One Ride Review: The affordable Raleigh Roker Sport carbon gravel road bike

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

Raleigh had several of their new road bikes on display at Winter PressCamp, but I needed to grab something quick to catch the group ride and the Roker looked like it would fit. At first glance, and based on the spec level, I thought the Roker was an alloy bike. It’s stiff like one, and even wrapping knuckles on the top tube sounded alloy-ey. But it’s all carbon, and it’s darn solid. And it’s relatively cheap, getting on/off the roads with a very upgrade worthy frame and a parts mix that’ll carry you for a while before the inevitable upgrade train toots its horn.

As the group ride pulled out and I realized there was no hope of catching them, I pulled off on the first dirt access road I could find to give the Roker a proper ride…

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

The beauty of taking random rights and lefts is you happen upon things like this. Art tucked into odd nooks and crannies. Forgotten barns. Hidden views. It’s why most of my “road” rides are aboard something with tires larger than 30mm.

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

The Roker has a tapered headtube and steerer with full carbon fork. The shaped top tube leading into it helps stiffen the front end for a strong steering response, and the curve and flattened mid section makes shouldering possible if you wanted to use this for the odd cross ride (or just getting across a river). All cables and hoses, even the front brake, are internal.

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

They pop out underneath, just in front of the bottom bracket shell, then re-enter the chainstays. It uses a standard threaded bottom bracket shell, though it’s sized like a PF30 one for max stiffness and power transfer. Note the third water bottle cage mount underneath the downtube.

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

Thru axles and fender mounts are found front…

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

…and rear, though the rear ones are placed on the inside of the seatstays for a cleaner look.

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

The seatstays are flattened and managed to mute a path that had been deeply pockmarked by horse hoof prints from edge to edge. This textured surface was not enjoyable, but the Roker made it manageable. And tolerable. The bike held its line at a variety of speeds even as the ground tried its best to throw it side to side, up and down. And if it can tackle that, it should be able to handle any typical gravel road you would ride.

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

2017 Raleigh Roker Sport affordable carbon gravel road bike review

The Roker Sport comes with Clement X’Plor MSO 60tpi 700×36 tires, but they say 40mm tires fit with no problem. Frame/crank arm clearance is ample, too, making plenty of room for a Stages or similar power meter.

The Roker Sport retails for $2,499 (on sale for $2,299 as of this post going live) and comes with a Shimano Tiagra 2×10 drivetrain. It got the job done without drama, a testament to the trickled down refinement that graces all of Shimano’s groups nowadays. Beyond the tires, three small spec standouts that improve the value proposition are TRP Spyre brakes (yes, they’re mechanical, but they’re the best mechanical brakes we’ve tried), tubeless-ready double-walled Weinmann rims and Raleigh’s flared handlebar. I didn’t use the drops much, but having that extra width and wrist clearance when I did was nice. That said, long term, I’d put a carbon bar on there like the new Easton EC70 AR with a similar flare. And a carbon seatpost to help damp more vibration. Raleigh wisely used a 27.2mm seatpost diameter, so switching to carbon would help a lot IMO.

Sitting just above the Sport model is the Comp with SRAM Rival 1 Hydro group for an extra $500, 40mm tires, and slightly better hubs. And both come with the same carbon frame and fork, which is the real gem in the equation. For a solid starting gravel bike that provides room to grow and hauls butt on the pavement, too, the Raleigh Roker is worth test ride.

RaleighUSA.com

Comments

12 thoughts on “One Ride Review: The affordable Raleigh Roker Sport carbon gravel road bike

  1. If we can see the cables, then they really aren’t ‘internal’ are they? What’s worse is that they are exposed at their highest load points, just like an old fashioned bike exposing the wire sliding back and forth in a slather of grit across the plastic guide. So either it wasn’t a problem back in the day or it is still a problem with this clunky system. This low dollar DiamondBack is not the only bike like this, the Argon 18s I saw at Interbike last fall had same type cable system, internal for beauty and external in function.

    1. It wasn’t a problem back in the day and I think most of the reason cables are run internally now is aesthetic, though I admit that I don’t care about aerodynamics so that may play a larger role.

      There is another issue, back in the day bikes had straight tubes and running an external cable straight down a straight tube was easy. But with even a moderately curved down tube of a modern bike, running the cable internally keeps the cables from straying too far from the frame and looking ugly and interfering with bottle cage mounts.

  2. I just got a Trek Crockett and love how they route the cables. The rear brake is internal down the down tube, exits on the top side of the bottom and runs over the top of the BB, then clipped to the top of the chainstay to the brake. A straighter run, protected from harm underneath.

  3. That’s no where close to a good value. You could walk into a bike shop and get a similar bike from Giant with 105 instead of tiagra for $650 less.

  4. Tyler Benedict,
    What size is that 56 or 58? I have this bike on my short list and I’m kind of torn between sizes…No Raleigh dealers nearby. So I’m kind of curious how big you are and how it fit…

    1. Ian,
      Not sure what size is featured here, but I have a friend who just purchased one of these a month ago and he had to modify the cockpit because it run’s small.

    2. It was a 58 at least, possibly a 60…it was one of the bigger demo bikes they had out there. I literally grabbed it as the only thing that looked like it’d fit me and threw my pedals on to try to make the group ride…sorry, should have checked that. But definitely not a 56.

  5. Are we at a point where companies are trying to see how low they can drop the price on a carbon bike and still market it as “good for real bikers”?

    I am sort of assuming many of the carbon frames are outsourced to the Pacific rim and there is little to no difference from company to company in terms of quality of manufacture.

    Seems like they can drop the price as much as they want but if they go too low they will be “un cool”.

    I am probably way off but I just feel like we are being played.

  6. Raleigh is just another name now, back in the day in England, Raleigh bikes were made by Raleigh in the Raleigh factory. They were nasty some of them but suited the times. I’d wager this frameset is an off the peg catalogue piece. Component prices have gone up though pushing the overall margin into the funny zone. In the UK we’ve got companies producing carbon bikes like this with 105, even Ultegra for similar money if not less. Looks nice but you can definitely get cheaper

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