Kona Sutra LTD Review: The Last Adventure Bike

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The Kona Sutra LTD is a drop-bar bike “designed by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers.” As simple as that statement may sound, the result is one of the most versatile, category shattering rigs in the mainstream bike market. We tested one for several months to find out what makes this unique beast tick…

With additional insight and photos by Ryan Sigsbey

To start things off, let’s have a heart-to-heart about a term that’s been casually tossed around lately: adventure bike. Over the last couple of years this made-up category has infiltrated the contemporary gravel bike lexicon and is used to characterize a wide array of bikes like the Kona Sutra LTD. Even though we’ve tried to approach this nondescript epithet with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, we’re as guilty as the next for helping it snowball. It is, however, ill-suited as a categorical term for bicycles. After all, any type of bike can be an adventure bike, right?

Kona Sutra LTD Review

Don’t get me wrong, the rise in popularity of this breed of bicycle isn’t a bad thing. In reality, it means more bikes with additional tire clearance, extra bottle mounts, added versatility, and all-around better dirt prowess. But, using this term to pigeonhole varied interpretations of such a bike is not particularly helpful. As it’s vaguely depicted by the bicycle industry, an adventure bike is a drop-bar bicycle that can fit 38mm (or larger) tires, has an extra set of bottle mounts (or several), and is equally adept at handling tarmac, gravel, dirt, and a bikepacking load.

That sentiment is flawed. No bike can do all those things equally well, and if you are a mountain biker, finding some sort of magical quiver-killing drop-bar bike that will fill all your needs probably isn’t going to happen. Ultimately, this categorization leaves a lot of room for consumer confusion when sifting through a myriad of bikes, each specially suited for its own subset of terrain.

In my opinion, bikes that flirt with some sort of do-it-all notion should have granular categorizations. There are all-road bikes, designed to handle a lot of tarmac and a little gravel, there are gravel bikes that do what they do well, monster-cross bikes that are lightweight and made for racing, and then there are others, including drop-bar 29er mountain bikes that are definitely more dirt-centric. But, each should be called what it is. Not “adventure bike” as a catch-all. So, from here on out, that term is no longer in this site’s vocabulary, coyly stated or otherwise. After all, every bike depicted on this site is an adventure bike. End rant.

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Kona Cromoly Butted
  • Angles (56cm): 71° Headtube, 72.5° Seattube
  • Bottom Bracket: 73mm BSA Threaded
  • Hub specs: 12x142mm / 100x12mm Thru-axle
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 29×2.3″ (or 27.5+)
  • Price: $2,099 (complete)

What Exactly is The Kona Sutra LTD?

All that said, if there ever was a bike that should be assigned to the “category that will remain nameless,” it’s the Kona Sutra LTD. The LTD is kind of in its own class. Some might claim it’s basically a 29er mountain bike designed around drop-bars. And with a 73mm bottom bracket shell, a mountain bike crankset, geometry that slightly resembles an 80s mountain bike, and room for 29 x 2.3” tires, that classification wouldn’t be too far off the mark. In Kona’s words, “The Sutra LTD is what happens when a mountain biker imagines a touring bike.” As much as that statement sounds like marketing-spew, it might just be the best way to describe it. Speaking to that pedigree, Kona started as a mountain bike company back in ’88. With Joe Murray at the bike design helm, the Bellingham, Washington, based company certainly has deep MTB roots. They’ve pushed the envelope quite a few times, repeatedly delivering mountain bikes that set new precedents in the industry.

Kona Sutra LTD Review

Still a Touring Bike

But then again, the Sutra LTD didn’t start as a mountain bike. It spawned from Kona’s touring bike family. The Sutra range has been around for quite a while, actually. The classic Sutra – fairly well known in the bicycle touring world and still a great choice for long-distance road touring – is bedecked with a Brooks saddle, fenders, racks, and other such long-range touring paraphernalia. But make no mistake, the Sutra’s three-year-old step cousin, the LTD, is a different bike altogether. Aside from its name, the only bit of Sutra DNA that can be found is in the frame itself. The LTD shares the same frame design – save different dropouts – and the same tubeset, which is slightly beefier and stiffer than most other modern drop-bar gravel bikes. To be specific, the LTD uses a “Kona Chromoly” tubeset that has about 0.1mm thicker walls than those of Kona’s Rove, their lighter weight “all-road” platform. The reason for this tubing choice is the Sutra LTD’s end game: it’s a bike built specifically for dirt touring and bikepacking. In essence, it’s a latter-day “dirt-drop” mountain touring bike. However, with modern trappings such as flat mount hydraulic brakes and thru-axles, the Sutra LTD might get snubbed by many die hard bike tourers looking for apocalypse-proof standards like mechanical discs and 135/100mm quick release axles. This isn’t the bike for a touring luddite.

