The Kona Rove LTD is the company's top end gravel/adventure bike that offers an excellent ride feel, loads of mounts for those epic trips off the beaten track, and plenty of tyre clearance. The thing I like best about it, though, is the way it handles.
I first rode a Rove – the DL – a few years ago and I really liked it. With its aluminium alloy frame and fork it was hardly svelte at 12.17kg, but there was just something about the way it felt that really got me... it was just so much fun.
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The LTD version delivers the exact same emotions, but they're intensified thanks to the new model's ride quality and the excellent gravel-specific components.
Like a lot of the recent gravel/adventure bikes I've been testing, the Rove LTD has a butted steel frame which delivers a beautiful ride feel.
Okay, when you have a pair of 47mm-wide 650B tyres on a bike, that is going to mask a lot of what the frame and fork are doing, so for a bit of extra testing I swapped in a set of road wheels with 25mm tyres at 100psi. This highlighted the vibration-damping qualities of the tubeset and showed just why this material is such a great choice for comfort when riding off-road.
Back on with the 650B wheels, and over the last month and a bit I've used the Kona on plenty of rides taking in all sorts of terrain, from road to hardpack gravel track and twisty singletrack and everything in between.
Riding along on the flat, the Kona requires very little input, it's just a point and shoot kind of bike. On long, steady efforts you can just tap on the pedals and take in the scenery, whether that's with the Kona loaded or unloaded.
Kona has managed to achieve this without making the Rove LTD boring. There is enough 'fun' factored into the handling that, should you be bimbling along a country lane and spy a track or byway, you can turn the power on and go for a blast.
The Rove feels a lot more nimble than its 11.1kg weight would have you believe. Getting out of the saddle and giving the pedals a kick rewards you with a decent turn of pace, and while it's no race bike, attacking short, sharp climbs can be fun.
When it comes to descending the Kona fares well too. The front end is pretty relaxed so the steering isn't too twitchy when off-road, but it still handles the technical stuff when you are on the road.
The turn-in as you enter a bend isn't as sharp as you'd expect from a road bike, but as far as a bike of this ilk is concerned it still delivers plenty of precision as you push through the apex and out the other side.
The tyres and the frameset provide plenty of feedback too, so if you do go into a bend a touch too fast, you'll immediately know when the rubber breaks traction, allowing you to correct things or give the anchors a jab. This is even more important when on the gravel, what with the ground moving around beneath your tyres the whole time.
On this terrain the Rove LTD is in its element – you can corner fast and because of how balanced the bike feels you can style it out as it drifts, just giving tiny steering, power or body position inputs to keep you upright.
What also helps, regardless of what's beneath the tyres, is the Kona's excellent geometry. The only thing I changed was the stem height to leave a 10mm spacer underneath, but from the moment I first got on the Rove everything just felt so right – the riding position, the way the bike behaves, everything – it gives you confidence in its and your own ability to tackle whatever is in front of you.
Relaxed when you want it to be, but a laugh and a very competent machine when you want to ride hard and have some fun, the Kona is just a very nice place to be sat.
Frame and fork
Kona doesn't say exactly what grade steel it's used in the Rove's construction, just going for Kona Butted Chromoly, but the ride feel is very similar to the Reynolds 725 frames I've been riding a fair bit lately – such as the Ribble CGR, Genesis Equilibrium and Genesis Croix de Fer.
It's an interesting looking frame, in the way that the tubing sizes change throughout. Up front the tapered head tube looks much bigger than normal, but that is more down to the fact that the down tube and top tube are much narrower than you are likely to find on an aluminium or carbon machine. They still manage to deliver decent levels of stiffness along their length, though.
The Kona's bottom bracket junction isn't exactly massive either, but it's perfectly capable of dealing with the kind of loads and stresses the Rove LTD is likely to see. If I absolutely hammered the bike uphill out of the saddle I could detect a small amount of flex, but it's negligible.
The Rove LTD uses externally threaded bottom bracket cups which is ideal for the kind of conditions it is likely to see. They are robust at keeping the water and dirt out, and can be replaced cheaply – and it's the type of maintenance even the least confident home mechanics can manage.
We see some steel frames with internal cable and hose routing, but Kona has left it all exposed on the Rove LTD, guided beneath the down tube and the chainstays.
It's still a reasonably neat solution and if you need to replace something midway through an epic adventure with very few tools, you won't be faffing trying to guide a cable through a dark tube in the middle of nowhere.
One thing the Kona isn't short of is mounting points. There's provision for three bottle cages, mudguards and a rear rack, and mounting points on each fork leg for even more carrying capability.
