The Robinson, from British company The Light Blue, offers a really smooth ride, with steady handling and tyres that provide a good balance of fast road riding pace and off-road grip. In this SRAM Rival 1x build with cyclo-cross tyres it's an ideal all-terrain bike, at home on the road or tackling more challenging countryside terrain, or for just tackling rough roads in comfort. The Light Blue also offer a Shimano 105 build of the Robinson which they describe as an audax/light tourer.
The Robinson has very assured handling, not darting or flicking about the road. It's more measured than a race bike, with a long wheelbase producing the sort of stability that makes it a very easy bike to ride along back roads and over more challenging trails.
There's a lot to like about a good steel frame with a steel fork, and the Robinson doesn't disappoint. There's a suppleness you just don't get from stiffer carbon and aluminium rivals. The skinny steel tubes go a long way to isolating you from the small vibrations that can intrude into the ride quality, and, combined with the 30mm tyres, result in an ideal bike for making you feel at ease on many of the poorly maintained roads around the UK.
I like to explore smaller country lanes, avoiding more heavily congested routes in favour of twisting roads that, while maybe not the fastest route, usually take you through some splendid bits of countryside. It's on these sorts of roads, especially at this time of year, that you can encounter all sorts of mud, gravel, debris from storms such as fallen branches, and, typically, lots of potholes.
On these, the Robinson is right at home. The bigger tyres provide more grip when the going is slippery, and the bigger volume, when run at a lower pressure, provides more cushioning. If you're put off riding such roads on a lightweight steed on skinny slick tyres, take a look at the Robinson. Because it copes so well with bad roads and in all weathers it would also make an excellent commuter bike. And the fact that it can take a rack and mudguards also opens it up to touring and audaxing, as well as longer commutes where carrying luggage is essential.
Light Blue describes the Robinson as having a 'sport' geometry. What does that mean? A look at the geometry chart for the size 56cm on test here reveals a bike with a 555mm effective top tube, 520mm seat tube, 1,019mm wheelbase, 160mm head tube, 420mm chainstays, 72.5-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle. All that means it's bit more relaxed than a road bike but it's not excessively high. I felt comfortable on the bike, with a good reach, and no changes to the saddle or stem required.
The first couple of outings revealed a very steady and stable bike that simply rides very nicely. I've been riding a fair few cyclo-cross and adventure bikes this winter, and the Robinson can hold its head high against more expensive and lighter alternatives. It definitely leans more towards the gravel/adventure category, with the 72mm bottom bracket drop (the distance the bottom bracket is below the wheel axles) producing a preference for road riding. It's not trying to be a dedicated off-road bike, but is right at home on mellower gravel and dirt tracks.
There are many similarities with the Genesis Equilibrium in the way the Robinson rides, and that's not a bad comparison at all, because the Genesis is a very good bike. Like the Equilibrium, the Robinson is comfortable and fun. A change of tyres could easily transform it into a faster road riding bike, but equally, some more aggressive tyres would see it being even more capable in the mud.
Even if you never deign to go off-road, for tackling rough roads and weekend rides into unknown territory, the Robinson is ideal. Throw in the mudguard and rack mounts and disc brakes, and it's this adaptability that makes it such an appealing choice.
The Robinson features a well appointed TIG-welded Reynolds 725 steel frame with a matching chromoly fork. It's a disc brake-specific frameset, and there's clearance for up to 32mm tyres without mudguards. With 'guards, the maximum tyre size decreases to 28mm.
All cables are externally routed, the rear brake and derailleur cables passing along the underside of the down tube. An external threaded bottom bracket keeps things simple and easy to service. There are two bottle cage mounts and two bolts on the underside of the top tube for attaching a bikepacking bag.
The steel frame and fork might look spindly and delicate, but there's nothing delicate about its ride quality. You can push the bike quite hard down descents and through the woods, and it feels more than capable. There's just enough give in the frame and fork to stop it ever getting ugly when the tyres encounter sharp obstacles or bumps.
Highlighting the versatility of the frame, the Robinson is offered in a number of builds. There's a more traditional touring/audax model with Shimano Sora for £999, which looks the part with mudguards and racks on the company's website, or a Shimano 105 model costing £1,399. Both bikes come with slick tyres, making them ideal year-round touring bikes or second winter bikes.
If you seek a bit of off-road adventure, though, the SRAM Rival 1x build is specced with a pair of 30mm Schwalbe CX Comp tyres. The semi-slick tread pattern makes them a good choice for a bike that is most likely to see mainly road use. They roll fast and you don't really suffer too much in a group of road bikes. For heading deeper into the countryside the tyres provide a reasonable level of grip, but they will struggle in slick mud, especially if you add any gradient to the mix. The more aggressive shoulder tread provides a bit of reassurance when cornering on a slippery surface. Basically, you can get away with quite a lot with these tyres. Run them at low pressures for best results, maximising cushioning on the road and grip on the trails.
