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Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (warning: long post alert)

Posted: 7 Mar 2019, 10:37pm
by RickH
I thought I would write a bit about my experiences with the Kona after just over 2 years & nearly 4000 miles ridden on it.

I'll split this into 2 posts so if you don't want to read my initial ramblings & want to get skip on to the next post.

Disclaimer: This is purely my experience. I sometimes wonder, from what I read on here, if I live a charmed life or inhabit a parallel universe in terms of cycling as I’ve found generally that, in over 40 years, stuff doesn’t break on me – I’ve had one broken (solid) rear axle back in the mid 1970s, I cracked a rear dropout on one bike (probably early 90s), I’ve only ever had 1 chain fail (the quick link on the OEM chain of the Kona – more on that later) & the only frame I’ve broken was because I had my head down battling home from work on a wet & windy evening & failed to see a parked car in time resulting in a bent top tube & down tube!

Pre-amble: In early 2017 I bought a 2016 model Kona Sutra LTD (considerably discounted compared to the 2017 model & I preferred the pale blue to the bright orange of the 2017 model). It was bought to be a replacement/update for my 1986 Muddy Fox Explorer that I had had since new. I wanted to switch to drop bars & had developed a liking for disc brakes, having had them on my tandem for a few years. I intended to keep riding my road bike, a Kinesis Tk (with a 3x10 Campagnolo Centaur setup). The Kinesis had been OK for light touring but could only readily carry gear on the rear and the load was best kept below 10kg, above that things tended to get a bit twitchy.

The Kona came with a SRAM Rival 1x11 groupset, apart from the chainset which is a RaceFace 36T, & hydraulic disc brakes. I wasn’t desperate for a 1x11 setup but neither was I particularly anti either. I wanted discs but was neutral about cable or hydraulic.

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (continued)

Posted: 7 Mar 2019, 10:40pm
by RickH
The Nitty Gritty: Onto the more technical stuff.

I’ve had 2 parts failures early on. At around 500 miles the RaceFace external Bottom bracket developed a wobble. Looking online I found reviews that said the bearings in said EBBs were “made of cheese” & my LBS concurred. The RaceFace cranks share the 24mm axle diameter with Shimano so a Shimano SM-BB52 (Shimano say the “52” has better seals than its “51” predecessor) was a quick & fairly cheap replacement. That BB is still running smoothly & without any play approaching 3,500 miles of use in all conditions (but protected from a lot of it by a front mudguard with a long flap). The second failure was failure of the quicklink on the OEM KMC chain. Fortunately it didn’t actually give way while riding – I noticed the partially missing side plate as I hung it up as I started a train journey. The bike shop nearest to the station at my destination (Evans Chester) swapped the chain for a SRAM X1 (not X01 as originally typed) - unfortunately there was damage to the links adjacent to the quicklink to just use a replacement link - & I was on my way again.

I swapped out the SRAM chain after it had done around 1500 miles and put on a new X1 (again not X01) but the first one wasn’t showing much sign of wear.
At around 3700, so around 1500 miles on the second chain, I swapped back to the first X1 (still not X01). At the time of the last change both chains were showing significantly less than 1/32” elongation over 12” (probably around half that, maybe a little more).

My chain cleaning regime isn’t particularly rigorous - I use a wet lube, adding a drop to each roller & simply topping it up as it appears to need it. I clean the chain with a chain cleaner (Muc Off X3 – which has the added bonus of using a straight chain path so can be used on tandem link chains) every month or two. No problems such as chain jumping have been encountered after the chain changes.

Gear range with the Rival 1 10-42 cassette & a 36T chainring is similar to the Campag triple (modified to 50/39/26F 13-29 R running 28mm Conti Grand Prix 4 Seasons tyres) on my Kinesis, I’ve just lost a one gear off the top end & gained one at the bottom. I’m generally a spinner (I can log rides where my average cadence is in the 90s & my longer term averages are 2017-85, 2018-87 &, so far this year 88) so I rarely use the 10T. Where the conditions allow I can happily spin along at 25mph in 10th – 36x12. I will click into 11th (36x10) only around 30 mph and that means I can usually go as fast, if not faster by stopping pedalling and getting into a more aero position. The gears are a bit more spread out - I’ve 11 gears where with the 3x10 I reckon I had 15 unique gears (other available gear combinations are more-or-less duplicates). I have done several thousand miles since 2010, the vast majority of those since mid 2014, on a Circe Helios fitted with a Shimano Alfine 8 hub which has some pretty big jumps so I think I’ve got more used to having those bigger gear jumps. I’m never in the wrong chainring. It doesn’t happen often but now and again I go to change down thinking I’m in the middle ring & find I’ve got no more gears as I’m still in the big ring. Or a clumsy gear change on the front shifts straight from big to granny!

