The first thing that pops in my mind when I’m asked about the Sutra is “heavy”, the next is “versatile”. You can probably stop reading right there; those two words truly do sum up the Sutra. Weighed with a set of plastic flat pedals, and a seat bag containing a spare tube, CO2 cartridge/inflator and a tire lever, the Sutra weighed in at 31.6lbs. I primarily used the Sutra for commuting and small errands around town, both with clip-less and flat pedals. Clip-less pedals for efficiency on my 17mi one-way commute, flats for general around town errand use. [Note, I’m not a daily bike commuter, but am able to pull off two to three days a week.]
With a chromoly frame and fork, the Sutra was expected to provide a comfortable ride. The Sutra damped road acne and took the harshness out of larger hits, but not to the level I expected. I suspect this is due to several factors. Though steel and equipped with touring tires at 80psi, the Sutra frame is a sturdy piece designed to carry heavy loads and last a long time. The wheelset is likewise stiff, built with 36 spoke Mavic 317 rims. Don’t get me wrong, the Sutra is comfortable for long rides in the saddle, but wouldn’t be my first choice for a relaxed century.
The Sutra has comfortable relaxed geometry with stable, deliberate steering. If you must ride hands-free, the Sutra won’t bite you for it. Though named the Sutra, this bike won’t twist you into any awkward positions that require an advanced degree in Yoga. Riding on the hoods of the Sutra results in only a slight forward lean for efficient pedaling and aggressive maneuvers. Not that this is a bike for aggressive behavior, but if you like to bash up and down curbs, the Sutra will oblige.
The Sutra handles like a lighter bike until you head uphill. Here the bike makes its weight known and demands fitness from the rider if you’re in a hurry. If you’re not in a hurry though, the Sutra will spin up almost any hill with you. The deep gearing (triple front, MTB cassette rear) lets you spin mountains into molehills, just as long as you don’t have any Contador dreams! Downhill, the Sutra’s geometry makes one confident, however I found the brakes (Avid BB-7 mechanical disks) lacking if you’re activating them from the hoods. Down in the bar drops however the brakes worked admirably, this tells me the problem is not in the brakes but rather a lack of leverage on the brakes from the hoods. I consider myself to have average grip strength, but am a bit heavy at 185-190 lbs ready to ride, throw in 20 lbs on the rack and that’s turning into a lot of mass to slow down. A great benefit of disc brakes is that they remain pretty effective in the rain, not an issue here in So-cal, but I’m aware of this issue from my mountain biking experience.
The Sutra definitely taught me a lot about running errands with a bike!
The very nice rear rack (this is not the flimsy unit that came stock in previous years) will hold almost anything you’d want to pedal around (30kg rating), but regardless of how nice the rear rack is, it’s nearly useless without a good set of panniers and/or bungee cords. I was halfway tempted to attach a laundry basket to the rack after being shocked at the price of a good set of pannier bags. If you’re a dedicated bike commuter though, a good set of pannier bags are a necessity and will last quite a long time. I admit, I never utilized the Sutra’s front rack. Though it attached easily enough and seemed sturdy, I definitely couldn’t see myself ever utilizing it on anything other than a bike tour. Speaking of touring, this is where the Sutra begins to blur typical bicycle category definitions. The Sutra is overkill for commuting use but seems great for touring if you don’t mind the short head tube length (for a tourer).
The Sutra is a bike you must consider if you’re looking for a touring bicycle. If you’re looking for a commuter bike, I’d reccomend that you really assess your needs. Do you want/need a rear rack, front rack, disk brakes or 36 spoke wheels? If you answer yes to at least two of those, I could see you staring hard at the Sutra, which is a pretty good value since all of that is included. If you’re a larger person, the Sutra’s weight probably won’t be an issue, and you could rest easier knowing that you have a sturdy set of wheels that’d be at home on a mountain bike. Myself and my 34mi round trip aren’t going to miss the Sutra, but I know I’ll miss her when I want to make a local errand run to the grocery or hardware store. Check out the upcoming 2010 model here! It even includes fenders!