Until not long ago, Rondo’s name was largely unknown in the cycling world and with Rondo based in Poland (not a country exactly renowned as a hotbed of two-wheeled technology) its debut took a lot of us by surprise.
That its HVRT took our 2019 Bike of the Year title, with a rare five stars, was equally surprising. The Ruut AL is like the HVRT’s little sibling – or maybe cousin – but it has a lot of the same qualities and is a total blast.
The HVRT CF0 costs £5,600 and comes with Dura-Ace, hydraulic disc brakes and Hunt’s deep-section carbon wheels. The Ruut AL has a much more real-world build.
The custom-formed aluminium frame is decked out with SRAM Apex 1x, with an 11-42 cassette and 42t chainring. The seatstays are radically sculpted to provide room for the 42t ring, and the Ruut has the full Apex setup with its always impressive hydraulic brakes.
The neat TwinTip fork lets you tweak the geometry. David Caudery/Immediate Media
The wheels are Rondo’s own tubeless-ready design and come with 43mm Panaracer Gravel King tyres. These have a raised square and rectangular block tread that runs pretty well on tarmac and are great off-road, even coping with post-storm, mud-puddled gravel with aplomb.
The wheels also look great, each having four spokes in a swirling, whooshing ‘oil slick finish’ that also adorns the front hub. Look at it when you’re riding and it’s as if you’re watching a 1960’s psychedelic light show.
But that ignores the Ruut’s – and Rondo’s – USP: the TwinTip fork.
This patented oval insert lets you swap between two different geometries, subtly altering stack, reach, length, fork offset, head and seat angles for a racier setup or a more relaxed one. Even I – being notoriously hamfisted – managed to fettle this without breaking it or losing anything. Result!
You undo the thru-axle with a hex key, pull it out, remove the wheel and then use a T25 Torx to flip the TwinTip. An adaptor adjusts the angle of the brake rotor and the whole process takes only a few minutes.
SRAM’s 1x Apex has just the one shift lever. David Caudery/Immediate Media
The differences between the two riding positions aren’t that great – only a few millimetres either way. But in the Lo axle position you’re a little more stable; in the Hi axle position the head-angle is steepened slightly, which quickens the handling. This was the position I used for my long-distance commute, swapping to the Lo for tackling towpaths and tracks.
Okay, you’re not going to be shooting along tarmac with those 43mm wide Gravel King tyres – which live up to their name but still roll pretty well on the road.
You could swap for something slicker and narrower if you ride mainly on road. The tyres also mean you’re not going to soar up steeper slopes, but the SRAM 1x gearing comes into play here.
It’s good on road and great off road and fabulous fun, too. Who needs carbon? Robert Smith
Yes, you’ve only got 11 gears to play with, and some may find the top gear a little low but the 42 x 42 bottom gear means that even with its weight you’ll get up hills comfortably.
And comfort is something the Ruut has in spades (43mm rubber’ll do that). The flared bar offers great control off-road and the Fabric Scoop saddle is one of my favourites.
Rondo’s Ruut has all the fittings for bike packing, it’s good on road, great off road, SRAM’s 1x gearing and brakes are excellent, the wheels tubeless-ready. It’s fabulous fun too. Who needs carbon when aluminium is this good?
Rondo Ruut AL Disc geometry
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 71.5 degrees
Seat tube: 48.6cm
Top tube: 54cm
Head tube: 13cm
Fork offset: 4.3cm
Bottom bracket height: 28.6cm