Ragley Cragg Vale Frameset  £329.99

9/10

Great ride, great value for money, a winter bike for all year round

Weight 1560g   Contact  Hotlines - sales@hotlines-uk.com

by Stuart Kerton   May 23, 2011  

In a marketplace full of sloping top tubes, tall head tubes and compact chainsets frames like Ragley's Cragg Vale are becoming a rarity these days. Traditional style geometry and a headtube so short it'd make most time trial bikes jealous all come together to create a proper roadie's machine and one of the best bikes I've tested.

The aluminium frameset (including frame, carbon fork, headset, top-cap, 3M reflective sticker kit & seat collar) is designed here in the UK while manufacturing is outsourced to Taiwan. Conceived as a winter trainer or year round commuter the Cragg Vale has been designed to provide a racier position as opposed to the audax/touring style bikes usually being marketed for getting the miles in over the off season. Allowing you to train in the same position as your racing steed is always beneficial and it's great to see a manufacturer realising this. In many ways its ironic that a bike that will surely appeal to the soul of any old school roadie was designed by Brant Richard a name synonymous with mountain biking.

The frame gives a lot of feedback and provides a stiff yet supple ride more reminiscent of steel than aluminium. This is certainly a big advantage on the long rides allowing you to feel exactly what the bike is doing underneath you without your contact points feeling as though they're being given a kicking. Handling is just on the twitchy side of neutral providing an engaging ride without becoming a white knuckle event.

At 1600g for the frame the Ragley is a sensible weight for a bike that's going to get you through harsh winters and probably be dropped a couple of times when Jack Frost pops his head out. This extra weight works as an advantage when descending and cornering giving a very planted feel and with the level of feedback mentioned above you can really let the bike go on the downhill bits without fear of any surprises. There are no hydroformed tubes or over built bottom brackets here, all the ride quality and stiffness is provided by well designed geometry. The carbon/alloy fork performed well, stiff enough while allowing enough fore and aft to match the comfort of the frame. Surprisingly with the amount of weight involved the Cragg Vale climbs well, that stiffness keeping flex to a minimum. Due to the low front end climbing out of the saddle rather than staying sat and spinning seemed to work best.

When the 'just in' feature was put on the site there was some welcome debate about mudguard clearance. The Cragg Vale is designed to be used with standard drop brakes which limits tyre size to 23mm if you want to use full guards while 28mm is possible without. Being designed as a winter commuter it does seem a bit of an oversight on Ragley's behalf to basically alienate a lot of possible customers. From a personal point of view I ride 23mm tyres right through the winter so it was of little concern for me (plus the fact there were very few wet days over the test period) but judging by a lot of the comments left on that original piece I am in a minority.

The overall finish of the frame is great quality from the welds to the paintjob. The thick striking blue finish stands out well, helped out in the darker hours by the included reflective sticker kit. Side visibility is always a concern with night time riding especially at roundabouts and junctions. The 3M kit that comes with the frameset features stickers that you apply yourself allowing you to customise how visible you want to be. Our test sample came with the full kit already fitted and as most of the test miles were made up of an hour each way commute in the dark I can vouch for its effectiveness.

While the Cragg Vale is only available as a frameset the build we were sent provides a great benchmark for building one up yourself. A full Shimano 105 groupset, Pro-Lite finishing kit and wheels coming in around the £1000 - £1100 mark is hugely impressive.

The Pro-Lite Como wheels matched the frame for feel and rolled well and stayed absolutely true in what were some hard testing miles. Pro-Lite's bar, stem and seatpost were stiff, balanced out by the frames forgiving nature and create a perfect partnership. Meanwhile Ragley's own saddle was very comfortable at all distances and also looks pretty good to boot, the white and black finish matching the rest of the frames finishing kit. Shimano's latest 105 groupset worked brilliantly with excellent shifting and braking performance and has got to be one of the best groupsets out there at the moment bang for buck. Michelin's Pro Optimum tyres certainly deserve a mention, 25mm wide front and rear specific, they provide grip levels more akin to summer tyres wet or dry. Even after 1000 miles there were no signs of any serious wear or cuts.

