Portland, Oregon has a serious lack of off-road cycling opportunities close to town, so like many residents I’ve been spending a lot of time on a road bike during the week. Now that we’ve been back in the northwest for a while, I’ve been seriously contemplating building up a dedicated “Portland-bike” — a do-all, be-all commuter, dirt road adventuring, cross-capable multi-surface dropbar pavement machine. (Or whatever the industry is calling these bikes nowadays.)
Gravel road, adventure biking, light touring – whatever. But where to start? Looking to log some saddle time and try out a few options, I graciously accepted the loan of a Kona Rove titanium cross bike from our friend Adam, who just happens to be the proprietor of a Portland based components company known as Gevenalle.
Gevenalle offers an innovative take on components based on existing technology, rejiggered and repurposed for the abuse of cyclocross competition, or anything else you might think of throwing at a drop bar equipped bike short of full blown mountain biking. (Ok, it sounds like they do some mountain biking on these things too)
The signature product of the brand is a drop bar mounted integrated cyclocross specific shifting system that utilizes technology consisting of what used to be called thumb shifters — yes, you read that right — mounted to the brake levers. While at first glance the brake lever mounted shifters look like throwback retro technology, over the course of the weekend, I found that in actual use they work pretty damn well. Not to mention offering a level of durability and simplicity unmatched by units spec’d on typical road bikes.
What made this particular model stand out though was the pairing with the TRP Hylex brake. While I’ve had a few good rides on other road bikes equipped with hydraulic shift/brake systems, I especially enjoyed the experience with the TRP system. Most of my road cycling has been on Shimano STI units, and while the ability to shift and brake simultaneously is nice on pavement, I didn’t care for it on multi-surface rides. Being able to cover the brakes while playing around in dirt and not accidentally shift was a relief. I’ve never once needed to brake and shift on my mountain bike simultaneously, and can’t see it as something I’d want with multi-hand position bars.
I love the additional durability factor as well; integrated shift and brake levers found on road bikes allow the operation of both the brakes and shift units, but drop the bike a few times and those protruding hoods start looking the worse for wear. Knowing that most of us prefer our bike not looking beat up and worn out, Gevenalle stocks replacement parts for every aspect of the shift brake units, and even offers an inexpensive ($34) crash re-build service. It’s a bit more for the hydraulic units but at $74 for a full crash rebuild it is more than reasonably priced.
As for the Kona itself, I already have a Kona Raijin, so it was no surprise I was equally fond of the Rove. When Adam offered the chance to permanently add the Rove frameset to my quiver, I couldn’t say no!
It now is hanging on a hook in the garage while I figure out how to best build her up for all the riding I may do. I may just have to slap what I have laying about to get on the road and refine the build later. My experience with the Gevenalle units has been great, and I’ll be acquiring a set of the brake/ shift units. The question now is, do I spring for the hydraulic TRP units? I may have to, the lever feel was amazing and the braking performance was more than on par with the Shimano road discs I sampled last fall.
Gevenalle CX Shift/brake units start at $150 and up. Check out the Gevenalle site for more on their component line.