The 2018 Kona Sutra LTD isn’t completely new; the model has been around for a couple years now. But the 3rd iteration of this bike has a few nice changes worthy of attention…

Posted by Logan Watts

  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Kona Cromoly Butted
  • Angles (58cm): 71° Headtube, 72° Seattube
  • Bottom Bracket: BSA Threaded
  • Hub specs: 12x142mm / 100x12mm Thru-axle
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 29×2.3″ (w/ options for 27.5+)
  • Price: $2099 (complete)

Given its genealogy, the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD is a particularly interesting drop-bar “adventure” bike. In 2015 the LTD cracked the mold of the longstanding Kona Sutra range, a line of bikes fairly well known in the bicycle touring world. While the original Sutra remains as a great choice for long-distance road touring, the Sutra LTD became a frameset purposefully built for dirt-touring, bikepacking, and general drop-bar rowdyness. It certainly leans more toward the ‘dirt-drop’ mountain bike end of the spectrum than many other bikes in the “adventure bike” category. In Kona’s words, “The Sutra LTD is what happens when a mountain biker imagines a touring bike.” Since its inception, the Sutra LTD has seen a few minor tweaks improving the platform… and the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD has a couple additional tricks, as well as a solid and modern build kit.

2018 Kona Sutra LTD, Steel Adventure Bikes

  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD
  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD

What’s changed on the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD?

Each of the past Sutra LTD iterations have had a generous array of bottle and rack mounts. The 2018 model gets a couple more, adding up to my favorite change. There is now a rack mount at the base of each fork leg, in addition to the double cage mounts. Each doubles as a rack mount, or even better, a third boss for a three-pack cage, such as King Cage ManyThing or Salsa’s Anything Cage. UPDATE: since we started testing the bike, we learned that this information we were told is indeed false; the rack mount does NOT double as a triple cage mount… the spacing is too low. However, it would be possible to modify a cage to do so. This year’s Sutra LTD also gets thru-axles. 12x142mm in the rear and 100x12mm on the front, each with allen bolt-in axles, which might appeal to some folks for security purposes. A couple other changes include flat brake mounts on both the front and rear, as well as an ultra-clean rear dropout, complete with rack mounts.

2018 Kona Sutra LTD

  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD
  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD

Tire Clearance?

It’s worth noting a bit of history from a tire-clearance perspective. The original 2016 powder blue Sutra LTD cleared 29×2.0 tires. For the 2017 model — the orange version — when Kona’s engineers switched to a 73mm bottom bracket shell, they were able to carve out much more tire clearance. As a result, both the 2017 and 2018 models fit a 29×2.2″ tire without issue, and folks will likely find they can fit an even bigger tire in practice.

2018 Kona Sutra LTD Build Kit

Priced at $2,099, the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD isn’t as budget-friendly as the Jamis Renegade Expat or the Marin Four Corners, the two other steel drop-bar adventure bikes in this little series. But it has quite a nice, modern build kit, which adds value. First off it’s specced with an up-to-date SRAM Rival wide-range 1x drivetrain and Rival hydraulic discs, which, similar to the Force hydros as mentioned in the Cutthroat review, are solid and generally unnoticeable, which is a good characteristic for brakes. In addition, the WTB i23 tubeless-ready rims and 50mm Clement X’plor tires make for a meatier platform. The full-pinned XG-1150 11-42 cassette and Race Face Aeffect crank also adds to the build quality. Here’s the full spec:

  • 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
  • FREEWHEEL SRAM XG1150 10-42t 11spd
  • R/D SRAM Rival 1
  • BRAKE CALIPERS SRAM Rival 1 Flat mount
  • FRONT BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • REAR BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • HANDLEBAR Kona Road
  • STEM Kona Road Deluxe
  • SEATPOST Kona Deluxe Thumb w/Offset 27.2mm
  • SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
  • GRIPS Kona Cork Tape
  • 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
  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD
  • 2018 Kona Sutra LTD

All in all, as a drop-bar bike, the 2018 Kona Sutra LTD is almost unmatched in the mainstream bike market for its mountain-bike like character. I would draw a comparison to the Salsa Cutthroat for its generous tire clearance and focus on beefier MTB specs. From a geometry perspective, its similar in some respects, but with slightly longer top tube and more reach. Some folks have mentioned sizing down as a result. It does look like an relatively flawless and fun bike though; we hope to try one for a thorough review in the near future. For now, get more info at

  • WhatsMyName

    Loving this 4-part series!! Can anyone comment on generic steel (Kona Chromoly) vs 520 vs 631 vs 853. The higher end Reynolds steels command a serious premium. Are people drawn to those steels for pure weight savings or is there some additional ride quality difference?

  • Thanks! 853 definitely commands a premium — according to Reynolds, “the strength to weight ratio of 853 is close to that of quality titanium” — … It would be interesting to do a semi-scientific comparison and test on those and others… hmm.

  • David Childers

    Any bikepacking frames made from 853 these days?