The Halo Evaura D wheels went mostly unnoticed during the test period, and that's a good thing. They're a very competent wheelset, as we found when we tested the regular non-disc version last year; the spokes didn't need truing and the bearings didn't require any attention. The disc brake-specific rim has a shallow aero shape and the black finish complements the bike well. The extra width of the rims (19mm internally) makes them ideal for fitting wider tyres too.
I've ridden several bikes recently with SRAM Rival 1 (and reviewed it separately here). The 11-36 cassette and 46-tooth chainring strikes a good balance of top-end road speed and low enough ratios for dirt trails. For more adventurous (hilly) trail riding or cyclo-cross racing, a smaller chainring would be desirable. It's unlikely anyone would be looking at this bike for cyclo-cross racing, but if you want to dabble, it's no bother to swap the chainring, and SRAM offers a wide choice of sizes.
Gear changes come easily. One lever means it's very intuitive to change gear and the range of lever throw and feedback makes it easy to use off-road on bumpy terrain. The compact hoods are more ergonomic than their hydraulic equivalents – you can get your hands over the entire hood more easily, ideal for adopting an aerodynamic position when battling a demoralising headwind.
The brake levers operate a set of Avid BB7 mechanical cable-operated disc brakes. While not as outright powerful as SRAM's hydraulic discs, the BB7s do work very well and inspire more confidence when tackling challenging descents, whether off-road or on slippery country lanes strewn with potholes and debris from Storm Frank.
The discs work better than rim brakes when the weather is bad, and you can splash happily through muddy puddles safe in the knowledge that the brakes will just keep on working the same.
There's little flair in the finishing kit, but it's all good quality stuff, and, most importantly, it all provides a good fit and comfort. The Gusset Black Jack saddle is a recognisable shape and proved very comfortable for longer rides. A Genetic SLR stem, Syngenic 27.2mm seatpost and Flare handlebar all work unobtrusively.
The complete bike weight of 10.08kg (22.22lb) isn't amazingly light, but neither is it excessively heavy. This isn't the bike to buy if you're a weight watcher. Some bikes manage to hide their weight well, through the way they ride and handle, and the Robinson is a case in point. On all but the very steepest climbs, the Robinson doesn't feel portly or lardy in the way it rides. The tyres are smooth enough to allow you to make good progress on the road, and the width sufficient to run them fairly soft for off-road antics.
The Robinson is a bike for those who value comfort and adaptability, who want some off-road capability and aren't always worried about Strava segments. Even if you never choose to go off-road, for tackling rough roads and weekend rides into unknown territory, the Robinson might be just what you need. It could be the one all-round bike you've been looking for.
Smooth and versatile steel frame with wonderful handling on and off-road
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Light Blue Robinson Rival 1x
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.
Colour Volcano Orange or Airforce Blue
Saddle Gusset Black Jack
Bottom Bracket SRAM GXP
Rear Deraillieur SRAM Rival 1
STI Levers SRAM Rival 1
Stem Genetic SLR
Frame Tig welded Reynolds 725 steel
Wheels Halo Evaura D
Cassette Sram Rival 1 11-36t
Seatpost Genetic Syngenic
Crankset SRAM Rival 1 46t
Brakes Avid BB7
Handlebar Genetic Flare
Fork CroMoly steel
Tyres Schwalbe CX Comp 30c
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?
Light Blue says:
"The Light Blue Modern frames have been designed with versatility in mind.
"The Robinson's comfortable, but lively geometry and ample clearance is ideal for road sport use, as well as bridleways, fire roads and gravel tracks.
"SRAM's '1x' Rival 11 speed offers a particularly interesting build option for the more adventurous Robinson rider
"Bring on the gravel, bring on the Robinson!"
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent build quality, and attention to detail is good. Lots of mounts for bottle, racks and mudguards.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Reynolds 725 steel tubing and a chromoly fork provide a lovely ride.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Sporty best describes it – a good balance for speedy road cycling and off-road handling.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fitted me really well with no changes.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The big volume tyres in combination with the steel frame and fork provided 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?
It avoided ever feeling vague when riding more technical trails.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well for a steel frame.
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? Relaxed
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very stable handling, not as agile as some road bikes, but for long winter rides with some trails thrown into the mix, the steady handling was appreciated.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes worked very well in all conditions, and the Rival 1x drivetrain is simple to use and provides a good spread of gears.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 11-36 cassette provides enough range for high-speed road cycling and off-road action, and the 46t chainring is better suited to general road use rather than low-speed cyclo-crossing.
Wheels and tyres
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?
Tyres worked fine on the road and off it.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
No problems with the finishing kit; it's not fancy but does the job well. I liked the shape of the saddle and the handlebar.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Probably
Use this box to explain your score
The Robinson is a bike for cyclists who value comfort and adaptability, and off-road capability, and aren't always worried about Strava segments. Even if you never deign to go off-road, for tackling rough roads and weekend rides into unknown territory, the Robinson might be the one all-round bike you've been looking for.
About the tester
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.