The Raleigh Roker Pro is a really fun riding bike with a fast pace on the road and enough capability to explore off-road trails. With hidden mudguard mounts, it also has the versatility to suit a number of uses, from daily commuter to weekend grinder.
This middle-of-the-range, £2,000 model is well equipped with a reliable SRAM Rival 1x11 drivetrain with a huge 10-42t cassette, powerful hydraulic disc brakes, a tubeless wheelset and Schwalbe's fantastic new 35mm G-One tyres.
Raleigh has been on a roll recently. The Militis carbon race bike was really well received; the affordable Criterium aluminium road bike went down a storm; and it's just added a range of gravel/adventure bikes to its lineup, in the shape of the Roker.
With the burgeoning gravel and adventure bike market creating a new category of bike for manufacturers to either ignore or adopt, Raleigh has sought to offer a bike that straddles the thin line between its dedicated cyclo-cross race bikes and endurance road bikes. It's got a lot to live up to, following the success of Raleigh's recent new models, and with so much buzz around this new breed of road bike, Raleigh wants to get it right.
Fortunately, get it right Raleigh most certainly does. The resulting ride quality is fantastic, and it's simply a very fun and capable bike. Sometimes with test bikes it takes a while to unravel its true character, and with others, including the Roker, it's immediately apparent you've got a good bike between your legs.
It's fast on the road, the wide Schwalbe G-One tyres rolling with surprisingly good ease and little road buzz. You can crack along at 20-25mph no problem, so you can keep up with your mates on carbon race bikes and the weekend club run. It'll run out of gusto at really high speeds, but at that point you're really beyond the design limits of the Roker.
Show it some dirt, or in my case muddy bridleways and byways, and you'll leave all your mates on their skinny 23mm tyres for dust. Or mud, at this time of year in the UK. The Schwalbe tyres provide a load of cushioning and, as long as you run low enough pressures to really exploit their true potential, let you barrel along bumpy dirt tracks with plenty of pace.
On the road, the Roker has a calm and stable presence. Show it a series of fast flowing corners and it'll dive right in, with the steering precise and a good weight balance helping to place the wheels right where you want them. The lower-than-a-cyclo-cross-bike's bottom bracket (75mm drop) and reasonably slack 71-degree head angle contribute to that stability and easy handling.
The thru-axles (15mm front, 142x12mm rear) give the frameset plenty of rigidity and the front end feels solid when trying your best to bend the handlebar on a steep climb, with no disc rotor rub at all. There's evidently a lot of frame stiffness from the way the bike responds to your power.
One of the reasons for investing in a carbon frame is the way it manages to be so smooth and compliant on roads. You notice it more on those slightly broken and surface dressed roads, the frame really smoothing out the vibrations. With about 55psi in the tyres, the bike floats over any imperfection in its path, which sets it up nicely for longer rides. It's a comfortable place to be for a long stint in the saddle.
Frame and equipment
The frame and fork are entirely made from carbon fibre which contributes to the low weight, and it's used for three models in the 2016 range. Details include internal cable routing, post mounts for the disc brake callipers, a tapered head tube, hidden mudguard eyelets and a 27.2mm diameter seatpost.
Each model comes with disc brakes and a single-ring drivetrain, with prices starting at £1,500 and rising to £2,500. At £2,000, the Roker Pro sits in the middle of the range and looks the best on paper. It has a SRAM Rival X1 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes. On paper that means it is comparable to the similarly priced Norco Threshold that Dave tested, but the Raleigh trumps it with the 10-42t cassette.
That huge range cassette is coupled to a 44-tooth chainring on the SRAM S350 chainset, and it provided all the gearing I needed for tackling fast road rides and lung-busting off-road climbs. There are obviously some leaps between the easier gears, but it's something you very quickly get used to and you're never found wanting an easier gear.
It's certainly a different approach to gearing compared with the conventional double and triple chainset approach, but it works well on a multi-terrain bike because there is no front mech to clog up or catch mud, providing much more clearance around the bottom bracket area.
There's also just one shifter to play with, which makes changing gear a cinch. It's also more intuitive than managing two shifters. You simply push the shifter one way repeatedly until you find an easier gear and the opposite direction for a harder gear. Simples.
The brakes are solid and dependable, and you can read more detail about the braking performance in the Rival 1 review here.
Raleigh fits a set of American Classic TCX Tubeless wheels with Schwalbe G-One tubeless tyres. The wheels weigh a claimed 1,838g, but what they lack in lightness they make up for with durability. They're a tough set of wheels with the rims resisting denting despite some serious impacts with rocks submerged in muddy puddles.
