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The Kona Roadhouse is a quality steel do-it-all machine, with the latest tech, put together in a package sure to impress. Just be aware of a few niggles.
Dave covered off the geometry and tech foibles of the Roadhouse here – as he thought, the Roadhouse isn't the fastest, but it's stable and fun. And with dual thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes and wide tyre clearance, it has utility written all over it.
With Shimano 105 shifters and front mech, an Ultegra rear mech, RS-500 chainset and KMC chain, it's a bitser certainly, but overall the package is (almost) flawless; everything just works.
It's also, in my opinion, gorgeous. The photos don't do the paint job justice – a metallic red with pinstriped white and orange artwork including a scorpion on the top tube and a Mexican voodoo skull on the seat tube. All cables are external apart from the fork, which is a good thing.
The jury is in on fat tyres, and they are indeed faster, comfier and safer. Seeing Schwalbe's 30mm S-One specced is great – but buyer beware: this is not the tubeless version available in shops and reviewed recently here. Kona has purchased an OEM-only version (Original Equipment Manufacturer) labelled Performance Line and it's not tubeless.
I was all set to remove the tubes, add sealant and hare off down a few local hills, and only picked up their non-tubeless nature because I'd noted the tyres delivered were actually mislabelled as G-Ones, which have a higher tread pattern, so I went digging.
Kona has also specced a tubeless-ready rim in the package, so if you want to get the full benefits of those tubeless ready rims I'd suggest if you want to get the shop to swap the tyres out for proper tubeless S-Ones at purchase – you might have to pay a big extra given their cost. And if you're not as big a fan of running tubeless tyres as I am, well then it's as you were.
The ride of the 853 frame is lovely. I couldn't get any flex out of the bottom bracket when powering down, yet didn't feel beaten to death by the straight seatstays and 27.2mm seatpost – fat rubber and the relatively springy titanium-railed cutout Kona saddle adding up there.
The fork inspired similar levels of descending confidence to that fitted to the Kinesis Gran Fondo Ti Disc I tested recently. I came within a gnat's testicle of matching my descent record set by the Kinesis – and that's a £1,800 frameset alone.
Being 2kg heavier than high-end machines, the Roadhouse is never going to set world records – but then you can strip off any racks/mudguards, put 35mm cyclo-cross tyres on it, and head into the woods for a whole new world of fun. The generous wheelbase makes for a stable, predictable ride over rough or slippery surfaces. Even coated in inches of Hampshire's finest clag and wintry detritus, everything just worked – particularly the brakes.
Utility-wise, Kona gets points for speccing rear dropout mudguard mounts, but they are only 4mm – and are positioned so close to the seatstay welds that you'll almost certainly need to use standoffs to get clearance. This is fine for a lightweight mudguard, but if you are thinking to put a 20kg-capable rack on for a bit of touring or a child seat you might want to be sure your 4mm bolts can hold the load. There's a threaded mudguard mount in the back of the 'brake bridge', just down from the rack mounts.
Surprisingly for a brand with Kona's off-road pedigree and on a bike designed to get dirty, the slot in the seat tube is rear-facing – strange given that there's enough room to have put it at the front out of muck's way.
At the front end there are two mudguard mounts halfway up the inside of each fork leg, and I had no problem adapting a set of SKS Raceblade Longs to fit. There's a single threaded boss sunk into the rear of the fork, but be warned that it's deep – you'll need to add spacers to get a good hold on any mudguard mount.
As-delivered, the Kona had considerable front brake rotor rub due to paint overspray and a bit of carbon resin on the brake insert – but once I'd tidied up the front brake mounts, I couldn't get any rub even with the close tolerances of the BR-505 calliper. Rounding out the fork end, the tapered head tube is a thing of solid, point-and-shoot beauty.
The Kona-branded stem could do with being longer in my opinion – at 90mm it positioned things a bit far back for my liking. This was possibly to accommodate the 440mm-wide handlebar, giving you plenty of leverage for off-road use.
The stem also 'featured' an open rear clamp surface, which constantly whistled at anything over 15mph – Kona is going to change the spec here, so if you find one for sale with this open stem ask for it to be swapped or, like me, you'll be stuffing foliage down the gap to remain sane.
The shallow drop ergo bar suits a more upright style, while making getting low down pretty attainable.
The new 105 hydraulic shifters (see Dave's review here) might require some movement to get the hand position right – they have a square corner on the inside where the base of your thumb rests, so trial-and-error is in order.
