cromoly (w/ Lowrider rack attachments)
    Headset: FSA TH
    Crankarms: FSA Omega (49=165, 52-54=170, 56=172.5, 58-60=175mm)
    Chainrings: 50/39/30
    B/B: FSA MegaExo
    Pedals: None included
    Chain: Shimano HG53
    Freewheel: Shimano HG50 (11-32, 9spd)
    F/D: Shimano Tiagra
    R/D: Shimano XT
    Shifters: Shimano Bar-Con
    Handlebar: Kona Sweeper (31.8mm, 49=400, 52-54=420, 56-60=440mm)
    Stem: Kona Road (6 , 49-52=90, 54-56=100, 58-60=115mm)
    Grips: Velo Wrap Gel
    Brakes: Avid BB7 Road Disc 6"
    Brake Levers: Tektro RL-520A
    Front hub: Shimano M525 Disc
    Rear hub: Shimano M525 Disc
    Spokes: Sandvik Stainless 14g
    Tires: Continental Contact 700x32C
    Rims: Alex XD-Lite (36 hole)
    Saddle: WTB Rocket V Comp
    Seatpost: Kona Road Deluxe
    Seat clamp: Kona Clamp Primo
    Color: Metallic Brown
    Front Rack: MEC "Front Suspension Lowrider" tubular alloy
    Rear Rack: Racktime "Add-It" tubular alloy
    Frame Origin: Taiwan
    Weight: Approx 30lbs

    Disclosure
    I purchased the 2010 Kona Sutra used for this road test with my own money at full retail price. I was not compensated for writing this review, and I have not discussed details of the review with the manufacturer or my local bike shop. While there is, of course, an unpreventable conflict of interest that I may give this bike an overly favorable review in order to justify my own purchase, I have done my best to remain as objective as possible, both during the initial writing and in revisions.
    Last edited by thermador; 10-11-10 at 01:05 PM. Reason: Updated specs: Headset = FSA, Frame Origin = Taiwan, Weight = Approx 30lbs

  4. #4
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    Wow- what a fantastic review. It makes me wish I was in the market for one of these.

  5. #5
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    Nicely done. Sutra wasn't on my short list before. Now I might have to add it.
    Did I miss the final weight. or did you not post it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by truman View Post
    Nicely done. Sutra wasn't on my short list before. Now I might have to add it.
    Did I miss the final weight. or did you not post it?
    Unfortunately, I forgot to weigh it fully equipped at the bike shop, but I would estimate that since the frame tubing and other components are mostly unchanged from last years model, it's probably 30 lbs +/- a few.

    I could write a whole diatribe on how weight-obsessed the biking world has become in the last few decades, but to sum it up, I personally don't think bike weight is that big of an issue unless you're riding in the velodrome and you're as ripped as Bruce Lee.

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    It's true, man.
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    'Obsessive' is an overstatement - in my case, at least. I'm 'interested'. Mainly because a delta of 3-5 lbs of bike weight make a significant difference in my enjoyment of long climbs. It also seemed like a natural point to include in such an otherwise very thorough review.

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    Nice review! Looks like a really nice setup. I just built up a Soma Doublecross DC as more of a light tourer/commuter/randonneur. This bike looks like it would be a great adventurer touring bike.

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    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Nice review!

    Speedo

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    The Sutra looks very good. If Kona has solved the braze-on issue, it's a pretty-killer deal for the price.

    (This review is so detailed, it's scary!)
    Last edited by njkayaker; 10-13-09 at 04:14 PM.

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    Thanks for the thorough review. It's well written with very good pictures.

    I like the rear dropouts and brake mount, which gets you around the obvious rack mounting conflicts of conventional dropouts/disc brake mount.

    I don't like the shortish chainstays. My size 45 shoes clear my not-the-largest-panniers on my LHT by 20-25mm. On the Sutra it would be 0-5mm. If I were to don neoprene overboots, then the Sutra would be unridable with rear panniers.

