Kona Sutra ULTD Review: Sibling Rivalry

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From our patronize ; more content below … From our presenter ; more contented below … From our sponsor ; more message below … From our presenter ; more content below … The Kona Sutra ULTD “ UnLimTeD ” is a bicycle that aims to blur boundaries and tackle any terrain. After six months riding singletrack, bikepacking, and gravelling the ULTD all around the southern Appalachians, Logan picks this animal apart and compares it to its older sibling, the venerable Sutra LTD. Find the entire, long-run review here…

write Logan Watts


Jan 25, 2021
comment 159 I know, I know. This one ’ second been a long fourth dimension coming. But let ’ s precisely say I ’ ve learned to expect near paragon from Kona when it comes to adventure-themed steel bikes. indeed, I wanted to take my time and get to know this bicycle closely before publishing a review. For the sake of foil, I consider myself to be reasonably of a Sutra LTD zealot. not only do I own one, I often recommend it to others, and truly think it should have some screen of honorary membership in the Dirt Bicycle Hall of Fame, if there was such a thing. Despite the fact that I find about nothing wrong with the venerable LTD, I was pretty stimulate to hear that Kona introduced an even rowdier Sutra model to the batting order. And what ’ s not to love about the idea of a more able and dirt-worthy version of an already rad bike ? I spent the end respective months riding the Sutra ULTD to find out if it lives up to its namesake .
Kona Sutra ULTD Review

  • Highlights (Size 56cm)
  • Angles: 69.5° Headtube, 73° Seattube
  • Reach/Stack: 400/627mm
  • Bottom Bracket: 73mm Threaded
  • Hub specs: 142×12 (rear); 100×12 (front)
  • Seatpost Diameter: 31.6mm
  • Max Tire Size: 27.5 x 2.8” / 29 x 2.4″
  • Price: $2,599 (complete)

First Ride (Making a Splash)

Let ’ s prima donna proper in, shall we ? After all, I literally did equitable that on the Sutra ULTD ’ s maiden over voyage. Let me explain. After unboxing this thing and drivel over its magnetize Gloss Prism Rust-Purple key problem the night prior, I was itching to get it out on the trail the next day. There were several trails and roads in our local forest that were closed under a Covid mandate at the time, so we were getting creative with “ off-map ” trails and early such interesting loops. That day, I pedaled up a long forest doubletrack wax and was dragging a fiddling on the latter half. The bicycle felt heavy and kind of slow, but I didn ’ t think a lot of it and kept spinning toward a trail that we ’ ll just call downhill-bike-worthy singletrack. I ’ five hundred tease it a few times prior, on both inflexible and suspension bikes, so I knew most of the chase. still, I opted to go for lines that I normally wouldn ’ triiodothyronine on a drop-bar bicycle, which got me into some trouble. Zipping down the trail in the drops, I cleared a copulate of the steep root moves, then reached a creek crossing where you can either take the normal way and churn through the water over babyhead-sized rocks on the streambed or go in and out of the water via a little rock ‘n’ roll dance on a more creative wrinkle. I took that one, misjudged something, went over the handlebars, and landed shoulder first in the freeze cold water. good times .
That surely wasn ’ t the motorcycle ’ second mistake, but it kind of set the degree for what this motorcycle is all about. It begs to be pushed, carved, and played with, and inspires confidence out of the gate. On that first base ride, I had assorted impressions, as I did for a few rides after that. But once I understood this bicycle and my legs melded with its geometry, all that went away. I ’ ll get back to that, but before I get excessively far into my evolving ride impressions, it ’ s about impossible to dig excessively far into a recapitulation of the modern Kona Sutra ULTD “ UnLimTeD ” without first comparing it to its harbinger, the “ LimiTeD ” model .

