Gallery: Dolan’s Kona Sutra

So far, it’s been a fun ride. The goal was absolute reliability in any weather, as it tends to rain a lot here in Portland and I don’t have time to be adjusting things these days. The Sutra frameset, with it’s faults, ended up being about the best non-custom fit I could find. If I had my choice I probably would have used a Rocky Mountain Sherpa, but that would mean parting out the rest of the bike, paying $1000 or so more up front, and not having adjustable dropouts which help so much with the speedhub. The Cotic Roadrat was another interesting idea, but I’m not sure how well it would handle loaded touring. Routing the fender stays was interesting — I had to bend them by hand around the disc brakes and even so they just barely work. Cable routing was a challenge as well, as you can see in some of the other pictures. But for the most part, things came together pretty well.

As for riding impressions, well, it’s solid, fairly heavy (I’m guessing ~30 lbs), and very very stable. The brakes are just incredible in the wet: strong, silent, and fade-free. The dynohub/light combo is fantastic as well, with the auto-light-sensor doing its thing behind the scenes with no thought from me and putting out plenty of light. Many of the parts (seat, cranks, skewers, rack, etc) I’ve had for a while now so they just feel normal. The speedhub is taking some getting used to. I love the range, and the simplicity, but I don’t love the 7-8 shift, and I really dislike the grinding in the lower range. I’m told this will get better, and I hope it will, but at the end up the day there’s really no competition.

Let me know if you have any questions. For now, this will be my “daily rider” to and from work, and maybe some day (when Lucas is a bit older) I’ll get to test out its loaded touring capabilities.

Finally, thanks goes out to Dean at Clever Cycles for sourcing many of the parts, including the big red thing on the rear.

Just a quick parts list for those interested in such things:

  • 2006 (NOS) 54cm Kona Sutra frameset
  • Rohloff disc QR Speedhub (OEM2) with Monkey Bone
  • Schmidt disc Dynohub and shifter
  • Mavic A719 rims (32h) with brass nipples, DT 14/16/14 spokes
  • Pitlock skewers and ahead cap
  • Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 700x32cm tires
  • Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes
  • Chris King 1 1/8″ NoThreadSet
  • Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers
  • Salsa short & shallow 44cm bars
  • Ritchey Adjustable stem
  • Brooks B-17 ti saddle, leather handlebar tape
  • Thomson Elite seatpost
  • Tubus Cargo rear rack
  • SKS fenders (hand to bend the stays)
  • B&M Lumotec IQ Fly Senso Plus (whew!) front light, D Toplight XS Plus rear light
  • Phil Wood Ti BB with steel cups
  • Shimano XTR M900 (1st generation) cranks
  • SRAM PC68 chain
  • Shimano A-530 SPD/flat pedals
  • Incredibell


10 Responses to “Gallery: Dolan’s Kona Sutra”

  • Roland Smith says:

    Nice bike! I would add a chain cover to keep your chain and pants clean. :-)

    The Speedhub on my Hurricane now has about 900 km on it, and it’s getting a lot smoother. The key to good shifting seems to be to take the pressure off the pedals when you’re shifting. Internal gear hubs don’t like shifting under power.

    If you have broken in the bike, you might want to change the chainring so that 11th gear (1:1) matches your normal cruising speed. That gives the smoothest ride and minimizes wear and noise.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Thanks Roland,

    I’ve been looking for a good chain cover, but haven’t found one yet — though there were some by Hebie that looked promising. Finding one over here might be tricky. Another tantalizing alternative is that slick looking belt-drive i’ve seen lately on a 29er, but who knows when that will come to market.

    This Speedhub is second (third?) hand, so who knows how many miles are on it. That said, it has been getting smoother. I may have to put a smaller front chainring on it since I find myself hitting that 7-8 shift far too often. Right now it’s a 46-16(?), so I might experiment with a 44 or a 42 just to see if it works better for me. Won’t look as nice, but this bike was meant primarily for utility.

    Which reminds me, I really should have cleaned the bike before I photographed it :)

  • Alexander López says:

    Hehe, this bike reminds me the Millenium Falcon: a reliable, sturdy, ready-for-anything transport.

    I didn’t know brass nipples could be used for the wheels. What are their advantage? Also, I’ve seen lots of riders switching from V-brakes to discs. Are they worth the price?

    Thanks and keep on cycling!

  • Roland Smith says:

    If the drive is still getting smoother, it probably hasn’t seen many miles yet.
    Or it could be that you’re still getting used to it. But you might want to change the oil, just to be sure.

