Kona have a long history in cyclocross, from pioneering affordable commuter/CX crossover bikes to their sponsorship of British cyclocross star Helen Wyman. With their all-new Rove, they now claim to have created the ultimate crossover bike – one that’ll tear up the trails, smooth out the road and speed along towpaths and byways.
Things certainly look good initially, its tidily finished, all-new butted frameset paired with Kona’s legendary Project Two fork with its massive clearances and springy, supple ride. The SRAM Apex ’cross-specific 46/36 rings and 11-32 cassette are great off-road, the huge gear spread ideal for climbs. The solid, tightly built wheels hold small 140mm rotors and the Freedom tyres are more tarmac- than dirt-friendly.
The compact alloy drop bar and swoopy, supremely comfortable WTB Volt saddle make the Rove a very appealing place to be. It rolls well on the road with its 35mm tyres pumped up, their huge round profile offering good grip and inspiring confidence.
The frame pairs a fairly short back end with a laidback fork and feels very much like an old-school mountain bike, not surprising given Kona’s experience as pioneers in that field.
Rack mounts on the steel frame mean you can load up for touring
This almost laconic ride on the road translates to a great off-road experience, the front end taking the sting out of ruts, the short back end easy to chuck from turn to turn. The road-biased tyres are about the only limiting factor.
Hayes’ CX5 cable-operated disc brakes have a decent amount of bite and feel and the whole lever movement is good too. We found their performance impressive, staying silent and rub-free throughout testing and working pretty consistently whatever the weather threw at us.
If you’re looking for a bike more for cyclocross-style riding than road or commuting we’d suggest you look elsewhere. Tyres can be changed, of course, but the Rove’s 11.9kg (26.2lb) weight is still heavy for a race bike.
It isn’t cheap either, with similar offerings from Jamis, Norco and Charge, among others, costing you less (though bikes as tough as the Rove – like a Salsa or Surly – would set you back at least as much).
Consistent – and quiet – braking from the cable-operated Hayes discs
No, the role the Rove is most suited to is that of a go-anywhere tourer. The frame has front and rear rack mounts, it’s geared low enough to be ridden heavily laden and it’s tough, too – and being steel it’s easier to get repaired wherever you are in the world.
If you’re looking for a tough commuter bike that you could use for weekends away then the Rove is a decent option – and if you want to take a trip-of-a-lifetime world tour then we would recommend it wholeheartedly.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.