Kona Sutra ULTD vs. LTD

To start, let me promptly summarize the Sutra range ’ s history—which I covered in more astuteness in the 2018 LTD review. The master Sutra ( 2005 ) was ( and still is ) a road touring motorcycle with fenders, racks, and all the traditional tour provisions. Its initial spinoff, the LTD, was one of the first mainstream drop-bar 29ers out there, featuring a classical batch bike geometry and clearance for relatively beefy tires. It remained one of the few production dirt-drop bikes with clearance for true 29er MTB tires for respective years after its 2015 launch. It ’ randomness evolved in child steps over the years, keeping a good matter bang-up, and tacking on respective upgrades like thru axles and more mounts. It ’ south become reasonably legendary in bikepacking circles and is distillery the highlight of the Sutra batting order .
Despite its appoint, as a drop-bar rig I never actually thought that the Sutra LTD was limited, necessarily. Comparing it to a fortune of early bikes in its class, it can hold its own on squirrelly singletrack that you wouldn ’ t inevitably think ( or want ) to point a drop-bar bicycle down. however, Kona clearly thought there was a line to be crossed and a limit to be blurred when they conceived the ULTD, a “ lengthiness of a pipe dream to make a drop barroom motorcycle deoxyadenosine monophosphate badass as possible. ” And as underline by its geometry, they aimed to well step up the Sutra range ’ s soil game .
You ’ ll see in the comparison charts below ( the Kona Sutra ULTD is on the leave, and the 2021 Kona Sutra LTD is on the right ) that the Kona Sutra ULTD is significantly different from its harbinger .
One noticeable observation is that Kona lowered the standover stature on the ULTD to make room for a longer dropper seatpost. The 56cm model that I tested came with a 125mm dropper post, and I could have easily fit a 150. They besides increased the seat tube size to 31.6mm and added inner dropper rout. Yes ! Of course, the downside to this is that the ULTD has a significantly smaller ensnare triangle for storage space. Another visible upgrade is the practice of a sharpen head tube on the ULTD, which is dwelling to an all-new 430mm pitchfork ( the Sutra LTD is based around a 415mm branching distance ). That means the Sutra ULTD has been optimized for a 40mm suspension branching, should you be matter to. It besides means you could add a carbon fork if you wanted to lighten it up a short morsel. unfortunately, there aren ’ triiodothyronine many carbon forks available in that length, at least for now. A couple of options are ENVE ’ s newly Adventure pitchfork or the Whiskey MCX. Either would need to be paired with an external cup ( ~12mm ) lower headset, making them about 418 and 427mm, respectively .

The ULTD not only gets a longer fork and more standover, but it besides has a 1.5° lax headtube, a steeper seat metro, and 5mm of extra fork cancel. With an extra 10mm more reach ( for the 56cm model ) and 36 more millimeters of wheelbase, it ’ s a importantly longer bicycle, overall. The longer compass and top tube allows it to use a light, 50mm shank, a mountain motorcycle vogue that many liberal drop bar bikes are following. The bottom bracket drop and chainstay distance are the only two numbers that remained relatively unchanged, although it appears Kona made some size-specific alterations to the BB Drop this go around .
The new ULTD besides got a lot more mounts. They added a pair on peak of the top pipe for a bolt-on top tube bag, and two new pairs under the exceed metro. The pair toward the rise could be used for a third gear bottle cage or another such accessory, or you can use all of them for a custom-made bolt-on frame of reference bag, as I did—this is a Rockgeist customs Wedge in “ Red Rocks ” X10 Cotton Duck .
There are a few similarities between the LTD and the ULTD. Like the Sutra LTD, the ULTD besides has three-pack bosses on each crotch peg and mounts for racks and fenders. Kona besides carried over the 73mm bottom bracket size and hub space of 142 adam 12mm in the raise and 100 adam 12mm in the front man. This eclectic mix of batch motorcycle and road standards was one of the things that made the Sutra LTD particular and allowed for larger tires on a drop-bar motorcycle. Kona besides used the same roll rear dropout that ’ s on the Sutra LTD. unfortunately, as I ’ ve already found out, this means they use the like easy aluminum derailleur hanger that ’ mho specced on the LTD. A friend of mine jokes that Sutra hangers bend if you look at them wrong. That ’ s not excessively far off the mark ; I ’ ve gone through quite a few of them on my LTD and I ’ ve already bent the one that came on the ULTD. I was able to straighten it out using a derailleur hanger tool ( Park Tool DAG-2.2 ), which I ’ ve become reasonably adept with nowadays. Problem Solvers makes a version of this hanger, which I haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate tried so far but I hope is a small more durable .

