very stable even when fully loaded
Unbreakable after rough dirt road on Continental Contacts 32 mm
Long shoes might touch front wheel when turning
Owned this 2013 model for a year and finally done a 400 km 4 day tour in Vic alpine area. The Sutra was faultless except after normally riding a 7 kg Giant Tcr the 37 kg loaded Sutra was heavy and slow. With 4 Ortlieb panniers and 30km of rough bush dirt road crossing many steep spurs the bike never missed a beat not even a puncture or loose spoke when I expected wheel damage at every rock and hole hit. It is very sturdy and appears ready to tour many kms yet. I am very impressed.
Strengths: Smooth and controllable ride, feels lighter than it actually is, very confident at speed
Weaknesses: none, designed well, very versatile frameset
Sweet Dedacciai butted steel frameset with Ritchey dropouts, versatile design, very durable component spec. Can set it up anyway I like, even cyclocross, wheels are bombproof. Feels heavy but rides as though pounds lighter, rides as though on rails, very predictable, nimble not squirly. The weight did put me off when testing but damn I loved the way this bike felt on the road. Almost pulled the trigger on a C'Dale Caad5 at 18 lbs... still think about that bike when I'm riding the Sutra. No regrets, however. Still a Caad5 at LBS but the Sutra is gone.
Strengths: Strong frame
Aggressive geometry for good climbing capability
Fitting new parts can be fiddly
Kona Sutra 2008 - Long Term Review
Having owned the 2008 Kona Sutra for ten months, and just completed the first chain/cassette replacement, I thought it was about time for a long term review, to give other people an idea of what living with the Sutra has been like. My previous post explains why I chose the Sutra - I came up with what I thought was an impossibly eclectic list of requirements from a bicycle, and the Sutra ticked every single box.
My primary (i.e. 99% of the time) use of the Sutra has been for commuting. I have covered over 2700 miles (4500km) in the time I have owned it. My commuting route through London is pretty tough on bikes - the roads south of the Thames are awful and full of potholes, through the City there is broken glass all over the place, and further north of the river there are speedbumps everywhere. When I first got the Sutra she was wearing Continental Contact tyres, and they were pretty poor for commuting. They punctured easily and transmitted the bumpiness of the road right up into my forearms. Not much fun. After one puncture too many I replaced the tyres with Schwalbe Marathon Pluses, in their largest diameter, and the difference was marked. The increased volume of air provides a lot more cushioning for the arms, and I have not had a single puncture yet, despite having pulled 6mm long pieces of glass out of the tyre surfaces. The tyres are relatively heavy, but then so is the rest of the bike, and extra weight makes you stronger!
The original rear rack was pretty flimsy, and it did not allow the attachment of the Bikebin panniers I bought to try and add some rigidity. I ended up having to angle grind chunks out of the rack to fit the panniers, which can't have improved their structural integrity. After a month of experiencing the odd sensation of the bike wagging its tail whenever I stood up to pedal hard, I bit the bullet and upgraded the rack to a Tubus Logo. It was a tight fit with the rear disc brake, but the difference was immense. Gone was the sensation of a jelly-like bike, to be replaced by a sensation of rigid stability. Whilst the rack was expensive, it made all the difference, and I would highly recommend it.
Speaking of the brakes, they have saved my life on more than one occasion, usually when a Taxi decides to perform an emergency stop to pick up a fare. The brakes stop consistently in all conditions, and so far I have not had to replace the pads, althoguh I think it will be time to do it soon. Not bad considering I have travelled almost five thousand kilometres in all weathers in the stop-start conditions of London. I was concerned that the brakes might be too powerful, but the modulation provided by the levers and the flex in the arm of the brake means that whilst the power is there if necessary, you have a lot of control over it. There is some disc drag, but this is owing more to my laziness than the brakes themselves, and seems to have little impact on cruising speeds.
Using the bike in all conditions has been excellent. The all-over fenders (something I have never fitted to a bike previously) really keep the rain off and eliminate spray from the road. I had to saw a bit of the front fender off to fit it over the larger tyres, and a little bit off the rear for the same reason, but after the modification they have been flawless.
I had heard reports of spokes snapping, and nothing happened to me until recently, when I noticed a detached spoke whilst replacing the rear cassette. I had no idea how long the spoke had been damaged for, and replaced it myself. The rear wheel is slightly askew, but it does not foul on anything, which is good considering the small tolerance between it and the fender. To be fair, I have been jumping off kerbs and sometimes it is impossible to miss a massive hole in the road when you are in busy traffic. An upgrade I am considering is a stronger rear wheel, although it is not pressingly urgent.
The ride of the bike is super smooth, and certainly not anything like the road bikes I am used to. I use my other road bike for triathlons, and whilst it is a lot more nimble, it is much less comfortable. The Sutra is comfortable all day long, owing in no small part to the Brooks B17 saddle, which took about two thousand miles to properly break in! It was worth it though - sitting on the bike is like sitting in an armchair (albeit a very odd armchair, but an armchair nonetheless). I tend to cruise at about 20mph on her, and my 10.5 mile commute to work takes about 37 minutes. I have started seeking out hills in preparation for some touring of Wales, and the sutra certainly loves to climb. The aggressive, mountain-bike-like frame geometry no doubt assists in this, and is confidence inspiring when climbing and descending. The bar-con shifters were a novelty for me, but they make a lot of sense, especially if replacement shifters were needed on a tour. There are even bosses on the downtube to fit truly old-school shifters in an emergency.
The weight of the bike was a shock initially - weighing in at 15kgs without the accessories, she weighs significantly more than my Specialized Hardrock mountain bike, which is saying something! Over time I have become accustomed to the weight, and now it feels normal. The main advantage of this is that when I ride anything else, it feels super light and goes very rapidly. This makes this bike an ideal training steed.
In conclusion, I have found a lot to love about the Kona Sutra - she's tough, strong and surprisingly fast. There were some niggles about fitting add-ons, but they were all easy to overcome, and the result has been a reliable bike that I think will keep delivering for years.
Strengths: Sliding dropouts make switching from single-speed to geared and back very easy. Comfortable ride. Good clearance for big tires.
Weaknesses: My version did not have adjustment screws on the sliding dropouts, so they were impossible to position until I drilled out the frame and put in some adjustment screws of my own. Frame finish is very poor--the cable bosses were out of true and on both sides the holes for the zip ties were welded closed. Fork is crap--it's too flexy to use with disc brakes, and the spacing was 10mm too wide, until I had it reset. Will eventually upgrade to something more stiff.
Strengths: fun, fast, good commuter and not bad on uneven terrain
Weaknesses: brakes are a nightmare to adjust and are a constant battle!
I did enjoy this bike and have probably ridden it for 700-900 miles. however the negatives are outweighing the positives.
THe brakes are hard to adjust and seem to get out of whack each week. They are also hard to align after you put the front wheel back on. The front derailler has been adjusted at least 3 times and still makes a horrible noise in certain gears. I have taken the bike into 3 different bike shops and it has been fixed 4 times, estimated at about $115. I am selling it and buying a Surly Cross Check.