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review

What’s Changed

We’ve had our eye on this bike since the original powder blue version came out back in 2015. It was different from almost anything around at the time, and since its inception, the Sutra LTD has seen a few minor tweaks to improve the platform. The 2018 Kona Sutra LTD got a major overhaul, with bolt-in thru-axles (12x142mm in the rear and 100x12mm on the front), flat brake mounts on both the front and rear, full cable housing for the rear derailleur, as well as an ultra-clean rear dropout, complete with rack mounts. It also gets a bit more tire clearance than the original. The powder blue 2016 Sutra LTD cleared 29 × 2.0” tires, while the 2017 model—the orange version—was re-engineered with a wider 73mm MTB bottom bracket shell, carving out much more tire clearance. As a result, both the 2017 and 2018 models fit 29 × 2.25″ tires without issue. Some riders have even reported running 27.5 x 2.8” tires. While die-hard roadies might gripe at the added Q-factor at the cranks, the extra width is the norm for me. And as far as I’m concerned, 68mm shells be damned. Long live MTB cranks.

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Tire clearance

On The Trail

As with the Trek 1120 we reviewed a month or so ago, this review is comprised of two different perspectives. I got a fair shake at the Sutra LTD on gravel and two-track with a little singletrack thrown in for good measure. While I was injured, Ryan Sigsbey took it for a few weeks and rode it on trails and on a couple bikepacking trips. Spoiler alert: Ryan ended up buying the bike pictured here and I ended up buying a frame of the same model that I’m in the process of building with parts I had on hand. That’s how much we both liked it.

My initial impression—and one that didn’t change over time—was how well this bike performed while climbing, both on semi-technical trails and at speed. Like a solid cross-country mountain bike, the LTD rails chunky gravel and serpentine singletrack with a level of confidence I’ve only experienced on one other drop-bar bike, the Salsa Cutthroat. And, while climbing and picking apart technical trails, it handles with a calm stability and a surprisingly nimble playfulness that doesn’t quite match it’s rather long wheelbase. To sum up my experience, it rides and performs like a well-conceived 29er mountain bike. It’s not without flaws, and I’ll dig further into why a little later. But first, here are Ryan’s ride impressions.

Being primarily a mountain biker, I’m not typically drawn to drop-bar bikes. Even gravel riding, I tend to prefer flat bars. But when the opportunity came around to test out the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD, I knew I had to give it a try. For starters, the bike was actually designed by mountain bikers. Not to mention, it had all the features I was looking for in an off-road touring bike, complete with 50mm tires, a wide-range cassette, hydraulic brakes, and front/rear thru axles for a more stable ride. It was as close as I was going to get to a mountain bike with off-road touring capabilities. I was psyched!

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review

I was curious to see if this was going to be the bike that would convince me to make the switch to drop bars, so I headed out to the trails. I climbed up a long stretch of double track to the top of one of my favorite local trails, Bracken Mountain, and pointed the bike downhill. I was immediately impressed with the handling. The bike felt solid, but had a sense of playfulness that brought a smile to my face. The bike has such a tall overall stack and a generally upright and comfortable position that it made riding in the drops on the descents feel just about perfect. I didn’t feel like I was too low or hunched over like I have on more cyclocross-style bikes, and the brake lever control feels much better when descending in that position. It really gave me the confidence to let it go, knowing I could reign it back in when necessary.

I stayed up on top of the hoods during the climb up and felt a little stretched out. I made some minor tweaks to the seat position, which helped, but I found myself either creeping forward on the saddle or moving my hands back a little further on the bars. Being 5’10” I couldn’t help but wonder if a 54cm would have been a better fit. A little while later, I ended up noticing that the Sutra’s stock seatpost has a slight setback, so I swapped it out with a 0° offset and that ended up solving the problem. That being said, Kona’s sizing generally seems to be a little different when compared to other brands, and it’s something to pay attention to if you’re shopping around for one.

Kona Sutra LTD Review

The Clement X’plor tires it comes with seem to perform really well on and off road. The bike feels slightly sluggish on the road, though my typical preference is to keep to the dirt as much as possible. Even so, the tightly spaced center knobs seem to roll really well on pavement and hardpacked roads. The side knobs provide plenty of traction when cornering in a wide range of conditions as well, including Pisgah’s often muddy terrain. So far, they seem to be holding up pretty well, showing little noticeable wear in the time that I’ve had the bike.

I loaded the Sutra for an overnighter, riding out of town on the local greenway and up into Pisgah Forest. A mix of pavement, gravel, and some rough fire roads dropped me out on a long, paved climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The thing I like most about exploring on this bike is the fact that you can go almost anywhere. You have the capability to change course or take a singletrack connector to another road without having to stick to the gravel or smoother terrain. Once I rode up to Black Balsam, I hit a rough and rocky trail and rode out a ways to find a quiet place to camp far away from the roads. It was a fun descent on singletrack, weaving around and over roots and rocks. I found a great place to camp and called it a night.