Tire Clearance

Despite using the same hub and BB spacing, the Sutra ULTD was built around a forge steel plate half-yoke on the driveside that gives it a lot more of bore clearance than the LTD. Kona never made an official argument on the soap tire size of the Sutra ULTD, but after using calipers and comparing a few tire sizes, I ’ meter reasonably convinced it could clear 29 x 2.6 ” rubber, although the quad between the tread and the seat persist might be a little besides close for comfort. I think 29 x 2.4 ” tires are credibly a safer bet. I besides think it could be finely with 27.5 x 2.8 ” tires if an ultra-rowdy drop-bar fishing gear floats your boat .

On the Trail: This Ain’t No Gravel Bike

As you might expect based on my first tease report—as well as the fact that the ULTD comes equipped with a bashguard and a 50mm stem—this thing is means more a mountain bicycle than it is a road motorcycle. Yeah, I pedaled it along a fair share of gravel, forest roads, and hardtop during my time with it, but the ULTD is not to be slotted into the gravel bicycle class. certain, it ’ second got spend bars, but that ’ s very the only similarity. It surely fits in the drop-bar 29er mountain bicycle class ( where you can find it in our Gear Index list ). But I ’ vitamin d besides say it ’ s a modernize interpretation of the LTD. The longer reach and wheelbase, and short-change stem tug it in that direction, but not excessively much. While I haven ’ thyroxine ridden the hazardous Evil Chamois Hagar, I ’ megabyte guessing the ULTD fits somewhere between the MOOTS Baxter and the Hagar. It ’ south super able, very playful, and is still pretty comfortable for merely pedaling on annoy roads. The best anecdote I can provide is that everytime I pedaled out on it, I about instinctively begin sculpture, pump, and bunny hop things. conversely, when I ride my LTD, I barely happily pedal down the road. That kind of sums up the differences between the two .
On the first few rides with the Sutra ULTD, I found my stage struggling on annoy and paved climbs. There was something that felt sluggish about it. I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate think it ’ s a dense skeleton, necessarily, but the substantial slant of this build and the flat-profiled Rekon Race tires felt a fiddling draggy. I pinged Neil Beltchenko and asked about his experience with the Rekon Race. He confirmed. They ’ re not the fastest on paving or gravel, but they ’ re capital on singletrack. All that said, the more I rode this bicycle and my muscles got used to it, the more that feeling went away .
The ULTD ’ s front-end besides felt a little wobbly on super steep climb at first. not modal pitches, but the more granny-gear-taxing steeps. however, Kona did an excellent job balancing the 1.5° loose headtube angle on this motorcycle by bumping up the fork cancel to 55mm ( the LTD has a 51mm offset ). When pointed downhill, its longer wheelbase and lax battlefront end makes it significantly more static and capable than the LTD. And the extra beginning kept the handling fairly coherent. My verdict is that while it ’ s not quite as dependable of a social climber or a long-day pedaler as the LTD, the ULTD international relations and security network ’ t besides aggressive for big rando rides or multi-day bikepacking, either. After putting in thousands of miles on the LTD, I think it was barely a matter of becoming accustomed to this slightly different animal .
Kona Sutra ULTD Review
As those of you who ’ ve ridden diverse steel bikes know, while there are frequently some similarities, the ride quality of chromoly framesets can vary tremendously—from soft and noodley to excessively arduous and rigid. Given that the Sutra ULTD has a firm steel half-yoke, a sharpen headtube, and a thick seat metro, I expected it to be significantly stiffer than the LTD, which wouldn ’ metric ton be ideal, as the Sutra LTD already has a fairly beefy touring tubeset. however, I was surprised to discover that the ULTD actually feels perceptibly plusher than its less aggressive sibling .

