First Look – Kona Libre AL

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Earlier this year Kona announced a new model in their gravel line-up. The Libre is designed to bridge the gap between adventure touring and racing, letting you mount up luggage and hit the open road, but also be light and lively enough to compete on.

Affordable AL

Tom has already put some miles onto Kona’s new Libre DL and was suitably impressed. However the Libre DL is Kona’s flagship gravel bike and has a price to match, at £3,699 for a full carbon frame with SRAM Force and Easton components. At £1,799, the Libre AL is aimed at riders with shallower pockets, and we’ve got one in to test.

The green machine

As the name suggests, the Libre AL is built around a 6061 aluminium frame with a full carbon fork, in a pleasingly autumnal shade of khaki green. As with its more expensive siblings, it has a brace of rack and bottle cage mounts and a stretched-out length, hinting at long-distance adventuring ambitions. Riders intending to churn out some serious miles will also be pleased to note that the Libre AL comes with a threaded BB shell.

Take two bottles into the shower?

 

The components are a mix of SRAM’s popular Apex 11-speed groupset, paired with mechanical disc brakes from TRP. The proper 1x drivetrain is a nod to the Libre’s racing potential. A 40×42 bottom gear seems a little bit tall for loaded touring, but we’ll be putting that to the test and reporting back.

1×11 speed, just like your mountain bike.

TRP’s Spyre brakes are unusual for mechanical discs, featuring two-piston actuation instead of just pressing one moving pad against a fixed one. The Libre AL uses the new flat mount standard and also has front and rear thru-axles, so everything’s bang up to date there.

TRP Spyre brakes keepthe Libre AL within budget

650B might be the wheelsize du jour in the gravel world, but the Libre AL rolls on good old 700c wheels decked out with 45c WTB Trailblazers. WTB’s KOM i25 rims are tubeless-ready and that’s how our test bike came been set up.

Many many mounts.

Trailblazers are a popular choice for pure gravel riding, but as we’re entering the wetter months, some spikier tyres might increase the Libre’s offroad capability. There’s plenty of tyre clearance even with proper monstercross shoes fitted, so a narrower, knobblier set shouldn’t pose any problems.

Tyre clearance passes the “can you fit a finger?” test.

The build is finished off with a selection of Kona’s own parts, including a custom-branded WTB saddle. Kona’s own-brand Road bars have caught up with off-road trends, and now have a slight flare as well as a generous 48cm width.

Slick colour matched saddle decals.

Antony will be putting the Libre AL through its paces in the South Pennines and further afield, and we’ll bring you a full review in due course.

SRAM Apex, for affordable 1x.

Full Specification

  • Frame // Kona Libre AL
  • Fork // Kona Verso Full Carbon
  • Wheels // WTB KOM Light i25/Formula hubs
  • Tyres // WTB Riddler TCS 700x45c
  • Chainset //SRAM Apex 1
  • Bottom Bracket // SRAM GXP
  • Rear Mech // SRAM Apex 1 11-speed
  • Shifters // SRAM Apex 1
  • Cassette // SRAM PG1130 11-42t 11spd
  • Brakes // TRP Spyre C 160mm front / 160mm rear rotor
  • Bars // Kona Road Bar
  • Stem // Kona Road Stem
  • Seatpost // Kona Thumb w/Offset, 31.6mm
  • Saddle //WTB Volt Comp
  • Size Tested // 54
  • Sizes available // 46, 49, 51, 54, 55
  • Price // £1,799
Let’s hope so, eh?

 

Comments (4)

    That does seem seriously pricey for what you get. It’s 50% more than the equivalent Ribble CGR for example and the Ribble comes with hydraulic brakes which would be an extra couple of hundred. There are plenty of other similar bikes for much less than this. Even the Cannondale ones are way cheaper.

    Am I missing something?

    Jerm, that’s a fair comment, and it’s basically what we’re aiming to find out. We don’t want to compare bikes just by looking at a spec list though, or we wouldn’t be doing anything you couldn’t do yourself.

    I had seriously considered waiting for the release of this bike but I agree with the original reply.

    Alpkit do the Camino, an Aluminium, Carbon forked Rival hydro specced bike for £1100.

    In the end it was an easy choice for me.

    I get that a real test of a bike is how it rides rather than a spec sheet but the manufacturers should still be able to justify that spec sheet for the price. I think that is where Kona have a problem with this one. If I were coming up with a shortlist of bikes to try, this one probably wouldn’t make it simply based on the price.

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