Kona Sutra LTD Review

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
Three photos above by TJ Kearns

The Sutra LTD has a generous main triangle with ample room for a large half-frame bag and two water bottles or a huge full-frame bag. I was using a Revelate Tangle Bag and it seemed to hold as much as the full-size frame bag on my Karate Monkey, but with room for two water bottles. Space is certainly not an issue. It would have been nice to see triple boss mounts on the fork to accommodate additional storage options, but I generally pack fairly light so it wasn’t an issue for me. Additionally, there are front and rear rack mounts if you choose to go that route, allowing ample room for all your hauling needs.

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review

The bike did lose some of its playful characteristics once loaded down with gear. On a couple rougher trails, I definitely noticed it feeling more like a touring bike and less like the trail ninja I enjoyed on unladen rides. This didn’t come as much of a shock, however. A true mountain bike doesn’t seem to lose as much of it’s nimbleness when loaded down. Even so, when I pointed the bike down some rough singletrack, it did just fine. The wide tires helped to keep the bike on the right line and the hydraulic brakes certainly helped slow me down when needed. All in all, the Sutra LTD is an unquestionably fun and capable bike.

Frame and Geometry

So, what makes the Kona Sutra LTD’s frame geometry tick? The short answer is versatility and simplicity. The LTD maintains its 71° head tube angle, 50mm fork offset, and 72mm bottom bracket throughout the run of sizes. The first two numbers give it a solid, neutral feel that makes it suitable for gravel, road, trails, and two-track. The bike’s long reach and short stem also contribute to its mountain bike feel, which I really like. The 72mm dropped bottom bracket is plenty deep, but not as deep as a classic touring bike, which allows a range of wheel/tire combos, such as skinnier 700C tires or bigger 2.25” 29er rubber. And throwing on a pair of 27.5 x 2.4” WTB Riddlers could make for a very interesting rig.

As stated by a friend of mine, the Sutra LTD seems to strike a good balance by providing tire clearance while still maintaining a classic look. Its slightly sloping top tube and longish head tube raise the handlebars to seat level without requiring an inordinate amount of spacers and/or a crazily angled stem.

Comparing the Sutra LTD with the Salsa Cutthroat, both share a few similar measurements. The two have 445mm chainstays, which is longish, but not too long. When fitted with 2.25” tires, it maxes them out well. They also have a similar wheelbase and the same headtube angle. The Sutra LTD’s sizing is a bit odd, however. I am 6’0” (1.83m) and typically ride a large mountain bike or a 58cm road/gravel bike. I fit on a 56” Sutra LTD, and their line stops at a 58cm, which is the equivalent of an XL, I suppose. With a longer reach and a slightly slacker seat tube angle than the Cutthroat (72.5° vs 73°), the Sutra feels bigger and longer. Personally, I am quite fond of the long reach and short stem on the Kona.

  • Kona Sutra LTD
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review

Kona Sutra LTD Review

2018 Kona Sutra LTD Build Kit

The $2,099 2018 Kona Sutra LTD comes with an excellent build kit, filling in the value gap for an otherwise $550 steel frame. First off, it’s specced with my preferred drop-bar drivetrain, a wide-range 1×11 SRAM Rival, as well as Rival hydraulic disc brakes. Similar to the Force hydros mentioned in the Cutthroat review, they perform well and seem fairly reliable. In addition, the Sutra LTD gets WTB i23 tubeless-ready rims and 50mm Clement X’plor tires. While this is a durable platform, I’d honestly prefer the i29 rim, which would be a slightly better fit for 2.25” tires. The full-pinned XG-1150 11-42 cassette and Race Face Aeffect crank also add to the build. Here’s the full kit:

  • FRAME MATERIAL Kona Cromoly Butted
  • SIZES 46, 48.5, 52, 54, 56, 58
  • FORK Kona Project Two Cromoly Disc Touring fork
  • CRANKARMS RaceFace Aeffect
  • CHAINRINGS 36t Narrow/Wide
  • B/B RaceFace 73mm
  • PEDALS n/a
  • CHAIN SRAM PC1110
  • FREEWHEEL SRAM XG1150 10-42t 11spd
  • R/D SRAM Rival 1
  • SHIFTERS SRAM Rival 1
  • BRAKE CALIPERS SRAM Rival 1 Flat mount
  • FRONT BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • REAR BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • BRAKE LEVERS SRAM Rival 1 HRD
  • HEADSET FSA TH848
  • HANDLEBAR Kona Road
  • STEM Kona Road Deluxe
  • SEATPOST Kona Deluxe Thumb w/Offset 27.2mm
  • SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
  • GRIPS Kona Cork Tape
  • SADDLE WTB SL8 Pro
  • FRONT HUB Formula 100x12mm
  • REAR HUB Formula 142x12mm
  • SPOKES Stainless Black 14g
  • RIMS WTB Asym i23 TCS
  • FRONT TIRE Clement MSO 50 TCS 700x50c
  • REAR TIRE Clement MSO 50 TCS 700x50c
  • PAINT COLOR Matt Metallic Olive w/ Charcoal & Khaki Decals

Kona Sutra LTD Review

  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review
  • Kona Sutra LTD Review

Pros

  • Excellent geometry for a dirt touring bike that strikes a good balance for lots of types of riding.
  • Massive tire clearance and versatility.
  • 73mm BB shell.
  • Solid build kit featuring a good drivetrain, brakes, crankset, and wheels/tires.
  • Plenty of mounts for water bottles and racks.