I confirmed with Kona that the “ butted Cromoly ” tubing they used is relatively like, with a few modifications : the seat tube has slenderly thicker walls to accommodate dropper posts and the chainstays have slenderly larger dimensions to compensate for the larger tires and add lateral stiffness. This leads me to believe that its dainty, compliant ride feel is based strictly on the physics of it being a longer and more splayed out frame. Of course, its slenderly larger tires and 1.5° slacker headtube might besides add to it. Either way, I found the Sutra ULTD to be perfect in that regard. The ensnare seemed to soak up bumps quite well, while still feeling reasonably reactive and not excessively piano or flexy. not much changed when loaded up with gear, either. The flimsy swerve on super steep climb I mentioned earlier was still present, but not bad .
Kona Sutra ULTD Review

Kona Sutra ULTD Build Kit

similar to the LTD, the complete Kona Sutra ULTD gets rival 1 shifters and derailleur, but with a dropper seatpost outback in the leave lever. That ’ s a nice addition that I ’ ve very enjoyed. unfortunately, Kona specced the 94 BCD SRAM NX crankset on the ULTD alternatively of the Race Face Aeffect that ’ south on the LTD mannequin. That means it ’ s not a calculate mount chainring, which is slightly limiting—pun intended. On the bright slope, the SRAM NX allows smaller 28T, 30T, and 32T chainrings via its X-Sync interface, so it would be fairly easy to change the gear .
besides disappointing was Kona ’ s decision to ditch the XD hub driver in favor of a standard HG driver. Doing so means it loses its ability to run the wide-range 10-42T cassette. The 11-42T cassette efficaciously shaves 10 % off the sum gear scope, from 420 % to 382 %. not ideal. An comfortable upgrade would be to switch to the MicroShift CS-H113 11-46T cassette ( I ’ ve found that equal derailleurs work fine with a 46T cassette cog ). This would increase the range to 418 % and reduce the granny knot gear to a slightly more bikepacking-friendly 22.7 gear inches ( 24.9 gear inches with the 42T cassette cog ). You could besides go for the Ratio upgrade and an Eagle GX/NX derailleur/cassette if your heart thus desired .

  • FRAME MATERIAL Kona Cromoly Butted
  • SIZES 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58
  • FORK Kona Project Two Cromoly Disc Touring fork
  • CHAINRINGS 36t X-Sync
  • B/B SRAM 73mm
  • FREEWHEEL SRAM PG1130 11-42t 11spd
  • R/D SRAM Rival 1
  • SHIFTERS SRAM Rival 1 w/ Integrated Dropper Lever
  • BRAKE CALIPERS SRAM Rival 1 Flat mount
  • FRONT BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • REAR BRAKE ROTOR SRAM Centerline 160mm
  • HEADSET FSA No.1/No.10
  • HANDLEBAR Kona Road
  • STEM 50mm Kona Road Deluxe
  • SEATPOST Trans-X Dropper +RAD Internal 31.6mm
  • SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
  • GRIPS Kona Cork Tape
  • FRONT HUB Formula 100x12mm
  • REAR HUB Formula 142x12mm
  • SPOKES Stainless Black 14g
  • RIMS WTB KOM Light Team i27 TCS 2.0
  • FRONTIRE Maxxis Rekon Race EXO TR 29×2.25″
  • REAR TIRE Maxxis Rekon Race EXO TR 29×2.25″
  • PAINT COLOR Gloss Prism Rust-Purple w/ Metallic Dark Silver & Charcoal Decals

I ’ molarity slightly torn on the Maxxis Rekon Race 29 x 2.25″ tires. I ’ ve been using these tires for a while and love their blend of politic kernel tread and corner-gripping side lugs. They ’ ra capital on singletrack. however, their flat profile seems a little dull on annoy and tarmacadam .
There are few things that I in truth like in the physique kit. As mentioned, the equal 1 components are excellent, particularly with the integrated dropper propulsion. And Kona nailed it with their option of rims ; the WTB KOM Light Team i27s pair perfectly with 2.25 ” tires and are besides plenty desirable for 2.4s, should you wish to size up. In addition, the handlebars are excellent. They ’ re 460mm wide at the drops ( on size 56 ) and have a nice 20° sweep, 105mm drop, and 65mm reach. Plus, they come wrapped in a sweet grippy and velvet black pleather .


