On paper, a £1,400 handmade Reynolds 520 steel flat-bar bike with a 1x SRAM drivetrain and matching hydraulic brakeset is pretty enticing. In reality, the Goldhawk Rodax is as close as you'll get to the perfect off-the-shelf urban speed machine. With a ride that marries quick control with instant power transfer and – believe it or not – impressive levels of comfort, all it needs is to be set up to your personal preference and then... enjoy.
The Goldhawk Rodax is probably the most exciting and fast flat-bar bike I've tested since the (aluminium) BMC Alpenchallenge first appeared half a decade ago. The two bikes themselves couldn't be more different, but the fact that the (steel) Rodax shares the same eagerness to get up to speed is, in itself, quite an achievement. Factor in a forgiving, smooth and sublime ride, as well as that responsive performance under power, and you have an experience that is almost unbeatable.
Of course, that smoothness is down to one major ingredient: steel. Steel bikes might not be as instantly reactive as aluminium (although this one gets pretty close), or as clever as carbon, but for an all-round bike that you can live with, it's hard to beat. In this case, the insulating quality of the steel frame deals with lumps and bumps very impressively. It handles big hits and potholes particularly well – you can't ignore them but you're not left counting your teeth. Meanwhile, small surface imperfections do rumble their way up the front, which is noticeably stiffer than the rear end, but this could be assuaged with a slight increase in tyre size (we'll come to that later).
The Rodax can't quite match the best high-speed cruisers in terms of out-and-out stability – it's far more of a Spitfire than a Lancaster bomber – but I don't think that matters in the slightest. This isn't a bike designed for all-day spins through the open countryside; it's a bike made for sprinting from traffic light to traffic light and weaving through traffic. Combine faultless front control with that effective power delivery, and you've got a machine that is more exciting than you'd probably imagine a flat-bar steel bike ever could be.
Most of the flat-bar bikes I test come with a good dose of PR babble that invariably calls them an 'urban attack machine' or something similar, when it's clear to anybody with eyes that they're just a reconstituted hardtail, or a road bike with a flat bar, or a leisure hybrid painted black. The Rodax is different and was designed from the outset as an effective and fully resolved city bike, albeit with a dash of style.
The frame is made from Reynolds 520 steel tubing and looks fantastic in its retro-inspired colourway. There are some nice details, too, such as the internal routing for the rear brake and even the front brake line disappears into the crown of the sexy, straight-bladed carbon EVO CX fork.
Add in hooded dropouts, bottle cage, mudguard and rack mounts, and you've got a bike that's about more than just aesthetics or pure pedalling performance.
Oh, and when I say steel frame, this isn't some picked-from-a-catalogue effort. It's been designed by Goldhawk founder and former oil industry engineer Jeff Rutland here in the UK and is built by hand in one of Taiwan's best factories, as recommended by Reynolds itself. On a bike that isn't short on nice touches and thorough design, the hand-enamelled head tube badge is very much the proverbial cherry on top.
The geometry is reassuringly old school, with an almost-level top tube, while the choice of tubing increases in diameter as you head from back to front: skinny tubes for the stays; medium tubes for the seat, top and down tubes; and a monster tube at the head tube.
Such a traditional frame shape gives the impression of it being a big bike so the fact that it tips the scales at 11kg seems fair. It's not too light to be delicate; not too heavy to prohibit a spot of manhandling.
I'm a big fan of 1x setups and the Rodax is testament to their efficacy. Do you want to ride fast, without compromises and limit the faff? Simple: there's a shifter at your right hand to go up and down the cassette. That's it. No feathering the front mech, no dodgy chainlines. You always know what's happening with your gearing without even having to think about it.
The Goldhawk/First RT1 two-piece hollow design chainset is a particular talking point in this setup, as its Narrow Wide 48t chainring has been custom made for Goldhawk. Combined with SRAM Apex gears, everything works nice and smoothly but there's a sense of sturdy reliability, too.
