We've just popped over to Bristol to see what Kona have been brewing up for this year. And they've got some crackers on the road side. Kona have largely been known as a MTB brand on these shores but they've always had a good range of quality roadgoing machines, from the super-practical Africabike and Ute to sport and touring bikes, as well as an excellent CX range.
And what's new for this year? Gravel grinders. You know gravel racing, right? Nope, us neither. It's not really an exploding scene over here. However, the bikes that are being knocked up are perfect for the scarred tarmac over here in the UK. With Cyclocross-inspired geometry and spec (but with a lower bottom bracket for the road), wider rims and tyres and disc brakes, they're excellent all-round, all-weather bikes that are happy on tarmac or trail. Kona's bike is called the Rove, and it's available in steel or now as a Lynskey-built Titanium frame.
"The Rove came from the commuting and CX stable, rather than from the road," Kona's Doug Lafavor told us. "Most of the stuff that we do is driven by our inside guys. We tend to build a lot of stuff that we're into. Gravel racing is big in the states right now and there are some races in europe too. For me, I spend some of the summer water-skiing at some fairly remote lakes and the mountain biking's not great, more doubletrack and gravel roads that the guys use to get to fishing lakes. They surface them with tar and aggregate, so at the end of the pave job it's nice and smooth, you can ride on the tar. But when it's new it's pretty punishing. On a mountain bike it's fine. But this is gonna be faster. And it'll get me to those areas faster."
The showstopper is the Rove Ti. The frame, built in the US by Lynskey from 3Al/2.5V Titanium, will take up to a 50mm tyre for a super plush ride over the rough stuff. Up front Kona are using the 44mm standard that Genesis, among others, have taken up to allow the use of a tapered steerer fork. Kona are making a tapered P2 carbon disc fork to go with this frame but the bike we saw was wearing a Whisky full-carbon one as the Kona unit isn't quite ready yet. The frame on its own will cost you £1,250.
The sample bike had a high-end transmission consisting of Sram Red shifters, an XX MTB rear cassette and derailleur and a Red chainset wearing CX-happy 46/36 chainrings. Behind the chainset the chainstay is made from Titanium plate, rather than tube.
Also in evidence were Tektro's Hy/Rd discs. It's the first time we've seen these on a production bike. Essentially it's a hydraulic calliper which includes a master cylinder, and it's cable actuated to allow the use of drop-bar control levers. It's an interesting idea (not the first time it's been tried incidentally) although we'll have to see how the units handle heat build-up and also whether they suffer from any stickiness in the cable when the weather turns sour.
We didn't get to weigh it, and Kona didn't have a weight for it as it was the first time the guys at the show had seen it built, but it's pretty decent wearing the high-end kit that it was wearing today. Ballpark? probably around the 9kg mark, at a guess.
The Rove CX steel bike (£1,399) has been available for a bit already, and it's been a hit, selling almost as well as the long-standing Jake CX bike. It's built for strength rather than light weight, and has been such a success that Kona are phasing out the Sutra tourer, figuring that the Rove will turn its hand to loaded touring as easily as it will to the trails and back roads. They're going to offer the Rove in the current Sutra build - that's a Deore/LX triple setup with rear rack and front lowrider racks and full mudguards. The Rove CX only has one eyelet at the dropout though so you'd need to double up for racks and guards.
The Rove CX will handle up to a 40mm tyre with mudguards, there's plenty of room in the frame and the P2 Cromoly disc fork. The brakes are Hayes' excellent CX5 mechanical units which we've been testing recently on the Trek Crossrip.
Gearing is a hill-friendly 46/36 Sram Apex compact chainset with a wide-ratio 11-32 cassette to the rear. You get Apex shifters and front mech, with the rear upgraded to Rival. Kona finishing kit is widely specced, with a WTB saddle. The wheels are Formula disc hoops running WTB 35mm semi-slick tyres.
It's not all metal; Kona also had their Zing Supreme at the show too. The frame is a collaboration between Deda and Kona, with the front triangle a stock Deda section and the rear triangle to Kona's own design.
The rear triangle is designed with "spines on the chainstays and the seatstays for a more vertically compliant rear triangle that still effectively reduces side-to-side deflection". So that's more stifferer side to side but a bit less stifferer up and down. Hm. There must be a catchier way of saying that.
The build kit is Shimano 105, with Aksium wheels and a generous helping of Kona's alloy finishing kit. The bike retails for £1,999.
We ran out of time at the end so we didn't manage to drag the Dew Deluxe outside to take some proper shots of it, but it looks like a great option for getting yourself and some stuff round town. It's got a Shimano 1x9 drivetrain and Tektro Novela disc brakes. The position is more upright thanks to a slightly swept riser bar. You get a nice sturdy front delivery rack (looks like it'll just about fit a slab of beer, although that probably won't do much for the handling) and colour matched fenders. Sorr, mudguards. Came over all west coast there for a minute. The Dew Deluxe will relieve you of £699. Here's Kona's much better pic of it from their site.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.