Kona Sutra - and touring bikes in general

deejayen

Veteran
I'm curious about the Kona Sutra, and what they're like to ride. Are they a bit 'overbuilt' and slow\ponderous for general riding? I'm also wondering about comfort. I've not had a touring bike, although I have a, albeit long-retired, Kona Jake The Snake which I remember as being a bit of a lump, with not very-responsive handling. However, it did metamorphose into my winter bike with studded tyres and fixed wheel, so it's more than likely that ended up skewing my opinion of it.

How is the Sutra likely to compare with other popular touring bikes (eg Thorn, Surly, Oxford Bike Works, Spa etc etc)?
 
I have the Kona Sutra ltd, essentially the off road version of the bike, with the same frame but different finishing kit.

I noticed many online reviews of my bike referred to the sluggish handling unloaded. I must say though, I really don't find it myself. It's not a fast road bike by any stretch, but I also don't find it ponderous. They do have a long wheel base and relatively slack geometry, so it is never going to be a quick handling bike, but as a general do it all bike they are really good.

I expect tire choice will affect this as well, I'm running 44mm off-road tires, which are never going to have lively handling on road. If you're looking at the stock Sutra, then you'll have narrower, faster rolling tires.

Comfort wise, I can't compare it too other contemporary tourers, however, compared to my old Dawes Super Galaxy, it's leagues ahead. I find it super comfy and will happily ride long days with no problems. Fully loaded it's also a lovely handling bike and will cope easily with long tours.
 
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deejayen

Veteran
I remember the old Raleigh Royals - smart bike, and I always think horizontal top tubes look better!

However, the Kona seems to be well liked by owners, and although it's not a classic-looking bike, and has disc brakes, it sounds like it's good at what it was designed to do.

I've been riding recumbents for years, but have begun to look around at 'normal' bikes. I began considering a Brompton, then watched a few touring videos and came across the Sutra. Then there's a classic road bike (eg Wilier Superleggera)...!

Chris, what is it you find comfy about the Sutra? Is it the ride quality with wide-ish tyres, or the geometry and fit?
 
The overall fit is perfect for me, the bars are not too low compared to the saddle height and it just feels right. Some bikes will give me neck or wrist ache after 6 hours and no amount of adjustment seems to find the right fit, the Sutra has just been right from the off.

There are some elements of the ltd though that do contribute to the comfort, that aren't present on the normal Sutra. For example the bars are 460mm wide and mildly flared, combined with a 70mm stem it makes for a lovely comfy set up. Off-road it's a lovely responsive bike that is relatively easy to hustle down some impressive single track. On road it will just cruise along all day.

One element that did pleasantly surprise me was the frame. I know folk like to wax lyrical about 531 steel and having ridden one for years, I know myself that they are nice. However, the Sutra has fat unbranded cromoloy steel tubes and surprisingly it's a really nice frame, that in my view is comparable to 531.
 
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deejayen

Veteran
Thanks, Chris. It sounds really good.

If you don't mind me asking, roughly what height are you, and what size of frame do you have? I'm about 6ft and quite skinny.

My Jake The Snake is a 58cm, but I've seen mention that the Sutra sizes quite large, and riders upwards of 6' 3" are riding a 58cm bike.

However, a smaller frame might mean the handlebars are low relative to the saddle.
 
Thanks, Chris. It sounds really good.

If you don't mind me asking, roughly what height are you, and what size of frame do you have? I'm about 6ft and quite skinny.

My Jake The Snake is a 58cm, but I've seen mention that the Sutra sizes quite large, and riders upwards of 6' 3" are riding a 58cm bike.

However, a smaller frame might mean the handlebars are low relative to the saddle.
When you start to get into this level of detail its probably time to take a look at (effective) top tube length as a more pertinent measure of frame size. Interestingly Spa cycles makes two versions of its Wayfarer touring frame a 'long' and a 'short', the theory being that folks using drop bars will want a slightly shorter top tube than those using flats. I'm saving up my pennies for a 58cm frameset, intending to buy a 'long' but fitting drop bars to it to take account of my long back (AKA wee Scottish legs). I'm six foot one.

601277
 

videoman

Veteran
Location
Staffordshire
I have a Kona Sutra 2021 which is the touring version of the Ltd and I find it very comfy with bar end shifters which take a bit of getting used to after using STIs for a number of years. Just need the opportunity now to try a bit of touring with probably rack and panniers but as standard find it handles roads, canal towpaths and gravel tracks very well on the standard 40mm Schwalbe Mondials and standard Brooks B17 saddle.
 

biggs682

Smile a mile bike provider
Location
Northamptonshire
Never had a Kona but have had 3 Koga's which are highly regarded in the bike touring and long distance riding worlds and yes they can be plodders but on the other hand they can actually go along at a good old speed at times
 
Location
London
Never had a Kona but have had 3 Koga's which are highly regarded in the bike touring and long distance riding worlds and yes they can be plodders but on the other hand they can actually go along at a good old speed at times
have never understood Koga's apparent enthusiasm for ally on their newer bikes, particularly as they are pitched at the top end of the market.
 
Thanks, Chris. It sounds really good.

If you don't mind me asking, roughly what height are you, and what size of frame do you have? I'm about 6ft and quite skinny.

My Jake The Snake is a 58cm, but I've seen mention that the Sutra sizes quite large, and riders upwards of 6' 3" are riding a 58cm bike.

However, a smaller frame might mean the handlebars are low relative to the saddle.
Apologies for the late reply. Yeah, the Kona is a little large feeling, but that may be the long wheelbase and fat tires. I'm 5.10 ish and my frame is a 54. Looking side on the bars are about level with the saddle, with plenty of scope to move them lower or a little bit up.

I'm not terribly good with understanding all the frame measurement stuff though, I know there was a guy here who purchased a croix der fer and did all kinds of detailed comparisons with the geometry of the Kona. There were some interesting difference's, but it was a little over my head I'm afraid.

All I know is the 54cm fits me well and I've easily ridden over 100 kilometres off-road fully loaded and still felt good.
 
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deejayen

Veteran
Thanks very much.

It's the touring version I'm interested in.

It's helpful to know about the sizing. It sounds like I should consider the 56cm as well as the 58cm. I think the Kona chart suggests I could ride either. I'm not looking to buy right away, but it seems that not many dealers have them in stock. I'm not sure if there are any dealers near me, either. I bought my Jake The Snake from Halfords when they were Kona dealers, and it was good to be able to sit on it and try it for size.

I'm hopeless at reading geometry charts, too. I'm never sure that bikes I have are the 'best fit', so I wouldn't necessarily buy a frame which matched an existing bike. It's also difficult to know what different measurements would feel like in real life, especially as position can be tweaked to some extent, and the human body is relatively adaptable. When I read charts I always think that a few mm here and there won't make much difference, but it obviously does!
 

T4tomo

Guru
I'm hopeless at reading geometry charts, too. I'm never sure that bikes I have are the 'best fit', so I wouldn't necessarily buy a frame which matched an existing bike. It's also difficult to know what different measurements would feel like in real life, especially as position can be tweaked to some extent, and the human body is relatively adaptable. When I read charts I always think that a few mm here and there won't make much difference, but it obviously does!
Top tube / reach is the most important measurement, as that is hardest to adjust with the moveable parts on the bike (seat post, saddle position, stem, spacers, bar rotation) without causing issues elsewhere
 
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