Test: With the Kona Libre DL, the Canadian manufacturer has a hot Gravel iron in the fire and manages the complicated balancing act between a sporty Gravel bike and a multi-day tourer almost perfectly.
Kona Libre DL: The Facts
Frame material: Carbon
Wheel size(s): 650b (700c compatible)
Maximum tire clearance: 52mm (650b) / 45mm (700c)
Axle dimensions (v/h): 12 × 100/142 × 12
Mudguard Eyelets: Ja
Luggage carrier eyelets (v/h): Yes / Yes
bottle holder: Down tube up (2x), down tube down, seat tube
Other: eyelets top tube
Weight wheels v/h/total (with tires and brake discs): 1.610g / 1.731g / 3.341g
Weight complete bike without pedals (size M): 9,22kg
Price: € 3.999
stereotyped thinking? Not with Kona!
Last season, the Canadians from Kona presented the Libre, a completely new drop bar model that was designed especially for gravel use, light off-road tours and bikepacking. Although the manufacturer has its roots in the MTB sector, bikes with drop handlebars have also been an integral part of the portfolio for several years. This is exactly where inspiration was sought when developing the Libre and the two models Rove and Sutra were used. While the Rove is a classic touring bike in the style of a sporty randonneur, Kona itself describes the Sutra as a road bike for mountain bikers. The Libre should now find a place somewhere in the field of tension between these two wheels.
The result of this quite interesting approach is, first of all, an extremely versatile and changeable carbon frame. Even with the lack of tires it becomes clear that the Libre doesn't really want to be pigeonholed: Up to 45mm with classic 28 inch tires and up to 2 inches with 650b wheels can be accommodated in the rear triangle and fork. The frame, which in our case has a striking flip-flop finish, is similarly universal in terms of the mounting points: Four bottle holders can be attached to the main frame, plus eyelets for mudguards and a luggage rack at the rear, and attachment points for a bag on the top tube.
The fork looks no less good: Three eyelets on each side also allow all kinds of accessories to be attached. At first glance, the seatpost size of 31,6mm used is a bit unusual, since smaller diameters often go hand in hand with more comfort, but there is a reason for that too: If you wish, you can also install a retractable seat post in the Libre.
What applies to the technical data of the frame also applies to the geometry: pigeonholing is forbidden! Nevertheless, Kona is a little clearer here. A fairly slack steering angle, fairly long chainstays and a high front clearly speak for a gravel bike that is designed more for all-day tours than for cross routes.
Geometry Kona Libre DL
|seat tube (in mm)
|Top tube horizontal (in mm)
|head tube (in mm)
|chainstay (in mm)
|Wheelbase (in mm)
|Steering angle (in °)
|Seat angle (in °)
|Stacks (in mm)
Sophisticated equipment, in line with the concept
Kona offers two trim levels from the Libre for the 2020 season. With the Libre DL, we tested the version with 650b wheels and slightly thicker tires. The "normal" Kona Libre, on the other hand, comes with classic 28″ tires. At just under 4.000 euros, the Libre DL is priced in the upper mid-range of carbon gravel bikes. The weight of 9,22kg is comparatively high - even if gram fumbling says little about the handling, we have learned that much in our many gravel tests.
For the drive, Kona opted for the Libre DL with the Shimano GRX in a double version and the high-quality 2 STIs for what is probably the best option on the market in this price and bike class at the moment. The wide range paired with harmonious gear steps, first-class shifting performance and very good ergonomics cuts a fine figure on a relaxed tour as well as on a brisk intermediate sprint or fast descents.
|Kona Race Light Carbon
|Kona Verso full carbon
|Easton EA 70AX
|WTB Venture TCS 47mm
|Shimano GRX ST-810
|Shimano GRX 31/48
|Race Face Next Carbon
|WTB SL8 Pro
The other components and attachments often come from the Californian manufacturer Easton: On the one hand, there are the EA70 AX wheels, which were presented during the previous season and, like the Kona Libre DL itself, bridge the gap between gravel racers and touring MTBs: On the one hand, there would be the light construction, on the other hand the 24mm wide aluminum rims, which are of course also tubeless compatible. Mounted on it are 47mm wide WTB Venture tires on the Libre DL, which on the one hand have a large volume but on the other hand have a rather reserved profile.
