Just in Ragley Cragg Vale frameset

Conceived in a Yorkshire shed, born in Taiwan: a bike that's built to be a very British all-rounder

by Tony Farrelly   February 11, 2011  

Ragley's Cragg Vale was born in the year of the Metal Tiger, (so it says on the frame decal) but our particular test bike ended the year of the tiger racking up some big miles without ever getting out of its box shuttling back and forth between our old office and the Parcelforce depot in Bristol for nigh on six weeks.

Well, it was designed for big mile munching over wintry British roads so it was only doing what came naturally and it certainly shrugged off the worst that winter can do… from its box inside the Parcelforce van, admittedly, but you can't keep a good bike down. 

Well, when we say bike, we mean frameset. For the moment, at least, the Ragley Cragg Vale Winter Frame is not available as a complete bike – shame because fully built up it looks a very capable machine that we reckon would give some of the complete bike competition in its class some, well, competition.

Born in the year of the metal tiger and in Taiwan it may well have been, but this is a frameset conceived in a Yorskhire shed for getting out there and putting the miles in on days that are as miserable as sin… yes, you can fit mudguards, no they don't come as standard. 

The thing about bikes for getting you out when it's grim is that they have to offer you something to get you out there: a guarantee of reliability, for sure, but also something in the way of rider engagement or personality to lure you out the door in the first place. My Cotic Roadrat does that, it's not particularly light, and while it's not ugly its no looker either, but it is a well thought out piece of kit and it's always an enjoyable bike to ride. It's got personality.

So far all I've done to the Cragg Vale is throw a leg over it in the office, but it's giving me a good vibe – it's got personality. Of course whether it's a nice one we'll have to find out. What we can say though is that the man responsible for it – Ragley designer Brant Richards – may be a mountain biker to the core, but has already had a hand in two "British" road bikes with a fair shout to being regarded as modern classics. It was he that named the Planet X Kaffenback and perhaps more pertinently he designed the, giggle when you say it, On One Il Pompino.

Whether the time spent in his shed on the Cragg Vale has been well spent only a few hundred miles in the saddle will tell, but even without doing that it's apparent some thought has gone in to where and when this bike will be ridden – all bikes that are going to be out on bad roads in gloomy or failing light should come with reflective decals like the Cragg Vale's. Ah yes, the name and those intriguing numbers on the top tube? Cragg Vale is England's longest continuous gradient rising 968 feet over 5 1/2 miles. Personality. That blue is nice too.

And great though they are the thinking seems to have carried on beyond the stickers. The claimed average frame weight is a respectable 1.6Kg so it should be properly versatile rather than it simply being a heavy frame with a load of braze-ons – ours with some medium shiny level kit on it weighs 9.29Kg (20.4lb). You've got the option to build Cragg Vale up in to a decent audax bike, or fast commuter/tourer. Rack mounting points increase your options on that score, as do eyelets on the fork and rear dropout; only one at each although the rear looks well capable of taking a rack and a guard. Our test bike avoids the issue by coming fitted with a set of clip on Crud Raceguards. There's enough frame clearance to fit up to a 28c tyre without guards or a 23c with. Brakes aren't deep drop, the test bike is running Shimano 105 callipers with the blocks running on the bottom of the adjusters – which again gives versatility, and a wider selection of brakes to choose from when you're building it up.

If you want to go the winter hack route stick on a set of full length guards and you're good to go. The Cragg Vale looks like it will be well capable of taking whatever the British weather and British roads can throw at it. The headtube junction is not messing about: the businesslike welding between the deep section down tube and what I'm calling a teardrop section top tube and the fairly short 110mm head tube almost adding up to a gusset - there's gonna be no breaking that or any flexiness either - so it should track well over crappy roads while the carbon Ragley fork handles the road buzz.

You might think that the bottom bracket would be a beefy affair too, but no this all that bit much more classic looking - of course that downtube is going to act as a pretty powerful brace and those straight chainstays should transmit pedalling power to the back wheel without too much delay. Neither the chain or seastays bother with any unnecessary curvy business, and the idea of the Cragg Vale is to give a springy, zippy ride.

Our test bike is built up with a full Shimano 105 drivetrain and brakeset with Pro Lite Como wheels and Pro Lite San Vito carbon seat post with a very snazzy gold coloured seat clamp for a touch of flash, that you'd think might be considered a bit 'fancy Dan' up in Yorkshire, but I'm not from up there so I wouldn't know – looks good though. Pro Lite also supply the bars and stem – the former has an ergo bend and a fairly compact, but not shallow, drop. At the moment a Cragg Vale frameset, that's frame, carbon fork with alloy steerer, integrated headset, top cap and 3M Scotchlite reflective sticker set will cost you £329.99, pricing it up as we've got it I reckon you could get the lot and have change out of a grand.

