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Kona goes 650b with 2018 Rove adventure bike in choice of steel or aluminium

Fatter tyres and new frames for Kona's adventure and gravel bike

The Rove was launched back in 2013 right at the beginning of the whole gravel grinding trend kicking off and spreading its reach far and wide, with cyclocross DNA but modified for better road handling with a lower bottom bracket, space for wider tyres and additions like disc brakes and rack and mudguard mounts.

First launched with a titanium frame, for 2018 Kona has completely revamped the Rove and built the top three models around the highly fashionable right now 650b wheels and tyres, with a choice of a Reynolds 853 frame on the range-topping model alongside two more affordable aluminium versions. Meanwhile lower down the range there are five versions of the Rove rolling on 700c wheels, but we’re going to focus on the 650b bikes in this article because we think they’re the most interesting.

- 18 of the best 2017 gravel & adventure bikes

kona rove tyres.JPG

Why 650b? “The extra air volume in this new generation of urban and mixed-surface tires means they can be run comfortably at lower pressures while still rolling quickly on a variety of surfaces. It’s the best of both worlds,” explains Kona.

- Is 650b the future for road bikes? investigates

We’ve seen 650b become popular on many of the newest adventure bikes with cross-compatibility between 650b and 700c wheels becoming the norm, allowing cyclists to experiment with the fatter smaller diameter tyres. Of course, the new Rove will happily take 40mm tyres on 700c rims as well, but it seems the 47mm WTB Horizon tyres better suit the all-road intention of this sort of bike well.


The range-topping Rove LTD (£3,495) features a frame made from Reynolds 853 butted tubing with a full carbon fibre fork, with clearance for the 47mm wide WTB Horizon 650b tyres it comes specced with. There’s a tapered head tube for extra front-end stoutness and it has an externally threaded bottom bracket - that's common across the range, a sensible choice on this sort of bike.

kona rove dropout.JPG

Disc brakes are flat mount and thru-axles are 12mm and cables are externally routed, and there are three bottle cage mounts, the third located on the underside of the downtube. A SRAM Force 1x11 drivetrain is an obvious choice for this style of bike, with hydraulic discs and a wide-range 10-42t cassette.


Underneath the Rove LTD sits two models that share a new aluminium frame, the Rove NRB DL (£1,995) and Rove NRB (£1,595). NRB, by the way, apparently stands for neo rando bike, and offers some suggestion for the style of riding Kona has in mind for these bikes. A 6061 butted tubeset shares the same key details as the steel frame, except for the gears cables being internally routed, but there are the same tapered head tube and carbon fibre fork, 12mm thru-axles and flat mount and mudguard and rack mounts.

2018 Kona Rove NRB

The Rove NRB DL wears a Shimano 105 groupset with an 11-32t cassette and upgraded Ultegra rear mech, with RT54 hydro brakes and 160mm rotors.  The Rove NRB gets a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset with an 11-34t cassette and TRP Spyre C flat mount disc brakes and an FSA Omega Adventure MegaExo chainset.

kona rove fork.JPG

Kona is probably best known to some readers as a mountain bike brand (its skinny steel tubed Cindercone was an iconic bike in the 90s) but it also boasts a long history producing cyclocross and touring bikes, and this pedigree shines through in the updated Rove which boasts many practical and versatile design flourishes that should ensure it can be a worthy contender on any new bike shortlist.

kona rove steel stays.JPG

Last year Mike tested the Roadhouse which he said “ticks a lot of boxes as a do-it-all-machine” and we’ve got a Rove coming in for review soon. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs and compares.

See the full Kona Rove range here.


David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago

The front end looks very hybrid positioned...

D-Squared | 6 years ago

Are you sure of that pricing on the LTD? I've seen it advertised at USD 3,599 which seems way out of line. 

Same vendor has the NRB DL at USD 2,099 which is consistent with your GBP price.

David Arthur @d... replied to D-Squared | 6 years ago

D-Squared wrote:

Are you sure of that pricing on the LTD? I've seen it advertised at USD 3,599 which seems way out of line. 

Same vendor has the NRB DL at USD 2,099 which is consistent with your GBP price.


I've checked and the prices are correct

kil0ran | 6 years ago

Lovely fit and finish but can't help thinking they're on the pricey side for what they are. I know Kona have a strong following but these are significantly more expensive than a comparable frame/build from even small players like Mason, Kinesis, and Fairlight.

Is the fork drilled for a dynamo light?

David Arthur @d... | 6 years ago

So the Rove LTD (steel frame) has rack and mudguard mounts. The Rove NRB DL and  Rove NRB (aluminium frames) have just mudguard eyelets. The fork mudguard eyelets are on the inside of the fork blade, not by the dropouts, which is why you can't see them in the side profile pics. Hope that helps

BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
1 like

Is there a mudguard mount on the front fork? No pannier rack mount either on the seat stays from what I can see.
Given its supposed use 47mm tyre without guards fitted isnt particularly distinctive, what mudguards are supposed to fit to this and how do you carry any reasonable load with no rack mount. What is the max width of tyre with mudguards if they can be fitted?

It's the little things like that that make the difference between a bike that does well and one that doesn't. That means you can use a bike for many purposes and it do it well.
Still not seeing any improvement over a 10 year old specialized tricross or converted higher end Globe unless you absolutely have to have steel and for the price you might as well go elsewhere that has more flexibility in use.

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