There's even more Easton in the cockpit: The EA90 stem is extremely short and promises direct handling, the light EC70 AX handlebars with their 16° bar ends also get along well off-road. A Race Face Next carbon post does its job in the seating area, which promises decent comfort despite its large diameter. The WTB SL8 saddle mounted on it, which strongly resembles the very successful Volt from their own company.
More tests, products and background information about the Velomotion Gravel Month:
- Storck Grix Platinum Ultegra Di2 gravel bike in test: Race tourer for gravel and off-road
- GT Grade Carbon Pro in the gravel bike test: Comfortable triangle for lots of driving fun?!
- Orbea Terra M30-D in the gravel bike test: Lively bike for training and gravel tours
- NS Bikes Rag+ 2 in the gravel bike test: Convincing aluminum all-rounder
- Rondo Ruut CF 2 in the gravel bike test: Fast gravel bike with a striking look
Let's Gravel: The Kona Libre DL
The Kona Libre DL stands out from the crowd at first glance, because with its glossy, multi-colored finish and detailed design elements, it is not necessarily for everyone, but it is definitely an eye-catcher. Apart from the first-class accessory compatibility, we couldn't assess much more before our first test ride, since this bike doesn't really want to commit itself.
When we were allowed to sit on the Kona Libre for the first time, we could already feel the mountain bike influence quite clearly. Because the geometry is not extremely sporty, for example due to the looped top tube and the resulting slightly higher front, and in our opinion is more suitable for (sporty) touring riders among gravlers than for real racers.
Nevertheless, one should not completely write off the Kona Libre when things get faster. Because despite the slightly longer chainstays, which ensure super smooth running when things get faster or more restless, the Libre DL can convince with crisp acceleration. Due to its good rigidity and the fairly light wheels, the acceleration is converted directly into propulsion and thus ensures rapid increases in speed.
In connection with the good liveliness, agile driving behavior in technical passages provides that certain extra and makes the tourer appear much sportier than expected. As an ideal supplement, the successful driving comfort comes into play here: thanks to the slightly curved rear end, the roughest hits are already absorbed here and not passed on to the driver in full.
In general, the seating area also feels very comfortable in combination with the WTB SL8 saddle and the carbon seat post. But the tires also play their part in terms of comfort thanks to their generous volume.
The Kona Libre DL knows how to impress, especially on bumpy ground, since it can be steered comfortably and smoothly on the one hand and offers enough comfort on the other to relieve the driver.
Even if we were able to be comfortable and sporty on most sections with the Kona Libre DL, we still have to address the tires one last time. Although the full volume in connection with the wide rim offers a lot of safety and a solid contact surface, the tire still reaches its limits on real off-road passages due to the restrained profile and can sometimes cause a little uncertainty for the driver. The otherwise almost perfect ergonomics of the add-on parts was also somewhat marred by the shape of the lower link, since it didn't always feel so good in our hands, even if it still has something forgiving with its flared handlebar ends. Apart from that, the rest of the Shimano GRX equipment worked without any problems and gave us a lot of pleasure.
Other gravel bike highlights in the test:
Test: The Rennstahl 853 Speed Gravel is a very special gravel bike because it is closer to the classic racing bike than any other bike in our test field. The small Bavarian manufacturer promises as many racing bikes as possible, as much gravel as necessary. Does the approach work? Rennstahl 853 Speed Gravel: The facts Frame material: Steel Wheel size(s): 700c Maximum […]
Test: The Cube Nuroad SL is an aluminum gravel bike that is extremely popular in this country and is already entering its third season in 2020. For an attractive price you get excellent equipment and a pleasantly smooth-running, versatile gravel bike. Cube Nuroad SL: The facts Frame material: Aluminum Wheel size(s): 700cc Maximum tire clearance: 40mm Axle dimension (f/r): 12×100 / 142×12 Mudguard mounts: Rear rack mounts only […]
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX Gravel Bike Test: Comfortable fun machine with touring potential
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX: The facts Frame material: Carbon Wheel size(s): 700c (650b compatible) Maximum tire clearance: 40mm (700c) / 48mm (650b) Axle size (f/r): 12×100 / 142×12 Fender mounts: Yes Luggage carrier eyelets (f/r): No/Yes Bottle holder: Down tube above, down tube below, seat tube Weight of wheels v/r/total (with tires and brake discs): 1.260g / 1.810g / 3.070g Weight of complete bike without pedals (size […]