indeed, how does all this stack up against the ULTD ’ s $ 2,600 price tag ? It ’ randomness more expensive than a few other bikes in its class, such as the $ 1,500 Breezer Radar X. And it ’ s on par with others, like the $ 2,600 Salsa Fargo. Considering that the Fargo has a carbon branch and the ULTD is built around a full moon steel frameset, that price might seem a short high to some. And, at 28.3 pounds ( 12.84kg ), the ULTD is a bit on the heavy side for a “ perplex bike. ” As mentioned, it felt inert as a consequence. To rectify this, it would require a meaning outlay—e.g. a igniter wheelset, and possibly faster tires if you ’ re looking to ride more annoy than singletrack .
All that said, I think the ULTD ’ mho MSRP is about on the money. The part tilt is reasonably well overall, and the lone things I ’ vitamin d in truth tweak out of the box are the skinny WTB saddle and the gearing ( adding a MicroShift 11-46T cassette ). But it ’ s a beautiful, unique, and fantastic frame with a solid and dependable build kit that requires alone minimal upgrades to tackle about anything. It ’ s not a budget motorcycle, and the tease quality and balanced geometry back that up .
Kona Sutra ULTD Review

  • Size tested: 56cm*
  • Actual Weight: 28.3 pounds (12.84kg)
  • Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
  • Price: $2,599 complete ($599 frameset)
  • Manufacturer’s Details KonaBikes.com

*I ’ megabyte about 6′ tall ( 1.83 megabyte ) with a long 34″ inseam. alike to the LTD, the ULTD runs large ( I typically ride 58-59cm drop-bar bikes ). The 56 fit me perfectly…


  • Good tire clearance and all the mounts and specs you could hope for make it a drop-bar bikepacking rig that ticks a lot of boxes
  • Well balanced, super stable, and confident while descending
  • Versatile bike that begs to be pushed and played with
  • Fantastical iridescent paint job
  • Internal routing and room for a decent size dropper


  • Not as long-day friendly as the LTD
  • Same terribly soft derailleur hanger as its older sibling
  • Heavy build kit
  • Kona ditched the XD driver, which is bad for the overall gear range

Wrap Up

true, the more I rode the Kona Sutra ULTD, the more my feelings shifted about it. At first, I thought there ’ south no means it could replace my LTD. however, now that it ’ second boxed up and cook to send back, I secretly want to swap the two. I in truth enjoy riding this bicycle. To me, the accession of the inner dropper route and slight geometry modifications make it a significantly different bicycle that lives up to Kona ’ randomness goals and has that perfectly balanced feel Kona ’ s sword bicycle lineup is known for .
Anyone weighing their options between the LTD and ULTD may find that it ’ s a rugged decision. I think you have to ask yourself, “ Would this bicycle be my alone gravel bicycle or a mountain bicycle ? ” Those looking for a annoy motorcycle will likely find the LTD more match at that end of the spectrum, despite having mountain bike-esque geometry .
so, who is the Kona Sutra ULTD for ? For anyone unfamiliar with the rather snarky and privileged “ n+1 ” theorem, it was invented to calculate how many bikes you need. varying n is the number of bikes you presently own. The Sutra ULTD can surely fit into the equation here. If you ’ re a stickler for having performance-optimized bikes for different disciplines, it ’ s not going to replace your gravel motorcycle and your hardtail. In that case, it ’ s a worthy frisson addition for those looking for something a fiddling different. A bicycle that can carve up your local singletrack and is absolutely equipped for multi-day, mixed-terrain bikepacking—very like to the Sutra LTD, but leaning more toward mountain bikers. On the somersault english, if you ’ re a drop-bar aficionado, this very good could be a bicycle that replaces those two and becomes your gravel bicycle, rigid mountain bicycle, and bikepacking rig, all rolled into one.

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