Verdict

All in all the Cragg Vale is one of the best bikes I've ridden with the ride comparing to the Genesis Equilibrium and the Kona Haole (see reviews) but with a much racier position. Its solid dependable feel and ride quality meant it was always the bike I grabbed from the shed especially if I was heading out on the rough lanes. Taking the price into account for the frameset its great value for money and the build we were supplied with above is a great place to start as every part complemented the others. Personally when my commuter needs replacing the Cragg Vale will be top of the list as a replacement. It's a shame that the mudguard issue is going to put so many people off buying it but maybe that's something that Ragley can address for the next batch.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Ragley Cragg Vale

Size tested: Blue

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From Ragley's site - Classic British Winter Training Frame; Designed on long nights and dark days in the Pennines, the Cragg Vale is a road bike for people wanting to 'get the miles in' during the off season, or wanting a strong durable but zippy feeling commuting bike. I think they've hit the nail pretty much on the head, the Cragg Vale is such an all rounder.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

A well built aluminium frame with a carbon/alloy fork. A suprisingly simple set up without loads of anacronyms to decipher about which bit tube does what for the ride

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

beautiful paint job and welding

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Does everything well, the stiff frame keeps the power going through the pedals and performance is only just slow of most lightweight racers. Taking everything in to account (handling, descending, climbing, straight line speed) you'll never be disappointed.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

It certainly looks like its built to last. the paint is thick which should keep chips at bay.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
8/10

As a winter trainer/commuter the weight is pretty spot on to meet the balance of performace vs longevity. Our test sample came in around the 20lb mark.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
9/10

Very comfortable 'steel' like ride while still keeping the handling engagingly lively

Rate the product for value:
 
10/10

There ain't much better out there bang for buck

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Excellent. club runs,commuting and just general training were all taken in its stride. A very easy bike to ride but still giving plenty of feedback and fun.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The package as a whole works well with the frame complementing the fork and vice versa. The paint colour really finishes it off plus the reflective sticker kit is a nice touch

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The mudguard issue is going to be a problem for some

Did you enjoy using the product? yes

Would you consider buying the product? yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

An all round cracking frame and fork. Stiffness, comfort, easy to ride yet engaging, it certainly takes some doing.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 32  Height: 180cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Ribble Winter Trainer for commuting  My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo

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: commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

19 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

While I take on board the positive review I have to ask, why?

Seems as though it is neither fish nor fowl. To me an all round trainer/winter bike really needs clearance and fittings to use proper full mudguards and 25mm tyres, even if this means using deep drop brakes. Other than die hard Brant/Ragley fans I do wonder who will buy this frameset. Shame really.

posted by 1961BikiE [80 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 14:41

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Well, sounds like Stu might be buying one, and as far as I know he'd never heard of Brant or Ragley before doing this review

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4130 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 15:00

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How does it compare to a Ribble Audax? Any views?

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posted by andylul [410 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 15:16

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It's a pity the review highlights the "beautiful welding" when even in these pictures you can see they are nothing special. So with that in mind what else in the review has been misjudged?

posted by TheDoctor [68 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 16:39

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@andylul it's going to have a lower more racy position

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4130 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 16:51

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On the days I wasn't testing the Ragley I was using my own Ribble Audax for commuting and between the frames there are some quite amazing differences to the way they ride considering there both aluminium with reasonably similar geometry. The Ragley feels much more stable all round and gives a much plusher ride compared to the Ribble. The front end on the Ragley is a good 30mm lower than I can get my Ribble so the position is quite a lot racier.The paint finish on my Ribble is also pretty crap but I did pick the frame up for £90 so swings and roundabouts really. As I said in the review I'll certainly be buying one to replace the Ribble when its had enough. The Ribble is a good bike and I'm happy with it but the Ragley is an all round better frameset.

Follow me on-
Twitter - @StuKerton
Strava - http://www.strava.com/athletes/931095

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posted by stuke [300 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 17:14

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I suppose it all depends what you class as beauty I suppose. The style of the welds suit the bike, its a workhorse and the welds reflect that in my opinion. I've seen some pretty sh1tty welds on so called 'high end marques' where they've blown and the welds are thicker one side of the tube than the other. For the cost I think the frame is well finished so thats where my comment came from, maybe I should have been clearer in the review.

thanks for reading anyway Big Grin

Follow me on-
Twitter - @StuKerton
Strava - http://www.strava.com/athletes/931095

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posted by stuke [300 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 17:25

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@TheDoctor beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but actually I've seen the frame in the flesh and I would say that the welds are pretty tidy – especially for the money.

Stu put in a couple of months and at least a couple of thousand miles on this frameset, he knows his bikes, and he really liked this one as did the other members of the road.cc team who got to throw a leg over it.

