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The Roux Etape 250 is a thoughtfully specced steel framed tourer that snubs adverse thoughts about its heft with its modest price tag and comfortable confident ride.
If you're the sort of rider who frets about bike weight you're probably not going to be interested in a steel framed load hauling workhorse that nudges the scales up to 13.8kg (32.4lb). There's no getting away from the fact that the Roux is a bit of a lump to lift, or that there are plenty of sub 30lb touring bikes around, but the good news is that this is one of those bikes that allows you to completely forget about its weight, and its very reasonable £700 price tag, once you're up to speed. The price includes full mudguards and a decent quality rack.
Roux is a UK based brand, launched fairly recently by the distributor of Land Rover and Shogun bikes.
The finish of the Etape 250 frame and fork is excellent. The welds are tidy, all the cable routing takes the most efficient lines and the slimline tubeset mixes round centres with slightly ovalised ends where extra joint strength is needed. The head tube is long, providing a comfortably upright handlebar position, but a stack of washers and a flippable stem obviously provide plenty of adjustment. There's lots of toe clearance behind the front wheel, even with full mudguards sitting well away from the tyre, and the long wheelbase and relaxed geometry (69 at the head, 71 at the seat) make for an incredibly stable ride feel, with a noticeable comfort boost from the double butted chromoly steel construction.
There aren't many thoroughbred steel touring bikes available with disc brakes at present, at least not around the £700 mark, but I'd be happy to speculate that this will become a fast growing trend. I've been on long MTB tours, in the mountains, with Avid mechanical (cable pull) disc brakes and can vouch for their reliability and ease of adjustment: lever pull and pad clearance are easy to fine-tune and the pads are easy and relatively cheap to replace. The pads take a few harsh stopping sessions to bed in and reach maximum efficiency but they're durable and there's no hydraulic fluid to overheat on big descents. Don't touch the rotors after long descents though: I know riders with branding burnt into their calves from disc brake rotors.
There are nine models in the Roux Bikes range: three purist road bikes, two cross bikes, a fast Audax style tourer, two heavier duty tourers with racks and an unusually equipped Nexus hub geared hybrid. None of the bikes cost over £1000, so it almost goes without saying that the main emphasis at Roux is on good value for regular everyday riders rather than high performance or status for the more competitively inclined.
The Etape 250 is the more expensive of the two heavy duty tourers. It boasts a Shimano 3 x 8 drivetrain (50/39/30 up front, 12-27 out back), Sora STI shifters and well built 32 spoke wheels shod with Continental Sport Contact 32mm tyres. There's comfortable room under the mudguards for bigger treads, we'd say up around 38mm.
The 'guards and rack are good quality items and the handlebar, stem, saddle and seatpost are all plain but functional items, with a strong emphasis on casually comfortable.
If you're looking for a more traditionally equipped tourer, the cheaper (£480) Etape 150 has a 50/34 double crankset, cantilever brakes and a (presumably lighter) aluminium frame. Both bikes bear most of the hallmarks of classic big journey tourers but would be just as suitable for everyday use as load bearing workhorse commuters.
There are just three sizes available, 52, 55 and 58 cm (the test bike had a 55cm seat tube and a 57cm horizontal top tube reach) but there's plenty of seat post length and about 40mm of back and forth adjustability in the saddle rails: the saddle is well padded and fairly comfy.
There are three pairs of bottle cage bosses (one under the down tube) plus bosses for a low rider rack on the 'high carbon ferrous alloy' fork. The rack bosses on the rear are well placed to accommodate disc brake usage and the sturdy rack comes with elastic straps, is adjustable for height preferences and tiltage and has a couple of pump pegs for a (approx 220mm) mini pump.
In terms of ride feel, it's not easy to find anything on the Etape to moan about. Obviously a 32.4lb bike is hard work on the ups and in initial acceleration, but fast rolling tyres and very stable handling characteristics mean that once you are up to speed you rarely think about the weight.
It's a bike that bowls along without a care in world, taking both smooth roads and the occasional dose of rougher terrain in its stride and carving its way down long fast twisty descents with more confidence than most race bikes. The big plastic trouser guard on the crankset visually betrays its modest budget, but shifting (front and rear) is constantly smooth and precise and after the first couple of rides the braking performance is superb.
In short, it's a good value go-anywhere machine that can shoulder burdens without flinching and should quickly become a dependable companion to riders more concerned with practicality than pure speed.
One of the few disc brake equipped heavy duty tourers on the market at this price. A superbly balanced and super-confident ride, loaded or bare.
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Make and model: Roux Etape 250 (2013)
Size tested: 55cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Double butted chromoly steel. Shimano Acera based gears 3 x 9 with Sora shifters. 32 spoke no-name wheels, Continental Sort Contact 33mm tyres, No-name handlebar, stem and seat post, DDK Sport Sense saddle, Avid cable disc brakes (160mm rotors). Rack, Mudguards.
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?
It's a heavy duty load hauling touring bike that doubles up as a workhorse commuter and everyday machine.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent build quality using a quality tubeset. Well thought-through detailing.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Chromoly double butted steel.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
69 head, 71 seat. Long wheelbase (43in/1095mm). 55cm seat tube, 57cm horizontal top tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Well stretched for a 55cm frame (Medium of three sizes). Tall head tube (170mm) but lots of stem adjustment.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, even on moderately rough trails and back roads. Plenty of room for bigger tyres too.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes. Stiff but with the slight compliance that typifies a decent chromoly steel frame.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No. Lots of room behind mudguards.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Completely neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very confident at both high and low speeds.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
No changes initially necessary. Rough roads tourists might prefer bigger tyres but the ones fitted are great fast rolling all-rounders.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Well adjusted disc brakes are a welcome advance on the old style centre pull cantilvers often fitted to touring bikes, and better modulated than V type rim brakes.
The weight goes against it until you're up to speed.
Super, with or without panniers.
Totally stable cornering at all times.
Confident but inevitably the weight goes against it.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The trouser guard on the crankset gives away the modest budget but shifting is as good as on any other sub £1000 bike.
No branding on the rims and hubs so hard to comment on long term durability but the build is strong
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 are a good compromise, medium sized for comfort, fast rolling but tough enough to handle rough roads and trails.
Lots of adjustability.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Some riders would probably prefer shallower drops.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? I haven't ridden a better long haul tourer for much under £1000.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Fully equipped long haul touring bikes with disc brakes are a rare breed at this price. If this is anything to go by, there'll be a lot more of them about soon.
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,