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I’m posting this as much to get my thoughts clear in my head as any advice anyone has. I am about to buy a Kona Sutra, or at least I think I am. I have been thinking about this for a while, researched a lot of different bikes but probably more importantly, trying to decide what characteristics in a bike I actually wanted. When you think about it a couple of thousand dollars is a lot of money, but not when you average it out over an extended period. I really want to have this bike for an extended time frame – maybe 10 years, so I want it to be as special as it can be so when our time is done, we will part with fond memories. And I don’t really want to have to buy another one during this time! It's a bit like partners, make the wrong choice and it can be financially and emotionally painful!
I have a carbon road bike which I find quite uncomfortable after about 3 hours but is enjoyable for a 45km River Loop with fellow cyclists around Brisbane. This I will keep and replace when necessary. I have some back issues and I’m no longer suited to long group rides at speed. I generally like to stop every hour or so to get off and stretch and smell the roses so to speak. I did have an old MTB which was 10 years old. I had converted it for touring with a rack/panniers, Schwalbe Marathons and Ergon grips. I have never done any fully loaded touring with it but we have enjoyed many adventures ranging from day trips on the Brisbane bike paths, to week long credit card touring and the occasional fire trail ride. It was my favourite bike but has now been donated to another cause and I am left feeling like there is a hole in me somewhere that can only be filled with a bike to that can share an adventure, even if it only to the coffee shop. I was tempted to replace it with something similar, this would definitely have been the cheapest option, but I always thought it was a bit slow with its 26” wheels and very upright riding position. There is such a wide range of excellent bike styles and configurations these days, so why not see if I can improve.
Our riding will be 80% day rides on bike paths, or farm roads from a base we have driven to. Once or twice a year maybe a 5 to 7 day credit card tour, requiring no more gear than 2 rear panniers and a handle bar bag, all of which I have. Occasionally we will do a day of rail trails or fire trails, never any single track but some of these trails can get quite rutted in our area. These days will predominately be just a single day and allows the opportunity to swap in some big fat purpose made tires. No plans for any full loaded touring as my wife is prepared to follow me anywhere on the basis we have a bed and a hot shower at the end of day (and I am too soft for camping anyway). Maybe once in our life we will load up for a 2-3 week tour around US or Europe, again no camping.
And so the 2014 Kona Sutra. There has not been many reviews on this bike compared to others like the LHT which has had encyclopedia written about it. The couple I found are;
A day 1 review http://acornucopiaofhappiness.wordpress ... -new-bike/
And after 3,000km across the Nullabor !!!
http://acornucopiaofhappiness.wordpress ... er-3000km/
and this one which is more of a preview than a review http://tomsbiketrip.com/kona-sutra-2014 ... addressed/
there is also a YouTube sales promo which give a reasonable description of the 2014 Sutra http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_Ge1yfpPNw
Other bikes I have considered are;
Surly Long Haul Trucker – Overkill for me as this is a bike meant to be ridden around the world with the kitchen sink.
Vivente World Randonneur – This bike has had a lot of recommendations and met a lot of my criteria, but again I felt it was a bit of overkill given all the day rides we do. It just looked too touring for me with lights and stand and just a lot going on. Besides, I have just missed the runout of the 2013 models which are now all gone. The 2014 models due out in May 2014 will have a RRP of $2,400 up from $1,900 without any significant changes, the result of the exchange rate perhaps?
Fuji Touring Bike – This bike really interested me as I felt it offered really good value for money but a ring around of dealers revealed that a size 58 was all they could get at the moment.
The Salsa Vaya – It really came down to a choice between the Sutra and the Vaya. The reviews are excellent as a do everything bike that can tour. I love the marketing Salsa has done around this model “adventure by bike” when I saw it, I just wanted to buy it. When I test rode it just felt really good and it took some self-discipline not to hand over the credit card. However, floor price was $2,200 with no fenders or racks, plus it has road bike componentry with the lowest gearing being 25 gear inches which is too high for me. I didn’t detail the cost of modifications to lower gearing but it just sounded expensive.
The 2014 Sutra is a apparently a change in frame from the previous touring models. It is more based on (but not exactly the same despite what the YouTube clip says) as Kona’s cyclocross bike the Rove http://vimeo.com/77090243
I could buy the Rove but the gearing is similarly high like the Vaya. The gearing on the Sutra is a 26/36/48 and the shop will put in a 12-34 cassette replacing the 11-32 standard as part of the RRP of $1,750. This should get me a low gear ratio of 20.6 Gear inches. While I would have preferred about 18.5 Gear inches, there is nothing on the market that provides this without modification.
Some additional notes are as follows;
Tire Width – advisedly Sutra can take tires up to 42c without fenders. This should suffice for the planned trails.
Bar End Shifters – I’ve never used these before and not really looking forward to it but something I am prepared to put up with. I haven’t yet asked the shop if they can change to brifters and at what cost. Another option I am considering is something like Paul Road Thumbies. I think I would prefer to have the shifters mounted on the top than the bar ends. http://www.paulcomp.com/thumbies.html
BB Drop – Sutra is 65mm compared with Vaya (75), Vivente (75) and LHT (78)
Chainstay length – Sutra is 435 compared with Vaya (450), Vivente (450), LHT (460) and Fuji (440)
Trail - (something that I have just learnt about and could be a whole topic in itself) – My rough calcs are Sutra (71), Vaya (63), Vivente (64) and LHT (65)
I am expecting that these variances from other well-credentialed touring bikes will give the Sutra more of the Cyclocross/lively feel and as I would not be carrying too much weight should still offer a reasonable ride. Although, the above review by Elizabeth Pedler indicated no stability issues when fully loaded.
So I think on Monday, which happens to be my birthday, I will go and haggle a bit on the price but ultimately order the Karma Sutra.
I’m not sure if anyone made it through to the end, but if you did, thanks for joining me, I have enjoyed it.
Happy cycling !!!
It was interesting to read your thoughts on the Kona Sutra. I have a 2012 model (blue frame). It has longer chainstays but still remains quite nimble. I have changed the gearing on mine. At the first service I installed a 44/32/22 crankset and new front derailleur. Recently when I replaced the chain and cassette I had an 11/34 cassette put on. This has now given me a low of 17.5 gear inches. If an inner chainwheel of 22 teeth is desired, mountain bike rather than road oriented chainwheel sets are needed such as those fitted to the Sutra, Vivente and Surly.
You've been pretty keen to talk yourself into getting the Kona Sutra, which is the most compelling reason to get a Kona Sutra. They are all great bikes and you will be happiest with whatever one tickles your fancy the most, which will almost certainly come down to a private irrational reason like "it's pretty".
At the risk of preaching from the Crazy Book of Rivendell - bikes are toys, so get the one that looks most fun.
As to the Kona specifically, my fiance has one and it's a great bike - you'll like it. Gear combinations used to be a bit weird for loaded touring, as Konatourer has pointed out, but I gather that they're refined that in more recent iterations. As you've noticed, they've also introduced the new Rove frame which is much less crazy-heavy-duty than the last one, which is good for you as well. Their rear rack is really good.
However, in case you're still vacillating, I'd put in a good word for the Surly. I won't add anything to the encyclopedia except to contest your notion that the Surly is only for kitchen-sink touring. It can certainly do that, if built up correctly, but it's fantastic for the uses you've nominated as well, especially with lighter suppler tyres and the front rack removed (which on its own removes almost 1.5kg compared to when it's in Marathon-clad touring mode).
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