When it comes to sizing, the Rove is available in six, with top tubes ranging from 515mm to 598mm which, according to Kona covers riders from about 4ft 10in to 6ft 5in.
We've got the 54 on test, which has a 562mm top tube, 150mm head tube, 540mm seat tube and a 1,048mm wheelbase. The bottom bracket drop is 72mm and all sizes get chainstays of 435mm. The head angle is 71 degrees, while the seat angle is 73.5 degrees.
As for the fork, it's 400mm in length, from crown to dropout, and comes with an offset of 50mm.
All this adds up to stack and reach figures of 588mm and 388mm respectively – nothing especially out of the ordinary for this style of bike.
The overall finish and quality of the Rove's frame is impressive. The welding is neat and tidy while the paint colour gives a very classy look.
Unsurprisingly, the Kona comes with flat mounts for the callipers and 12mm thru-axles front and rear.
The whole 1x or 2x groupset divides opinion when it comes to gravel and adventure bikes; I'd say they both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Personally, when I had to make the choice recently when building up my own gravel bike, I went for a double chainset, albeit with lower gears than I would use on the road: 48/32-tooth chainrings and an 11-32 cassette.
Kona has gone even lower, with the Rove LTD using Shimano's GRX 810 chainset with 48/31 rings and a 105 11-34t 11-speed cassette.
The Rove uses components from right across the GRX line-up, though not all from the same level.
> 27 of the hottest 2021 Shimano GRX bikes
The front and rear mechs are also GRX 810, but the hydraulic brake/STI levers are GRX 600, while the brake callipers are from the lower GRX 400 groupset.
It's not an issue as it all works together seamlessly, and the brakes feel extremely powerful when grabbing hold of the 160mm RT54 Shimano rotors.
The shifting quality is also top notch, and you won't get any issues even when the chain and sprockets are coated in mud and water.
The groupset gives a usable spread of gears from top to bottom, and when paired with the Rove's responsive nature it never felt over-geared on the steep climbs.
Most of the other finishing kit is Kona branded.
The Kona Road bar comes with a slight flare, giving a bit more stability on the drops when riding over a loose surface, and the shallow drop means that all hand positions are achievable.
I like the Velo Shock-Proof bar tape too. It offers good grip and plenty of comfort.
The alloy Deluxe Thumb seatpost does the job and stayed put in the frame with no slippage issues.
Atop it sits a WTB SL8 saddle which I found to be a nice shape, with ample padding without being too squishy.
Wheels and tyres
The 650B wheels found on the Rove LTD are built up using WTB KOM Light Team i23 TCS rims laced to Shimano 105 hubs via stainless spokes.
It's a quality set of wheels that stood up to all of the abuse dished out to them, not deterred by the very wet and muddy conditions they saw, often being submerged over the hubs when ridden along the tank tracks on Salisbury Plain.
The rims are tubeless ready and come ready taped.
The 47mm-wide WTB Venture TCS Dual tyres are also tubeless ready and although our demo model arrived with inner tubes, it wouldn't take much to swap over to tubeless if you wish. Just some sealant and some valves.
The tyres have some decent tread on them compared to a lot of gravel tyres I've ridden. The large knobbly bits on the shoulder bite the gravel or mud as you corner, while the finer tread towards the centre also helps when traction is needed when climbing.
Like many gravel tyres, they aren't really designed for a UK winter so if your route is especially muddy you'll need to learn how to steer your bike with your hips as you slide around.
> Buyer’s Guide: 25 of the best gravel bike tyres
The smooth central section means they run well on the road too, and even cornering grip on a hard surface isn't too bad.
I did pick up one puncture – it's hedge butchering season around here. The thorn was pretty long and its thickness would have seen it get through all but the most robust tyres. The fact that I only suffered one puncture, considering how littered with trimmings large sections of the back lanes were, is testament to how tough the WTBs are. If they were set up tubeless this wouldn't be an issue anyway.
The Rove LTD is priced at £2,399, and it's up against some stiff opposition.
Between us and our sister site off.road.cc we've reviewed a couple of versions of Ribble's CGR 725, and it was the gravel-specific build that impressed us the most.
As you can no doubt guess, the CGR comes with a Reynolds 725 steel frame and it gets a full carbon fibre fork too. There are mounting points aplenty and loads of tyre clearance. It offers a really nice road feel and is hugely versatile.
With a 1x GRX 600 groupset, 650B Mavic Aksium wheels, and in-house finishing kit, it'll set you back just £1,699. Upgrade the wheels to some Mavic AllRoad Elite Road+ and you are still only looking at £2,149.
