2019 / size 54 / Transmission Sram Rival 1x11 / Breaks Sram Rival 1 Hydraulic
The prettiest 29er on drop bars
I was looking for a drop bar bicycle in 29" on a budget of about 2000€. The options aren't too many, the large majority of capable gravel bikes with substantial tire clearance are 650B kind (All City Gorilla Monsoon, Crust Bombora, Bombtrack Hook EXT, Brother Cyles Mehteh, Genesis Fugio, Surly Midnight Special, etc). These were the 29ers on drop bars that I could find and I had access here in Europe when I bought the bike: Genesis Vagabond, Bombtrack Beyong and Kona Sutra LTD. What really makes the Kona stand out in my opinion is the geometry. The slope on the other two is crazy, almost like a MTB, they are designed to go on real rough terrain, slope gives more safety, put the stack higher and even allows for a dropper. The Kona on the other hand has a more moderate slope and a lower stack, is slightly more aggressive which I think makes the bike faster, and very important for me, I believe it looks way better.
It feels like race bike
To me... I got a small size (I'm 1,83m and the bike is a 54) so the bicycle is very compact. On Schwalbe G-one speed evolution 50mm Sutra feels to me like a race bike. Honestly, the tires are so supple that I don't need to slow down when riding on cobble stones or tarmac in bad condition. Anyhow, performance is not a priority for my but I do like going fast and this bike does that in total confort. But it is still super capable I find.
The frame is extremely adaptable, the tire clearance allows for a wide variety of tires, the maximum tyre clearance for the Kona Sutra LTD is 2.2 inches (55mm), is the width I use when bikepacking (Teravail Sparwood 2.2") there is enough clearance to put actual MTB tires. On the other hand, the frame doesn't look weird at all with a 45mm tires like the WTB Riddles that came with the bike. One could imagine having two pairs of wheels, one with a sleek tire on 40 to 45 mm for fast rides and another with off road 55mm. My preferred choice is Schwalbe G-one speed on a very light and minimal set up.
Mudguards, racks, bottle cages... the bicycle has all the mounting a conventional touring bike has. Including one under the down tube and a double mount on the fork blades, on the 2020 model they made it triple, which is better for anything cages.
A couple of customizations
I found the handlebar that comes with the bike really uncomfortable, I decided to change it and try the Ritchey Adventure Max in 46 cms width, it was a major upgrade in confort, they are shallow so the agressive position is not that agressive but enough to change the position of the upper body and get relatively aerodynamic when necessary. I also changed the tire for the G-ones on tubeless which work excellent on paved surfaces, incredibly confortable and fast, on gravel though they can be slippery, for gravel rides and Bikepacking I would definitely change them. I also changed the stem, from 70mm to 80mm, this is because I got a small size, that extra centimeter puts me in a perfect position and I find it also helps me gain a bit more control on high speed.