Since it was launched, the Kona Libre has been one of our favorite gravel bikes. Light, fast, comfortable, and built with good tire clearance and room for accessories, the bike checks a lot of boxes for the dirt drop market. In it’s short time on the market, Kona has made some major changes to the build spec of the CR and DL models, and they’re at it again. Only this time, it’s the CR and CR DL – both with updated frames for 2021, and all new component specs.
The 2021 Libre CR/DL replaces last year’s Libre DL, and it has seen notable updates to the frame and component spec. First off, the frame sizing has changed – or more accurately, the labeled sizing of the frames have changed. In terms of the actual seat tube sizing and reach numbers, nothing has changed. But Kona previously named each frame size after the actual size of the seat tube, not the effective side. That left a lot of riders scratching their head wondering why they were being recommended a frame size that was 2-3cm smaller than what they would normally ride. Now, each frame size has a number that more closely represents the way other bikes on the market are sized, which should make comparisons between brands easier. For example, the old 49cm is now the 52cm frame. It still has the exact same top tube length, seat tube length, and reach, but with a frame number that makes sizing a bit clearer.
However, there is one big change to the actual geometry of the bike – the standover has been lowered by almost 20mm across the range. Why is that important? As gravel dropper posts get better, more riders are likely to use them, and lower standover = more room for longer dropper posts. Kona isn’t one to half-step when it comes to spec’ing out their aggressive builds, so the CR DL uses a full length TranzX dropper – not some 50mm travel “gravel” dropper. Note that it includes TranzX +RAD technology which allows you to lower the dropper travel setting in 5mm increments, up to 30mm less. That should help with fit issues if you’re between sizes and don’t have as much exposed seat post.
Another big change for the CR DL is that it’s back to 700c wheels and tires. Kona has kind of gone back and forth with the wheel and tire size on the two Libre models in their line, and there’s always been one 700c and one 650b build, but the models have changed. On the 2020 models, the CR was 700c and the DL was 650b, now the CR is back to 650b and the CR DL is back to 700c.
Spec’ed with 700c x 45mm WTB Riddlers, the frame still has adequate tire clearance for 45s even if you get into some mud.
Also, the CR DL is back to a 1x drivetrain. Like the wheel size flip flop, Kona has kept the 1x build with the 700c tires, and the 2x build with the 650b tires. With the wheel change, the CR DL is back to a 1x drivetrain, this time as a Shimano GRX 800 1×11.
The Libre CR DL comes in 50/52/54/56/58cm frame sizes. Its color for 2021 is Gloss Metallic Black, and it retails for $3699.
Kona Libre CR
Kona’s Libre CR has undergone a similar frame revision as the CR DL above. Sizing has been updated to match the other Libres, and the frame’s standover height are lower than the outgoing model. This is the same frame and fork as the 700c CR DL model (which means more room for a dropper if you want to add one), just with an updated spec that goes back to 650b wheels and tires and a 2×11 Shimano GRX 600 drivetrain.
Available frame sizes are 50/52/54/56/58cm, and the CR comes in Gloss Metallic Alpine Blue. It sells for $2799.
Kona Libre EL
A gravel bike is a good place for a name like ‘Libre’, the Spanish word for ‘free’. With roadie gear ranges and off-road capability, a gravel bike can take you just about anywhere… so why not increase your wandering range by adding an electric motor? For 2021 Kona introduces the new Libre EL, creating a pedal assist option within their gravel grinder lineup.
For 2021, Kona has added a motor to their Libre gravel bike, creating the new Libre EL. This pedal-assist gravel grinder features a 6061 aluminum frame with a fully integrated battery. Up front is Kona’s Verso Full Carbon Flat Mount Disc fork.
The Libre EL rolls on 650b wheels, and runs 100mm front and 142x12mm rear thru-axles. The frame provides two water bottle mounts in the front triangle, and the Verso fork offers several mounts for front racks or other accessories.
Check out Kona’s website for the Libre EL’s complete build specs, but here’s a few highlights; Shimano’s GRX 810 components handle shifting and braking, with 160mm rotors front and rear. An 11 speed, 11-42t Deore cassette offers a wide gear range.
The Libre EL rides on WTB HTZ i25 TCS 2.0 rims, wrapped with WTB’s Venture TCS Puncture Protection 650x47c tires. It also comes with a Trans-X dropper post and a WTB Volt saddle.
Shimano’s E7000 motor drives the Libre EL, and their SC-E7000 display keeps your ride metrics at hand. A 504Wh battery supplies the power, and the bike comes with a STEPS 2A charger.
Aside from sharing the same head tube angles and chainstay lengths, there are differences in the Libre EL, CR DL and CR’s geometry. The EL’s chart is above, and the other two models’ geometry is included below.
The Libre EL is available in 50/52/54/56/58cm frame sizes, and it gets a Gloss Chocolate paint job. MSRP is $4599.
Availability of the 2021 bikes varies depending on region, so check in with your local Kona dealer.