What do you do if you’re given an open-ended brief to make whatever drop-bar bike you want? If you’re a Kona Bikes’ product manager, you embrace your company’s quirky Pacific Northwest, off-beaten-path spirit and go for broke. Kona–widely known as a maker of solid mountain and CX machines–is not encumbered by having a carbon-obsessed road race team to support. This has given the company a luxury to create bikes they want to ride, whether that’s ripping trails, bike packing, urban commuting, or railing CX corners. For that original very blue sky mandate, Kona is releasing the Rove NRB DL.
This rig is a go nearly anywhere and ride nearly anything drop-bar rolling fun factory. The company wanted a bike that could not be easily defined nor easily pigeonholed by any specific terrain. They wanted a bike that answered the question: what does a modern road bike look like? So committed to the idea of leaving this bike undefined is Kona that when asked about the “NRB” in its name, the product manager shrugged and said, “it means whatever you want it to mean.”
Although easy definition may be elusive, just throw your leg over the top tube and it’s immediately evident the Rove NRB DL is a purpose-built all-road machine. It may be the “Choose Your Own Adventure book” of bikes. Our British Columbia test outing covered groomed gravel trails, single tracks, steep rock garden descents, tight switchbacks, asphalt, and hammer-worthy dirt roads. Though we definitely pushed this bike to the boundaries of how it will likely be ridden, the Rove NRB DL handled BC’s wild backcountry well.
Kona has spec’d this bike for all-day escapes. The internally routed frame is made of Kona 6061 butted aluminum and is paired to Kona’s CX full carbon flat-mount disc fork. Any potential harshness one might expect from an aluminum frame is quickly mitigated by the 650x47c WTB Horizon Road Plus TCS tires. These are mounted on WTB Asym i23 TCS rims, which come tubeless ready. Add sealant, inflate, and go. That high volume rubber creates the smoothness of a vintage Cadillac. Surprisingly, once the Rove NRB DL gets up to cruising speed, it really holds the pace. It motor paced behind the SAG vehicle with a confidence usually reserved for more race-focused bikes. With front and rear tooled through axles, this bike also has a noticeable level of lateral stiffness. This gives it some nice punch for out-of-the-saddle efforts.
The Rove NRB DL has plenty of other features that brand it as an all-day, all-road ride. It uses a mixture of Shimano Ultegra and 105 for the groupset. The 2×11 drivetrain pairs a 50/34 front to 11×32 in the rear, giving plenty of gear options for many different needs. The hydraulic brakes–with centerlock front and rear 160mm rotors–provide robust stopping power. On steeper descents, we found that the slick WTB tires had a tendency to pick up speed when skidding on loose terrain. Focusing more on using the front brakes, however, and pushing body weight back quickly solved that.
The Rove NRB DL defied expectations. It’s both fun and versatile. It might be an ideal bike for diehard mountain bikers looking for opportunities to expand their endurance ride options. Kona will release the Rove NRB DL in a range of sizes from 44-58. Release date, prices, and a deeper Peloton Service Course review are coming soon.