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Raleigh's RX Comp is another to add to the growing list of do it all cross bikes that will serve you well in a race but will also happily handle the more mundane task of getting you to work.
There's a very fine line between a specialist cyclo cross bike and a bike that's good for almost any sort of riding. Purist cross bikes designed for typical hour plus a lap races tend to be almost as light as many purist road bikes and, until very recently, came equipped with cantilever brakes and no eyelets for useful extras. Typical pro cross bikes don't even have water bottle bosses.
But times are changing. While disc brakes haven't made major inroads on the pro cross scene, they have many fans in the amateur ranks and the last year or two has seen a whole load of bikes like the RX Comp offering the advantages of pure cross bikes plus eyelets for bottles, mudguards and racks.
This new breed of cross-bred all-rounders come with smaller chainrings than road bikes, making them perfectly suited to normal riders riding normal terrain at normal speeds. All Raleigh's RX Comp needs for regular road use is a set of faster tyres, but the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 32mm cross treads fitted were ideal for the mix of blacktop and damp woodsy trails that dominated the test period. If you're thinking of heading for proper dirt there's masses of mud room around the tyres and there's a (wet-proof) full outer cable along the top tube to the rear disc brake. The gear cables also go along the top tube.
The top of the range bike of the Raleigh Cross range is the lavishly equipped £3000 RX Team, or at £2000 there's the RX Race. Both have carbon frames and stay traditional in approach with cantilever brakes.
At the entry end of the range there's an £800 RX Elite and this £1200 RX Comp. Both have identical 6061 aluminium frames and carbon forks but the Elite gets cantilever brakes with supplementary bar top levers and a Shimano Sora based drivetrain while the Comp gets Avid BB7 cable disc brakes, SRAM's 2 x 10 Apex gears and a 'cross friendly SRAM S350 46/36 crankset.
Most riders will find that this chainring set-up plus a 13-28 cassette will give a perfectly good range of gears for road use, but the less fit might be looking for something a little easier than the 36/28 smallest gear on the steepest climbs, especially bearing in mind that rack mounts allow laden touring use. Still, the beauty of SRAM's drivetrain is that ten speed road and MTB drivetrains are compatible so it's simple to fit a wide ratio MTB cassette and rear gear if you feel the need.
The 'Powerglide' rings on the crankset also do a decent job of shedding mud on filthy trails, so with close-knobbed, fast-rolling tyres the RX Comp is effectively a race-ready cross bike or fast winter trails bike with the potential (via rack and mudguard eyelets plus two sets of bottle cage bosses) to double up as a proper all-rounder with a change of tyres. Spacers might be necessary to clear the disc callipers if you want to fit mudguards and/or a rack as there's only a single set of eyelets on the rear dropouts.
The frame is built with 6061 aluminium tubes, double butted in the mainframe and ovalised at the ends where tracking or lateral stability can benefit. They're finished in a tough silky black (almost matt) overcoat with white graphics. The top tube is almost horizontal, so there's plenty shoulder room for cross racers when carrying. Clearance is generous enough for tyres up to about 38mm out back, bigger up front, and the frame and C2 carbon legged fork are reinforced for disc brake use.
The 23lb/10.35kg all in bike weight is heftier than would be ideal for a pure road bike at this price, but bikes like this are built to take a fair amount of abuse. The geometry measures approximately 72.5 degrees at the seat and 70.5 at the head with a horizontal top tube length (on a 57cm frame) of 55cm. This is slightly shorter than on many 57cm pure road bikes but that makes it ideally suited to the looser riding stance needed for off road or more relaxed road riding and there's plenty fore/aft saddle and stem adjustment for more or less stretch.
The RX Comp's handling and ride are pleasantly relaxed on the road and relatively unchallenged by the bumps and surprises that come with gentle off road terrain or the potholed roads that increasingly bolster the appeal of bikes like this as all-rounders. I say 'relatively unchallenged' because the local man-managed mountain bike trails produced a few challenges, mainly in the shape of occasional rude reminders that there's a good reason for much fatter tyres on mountain bikes: 32mm tyres need inflating to uncomfortably high pressures in order to avoid pinch flats on rocky and rooty terrain. But that's not what the Raleigh is intended for.
On loamy or grassy surfaces it floats along beautifully, and the occasional rocky rooty section can certainly be tackled with a decent amount of speed and confidence as your unweighting/floating skills increase. A light touch instead of a death grip is the key to the inherent beauty of cyclo cross, along with almost intuitive skill for finding the smoother lines. It takes a while to learn but perseverance can be very rewarding.
The Comp's wheels are conventionally spoked (32 front and rear) RSP house branded CX2.0s with deep section rims and hubs with no brand marking. The quick releases are decent quality offerings and all the finishing kit is sensibly robust and comfortable in use, including light-padded Velo non-slip handlebar tape, a twin bolt seat post, four bolt RSP stem and a slimline but fairly comfy Selle Royal Seta S1 saddle.
The shallow drop RSP handlebar allows a comfy flat-top reach to the levers and there's nothing to stop you fitting bar-top brake levers if that's what you prefer: they're a useful addition if you're planning to ride rough terrain, and a lot of riders like them for urban riding too.
The RX Comp is essentially a well sorted all-rounder with lots of adaptability, powerful, well-modulated braking and a relatively relaxed ride character that'll appeal to riders looking for a bike that's more robust and slightly more at ease than a regular road bike. A simple change to skinnier or fatter tyres would turn it into a faster road machine or a steam-roller tourer or commuter.
A smooth-rolling easy-handling cyclo cross bike that's ready to race but easily adapts to everyday utility use.
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Make and model: Raleigh RX Comp
Size tested: 56cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a cyclo cross bike but not just a cyclo cross bike. Apart from the lightly knobbed CX tyres, which are fine on the road apart from the fact that they'll wear out quickly, it's ideal for everyday use. Skinnier tyres would turn it into a fast road bike, big fast rolling tyres would turn it into a perfect bike for commuting or touring.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Robust aluminium frame and carbon fork are both more heavily built than on a pure road frame. Sturdy wheels nudge up the weight too. The level of componentry is simply average for the price
Well built with an emphasis on durability rather than low weight.
Performs in exactly the way you'd hope an all-rounder would perform.
Chassis, wheels and component parts are all built to last.
There are lighter bikes at this price, but they're not built for off road durability.
Excellent comfort on the road and there's room for fatter tyres if you want more comfort off road.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As an all-rounder it's spot on. As a race ready cross bike it's a great starting point. As a road bike it simply needs faster tyres.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Relaxed geometry and sturdy build makes it a great proposition if you want one bike for everything.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Anyone unsure about the growing popularity of disc brakes on road/cross bikes should ride a bike like this before being dismissive.
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,