Rondo made quite a splash in the gravel world with its innovative RUUT CF1. The patented TwinTip fork allowed you to adjust the bike’s geometry between racy and relaxed with a flip of the insert in the thru-axle dropout.
The Rondo HVRT CF0 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019 and has been crowned our Road Bike of the Year. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.
The Rondo HVRT (High Velocity, Rough Terrain) CF0 is the second bike to use this system, and the team at Rondo has managed to produce an aggressive, aerodynamically optimised race bike that can be switched into a more relaxed all-day machine — add in 650b wheels and you can take advantage of huge tyre clearances, making it a massively capable gravel machine as well.
At first glance, the HVRT looks like one of the current crop of aero bikes, with blended frame junctions and truncated aerofoil Kammtail tubes. It also has dropped rear seatstays that taper down to a point behind the rear axle before kinking back in with an ‘ankle’ that acts like a spring to add some compliance into the bike’s back end.
Where the HVRT differs from a typical aero bike is the tyre clearances, which are big enough for 30mm tyres on 700c wheels and 47mm tyres on 650b wheels, and deliver a level of comfort you wouldn’t normally expect from an aero design.
The aero seatpost also has a trick up its sleeve: a slot you can fit a rear light into.
The aero-bike-like dropped rear seatstaysRussell Burton / Immediate Media
The fork’s crown is neatly integrated into the down tube for smoother airflow and the brake hose descends internally to a rather clever flat mount for the disc caliper.
The front brake caliper is shrouded by an aero fairing; I’ve no idea if this has any actual benefit but it looks damn cool.
Of course, the fork’s main feature is the TwinTip dropouts that enable the bike’s Vario geometry. An oval-shaped insert allows you to ‘flip’ between the two positions, altering the stack, reach, head angle, seat angle and fork offset — but more on that later.
It’s the tyre clearances on the HVRT that make it stand out from typical aero bikesRussell Burton / Immediate Media
Rondo CVRT CF0 ride impressions
In Yorkshire’s spectacular Dales, the fast technical descents were a great test of the HVRT’s handling. In its high-axle race positon, on the twisting rollercoaster down from the top of Buttertubs, the HVRT was in its element.
The chassis responds to both pedal and steering inputs with impressive rapidity. Threading the HVRT downhill and using the Dura-Ace hydraulic discs to their full was an absolute joy — and equal to the first test rides I had on the HVRT in the mountainous terrain of Cyprus on a week’s winter excursion at the tail-end of last year.
The Dura-Ace brakes give you the confidence to to push the HVRT to its limitsRussell Burton / Immediate Media
Of course, what goes down must go up again and the Rondo’s rigidity ensured none of my efforts were wasted on the ascent. When sitting in and grinding away at the upper end of the 11-28 cassette that clever rear end and classy range-topping Fabric ALM saddle was welcome too.
Rondo CVRT CF0 geometry
It could be considered a gimmick, but switching geometry on the CVRT is pretty simple: remove the wheel, undo the inserts in the forks, flip them over, re-attach and then add a spacer behind the brake mount to angle the caliper further out.
It takes about five minutes the first time, much shorter after that. In the low-axle position, the stack rises to 605mm, and the reach reduces to 400mm, the head angle relaxes to 73 degrees, the seat angle drops to 72 degrees and the fork offset becomes 40mm.
On paper, the differences seem small but the effect on the road is noticeable. Whereas the high-axle setup gives the HVRT fast, nimble handling, in this low position it feels much more stable. Though the differences amount to a few millimetres, the end result is a bike that’s more of a cruiser than a speedster.
That’s not to say the two setups are worlds apart. In this low position the HVRT is still more aggressive than most endurance bikes (the Cannondale Synapse has a 610mm stack and 393mm reach).
Rondo CVRT CF0 650b wheels
The surprise up its sleeve is that Rondo has also made the HVRT work with 650b wheelsets (or is Road+ tyre compliant if you listen to the hype from the gravel world).
Rondo gives HVRT owners a discount voucher with its wheel partners Hunt, who provide the awesome 50mm deep wheels on the CF0, so, like me, you can opt for the wide profile (20mm internal) and low weight (1,549g a pair) alloy Rondo x Hunt wheels.
They retail for £319 but the 15 percent off voucher reduces that to £271. The same voucher reduces the £899 premium Rondo x Hunt carbon units (1,425g, with the same rim profile and width as the alloy) to £764.
You may be thinking, well, Open, 3T and even Mason and Vielo have offered something similar to the HVRT, but all of these potential rivals are coming from an off-road basis: they are all gravel bikes you can use on the road and, while all are excellent, they don’t quite deliver the full-fat road bike experience.
The HVRT CFo in a 650b setup with the 47mm wide WTB Horizon tyresRussell Burton / Immediate Media
The HVRT is the only bike that originates purely from the road, which, after all, is what most of us do most of the time, and it shows.
When you add it all up, the HVRT doesn’t feel compromised as a super-fast aero road race machine or an all-day endurance bike, and with the optional wheels it’s a gravel grinder par excellence.
So yes, it may be one of the most expensive models to win our Bike of the Year award, but when you can turn something this good into three different — and distinct — ride experiences (and all of them a blast), then this clever, compelling and thrilling ride makes a huge amount of sense.
If the price tag is just too much for you, then you can get the same slick carbon chassis for £4,900 in Shimano Ultegra Di2 trim, or £2,699 with Shimano 105. You can even get a sharp-looking Tange steel version with Shimano 105 for £2,100 and the entry-level HVRT family comes in pretty competitively at £1,500 for the aluminium-framed HVRT with Shimano Tiagra.
Rondo HVRT CF0 specifications
Sizes (*tested): 51, 54, 56, 59cm*
Frame: EPS carbon superlight
Fork: TwinTip carbon
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace, 52/36
Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace
Deraileurs: Shimano Dura-Ace
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace, 11-28
Wheels: Hunt x Rondo 50 aero tubeless-ready
Tyres: Panaracer Race C Evo classic 25mm 700c
Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace hydraulic disc with Icetech rotors
Bar: Easton EC70 Aero carbon
Seatpost: Rondo aero carbon
Saddle: Fabric ALM
Alternative wheels available
Wheels: Hunt x Rondo Asymmetric 650b alu tubeless ready (£271 extra)