The Arkose 2 from Pinnacle is a cracking bike that is fun to ride, with a really simple 1x10 drivetrain and confidence inspiring hydraulic brakes. For dabbling in the world of cyclo-cross racing or just for blatting around the woods, or taking part in one of the many off-road sportives dotted around the country, the Arkose 2 is ideally suited.
It's fair to say the Arkose 2 looks a bit quirky on first impressions. There's the mad paint job that stands out for starters, but I was really surprised by just how many thumbs up it gained on many of its outings. Then there is the build kit which is a bit of a departure from the 'cross bike norm, but is brilliant as a result.
A 38-tooth single ring with a 10-speed, 12-32 cassette out back (not unusual in itself as mountain bikes have been going down this route for years, and cyclo-cross bikes are starting to with SRAM's new CX1 groupset), operated by a Microshift bar-end index shifter. That shifter is something you might expect to see on an old touring bike, not a cyclo-cross bike. It actually works really well, once you get used to it.
The shifting does take a period of adjustment. The first couple of times you'll try and move the brake lever, realise it doesn't budge and remember where the gear lever is. After a short while it becomes second nature. For racing the speed of shifting gear might be an issue for some, but the Arkose 2 isn't trying to be an out-and-out racer. That said, a lot of cyclo-cross courses are so flat they don't require as much gear changing as you might think.
And out in the wilds of the Cotswolds on the 30th edition of the Hell of the North Cotswolds, the speed of gear change was hardly an issue. In fact, changing gear was quicker because when you arrive suddenly at the bottom of a 25% wall of a climb, you can push the lever through its entire range and dump the chain from one end of the cassette to the other.
So in a way gear changes are actually quicker, and if you ride in the drops you can develop a knack for using the palm of your hand to push the lever down into a bigger gear. I found myself anticipating an upcoming gear change and planning ahead, rather than waiting until you feel you need a gear change and flick the brake lever paddle. It's a very nice shifter to use as well, and the indexing is clear and crisp.
As for range of gearing, well it was just fine for the steepest climbs I encountered during testing, and was easily high enough to blast along flat roads at a decent lick. You have to go some to spin out the 94inch top gear. You could always fit a different chain ring, plenty are available after market that will fit, so you could tailor it to your local riding terrain or strength.
The reason for this bar-end shifter is that Pinnacle have specced Tektro Hylex hydraulic disc brakes with TRP's own matching brake levers. The levers operate tiny calipers clamping 160mm rotors on both wheels, and the power they produce is phenomenal. Compared to the cantilever brakes you get on cyclo-cross bikes, and even many mechanical disc brakes, the power is on another level.
On a typical cyclo-cross course this extra power might not be a deal breaker, but riding on on the natural trails like those found in the HONC with a far wider range of obstacles, corners and fast descents, the brakes simply made the riding experience far more enjoyable than I've ever found with cantilever brakes. It's no exaggeration to say the difference in braking performance is immense. The brakes really make the Arkose 2 stand out.
The power at the lever is well modulated. You can lock a wheel if you want, just grab a big old handful of brake lever, but your brain modulates how hard you pull on the lever depending on the surface of the trail, grip level or situation. Where the extra power becomes invaluable is on very fast and rough descents. The power available is more than enough that one finger braking is entirely possible. That means more fingers gripping the bars which is useful on a rigid bike on a rocky rutted track I can tell you.
There's a lot more to the bike than just the gears and brakes of course. A smart 6061-T6 aluminium double butted frame fitted with a full carbon fibre fork, including the steerer tube, is cleanly finished. There is loads of mud and tyre clearance and no issue with heel clearance at the chainstays. The frame is disc-specific, so no ugly redundant canti bosses.
The rear brake caliper is mounted inside the rear triangle, so no issue with fitting the mudguard and rack. If you wanted you could fit some fat slicks and mudguards and use it for riding to work, fit a rack and pannier and you've got an interesting touring bike, and with the cyclo-cross tyres you can pretty much ride over any terrain. You're not restricted to the road, any bridleway or byway is open to you.
Fitted to the sturdy Alex Black Dragon rims are some Kenda Small Block 8 35mm tyres. These are a great tyre for dry conditions. The closely packed tread pattern means they roll fast, and there's good grip most of the time. Show them some mud and they will struggle, so for winter mud-plugging you might want to fit some mud-specific rubber. Even on the road the Small Blocks are fast and you can happily whiz along at 40kph with little noise or drag.
