Kona is known mostly for its legendary mountain bikes, so it’s fitting that this gravel bike, the Libre DL, feels like it was designed for the mountain set stepping into the growing gravel scene. It has slack head-tube angles throughout the frame range (70.5 to 71 degrees), a long top tube, short stem and plenty of stack points to a bike prizing stability and control over raw speed.

THE DETAILS

When designing carbon frames, Kona places a high value on creating stronger, better-riding frames, rather than just shaving grams for the sake of advertising a lighter bike. And when it comes to riding a bike off road, where dings from stray gravel can happen quite frequently, we’ll take the frame that values strength and durability as well.

The Libre DL is in keeping with recent gravel trends, opting for 650b wheels for the standard-build option here, mounted with 47c WTB Venture TCS DUAL tires. If you prefer more traditional hoops, the Libre DL works just fine with 700c tires as well. With tons of mounting points, it’s also ready for adventure riding.

For $3,999, Kona delivers a very well-outfitted bike in the Libre DL. The 2x Shimano GRX 810 groupset features improved ergonomics that actually make a difference offroad, as well as a wide gear ratio (31/48 crankset, 11–34 cassette) that importantly has a lower-than-1:1 gear in the 31×34 option—a must for adventure riding. We’re also fans of the Easton components, including a carbon EC70AX handlebar, EA90 stem and the tubeless-ready EA 70AX 650b wheelset. Our size 54 weighed 20 pounds (9.09 kilograms).

THE RIDE

With a geometry featuring a high stack height, long top tube and stubby stem, the Libre DL offers a pleasant upright position with responsive handling and an enjoyable ride. True to Kona’s dirt roots, we were able to feel subtle changes in the trail due to the frames inherent stiffness. The Libre DL frame is consistently stiff from the bottom bracket through the seat tube, which we found refreshing for a gravel bike; and for those riders who wish for a more plush ride, you can take advantage of the Libre DL’s large 650×47c tire clearance by running low-pressure tubeless.

With ample gear mounts, including ones on the fork, for racks, bags and fenders, the Libre DL is a highly customizable and versatile bike. Its relatively low weight stood out on this build as well, helping you ride strong even if fully loaded down with gear. If adventuring on relatively smooth off-road routes is your thing, the Libre DL is an extremely capable rig that should be high on your list. 

20lbs/9.09kg (size 54, w/o pedals or cages); $3,999 (as built). Shimano GRX 810 2× (31/48 crank, 11–34 Shimano 105 cassette); Easton EC70AX handlebar; Easton EA90 stem, RaceFace Next Carbon seatpost; WTB SL8 Pro saddle; Easton EA70AX 650b wheelset; WTB Venture TCS DUAL 650×47c tires. konaworld.com

From issue 93, get your copy here.