Cons

  • Fragile derailleur hanger; I’d like to see Kona make this in steel or Ti. We broke/bent two of them.
  • It needs a third bottle mount on each fork leg and on the downtube.
  • Wish there was a replacement carbon fork.
  • It can feel a tad sluggish and stiff unloaded, more so on the road, but comes to life when loaded.
  • Geared a little high for loaded riding; a 32 or 34T ring up front and a 10-46 cassette would be ideal.
  • Size Tested 56cm
  • Rider height 5’10” (1.78) and 6’0″ (1.83)
  • Weight (as tested) 25.63 lbs (11.62 kg)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price (MSRP) $2,099
  • Manufacturer’s Details Link

Wrap Up

I often joke about the most recurrent comment we get throughout our bikepacking route guides, “Is this doable with a cross bike?” The answer is usually, “Yes, but it’s not going to be fun.” The problem with that statement is, like the aforementioned term that we’ve now sworn off using, “cross bike” is pretty vague, at least as it’s been repurposed. Typically, a true cyclocross bike’s tires max out at 38mm. In our opinion, this is way too skinny for most dirt exploits, unless you are really into underbiking. The Sutra LTD is for the people who ask the above question, and other folks who are drawn to curly handlebars, but want a bike that’s better suited to tackling rougher terrain than your typical gravel bike. Lately, I’ve found myself recommending two bikes in the drop-bar spectrum: the Salsa Cutthroat, or if that’s out of your budget or you simply don’t like carbon, the Sutra LTD. In the end, both of these bikes are drop-bar dirt touring bikes that perform well off road and are pretty good on pavement, depending on what set of tires you are running.

As mentioned, the Kona Sutra LTD is packed with versatile features. This frame can take on a multitude of of forms. It’s equally at home as a classic tourer as it is a bikepacking rig, and it doesn’t look out of place as either. Fill the generous clearance with 29er tires, pop on some voluminous touring tires and fenders, or slap on some 27.5 x 2.6” rubber to create a crazy monster-cross machine. Typically, a bike this versatile would worry me—no bike can do it all. But unlike a lot of bikes that come in different models with different wheel sizes, the Sutra LTD isn’t really pitched as a jack-of-all-trades, it just works out that way. And, admittedly, I haven’t tried it in all its possible forms. But the bones are certainly there. I’ve tried it as a gravel bike, bikepacking rig, two-track explorer, and smooth singletrack slayer. And it does all of those things really well. It probably isn’t going to be the best choice for racing, but that’s not what it’s for, and it would certainly be just about perfect for a non-competitive run on the Tour Divide. Since it is made up of a stiffer tubing and designed to carry a load, it’s a pretty solid bike. Is it too stiff, or too heavy, you might ask? That depends on what, where, and how you ride it. It’s not exceedingly heavy, and with the 50mm X’plor tires mounted, set up tubeless, and running low air pressure, it doesn’t beat you up on long rides, but it’s definitely more solid feeling than other, more spritely gravel bikes. And it unquestionably feels at its best when loaded.

The Sutra LTD is not without flaws, of course. We broke two of its seemingly fragile derailleur hangers, and Kona missed the boat by not spacing the lower fork mount to serve as a triple bottle boss. Otherwise, they should just add another boss above that pair. But, it’s a very impressive bike, and one of the top two I’d recommend to folks looking for a versatile drop-bar bike. I bought one. What more can I say?

Kona Sutra LTD Review

66 Comments
  • AsSeenOnOkra

    So drool worthy. Probably one of the most anticipated reviews in a while. Thank you for the great information.

    Kona has being doing those incremental improvements each year. Hopefully, next year will see some of those improvements you suggested. The big one for me was moving that mount on the fork ever so slightly in order to make anything cages possible. Maybe internal routing for dynamo wiring, if I’m seeking absolute perfection.

  • ppival

    “Some might claim it’s basically a 29er mountain bike designed around drop-bars”

    Isn’t that pretty much the same selling point as the Salsa Fargo? The Kona has a better class of components, but I wonder how they differ otherwise?

