I’m in Whistler, BC, and I just got dropped off with a drop bar bike and a road helmet. The mountain biker in me can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that I’m so close to one of, if not the, meccas of mountain biking, only to pedal off in the opposite direction. However, the cyclist in me knows better. Just like their mountain biking, Canadians take their cycling seriously, and while the Sea To Sky Trail is the Canadian equivalent of a rail trail here in the states, the ride is going to be anything but disappointing. Not only is the scenery epic (and I don’t use that word lightly), but the riding turns out to be quite challenging in spots, and best of all – I’m on the all new Rove LTD…
If you find yourself in Function Junction before a long day on the bike, a Purebread Bakery is a great place to start. Every ride, especially those on drop bars should start with a great cup of coffee and Purebread didn’t disappoint. Fueled up on caffeine and pastries, we hit the Sea To Sky Trail which was just across the main road by the Whistler Athletes’ Centre which was built for the athletes of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic winter games. Still under construction, Phase 1 of the trail will lead from Squamish to D’arcy, though for our ride we opted to ride from Function Junction just outside of Whistler back to Squamish. While mostly trending downhill, the ride still included just shy of 2,000 feet of climbing over the 33.5 miles which included a stop at Fergie’s cafe for lunch, and a pedal back to the hotel (and a little extra for some sight seeing and wrong turns).
Mostly crushed gravel, there were plenty of dirt sections, stretches of pavement, and even the occasional suspended bridge to keep things interesting. It’s one of those trails that is easy enough for anyone to ride it on almost any bike, but the faster you ride, the more entertaining it becomes. Numerous switch backs, many of them down hill, made for incredibly fun descending, and really tested the handling of both the bike and the tires on loose dirt and gravel. I can say without question that I would have preferred the WTB Byways on this ride, but Kona says they opted for the Horizon since they expect this bike to be ridden more as a road bike than as a gravel bike. The takeaway though, is that it seems to be comfortable with both.
Whether weaving through lush, green ferns like a speeder bike on Endor, or sprinting it out on the pavement, the Rove LTD felt stable without being too muted, but still playful enough to wear the Kona badge. I had a chance to ride the Rove NRB DL the day before, and while it was also a great ride, the Rove LTD is a different beast due to the obvious choice of materials. The steel purists should love the LTD, but even those who don’t have a “steel is real” tatoo will be able to appreciate the ride quality.
Our crew was on a pretty mixed selection of bikes from the Rove LTD and Rove NRB DLs, to Sutras, and even Major Jakes. That just serves to highlight the fact that all of the bikes in the dropbar dirt category are quite versatile, but it doesn’t mean that they were all equally capable for every segment of the ride. During one particularly hairy rock garden descent, I almost wished that I was on the Sutra with its more aggressive, mountain bike-like tires. But, I still managed to make it through on the Rove LTD. And on the flip side, I was much happier to be on the Rove LTD with its smooth Horizon tires on the few miles of road segments where the bike wanted to just motor along.
Overall, the Rove LTD seems to include a smart component choice with a quality steel frame. Nothing too ground breaking in the world of gravel or adventure road bikes, but it’s a bike that is distinctly Kona in its execution. To me, the term ‘New Road Bike’ fits the Rove family quite well. Sure, you can ride a road bike with 700c x 23mm tires over just about anything (just look at Vittorio Brumotti’s latest video), but Road Plus makes it more enjoyable over far more surfaces. You may give up a bit of outright speed and razor sharp handling around fast corners on pavement, but what you lose, you make up in fun. Getting off the main roads and out into nature for me is far more preferable, and the Rove LTD seems like a great way to do just that – no matter what the surface may be.
Check out more details on the new Rove line up from our original post, here.