    I don't like the P2 fork. I've run it and 2 other forks on my LHT, and the P2 is the worst at transmitting every single bit of road irregularity to my hands, even with larger, lower-pressure tires. Really beats you up. Also, the mid-leg mounting hole is drilled at the wrong height for many front racks. On the LHT, my rack cannot be mounted level, looks just like your picture. Over time the panniers tend to walk off the rack.

    I'd prefer the Sutra be sold without racks. Many people have their own preferences on racks and bags, so this ends up being wasted money for many customers.

    I went through the same bike evaluation as yourself, and decided I'd rather buy a LHT with correct frame geometry and just add a front disc brake. When you build them up from parts, a $47 avid bb7 is easy to choose vs cantis at nearly the same (or even greater) price. Only hard/expensive part is the fork.

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    Kona Sutra - sex on two wheels!

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    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    I don't like the shortish chainstays. My size 45 shoes clear my not-the-largest-panniers on my LHT by 20-25mm. On the Sutra it would be 0-5mm. If I were to don neoprene overboots, then the Sutra would be unridable with rear panniers.
    Yes, size 45 would be about size 11.5 US, same as me. I haven't had a problem at all though, even with the panniers mounter 'forward' on the rack. I would say this is because the rack on the Sutra is mounted pretty far back compared to some of the other bike I looked at. That said, I don't think anyone with an inseam over 36" (91.4cm) or shoe size 12 would really fit well on this bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    I don't like the P2 fork. I've run it and 2 other forks on my LHT, and the P2 is the worst at transmitting every single bit of road irregularity to my hands, even with larger, lower-pressure tires. Really beats you up.
    There's no denying the fork, like a lot of disc-compatible forks, is pretty stiff, but it hasn't bothered me much yet. Do you have any recommendations for alternatives? I haven't seen any that weren't either just as stiff or made from carbon fiber (Trek Portland et al.)

    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    Also, the mid-leg mounting hole is drilled at the wrong height for many front racks. On the LHT, my rack cannot be mounted level, looks just like your picture. Over time the panniers tend to walk off the rack.
    The rack can actually be mounted pretty close to level, that was just how the bike shop set it up. I have since taken the rack off though, as I don't need it for day to day riding. While the included front rack is OK, there are a lot better racks out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    I'd prefer the Sutra be sold without racks. Many people have their own preferences on racks and bags, so this ends up being wasted money for many customers.
    Yes, I would like to see the same, or at least, with a rear rack only, since most people probably don't use the front much. The rear rack truly is excellent though.

  14. #14
    Senior Member semperfi1970's Avatar
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    Sweet looking rig. Great job on the review.
    Its more than just a bicycle, it changed my life.

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    Fantastic review. Just ordered a Volpe and a now second guessing my decision. Will likely stick to the Volpe, as I will not be carrying much loads, and would prefer the lighter bike.

    Chose the Volpe also for its brifters but now wondering if bar ends are better from POV of a big handlebar bag.

    I know your theory on weight but just the same is possible to weigh the bike? Just to get an idea.

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    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    Call me shallow but I just dont like the angle on that top tube. I think its ugly and ruins and "retro" look.

    Other than that and the disk brakes I really like your set up. That rear rack does look like a keeper! Although, I have toured on short chainstay bikes before and tried solving the problem with a long rear rack. It did not work out well, I had some much rear shimmy from the load being behind the rear axel that it was almost unridable on decents.

    Great review and thanks for all the time you put into it!

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    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Very nice review; thanks for posting such a thorough and well written overview of this bike.

    I noticed recently that they have a new disc brake road bike, the ***** Inc., that is new (I think) for 2010. Might be interesting for all-season commuters who don't want something quite as heavy/rugged as the Sutra:

    http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=honkyinc

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    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    I know your theory on weight but just the same is possible to weigh the bike? Just to get an idea.
    Yes, I can do the bathroom scale method at home one of these days, but I will try to take it down to the bike shop this weekend for a more accurate weigh-in. I would have to take all of my commuting gear off of the bike first though.