I had to change the Pinnacle SL alloy stem for something longer before the first ride to get my desired fit. That's the only change I made to the bike. The FEW Race saddle was comfortable even after five hours of being bounced around on the HONC. The compact handlebar was a comfortable shape and reach; I spent a good deal of time in the drops.
The build produces a bike that weighs 10.3kg (22.70lb), making it one of the lighter cyclo-cross bikes to pass through the road.cc office. The weight is low enough that scaling any climb, on- or off-road isn't really a problem, and it feels light and direct when you're chucking it about. It reminds me most of riding a rigid 29er mountain bike, because in many ways it is in fact very similar.
Despite the oversized alloy frame and big carbon fork, it's well-behaved on even the rougher tracks. On the road it just feels like a very good road bike, and off the beaten path it doesn't batter you nearly as much as you might imagine. Sure it's still a vibration inducing experience piloting it down any rocky track, but that's part of the fun and appeal of riding such a simple bike on that sort of terrain.
Some of the rockier and looser descents it can get a bit frantic, but never out of control or scary. The hydraulic discs are a boon here, making it easy to control your speed so you can rein in the scariness on a steep descent more than you ever can on a traditional 'cross bike with cantis. Even the best cantilever brakes don't offer anywhere near this level of control. And there's none of the judder too, just smooth progressive braking. Like it really ought to be in this day and age.
After riding these brakes, I don't think I'll ever be able to ride a cyclo-cross bike with regular cable-actuated brakes ever again. It's that significant a difference. I had more fun riding the bike as a result of the brakes, and that's a deal-clincher for me. That has been the biggest revelation that I have taken away from my time on the Arkose 2.
It's well-priced at £900. You're getting a belter of a bike for that money. If you're serious about cyclo-cross racing, this probably isn't the bike for you, but if you want a fun cyclo-cross bike for occasional racing, doing longer events or just hammering the local woods, with the added versatility of adding mudguards and racks and even fat slick tyres, the Arkose 2 is worth serious consideration.
If you want a fun, versatile bike, the Arkose 2 is that.
Brilliantly fun cyclo-cross, with simple wide-range gearing and fantastic hydraulic brakes; an absolute corker.
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Make and model: Pinnacle Arkose 2
Size tested: 52, Green
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The Pinnacle Arkose Two 2014 Cyclocross Bike is for adventurous-minded riders who prefer not to be limited in where they ride, or who appreciate something a little different. 1 x 10 gearing is the perfect for the UK riding scene and by using it in combination with bar-end shifters we can fit hydraulic disc brakes. Making it one of the only ways to have a hydraulic braking system and experience the better than cable braking modulation without splashing out on Di2.
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?
Pinnacle 6061-T6 double butted aluminium alloy
Full carbon, tapered steerer
Shimano 105 RD-5600-GS
Number of Gears:
Microshift 10s bar-end shifters
VP Square taper cartridge
Shimano CS-HG62-10 11-32T
KMC nickel finish
Tektro Hylex hydraulic discs
Pinnacle DB Aluminium shallow-drop bar, 125mm drop, 70mm reach, 440mm width
Pinnacle SL Road Ahead stem, 110mm
FSA Orbit C-40-ACB (NO.42/ACB) – integrated sealed cartridge bearing – 1-1/8 ACB top, 1.5" ACB lower (for 46/56mm Head Tubes ), W/15mm top cover
Shock-proof dual-density microfibre tape
Alex Black Dragon 32H
Kenda Small Block 8 35C
Kenda Small Block 8 35C
FWE Race men's, black
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely finished frame with a carbon fibre fork including the steerer tube.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061-T6 double butted aluminium alloy.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Well balanced and very easy bike to ride with good stability at all speeds.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was as comfortable as you'd expect a rigid cyclo-cross bike to be. The 35mm tyres provide a good deal of cushioning though especially if you run them at low pressures.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes loads of stiffness when climbing out of the saddle and honking on the bars.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I had to change to a longer stem, everything else was just fine, even the saddle.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 1x10 drivetrain provides a usable range of gears, low and tall enough for climbing and descending, and having just the one gear lever makes riding it brilliantly simple.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
If I had this bike I would look to convert the wheels to tubeless so I could run the tyres at a lower pressure with no fear of pinch flatting.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Nicely shaped handlebars and the saddle was a hit too.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Really enjoyed riding the Arkose 2.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
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, mtb,
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.