Author Topic: 2013 Trek 520 or 2012 Kona Sutra for commuting and loaded touring?  (Read 6174 times)

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Offline COAKLisa

Hi, I am new to this site and adventure cycling.  I was always a roadie, but now live in AK so am expanding my biking to loaded touring.  I'm short (ride a 48-49 cm), so I'm limited in my bike choices. Locally, I can order a 2013 48 cm Trek 520 or buy a 49 cm 2012 Kona Sutra in stock.  My plan is to commute and tour on the same bike.  I test rode both (I had to test the 520 one size up.), and liked each for different reasons: The trek was fun and zippier, and the Sutra was solid, stable and bombproof. I'm not concerned about the v-brake vs. disc-brake difference, but I am a little concerned about the weight of the Sutra.  Any thoughts on the versatility, durability and reliability of each of these bikes?  Any recommendations? Thanks!

Offline RussSeaton

Long ago I had a Trek 520 touring bike and toured on it.  Worked fine.  Looking at the specs on the two bikes you mention, it appears they are pretty similar.  About the same components on both.  Just different brakes.  I like the simplicity of V brakes.  Others might like the supposed better stopping of disk brakes.  Looks like the Kona comes with fenders and front rack too.  Same price for both.  $1500+sales tax basically.  Trek will be about $80 higher once you put a front rack and fenders on it.  Your choice.  Doubt there is much difference in these two bikes.  Both will work.  You test rode both so that can help make up your mind.  The extra weight and sluggishness of the Kona may be due to the extra 2-3 pounds of the front rack.  Weight wise they should be about the same once equipped the same.  And if carrying four loaded panniers, the raw weight of the bike means nothing.  Handling will be identical once loaded with full panniers.  Steering will be sluggish.  That is what you get when you hang 20 pounds of panniers on the fork.  You can put a 22 tooth inner chainring on both bikes.  Great.  Have the bike shop do this before you leave the shop.  Make it part of the purchase price or you walk away.  Both bikes have 36 spoke wheels.  Blue Kona with blue fenders looks better.  If that matters.  The less sloped top tube on the Trek looks better to me than the radically sloped Kona top tube.  Guessing warranty is comparable.

I think both of these bikes will work perfectly for loaded touring and commuting where you are carrying weight/bags.

In summary, Ha.  These are the differences between these two bikes.
1.  Brakes.  Disc or V.
2.  Front rack and fenders come with the Kona, have to buy them extra for the Trek.
3.  Cost.  About $80 more for the Trek once it is outfitted the same.  Not enough to care about.
4.  Different length top tubes.  Trek has a 1+ cm shorter top tube.  This may make a difference in the small size you are looking at.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2013, 01:38:40 pm by RussSeaton »

Offline dkoloko

I do not own either bike, but have looked into both. Trek has produced the 520 for years. Comments have been weak rear rack and not low enough gearing. I am turned off by the Kona by the high front rack braze-ons. Front rack bags should be centered on front axle for maximum stability. The difference in weight between the two should be negligible.

Offline DaveB

Not a question you asked and to muddy the waters still further, have you considered a Surly LHT?  They are available in frames down to 42 cm and the smaller sizes have 26" wheels to further improve standover height and eliminate toe overlap. 


Offline RussSeaton

Trek has produced the 520 for years. Comments have been weak rear rack and not low enough gearing. I am turned off by the Kona by the high front rack braze-ons. Front rack bags should be centered on front axle for maximum stability.

Not low enough gearing on the Trek 520?  Bizarre.  It comes from the factory with 26x32 low gear.  Fairly low.  It has a crankset with 64mm bcd inner chainring.  So tell the bike shop to put a 22 tooth inner chainring on it before you buy it.  Easy.  22x32 is low.  And you could also tell them to put a 11-34 9 speed cassette on it before you buy it.  22x34 is very low.  You can also buy these parts from Nashbar for $34 cassette and $16 chainring.  $50 for super low gearing.  Can't complain about that.  Kona is the same gearing as the Trek.  So do the above to both bikes before you buy them.

Kona does have a high front rack for some reason.  It has two holes for bolting the rack on the fork.  Picture shows it using the lowest hole already.  Guessing Kona believes this is a semi mountain bike.  Have heard mountain bikes have high racks for clearance off road.

Offline dkoloko

Trek has produced the 520 for years. Comments have been weak rear rack and not low enough gearing.

Not low enough gearing on the Trek 520?  Bizarre.  It comes from the factory with 26x32 low gear.  Fairly low. 

I agree the stock gears are "fairly low", but criticizing the reporting that the gearing is not low enough is "bizarre" is overly strong. See below,

"The one upgrade I have always thought about is lower crank gears. The stock gear ratio of 48/36/26 is a little high if you are using the bike to carry heavier loads on longer trips with mountains."

http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/trek-520-touring-bicycle-review/

I  especially agree for a small woman.

Offline jklepack

I have a 2009 Kona Sutra and love it for both commuting and touring. Heavy for sure, noticeably so compared to the LHT. It is absolutely bomb-proof, however. I've never had a part fail on me even with several crashes along the way.

My main problem with the 2009 model (a rack/brake caliper/hub configuration that made brake adjustment a pain and required an insane number of spacers on the rack bolt) was resolved in later years. My other problem is that the bottom bottle cage (under the down tube) can't accommodate a normal sized water or fuel bottle because the geometry is so compact. The bottle ends up hitting the front wheel.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Quote
the bottom bottle cage (under the down tube) can't accommodate a normal sized water or fuel bottle because the geometry is so compact.

That's true of a lot of bikes, especially if you like fenders and large tires. I have a Trek 520, and use that spot for my pump.

Offline John Nelson

Trek has produced the 520 for years. Comments have been weak rear rack and not low enough gearing.
Old information never dies. Prior to 2009, the Trek 520 had road-bike components and was not ideally suited for touring despite being a touring bike. Starting with 2009, however, the Trek 520 has mountain-bike components and has as low gearing as any other touring bike.

It is true that the standard rack on the 520 is not the strongest rack around, but many people use it without problems. If it still makes one nervous, however, it's easy enough to replace it with a Tubus.