A really good multi purpose bike suitable for many styles of riding with the ability to swap between to gravel racer to bikepacking weekender
Feb 1 2018
Two bikes (or more) in one beautifully designed package.
Sharp, agile handling
Panaracer Gravel King tyres are grippy and fast
You might not adjust the Twintip as much as you think.
Apex groupset isn't as flash as some at this money
Rear hub doesn't match the funky coloured front
If you only have space for one bike but fancy two
The RUUT AL is the new aluminium adventure gravel bike from new Polish brand Rondo. It’s a super comfortable multi-surface machine with agile handling that can be adjusted between fast and racy to more upright and relaxed through its cleverly designed, geometry adjusting Twintip fork.
The RUUT AL is the cheapest machine in the four bike range, with a frame made from custom formed 6061 aluminium. From its neatly tapered headtube, flattened top tube and heavily sculpted seat tube, it exudes style and attention to detail with discrete mounts for both mudguards and racks tucked away on the inside of the seat stays. The fork has mudguard mounts on the outside of the fork in the mid-blade position and behind the crown. The large diameter downtube features internal cable routing and there's an asymmetric dropped chainstay plus thru-axle dropouts at either end to keep the 700c wheels in check. I'm a big fan of the semi-matt metallic red paint job with grey and pink accents too.
The secret to the switchable personality of this bike is the full carbon Twintip fork. Using a 3mm hex key you can reverse the alloy dropout chip switching between a Hi or Lo axle position. By swapping this chip, you make a number of alterations to the geometry, changing the head and seat tube angles by 0.5 degrees, the cockpit up or down 10mm, and altering the trail by 13mm. The labelling on the fork is so small that I struggled to read it but it’s simple enough to understand. The 'Hi' axle position on the fork refers to low, racier, aggressive riding style and Lo axle position equals higher riding position and more relaxed and slightly slower steering adventure riding position.
Spec on the RUUT AL is pretty good for £1,700. You get an almost full SRAM Apex 1 Hydraulic groupset the only deviation from the stock set up being non-series SRAM aluminium crankset with a 40T chainring and Sunrace 11-42 cassette. The bike uses a standard BSA GXP threaded bottom bracket and over the 3 months I have been riding the bike it has remained silent, so no quibbles there.
The wheels are own brand tubeless ready RUUT rims and the mirror ball finish on the sealed bearing front hub is a good talking point and has stayed beautifully clean thanks to the Rondo rubber band hanging around the hub centre, in the same way people used to fit fat pipe cleaners or old toe straps. It’s a retro touch done in a modern way and helps lift the wheels above the standard black. It’s just a shame the rear sealed bearing hub doesn’t match. Maybe next time.
As for their performance, they have stayed round and true despite hitting potholes that made me lose my grip on the bars in the dark and some pretty decent rocky sections when I was pretending I was riding a mountain bike. I did experience some ‘slip’ early on from the rear hub under pressure but this has not re-occurred leading me to think it was simply something tightening itself up. I haven’t investigated it further as performance has been unaffected since.
The dropped chainstay bike provides ample clearance for 27.5 x 2.1" wheels and tyres if you have a spare mountain bike set to use at home. We popped some WTB Nano shod Hunt wheels into the bike just to check the clearance - which is plenty, but were unable to test the bike with them before we had to return it. Hopefully, we’ll get another chance with a Carbon version later in the year.
I was little sceptical of the 43c Panaracer Gravel Kings that came fitted but I’m happy to eat my words as they have provided full puncture resistance with no issues in three months and enough grip for most of my riding. They do lack edge grip and are not going to provide the same security as the Surly Knard 41c or a WTB Nano in the deep mud but they make up for that in their overall speed on most conditions.
The finishing kit is all good stuff. Special mention should go the colour matched pink railed Fabric Scoop saddle for its sublime comfort and Rondo’s own brand bars. They turned out to be a great shape with their slightly flattened tops working well in combination with the tacky handlebar tape and the Apex brake hoods to provide a secure and comfortable cockpit in all conditions. The hydraulic Apex brakes with 160mm rotors front and rear worked exactly as they should and after several descents down decidedly muddy rutted farm roads around Bath I never want to ride cable discs again. It’s been said before but the extra height of the SRAM hoods really does provide more hand positions and more security when tucked into them over rough descents. Overall the Apex groupset was worry free which is exactly what you want.
So what of that fork, does flipping the chip in the fork make a difference to the ride feel?
I spent my initial rides in the low axle position with more trail which was very comfortable on the commuting duties to and from work but after pounding the pothole-riddled roads and various towpath and bridleway trails around Bath I switched the fork to the high axle position with 13mm less trail and the bike became much more lively and although I have swapped a couple more times for experiment purposes, I found I preferred the feel of the lower sharper handling RUUT and kept it in the high axle position for most of the time.
