Kona Sutra review

Hard-stopping globetrotter that can handle a bit of rough

BikeRadar score4/5

Kona’s Sutra touring bike adds a slice of mountain bike mechanics to your world domination plans to guarantee good global karma.

The world of long-haul touring bikes is dominated by traditional English manufacturers and specialist long-haul suppliers, such as Dawes, Thorn and others. Kona brings a sensibility that’s rooted in mountain biking to the notion of the sedate touring bike.

Ride: steady as she goes

With a 30lb all-up weight, the Sutra is definitely on the heavy side, but it is designed more as a yak than a racehorse and it fills that role superbly.

The weight you feel on the climbs is what gives it stability when the big panniers are fully loaded. It’s still much faster than an MTB anyway, and once you settle into its steady stride, it’s a resolute and enjoyable roller.

The steel frame is deliberately stiff to stop it wobbling around all over the place when you’re thundering down a pass with all your worldly possessions on board. Even with a sturdy straight leg fork, it’s still a lot more forgiving over potholes, cobbles and bridleways than an aluminium frame.

As you’d expect from a Kona, unloaded handling is still perky enough to play about on winding paths and woodland tracks. Ideal when you’ve set up camp, or fancy heading out for a local play instead of a once-round-the-planet lap.

On more technical trails or filthy days, the Avid disc brakes give a superb confidence boost, with their controlled and consistent stopping. Traction is only as good as the tyres, though, so if you’re heading off-road regularly then get yourself some more knobbly cyclo-cross rubber.

Frame: retro steel appeal

Kona has gone for big retro appeal with the white panel graphics over baby blue paint. Like the Charge Plug, it has a steel frame, although here it’s a quality, butted pipeset from Italian manufacturer Dedacciai.

Kona has also loaded the Sutra with an impressive set of standard fixtures, including v-brake/cantilever studs, as well as the fitted disc brakes and triple bottle cages for long days in the desert.

There are mounts for mudguards and conventional low-rider front racks, and it comes with tough tubular alloy racks fitted as standard.

Equipment: standout discs & racks

The Avid discs are definitely going to be a big draw for mountain bikers, but from experience make sure you take plenty of pads on any long trip, because wet weather rips through them in double-quick time.

In versatility terms, the included pannier racks are superb. The rear one isn’t the stiffest we’ve used under heavy loads, but its unique design means plenty of clearance around the disc brake for easy maintenance.

The Continental Contact tyres are classics, while the Shimano Deore hubs can be home-serviced and re-greased for years of smooth running.


It looks great, it handles great – loaded or unloaded – and it’ll carry your weekly shop or your worldly possessions all the way to Thailand safely and securely.

Overall weight dulls its sporting edge, but it’s a confident and versatile bike that’s not afraid of a bit of rough.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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