Logan’s Kona Sutra LTD + Paramos Pack List
Logan assembled a choice kit around a 2020 Kona Sutra LTD frame for dirt road rambling and a trip through Colombia’s high-altitude Paramos. Here are full details on the build, rationale behind his component choices, a complete packing list, and loads of photos…
Whenever a reader writes in and asks for a bike recommendation, the same few bikes typically spring to mind. For folks who prefer the idea of drop bars with an off-pavement touring approach, one of the bikes that leads the list is the Kona Sutra LTD, a tried and and true drop-bar 29er that’s one of the most dialed and capable steel rigs on the mainstream market. This past fall I had the opportunity to build up the new 2020 frame with some choice components for a trip that we’re on as I’m typing this. Here are all the details, including wia full build kit and packing list.
The Kona Sutra LTD has been in the company’s lineup since 2015 when it was released in a powder blue paint scheme with a 68mm bottom bracket shell and clearance for 29 × 2.0” tires. Since then, Kona re-engineered the platform with a 73mm shell and new stays, adding tire clearance for 29 × 2.25″ tires (with some riders even running 27.5 x 2.8” rubber). Kona has continued to improve the Sutra LTD over the years with a few slight modifications and tweaks here and there. We reviewed the 2018 model a couple years back, but I was excited to see the 2020 Kona Sutra LTD get one much needed improvement over that model, correcting the one flaw we found in past models: they added a properly spaced third mount to each fork leg, making each set a three-pack of bosses suited for Anything-style cargo cages.
Otherwise, the most visible update to the 2020 model is the new paint scheme, a “Gloss Earth Grey” color with grey and “Mustard” decals. The frame’s geometry and tubeset have remained consistent to the one we reviewed in depth, which you can find here. In short, I think this is one of the best and most capable drop bar bikes on the market, and certainly one of my favorites in our Drop-Bar 29er Index. The main thing I love about the Sutra is that it handles and feels more like mountain bike than a gravel bike. I generally prefer flat bars and hardtails over drop bars and road-inspired gravel bikes, but I also like to tinker and try new things. For that, the Sutra’s MTB-esque geometry made the perfect base to build a dirt-road and gravel focused rig for winter riding at home.
It’s also great for the trip we’re on now: a multi-leg scouting trip with conservation.org to create an incredible weeklong bikepacking route that will showcase the Paramos surrounding Bogota, Colombia. In a nutshell, the Paramos are a high altitude specialized ecosystem that captures water and play a crucial role in providing clean drinking water for the communities in this region. Our route will climb to altitudes over 12,000 feet on challenging, rocky dirt roads that have already claimed a couple spokes on other bikes in our group. The riding is rough and rewarding, and while a suspension fork-equipped hardtail may be the best choice for it, the Sutra LTD has proven its capability and worth.
- Frame/Fork 2020 Kona Sutra LTD
- Wheels Curve Dirt Hoops (carbon/25mm IW)
- Tires Teravail Ehline (29 x 2.3″)
- Brakes Paul Klamper Flat Mount
- Crankset White Industries M30 (172.5mm crank arms)
- Cassette eThirteen TRS 9-46T
- Deraileur SRAM Rival 1×11
- Shifter SRAM Rival 1×11
- Handlebar Crust Shaka Bar
- Tape CampAndGoSlow Rattlesnake bar tape
- Stem Paul Boxcar 70mm
- Headset Wolf Tooth
- Saddle Brooks C17 Bronze
- Seatpost Cane Creek eeSilk (while touring)
- Seatpost PNW Coast suspension dropper (while at home)
- Pedals OneUp Composite Pedals
What’s Working and what’s not
For almost any other bikepacking locale, I wouldn’t change anything about this particular build kit. The Rival 1 shifter and derailleur coupled with an eThirteen 9-46T cassette provides a wide 511% range that shifts smoothly, seems quite reliable, and has stayed in tune over the 500+ rugged miles we’ve been riding here. Having a 9T cog makes a big difference on the high end and doesn’t spin out too fast on the flats and descents. Plus, the White Industries M30 cranks with a 32T chainring offers a pretty good climbing gear overall—except when churning up some of the steepest grades I’ve ever experienced. After several 6,000 foot climb days punctuated with insanely steep pitches, my knees are a little tender and I definitely wish I had specced it with a 30t ring. Most of my riding companions are running 30 x 50t Eagle cassettes and regularly use every bit of that granny gear.
