Kona Sutra 2012 Touring Bike - First Impressions [Toms Bike Trip]

I wouldn’t agree to test anything that didn’t fit my criteria on paper first. The Sutra did indeed fit my criteria on paper for this, primarily a road tour of a developed-world nation. It’s been a pleasant surprise to ride and has exceeded my expectations.

The Kona Sutra has been aimed at the mid-range touring/expedition bike market, and has been in production for a long time now, changing little in design over the last few years. Rather than take a road bike, beef it up and add some racks, Kona’s designers started from the ground up, and it’s easy to see the results.
Put next to my steel Honky Tonk road bike, the tubing is far beefier, particularly the weight-carrying rear triangle; the wheelbase is longer and the bottom bracket lower, the top-tube sloping off towards the seat tube in a style recognisable from Kona’s mountain-bike range — all in all, a very different geometry. The centre of gravity is therefore nice and low, and that results in a pleasingly stable ride, whether loaded up or not, with the steel frame and fork eating up bumps and uneven road surfaces. It’s an extremely confidence-inspiring and comfortable bicycle to ride.
Off-the-peg touring bikes often come with sub-standard racks, and cyclists often fit aftermarket racks such as those from Tubus. The Sutra’s rear rack, on the other hand, is a stocky-looking thing, rated to 30kg and rigid as can be — and so far, so good.
Drive components are sensible and durable choices; Shimano XT rear mech and gearing with a Sora road triple chainring up front, heavy-duty 700c rims with 36 spokes on Shimano cup & cone hubs. Stock tyres are Continental Contacts; no Marathon XRs, but they don’t make them any more. (I’m using Marathon Supremes for this trip, with Ben on the stock tyres, so it’ll be interesting to compare the two side by side.)