> 18 of the hottest new 2021 gravel bikes
Alongside the Kona I was also reviewing the Genesis Croix de Fer 20. Aside from the weight, the Croix de Fer was a pleasure to ride and it is a very similar bike to the Kona when it comes to what it can do. It weighed 11.94kg, about 800g more than the Rove LTD, but the way these two bikes deal with that weight is completely different.
On the Genesis you always knew it was there – you could feel it when climbing, accelerating or sprinting. The Kona feels massively more responsive, as I said earlier.
The closest match from the Genesis line-up is the Croix de Fer 40 at £2,299.99. It comes with a mix of GRX components just like the Kona, and has similar wheels too. The main difference is that the Croix de Fer uses a steel fork to match the frame rather than carbon.
Overall, the Kona Rove LTD may not be quite as competitively priced as others on the market, but I wouldn't say that that makes it expensive. After riding a number of steel-framed bikes of this style lately I'd say that the Kona offers one of the best ride qualities I've found. The geometry is absolutely bang on for the gravel – and it's no slouch when it transfers to the tarmac.
Beautiful ride quality and sweet handling makes the Rove LTD an absolute joy to ride, whatever the terrain
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Make and model: Kona Rove LTD
List the components used to build up the bike.
CRANKARMS Shimano GRX 810
B/B Shimano S500 68mm
CHAIN Shimano 11spd
FREEWHEEL Shimano 105 11-34t 11spd
F/D Shimano GRX 810
R/D Shimano GRX 810
SHIFTERS Shimano GRX 600
BRAKE CALIPERS Shimano GRX 400
FRONT BRAKE ROTOR Shimano RT54 160mm (centerlock)
REAR BRAKE ROTOR Shimano RT54 160mm (centerlock)
BRAKE LEVERS Shimano GRX 600
HEADSET FSA No.1/12B/44
HANDLEBAR Kona Road
STEM Kona Road Deluxe
SEATPOST Kona Deluxe Thumb w/Offset 27.2mm
SEAT CLAMP Kona Clamp
GRIPS Velo Shock-Proof Bar Tape
SADDLE WTB SL8
FRONT HUB Shimano 105 100x12mm
REAR HUB Shimano 105 142x12mm
SPOKES Stainless Black 14g
RIMS WTB KOM Light Team i23 TCS 2.0
FRONTIRE WTB Venture TCS DUAL 650x47c
REAR TIRE WTB Venture TCS DUAL 650x47c
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, "The Rove LTD is back and better than ever. This gorgeous Butted Cromoly frame features a tapered headtube and our Rove Verso Full Carbon flat mount disc fork with the ability to carry a host of gear. Shimano's GRX drivetrain and brakes keep this beast running like a dream during nasty, muddy conditions. WTB KOM Light Team i23 TCS rims and Venture TCS dual 650x47c tires help keep the rubber side down when things get tricky. The Rove LTD is the perfect blend of function and aesthetics and is ready for your next adventure."
The Rove LTD is the type of bike that is fun to ride all over the place when unloaded, and should you want to load it up with some bags and kit it is a very capable machine.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Rove LTD sits at the top of the Rove range. There are five other models in the line-up, some with steel frames and forks and others that use aluminium alloy for both.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is high, including the welding and the finish throughout. The deep red paintjob really looks good in the sun.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is constructed from Kona's butted chromoly steel and the fork is full carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The full chart can be found on Kona's website. A look through the numbers highlights that its geometry is pretty typical of a gravel/adventure bike, especially the slack front end and extended wheelbase which gives stability off road.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are very similar to other bikes of this style that I have been reviewing.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Ride comfort is very high, thanks in part to the large volume tyres, but the frame also brings plenty to the ride quality.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness levels are where I'd expect them to be given the design and materials used. I detected no issues with stiffness when riding the Kona hard on and off road.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it does feel suprisingly efficient especially considering its weight.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Rove LTD feels very stable and easy to ride whatever the terrain. It never feels like it's out of control, and that gives the rider confidence.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Definitely the tyres for increased comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The WTB/105 wheel build didn't show any signs of flex.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A good spread of gears either end of the ratios helps you to get the most out of the bike.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
A mix and match approach to the GRX groupsets but it all worked together really well. A good spread of gears too.
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
An impressive set of wheels, not overly heavy and durable too.
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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
I got on well with the tyres and their tread pattern worked fine on the majority of surfaces I rode on.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Decent quality kit that doesn't really need upgrading. The handlebar gives plenty of hand positions and the saddle shape worked fine for me.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a very similar price to Genesis' Croix de Fer 40, but is undercut by the CGR 725 from Ribble.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
There are more competitively priced options out there, but the Kona offers an excellent quality frame and fork paired up with a good selection of components. The well-sorted geometry also makes it an enjoyable bike to ride.
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
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