  • Philip Darden

    I own the 2017 version of this bike and it is one of the best bikes I have ever purchased. It’s like that good friend that is always up for whatever, whenever. Stoked to see such a positive writeup.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65870a25b6dd3c4bb6d17e09f89016c7696a223753a32fe1faa934b856bafa5f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/887e71d2dbf9001ee09680207a7bad95ed57849f9410e2d3b7e1b19bf06d3c78.jpg

  • Definitely. They have some substantial differences. The biggest is that the Fargo has suspension-corrected geometry. There are also a lot of angles and measurements that set them apart. The Sutra is definitely closer to the Cutthroat by the numbers. There are other drop bars 29ers out there too…

  • Sean

    Nice review. I’ve been looking for this bike in a 58cm size but every shop (and apparently some of their factory reps) say it was already sold out like a month ago. How did you guys manage to find one??

  • We’ve been testing this one for several months (those first pics were taken back in November) and I bought a frame from a friend of mine who’s been sitting on it for a while.

  • Robert Davey

    Built mine up with Jones bars, xt gears, and TRP spyre mechanical disks. Stunning rig that can do anything. Should last about forever

  • Robert Davey

    I will add toe overlap with front wheel can be a small issue. I find it only an issue with flats and 5 10’s, nil issues clipless.
    Where are you sourcing the hangers from, and are they shared with other Kona models?

  • What a capable bike. I rode the 2016 model last year a fair bit, super fun ride. My good friend Mike currently has a 2017 LTD and has 27.5+ tires on it… I gotta say, that setup is definitely not as sprightly feeling as the skinnier wheels but I feel like I could go anywhere, reasonably quick. A lot of options for this bike.

  • Dan Bader

    That is one fine looking ride. Aside from the Cutthroat, this bike reminds me a fair bit of the AWOL Comp and I’m wondering how they stack up?

  • I haven’t ridden the AWOL, but a couple things: 1. It has a significantly longer chainstay and steeper angles; 2. AWOL has no bottle mounts on the fork; 3. AWOL has QR axles, vs thru-axles on the LTD.

  • Kona was nice enough to send a couple during our test period, but I need to find a couple replacements to carry soon.

  • Interesting. Post a pic if you get a chance…

  • Doug Reilly

    I had one of these–and was very sad to have to sell it! I had it fitted out with Asym 35 rims and 27.5×2.6″ tires. The frame had plenty of clearance for them, and they felt great. I recall enough clearance that I thought I might try 2.8″s but 2.6 was quite nice. Great, great, bike. Maybe I’ll own one again some day!

  • Romain

    Thanks guys for this very well written review and for the beautiful pictures. I was convinced that the three bottle mounts on the fork had the same spacing… It does look like a huge design error. Good to know anyway. I’ve been dreaming about this bike for a long time, but the 58 cm is out of stock… I’ll wait for version 2019, hoping that the fork will be modified and bottle mounts added on the down tube and top tube (just as they did on the Libre)… Keep up the good work!

  • Daniel Joseph

    Bought this bike right when it came out. As a pure roadie, I was looking to expand my riding and began looking at “gravel bikes.” I was looking for the infamous do it all bike. Was looking at the Masi Supremo as well as cross specific rigs, but I felt like I wouldn’t be able to expand my horizons enough off road. At the time of purchase I had never done a cyclocross race or done anykind of bikepacking and touring, but in my mind I thought it would be awesome to have the option. Enter the Sutra LTD. Handled gravel and sandy forest roads of Florida like a champ. I did 2 cross races to which it performed admirably. Since then I’ve moved to Southern California and wanted to to get into bikpacking. Last weekend I took the Sutra around the LA Observer. The bike handled it all with zero issues. I can only imagine that it will get better and better as I get more comfortable descending on the more technical sections. That and upgrading to bigger tires which I plan to do before I tackle the Baldy Bruiser in a few weeks. Awesome bike that can handle a ton.

  • Daniel Joseph
  • Jered Bogli

    I just took my Salsa Fargo on the Hart-Sheldon route and while I tend to trash talk my Fargo the bike if 100% pure champ when it comes to loaded singletrack and offroad touring. Even on road with 9L of water on board – once you get it moving it keeps moving. If you are looking for a do it all bike the Fargo is also worth a look. I was running 2.4″ tires with EASE. The Fargo won’t win any CX races, but I’ve blown by people on full squish bikes on rocky technical descents with the Fargo. It is my least favorite bike that I love the most – beast of a workhorse!

  • Nice. Thanks for the feedback… and enjoy that Bruiser. +1 for the Super Wedgie.

  • Nick
  • David Monté

    How was the fit with the 56 cm for a 6’0″ rider? Were you on the short side or right on the sweet spot? I’m 6’1″ so I was wondering… Thanks for the amazing review!

  • It actually felt a little big at first, but I really think it fits me perfectly.

  • rocketman

    looks like a great bike… sounds killer with 650B. …of course this article will make it impossible to fine a frameset

  • Stephen Poole

    Counterpoint: I prefer 68mm BB shells where possible. Why? It’s almost impossible to find cranks that fit 73mm shells that are 1) available in 172.5mm and 2) low Q – which suits my knees better; YMMV. If the shell is 68mm MTB cranks still fit fine, but road-ish cranks generally won’t fit in 73mm shells, square taper excepted.

