- On long days, I don’t feel like I’ve been fighting the bike all day. I feel very comfortable on the top, hoods, and in the drops, and I attribute this to the riding position.
- The bike climbs quite well. I keep wondering if I’m in good shape, but that can’t be it.
- I feel almost too confident when descending. The bike tracks well on loose gravel and packed trails.
- The frame is slightly heavier than I would have expected, but the ride is smooth, especially when carrying gear.
- The fork really cuts down the chop on washboard, and choppy roads. This also contributes heavily to fighting fatigue on long days.
If you know me, you are probably aware that I’ve been a fan of Kona for quite a long time. Five of the eight bikes that I own are made by them, and I have my eye on the new Private Jake for the upcoming season of cross. I worked at a couple different Kona dealers over the years and have gotten to know the folks over there fairly well. I’ve always been impressed with how they run their show, and their attitude and aesthetic are in line with mine. When they approached me early this year to test out a new bike, I was curious about what they had in mind. It turns out they designed a bike for exactly the type of riding I like to do. So that’s pretty neat! Kona is primarily known for their mountain bikes, and for good reason. Joe Murray was their first bike designer, and in the 25 plus years they have consistently innovated and pushed the industry. They’ve taken some risks in that time, some of which have paid off and others that have not. These days they offer a wide variety of cross, road, and commuter bikes to round out their catalog. In 2013 they dipped their toes into the adventure bike market with the introduction of the Rove. This little niche called “bikepacking” was beginning to move from the shadows to the mainstream, and the Rove had the ability to mix it up on all sorts of terrain. But it didn’t quite handle as nimbly once loaded down with camping gear, although I’ve known quite a few people who have ridden their Rove’s on some incredible tours (hey Charlie!). At Kona, Ian Schmitt handles the production of this particular category of bikes, and he wanted to create something capable of much more. That is where the Kona Sutra LTD comes in. (Spoiler alert: I love this bike!) For 2016, both Sutra models received an updated geometry, although the classic model maintains the Brooks saddle, rack, fenders, and 3×9 spec. The LTD differs with a 1×11 SRAM Rival drivetrain and hydraulic brakes. Across the size range, they maintain a 72mm BB drop and 71 degree head tube angle. The fork is offset 50mm and has mounts for waterbottles on each leg. I am 5’8″ and have been riding the Medium (52cm). The bike is equipped with the standard array of rack mounts, but I prefer soft bags for off road touring. Porcelain Rocket makes excellent gear for this purpose, and I’ve used this setup on the Oregon Outback and a handful of 2-3 night trips since receiving the bike. Adjusting to the drop bars took a bit of time, but the hydraulic Rival hoods and wide bars are quite comfortable. The 1×11 shifting is crisp and I rarely run out of gears, either top or bottom. The 36×10-42 setup offers enough variety to tackle just about any terrain it would seem. The brakes are smooth and have plenty of modulation, which is new for me after using BB7s for the last couple of years. It’s hard to really know a bike after a short amount of time, but a few things have been clear from the start.