First it was Jake, now it’s the Rove. We’re of course about Kona bikes that are getting complete overhauls for the 2018 season. Kona’s engineers say they wanted to add depth, diversity, and cohesion to the line, and they’ve done so with even more versions of one of their most popular bikes. While getting close to completely standardizing the geometry across the range, the Rove really stands out for what it means to Kona – and that’s what a drop bar bike can really be. A few times during our time in Squamish, it was brought up that you can’t really call it a road bike category any more. Drop bar use for off road riding was started decades ago, but we’re just now starting to see a complete renaissance of the category, and the Rove perfectly highlights what the future may hold…
Cloaked in the same Gloss Aqua with copper accents that you’ll find on many of the top end Kona bikes for 2018, the Rove LTD is the crown jewel of the line up. Not only does it have the best part spec, but it also is the only bike in the Rove family to use Reynolds 853 butted chromoly tubing (front triangle only). Based around the concept of Kona’s dream Rove build, the LTD starts with the chromoly frame and adds the same Kona Full Carbon fork with flat mount discs and a 100 x 12mm thru axle that you’ll find on many of the Kona drop bar bikes this year.
Even though the frame is steel, the Rove LTD features the same dropout design you’ll find on the aluminum Roves (more below) which makes mounting fenders and racks more streamlined, and features a 142 x 12mm thru axle with a replaceable derailleur hanger and flat mount disc brakes. Thanks to the manipulation of the steel chainstays, Kona was able to get the necessary tire clearance with a threaded bottom bracket. Rove LTD also has a shapely tapered head tube which is a departure from many of the steel bikes in the Kona range. Technically, this frame is front derailleur compatible with the use of a clamp on front derailleur but it only comes in one build as a 1x SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with 40 x 10-42 gearing.
One of three new Rove models to run 650b wheels and tires, the LTD keeps it higher end with WTB KOM i25 rims, SRAM S900 hubs, and WTB Horizon 47 TCS tires. Other details include a 12° rise stem, flared Kona Road bar, WTB Volt Comp saddle, and other Kona bits for complete price of $3,599. The frameset is also available with the fork and axles for $1,499. Geometry wise, the Rove LTD is identical to the Rove NRB & NRB DL.
Over on the aluminum side, the Rove NRB and NRB DL accomplish much of the same goal as the Rove LTD, but with affordability added to the mix of adaptability, clearance, and modern geometry. If you’re wondering what NRB stands for, Kona says it’s up to you – but ‘New Road Bike,’ ‘Not a Road Bike,’ and ‘Neo Randonneuring Bike’ were all thrown out there as possibilities.
According to Kona, the bottom bracket was where things got complicated in the design process to create a frame that had all the necessary clearance, but still had a threaded bottom bracket, stout chainstays, and clearance for a double crankset. Their answer was to create a new two piece forged BB/chainstay yoke that allows for a 1x or 2x drivetrain without the need for a dropped chainstay (52/36 or 48t single ring max). Kona claims that the aluminum and steel bikes have the same tire clearance (650b x 47mm or 700c x 40mm), but the aluminum bike at least visually looked like it offered more – especially in terms of fender clearance. The BB yoke is forged in two pieces, welded together, and then post machined before it is welded to the other frame tubes to create the whole frame.
As mentioned, the drop out design is new and features a staggered mount for the fenders and rack so the struts aren’t competing for the same space.
The 142 x 12mm thru axle dropouts also feature the new replaceable derailleur hanger which is the same model used on every thru axle drop bar bike for Kona in 2018.
Again, flat mount brakes are used on the frame and the Kona full carbon Race fork with a 100 x 12mm thru axle. Unlike the steel frame, the housing is routed internally for the front and rear derailleur and externally for the brake hose (LTD is fully external). In contrast to the LTD, the Rove NRB DL runs a 2×11 drivetrain with a Shimano 105/Ultegra mix and 50/34 x 11-32t gearing. The NRB DL rolls on the same WTB Horizon Road Plus TCS 650b x 47mm tires but on WTB Asym i23 TCS rims laced to Formula Centerlock hubs.
The only Rove available at the time to weigh, this 52cm NRB DL came in at 22.31lbs (10.12kg) without pedals and with tubes in the tires. Like most of the Kona bikes, they skew towards durability and solid component choice more than trying to build the lightest bike possible. That keeps the retail price for the Rove NRB DL to just $2,099.
The last of the new 650b Rove models, the Rove NRB features the same frame and fork as the NRB DL, only with a more economical parts kit.
Running a fully mechanical group, the NRB sees a Shimano Tiagra/FSA Omega Adventure mix with 48/32 x 11-34t gearing, TRP Spyre C flat mount mechanical disc brakes, and the same WTB Asym i23/Formula wheels (6 bolt) with WTB Horizon 650b x 47mm tires for $1,699.
Prefer steel and 700c wheels and tires? Kona has you covered there too with the revised Rove ST. Moving forward the frame has more tire clearance than the older models with 700c x 40mm claimed, but it certainly looks like more would fit.
Running a Kona Project Two chromoly fork with thru axles and flat mount discs, the fork is completely modern with the exception of a straight 1 1/8″ non-tapered steerer. Running 142 x 12mm rear and 100 x 12mm thru axles back and front, the build includes a SRAM Rival 1×11 wide speed drivetrain, TRP Spyre mechanical brakes, and tubeless Clement X’Plor MSO 700c x 36mm tires, all for the same price of $1,499.
You may have noticed that when Kona launched their 2018 cyclocross range, the standard Jake was no more. That’s because in Kona’s eyes, the Rove DL or Rove make more sense for that consumer. Rather than taking a cyclocross bike and using it as a ‘do-it’all’ platform, the Rove DL and Rove offer a more commuter/gravel focus with more tire clearance that could still be used to race cross on the weekends if you wanted to. Both bikes run 700c x 35mm wheels and tires but the Rove DL features a Shimano Sora 2×9 drivetrain and comes stock with fenders for $1,099, whereas the Rove ditches the fenders goes to a Shimano Claris 2×8 drivetrain to get the price down to $849.
Up next – first ride impression of the new Rove LTD from Whistler to Squamish…