Choosing between Trek 920 and Kona Sutra- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Choosing between Trek 920 and Kona Sutra

    Hey everyone. Long time lurker but first time poster. I've recently moved back to central Maine and want to get a new bike.

    After a lot of thinking and internet research and talking with my cycling friends, I've come down to choosing between the Trek 920 and the Kona Sutra.

    I live in central Maine. 90% of my biking is day rides that are between 30 and 40 miles. By mid summer I'll probably be taking a ride once a week in the 55 to 65 mile range if I follow my cycling patterns from previous years. I ride a mix of horrible pavement, gravel roads and rail trails. Single trail and very rough jeep/logging trails are not part of the choosing criteria.

    I ride a Surly Disc Trucker right now with 38mm tires. After riding for the past month, I am absolutely sure that I want to move up to a wider tire. The last ride I took (40 miles) had long stretches of very rough, broken, frost heaved asphalt that really took a lot of enjoyment out of the ride and left me feeling more worn out than I think I should have been.

    So that brings us to the two bikes in question. These bikes are not the best for just eveyday riding, but I also want to be able to pack them up a bit for some touring and bike packing. Since I've been riding the Surly for the past five years, I'm used to the stable ride at the expense of agility. I'm OK with that. Same with the weight. However, I do not want to get any more sluggish than the Surly is with 38mm tires.

    Even if there were bikes available now, there would be no Sutras or 920s in stock within any reasonable driving distance for me. I was able to try out my friends Kona Sutra in the Boston area a couple of months ago. It was a 54 and I take a 56 with Kona bikes, but it was OK to ride on for an afternoon. We rode around Salem. I was surprised that it seemed more nimble and fun than my Surly trucker. The front end is very similar regarding HT angle and trail. Maybe it was the shorter chainstay, maybe it was just having lots of fun with a friend. It was only one afternoon and I did not get to A&B it with my Surly which was back home in Maine. The bike was riding the stock Mondial 40mm tires. I liked it.

    My intent would be to use Rene Herse 700c x 44mm (Snoqualmie Pass) tires on the Trek 920 and 650b x 48mm (Switchback Hill) on the Kona Sutra. The Trek has a BB drop of 85mm, so any 650b/27.5 wheel is out of the question, IMO. The Kona has a BB drop of 72mm. I will be using 170mm crank arms. I am 6' tall with a 34" inseam, if that matters. Either bike can use fatter tires with more tread for the rough stuff if called for, but I'm concentrating on the bulk of my riding time to make my choice.

    I have no experience riding a 700 x 44mm tire. I tried a 42mm tire on my Surly once, but it was really cheap, massively heavy (over 900g IIRC) with lots of heavy tread. I got one mile down the road and turned right around, went back home and changed it back to the Panaracer Pasela 38mm. I'm pretty sure the Rene Herse 44mm tire would not feel like that. I have no experience at all with any 650b/27.5 wheel equipped bike.

    So that's pretty much it. I've picked the two bikes I can afford that suit my purposes best as far as I can determine. They both have differing pros and cons, but the biggest factor for me to make my choice is to choose between a 700x44 or 650bx47/48. I'm not sure how to do that at this point. I'm hoping someone has some experience with these tire and wheel sizes and can give me their thoughts and opinions.

    Side note: Kona is totally out of Sutras until autumn and reportedly no framesets until spring 2021. Trek has framesets now but no complete bikes. Either way, it's OK with me. I can wait if I decide the Sutra is the better choice. If I went with the 920, I would definitely build up a frameset.

    Thanks for any thoughts, opinions, advice, etc.

