The Claud Butler Quest 11 is a smart looking sports hybrid with an aluminium frame and carbon bladed fork. It rides very well, though it could do with lighter wheels to make it nippier. It's specced with a single chainset and the not-so-common Shimano Metrea rear mech and Ultegra shifter, which provide super-smooth and reliable shifting.
- Pros: Excellent gear shifting, braking performance, reasonably light for the money
- Cons: Weighty wheels, tyres don't lean towards enthusiastic cornering, bar a little too wide
Claud Butler aims this bike at fast urban warriors, and while I'm not one hundred per cent sure of the warrior part, it's certainly at home taking a battering and battling the traffic around Bath and Bristol, which is where it has spent most of its time.
After swapping the supplied pedals (with clips, no straps) for some spd ones – a personal preference – and setting off on my varied, hilly, 12-mile ride home from the office, I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the Quest got up to speed and how well it rolled along at a comfortable cruising pace.
Although it's aimed at a 'fast urban warrior', I'd say it's tough, strong and swift rather than racy fast, with frame geometry slap bang in the middle of the current range of hybrids on the market: a 71-degree head angle and 73-degree seat tube angle (similar to the Pinnacle Neon, Specialized Sirrus or Cannondale Quick). It provides the easy, comfortable ride you want from a hybrid but with more than a spark of excitement bubbling underneath.
It's not perhaps as sharp as the Boardman URB 8.8 we tested recently, with its short back end and short chainstays, but the Quest's longer wheelbase helps to keep the ride comfortable and it never felt sluggish or slow to react to inputs from the pedals. Those longer stays will also make it handle better should you add a rack and load it with commuter bags.
Riding in amongst the traffic on my first commute, the wide bar gave me cause for concern from the off, as I normally ride a drop bar with a max width of 46cm not a flat bar at 68cm. Okay, that's narrow by modern mountain bike standards, but if you're riding between slow-moving lanes of traffic that extra width does bring your hands closer to wing-mirrors and glass. If they were a little narrower that would be less of an issue – 2cm per side would be a good start.
Outside of the Bath traffic chaos and on country lanes, the bar width became less of an issue and I was able relax and enjoy the view. That is until it started to get hilly and I found that the little stubby rubber faux bar-end grips were too short and soft to provide a good hand position when you needed them most on the climbs. They act more like guards to stop your hands sliding off the end of the grips rather than a hard extension you can hold for those out-of-the-saddle exertions when the gradient rises above 10 per cent. If you like this type of ergo grip and combined bar-end there are plenty on the market that would do the job better for sensible money, and it's an easy upgrade to do yourself.
You can also trim the width of that bar as well – a fairly easy task for you in the garage or shed or at the shop – but you cannot add width, so go easy with the cutting. Best to move all the components and grips inwards on the bar bit by bit to see what feels right and them trim them when you are happy it's right.
Apologies for labouring on the bar width here; it is a simple thing to change but has a major effect on the way the bike rides from the box. Other hybrids in this class appear to have bars of around 600mm, which is 80mm less than the one Claud Butler has chosen to fit – about what I would remove if the bike were mine.
With the bar 'trimmed' in my head, and getting on with riding the bike, the frame responds well to your effort, being stiff enough to put a smile on your face should you put the power down but not so stiff as to have you reaching for the ibuprofen when you get home.
It's actually comfortable enough to extend your rides to more than just the trip in and out of work, but you will probably need to avoid the steepest hills – more on that later.
The fork tracks well and there is no flutter from the carbon blades, even under heavy braking, although the stiff bar does pass some excess road feel to your hands from time to time. I think this might be more to do with the bar material at this price rather than the fork, and should be reduced by changing to softer grips or larger ergo grips.
The saddle gets my nod of approval and I'm a very fussy saddle user, normally swapping out the saddles on any bike I borrow, but I had no need to here, so good work Claud Butler. The only thing I'd say is that its nose is a little wider than a lot of saddles, if that might be a concern.
Frame and fork
The frame is made using 6061 aluminium multi-butted hydroformed tubing and all the welding is neat and functional rather than beautiful or perfect. Something has to give at this price, but on the whole I was rather surprised how good the bike looked. Often at this price the frame welds are rough or sanded down in what's called a second pass technique, which makes everything look super-smooth like a fillet weld. Although this is tidier, it can be used to hide poorer welding in the first place. The Quest has neat fish scaling visible and is at least honest in its craftmanship.
It's not the prettiest of hybrids I've seen – for me, that falls to the BMC Alpenchallenge which is quite fantastic – but it's not a bad looker either, in flat white and grey/silver with a very neat fork and tapered head tube integration.