My name's not down to test the Cragg Vale but I am going to take it out for a ride cos I really want to know how comfortable it will be for a southern softie like me or whether you've got to be a no compromise hard as nails, with an arse to match roadie, to enoy and get the best out of it. We'll let you know.

17 user comments

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Hmmm. I don't think I'm the only person out there who reckons mudguards are essential and 23mm tyres aren't really big enough on a winter bike.

Love the reflectives though. Smile

posted by BigDummy [279 posts]
11th February 2011 - 11:11

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Bigdummy - it's a F&F package though so you can put 28's and guards on it if you want.

posted by adscrim [107 posts]
11th February 2011 - 11:53

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clearance is the issue there, adscrim. Though I've just run my eye over our test bike and I'm pretty confident you could run 25s and still have space for guards. Ours has 25s and race guards and there's plenty of room.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7257 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:00

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25s are as big as I go for winter rides on the "quick" bike, personally. When the going gets tough, it's the Surly Long Haul Trucker & 700 x 42c tyres, of course....

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:32

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I love mine, but mudguard clearance for full fit guards is tight, even with 23c tyres, but other than that, it makes for a nice winter / hack / 2nd bike

posted by mr_fox [53 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:37

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..and the decals are self applied, so you can have as many (as shown in article) or as few as you like...

posted by mr_fox [53 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:40

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A bike that won't take 28mm WITH mudguards isn't in my view an all-rounder or particularly practical for daily use in the UK. What's the problem with providing a few extra mm clearance?

Cantis are an intriguing choice but the photos suggest it's short drop dual pivot brakes, which are more 'sportive' spec than a winter bike.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1912 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:40

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Yes. This is a race bike. OK, maybe it has rack mounts, but that doesn't stop it from being a race bike.

Is the marketing these days that carbon fibre = "race" and aluminium = "winter/trainer/commuter" bike?

posted by cowspassage [43 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:53

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Bit of a missed opportunity as a winter frame; with the limited clearance for the essential mudguards.

Can't see anything about cantis, looking at the specs on CRC, Caliper only

posted by jimc101 [56 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:58

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I rather agree with John the Monkey and Simon E. Mind, I've just taken delivery of a bike with disc brakes and clearance for vast tyres with guards, so may be talking myself into justifying that. Smile

posted by BigDummy [279 posts]
11th February 2011 - 12:59

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23s or 25s will be good enough for most on a winter road bike - i reckon you'd only need to go up to 28s for carrying a load or if you're pretty heavy. Perhaps it is best marketed as a swift winter road bike, rather than a full on all rounder with touring capability?? Would have been nice to see the test bike with proper guards and deep drop calipers though.

posted by step-hent [652 posts]
11th February 2011 - 13:08

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cantis was just a typo, apologies for that. amended now.

step-hent wrote:
if you're pretty heavy

I'm 98kg and 25s are fine for me Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7257 posts]
11th February 2011 - 14:39

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It's not going to be much of a race bike with those ridiculously heavy Pro lite Comos on there - dreadfully heavy things! Nice frame though .....

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
11th February 2011 - 16:53

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I dunno. I'm deeply intolerant of fixing punctures in the wind and rain, and tend to lug around a tyre that will stand being rammed clumsily into a pot-hole without pinching.

Practically speaking, what is the issue with increasing clearance? Is it simply that you need deep drop brakes (of which there are a few but not loads), and end up with slightly longer chainstays?

posted by BigDummy [279 posts]
11th February 2011 - 17:01

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Isn't that the same "Trigger's Mum's bathroom" blue from the original Pompino?

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
12th February 2011 - 0:42

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BigDummy wrote:
I dunno. I'm deeply intolerant of fixing punctures in the wind and rain, and tend to lug around a tyre that will stand being rammed clumsily into a pot-hole without pinching.

YMMV, but I've done a couple of pre-LHT winters on 25c tyres without snakebites (Stelvio Wire On, Gatorskins, Pro Race 2) - it's the glass what gets 'em going in and out of Manchester.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
12th February 2011 - 0:49

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jimc101 wrote:
Bit of a missed opportunity as a winter frame; with the limited clearance for the essential mudguards.

Totally agree - how much performance does a bike lose by having a few mm more of clearance? It gives so much more versatility for light touring and coping better with pot holed roads if you can run at least 28's with guards.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
12th February 2011 - 18:13

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