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: www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk
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: www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk
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.