  • Christian

    As a CON you list the missing third bottle mount on the fork.
    What about the small hole above the axis?
    Is it threaded? Is the distance to the other bottle mounts suitable for a anything cage?
    Thank you in advance.

  • Christian

    It’s the spacing – didn’t read the entire review. Thank you :)

  • Philip Darden

    They share the same hanger as the current Rove lineup.

  • Matt Riggen

    I have the older model and love it. I did change out the drop bars to Salsa Woodchippers, the different hand positions really change the feel over long rides.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9509402f76c536b121c9023d937becb85bef0fa61219c5e1ef57556109c4ad49.jpg

  • Doug Reilly
  • Understood. White Industries has 172.5, FWIW.

  • josiahwiebe

    I currently have the AWOL Comp and have also ridden the Sutra LTD a bit. Ended up choosing the AWOL but find that it feels a bit slow. After reading this review I find myself longing for the Sutra again!

  • Jed Wilson

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1eb6649ea7db1305ecafc1578f738615f7b258a6020ba7457ff87c65205f922a.jpg Great Review! Picked up mine in August of last year. This bike has been nothing, but perfect for my needs. Added the following items, Easton AX Bars, Easton stem and Easton seatpost, Brooks saddle, Race Face NextSL cranks, 38T ring and had a set of wheels built around a SON hub and DT350. Baggage is carried by a Pass and Stow rack, Anylander bags, Monkey Wrench Cycles bag, Oveja Negra Frame Bag and Porcelain Rocket Albert. Sinewave set up keeps things lighted and charged.

    This bike is a game changer.

  • Mason Burtnik

    I tried to build one of these up last year but I couldn’t get my hands on a frame. I went with a Marrakesh instead https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e29657751903b2821b9ee1be196659b7e02104c4d3289a548d5f7b64534fd1bc.jpg

  • Stephen Poole

    ^ They do, but only the square taper VBC cranks will fit a 73mm shell, not the R30.

    SRAM’s S952 (&S902) cranks come in a wide axle variant, but they’re rare, not cheap enough to buy on spec, and there’s no info on clearance/Q factor. The arms may or may not hit the chainstays. :-(

    Can I ask how wide the Sutra’s chainstays are (outside to outside) 190mm behind the centre of the BB shell, please? That would give me an idea of what cranks might clear; M9000 XTR cranks can be had cheaply at present, though not in 172.5 of course.

    The write up is very positive – I would never have thought to compare the Sutra with a Cutthroat(!), and am interested as I’ve been thinking of riding the Tour Divide at some point.

  • Oh man. that’s burly!

  • Aaron Ruby

    Thanks for the great review. Now if only you guys would do a review of the Rawland Ulv. Looks like a true off-road Randosaur, and I’d love to see how you guys compare it to the Kona.

  • Like Philip, I have the ’17 and absolutely adore this silly bike. As much as I despise road riding these days, that love goes toward this thing. I live in Switzerland where you pretty much have the choice of gravel roads or AM/DH/Enduro… er, trails (the fall-line type). Well, I’ve ridden this bike on both. It’s capable of doing pretty much everything. I run it with 2.0 mountain bike tires and run around with bikepacking bags on it most of the time. Other than the now added Thru-axles, I’d make a Ti version, with swingers (no sliders allowed) or an EBB so that singlespeeders, like me, have other options. In any case, thanks to Kona for one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in 25 years of mountain biking. Oh, also, thanks for taking the extra effort to make it a wide tired 700c bike and not low hanging B+ fruit.

  • I’m a 6′ rider with a longer torso than legs. However, I ride a 56 as well. A little bit of playing around with stem spacing and so forth and it’s probably the most comfortable bike I own.

  • Jamie

    First and foremost,

    A big thank you to Ryan and Logan for this recent write-up. It goes without saying, the site delivers time and again some great information for us bikepackers. I also want to thank @milesarbour:disqus for helping me with the decision to move ahead on this AMAZING bike purchase and for the sizing aspect (it does fit long – opted for a 52cm frame)! I have been riding my 2017 Kona Sutra LTD since April and it’s been a very fun and versatile rig. Moreover, @bikepackingcom:disqus and Ryan do a great job of describing the bike’s chameleon like qualities and they really do it justice in the article.

    For those of you on the fence, go out there and try one of these beauties… My Kona does the work commute (with rear panniers) during the week, then sheds it off and handles everything I can possible throw at it (i.e single track, double track, gravel) here in Aurora, ON (Canada). We don’t have the mountains and I’m fully aware that this bike isn’t made for something like the Colorado Trail, but for most people this is a great bike to have in your lineup.

    Question : Would someone take this rig on something like the Great Divide Route with some 2.2″ or something like the BC Epic 1000? Is that just asking for a beating?

    Keep up the work with the website!!! I respect the awesome research and genuine approach you guys are taking with it.