We had no need to fit mudguards over the test period but it's nice to see that both the fork and the frame have mounting points for both guards and a rear rack. There are dedicated seatstay bosses and eyelets for four-point rack fixing if you need to carry more weight, which is perfect for this bike, though the mudguard will have to share the dropout eyelets.
Claud Butler makes two versions of the Quest, the 10 and the 11, with only £150 between them. The name equates to the number of gears and some spec changes.
Compared with the cheaper 10, our 11 model has a carbon bladed fork, 11-speed cassette (albeit with a smaller range), and better shifters and rear mech.
On paper the 11 is a good upgrade over the 10-speed model, unless you need that 11-36T cassette, and therein lies a potential problem. The gearing of my regular commuter gravel bike is 50/34 with an 11-32 cassette, giving me an excellent climbing ratio of 1.06. The Quest 11 not having such a wide spread of gears, with a 42T chainring mated to an 11-32T sprocket, delivers a climbing ratio of 1.31. Ouch. If you have long, steep hills or savage short ones this might be a concern for you and is worth thinking about because you cannot officially use a larger cassette with that Metrea rear mech. There are workarounds, but all involve extra money.
If you're happy with the range, though, the combination of an Ultegra flat bar shifter and Shimano's Metrea rear mech make choosing any gear a delight. An overkill description perhaps, but everybody who rode the bike was instantly surprised by the setup and its silky-smooth shifting.
The Samox single ring and guard chainset is mated to a four-taper bottom bracket spindle which, while no longer popular at higher price points, should keep rotating smoothly for a decent length of time. It's no beauty with its solid chainguard, and is perhaps a visual clue to the overall price of the bike and a hint that the gears took a bit more of the budget than the chainset. It's a five-arm 110mm BCD (bolt circle diameter) model, if you wanted to fit a smaller ring.
The Shimano BRM-315 flat bar brakes performed perfectly adequately in the dry conditions we had for testing. On long descents they felt powerful and although at the cheaper end of Shimano's hydraulic disc brake options they gave no cause for concern.
They worked when they needed to and there was no need to worry about braking early to stop in time. Although we didn't have any rain during the testing period, it would undoubtedly have made little difference to the braking performance, such is the beauty of disc brakes.
Wheels and tyres
The wheels are slightly unusual, having 36-hole double wall rims, which is more heavy commuter or tourer than fast and racy, but here lies the quandary with this bike. Its gears are sporty and it likes to go fast, but its wheels and tyres are on the strong and dependable side rather than light and responsive.
They spin on cup and cone hubs which means that, should you service them regularly, they should keep on spinning for a long time, with only the occasional replacement ball and regrease required. Both Shimano and Campagnolo still use this system so it can't be bad.
They should last you a long time and shrug off the worst that our roads can throw at them, though they won't provide that many smiles when it comes to more enthusiastic bursts of speed with your friends or long climbs on your more adventurous commutes.
The 32mm Schwalbe Delta Cruiser K-Guard tyres are well known for their bombproof durability, with puncture protection level 5 (out of 7) according to Schwalbe, so will shrug off just about anything trying to pierce them, but unfortunately that means they are rather heavy and do not inspire confidence when leant over hard in corners. Normal cornering is fine, but if you get excited and explore a sportier riding style you might find the tyres slip if pushed over too far.
I'm probably being a little unfair here, as these tyres are designed for commuting and touring, and for a workhorse commuter that is exactly what you want, especially with our incredibly poor roads. But for a fast urban bike, their extra bulk holds back the rest of the package rather, and blunts the feel.
You could change the tyres when they wear out, but that won't be anytime soon as they are fairly solid beasts. They do feature excellent reflective bands around the sidewalls, which will be useful in the dark.
The Claud Butler Quest 11 is a good bike for £800 but it's up against some strong competition from well-known brands such as the Boardman URB 8.8 with its gravel 1x Apex/NX gearing for £700, and the Pinnacle Chromium 3 Tiagra with its 48/32 and 11-34t gearing for £775. Or there's the ever-popular Specialized Sirrus Elite with Tiagra and a full-carbon fork for £899.
The Quest 11 will prove to be a good base bike should you want to upgrade it as you use it, but there's no need to rush out and do that anytime soon. Add lights, mudguards and a rack and you'd be sorted for commuting in all weathers – as long as your route isn't too hilly – and, I suspect, still have money left over from £1,000.
