Marc Abbott tests out the Raleigh RX Comp as part of a comparative review of cyclocross bikes
Representing one of the lowest rungs on Raleigh’s cyclocross ladder (there are five other models to choose from, ranging from £800 to £2,200, including two women-specific bikes), the RX Comp is the most expensive bike we tested, albeit by just £1 more than the asking price of the Giant TCX. Its lightweight alloy frame and carbon bladed fork keep the bulk down, and offer the closest to true race-readiness of all three bikes we tested. However, in common with the Giant and the Eastway, there are nods toward practical everyday use – mudguard and rack eyelets – making the RX Comp an option for longer rides on non-tarmac surfaces.
How it rides
The Raleigh’s weight is on a par with that of the Giant – in a size 50, it weighs in at 10.12kg and it’s only 28g heavier than the Eastway – but these figures only tell half the story. The surprise to the RX Comp’s package is just how race-ready it feels from the moment you set off down your first field track. The compact handlebars have a short drop, making them easy to reach, whether your hands are on the tops, hoods or drops, while their narrow diameter adds to the manoeuvrability of this bike.
The overall balance of the bike makes it the rocketship of the bunch, allowing quick direction changes, while the easily metered braking input from TRP’s mechanical Spyre set-up allows speed modulation to be performed in minute increments, or stop on a sixpence if the urgent need arises. (As an aside, if wheelies and skids are your thing, this is the bike for you!) Stout and solid, the chainstays allow you to put serious power down, while practical touches like a sealed rear brake cable running along the toptube ensure performance doesn’t degrade.
This was the one bike we felt we could spend a good hour riding flat-out, which bodes well for a season of cyclocross racing. The steep seat angle puts you more over the front of the bike than either of the other two we tested, helping to distribute weight to the front tyre for extra grip in the turns. The Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres (in 33c form) assist this confidencebuilding exercise further, especially in what we’d call “intermediate conditions”. If the ground is particularly dusty or very sloppy, you may find yourself running out of grip before you run out of talent.
That said, in normal use, they roll impressively quickly and grip well even on tarmac. SRAM’s Apex groupset is employed, which makes the Raleigh noticeably different when changing gears – only the smaller paddle under the brake lever moves, operating differently to Shimano’s doublepaddle system.
If you’re not used to SRAM gearshifts, don’t panic – you’ll have it nailed in minutes. As with the other two bikes, the biggest gear is a 46-11, the smallest 36-28 – thus offering plenty of scope for any terrain.
The most willing steed on test, feeling every inch the fledgling racer, even if it is the heaviest bike of the three.