    Cheers,

    Jamie

  • francis

    “The $2,099 2018 Kona Sutra LTD comes with an excellent build kit, filling in the value gap for an otherwise $550 steel frame.”
    Do you mean the frame can be purchased separately? Where is this possible? I’m desesperately looking for just the frame+fork in europe, but can’t find it…! Any help/information would be highly appreciated! Thanks!

  • adventureroadbiker

    I don’t get this review. It keeps talking about how it’s designed by mountain bikers and it’s a drop bar 29er but it’s just Kona’s classic touring bike, that they have been making for years, with bigger tyres and a 1x drivetrain.

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/970ed0cdafd861629b2db84141eebb8eecb85c72a9d8a46f373f4754f5fd6807.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e706d19bd9a450e4092a63b58fd34e9cc6be180a89422ade809e92776ec42b34.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eff55c7cfb22ca293439860f2356d5304bba3357dad147fe1a9891ec78c971e2.jpg I got the 2016 version of this bike and I couldn’t be happier, just good words about it.
    I must say also that when some of the paint popped out in some parts of the frame and I reported to Kona they offered me a frame replacement that finally I didn’t take because at that time the blue 2016 was no longer available and I liked it more than the orange 2017 model.
    Another thing I would ask for to Kona (and other bike manufacturers) is to place the bottle cage mounts in the frame as close as possible to the BB to keep weight down and to have more space for a frame bag to avoid having to use bottle relocation accessories.
    I have taken it to really tough and rough rides as well as doing some road rides with triathletes taking turns at their relays at 45km/h. Really a bike for all.
    This bike will be always part of my life for all the great and really tough moments we have been through together. Thanks for the great article!!!

  • Dave

    Man I wish this was available with 27.5 wheels. Test rode one and it was great but there was quite a lot of toe overlap for my large feet on a 52cm.

  • Blake Clayton

    Curious as to where you went from Black Balsam Rd? We ride Pisgah often and I’ve lived in NC my whole life, I know the Art Loeb stuff is hiking only, as is mostly everything else in that area. Would love to duplicate this brief overnighter on a rigid rig. Wondering if this passage was a bit “bandit” in that area?

  • Blake Clayton

    I’d second that….exact same geo as the normal Sutra touring bike. Steepest head tube angle in my current comparison barring my Raleigh CX bike (vs Fargo, Journeyman, Cutty) and slackest seat tube. Can’t help but think this isn’t exactly a redefining moment for drop bar mtb’s, they slapped some bigger tires on and called it a day. Not doubting it does it’s job, but it seems the original intent was just that….original to the road rig.

  • Mark Raugust

    I ride a 2016 AWOL Comp and I love it soo much. I run tubeless 29×1.9 tires it might fit 29×2.1 but I’m not sure. The Kona def has more clearance. For trips I improvised fork cages by using the rack mounts and a king cage Universal Support Bolts on each fork. I’d love to find a fork with bottle bosses to swap out but I think everything would either change the geometry or wouldn’t support post mount disc brakes and QR skewers. My only other complaint about the AWOL comp is my 2016 AWOL is super prone to paint scratches to I’ve had to cover much of the bike with helicopter tape to protect the paint. The AWOL is plenty fast on pavement with smooth centered tires like the Buroughs or Sawtooths.

  • It can, but I think it might be sold out. Also, not sure about frame availability overseas.

  • Thanks for the compliments! FWIW, if I were doing the TD this week, I would likely take the Sutra, out of my current lineup.

  • It is the same frame/geo. But, the first Sutra was approached with the same idea. This version essentially took that geometry and applied more tire clearance and a lot of modern bits (thru-axles and components) to accentuate that idea. According to Kona, “[We] took the geo numbers [we] wanted, took a long look at why 26” mountain bikes from the late 80’s were fun, and viola.” That is describing the original Sutra, The LTD simply wraps more MTB character into it. That pretty much sums it up.

  • josiahwiebe

    You should be able to run 29×2.1, that’s what I’ve been running in winter. For fork cages I’m doing the same, but using the SKS Anywhere mount on the fork (https://amzn.to/2xIA8CN). I’ve also been considering the Fyxation Sparta Carbon Fork as it has double bosses on it (plus carbon so a bit of weight savings). I do love it on the road as well – great riding position and very smooth – running Sawtooth tyres and looking at the e.13 TRS 9-46T cassette upgrade.

  • Stephen Poole

    Yes, but high Q; the 172.5 option is very new. I’ll bear it in mind, thanks. ;-)

  • Elliot James

    I’m very curious, have you gotten a chance to weight the 56cm size you’ve been riding ?

  • Ah yes. Meant to update that this morning: 25 lb 10 oz

  • Jamie

    Hi Logan,

    Thank you for replying. Curious, how would you gear it? I recently bought a 30T Race Face Cinch to replace the 36T when I do more bikepacking but I’m wondering how would I go about doing so in the GDMBR? Lots of climbing but I would be spinning down on the descents with such gearing (30/42T). I wonder if I could go with a 34T/46T wolftooth setup in the back. I ask this because I love my knees and I can’t see myself climbing all day with a granny gear in the 22/24 inch arena.

