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Rondo Ruut CF1 review

26 Aug 2021
Verdict:

Versatile and fun to ride, but with a few spec niggles

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£4,000
For 
Fun on and off road • Swappable geometry to change ride qualities
Against 
Fiddly geometry swap • Non-taped wheels • Awkward bar ergonomics • Uncomfortable saddle

Polish brand Rondo majors on its variable geometry and offers a range of bikes which will handle wide tyres, from its HVRT aero road bike right through to its go-anywhere Bogen.

Somewhere in the middle lies the Ruut gravel bike. It’s got the classic gravel features: wide tyres, 1x groupset, dropped driveside chainstay for extra clearance, and loads of mounting points, including on the top tube and the fork blades (although not the third bottle mount under the down tube – not that I’ve ever seen one in use in real life).

But Rondo also kits the Ruut out with its flip chip variable geometry fork, which is a feature of all its bikes. This lets you mount the front wheel in two different positions.

In its lower orientation, the medium size bike has a slack 71.5 degree head tube and a 382mm reach and 558mm stack. Flip to the high wheel position and the head angle increases to 72.3 degrees, while the reach becomes 390mm and the stack 553mm.

 

That may not sound like a big change, but there’s a significant effect on the bike’s handling, with steering becoming noticeably edgier and the bike feeling that bit more responsive with the wheel in the high position. It makes for a fun fast ride through puddle-stricken bridleways, dodging the mud.

Flip chips are a common feature of modern full suspension mountain bikes, where they act on the rear suspension linkage and they’re becoming more common on gravel bikes too. Flipping the Ruut’s fork isn’t difficult, but it’s sufficiently time-consuming and fiddly that I reckon it’s something you’d probably do once, then stick with whichever orientation suits you.

Buy the Rondo Ruut CF1 gravel bike now from Wiggle

First, you need to remove the thru-axle and front wheel, then you need to unscrew and reorient the guide chips on the two fork legs. The change in position means that the brake calliper also needs to be shifted, for which you need to unscrew both it and the adapter plate that holds it in the low position. The adapter is then unscrewed from the calliper, which is remounted to the fork directly and needs to be recentred over the rotor.

Is the variable geometry useful? If you take on different off road conditions on different rides and sometimes need more steering agility, possibly, although there’s enough manoeuvrability even in the low position to pick your line through mud and obstacles.

Where it might come in handy is if you want to race cyclocross on the Ruut, where a bit more edginess would definitely help on trickier courses. The kinked top tube should make carrying easier than a more compact geometry too.

 

Nice spec, shame about the details

The Ruut CF1 comes with a good spec for mixed surfaces. That starts off with the Sram Force 1 groupset. All the buzz may be about 12-speed, electronic Sram eTap AXS, but I like the simplicity and positive shift feel of the 11-speed mechanical Force 1. I’ve never found the jumps between ratios over the 10-42 cassette an issue either, although the purist might wish for the closer mid-range ratios offered by a two ring groupset (or a larger cassette).

Rondo has specced 25mm internal width gravel wheels from Hunt, who have gained a reputation for their bombproof wheels which can cope with all manner of abuse. They’re matched with WTB Nano 40mm tyres, another great option that lets you roll along fast on firmer surfaces but gives enough grip to see you through mud and slop.

Disappointingly, Rondo hasn’t taped the wheels, so if you want to set them up tubeless you’re going to have to buy tape, valves and sealant. And you should do so. A sequence of rides on each of which I got a flat reminded me why you don’t want to use inner tubes off road – particularly the one I got just after riding around a stable’s manure heap.

Buy the Rondo Ruut CF1 gravel bike now from Wiggle

A proper tubeless-ready setup would be nice. You get that in much cheaper gravel bikes from other brands, which often include the valves too and Hunt’s wheels usually come pre-taped so it’s odd that those on the Ruut aren’t.

That’s one of several spec niggles. The bars are the usual wide numbers found on gravel bikes, although they’re not as flared as some, so the levers are more vertical, making them more comfortable. Paired to a 90mm stem on the medium bike, they give good steering precision.

They’ve got a wider, flattened section on the tops. But this is angled such that you can’t easily set it up horizontally and have to bend your wrists upwards to position your hands on it. That may suit some riders, but it wasn't a feature I could get on with. If I did try to tip the bars to make this more horizontal I found the position of the drops became uncomfortably flat, so the particular ergonomics of the bar is something to be aware of. 

 

Although this is subjective, it is worth mentioning that I’ve never got on with the Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle either, on the Ruut or on other bikes I’ve ridden. I find it uncomfortable and underpadded, but that said it’s a popular spec choice and there are loads of stories online of people riding hundreds of miles on it, so it may agree with you better than it does me.

If you like to ride more extreme terrain, you can fit a dropper post by swapping one of the two frame ports to one with double cable entry.

Rides well on and off road

I seem to have grumbled a lot about the Ruut, but it’s actually great fun to ride off road. There’s enough compliance in the carbon frame and the wide tyres to even out harder surfaces and plenty of grip and stability to get you through soft, muddy sections as well.

The drop at the rear of the top tube helps with saddle comfort, as it increases the length of the carbon seatpost on show. With gearing down to 1:1, the Ruut gives you adequate gearing for off-road climbs, although many gravel bikes now go lower than this.

After my fourth puncture, I popped a set of road wheels on the bike and used it on tarmac as a change from standing in farmyards fixing flats. The bike will buzz along happily on road and eat up the miles in comfort.

Riding on tarmac also brought out the effects of the flip chip well, with the bike morphing from relaxed endurance cruiser to something a lot more edgy and engaging.

Buy the Rondo Ruut CF1 gravel bike now from Wiggle

I enjoyed riding the Ruut. It’s not a cheap bike, though, and with its spec niggles there are probably better options out there if you’re looking to drop £4,000 on a gravel bike.

Spec

Frame Ruut Flexdesign Carbon
Fork Twintip 2.0 Carbon
Groupset Sram Force 1
Brakes Sram Force HRD hydraulic disc
Chainset Sram Force 42T
Cassette Sram Force 10-42
Wheels Rondo x Hunt Gravel X-Wide alloy
Tyres WTB Nano, 40mm
Bars Spank Wing 12 440m
Stem Rondo 90mm
Seatpost Rondo Carbon
Saddle Fabric Scoop Flat
Weight 8.85kg
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