The Arkose 4 from Pinnacle (Evans Cycles' in-house bike brand) might have cyclo-cross DNA but with fast-rolling tyres and provision for mudguards and a rack, it's a good choice for an all-round, general purpose bike that is competent on the smooth and capable in the rough.
Rugged road bikes are becoming increasingly popular, with cyclists fed up of being limited to riding just on the road. More and more riders are wanting a versatile bike capable of exploring the countryside via some of the wonderful bridleways, woodland trails and long-distance off-road tracks that exist right across the UK. And the Arkose is a bike that fulfils these criteria.
I've been using the Arkose 4 for all sorts of riding, from leisurely cycling along the river, enjoying the freedom and gentle pace of cycle travel, to exploring off-road trails in the local woods, and regular road riding and popping to the shops.
The smart looking and nicely finished aluminium frame is fitted with a full carbon fibre fork, which combine to provide a fast and lively ride. It's ever so slightly on the stiff side, but run the tyres at a lower pressure, especially if engaging in some off-road action (30-50psi), and the ride is smoothed out considerably.
It's a good looking bike and the colour attracted a lot of admiring glances and plenty of questions about its cost. The general consensus is that it looks like a much more expensive bike than it actually is, not that it's a cheap bike at £1,300. The good looks are helped by the internal cable routing, an update over the previous 2015 model.
Damp and blast
Helping with ride comfort is the softly padded and nicely shaped saddle, which helps damp the ride noticeably on rougher surfaces, whether a dried out farm track, gravelly byway, or chattery tarmac road. The handlebar is nicely shaped and the bar tape is tactile, grippy and comfortable even when riding without gloves.
Compared with regular road bikes, the 80mm stem is short – there's nothing to stop you fitting a longer one, but don't be in rush; the short stem suits the bike, because Pinnacle has given the frame more length between the saddle and bar, with a 555mm top tube and 388mm reach (the horizontal measurement from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) on the size medium pictured, meaning the position isn't cramped or the steering erratic.
Far from being nervous and twitchy, the handling characteristic was measured and well balanced on the road at higher speeds, and agile and nimble when navigating tree-lined singletrack or traffic-choked roads. The short-reach aluminium handlebar optimises control, with the short drop not putting you in too low a position when making use of the drops.
If I was being really picky, the weight could be considered high at 9.73kg, but I never felt it was a factor during my time riding the bike. The compact (50/34) chainset and 11-32t cassette ensure you have lots of low gears for scaling steep climbs, and the bike is eager when out of the saddle, the stiffness of the frame and fork benefiting the climbing ability. It's not a bike for sudden sprints and attacking – instead, it builds up gradually and once up to speed it rolls along efficiently.
Disc brakes make a lot of sense on this sort of bike, and the Shimano BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes are the best currently available. They are worth the extra money over the cable operated units on the cheaper Arkose models. The feel at the brake lever is firm and the braking power is authoritative, with no risk of accidentally locking wheels on good surfaces. Without a doubt, the brakes are the highlight of the Arkose 4 package.
The brakes and gears are controlled by Shimano RS-685 brake levers, providing a light shifting action across the 11 sprockets on the cassette. The R500 chainset – a Shimano non-series model – provides good gear shifting performance, but a bit of front derailleur adjustment was required when the bike was delivered. This is a task made easy thanks to the inline barrel adjusters where the cables leave the handlebar.
Take a closer look at the wheel axles and you'll notice something different: Pinnacle has specced a bolt-thru axle for the fork, which use a larger diameter hollow axle that threads into a closed dropout, and a regular quick release at the rear. It's a similar system to most modern mountain bikes and the benefits are easy wheel fitting, because the disc rotor easily lines up with the brake calliper.
Getting the wheels in and out is no more trouble than a regular quick release axle setup, handy if putting the bike in the back of the car.
Disc brakes not only provide good braking performance, the space they require means wider tyres can be easily fitted. Pinnacle has designed the frame and fork with space for up to 40mm tyres, and it's supplied with 35mm Kenda Small Block 8 tyres with a Kevlar folding bead, which saves weight.
There is loads of clearance around these tyres, so no problem if ploughing through a muddy track – the wheel won't get clogged. Equally, the big clearance means there is no issue fitting a rack, whether for commuting or touring. Alternatively, and maybe more on-trend, add a bikepacking bag and it would make a good adventure bike for some exploration into the wild.
The tyres aren't a true cyclo-cross design, and aren't much good in mud or on wet grass, but in dry conditions they provide lots of grip and roll along rapidly, with good performance on the road, albeit accompanied by a distinct buzzing soundtrack.
There's nothing to stop you fitting different tyres, a 28-32mm slick tyre if you wanted to ride it solely on the road and make use of the mudguard mounts. Equally, you could fit a proper cyclo-cross tyre if you want to do some winter 'cross.
The wheels caused a noticeable lack of fuss during the test period. There were a few creaks from the rear wheel spokes on the first ride but after that they have been silent and reliable. The freehub engages sharply and makes a nice sound when you freewheel, and the Alex Draw 1.9s double wall aluminium rims have put up with some battering on my local mountain bike trails, full of stepped roots and unseen rocks embedded in the soil.
