The top model in the Big Heron's range of stripped-down flat bar road bikes, the Raleigh Strada 6 is quick and capable in traffic and geared for weekend trips into hilly country too.
There are plenty of riders who prefer flat-bar bikes like this to the more 'traditional' drop handlebar approach, especially for urban use where the need for different hand positions on long rides is less of an issue.
The Strada 6's relaxed ride posture and the stopping reliability of hydraulic disc brakes are ideal for urban riding. The excellent spread of gears, relatively low weight and durable, fast rolling tyres could make the Strada 6 a good choice for lightweight touring too.
Raleigh lists a dozen bikes in its 'sleek, stylish and agile around town' Strada range. None have a rack or mudguards but for riders who want all the practical trimmings, Raleigh has a similarly priced and more comprehensively accessorised Pioneer range. They're down-specced from similarly priced Strada models to make room in the budget for the utility extras that are a boon on proper urban bikes.
The Strada bikes are much more stripped down, for fast leisure rides or commuting in good weather. The cheapest one costs £300, the most costly one is this, at £650, and there are two step-through frame options.
Sturdy wheels, chunky tyres and the hydraulic brakes mean that the Strada 6 weighs 11.9kg (26.5lb). That's heavier than many similarly priced drop-bar road bikes but much less than typical suspension-equipped fatter tyred hybrids or mountain bikes in the £6-700 range.
The double butted 6061 aluminium frameset has shapely hydroformed mainframe tubes, formed to achieve maximum weld contact areas at the joins plus stiffness and vibration absorption where it's useful. It's well put together and finished with a stealthy dark grey overcoat that's difficult to scuff in normal use. The compact frame configuration means the top tube has loads of standover room and the seat post extension is long.
The geometry on our Medium test bike measured up at 70.5 degrees at the head, 74 at the seat. The 56cm top tube reach is slightly longer than on a dropped bar road bike of this size as a stem plus flat bars don't need as much reach as a road bike does to the lever hoods.
This felt spot on for flat-backed powerful climbing, with a better stretch to the bars than on other urban hybrids we've tried. The shaped grips make for excellent handlebar comfort by offering a little extra wrist support.
The frame has eyelets for mudguards and a rack. The rear disc calliper sits between the seat stays and chain stays so there's plenty clearance for 'guard and rack stays.
Some might see it as a cost cut too far that no bolts are supplied for the two sets of bottle and 'guard eyelets, but the plastic plugs do create a clean look and there's plenty attention to fine detail elsewhere. The under-downtube gear cables have threaded adjusters on the down tube bosses; there's a generous stack of washers for stem height adjustment; and you could choose to fit even bigger tyres if needed, though they'd be a squeeze with mudguards.
Looking through the complete Raleigh Strada range, the 1, 2 and 3 come with rim brakes, while the 4, 5 and 6 all come with disc brakes, cable operated on the £450 4, Shimano hydraulic on the £550 Strada 5 and £650 Strada 6: Shimano hydraulic discs have excellent stopping power, a well modulated lever feel and a great reputation for durability.
The Shimano Sora crankset and gears on the Strada 6 shifted smoothly throughout the test period and the combination of a 34/50 crankset and a SRAM 11-32 cassette is ideal for most relative beginners, better than the usual close ratio road cassette when it comes to hilly terrain.
The Raleigh 700c wheelset is well built and has fairly deep section rims that sounded a bit clackety on rough ground but they're tough enough to handle occasional trail riding. Ours came ome shod with 32mm Schwalbe Silento tyres, which have Kevlar protection in their tough but fast rolling treads and a reflective strip around the sidewall. The Raleigh web site lists Schwalbe Road Cruiser tyres, but we were happy with Silentos both on and off the road.
While Raleigh's web site lists a riser handlebar on this particular bike, the flat 23.5in bar on our test bike felt well suited to the sort of fast urban rides where the bike excelled.
The shapely grips and a 40mm steerer spacer stack allow plenty of positional adjustments: you could flip the stem upside down if you want to go lower.
No one found the minimalist Raleigh saddle very comfy though.
The dominant ride advantages of the Strada 6 are easily won speed and easy braking. There are still plenty of road riders who have never tried hydraulic disc brakes. All we can say is that you should try them before you criticise them as overkill.
While braking power is superb, it's not actually the big issue. Side pull rim brakes can be superb too.
The big issue is the stable predictability of braking in all conditions using minimal energy: contrary to cynical belief you're actually less likely to lock the wheels with hydraulic disc brakes because they don't grab and they're not affected by rim distortions or wet rims.
In terms of longer term durability they also mean that your rims won't wear and a slightly buckled rim will still spin freely.
Pad replacement cost is roughly the same as rim brake pads. The only disadvantage is that you're carrying extra weight, a little in the brakes themselves, a little in the fork and frame at the mounting points. In our minds that's a small downside that's well worth accommodating.
We really enjoyed the sprightly ride feel of the Raleigh Strada 6. Handling is neutral, in the best possible way, making manoeuvres in traffic as straight forward as is possible.
The tyres are fast rolling but have a high enough profile to run them at medium pressures for comfort on rough surfaces.
We rarely used the 50 tooth chainring around town and occasionally thought it might be overkill on a bike with an urban tag, but it was useful on longer weekend rides. We were certainly glad of the 34 front/32 rear low gear on a couple of climbs.
The Raleigh Strada 6 is good example of the fast growing breed of modestly priced flat handlebar hydraulic brake equipped road bikes. It lends itself to fast utilitarian duties, lightweight touring or easy going roads and trails use. In short, it's a great all-rounder.
Sprightly flat-bar road bike that'll turn its hand to just about anything.
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Make and model: Raleigh Strada Six
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
6061 hydroformed aluminium frame, aluminium fork
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?
Described by Raleigh as an urban bike but it's much more than that. Suitable for light off road use and lightweight touring.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well finished for the price.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Hydroformed aluminium main tubes, aluminium fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
70.5 degree head tube, 74 degree seat tube, 56cm top tube (horizontal)
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Lots of height adjustability in the stem. Slightly longer top tube reach than many more casual hybrid type bikes.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Harsh with the tyres pumped hard but the tyres are of a high enough profile to run them at medium pressures and boost comfort. Grips comfy but no one liked the saddle.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Forks felt uncomfortably harsh with high pressure in the tyres, otherwise fine.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel 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? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Sprightly but still good for tight turns in traffic.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Grips very comfy. Tyres big enough to allow easy off road use. Saddle not comfy.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Excellent range of gears for both town and touring use.
This level of Shimano kit has a good reputation for durability.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 50 ring didn't get much use around town but was very welcome for longer rural rides.
Not a lightweight wheel/tyreset but durable and fast rolling.
Well built, tough tyres.
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?
Fine as they are, assuming occasional trail use.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
No one liked the saddle shape.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A good urban and rural all-rounder that's begging for mudguards and a rack.
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,