The difference is not that noticeable at the handlebars as it’s only 1cm in height difference, but turning into switchbacks and barrelling along the singletrack, the difference in steering feel is noticeable. In the low axle position with the longer trail, the bike needs more input to take the same lines as the high axle position with the shorter trail. Riding two loops of the same route back to back I felt more involved in the high axle position with the shorter trail and was able to push the bike exactly where I wanted it to go, changes in direction required smaller inputs at the handlebars and I felt much more in control of the bike. In the low Axle position, I felt like I needed more effort to take the corners at the same speed. I needed to put more thought into steering and the feeling was definitely slower and less agile.
It should be stated that the Twintip flipping idea is not quite as simple as it looks. You need to add a brake adaptor (or remove it) and realign the brakes each time you do it (which is simple with the flat mount setup on this fork). It’s not particularly convenient to do by the trailside, but it's possible if you remember the adaptor.
One issue I did have though was that after four or five flips of the chip the little 3mm recessed bolt heads are starting to wear. In fact, one of them is decidedly worn. Hopefully, Rondo will provide spares should you need them but care is needed and a quality hex key, not a well-rounded one should be used.
So the fork does make a difference to the ride, but how often will you really change it? I suspect that, like me, you will flip it back and forth a couple of times to see which version of the bike you prefer and leave it in that position. I felt the bike rode much better in the high axle position and I would only choose the low axle option if I were to load the bike up for a bike packing trip somewhere where that extra stability and slightly slower steering feel would be welcome with some weight hanging off either end.
Overall the RUUT AL is great fun to ride. The large downtube removes any bottom bracket flex when stomping on the pedals and the frame transfers your energy into driving you forward on whatever surface you happen to be on. The 43c tyres provide a large cushion of air that delivers a very smooth ride on all but nastiest cobbles and heavily rutted sections. Their girth does blunt the acceleration potential somewhat when compared to 32 or 35mm tyres but neither of those tyres can go where these beauties can go and neither will be as comfortable. Overall, I think you win more than you lose with them.
Rondo has chosen a good selection of components for the RUUT AL. It’s pretty good value for money, especially if you are the type of rider that is happy to pay a little more for design as long as the performance can back it up. There are cheaper and better specced adventure bikes out there from some direct to market brands but there are few as good looking or with the Twintip fork option. The overall weight is about right for the money, even good, our large framed example weighing 10.05kg, which fairs well amongst the competition.
If you are thinking of trimming down the number of bikes you have or if you only have enough room or money for just ‘one’ bike the Rondo RUUT AL should be taken for a test ride. It’s a really a very good gravel and adventure machine for storming the byways and bridleways and a fabulous commuter to boot. I’m not sure that it makes a lot of sense to flip the Twintip back and forth on a regular basis, you’re bound to have your favourite. But if you are looking for one bike to do most of your riding, having a sneaky second bike available for weekend trips at the flip of that Twintip is a bonus. Added to that there's the ability to fit 27.5x 2.1" mountain bike wheels and you actually have two more choices to play with, so overall it's a beautiful, geometry morphing, do anything adventure bike and is highly recommended.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own :
An all-purpose adventure gravel commuting bike suitable for all road and light offroad riding. Think mountain biking prior to decent suspension and you'd be about right. It's happy on blue runs around trail centres, byways, bridleways and road riding on our increasingly poor condition roads. Rondo says its good for racing and I don't doubt that especially in the higher specced carbon versions. Rondo's plan was to change the way both roadies and mountain bikers looked at drop handlebar bikes and where you can ride them.
I reckon they are pretty accurate although I don't think mountain bikers will be selling their suspension bikes to buy it but they might have a very pleasant surprise on their commute should they ride one home offroad one day. It's not just a road bike.
State the frame material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.:
Frame material is 6061 custom drawn T-6 aluminium
RUUT CUSTOM FORMED AL6061-T6
RONDO FLARE 440MM
VELO COMFORT TAPE
RONDO S: 90MM, M,L,XL: 100MM
FABRIC SCOOP FLAT
RONDO 350 X 27.2
SRAM APEX HYDRAULIC BRAKES
SRAM APEX 1
SRAM XG 1130 11-42 11 SPEED
SRAM APEX 1 TYPE 2.1
SUNRACE CSMS7 11-42 11 SPEED
RONDO SUPERLIGHT SEALED BEARINGS
RONDO ALLOY 622-21
PANARACER GRAVEL KING SK 700C X 43
Frame & Fork
How much suspension travel does the fork have?:
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.:
Very comfortable with the large tyres soaking up a lot of the trail buzz
How was the bike in terms of sizing and angles? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size and intent?:
For its 570mm effective top tube length, it has a long reach and about average wheelbase compared to a number of competitor adventure gravel bikes. It has with 420mm chainstays some of the shortest its category.
Overall rating for frame
How much suspension travel does the rear end have?:
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?:
The frames large diameter downtube and beefy chainstays meant that the frame didn't flex under pressure on the pedals. I didn't notice any untoward flex in the frame or the forks.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame:
Build quality is spot on and the frame is beautifully built painted and finished. The colours are unusual and the contrasting accents and forks spot on.
