Feature: Kona Libre DL Gravel/Adventure Bike – Sea Otter 2018

kona libre dl gravel bike review

“At Kona, we’re all about the freedom and empowerment of the bicycle. We have been since 1988. We still have the same founding owners. We’re still populated by a staff of keen, active, impassioned cyclists. We’re not big, nor are we that small. Just a dedicated group of cyclists making bicycles for people who love bikes-no matter if that love is new or long established.”

kona libre dl gravel bike review

Very little is known about the new Kona Libre DL gravel/adventure bike, officially released at the recent Sea Otter show in Monterey, California.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

The bike is a 2019 model, but nothing is available on the company’s website at this time. However, the following information has been learned…

kona libre dl gravel bike review

The Libre DL display bike was fitted with WTB’s Riddler tyre in 700c x 45mm, so you know this bike is designed with tyre clearance and fun in mind.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

But, tyre clearance is an understatement – for once – the all-carbon Libre DL will clear a 29’er x 2.0″ tyre and 650b x 2.1″ tyres.

kona libre dl gravel bike review
Mega tyre clearance!

The Easton EA70 AX wheelset fitted to the display Kona measure 24mm wide internally, meaning, those Riddler display tyres may be a smidge wider than their label indicates (reminder to self, bring along calipers to measure).

 

kona libre dl gravel bike review

The new Kona leans on some of the design features of the company’s Sutra, which has some MTB-like properties.

kona libre dl gravel bike review
Internalized cable routing keeps the Libre DL neat and tidy.

Thus, the Libre DL has a very similar stack height, reach and bottom bracket drop as the Kona Sutra, but also draws from the Kona Rove, with its chainstays shortened just a smidge, at 5mm less.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

The Kona Libre DL provides FIVE bottle cage mounts on the frame and bosses on the fork. Speaking of the fork, the all-carbon tapered fork utilizes the 12mm thru-axle standard which I found a bit odd. I thought a bike such as this would better served with a 15mm thru-axle – and the choices offered by MTB wheels with thru-axles… it isn’t all about the pavement, frame designers!

kona libre dl gravel bike review

In display configuration, the Libre DL is presented as a 1x / single chainring configuration, but Kona wisely provides a front derailleur mount. Not all of us appreciate 1x’s being forced down our throats!

kona libre dl gravel bike review

If you’re going to go 1x, it is hard to beat a SRAM mechanical drivetrain. They just work so well. In the case of this Kona, a SRAM Force 1x rear derailleur with clutch.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

kona libre dl gravel bike review

Front and rear, this build of the Kona Libre DL features SRAM Force hydraulic brake calipers, mounted flat-mount style.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

Above, the rear brake housing is fully internalized and exits with almost no bend, direct to the flat-mount brake caliper. Internalized routing is a departure from the traditional method of externalized cables, at least with bikes marketed more towards adventure / bike packing.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

At the time of writing, pricing is unknown, but Kona kindly informed me there will be two build options available.

kona libre dl gravel bike review

The Libre DL model as you see here, kitted out with SRAM’s Force 1x 11-speed mechanical drivetrain, Easton AX 70 wheels, WTB Riddler tyres and so on. A lower end model fitted with a 2x / double chainring and 650b wheels, tires, etc. What’s interesting? Double chainring drivetrains are trending towards lower end, less expensive bikes these days… food for thought.

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12 comments on “Feature: Kona Libre DL Gravel/Adventure Bike – Sea Otter 2018

  1. Hi JOM – your comment about 1x being offered as high end, and 2x as lower cost hit a nerve. I certainly disagree with the manufactures , and I suspect you, and others would agree with us. 1x, is OK — and I have one bike with 1x which I like for casual riding. But, despite some advantages in terms of simplicity and shifting ease, I still much prefer a 2x set up because it gives you both greater gear range, and tighter rear cluster. Given a choice, I would always go for a 2x; 3x in fact, if this standard wasn’t abandoned by manufacturers about 15 years ago. I hope someone out there is listening!

    1. Hi Bob… I had the opportunity to ride a 1x gravel bike last weekend in Pennsylvania for two days with some serious climbing. It was fitted with a 40T chainring and a 10-42 11-speed cassette. It worked well, but the cassette gaps drove me insane. One gear was good, the next was too small, the next was too big. I never had perfect cadence and THE BIKE was dictating what gears I had to ride. Very annoying. K-Dogg and I have a song about 1x’s, related to a couple of guys we heard complaining loudly about their shortcomings at event in North Carolina… it went something like… “ever f’n gear sucks… every f’n gear sucks” 🙂 In fact, you can expect an article or video on my 1x findings soon.

      On the descents, I was completely spun out on the 40 x 10 gear. This just reinforced my personal belief that 1x is a bad compromise. Why compromise when modern front derailleurs work so well, and you can have a tighter, more usable gear range in the cassette and two chainrings. With Di2, the front shifting is pure bliss! My personal favorite for hilly / mountainous courses – 46/30 front 2x and an 11-32 on the rear. As always Bob, thanks for chiming in.

      1. Hi JOM – I totally agree. Why compromise? Personally I’m not too fond of 16T jumps between chain rings. I’m currently running a modified XC setup with 46/34 rather than 46/36 — with an 11-36 cassette on my eTap wifli. This gives me both the low gear range I need. Some of the jumps on the 11/36 aren’t optimal; but I’m not racing. I also run an 11-28 cassette when I’m riding faster group rides on pavement. You and I both have issues with the design with the tire clearance on the eTap font der. and don’t accept SRAM’s argument that gravel bikes should run 1x!

        1. Nice one Bob… one of these days, I’ll punch out my Part 2 eTap on Gravel review video. I’ve got a ton of miles under my tyres now, as I’m sure you do too.

  2. Hello, so I am a mtb & cyclocross rider but would like to start racing gravel and am buying a new bike for both gravel and cross. I am focussing on Kona bikes because I like them. But am struggling on deciding between a Super Jake or the new Libre DL. For gravel riding would you recommend a tire size larger than 40? I ask this as a Super Jake can’t handle anything more than 40 (with no clearance for mud), so a 38 with a little mud clearance from what I have heard. My friend has a Super Jake so I will need to check on the max tire size & clearance when he has time. I am also 220lbs and do enjoy a little larger tires on average. I wish that Kona made the chain stays a little wider to fit larger than 40’s, maybe even a 45’s. Your take on racing the Libre DL as a cyclocross bike would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Bob,

      The size of tyre is dictated by your local terrain, or where you plan to ride. I’d say go for the Libre DL. It has big tyre clearance with provision for mud, meaning, you could pretty much ride it anywhere.

      Good luck!

      1. I have took one around the block and it is nice but due to racing cyclocross I wanted something a little bit on the lighter side. I ride a steel now but they can just be so heavy when you’re tired during a race. If it was strictly for commuting/gravel I’d get a steel or even Ti. I apprecoate the recommendation boudin, thank you. I never thought about a sutra before till my lbs owner & club sponsor mentioned that I should just take it for a spin to see what I think. It’s nice but not exactly what if like.

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