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Review: Kona Rove AL 2016 Road Bike

 

The Kona Rove draws on a rich history of successful cyclocross & commuter bikes to create the ultimate ‘do everything’ crossover bike.

The Rove AL trades steel for aluminium and shaves £700 off the price tag, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s half as good!

Kona Rova AL 2016 by a fence with graffiti

Review of the 2016 Kona Rove AL

When you consider that the £599 Kona Rove AL is less than half the price of its steel-framed cousin, an ‘on-paper’ comparison of the two doesn’t reveal it to be less than half the bike. You still get Kona’s ‘Project Two’ fork, a pair of Hayes CX mechanical disc brakes and a proper disc-specific wheelset, so all the signs point towards a bike with excellent value for money.


 

Close up of the top tube decal on the 2016 Kona Rove AL

The 2016 Kona Rove AL is the most affordable bike in the Kona Rove range


 

First impressions

There’s no mistaking Kona’s attention to detail in the build of the bike. The tube junction welds are reassuringly thick and well-formed, while the cable-routing bosses have a more minimalistic join. The ‘Burnt Orange’ colour of the bike we tested is done no justice by my photography skills – it’s a genuinely eye-catching colour which really glows in the sunlight and looks fantastic.

Although the Kona Rove AL is specced similarly to a cyclocross bike, the overriding focus of the frame is more on touring and commuting (with features such as front & rear mudguard & rack mounts), which does bring a bit of a weight penalty.


 

Close up of the custom Kona top cap on the Kona Rove AL 2016


In Detail

The spec of the bike is on par with the price tag – 16 speed Claris, cable disc brakes and an OEM only WTB Freedom Cruz / Joytech wheelset.

The 2016 Kona Rove AL comes with a slightly wider Schwalbe Road plus 35c tyre compared to the 32c tyre fitted to the 2015 model we reviewed previously. They give plenty of grip in the wet and dry, and aren’t too slick to run on gravel & hard-pack dirt trails. They do (quite literally) fall down a little on grassy surfaces as the bike tries to dig down into the dirt, particularly after it’s rained.

The Hayes CX Comp mechanical brakes are single-piston and operate on 160mm rotors front and rear, plus there’s a pair of Tektro crosstop levers, so the brakes are well within reach wherever your hands are.


View of the front disc brake and fork on the Kona Rove AL 2016


 

The Ride

The Rove is based on Kona’s cyclocross geometry with a lower bottom bracket to improve stability, which is immediately apparent when you step into the pedals. Straight away the Rove AL feels both comfortable and well-mannered to ride, and with its short rear triangle it’s surprisingly nimble for such a solid machine.

Kona have worked some of their magic into the frame and ‘Project Two’ fork, as the road buzz from this bike is absolutely minimal. The 35c Schwalbe tyres aren’t the fattest available – you can certainly fit wider tyres to the Rove AL if you wish – and yet this bike gives as little noise through the saddle and handlebar as you would expect from a wider, more absorbent tyre.

Having said that, as comfortable as the bike is, during a longer ride my (somewhat ample) posterior disagreed with the firmness of the Kona Road saddle.

2016 Kona Rove AL Specification:

  • Frame: 6061 Aluminum Butted
  • Wheels: WTB Freedom Cruz Disc
  • Fork: Kona Project Two
  • Crankset: FSA Tempo Compact 50/34
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Claris 11-32t 8-speed
  • Brakes: Hayes CX Comp
  • Tires: Schwalbe Road Plus w/Puncture Protect 700x35c
  • Saddle: Kona Road

 


Kona Rove AL 2016 on the beach with some driftwood


 

The compact 50/34t chainset is typically found in entry level road bikes and arguably gives much longer gears than you would typically need on a crossover bike like this, however when paired with the 11-32t cassette it all makes sense. The Rove AL has a wide spread of gears to get you up and over virtually any terrain you encounter, with the only downside being a large gap between some of the higher (smaller) gears on the cassette. Shimano’s Claris shifters and derailleurs may not be the lightest or most razor-sharp performers, but they’re reliable and very much ‘fit-and-forget’ which is the kind of peace of mind you want on a bike like this.

The Rove AL has a wide spread of gears to get you up and over virtually any terrain you encounter… We were hugely impressed with the Hayes CX Comp disc brakes.

Once again we were hugely impressed with the Hayes CX Comp disc brakes fitted to the 2016 Rove AL, just as we were with the 2015 model. The 160mm rotors give plenty of stopping power in both the wet and dry, and didn’t require any adjustment at all over the 6 weeks we spent riding the bike. Once the pads had bed in we experienced a small amount of noise as the cut-outs in the rotor pass through the calliper under light braking, just to let you know they’re working, but otherwise the brakes were nice and quiet.

Although made from a 6061 alloy, the design and equipment of the Rove AL lends itself more to touring than racing, so it’s not the lightest bike in the world; the 34t ring and 32t cassette combination came in handy on some of the steeper hills. However despite being compliant enough to absorb vibrations, the frame is stiff enough laterally to transmit power well when you need to get the hammer down.


Kona Rove AL 2016 in the park by the lake


 

The bottom line

The Kona Rove AL could very much be the definitive crossover bike. I spend most of my saddle-time on either my Giant TCR roadie or Lapierre Spicy mountain bike, and the Rove splits the difference perfectly. On paper the £599 SRP price tag (£50 less than the 2015 Kona Rove AL we tested a while back) is right on par with the equipment you get, but with Kona’s work on the frame and fork joining all the bits together, the performance matches what you might expect from a more expensive bike, although the weight can is noticeable be felt on those hills.

As a commuter & tourer, the Rove AL is sturdy and comfortable, with a reliable drivetrain and responsive braking, should you need saving from any surprise traffic movements.

On paper the £599 SRP price tag is right on par with the equipment you get, but the performance matches what you might expect from a more expensive bike.

 

4.5 out of 5


 

Check out the full 2016 Kona Rove range:

Kona Rove ST road bike

Kona Rove AL road bike

Kona Big Rove ST hybrid bike

Kona Big Rove AL hybrid bike

 

 


Written by Guy Brooke