The forks with their Twintip design possibly unique on the market and add to the striking visual design.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame:
The RUUT AL has two geometry charts online but you need to be careful which one you look at for the relevant axle position. Hi Axl position as labelled on the fork refers to Low bar riding position online and vice versa.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame:
Aluminium 6061 T-6 custom drawn.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?:
Very efficiently and I can imagine that with a lighter slimmer tyre like on the Carbon versions that the bike would accelerate better and fit that racing image that All-road racing feel that Rondo are looking for. As it is the Al version worked fine with me and felt quick and agile when escaping work on the Road.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive?:
In the Hi position very nimble and in the Lo position more relaxed and less lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?:
With its split personality, the bike has both fast, agile and exciting handling for whipping in out of the trees and blasting home on the Canal path or rough road. Or it has more relaxed handling with a little more security on the drops on the descents and slightly less twitchy in the singletrack. Both are good in different circumstances.
Rate the bike for sprinting:
Any comments on sprinting?:
Would be quicker with smaller volume tyres
Rate the bike for high speed descending
Any comments on high speed descending?:
very confident with plenty of feel and grip
Rate the bike for technical descending:
Any comments on technical descending?:
Its not a mountain bike so go carefully. Going tubeless would improve further.
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
Rate the bike for technical climbing:
Any comments on technical climbing?:
good grip from the tyres and gear range spot on. Going tubeless would improve further.
Rate the bike for climbing efficiency:
Rate the bike for agility:
Rate the drivetrain for performance:
Any comments on drivetrain performance?:
no problems after initial minor slipping feel from rear hub.
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
Any comments on drivetrain durability?:
no issues with shifting at all on test
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well to:
Almost full Apex drivetrain except Sunrace casssette and Sram non-series chainset. No issues during test from these parts.
Wheels & tyres
Rate the wheels for performance:
Any comments on wheel performance?:
Still spinning smoothly on their bearings after the test.
Rate the wheels for durability:
Any comments on wheel durability?:
round and true after pretty heavy battering from 90Kg rider
Rate the wheels for comfort:
Any comments on wheel comfort?:
With the 43c tyres fitted the wheels offered a sublime ride
Rate the wheels for value:
Any comments on wheel value?:
Beautiful front hubbed wheel, shame the rear didn't match
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, wha:
The wheels were very good. I had no thoughts about leading them astray offroad and with the large tyres they remained straight and true and I remained upright.
Be nice to get a matching rear hub as the mirror finish would stay cleaner longer than the matt black one.
Rate the tyres for performance:
Any comments on tyre performance?:
near to perfect except in sloppy mud and dreaded wet clay
Rate the tyres for durability:
Any comments on tyre durability?:
Looking really good still and no punctures
Rate the tyres for weight:
Any comments on tyre weight?:
Apparently according to Road.cc they are 497 which for this level of coverage and durability is excellent
Rate the tyres for value:
Any comments on tyre value?:
Replacments can be bought for £30 so i'd say excellent value
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what:
They worked really well in almost al conditions apart from wet clay and deep mud.
Rate the controls for performance:
Any comments on controls performance?:
Handlebar had nice shape with slight flare to the design and a wide flattened top section to hold when not going for it
Rate the controls for comfort:
Any comments on controls comfort?:
good bar shape and tacky bar tape worked well. Spoon Saddle was excellent.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components?:
The bar was excellent as was the Spoon saddle. Saddles are a personal thing and I'm normally pretty fussy but i never thought of changing the saddle so well done to Fabric for this design.
Did you enjoy riding the bike?:
Very much so
Would you consider buying the bike?:
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike\'s performance? would you recommend any changes?:
Apex hydraulic brakes worked a treat in the horrible rutted muddy descents and the Panaracer Gravel King 43c tyres were a big surprise. If they had been less confident in the winter conditions I would have swapped them out but they handled themselves very well indeed.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend?:
Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:
Use this box to explain your score:
At £1600 you can get cheaper Adventure Gravel Commuter bikes out there from direct to consumer brands but few, if any, are as good looking and none offer the Twintip fork. Those that do offer some geometry adjsutment do it via chainstay dropout position or rotating the BB position so the Rondo RUUT is a unique product as far as I am aware. Amongst the mainstream large brand contenders its about on par with thi pricing allowing a little bit for the fork and the style which I think is worth t it. Against the smaller brands such as Bombtrack or Mason it looks to be pretty fair so a lot depends on how much you put on ride, looks and rarity. The Rondo offers a decent slice of all three to my eyes.
Rondo site says frisky racer to comfy tourer and i would agree mostly with that with some adjustments in tyre size.
The Twintip for is a Carbin fork with an alloy chip (thru axle block) that can be placed in the Hi or Lo position which raises or lowers the handlebars by 10mm and increases or decreases the trail by 13mm. It's a simple enough task to undo wheel and flip the chip with a 3mm hex key but you need to add or remove the brake adaptor to make it all work. A simple job, just watch the 3mm bolt heads, and one that does make a difference.
Product weight extra:
10.05 Kg or 22.15Lbs
Really good on just about any surface (excluding serious mountain biking)
The smooth ride
The look of the bike
Rear Hub Colour
3mm bolts in the Twintip chip
A really good Adventure Gravel Commuter bike suitable for many styles of riding with the hidden secret option to convert to trail racer to or bikepacking weekender.