Breezer RADAR Expert: Getting Rolling- by Guitar Ted
Adventure bikes. It is a term that is debated, celebrated, and tossed off as “just marketing“. However you view that term, it is undeniable that since the 2009 introduction of the Salsa Cycles Fargo, and their “Adventure by Bike” slogan came around, bicycle brands have seen a huge increase in interest in such bicycles. Some call them “gravel grinders”, “all-road” bicycles, or “bikepacking bikes”, but the main theme now for most companies, in the non-electric arena, is “gravel” and “adventure”. I had one U.K. based cycling media member tell me that, as a brand in the industry, “You cannot show up at a trade show without a gravel bike in the line.” So, for us here at RidingGravel.com, that’s a good thing. It seems that it has been for consumers as well, since this category of bicycle is one of, if not the only, growth sector in bicycle sales.
So, taking that all into consideration, we were wondering what the new-to-gravel rider might find for a first time gravel bike out there. What if you are a rider that is just “gravel curious” and doesn’t want to spend a ton of money on a new bike to just check this scene out? Well, we have here a bicycle on test from Breezer Bikes which just may help us answer these and a few other questions. It is called the RADAR Expert, and in this post, we will take a closer look at this “made for adventure” rig.
What It Is….. The RADAR, (It is an acronym for Road And Dirt Adventure Rig), is Breezer’s model which is aimed at getting the rider out to tackle their own adventures on dirt or gravel, bikepacking, or just exploring, in an economical manner. The RADAR Expert is the entry level to the range and features the same CroMoloy steel frame that the rest of the RADAR range gets. That would be a double butted, Joe Breeze designed tube set which is outfitted with rack mounts, fender mounts, and braze ons enough to fit five water bottles. Oh yeah, Joe Breeze, the man responsible for the first purpose built mountain bike. He’s still working and making designs for riders to enjoy today. That’s a good pedigree. This isn’t going to be a history lesson, but if you don’t know about Joe Breeze, look him up.
The RADAR Expert, as all RADAR models, is based on a mountain bike drive train set up, so this bike is designed for deeper gears and wider tires. The RADAR can accept up to a 29″ X 2.2″ tire, but is spec’ed out of the box with WTB Riddler 45mm tires. The design also features a tall-ish head tube, a sloping top tube, and of course, Breezer Drop Outs. Real ones. Old fashioned quick releases secure the wheels here and “traditional” 135mm/100mm wheel spacing for the wheels means your older 29″er wheels will swap right in. There also is a threaded, external bearing bottom bracket, which should please those who have had issues with Press Fit style bottom brackets in the past. A “standard” 1 1/8th steer tube on the double butted CroMoly fork is held in place by an external cup head set. Pretty straight forward, well proven stuff here.
This particular model features Shimano 9 speed gearing and a mix of Shimnao Sora shifter/brake levers with a Deore rear derailleur. Yes……9 speed allows this otherwise untenable solution to Shimano drop bar mtb goodness. Third party gizmos would be necessary had this been a 10 or 11 speed bike. Ah! The good old days! When mixing and matching was easy!
The wheels are a set of Formula hubs laced to WTB STP i23 TCS tubeless ready rims shod with Riddler 45mm tires. Brakes are TRP HyRd hydraulic calipers which are cable activated. The rest of the bike is kitted out in mostly Breezer and Oval Components branded stuff which looks workmanlike and should prove serviceable for the purposes of this bike. Drive train duties are handled by the aforementioned 9 speed cassette, an 11-36T spread, and a Breezer branded crank set set up with 46/30 rings which should yield a wide enough gear range for most endeavors. The WTB Volt saddle with color matched logos is a nice touch on the bike. More spec info can be viewed on the RADAR Expert page here.
First Impressions: When the RADAR Expert was chosen after we were contacted by Breezer for this review, I took a look at the website to get a preview on what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the paint wasn’t as “yellow” as it appeared on the site, but instead more like the “Black and Tan” that was listed in the spec. It’s a handsome, understated bike with cool little details in the graphics.
The next thing you notice is how skinny those tubes are! In a world full of “Rubenesque” carbon tubes, heavily modified and molded aluminum, and even hydro-formed titanium, a basic, straight tubed steel bike stands out today more than ever. I grasped the top tube to lift the RADAR Expert out of its shipping box and the small diameter of the top tube was almost shocking. But that is the way almost every bike used to be, and Breezer has its roots in this traditional frame material, so it makes sense here.
When you review so many mid-to high end bikes, you have to be careful when you look at an entry level steed. The parts and pieces have to all add up to meet a price point, and the RADAR Expert is no different in this regard at a MSRP of $1069.00. But, as I stated right out of the gate, the idea was to see what a new rider, or a rider looking to explore a gravel/adventure rig, might expect to find in a bike without having to mortgage your house to get a bike meant for this stuff. In this regard, I think a few things jumped out at me right away.
I really liked that Breezer spec’ed the bike out with a tubeless ready rim, and the standard 45mm wide Riddler. Not everyone is going to go tubeless, and the bike comes set up with tubes, and not everyone will get on with the tire choice. So, Breezer doesn’t stick you with a tubeless ready tire at this price, (which would have required a downspec somewhere else, let’s not forget that) and if/when you go tubeless, you can choose whatever tire you want. Secondly, I saw the TRP HyRd brakes as a very inspired spec choice. These calipers have a good reputation for low maintenance and the entry level rider needs not concern themselves with all the nuances of hydraulic lines, hydraulic brake levers, and the subsequent bleeding/care that this entails. Cables can be found anywhere, and housings for brakes are cheap. Many bike shops may not have specific hydraulic bleed kits or even parts you might need if you have brake troubles should you take this somewhere remote. The HyRd gives you that hydraulic power, but without a lot of the potential downfalls of a fully hydraulic system.
I also thought that the choice of 9 speed components was a good one at this level for a couple of reasons. First- It allowed the matching up of a mountain bike derailleur and road shifter/brake lever from Shimano. The match up should work flawlessly. The other part about this that makes me feel positively about the choice is that new riders to adventure/gravel don’t need to find out that a cassette cost 100’s of dollars and chains are $50.00 when they wear out these commonly replaced drive train parts. 9 speed chains and cassettes can be purchased for under $50.00 all day for both components. That isn’t discouraging at all, where sometimes buying into high end stuff, then trashing it out in a month or so of gritty riding, can be a discouragement.
The fit is a bit on the long side, as far as “reach” goes. That’s the feel that I and another fellow I let test ride this bike thought right away. Of course, this can be tweaked with an exchange of stems, but it bears mentioning. The geometry is interesting in that the RADAR features a pretty healthy 75mm bottom bracket drop and a slack-ish 71.5° head angle for this size Large test bike. The fork offset is 45mm, which is going to be on the stable side matched with that head angle. We will see how that plays out when we get to riding the RADAR Expert and that report will be included in the upcoming “Checkpoint” update on this review.
So Far…. The Breezer RADAR Expert is a bike built for adventure and exploration. The steel frame is up for the task and the spec, while not spectacular, is decent and should provide good service and a low cost of maintenance. The TRP HyRd brakes, 9 speed mtb drive train matched with Shimano Sora shifters, and tubeless ready rims are highlights in the value department. We will see how the bike fares out in the wilds in our next update.
Note: Breezer Bikes sent the RADAR Expert over at no charge for test/review. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.