Brakes are SRAM Hydraulic discs, performance has been impeccable! They are simply the nicest brakes to use that I’ve ever had. Sintered pads last something over 1000 miles (at least that is what I’ve changed them at I could probably have left them longer). The OEM organic pads I changed at about 500miles, again they would probably have lasted longer but I was about to go away for a cycle camping long weekend so opted for fresh pads. My only minor complaint is when the temperature is down to low single figures or below, conditions are damp & the brakes haven’t been used for a while (such as you need to brake having come over the top of a long climb) then they do squeal somewhat for a few seconds. Once everything is dry & warm they are pretty much silent.

The rest of the bike

Far less controversial , the frame is steel & has loads of braze-ons – triple bottle (my only complaint is I would have liked the seat tube ones lower but I bought an adapter to lower it so I have room for a small frame bag under the top tube if I want it) Front & rear rack mounts (including double fork mounts, triple on newer models, if you want to go for bikepacking type cages – I use the lower one for mudguards & the upper one for a front low rider). Handling is impeccable however I load it (from nothing, through 2 to 4 panniers, to towing a trailer, even front panniers & a rear child seat a few times), although a favourite of mine is Ortlieb front rollers plus a 13l seatpack (Alpkit Koala) for a weekend trip. Running with the Vittoria Hypers is great on road & surprisingly good off road. I did get a second set of wheels and run the Hypers on one & some WTB Nanos, run tubeless, on the other. If snow & ice is likely I’ll switch the Hypers for some Schwalbe Snow Studs and just use the Nanos as go everywhere tyres as I found they roll surprisingly well on tarmac (as well as coping with the winter slutch better than the Hypers).

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (warning: long post alert)

Posted: 8 Mar 2019, 2:13am
by thelawnet
Are you using the X01 12 speed chain with the 11 speed drivetrain?

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (warning: long post alert)

Posted: 8 Mar 2019, 9:59am
by RickH
thelawnet wrote:Are you using the X01 12 speed chain with the 11 speed drivetrain?

Sorry, my mistake! :oops: That should have read X1 - 11 speed - but a stray "0" got in when I was typing. I'll edit my original post to avoid further confusion.

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (warning: long post alert)

Posted: 15 Mar 2019, 8:56pm
by Bmblbzzz
Must admit I've been tempted by a Sutra, but the standard "tourer" version with triple etc. Interesting (in a good way) that you find the range with the 1x is almost as large as with the triple. (Still think I'd go for the standard version if only for the amazing equipment - hub dynamo etc).

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (warning: long post alert)

Posted: 15 Mar 2019, 9:31pm
by reohn2
Read the review previously and promptly forgot to comment :? .
Thanks to the OP for taking the time to post such a detailed review on the Sutra and the 1x11sp drivetrain which I found interesting in a positive sense.

Re: Life with a Kona Sutra LTD (6000 mile update)

Posted: 8 Jan 2020, 9:43pm
by RickH
I was planning to do an update when I passed the 6,000 mile mark. I was going to say everything is still running fine but...

I found some play in the bottom bracket after today's ride. So that will have to be sorted. 5,500 miles from an external BB isn't too bad & they are cheap enough. I probably finished it off as I lost my extended front mudflap a few weeks ago & hadn't got round to fitting a new one so I was using the stock one which is much shorter. Plus I've ridden in some really wet conditions recently.

Apart from that everything else is still fine.

The 2 SRAM X1 chains I have been rotating since around 700 miles are still well within wear limits. No problems with cassette wear either as far as I know - all the gears work fine.

I need to change the gear cable sometime. It isn't giving any problems but it lost its little metal cap when I had a minor off before Christmas (lost all grip on a mini roundabout, I suspect there was a bit of diesel on the road as I was going quite slow :?) & is now fraying at the end. It is still functioning fine but it annoys me slightly every time I notice it.

The discs are still within limits (I bought some spares when I spotted some cheaper but they've do far not been needed. I think I'm on about my 4th or 5th set of pads. Mostly sintered ones although the OEM ones were organic. The organic ones just seemed to wear quicker for no noticeable benefit. The hydraulics are working fine with no problems in nearly 3 years.

I'm still running the same pair of Vittoria Voyager Hypers that I fitted from new & they do most of the mileage, supplemented by WTB Nanos or Schwalbe Snow Studs as appropriate. The sipes on the Hypers are getting quite indistinct now so they will probably need swapping out for a new pair (I bought plenty cheap before they disappeared :D ) before too long.

The bike as a whole continues to make me smile. I took it to Vancouver October/November &, among other rides, got taken out on some of the mountainbike trails there. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it coped on much more "gnarly" terrain than I tend to subject myself to as I tried to keep up with my host (who was on a full suspension MTB, plus he knew the trails really well).