A comfortable and fast bike ideal for urban commuting with excellent shifting
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Claud Butler Quest 11
Size tested: 20in
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Claud Butler 6061 Hydro-Formed T6 Aluminium, Multi Butted, Internal Cable Routing, Tapered Headtube, Chainstay Post Mount Dropout
Carbon Fibre Blade, Internal Cable Routing, Post Mount
Headset: 1.1,8' to 1.5'' Tapered A-headset, Integrated
Bottom Bracket: Cartridge BB 110mm axle
Handlebar: Claud Butler 31.8mm Alloy Butted Flat Bar, 10 degree Backswept, 680mm wide
Stem: Alloy A-head,31.8mm Clamp, Rise +/- 10 Degree, 90mm extension (18'), 110mm extension (20', 22')
Grips: Velo Triple Density, Ergo grips with Bar END and Anodized Lock Ring.
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra SL-RS700 Rapidfire Plus, 11 Speed
Front Derailleur: NA
Rear Derailleur; Shimano Metrea RD-U5000 11spd
Freewheel: Shimano Cassette CS-5800, 11 Speed, 11-32T
Chainwheel: Samox 3 pcs, Alloy 170mm Crank,42T Chainring
Chain: KMC X11-1
Brakes: Shimano BR-M315, 160mm Center Lock Rotor, Hydraulic Discs
Brake levers: Shimano Lever
Pedals: 9,16' Alloy Body with Half Toe Clip
Front Hub: 36H Alloy, Alloy Anodized QR
Rear Hub: 36H Alloy, Alloy Anodized QR
Rims: Double Wall Alloy, Disc Specific
Tyres: Schwalbe Delta Cruiser, K-Guard, 700 x 32C, W/Reflex
Seat Post: Alloy Micro Adjust, 27.2mm x 350mm, 15mm Offset
Saddle: Claud Butler Custom Road Saddle
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?
Claud Butler states that "the Quest models are designed to be fast, urban warriors", which I read as fast commuters.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Quest 10 is £649.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The finish of the bike is ok to good rather than beautiful or fantastic, but it is fair for the price, with neat welding on display.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 Hydro-Formed T6 Aluminium with a carbon bladed, alloy steerer fork.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Good for two 6ft testers, both in length and saddle height adjustment.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike was comfortable to ride around town and on gently undulating roads. It transmitted the roughest surfaces and bumps back through the bar but otherwise it was a smooth ride. The wide handlebar did occasionally make riding through traffic difficult and awkward.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The frame was comfortable rather than stiff, occasionally verging on a little stiff through the fork and bar.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, no problems there for an £800 commuter.
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? Accurate and fast.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike felt lively and fun and was only dampened by the overly heavy wheels and tyres.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels, with double wall rims and 36 holes, were a little overbuilt for the 'fast' part of the model's description. Lighter wheels would significantly improve the handling.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Shimano Ultegra shifters and Metrea rear mech were super-smooth in use and the brakes inspired confidence. If you wanted to use this bike as your weekly commuter it would be fine, but if you fancy racing around the countryside at the weekends or on holidays then a lighter set of wheels would be a sensible idea.
The tyres might be bulletproof but they don't inspire you to lean over hard in corners.
Okay, but hampered by the 1x gearing; it would be better with a smaller ring up front.
A better quality chainset would have given top marks but very smooth indeed.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The drivetrain was an unexpected delight to use.
Wheels and tyres
The 36-hole setup is more normal for a tourer. Coupled with double wall rims and 14g spokes, they are sure to survive the commute and stay straight but they aren't light.
They should last for ages.
They hold their line well in amongst the potholes and broken tarmac at the side of the road.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
I'd get a pair of Sunday wheels and use these for during the week.
Good straight-line performance and puncture resistance, with useful reflectives. Not so good for leaning right over in the corners.
Not much flex in the sidewall, but comfortable enough.
Handlebar too wide by 1-2cm per side.
Good saddle, not so good bar ends.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The saddle was surprisingly comfortable, but the handlebar is too wide. Losing a few cm would help when commuting through traffic. I also found the grips uncomfortable and the bar ends too soft to hold to climb with.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes I did.
Would you consider buying the bike? Possibly
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Quest 11 is a good looking and well-thought-out urban commuter bike. It features an unusual 11-speed drivetrain which works beautifully; everybody jumping on it made the same comments about the gears – quality and smooth – which was unexpected at this price. Trimming the wide handlebar will improve the ride and if you really splash out it should make a fully equipped commuter for under £1,000.
About the tester
I usually ride: Fairlight My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, bikepacking, adventure/gravel riding