Perhaps the only change I would want to make on this bike, would be tubeless tyres to make use of the tubeless rims. That's being really picky, though – I didn't suffer a puncture, and if you run the tyres at a sensible pressure, the large volume and chunky tread should ward off flats. But still, it's a possible upgrade if you do buy this bike.
If you want a bike that can handle a wider range of trails and tracks than a regular road bike, the Arkose 4 is a really good option. The geometry and aluminium frame provide a quick and fun ride that will suit beginners and experienced cyclists alike.
It's equally at home on the road with fat slicks or carving through the woods with the grippy (in the dry) Maxxis tyres. Rack and mudguard mounts and hydraulic disc brakes make it a good choice for the commute or touring/bikepacking adventures.
While you could use it for cyclo-cross racing, I would recommend a change of tyres for winter racing, it's likely most potential customers will be more interested in the Arkose 4 as a general purpose bike for tackling regular road rides with a side order of off-road tracks and bridleways, or for taking on popular routes like the South Downs Way, Pennine Way or Camel Trail. There's also a growing number of gravel events that this bike is perfectly suited to.
If you like the look of the Arkose 4 but it's out of your price range, it's worth taking a look at the Arkose 3, which at £1,000 uses the same frame with the same BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano 105 derailleurs, but key differences include a heavier alloy-and-carbon fork, Shimano 105 brake levers, and a cheaper non-Shimano chainset and bottom bracket.
A thoroughly enjoyable ride that is happy on the road or in the dirt, with hydraulic brakes and big tyre clearance
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pinnacle Arkose 4
Size tested: 51
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 6061-T6 heat treated aluminium, double + triple butted
Fork: Full carbon w/ tapered steerer, 15mm bolt through
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800
Number of Gears: 22
Shifters: Shimano RS-685
Chain set: Shimano RS500 (s- 170mm, m- 172.5mm, l/xl- 175mm)
Chain rings: 50/34
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Hollowtech, 68mm shell, english thread
Cassette: Shimano CS-5800 11-32T
Chain: KMC X11
PedalsvPP body with toe clips and straps
Shimano BR-785 hydraulic disc brake calipers
Pinnacle 6061 aluminium short drop bar. drop; 125mm, reach; 70mm, width; s/m 420mm, l/xl 440mm
Stem: Pinnacle road ahead stem. length; s/m-80mm, l-90mm, xl-100mm
Headset: FSA No. 42/ACB-A, integrated for tapered steerer 1 1/8" to 1 1/2"
Extra Features: Min/max tyre size - 25-40c full mudguard and rear pannier rack mounts
Tubes: Kenda presta valve
Grips: Soft microfiber tape with Vex Gel padding.
Rims: Alex Draw 1.9s, double walled
Hubs: KT sealed bearing 15mm bolt through
Tyres: Kenda Small Block 8 folding 35c
Saddle: Pinnacle race men's
Seatpost: Pinnacle aluminium 350mm x 27.2mm
Accessories: BGRD-4 - spare included
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 says: "The Arkose is our answer to the do-it-all drop bar bike idea, becoming a fast and capable road bike with guards and 28C tyres for some and for others a back roads and tracks explorer with large cyclocross tyres fitted. However you choose to ride it the Arkose will be a fast, agile and comfortable ride without ever becoming twitchy or nervous. For 2016 little has changed in our winning formula, we've simply routed the brake cable internally with UK-specific brake cable routing to keep the cables neat and tidy.
"The Arkose Four features Shimano's RS-685 hydraulic disc brake system, offering superior braking performance in even the worst conditions. A full carbon fork keeps the weight down, whilst sealed bearing hubs keep you rolling longer. A full 105 groupset including chainset finish off this do it all machine, which proves outstanding performance doesn't need to cost as much as you think."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Really nicely finished frame with the internal cable routing maintaining the clean lines. Rack and mudguard mounts are a nice touch.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Double and triple butted 6061 aluminium frame (the butting saves weight) with a full carbon fibre fork, which also saves weight.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's best described as relaxed; even with the 80mm stem the steering isn't twitchy or nervous, thanks to the long front centre which not only gives a good reach, but keeps the handling really easy to get on with, regardless of the terrain being ridden over.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
About right, a comfortable fit was easily achieved. A longer stem would give a bit more room to stretch out if you're towards the upper limit of the size 51 height range.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The 35mm tyres and 26.2mm seatpost and generously padded seatpost provide a lot of comfort.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The thru-axle carbon fork gives the front end very stiff and direct handling.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well, only the slightly high weight holds it back.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? A little bit slow actually, but nicely stable.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a really easy bike to ride, on or off-road, regardless of your skill or experience level.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
You could change tyres to suit the specific riding you want to do: a fat slick for road or commuting use, or a faster-rolling gravel/semi-slick tyre for dry and dusty summer trails. I'd prefer tubeless tyres
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The hydraulic disc brakes are the highlight of the package.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Hard to be really picky when the whole bike performs so well. You could likely save some weight in the wheels.
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?
Really impressed with the saddle and the short reach/drop handlebar.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Only that the Shimano 105 gears and the hydraulic disc brakes are a delight to use.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
There's very little that detracts from the Arkose, it's an impressive package, but I've knocked the score down a bit because you can get a very similarly specced model for £300 less, and that makes choosing the Arkose 4 a tricky proposition. If you've got the money, it's a marginally better bike.
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.