Descending Colombian dirt is equally as challenging as going up. We’ve had several brake pad burning descents over 5,000 feet. And as much as I love my PAUL Klampers, I literally melted the plastic cable tensioner on the rear caliper during one particularly steep downhill and it hasn’t been the same since. Both Virginia and I are running Klampers (hers have well over 5,000 miles on them!) but due to excessive heat, the pads seem to be wearing unevenly, causing them to squeal like a legion of demon-posessed cats. It might be the pads we are using; I’ll try and figure it out and update this post accordingly.
There are quite a few components that are specced here that have already been highlighted on the site in the past, such as the OneUp Composite Pedals, Crust Shaka Bars, the Brooks C17 saddle, and Curve Dirt Hoops. They all come highly recommended and have proven to be great performers. One new addition—which I quite like on this bike on trails and gravel at home—is the PNW Coast dropper. It offers a bit of spine-protecting suspension with all the shred-worthy prowess of a dropper. That said, I replaced it for this trip with my Cane Creek eeSilk seatpost which also adds a bit of cushion to preserve my old back on Colombia’s long and bumpy roads.
As mentioned in a previous Editor’s Dozen roundup, I’m quite impressed with the Teravail Ehline tires. After some use at home, I suspected that they might make a great dirt touring tire. Virginia, Joe, and I were all using them on this trip. They corner extremely well and feel confident on the loose, rubbly roads with the pressure dropped to around 20-25 PSI. They are also fast and have maintained their tread after 600+ miles of use.
Full Pack List for Colombia
Here’s the complete pack list I’m using on our current trip. For the record, our route goes up to 12,500′ (3810m) in altitude, so cold and inclement weather preparation was key. Also note that Virginia and I are traveling together, so she is carrying our titanium cook pot and a few other kitchen odds and ends.
Leatt DBX 3.0 Helmet
FiveTen Guide Tennies
Kitsbow Haskel Shorts
Pearl Izumi Merino T
Pearl Izumi Merino Socks
Porcelain Rocket Big Dumpling hip pack
Sony A7III + 1 Lens
Rockgeist custom frame bag (Dyneema composite)
Food (2-3 days worth)
Pearl Izumi Summit WXB Jacket
Tool roll with spares and full repair kit
Spare tube, sealant, and lever
Silca T-Ratchet multi-tool
OneUp EDC Pump/Tool (with tire plugger, etc)
Bag with spare tools and spork
Snow Peak titanium mug
Trangia Spirit Burner stove
BXB Teardrop handlebar bag
Big Agnes Tiger Wall Carboon 3p tent
Enlightened Equipment 32°F Revelation Quilt
Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow
Additional camera lens
Cooking alcohol in plastic flask
Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp
Revelate Terapin 14L seat pack
Pearl Izumi Merino T
Merino base layer leggings
Pearl Izumi Merino Socks
Pearl Izumi Rove button down shirt
Nemo Tensor Insulated sleeping pad
Mountain Feed Bag
Additional Camera lens
Trash (in outside mesh)
2x King Cage + Plastic Water Bottle
King Cage Iris with Klean Kanteen
Pearl Izumi sent several pieces from their new apparel lineup. I’ve been really impressed with their merino wool T-shirt, and the wrinkle resistant, snap-button Rove button down shirt. Both have been great on the bike while temps ebb and flow between 55-80°F. Also, the Summit WXB jacket has impressed several of us during regular afternoon rain events in the high Paramos. Otherwise, all of the gear above was handpicked and comes recommended. I highlighted a few relatively new favorites in red above, some of which have been mentioned on the site already.
While I’ll probably recommend a hardtail mountain bike for this route once it’s published, my love for the Sutra LTD is unwavering. A little underbiking never hurt anyone. This bike is a brute and I stand by the claim that it can tackle almost anything a dirt-touring route can dish out. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll try to answer while traveling. P.S. Thanks to Rugile Kaladyte for the photo of me riding.