- 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
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.
You might also like:
- Buyers guide to gravel and adventure bikes
- Review: Marin Gestalt 2
- Specialized S-Works Diverge review
About the bike
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 :
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
|Frame:||RUUT CUSTOM FORMED AL6061-T6|
|Handlebar:||RONDO FLARE 440MM|
|Grips:||VELO COMFORT TAPE|
|Stem:||RONDO S: 90MM, M,L,XL: 100MM|
|Saddle:||FABRIC SCOOP FLAT|
|Seatpost:||RONDO 350 X 27.2|
|Brakes||SRAM APEX HYDRAULIC BRAKES|
|Shifters:||SRAM APEX 1|
|Crankset:||SRAM XG 1130 11-42 11 SPEED|
|Deraileur rear:||SRAM APEX 1 TYPE 2.1|
|Cassette:||SUNRACE CSMS7 11-42 11 SPEED|
|Hubs||RONDO SUPERLIGHT SEALED BEARINGS|
|Rims:||RONDO ALLOY 622-21|
|Tyres:||PANARACER GRAVEL KING SK 700C X 43|