After getting my Rove built up in March I was super eager to get my hands on the Kona Libre.
I was immediately taken by how capable the Rove is, especially when paired with a dropper post, big ol tires, and hydro disc brakes.
Though in the back of my head I was yearning for the Libre, the Rove’s carbon fiber counterpart, equipped with more bottle mounts, more rack mounts, more adventure options, and geo set up for all-day/multi-day pedals. The Kona Adventure Team partnered with Maxxis this year for our off-road pursuits and once Barry told me that the Libre could fit a 27.5X2.1 Maxxis Pace the cogs in my head started turning.
You see, around here (Winston Salem, NC) we are fortunate enough to have a pretty good selection of park style, machine-built trails. The parks have a limited amount of space to cram as much trail as possible in to. The trail builders have done a great job of snaking twisting ribbons up and over knolls, in and out of gullies, and across small streams. However, after a lap or two, the appeal fades. There are certainly no Process-worthy trails in town unless you head to Salem Lake and want to “huck your meat” across big gap jumps and 8-foot drops. The Hei Hei is my go-to bike to ride but it too is more capable than most trails in this area so I end up hitting the snooze button after a few laps. (Que dramatic entrance music) Then the Libre enters the equation and lends a whole new perspective to the same trails I have turned countless laps on. Breathing new life into an old experience. Awakening in me a giddiness to ride in a place that I should be shrugging about because I have ridden it so many times in all the directions and all the conditions.
The tall head tube of the Libre, low BB, slack fork and longer chainstays mean this bike feels stable at speeds while hitting roots and breaking bombs or pushing through a berm. Sure its a full rigid bike but that just means you have to conjure up a little more body English to make this smooth again. No longer can I use the mindset of “couch surfer”. With only 2.1X27.5 tires to cushion the blows, the lower body is constantly moving and my arms are continuously keeping the front end light.
I was forced to look up the trail more as speeds increased through my 160mm front/140mm rear rotors were plenty to stop me when things got a little out of control. I was never caught off guard while on my tops as the new and improved Shimano sub-levers have a feel like their legendary MTB brakes.
The dropper post was the icing on the cake for the steeper shoots and tighter turns all made more accessible by the drop bar integrated lever by Pro-bike gear. While you’re on the hoods braking or shifting you simply drop the index finger or maneuver your thumb if your in the drops and seamlessly drop your seat.
While mountain biking was the main goal of the day I was looking to spend a lot of time outside. So when we all congregated at the car post-ride to wind down, I was anxiously ready to get back in the saddle. I swapped out the 27.5X2.1 MTB tires for some 700X40c road slicks, threw a third bottle cage into my front triangle, bolted on my bento box, and strapped on a Blinky light. The trail-eating, berm slaying, rock rolling, drop bar bike was now a roadworthy, gravel crushing, speed seeking machine. I spent the next 4 hrs, 70 miles, thinking of the different places I could take this thing. Just you wait!
It’s actually quite liberating to have a bike that is capable of doing it all in a market where bike companies want you to buy a bike for each discipline. The only lingering question I have is, can I find its limit? Because surely the Libre doesn’t limit me.