  • Jamie

    Oh and would you swap out the Hydros Rival 1 for some Mech disc brakes (BB7) just to keep it simple out there?

  • 34/46 sounds pretty good, but it really depends on your legs. I took my first bikepack in 10 months since my injury/surgery/re-injury over the weekend… riding another test bike (very similar gearing). I used a 30t up front with the 11-42T cassette. It was super steep riding and that was about right for me in my relatively weak state. There were even a couple occasions where I wished for one more gear.

    If you have disposable income, the 9-46 from eThirteen with a 32 up front could be the ticket.

    Also check out the Wolftooth Camo system… there’s a review on here somewhere. It makes it easy to swap rings depending on where you are riding.

    I’d stick with the Rival hydros. They seem pretty reliable… and for a 30 day ride, chances are, you shouldn’t have any issues.

  • Max

    Hey everyone!
    First I want to thank Logan for the great review, I really enjoyed reading it. …and in the end it convinced me to purchase a 2018 Kona Stura ltd…
    It was my first choice but I was also interested in the Specialized Sequoia and the Bombtrack Hook EXT.
    But now that I have decided to get a Sutra I have a small problem…
    I live in Germany and there is no Kona distributor in my area so I want to order it on the internet. Unfortunately the frame size chart on the Kona homepage totally confused me which frame size I need…
    I am 1,82 m tall and my inseam is 820 mm…
    Can anybody help, please?
    Thx
    Max

  • Thanks Max! You are right in between Ryan and my height (5’10” (1.78m) and 6’0″ (1.83m) respectively). The 56 frame fit both of us well, so that would be my suggestion…

  • Max

    Thank you! I’ll just give the 56 frame a try then!

  • Dang! That is pretty sweet!

  • Flat Laurel Creek Trail leaves the parking lot and takes you down to Highway 215.

  • Jamie, Thanks for the kind words and glad I could help. I did the Tour Divide back in 2013 on a Titanium El Mariachi. The Kona Sutra LTD would certainly be perfectly capable of taking on the Divide. There are some rough sections that would be tough but a larger majority of the route would suit the bike very well. I would probably but some wider tires on it and yes, switch out the hydros. Just my opinion though. I think the Rival breaks seem really reliable but on the Divide it’s nice to be able to repair as much as possible in the field. Logan’s got the gearing intel, something I’m currently trying to figure out for the Idaho Hot Springs Route.

  • Rob Grey

    great looking bike! it was my top choice until i found out about the hook ext-c. different beasts, but i ultimately liked the geo of the hook more as an any-surface drop bar bike: shorter, snappier, 68mm bb shell. and it’s carbon fiber – with my 29er xc carbon wheels, it’s (to me, at least) insanely light. despite being so light it also seems plenty tough. over the past month, i’ve done a couple overnighters, a few long day rides, daily commuting, and it hasn’t flinched yet. so far, so great! still would like to put some time on the sutra ltd, though… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/80cf760fa2aa73cba951312d60ff872576ab6519066f371e44270f6b71ce7205.jpg

  • Sven Spreckelmeyer

    Hello to all of you,

    first of all I would like to thank Logan and Ryan for this great review. Even if it makes my decision between the fargo and the sutra much harder now i really enjoyed reading it. I think I can’t go wrong with any of these two bikes .But climbing performance is an important selection criteria for me and both of you mentioned how well the sutra performs uphill. So I ask myself if there is a great difference in the climbing abilities between the fargo and the sutra. Unfortunately I can’t test ride any of these bikes so it would be a great help for me if you could give me a hint. I would also be interested in the fact if you had any issues with the standover height of this bike. I’m 5’11 with a 34″ inseam. According to the specs from kona the 56 frame has a 33.1″ standover height. For me that sounds like that there isn’t much space left between the frame and let’s say the possibility to make some really painful experiences.

    Thank you very much in advance and greetings from germany
    Sven

  • Jonas Bergvall

    I got the 2016 Sutra LTD and when that one got stolen this winter i replaced it with the 2018 in review. I use it for my daily 30 miles commute, biketouring and bikepacking and everything else. It´s the only vehicle I own and need. It does all jobs well. I have only two things to add that wasn´t covered in the review: 1. I would like to se a third boss on the downtube bottlemount. I have a 52 cm frame and the clearance for the front tire doesn´t allow for anything but a smallbottle. A third boss would allow for a lower mounting of the cage or the possibility of anything cage. 2. I just recently had to replace the rear wheel because the rim had started to crack around a few spokes. For six months, about 3000 miles where about half of those were with modest biketouring loadout the rim gave in. I expected more from a bike like that, and I had no problem like that with the 2016 which I rode with even heavier load. Other than that it´s an awesome rig.