Kona Rove LTD Bike Review

Kona Rove LTD Bike

A roving Steel adventure machine with great looks and small wheels.

What is it?

A slender steel bike, with a carbon fork, posh parts, and 650b wheels. The Rove LTD is designed for executive-level mucking about. Lighter than you might expect due to its posh tubing, it’s both comfortable and, thanks to its 12 mm bolt-through axles, also very capable in rough-and-tumble situations. With a deep metallic paint job and tan-wall tires it’s a fine- looking thing to clutter up your home with.

What am I going to use this bike for?

Whatever you like. With small wheels and wide bars, the Rove is very much up for fashionable off-road antics. Then again, it’ll work perfectly well for standard socks-and- sandals touring. Happy to carry bikepacking gear, or regular racks and panniers, where it excels is its ability to do both without the need to fiddle about with its existing spec.

Capable of anything short of fast road riding, its geometry is forgiving for riders with moderate flexibility, while also providing control when taken off the tarmac.

What’s going on with that headtube?

Looking a bit like it’s been pinched from your uncle’s touring bike, the high stack on the Rove helps keep it comfortable. Appearing longer than it is thanks to the integrated headset, don’t be fooled into thinking the Rove’s handling is doddery. With a comparatively short top tube, it’s great to spend all day on, but without ever being boring on short blasts.

Unlike what you’d find on an old steel klunker, the Rove’s headtube is also radically tapered. Wide at the bottom, this creates a solid junction that reduces flex to eliminate brake shudder and tighten up the steering performance, something furthered by the broad downtube.

How come it’s steel, not carbon?

Firstly, steel is cool. Secondly, this isn’t cheapo steel. Made up of thin and finely worked Reynolds 853 tubing, it might add a kilo or so, but it leaves the Rove superbly smooth. Also, once loaded up, not only will the added weight seem negligible compared to the gear you’re lugging, but you won’t have to worry about straps on your bikepacking bags rubbing into the frame.

With carbon, manganese, chrome, molybdenum, silicon and copper all going into the pot, the strength of Reynolds 853 tubing magically increases after welding. Known as air-hardening, it makes the frame’s joints especially strong.

But aren’t those carbon cranks I spy?

They are. SRAM’s Force l crankset saves a few grams versus an alloy model but more importantly look very snazzy when contrasted with the Rove’s skinny steel tubing. Part of a 1×11-speed groupset, the square profile teeth on the chainring alternate between wide and narrow widths.

This combines with a clutch on the rear derailleur to keep the chain locked in place; handy when you’re crashing about through the undergrowth or rattling over rocks and roots. With a 40t chainring and io-42t cassette, the range of gears is sizeable, although the Rove lacks the absolute crawling-pace option you’ll want if lugging kit up extended hills. Happily, it’s both simple and cheap to swap in a smaller chainring for these kinds of expeditions.

I’m worried I’m not hip enough for 650b wheels…

Don’t sweat it. There was a time when us regular folk felt self-conscious ordering a flat white coffee, and now you can buy those in Greggs. The diminutive 650b wheel has traveled a similar path. Formerly the plaything of beard-bothering trendies who were drawn in by the smoothness of their oversize tires and excellent handling qualities, now loads of bikes use them.

Suited to off-road use but not too much of a burden on the tarmac, they make more sense than a larger diameter wheel with a skinnier tire. Besides, you can always retrofit some 700c wheels should you not get on with them.

Blue Kona Rove LTD bike.

Apart from being small, what else is going on with the wheels?

Fitted with 47c wide WTB Horizon Road Plus tires, these are ready to be set up tubeless. With a slight amount of tread down the center, the edges have knobbles for better cornering on loose surfaces. Rounded off with stylish looking tan sidewalls, they sit on light WTB Asym i23 TCS rims. Connected to the frame and fork by robust 12 mm bolt- through axles, it’s a combination that makes for assured steering when piloting the Rove through choppy terrain.

Kona seems like a pretty cool bunch of dudes and dudettes…

Indeed they do. In the 90s, Kona’s radical mountain bike designs and aloha-styling made them the bike to be seen aboard. There’s still a market for these classic machines on eBay, and we could bore you stiff with tales about the Konas we’ve owned and now regret having sold.

Based in the Pacific Northwest, the company was founded in 1988 by Dan Gerhard and Jacob Heilbron in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Now big but without seeming too soullessly corporate, the brand also does more than its fair share when it comes to advocacy for trail access, environmental issues, and other general do-gooding.

OK, so how much will a bike like this set me back?

It depends how much you want to spend. The entry-level Rove comes with an aluminum frame and 700c wheels and will cost you $950. The first model to come with 650b wheels is the Rove ST at $1750, while the Rove LTD sits at the top of the tree and will cost you $4200. Not an insignificant amount for a bicycle, but a sum the Kona goes a good way towards justifying, not least for the way it looks.


Weight: 10.9 kg

Frame: Reynolds 853 steel, with full carbon fork

Groupset: SRAM Force 1 11-speed

Brakes: SRAM Force

Chainset: SRAM Force Carbon 40t

Cassette: SRAMXG1150 10-42t 11-speed

Bars: Kona Road

Stem: Kona Road

Saddle: WTB Volt Comp

Seatpost: Kona Thumb

Wheels: Formula/WTB Asymi23TCS

Tires: WTB Horizon Road Plus TCS 650x47c

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