    Quote Originally Posted by zeppinger View Post
    Call me shallow but I just dont like the angle on that top tube. I think its ugly and ruins and "retro" look.
    I agree, it would look more retro with a level top tube, but the reason I always buy sloping tube bikes is because of what happened to a friend of mine - severe testicular injury. A matter of personal preference more than anything.

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    Wow. Earlier this year I bought the 2009 sutra (my first touring bike!), and and I wish there had been a review that good for that. I guess by the time I was done researching, I could have posted something like this.

    I agree with thermador on almost everything (obviously, since I got basically the same bike): HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for tourers who want disc-brakes. There are better options for light-tourers/commuters, but this is a workhorse for long self-supported rides.

    I also agree on need to put a 34 in the back and a 28 up front (that is what I did). No bike comes with the right gearing for most people.

    The 2010 is an improvement in the rear triangle solution for disc brakes, and I have to admit, color. But I prefer my '09 because it is the only frame I've ever seen that has mounts for both canti and disc. Not important, but I love versatility.

    And the Kona braze-on alignment thing is still going on. Nothing on mine was off or causing problems, but I will say that they were sloppy. Basically the same thing thermador noticed.

    So if you are reading this because you are interested in getting a 2010 Sutra, just know that a 2009 would still be a great deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malchron View Post
    I also agree on need to put a 34 in the back and a 28 up front (that is what I did). No bike comes with the right gearing for most people.
    The stock gearing has so far worked for me, except for one 'shortcut' hill on my commute that I can't climb anymore. Even on my old 28/34 mountain bike, it was a struggle, as the front tire wouldn't stay on the ground, but if I stood up out of the saddle, the back tire would slip.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malchron View Post
    And the Kona braze-on alignment thing is still going on. Nothing on mine was off or causing problems, but I will say that they were sloppy. Basically the same thing thermador noticed
    Yep, the braze-ons on my frame are totally fine, but the ones on the fork could use a little improvement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malchron View Post
    So if you are reading this because you are interested in getting a 2010 Sutra, just know that a 2009 would still be a great deal.
    I almost bought a 2009 model, but I didn't like the bright green as well as the brown. If you're in Portland, Bike Gallery is selling them for $1,049 and their website says they have all of the sizes in stock.

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    brilliant photography

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    interesting rear brake cable routing. is it well protracted from the crank arms and your heels, etc.?

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    Quote Originally Posted by enfilade View Post
    brilliant photography
    Thanks! I wouldn't say that it is though, just an old Canon Powershot.

    Quote Originally Posted by jgsatl View Post
    interesting rear brake cable routing. is it well protracted from the crank arms and your heels, etc.?
    I noticed this too. I haven't had a problem at all with the cable routing, but I ride fairly wide flat touring pedals most of the time, so the likelihood of my foot hitting it is low. The routing is weird, with three downtube braze-ons for the rear brake cable, but the cable is very solid.

    Quote Originally Posted by truman View Post
    Did I miss the final weight. or did you not post it?
    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    I know your theory on weight but just the same is possible to weigh the bike? Just to get an idea.
    I took my gear off the bike and weighed it, with a pair of aluminum touring pedals, using the extremely accurate and reliable bathroom scale method, after zeroing the scale on the concrete garage floor. The bike came in at exactly 30lbs every time. Not much of a surprise given that past models have weighed this much, it has two racks on it, and the tubes are super-huge for durability and carrying capacity - compare the Kona Sutra to Kona's steel fixie frame:




  24. #24
    Bike Nerd Mr. Jim's Avatar
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    One of the nicer written reviews I have read. Glad to see it posted. Sutra was on my list in 08, I went with the LHT based on some things I didn't like, things that appear to have been fixed. I have a feeling if I were in the market today the Sutra would have won my dollars.
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    just got my job back.. might get one of these!

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