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Kona Roadhouse



Ticks a lot of boxes as a do-it-all machine – tweak the spec a bit and it's a cracking package

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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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.

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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.

Kona Roadhouse.jpg

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.

Getting tyred

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.

Kona Roadhouse - rim and tyre.jpg

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 Roadhouse - riding 2.jpg

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.

Riding on

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.

Kona Roadhouse - seat stays.jpg

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.

Kona Roadhouse - fork.jpg

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.

Finer points

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.

Kona Roadhouse - rear disc brake.jpg
Kona Roadhouse - seat stays detail.jpg

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.

Kona Roadhouse - front disc brake.jpg

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.

Kona Roadhouse - stem.jpg

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.

Kona Roadhouse - shifter.jpg

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.

Kona Roadhouse - thru axle.jpg

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 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.

Frame Features:

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

Overall rating for 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.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
Rate the bike for acceleration:
Rate the bike for sprinting:
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
Rate the bike for climbing:

Bit far back for me, so weight wasn't on the front wheel as much as I'd like.

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:

Can't fault the combo. It just worked.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:

No problems encountered.

Rate the drivetrain for weight:

It's a compromise, at this price point.

Rate the drivetrain for value:

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

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:

The S-One is a great tyre, made better by being tubeless.

Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:

The S-One is a very durable tyre.

Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:

The Novatech rims and hubs are not light.

Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:

Fat tyres = comfortable.

Rate the wheels and tyres for value:

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.


Rate the controls for performance:

The new 105 levers work very well, even with thick winter lobster gloves on.

Rate the controls for durability:

It's Shimano. No issues.

Rate the controls for weight:
Rate the controls for comfort:

The square protrusion isn't the comfiest – needs alignment.

Rate the controls for value:

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.

Your summary

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.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:

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.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

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

Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.

Add new comment


Morat | 7 years ago
1 like

Nearly a year on and I love mine. It goes out with the gang, handles multi day rides without beating me up and is just so damn comfy it's untrue. Comfort might not something the ad-men drool over but the ability to soak up washboard chipseal is a real bonus IMO. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I started getting sniped at because I'd sail over bad surfaces without pointing down for the group. I only realised it was bad when I heard the "argh" from behind.

Through-axles and hydro disks make this a really secure descender. Friends on flighty "full race" bikes don't get it, but on anything but the smoothest tarmac this is a much nicer bike to ride, especially down hill or in the last miles of a long ride when your arse and wrists will thank you.

The thing I can't fathom is how it resists all hint of flex (even on a 61cm) while being so compliant.  We're told to expect this from carbon, but not steel!

It's a shame the 2017 model is £3500.



@stem - I put black alloy mudguards from Radial on mine. It was tight! but they are really stable and everything has been fine so far despite the close clearances.

highsierra | 7 years ago

22 Lbs, 14 oz.  58 cm stock with no pedals...pretty heavy for an 853 frame...

highsierra | 7 years ago

22 Lbs, 14 oz.  58 cm stock with no pedals...pretty heavy for an 853 frame...

stem | 7 years ago

Any idea what tyre clearance with mudguards? 32mm+ is the answer I want to hear.

Divad | 8 years ago

Had a look at this in local lbs and it is lovely. The external too headset cup makes it a bit tall at the front for me. Has anybody seen the Esatto DDL in the flesh or know the weight? Guessing it'll be about half a kilo lighter with the Al frame and same components. Any plans to review it?

Mlandzaat | 8 years ago

I've got one in 56cm and love it!
Not the fastest race bike but perfect for my longer audax-like trips. (+200km)
Replaced the stock seat and seatpost with a Thomson post and trusted Fzik Antares R1 saddle, also swapped the stock 90mm stem for a 100mm model, that feels much better to me.
Didn't figure out the howling sound came from the stock stem, but since I replaced it the sound was gone. Just didn't figure the stem was the thing causing the sound.

Stock tires (although a shame there not the real thing) weight in at 275gr.
I replaced the stock tubes with latex ones and will upgrade to tubeless when the stock tires wear out.