As Dave picked up, having dual thru-axles on a steel frame is a relative novelty, but I wouldn't want anything else now. The combination of 15mm front and 12mm rear Maxle thru-axles make for very easy wheel removal and fitting.
Over a few months of taking wheels in and out to clean up, fettle and try different tyres, I never had to put the bike back on the ground to get the wheels fully seated. With normal quick releases this is always a requirement to make sure the axle outer is fully home in the dropouts; having to get off the bike 50 yards down the road from the car park or front door to reseat the wheels quickly becomes annoying.
With the Maxles you can hold the wheel up with one hand in the workstand or seat the frame/fork onto the wheel in the car park, insert the axle, twist, clamp and job done. You never need to sit the bike down and apply weight while bending over to do up the QR. With the close tolerances of modern hydraulic disc brakes, this is a huge bonus.
Overall, for £1,700 the Roadhouse is a great package, though it would be made better with proper tubeless-ready tyres and a silent stem.
Ticks a lot of boxes as a do-it-all machine – tweak the spec a bit and it's a cracking package
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kona Roadhouse
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Material: Reynolds 853 Butted Cromoly
Wheels: Novatec Road 30
Fork: Kona Carbon Road Disc
Crankset: Shimano RS500
Drivetrain: Shimano 105/Ultegra 11-32t 11-speed
Cockpit: Kona Road bar, Kona Road stem, Kona cork tape
Brakes: Shimano RS505 Hydraulic
Tires: Schwalbe S-One RaceGuard 700x30c
Saddle: Kona Classic Road
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Kona says: "It's where the action is. That place you want to be. A brand new super-cherry ride from Kona, one highlighted by a gorgeous, custom-drawn Reynolds 853 frameset with tapered head tube that delivers a stiff but compliant ride that's all party, all class, all Kona.
Tapered head tube with external headset cups provides needed stiffness and control without overdoing things visually or weight-wise. 12x142mm thru-axle dropouts with flat mount disc brake design, a full carbon Kona Road Endurance flat-disc-mount-specific fork with 15mm thru-axle dropouts and fender readiness."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Gorgeous paint, tidy welds, slightly let down by minor details like brake mount overspray.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Reynolds 853 tubing is seamless air-hardened, heat-treated steel. The benefits of air-hardening steels are particularly noticeable in the weld area where, unlike conventional steel alloys, strength can actually increase after cooling. Reynolds 853 is heat-treated to give high strength and damage resistance, and the steel properties allow thin walls to be used, resulting in lower weight, fatigue-resistant frames that ride like the wind.
Carbon fork is beefy while looking svelte.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Relaxed. Longish wheelbase plus 73-degree head tube angle add up to a stable, predictable ride, even over rough ground.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Could have done with a longer stem for the 56cm size. It's a tall-ish head tube, but not overly so.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfy. Predictable. Up, down or on the flat.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Just right - couldn't get any rub out of the big chainring under load, and the combination of seatpost, saddle and tyres adds up to a comfy ride.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
For a 10+kg bike, yes. Not the nippiest, but no slouch either.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not noticeably with my 45 boots.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral and predictable.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Again, neutral and predictable. A bike you could ride all day.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Longer stem, and one that doesn't whistle!
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Nope – all's good.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Needs proper S-One tyres. The tubeless ones.
Bit far back for me, so weight wasn't on the front wheel as much as I'd like.
Can't fault the combo. It just worked.
No problems encountered.
It's a compromise, at this price point.
Including the 505 brakes, it's a great package.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The mish-mash combination worked well.
Wheels and tyres
The S-One is a great tyre, made better by being tubeless.
The S-One is a very durable tyre.
The Novatech rims and hubs are not light.
Fat tyres = comfortable.
As part of the package, they are a suitable fit.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The tyres should really be tubeless.
The new 105 levers work very well, even with thick winter lobster gloves on.
It's Shimano. No issues.
The square protrusion isn't the comfiest – needs alignment.
Amazing value overall.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I think most people will be happy with these levers.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, with tubeless tyres and a different stem.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, with above caveats plus understanding of the rear rack mount issue.
Use this box to explain your score
To my mind, the tyre and stem spec need improving, and the rear dropouts could do with reworking to give 5mm threaded bolts with more clearance. Also the seat tube slot would be better facing the front. But overall the Roadhouse is a great contender for a do-it-all bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking and Dutch bike pootling