Some thoughts on this carbon gravel grinder as we put in the final miles.
Raleigh Roker LTD: At The Finish-
The unprecedented early Winter weather has allowed for me to put in a lot of riding on an unprecedented bike, the Raleigh Roker LTD, and get in the final miles so I can put my final thoughts down on this one. There are plenty more words written up already on this review which you can go back and catch up on HERE and HERE. Now let’s get on with the final verdict……
Raleigh is to be commended for keeping the geometry of the Roker very close to that of the Tamland. That geometry is still very “retro-progressive” when compared to what other companies are offering under the guise of “gravel/all road” bikes. What I mean by that is that Raleigh decided to go with a geometry that is more akin to a classic road bike, with big tire clearances, a low bottom bracket height, and a nod to a slacker front end rather than slapping the “gravel tag” onto their cyclo cross range, or calling a road racing bike with 28mm tires a “gravel bike” and claiming it is something new. So, old school road geometry with a modern tweak as opposed to taking the easy route. Why should any of that matter here?
The Roker takes carbon fiber stiffness and lightweight to roads it traditionally hasn’t been able to go on before.
The reason it matters is because, unlike the very specialized, niche geometry that has evolved for a very specific endeavor- namely cyclo cross- the Roker does not deny that it is a road bike under all that marketing. What it has proven is that a “road bike” as it is understood today, (read: Pro level smooth road geometry and equipment/features), is very limited in its scope, and bikes that are like the Tamland and Roker are taking cycling back to the way road cycling used to be decades ago. Where roads were not always paved, nice, smooth, or even looked like what we think of as “roads” today.
The Roker LTD is specifically a pioneer in the aspects of its having a lightweight, high performance carbon fiber frame and fork which can swallow up to 42mm tires and has features like three water bottle mounts and fender mounts for inclement weather. Yet it can easily be shod with 28mm tires and hold its own on fast paced, smooth road group rides. Gravel, dirt, or traditional road riding- it all falls under the broad net cast by bikes like this one and the Roker gets it mostly right in terms of performance.
Yes, it isn’t perfect. There are a couple of things I noticed about the bike which surprised me a bit. One is that the front triangle, specifically the top tube and down tube up near their junction with the head tube, seemed to be capable of twisting a bit. Torque hard on the handle bars when doing a standing climb and you might notice this. It sometimes gave the Roker the feeling that it was snaking down the road, and in a way, it was reminiscent of how I have experienced some skinny tubed steel bikes. Not something you’d expect from a carbon bike, but it is easily dealt with if you have experienced that sort of thing before. The other nit I have is a bit more of a concern for me.
Right from the get-go I had my suspicions about that beefy looking carbon fork.
That nit is with the fork on this bike. I have experienced this not only with the Roker, but with some other so-called gravel bikes as well. That being a too-stiff carbon fork designed for smooth pavement riding. The fork on the Roker LTD isn’t the worst I have felt by a long shot, but what I was hoping for here did not materialize. I was hoping for a fork with some sort of ability to damp out the gravel’s roughness. In my opinion, one doesn’t need the extra complexity and extra weight of a suspension device. That is overkill here. However; these carbon forks are nothing like their steel counterparts when it comes to their ability to smooth out the chatter, and one would think that a carbon fork could be designed to have this quality and have a lighter weight. The Roker suffers a bit from this, but going back to that front triangle, it saves the bike from being a jackhammer since it seems to be doing a lot of work to absorb the chatter found on a typical gravel road. That said, I have already stated in my previous post on this bike that the front end never reaches the ability of the back end on this bike to damp vibrations.
The over-all take on this bike is that it is a really nice bike for gravel. While the frame and fork could stand some refinement, it still is a head higher than many bikes I’ve ridden claiming a gravel road capability. There is no denying the smoothness of the frame in general, the light weight, and the aforementioned geometry, which all make this a top-notch choice for fast paced gravel road pursuits. The component group is stellar, with only the wheels being a let down here. This category of bike really calls out for a wider rim and easy tubeless set up, both of which the American Classic Argent wheels are missing here. I feel Raleigh missed the target on spec with this choice.
At The Finish: The Roker LTD strikes a familiar pose for a lightweight, carbon fiber road rocket, only it has big, beefy tires and disc brakes. With geometry borrowed from the Tamland, it has stability, but a more pronounced, forgiving frame than its predecessor. The electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes are fantastic and all at a weight of 20lbs. Raleigh could stand to refine the frame and design a better fork, but this bike holds its own in terms of ride feel over-all. The wheel spec is a pox on an otherwise fine component spec. In the end it still comes out a winner, with its over-all ride feel and its geometry for rough roads, but it has room for improvement.
Note: Raleigh Bicycles sent over the Roker LTD at no charge for test/review. RidingGravel.com is not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to always give our honest thoughts and views throughout.
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