Checkpoint: Raleigh Roker LTD
The Roker LTD has been getting turns on the local gravel roads here and with some decent amount of miles into this review, it is time to stop and take a look at what we have here in this high end, lightweight gravel road rocket. The introduction to this bike with technical specs and more can be found here.
The Ride: Lets cut right to the chase here. The Roker’s carbon frame has a very unique ride feel. It is very compliant in the depressions and dips and what not on chip seal and on whoop-de-do sections of gravel. You can feel the entire length of the frame give as the medium frequency bumps are hit. The vibrations from typical gravel are also damped to a great degree if you have the right tires mounted. The Raleigh Roker seems to have a pretty stiff front fork, so if your tire is dead and wooden, it will make the front end feel harsher than the rear does, even if you are using the same tire. Swap out to a more ride friendly tire and the front end approaches the rear’s compliance to a much greater degree, but it never really quite gets there. The rear, as you may have gathered, feels phenomenally comfortable and really smooths out the gravel roads. On the plus side for the fork, it does have a very confident, solid feel in corners and in the sketchy, loose stuff at speed, so what you may give up in comfort is given back in a precise, stable feel.
Hard pedaling out of the saddle and sprinting does not get the bottom bracket swaying and the bike has a somewhat snappy feel. It isn’t a road racing/crit bike type stiff, unforgiving, yet a hard accelerating frame, but it doesn’t feel sluggish or lazy. I would give it higher marks than anything else that has passed through my hands claiming to be a gravel road bike though.
It has a tendency to feel a bit floppy in regards to the front wheel at slower speeds, say less than 10mph on a steep climb, as an example. That sensation goes away at speeds above this though. This is a bit curious as the Tamland, with nearly identical geometry does not exhibit this at all. The Roker does have a stable feel though, and this pays dividends on gravel roads with loose gravel strewn across the roadway. The bike feels planted, and with the vertical give that the carbon tubes lend, the wheels grip better and the bike displays little tendency to want to swap ends or jump sideways on fast descents.
Components: The Di2 components have been flawless so far. The electronics are completely unaffected by dirt, dust, and wet weather, as far as I can tell. This is a nice feature of the Roker LTD, but comes at a price, obviously. Is it worth it? What is “worth”? The answer is probably “no” if it is a decision purely based upon dollars versus other components, but if you consider the group’s performance is not degraded by dust, dirt, and water, and if you consider the way it shifts under power and other aspects, one could be spoiled to the point where you make it “worth it“. Beyond that, the finishing kit is pretty mundane, but serviceable. The most interesting bit here is the handle bar with its 12° sweep to the drops. You hardly notice it, but it is far nicer than the road bike bars most other bikes in this genre’ come with.
My only nit is with the American Classic Argent wheels, which are tubeless ready, but I have found tires are difficult to get seated correctly on them, and the inner rim width is a bit on the narrow side for tires that gravel riders will be wanting to use. Otherwise they perform well, feel great, and look okay with the rest of the frame’s graphics.
So Far…. 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.
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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