  • Oilcan Racer

    The tire clearance alone makes this a winner. The price per parts list, not so much. Better to get this as a frame/fork only and build it up the right way.

  • WhatsMyName

    29×2.2 is huge. Must be nice to have that extra mud clearance even when running smaller tires. However, where is the tipping point where a hardtail 29er is a better tool for the terrain?

  • Rob Grey

    as an owner of the original kona rove, i really like where they went with this line of bikes. the rove is nearly perfect as my “not a roadie” road bike/commuter/fast n light multi-surface touring rig; it just needs a little more tire clearance (for fenders with 40-45mm tires), and a third bottle mount, which this one takes care of. luckily they offer this as a frame and fork and i may just make the switch.

  • Mike

    I can say that hands down, riding the Sutra LTD is the most fun I’ve had on a bike. I’ve taken it on road, gravel, local single track and urban ventures around my town. It’s a blast to ride!!! It’s totally changed the way I look at cruising around. Love it.

  • I fell in love with the Sutra LTD 2016 since the first time I saw it. I think I spent at least 30 minutes every day just browsing looking at this bike. When the 2017 version came out and the price of the 2016 dropped, together with the drop of the pound over euro, I got it.
    Being always a road rider, light carbon bike, etc…, my friends laugh at me when they see me with a steel bike. But when I show them the pictures of the places I have been with this bike they are amazed. I always say that if this bike could talk I’d be in jail :D

  • Excellent.

  • The third bottle mount is key. I am not sure why every bike doesn’t have it…

  • Rob Grey

    it’s totally lame that i have to use valuable frame bag space for water when there could be another bottle *easily* mounted on the frame.

  • Well, there’s always electrical tape. I had a bottle cage taped to my gen 1 Krampus for years…

  • It should be also “compulsory” to design the bottle cages threads position so that they stay as low as possible for more comfort when pulling and placing the bottle and also to leave more clearance for a frame bag.

  • achilleas

    Hi guys

    I am interested in buying a kona sutra Ltd 2018. I am 183cm tall ( 6 feet) with 84 cm inseam. This means I am right in between sizes 54 and 56. I will use the bike for commuting and for a couple or more big trips around the year ( approx 100km per day max 150km)
    Can anybody help me to pick the right size? I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks a lot

  • Jeremy

    I’m 6’1 and bought the 58 (xl), and i’m currently running a 60 or 70 mm stem, down from the 100. it’s a long bike. I wanted the Frame Bag Space and the taller headtube since i have longer legs and wanted to keep the saddle to bar drop lower for long comfy days on the bike. i would strongly recomend the 56 (L) since you are just a touch shorter than I.

  • Nick

    I’d likely go for the 56 based on your size.

    I have the 2018 Sutra LTD 54 and it fits me great at 177cm tall (5’10”) w/81cm inseam (32″). I did switch out the stem for one that is 1cm shorter and now I’m super comfortable with the reach.

    Mine has been used for a mix of commuting and rough Montana asphalt road to fire roads and town gravel trails. For me, the bike is a blast!

  • achilleas

    Thanks a lot Jeremy

  • achilleas

    Thanks for the help!

  • Bradd Bezaire

    Great write up. You mention that there’s an option to fit a 27.5+. Do you by chance know if the regular Sutra has the same tire clearance as the LTD? I’m wondering because I bought a 2017 Sutra and have been thinking about switching the wheels to a 27.5+, but was worried they might not fit.

  • Rami

    Love this bike, just not sure about the stock build. Does anyone know if it has a cable stop for a front derailleur? This could really use a mountain double and a simplified rear end with some bar end shifters.

  • Nick Wahlin

    Hey Jeremy, I’m 6’4″. Do you think the 58 would be big enough for a rider of my height?

  • Michael Viglianco

    The frame geometry is identical

  • Sani Saniman

    Any really good reason for me to buy kona sutra ltd rarher than cutthroat?
    Really interested ….

  • That’s a really tough choice. I am demoing a sutra ltd now, but the review is delayed because of an injury relapse. I will say that they are currently two of my favorite drop bar bikes. What do you plan to ride with it?

  • Sani Saniman

    Hey thanks for the reply …
    Hmmm as usual front pannier bags and handlebar bag together with rear saddle bag for the usual long distance gravel path touring …
    Of course with tyre 42c to 50c option is great.

  • yeah, for panniers and such, I would probably opt for the Sutra. If you were doing a strict bikepacking setup as we did in Cuba ( and the ultralight/fast aspect was important, the Cutthroat, hands down. otherwise, they are kind of similar in that they both have a MTB feel,,,

  • Sani Saniman

    Thanks Logan
    Pretty much now understand the differences.
    Sutra Ltd makes a little bit more sense.
    Great .

  • strangeshape

    Is it really a long bike? The reach seems abysmal and doesn’t change much between sizes. 56 cm has a 39 cm reach and that increases only 5 mm on the size 58.