Because I'm lazy, fat and I live among the hills, I'd be tempted to fit an 11-42t cassette instead of the 10-36t that comes as standard. (Let me be clear, this isn't criticism, I'm just mentally making this bike perfect for my personal requirements!) But the 36t is ideal for city riding and it'll quite happily get you up urban slopes.
The SRAM Level T-A1 hydraulic disc brakeset is a speccing choice that is hard to fault. It offers excellent outright power, nicely weighted modulation, and the dinky little levers add to the overall sense that you are riding a piece of precision engineering.
For a new brand, it's hard not to be impressed by the finishing kit. I particularly like the custom Goldhawk branded saddle and the highly polished black alloy seatpost, stem and handlebar. It all gives the Rodax a real quality feel. I must confess, I barely noticed the wheelset – it did its job without interfering with the Rodax's other qualities, which is good enough, considering the value of the rest of the package.
If I had my sensible hat on, I'd say the 580mm handlebar is too narrow and, practically at least, a wider bar might make more sense. Emotionally, though, I'm not so sure. Certainly there's a lot of fun to be had with the narrow bar, you quickly get used to it, and it seems to fit with the front end's very agile and precise demeanour. Weaving around at speed, the Rodax feels like a well-honed instrument.
The argument for tyres wider than the fitted 28mm is a little more compelling, and I think a small increase to 32mm would add enough extra cushioning to really fine-tune comfort without upsetting the Rodax's overall eagerness. That said, the 28mm Continental Gatorskins are decent bits of rubber that offer plenty of grip even in damp spots, without feeling like you're using all your energy battling against rolling resistance.
I love this bike. In fact, if it cost twice as much, I think I could still make a fairly convincing argument (at least, I reckon I could convince myself) that it was still great value. The fact that you can have a handmade Reynolds frame that looks fantastic and is fitted with a spec that really works for just £1,400 is quite amazing.
Of course there are plenty of handmade steel bikes out there, and plenty of off-the-shelf steel fixies, singlespeeds and drop-bar options. There are also things like the Cinelli HoBootleg Interrail Bike or the relatively new Pashley Morgan models, and other even more niche options. But as a fully resolved urban flat-bar bike, there's nothing that comes close, I don't think, short of a custom build or putting one together yourself.
Essentially, my thoughts about the Rodax can be summed up like this: it's the best aspects of old school style and quality, combined with the best aspects of modern tech and performance. And it rides simply fantastically. Offer all that at a price within range of people who perhaps never thought they'd be able to stretch to a fairly exclusive handmade steel bike, and Goldhawk might have to reconsider its current plan to manufacture in only limited numbers.
Fantastic flat-bar urban bike with a superb handmade Reynolds 520 frame and ideal spec for £1,400. It's a steel steal!
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Goldhawk Rodax
Size tested: Large
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Goldhawk bespoke Reynolds 520 steel. Internal cable duct. Hooded dropouts. Replaceable derailleur hanger. 50mm tyre clearance. Rack, mudguard and bottle cage mounts.
Fork: EVO Carbon CX Straight bladed. 1 1/8in steerer. Post mount. Internal cabling. 50mm tyre clearance.
Cassette: SRAM 11-speed. 11/36. Black edition.
Chain: SRAM 11-speed Power Lock.
Derailleur: SRAM Apex 1 Long Cage. Exact Actuation. Roller clutch mechanism. Lock-out control.
Chainset: 'First for Goldhawk' 2-pc hollow crank. External BB. Custom 7075 48t N/W CNC machined chainring. 172.5mm.
Brakes: SRAM Level T-A1 hydraulic front and rear. SRAM 160mm Centerline smooth edge rotors.
Saddle: Goldhawk RD by Velo. Double density foam. Nylon core.
Shifter: SRAM Apex 1 road. Exact Actuation.
Headset: First #9. Semi-integrated steel cups and ACB sealed bearings.