The Schwalbe G-One is a brand new tyre from the German tyre master and it's ideal for a bike that needs to do service on the road and dirt. There is some compromise – they're not as fast as a slick, nor as grippy as a regular cyclo-cross tyre – but they do strike an ideal balance. They are better in drier conditions – it's a low-profile, tightly packed tread pattern – but give reasonable grip in the mud, provided you don't try to scramble up a steep climb.
The American Classic rims are fashionably wide at 26mm, which makes a good platform for the tyres and stops them rolling over when running lower pressures. Soft tyres can squirm and this is exacerbated when pairing wide tyres with narrow rims.
The wheels come with inner tubes, but tubeless valves are supplied so going tubeless if you want to (and we recommend it) is an easy upgrade. Tubeless will lessen the potential for flatting, especially handy when riding off-road.
On to the finishing kit, and Raleigh's own RSP+ label is found on the aluminium handlebar, a nice compact shape, and stem and 27.2mm diameter seatpost. The Selle Royal Sirio saddle didn't agree with my bottom at all so I exchanged it for one that is comfortable, but aside from that all the components worked as expected.
If you like the appeal of a modern cyclo-cross bike for its toughness, disc brakes and big tyre capability, but you're not likely to actually do much racing on it, the Raleigh Roker is a better choice. It's just as capable off-road and the equipment is bombproof, the brakes provide excellent control in all weathers, and the gear range is wide enough for most situations.
For winter club runs with mudguards, to getting away from congested roads onto the many accessible off-road paths and tracks, the Roker has lots of appeal. I've been trying to find something to criticise about it, but instead I'm off out for one more ride before it goes back...
Fun and fast on and off road, the Roker Pro will suit those wanting more capability than a regular road bike
road.cc test report
Make and model: Raleigh Roker Pro
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Raleigh says: "The Roker features our brand new Carbon Gravel frameset that is designed to be fast and stable when hitting the rough stuff at speed. A long chainstay, lower bottom bracket height and slack headtube angle produce excellent handling making the Roker equally at home on a long road sportive as it is flying down a fast gravel track. The all carbon fork with tapered steerer helps to absorb vibrations while keeping the front end of the bike lively, stiff, and responsive. Thru axles provide extra assurance when pushing your bike to its limits and ensure that the disc rotor is always in the correct position"
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 feelings about the bike?
SRAM's 11 Speed 1X Rival groupset offers simple, reliable and silent shifting.
SRAM's X-Sync technology keeps the chain tight at all times and stops the chain from slapping the frame when on rough ground. With no front derailleur it is almost impossible for the chain to come off and with a massive range of gears, 1X will keep you spinning on any terrain.
SRAM's Rival Hydraulic brakes offer incredible power and modulation in any conditions. Responsive lever feel helps you push your bike to its limits - but not beyond
Schwalbe's premium Gravel 1 Tyres have been developed to roll very fast on tarmac and offer top level grip and puncture protection when the terrain starts to break up
American Classic TCX Tubeless rims are fast, light and durable. They are ready to convert to a tubeless setup giving you even greater protection against pinch punctures
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Full carbon fibre frame and fork with thoroughly modern details, including thru-axles at both ends.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
All carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A bit lower and slacker than a cyclo-cross bike makes it more comfortable and stable on the road, without losing too much of its off-road capability.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
A really good fit was achieved with just a change of saddle required.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The carbon frame impressed with a very smooth ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yet despite that smoothness it was plenty stiff enough for decent power transfer.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It can be ridden as hard as you like.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? The slack head angle makes the steering very stable, almost slow.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The geometry made it at home on the road with a wonderful stability at speed and over long distances. Lots of fun as well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The SRAM drivetrain may only have one chainring but the whopping 10-42t cassette provides all the gears you're ever going to need.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The components all delivered good performance, the wheels aren't light but are strong and durable, which is more important than weight on a bike destined to be ridden hard.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
If you want to do a lot of riding off-road in the mud, the G-One tyres are going to struggle in the deep stuff. Everywhere else they are just fine.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Didn't get on with the saddle, but saddles are a personal thing.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Raleigh has really got the details right with the Roker. It's taken everything the gravel bike scene has given cycling and distilled it into a bike that works really well in the UK, from mixed terrain riding to winter training, cyclo-cross riding and even commuting.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.