Other items that are on my list of things te get upgraded are:
- crankset, will prob get a Ultegra 6800 set
- wheels, something lighter but just as wide (25mm wide rims)
- 11-32t cassette, will be replaced with a 11-28t model since the part of The Netherlands where I live realy flat.

Also find the stock 505 levers realy comfy!
Much better then the Shimano 5700 105 levers I used before.
The levers have a kind of hump from the hydro reservoir but they feel realy good to me.

shutuplegz | 8 years ago

I can't read the name of this bike without hearing Peter Griffin in Family Guy - "Roadhouse" !!

barbarus | 8 years ago

I'm guessing that the extra weight in the frame and forks compared to how you could build it are on account of its off road aspirations.

I do like the look of this, in fact it's visually pretty similar to my own bike.

reippuert | 8 years ago

I have been drooling over the Roadhouse frameset and waiting for a review since it was announced late 2015. The featureset and geometry is spot on for  multi week light weight selfsustained credit card alpine touring  - and the ride characterristics seems to live up what i had expected.

 - im a little disapointed reg  the actual frame/fork weight though. I would have imagined a 853 frameset to weigh 2-300g less. Same goes for the fork that could loose 50-100g.

For the complete bike i have been holding back because of the cheap, poorly ergonomics (not to mention ugly) 505 hydralics. It's not a cheap bike but i really think they could have set the price a 1-200£  higher and  included Ultegra chainset, 685/805 hydralics and course the true One-S tyres. Those hydralics is just too damm expensive to replace with a decent 685/805 (or 6800 + Hy/Rd)

Instead I'll go for a china build straight gauge TI frame for disc's and axle-through, TRP fork and and pair of Hy/Rd + my existing Chorus 2015 groupset.


KiwiMike replied to reippuert | 8 years ago
reippuert wrote:

For the complete bike i have been holding back because of the cheap, poorly ergonomics (not to mention ugly) 505 hydralics.


Instead I'll go for a china build straight gauge TI frame for disc's and axle-through, TRP fork and and pair of Hy/Rd + my existing Chorus 2015 groupset.


Having spent two months riding a 685-equipped bike (Kinesis GF Ti Disc) then back to my house Merida with Ultegra 6800 levers & HyRds, then 6 weeks on the Kona with 505, there's no contest: The 505's are a *lot* better than the HyRds, and not far off the 685. I didn't have the shifting issues Dave struck with the 505's either.


Good luck with your new build.



captain_slog | 8 years ago
1 like

You had me at 'Mexican voodoo skull'.

croissantlune | 8 years ago
1 like

Great, honest review, but it says a lot about the bike industry that the reviewer had to fix the thing so that the brakes would work, that the tyres didn't use the functionality of the tubeless wheelset.... yet it still got 4*.

So many bikes - off-the-peg and custom built, are just garbage.

KiwiMike replied to croissantlune | 8 years ago
croissantlune wrote:

Great, honest review, but it says a lot about the bike industry that the reviewer had to fix the thing so that the brakes would work, that the tyres didn't use the functionality of the tubeless wheelset.... yet it still got 4*. So many bikes - off-the-peg and custom built, are just garbage.


The brake issue would have been picked up during the pre-delivery inspection by any competent LBS and remedied in a few minutes - this bike came from distributor stock in Europe somewhere, so hadn't had the TLC an in-store one should reveive.

The tyre spec is of concern - and Kona aren't the only ones doing this, nor apparently just Schwalbe. Lower-spec, cheaper, non-tubeless OEM tyres that substitute for the real thing are apparently commonplace. Consumers need to be 100% certain a tyre is tubeless - as tyres can and do get mislabelled (as they were in this case) it behoves you to be extra-vigilant in this regard.

Jonny_Trousers | 8 years ago

Really nice looking bike and really well written review. 

StraelGuy | 8 years ago

Absolutely gorgeous bike, definitely on my n+1 list.

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