  • Doug Reilly

    I just bought a 2018 Sutra LTD. Very excited to ride it! It will be my only bike for the foreseeable future, and I think it will do almost everything I want it to do. It won’t win me any road races (I don’t care) and it won’t glide across a field covered in a foot of fresh powder (that’s a little sad) but it should do all the singletrack, trail, gravel and road I want. And bikepacking! I’m stoked to get it built up, make some bags for it, and hit the trail! The first build will be with 27.5″ wheels and 2.6″ tires. I’ll run 29ers in the summers and for trips that are more skewed towards roads.

  • Jeremy

    Mine Felt Pretty Long, i Dropped down to a 70 mm Stem on the 58. in addition to the Frame Reach differences, the smaller sizes come with shorter stems on them as well. I’m usually between L and XL sizes, where the XL’s are usually a touch Long but i like the Added Stack.

  • Jeremy

    I think it would be OK depending on how you like the bikes to fit. it was too long for me at 6’1 with the standard stem, you could even put a 120 or 130 on if you wanted longer, but depending on how High you like the bars you may need to go to a bit more Steeply angled up Stem, if you Like a bit more Drop to the Bars it may be ok as is.

  • Rich Lytle

    Hey Logan, can you ask the nice folks at Kona WTF were they thinking when they put 3 boss mounts on the fork without bothering to make the spacing correct for triple boss mount cages? I guess I’m going to find out just how strong my Mojave cages are.

  • Dean

    I like the 1x setup on this bike. I see it comes with a 36T ring. Does anybody know if a 40T ring would fit without being too close to the chain stays?

  • Jamie

    What are your thoughts on the 2017 Kona Sutra LTD with QR instead of thru-axle? As far as I can tell, the bikes are basically identical other than that and the 50mm ClementXplore tires. My LBS is selling a 2017 at a deep discount. Would anyone hesitate with QR at this point?

  • I owned the 2017 Kona Sutra LTD with QR last year and really loved it. I think there might be a bit more clearance for tires on the 2018, but yeah if its a good deal, I wouldn’t hesitate! I ran 2.1″ Nanos on my LTD, and at a low pressure, setup tubeless, it was great on some pretty gnarly singletrack .. just have to pick your lines a little more strategically!

  • Jamie

    Thanks for your reply Miles… Curious now, why did you let it go?

  • The biggest thing for me was the fit – it’s pretty long up top, and even with a shorter stem I was feeling stretched out. I almost wanted a size smaller (I was on a large, I’m 6’1″) but that wouldn’t make sense for the rest of the bike’s geometry, for my size. I’ve read a lot of other people noticing this online as well – if you can be in between on sizes, I’d go for the smaller of the two.

  • PS – otherwise, sick bike. Loved ripping around on the roads to get out to the trails and back again!

  • Jamie

    Hi Miles,

    It does seem like a great steel bike packing rig that would complement my Surly ECR at the moment. Sometimes I wonder if a professional bike fitting would be worth the money in the long run. Since your review on the Norco Search XR, I went out and tried the Apex version and although it’s a beautiful bike, I had trouble justifying the price point. I asked for the Steel 105 setup and was told they were already sold out. That being said, another shop is selling a Salsa Cutthroat (Apex) for cheaper than the Search XR (Apex)… I don’t know but I like the idea of putting my money to good use even though those two bikes aren’t in the same category. Hence, why the Kona Sutra is tempting as the shop is letting it go for half the price of either of those two carbon bikes mentioned above.

    What about you? Other than the gorgeous KM your ride, what would you deem your next bike purchase?

    Thanks again for your input…


    Aurora, ON

  • I definitely agree with you on the price point with some of those Search XR builds. I think I’m still on the hunt for something similar to you, I’m really keen to try the All City Gorilla Monsoon. I also think I’d really like a Salsa Cutthroat. Mostly dreams at this point – too busy working on the cargo van camper bikepacking mobile home mobile!

  • Someone Else

    I just got mine 4 days ago. It’s a blast to ride, as is or fully loaded with a Revelate bag setup. Plenty of cockpit space and handles really well. I’m not too happy with the gear ratio though, I might swap out that 36t with a 32t and see if that helps.

  • Someone Else

    This is good advice. The standover of the 54cm Ltd. is higher than it is for my 54cm Jake the Snake, so I went for the 52, figuring I could just add a longer stem if needed. It wasn’t.

  • Someone Else

    Another one bombing the Montana roads! I’m doing the same in the Billings area. Just wish the street sweepers were active, so much crud on the roads from all the melting snow.

  • Someone Else

    I got this bike 2 weeks ago, and have about 200 miles on it. I’ve used it for commuting as well as bikepacking on pavement, dirt, and gravel. I have it set up with Revelate frame bag, harness with saltyroll, and terrapin.
    Like most steel touring frames, it’s rather stiff without a load. Add a little weight and it’s much better. Plenty of cockpit room even with the default bars. Aside from the gear spread making shifting feel a little choppy, it has been my dream bike. Currently gathering all the parts to wheelbuild around a SP dynamo feeding to a Reactor stem cap. Getting laid off around July and am going to take it out for a month or so and just get lost. This baby is going to take me places.

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