HomeTactical & SurvivalKona Ouroboros Review: Gravel and Bikepacking Steed With a Mountain Bike Heart

Kona Ouroboros Review: Gravel and Bikepacking Steed With a Mountain Bike Heart

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Kona officially launched the Ouroboros in mid-April, calling it a rig that should catch the attention of gravel riders who yearn for more challenging singletrack or trail riders who love less technical gravel terrain.

Like many modern gravel bikes on the market, the Ouroboros dabbles between gravel grinding and mountain biking. However, unlike many race-oriented or do-it-all-styled bikes, the Ouroboros has the soul of a mountain bike. It harkens back to a time when mountain bikes more closely resembled what we consider gravel bikes today.

I spent a few weeks on the Ouroboros leading up to its release. I put down over 100 miles on pavement, singletrack, gravel, grass, mud, dirt, creek beds, and whatever else I could find to suss out the bike’s true character. All told, I’m still a little confused but also enamored.

In short: The Kona Ouroboros is the bike for adventurers who seek speed, compliance, and versatility. With options for the front suspension, 2.1-inch tires, and a 31.6mm dropper seat post, the bike presented a tough and rugged package. It could tackle smooth singletrack, chunky gravel, and long-haul bikepacking adventures.

  • Frame material
    Kona Carbon
  • Drivetrain
    SRAM Apex Eagle 1x 12-speed
  • Fork
    Fox TC32 Performance GRIP damper, 40mm travel
  • Wheels
    WTB KOM Team rims, Formula hubs

  • Extremely versatile and capable

  • Wide tires and suspension provide all-day comfort

  • Ample storage options


  • Expensive

  • Awkward dropper post lever placement

  • No rear rack mounts

Kona Ouroboros Fit and Feel

Kona offers the Ouroboros in three models: Supreme, Carbon Deluxe, and Carbon. Kona outfitted me with the Carbon model, also known by the abbreviated Ouroboros CR. The bike retails for an MSRP of $3,799. After looking at the bike, I found it readily apparent that the Ouroboros design intends to fire riders off into rough terrain.

The Ouroboros CR has the Fox TC32 Performance GRIP damper fork with 40mm of travel, along with a 31.6mm TranzX Dropper +RAD Internal seat post that combines to provide a plush feel up front and enough versatility in the back to contend earnestly in more technical off-road terrain.

The Ouroboros’ geometry in size 54 comes with 610 mm of stack height, which makes for a comfortable upright position. It has clearance for 29X2.1-inch tires to maximize trail-taming cushion and eat up rough sections of terrain.

I have ridden a Kona Jake the Snake for years as gravel, cyclocross, and general all-rounder, so I expected some similarity in sizing. I’m 5’9″, and I ordered my Jake in a size 52, which is smaller than I’m used to. But I went with the smaller size on the Jake to improve my ability to flick it about and for the lower top tube for cyclocross racing. The size 54 Ouroboros fit perfectly for gravel riding.

However, comparing the Jake and the Ouroboros is a fool’s errand. They are two entirely different bikes meant for very different types of riding. In terms of geometry and intended use, the Ouroboros is much more similar to the Kona Sutra LTD, which has identical measurements for stack, reach, seat tube angle, wheelbase, head tube angle, and most luggage attachments. But with a carbon frame and front suspension, the Ouroboros had an entirely new feel.

Kona Ouroboros Features and Function

The Ouroboros’ front suspension, dropper post, high stack, and other features like 180mm brake rotors and the 1x SRAM NX Eagle cassette (albeit paired with the SRAM Apex cranks and chainring) give the Ouroboros a personality that leans harder toward mountain biking than light gravel.

However, the bike stands out as a long-haul drop-bar companion ideal for bikepacking trips or long gravel rides. The Ouroboros’ frame includes 13 bosses to attach gear littered throughout the bike’s triangle and top tube. The bike does not include bosses for a rear rack.

For those who prioritize bike packing and prefer a rigid fork with more storage, the Carbon Deluxe model, which has an MSRP of $4,799, comes with a rigid tapered carbon fork with internal brake and dynamo routing that includes six additional bosses and fender mounts. That fork also allows a wider 2.5-inch tire up front to provide more cushion without suspension.

Even with wide tires and suspension, the Ouroboros still felt fast. The carbon frame was rigid and responsive while pedaling and still gave me a solid feel of the trail as I charged through gravel and dirt.

While the geometry of the Ouroboros put me in a much more upright position than I am used to, I didn’t feel that it was too upright to find the efficiency I wanted on the road with the fork locked out.

Adventuring on the Kona Ouroboros

I was immediately comfortable on the Ouroboros. I am a dedicated XC mountain bike rider, so I felt at home with the extra-short-travel front suspension and an efficient, rigid rear end. Unlocking the front suspension gave the bike a fun, poppy, and snappy feel, but it was not bogged down.

The 38-tooth chainrings and the 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle 11-50-tooth cassette provided a solid range on gravel and light single track. I rarely felt spun out or struggling except on considerably steep climbs.

I felt constantly driven to hop onto grass, gravel, or over roots that I would tend to avoid on other gravel bikes. The bike’s travel and wide tires gave me the confidence to hit smaller drops and charge into manageable rock gardens with confidence.

The bike also felt comfortable descending. However, on particularly rocky terrain, I hesitated to hang it out. There is a limit to the amount of performance a 40mm fork can give you. But with the dropper down, I felt more confident about getting into sections I would likely have dodged on a fully rigid bike.

The top-tier Ouroboros Supreme, which sells for an MSRP of $6,999, uses a RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post that functions by simultaneously clicking both shift levers on the handlebars. The TranzX dropper on the CR model uses a paddle shifter you’d typically see on a flat-bar mountain bike.

On a drop-bar bike, the shifter Kona has chosen sits near the bike’s headset, which isn’t ideal. The placement felt awkward and forced me to bring my hands off the hoods or drops to get the seat down. I had to be pretty intentional with moving the seat post to ensure I hit it early enough to get my hands back into the correct position before hitting rougher patches of trail. You could not do it in a pinch while navigating through rough sections.

That being said, it functioned perfectly. I would have liked to see a more ergonomic lever that I could use without getting out of position.

Final Thoughts

The Kona Ouroboros blurs the line between gravel and hardtail mountain bikes. With just a touch more suspension travel or even flat bars, I would place this bike into the cross-country mountain bike category.

However, the small travel up front trades the off-road capability of a hardtail for a more efficient ride. I could spend more hours in the saddle and cover more tame terrain than I would like on a proper mountain bike.

The Ouroboros is a niche product. It would not be difficult to argue that a bike that lands more firmly in the category of gravel or mountain would be a better choice for any particular person. However, for the folks who value adventure, comfort, and mixing it up on single-track and long bikepacking adventures, the Ouroboros could be a silver bullet.

It’s unclear when the bike will be widely available. Despite recent news that Kent Outdoor, which owns Kona, plans to sell the company, the Ouroboros is listed on Kona’s website but is unavailable for purchase online.



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