  2. #2
    NDD
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    I own a Trek 920, and I'll say that I really enjoy riding it, pretty much everywhere. Lots of road commutes, gravel rides, forest service roads, or light single track. It's easy to load up with panniers and/or tow a trailer. I'll say that I'm glad that you'd be building it up, because the stock build is somehow ungodly heavy, and you'll feel it. Also I'll never get over the fact that they build a touring bike that's made to be loaded up with 28 spoke wheels. Already heavy, what a few more spokes? For reference, when I had 43c Panracer Gravel King tires on it, I could easily do 15-16 mph solo cruising (and a few group rides I did at close to 18 mph, but you have to work for it). I've been riding on 2.5" Surly Extraterrestrial tires for a while and most of my rides are ~13-14 mph or 11 with panniers and a trailer. It'll get you where you need to go, but it's a pig. I got mine barely used for a good deal like three years ago.

    Kona Sutra looks fun, and if you don't need tire clearance > 2.2" and you don't want to take it on single track that seems like a better bike, TBH. Have you considered a Surly Bridge Club? That seems like a really fun sort of do-it-all bike that I wish I had the cash for (but being a responsible adult apparently means paying off my student loans and renovating our house). It also falls into that all-road kind of category bike that you probably don't mind taking out on a non-technical trail. Doesn't have drop bars, but you could fix that.
    dang

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by NDD View Post
    I own a Trek 920, and I'll say that I really enjoy riding it, pretty much everywhere. Lots of road commutes, gravel rides, forest service roads, or light single track. It's easy to load up with panniers and/or tow a trailer. I'll say that I'm glad that you'd be building it up, because the stock build is somehow ungodly heavy, and you'll feel it. Also I'll never get over the fact that they build a touring bike that's made to be loaded up with 28 spoke wheels. Already heavy, what a few more spokes? For reference, when I had 43c Panracer Gravel King tires on it, I could easily do 15-16 mph solo cruising (and a few group rides I did at close to 18 mph, but you have to work for it). I've been riding on 2.5" Surly Extraterrestrial tires for a while and most of my rides are ~13-14 mph or 11 with panniers and a trailer. It'll get you where you need to go, but it's a pig. I got mine barely used for a good deal like three years ago.

    Kona Sutra looks fun, and if you don't need tire clearance > 2.2" and you don't want to take it on single track that seems like a better bike, TBH. Have you considered a Surly Bridge Club? That seems like a really fun sort of do-it-all bike that I wish I had the cash for (but being a responsible adult apparently means paying off my student loans and renovating our house). It also falls into that all-road kind of category bike that you probably don't mind taking out on a non-technical trail. Doesn't have drop bars, but you could fix that.
    And that, my friends, is what mtbr is (mostly) all about.

    Awesome, informative post, NDD.
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  4. #4
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    My "road" bike is a Crosscheck on 32cs, which I ride mostly unloaded on similar bad pavement, gravel, rail trails, and gravel multi-track. I am very interested in going wider on the tires, adding disks, and increasing hauling capacity so this thread has me intrigued.

    That Bridge Club is nice, saw one on the local single track last fall and it is really a jack of all trades. The Salsa Fargo is awesome too, albeit much more a mountain bike. An All-City Gorilla Monsoon seems like good comparable to the Bridge Club, for lighter loads. Of course, the Kona is steel, which is cool for irrational reasons.

    Looking at the chosen tires and surfaces it seems like you are more interested in efficiency than off-road-ability. In my heart I want my bike to be able to handle a monster dirt tour, but in my head I know I just don't ride like that and for how I ride my needs are very similar to yours OP. I am interested in what the more learned folks here have to say as well.

    There, I hope this minor thread-jack can balance out the good mtbr with some of the neutral to bad .

  5. #5
    NDD
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    Quote Originally Posted by fly4130 View Post
    An All-City Gorilla Monsoon seems like good comparable to the Bridge Club, for lighter loads. Of course, the Kona is steel, which is cool for irrational reasons.
    I forgot about the Gorilla Monsoon. A very worthwhile one to think about, as is the Fargo. However I've bolded this comment about steel, because surely you jest!
    dang

  6. #6
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    Heh, a Surly Wednesday and Crosscheck, and a Black Market Riot. I suppose another frame material could work for me, but I see no point in finding out.

    Sent from my SM-G973U using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    NDD
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    Honestly the two bikes I really use are the 920 and a 2002 Monocog, which is my primary trail bike (sounds kinda sad compared to many on this site, eh?). But the difference in feel from aluminum to chromoly is worth it. I'll say for most of what the OP mentioned I wouldn't probably notice the difference, especially with some cushy tires on there. Also people are often quite enamored by the bike. The color scheme is fire (the bar tape is just brown now). This was from a ride where that bike really shines, various degrees of single track intersecting logging roads, horse trials, and gravel roads. BUT It would be sexier if it were steel...just sayin'

    dang

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    Can't the Disc Trucker fit wider tires then 38s? You could fit those Rene Herse 700c x 44mm on your trucker.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), 91 Schwinn High Plain (single speed "gravel" bike), Nashbar CXSS (on trainer)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by NDD View Post
    I own a Trek 920, and I'll say that I really enjoy riding it, pretty much everywhere. Lots of road commutes, gravel rides, forest service roads, or light single track. It's easy to load up with panniers and/or tow a trailer. I'll say that I'm glad that you'd be building it up, because the stock build is somehow ungodly heavy, and you'll feel it. Also I'll never get over the fact that they build a touring bike that's made to be loaded up with 28 spoke wheels. Already heavy, what a few more spokes? For reference, when I had 43c Panracer Gravel King tires on it, I could easily do 15-16 mph solo cruising (and a few group rides I did at close to 18 mph, but you have to work for it). I've been riding on 2.5" Surly Extraterrestrial tires for a while and most of my rides are ~13-14 mph or 11 with panniers and a trailer. It'll get you where you need to go, but it's a pig. I got mine barely used for a good deal like three years ago.

    Kona Sutra looks fun, and if you don't need tire clearance > 2.2" and you don't want to take it on single track that seems like a better bike, TBH. Have you considered a Surly Bridge Club? That seems like a really fun sort of do-it-all bike that I wish I had the cash for (but being a responsible adult apparently means paying off my student loans and renovating our house). It also falls into that all-road kind of category bike that you probably don't mind taking out on a non-technical trail. Doesn't have drop bars, but you could fix that.
    It's great to hear from an owner and user of the bike. I'm interested in why you think the sutra would be a better bike if I didn't need tires over 2.2". My thought was that the sutra would be the better bike if I wanted 650b road+ tires or fatter in the 27.5 area. Also, did you mean the 920 was a pig with the trailer, or all time? One of the lures of the 920 was that I could build it up lighter than the sutra and still have fat tires. The sutra weighs more than the 920 and has a higher trail. Not enough to make or break, but it made me wonder why, or in what context you think the 920 is a pig? Not that I take that as a huge negative. I consider my Surly DT a pig also, but I very much enjoy riding it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    Can't the Disc Trucker fit wider tires then 38s? You could fit those Rene Herse 700c x 44mm on your trucker.
    Good point. Yes, I can certainly fit the RH 44mm tires on my trucker. It's my fault I didn't mention in my OP that one of my criteria for my bike is that it must be able to fit full length fenders around my tires of choice. I don't think I can fit adequate fenders around those tires on my Surly. The Sutra and 920 can fit 60mm fenders easily. Also, if my buddy and I ever want to get into the rough stuff for bikepacking, I would not be comfortable with the Surly. It can't take a fat enough tire to get the BB high enough like the 920.

    Then again, maybe I'm rationalizing. Maybe I just want a new bike. It's possible.

  11. #11
    NDD
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    Quote Originally Posted by JWK1 View Post
    It's great to hear from an owner and user of the bike. I'm interested in why you think the sutra would be a better bike if I didn't need tires over 2.2". My thought was that the sutra would be the better bike if I wanted 650b road+ tires or fatter in the 27.5 area. Also, did you mean the 920 was a pig with the trailer, or all time? One of the lures of the 920 was that I could build it up lighter than the sutra and still have fat tires. The sutra weighs more than the 920 and has a higher trail. Not enough to make or break, but it made me wonder why, or in what context you think the 920 is a pig? Not that I take that as a huge negative. I consider my Surly DT a pig also, but I very much enjoy riding it.
    I just mean that for an aluminum, rigid mtb, the stock build is very heavy @ 30lbs, but if you're building it up it will probably be a lot lighter and you'll feel that. I think part of the pigishness comes from the fact that it seems to have a pretty long wheelbase, which is great when you're bombing down a gravel road at 35 mph, but feels like steering a boat through really tight single track. I'll admit handling seems to be better with wider tires on this thing, and it took me a while to realize life would be better with a shorter stem. Just everything about the stock build is very long. Believe me, there's nothing wrong with it being a pig. Heavy as my non-packed setup is, it's still pretty easy to wheelie up onto and over objects and bunny hop over curbs and potholes.

    Also I say the stock Kona Sutra would be better if you want to use narrower tires while not having ridden one. This is because it's steel and has a better wheelset than the trek - the second point being null in your case, I guess. Having had a number of steel and aluminum bikes over the years, I've always thought the steel bikes felt better to ride. 2.5" isn't even the limit for the Trek, looking at it, I bet you could get 2.8" tires on it. Though Trek doesn't recommend fitting it with a 27.5 wheelset, I bet you could get a 27.5 x 3.0" tire on there, too. Why a company would make a bike that doesn't fit multiple sizes of wheel nowadays is beyond me (it's almost like not everybody needs that!).

    I'll put it this way, you probably won't be disappointed, especially if you build it up and considering the riding it sounds like you want to keep doing. You might even be surprised.
    dang

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    Quote Originally Posted by JWK1 View Post
    Good point. Yes, I can certainly fit the RH 44mm tires on my trucker. It's my fault I didn't mention in my OP that one of my criteria for my bike is that it must be able to fit full length fenders around my tires of choice. I don't think I can fit adequate fenders around those tires on my Surly. The Sutra and 920 can fit 60mm fenders easily. Also, if my buddy and I ever want to get into the rough stuff for bikepacking, I would not be comfortable with the Surly. It can't take a fat enough tire to get the BB high enough like the 920.

    Then again, maybe I'm rationalizing. Maybe I just want a new bike. It's possible.
    I mean wanting a new bike is good enough reason to buy one to me. The fenders probably would make the Trucker not work.

    The Bridge Club from Surly may be worth looking at as well.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), 91 Schwinn High Plain (single speed "gravel" bike), Nashbar CXSS (on trainer)

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    This has sent me down a rabbit hole. I found some good lists on bikepacker.

    https://bikepacking.com/index/rigid-...touring-bikes/
    https://bikepacking.com/index/drop-b...in-bikes-29er/
    https://bikepacking.com/index/650b-gravel-bikes/

    OP I know you have your list narrowed so I apologize for the spam but a few more options or perhaps just pictorial inspiration may help. Or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    I mean wanting a new bike is good enough reason to buy one to me. The fenders probably would make the Trucker not work.

    The Bridge Club from Surly may be worth looking at as well.
    I have two problems with the bridge club.

    1. A problem I have with all surly bikes. The stack is stupid low for me. All of surly's frames that are the best size for me need about 60mm of spacers under the stem.
    2. QR hubs. No more for me.

    Good budget option for a lot of people, I would imagine.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by fly4130 View Post
    This has sent me down a rabbit hole. I found some good lists on bikepacker.

    https://bikepacking.com/index/rigid-...touring-bikes/
    https://bikepacking.com/index/drop-b...in-bikes-29er/
    https://bikepacking.com/index/650b-gravel-bikes/

    OP I know you have your list narrowed so I apologize for the spam but a few more options or perhaps just pictorial inspiration may help. Or not.
    I've seen the 650b and rigid steel list, but I hadn't seen the 29er. Some food for thought there. Definitely made me think of the bikepacking end of my plan a bit more. Thanks.

    Where the heck do you find Bombtrack, anyway? I like the specs on that Beyond frameset, but can find no price or link to a dealer anywhere.

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