So to answer you question, no I don't think there is anything "mis-judged" about it.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4130 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 17:41

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I wish Ragely sold the reflective stickers separately.

posted by BigDummy [273 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 17:46

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Will it take a rack?

posted by wors [43 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 19:10

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Yes, full mudguard and rack mounts.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 20:22

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TheDoctor wrote:
It's a pity the review highlights the "beautiful welding" when even in these pictures you can see they are nothing special. So with that in mind what else in the review has been misjudged?

It's a pity the review highlights the "beautiful welding" without mentioning embroidery or the gender of the welders, I say Wink

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posted by jezzzer [339 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 21:10

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The frame and groupset looks good , but £1000 + for a full winter hack is a bit steep!! The como wheelset is rubbish very heavy and NO sealed bearings.... mine (bearings) only lasted a few very wet rides ... but they did stay true till i sold them...

I would say a cheap ribble evo pro carbon frame, with a veloce or 105 groupset , Askium/RS20/Khamsin wheelset and the latest set of crud (long) race guards mk2 with addons : rear flap and longer front plastic section (you can get them from crud for the cost of postage) would be more than a match for Ragley

I personally see the death of the winter frame/bike in future years... Theres no need for them anymore... use an/your old racing frame and cheap groupset with use the NEW full fitting mudguard products .. you will have a more responsive and lighter winter hack and you aren't bothered if its got wet/dirty and dropped.... thats what i have done and my cougar and dolan have gone to new homes....

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posted by ashy_2002 [56 posts]
23rd May 2011 - 21:29

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Nice looking frameset albeit with the shortest headtube I have ever seen, and then they stick the heavy as a rock Comos on it, dreadful wheels imo .....

posted by Karbon Kev [663 posts]
24th May 2011 - 8:25

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This is a frameset review. Nevertheless, the Como wheelset is just £90 online, what do you expect for that money - 1500g Ksyriums? If I wanted an allrounder I wouldn't fit 'race' wheels with low spoke count.

You could downgrade your groupset from 105 if you wanted to save money. 9-speed drivetrains don't fall apart or prevent people from riding up hills etc.

Brant has designed this for a reason and I can see there may well be a market for it, regardless of whether people feel the idea of a winter bike is dead. I'm more interested in why this bike feels different compared to (and, to the reviewer, better than) a Ribble. Perhaps it's the much maligned Como wheelset.

My one beef would be with the short drop brakes on an allrounder - I prefer tyres larger than 23mm for commuting, particularly in poor weather.

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posted by Simon E [1885 posts]
24th May 2011 - 12:35

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It would have been nice to see this with 'real' full 'guards on to see how it looks when configured how most of its' supposed target will be using it.

Plus it does seem on the pricey side - you can pick up a decent winter hack bike, fully built, for a lot less than £1k these days so to bring it in at that spec/price seems largely pointless.

However, I'm not sure I'd buy one simply becuase I couldn't run 25's and full 'guards - ignoring everything else...

posted by dlp [51 posts]
25th May 2011 - 10:07

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I know the original review picked up on this, but I have to agree as well. Given the state of the uk roads in summer, let alone winter, and recent testing that has shown wider tyres can roll with less resistance than narrower ones, max 23c with guards seems a huge oversight.

I've been running 30c rubber on my commuter/winter bike for the last year, and TBH, the only difference I notice is less tooth rattling. If you think it'll get you dropped on the club runs, then I think a good look at Rule 5 may be in order. Wink

Tyre testing: http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/tech-feature-the-work-of-wheel-energy

Also see Gerard Vroomen's comments in the "Wheels and tyres: Fatter is the way to go" section: http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/cervelo-testteam-get-testing-in-belgium

posted by Matt_S [182 posts]
26th May 2011 - 10:21

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Looks perfect, but... 25mm is the way to go on pretty much anything on less than perfect (ie UK) roads or if you are over 70kgs. A year round bike would need proper guards and at least 25mm, pref 28c tyres to be a buyer. Brant does seem to listen a lot to people and bring out 2nd round models which address issues - which is partly why I am writing them here again, as he is probably reading this as I type!

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posted by alotronic [242 posts]
26th May 2011 - 12:36

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@stuke

Have you seen we (Ribble Winter/Audax) have got our own Facebook group?

https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=155602837799690

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posted by andylul [410 posts]
31st May 2011 - 16:53

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