    Have a look at for Hebie chainguards.

    First of all, every brake that is able to lock the wheel has sufficient stopping power. Most brake systems in good repair are able to lock the wheels, so it’s down to consistency and feeling.

    Having used cable-operated rim brakes, hydraulic rim brakes and hydraulic disc brakes, I would rank the cable-operated rim brakes last, because of cable stretch and deterioration of stopping power on wet/dirty rims. I like hydraulic rim brakes better because of the solid feel of the brakes, but they still loose performance in the wet/dirt. And in time they’ll eat your expensive rims. I prefer hydraulic disc brakes because they aren’t bothered by rain or dirt, and the hydraulics give them a solid feel with good control.

    For a cyclist, keeping safe in traffic means being able to make rapid emergency stops. So good brakes can literally mean the difference between life and death. Money spent on good brakes is therefore well-spent in my opinion.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Roland, nice post explaining “why disc”, and thanks for the link. I’ll have to consider replacing the oil; that might help and I can’t imagine it’s that difficult to do.

    The choice of brakes for this bike was an interesting one, especially so given that this is meant to be a loaded touring bike. There were a few factors in my choice of mechanical discs:


    1) very positive reviews of the Avid mechanical disc brakes overall
    2) more reliable/easier to repair (with normal tools) cable-actuated than hydraulic
    3) familiarity with cable-actuation vs hydraulic on my part
    4) discs are much more fade-resistant on long descents with a fully loaded bike
    5) it’s rainy here in Portland and discs are much better in the wet
    6) ability to ride even if the wheel is bent; unlikely that the disc will be bent
    7) disc pads last longer as they’re bigger


    1) they’re heavier
    2) they’re somewhat more complex
    2) it’s harder to find parts in the middle of nowhere

    Those negatives are why you generally don’t see many fully loaded touring bikes with discs. However, I believe over time that will change as people become more accustomed to the positives, just like you’re beginning to see renewed interest in internal hubs.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Hydraulics aren’t that hard to repair. In ten years of using hydraulic brakes, I’ve only had two brake line failures. One because of a fall, and one because the line was worn through from rubbing the frame, which was my fault for setting the front suspension too soft.

    So no hydraulic brake component has ever failed me because of bad design or manufacture. After the initial setup, I’ve never had to add oil or do anything else but replace brake pads. Unlike cables, hydraulic lines don’t stretch.

    Replacing hydraulic lines is pretty straightforward. You only need a bench vise to hold the line, and a hammer to force the nipple into the line. Unlike car brakes, hydraulics on bikes use mineral oil instead of noxious brake fluid. All systems come with bleed valves, and oil kits come with either a syringe or a squeeze flask. Fit the new line, bleed the brakes from bottom to top and your good.

  • Alexander López says:

    Some time ago Alan posted a note about a couple who is cycling around the world in a custom-made recumbent tandem built in Brazil by Zohrer. I checked their bike and they specified disc brakes AND V-brakes

    The reason for this setup is to have a backup brake system. Their previous tandem lost the brakes once when riding downhill at 37 mph… scary.

    If you can read spanish or portuguese, here’s the link where they describe the differences between their old, traditional tandem (the “Victoria-Gasteiz”) and their current recumbent tandem “The HMS Beagle”. Yes, like the ship where Charles Darwin did his worldwide trip. Just by looking the pictures is evident how the Evolution theory can be applied to their bike. If you can’t read it, find someone to translate it to you; it’s very useful to explain why the recumbent design is so much better for tandems:

  • Dolan Halbrook says:


    Thanks for the info on hydraulics. I’ll have to keep that in find for future bikes. I hear you about cable stretch — it is an annoyance — but so far it’s been a pretty minor issue with this bike since it only really affects the brakes (and so far, not that much), not the shifting (or at least, not noticeably). I remember one more reason for going with the mechanicals: nobody (that I know of) makes a hydraulic drop-bar lever. That pretty much seals the deal.


    I’ve seen quite a few tandems with dual-brake setups. Generally it’s a drum (hub) brake in the rear supplemented with a disc or cantilevers. Makes sense when you need that much braking force.

  • Chris says:

    Beautiful bike. I hope it feels as good as it looks.

    The fender mount issue can be resolved by mounting fenders directly to the rack where required. This eliminates the bend and fixes the clearance issues.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:


    Thanks! The bike has since undergone a metamorphosis and can be seen in its current iteration here:

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