Wheels: Goldhawk RD spec. KTXS 3F/8R hubs. Jalco PR220 16C disc rims, 32H. Stainless black spokes.
Tyres: Continental Gator Skins 700x28mm..
Handlebar: Goldhawk RD. Hi-Polished black alloy 6061. 580mm, 0 deg rise, 7 deg sweep.
Stem: Goldhawk RD. Hi-Polished black alloy 6061. +/- 8 deg. 70/80mm reach.
Seatpost: Goldhawk RD. Hi-Polished black alloy 6061. Micro adjust. 20mm offset, 27.2 mm OD.
Pedals: Wellgo C128.
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?
Goldhawk says: "Designed in house for flat bar fanatics, the steel Goldhawk Rodax edition delivers a fast and agile ride. Geometry is sporty, not back breaking and the flat bar configuration affords maximum control. We ride ours every day. With custom 1x11 road gearing, hydraulic discs and GatorSkin 28C tyres, it's ideal for all seasons. Clean lines and attention to detail gives a Goldhawk its' distinct and refined look."
I can't argue with any of that.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the one and only model in the current Goldhawk range.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The steel frame is beautifully handmade from a variety of Reynold 520 steel tubes at one of Taiwan's leading bike factories. The fork is a sexy EVO Carbon CX straight-bladed product with internal routing for the front disc brake.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Reynolds 520 steel for the frame; high-quality carbon fibre for the fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Fairly traditional steel road bike geometry, with an almost-level top tube and clean, straight lines.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Absolutely perfect – exactly as it should be.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, impressively so, despite running 28mm tyres with room for bigger rubber.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Perfect mixture of some compliancy at the back, with nicely direct handling at the front.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It felt very, very efficient.
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? Pretty lively I would say. Not tiring, but playful.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It felt great fun to ride, with the right balance of comfort, efficiency and enthusiasm.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The frame – without doubt the main reason for the bike's success. I'd be tempted to just go up slightly in tyre width to make comfort perfect.
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?
The 1x chainset is a classy bit of kit and worked well.
Always very eager to up the pace.
Just needed a drop handlebar to really get the hammer down!
Certainly felt surefooted.
Cruising stability is not its strongest suit – it wants to play!
Swooped through corners with aplomb.
Always went where directed without any quibbles.
Very effective climber, although the narrow bar restricts out-of-the-saddle, side-to-side rocking a little.
Efficient, reliable and smooth.
It's a 1x system, so there's only half the derailleurs to go wrong!
Very decent. The custom chainset is a particular highlight.
Fantastic performance for the money.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Loved the 1x drivetrain – perfect for urban cycling.
Wheels and tyres
I didn't really notice them, which is a good thing.
They look sturdy and long-lasting.
Par for the course.
They didn't do anything to upset the rest of the bike's performance.
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?
Because the rest of the bike is of such high quality, the wheels might be one area worth upgrading, but there's no pressing need to change them straightaway.
Good – fast and grippy.
Should last a while.
Not bad, but I think just a little more volume would pay high dividends.
Very good quality for the price.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The Gatorskins held up pretty well, even on wintry roads.
Very impressed with the controls – they looked smart and felt significant.
Look like they'll last forever.
Very good – the handlebar felt fantastic to hold.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The SRAM T-A1 brakes are particularly good and all the Goldhawk-branded components are sturdy and smart.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Although the handlebar felt great, at 580mm it is very narrow. You do get quickly used to it, though.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes. Don't tempt me.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Because the Rodax is a fairly individual proposition, it's hard to judge value. The Cinelli HoBootleg Interrail Bike is a similar product, but not as exclusive and a little cheaper. Meanwhile, the new Pashley Morgan 8-speed model is similar in some respects but a little dearer.
Use this box to explain your overall score
For the old-school aficionado who wants an urban bike that works – or anybody who simply wants to ride about town on something that truly looks and feels special – I don't know if there's anything to match the Rodax. Its retail price of £1,400 seems something of a bargain.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure