Raleigh Mustang Elite gets 4/5 from Road CC

The Mustang Elite is one of the more affordable bikes in Raleigh’s new gravel bike range. For £1,000 you get an aluminium frame, and it’s a smart looking thing with a swoopy top tube and big tyre clearance, fitted with TRP hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM’s Rival 1 drivetrain.

It’s really a very good bike this – and don’t let the whole gravel thing put you off, this is simply a good road bike for steady rides and commuting.

If you’re put off the idea of a road bike with skinny tyres (and they can be a bit intimidating to newer cyclists) and want a bit of added comfort and security on the UK’s crumbling road network, the Mustang Elite might be a good choice for you.

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The gravel bike category has emerged from the US with plenty of hype, it’s fair to say, but it has resulted in a new breed of road bikes that are well suited to cyclists who value comfort and assured handling over the outright speed and whippy handling of a conventional race bike.

What’s it for?

The Mustang Elite does everything a regular road bike does, but it does it with the added comfort of the big tyres. The tyres, provided you run them at a suitably low pressure (I recommend about 65psi), give the Mustang Elite a very stable ride character. It isn’t easily knocked off line and it doesn’t jiggle you about on a rough road surface.

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If you’re not concerned with top speeds and chasing segments on Strava, preferring to spend most of your time at a comfortable cruising speed, the Mustang Elite doesn’t feel laborious. It may not have the outright acceleration of a lighter race bike, and its weight does stunt initial movement at lower speed, but here’s the thing: it’s not a bike designed for sprinting and riding everywhere as fast as you possibly can. It’s intended for allowing you to enjoy cycling as a form of escape and adventure, for taking in the sights and enjoying the freedom and simplicity of getting around with just a jam sandwich powering the engine, rather than glory through suffering and all that nonsense.

For many cyclists, it’s all you really need. It’s right at home on the commute, with the frame accepting mudguards and a rear rack if you need or want them. It’s fine on the weekend club ride and for sneaking in a couple of steady hours on a Sunday morning before lunch. Unless you really need the low weight and speed of a conventional race-inspired road bike, the Raleigh Mustang might actually be a more suitable choice.

But will it go off-road?

Why yes, it will. It won’t rival a cyclo-cross or mountain bike on really tricky and muddy terrain, but for adding a gravelled track such as a canal towpath, a byway or countryside bridleway into your route, the Mustang Elite copes just fine.

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There are surprisingly good levels of traction to be gained from the dimpled tread pattern of these new Schwalbe G-One tyres. Just enough grip to stop the wheels slithering about uncontrollably when it gets a bit slick underneath the tyre. Run them at lower pressures and they allow you to explore the sort of countryside terrain that would rapidly intimidate a road bike with skinny tyres.

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Best of all, this grip off-road doesn’t come at the expense of performance and speed on the hard stuff. They whizz along just fine. And they really do whizz – they make an unmistakable sound at higher speeds that’ll have you looking over your shoulder until you get used to it. They’re a robust tyre as well, and they’re tubeless-ready if you ever want to ditch the inner tubes at a future date. It’s a smart tyre choice by Raleigh.

Even if you never plan to go near any off-road trails, the Mustang Elite is just fine as a 100 per cent road bike. Many of the roads where I live are rapidly regressing to the Roman roads they once were. Dodging potholes, piles of rocks and loose stones can be a tedious experience on a narrow-tyre race bike. But with the Mustang Elite, you don’t have to be so precious and delicate about line choice.

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How does it handle?

The Mustang Elite shares its geometry (the angles and lengths of the various tubes that make up the frameset) with the more expensive carbon fibre Roker. The slack head angle, low bottom bracket and long wheelbase provide the Mustang with fantastic handling; it’s a breeze to ride, anyone will jump aboard and instantly feel at home with the handling.

The 71-degree head angle is slacker than a conventional road bike, and the bottom bracket drop is 75mm, which compares to 69-70mm on a road bike. Those numbers instil the Mustang Elite with the sort of stable and easy handling that is lacking in many road bikes.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love tearing around on a fancy race bike, but the Mustang won me over every time I rode it. It does nothing untoward or erratic, no matter how hard you push it. It’s just an easy and comfortable bike to ride.

Steering response is good, with a tolerable level of feedback from the carbon fibre fork with its tapered head tube. There are oversize thru-axles at both wheels which help to resist flex through the frame and fork. You can detect this most noticeably on out of the saddle climbs: there’s no brake rub at all. The thru-axles also make it easier to align the disc rotors when fitting the wheels – handy for travelling.

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I detected more road feedback through the aluminium frame compared with the carbon frame of the Roker. Basically, these two models have identical equipment and geometry, it’s just the frame material that is different. The carbon Roker does provide a measurably smoother ride. Perhaps not enough to warrant the extra £1,000 if you’re on a tight budget, though. and the Mustang is certainly not uncomfortable.

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Where they do measurably differ is on the scales. The Mustang Elite is 1.5kg heavier than its more expensive sibling, and you do notice this on the climbs. But really, you’ll only notice this if you ride the Roker Pro and then jump immediately onto the Mustang Elite and ride up a 20% climb. And you’re highly unlikely to be doing that. Most of the time the weight isn’t a factor, and the wide-range SRAM gearing ensures you’ve got enough gears to winch up any climb.

Does the SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain work?

Yes, very well. SRAM’s single-ring drivetrain was born in the mountain bike world and it’s made a smooth transition onto gravel and cyclo-cross bikes, where the slightly reduced gearing is less of a bother than it is on top-flight race bikes. Some of the jumps on the huge 10-42t cassette can be a bit troublesome, but most of the time you find a suitable gear, and sit and spin away. The majority of the time I found I was in the right gear, so SRAM has clearly thought carefully about what ratios to offer.

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The 44t chainring sounds small compared with a 53t chainring, but with the 10-tooth sprocket there’s more than enough top-end speed for most. Basically, you have to be going like the clappers to really run out of gears, and if you’re doing that on a regular basis, then you can easily swap the chainring for a bigger one. Or find some hills.

How well does it stop?

It stops very well, thanks to the TRP Hy/Rd hydraulic brakes. They’re a fully self-contained design, so they’re compatible with regular cable-pull brake levers. The power and feel is not quite as good as a proper hydraulic setup like you get with Shimano or SRAM’s hydro disc groupsets, but it’s a step above other mechanical disc brakes.

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Disc brakes have found a natural home on bikes like this, because of the control of the extra braking performance, and also because they allow the frame and fork to accommodate wider tyres. There’s also plenty of clearance between the frame and tyres for mudguards or mud.

I like tubeless. Can I convert the wheels?

Raleigh has fitted the bike with its own-brand RSP AD3.0 wheels which feature an aluminium rim that is tubeless-ready. Also tubeless-ready are the Schwalbe tyres, so to convert to tubeless it’s just a matter of removing the inner tubes, fitting the supplied tubeless valve, adding some sealant, and tubeless you go.

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Anything else?

The Raleigh RSP branded aluminium handlebar, stem and seatpost aren’t anything fancy but they do the job just fine. The handlebar has a nice shape with a compact drop which makes it usable when riding off-road when you need a bit more control. More of a flared drop would increase off-road control even more.

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The bike has all the necessary eyelets to accommodate mudguards and it’ll take a rear rack, plus there are two sets of bottle cage mounts.

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What of its rivals?

This is a competitive price point and the gravel bike category is getting more popular all the time. The Mustang Elite has to fend off competition from the excellent GT Grade Alloy 105(link is external), which costs the same and also features an aluminium frame and wide tyres, and even the same TRP hydraulic disc brakes. Both offer a very similar riding experience and both provide mudguard and rack fittings if those are important to you. For me, the Mustang Elite pips the GT Grade because of the tubeless-ready wheels and tyres, and the simpler SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain.

The Mustang, with the same frame, is also available at £650 with a Shimano Claris groupset, and the Mustang Sport, at £800, has Shimano Sora parts. Those two models feature regular double chainsets and mechanical disc brakes. The Mustang range tops out with the £1,500 Comp, which upgrades to a SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic groupset and American Classic wheels.

Verdict

The Mustang Elite is affordable, adaptable and accessible – a good buy for the money

 

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91/100 for Raleigh RX PRO Cyclocross bike

Aluminium cyclo-cross bike with cutting edge specification

Raleigh has a range of eight cyclo-cross bikes, from its top-flight carbon-framed models through to a more affordable aluminium range. For 2016 many of its bikes have been redesigned to feature lx drivetrains and front thru-axles. The RX Pro is at the top of the aluminium range and comes with a SRAM Rival lx groupset with SRAM’s HRD hydraulic
disc brakes and Cole Rollen disc wheels.

Frameset

The Raleigh’s frame is cyclo-crossspecific and is made of hydroformed aluminium with butted tube joints. The fork is a full carbon cyclo-cross design that comes with a lSmm thru-axle to hold the front wheel more securely than a conventional quick-release. There’s a tapered headset, which should also ensure steering accuracy. The welds are not fully smoothed out, but nevertheless it’s a good-looking bike. The rear derailleur cable is fixed to the top of the top tube, while the rear brake hose is routed out of the wayalong the bottom of the down tubRX-pro1e. The front brake hose passes into the fork crown and is routed internally.

Components

The Raleigh comes with SRAM’s Rival lx drivetrain. This dispenses with the usual second chainring and front changer by providing a much wider range on the rear cassette. The gear range is similar to a two-ring set-up and overlaps between ranges on the large and
small rings are eliminated, but the jumps between ratios are greater. To accommodate the wider-range cassette, the lx set-up uses a different design of rear derailleur. This has a horizontal parallelogram and a clutch mechanism to ensure that chain tension remains
even and chainslap is minimised. The chain ring RX-pro2itself has alternating wide and narrow teeth, which, it is claimed, mesh better with the wide and narrow links in the chain and so hold the chain more securely than a standard design while promoting mud-clearance.

Wheels

The wheels are Cole Rollen CX. This is a fairly new designi and uses 28 J-bend round-section spokes frond and rear. The brake discs ar ached with the conventional six-bolt design and the hubs have sealed cartridge bearings and alloy axles. At a claimed 1,900g a pair, these are not light wheels but should stand up well to off-road use and be easily serviceable.

They are shod with 33mm-wide Schwalbe X·One cyclo·cross clinchers that have a design with fairly close lugsand an aggressive profile. These are a new tyre from Schwalbe, designed to be set up tubeless but with a reduced amount of sealant needed.

Riding

Hitting the trails on a hot day, I started out carrying the bike to the top of the South Downs. It’s quite easy to shoulder, but it did get uncomfortable after a while. as. despite its flat profile. the top tube is quite narrow. Once on top, I progressed at a rapid rate. though. The geometry felt stable on rough surfaces and the bike handled well on fast, flat
bridlepaths. Turning downhill, the Raleigh coped well with bumpy descents and the
hydraulic SRAM HRD brakes provided plenty of control. There’s that bit more bite and modulation than with the Ridley’s mechanical set-up, and the SRAMs need noticeably less effort. “It felt stable on rough surfaces and handled well on fast, flat bridlepaths.

Turning downhill, the Raleigh coped well with bumpy descents and the hydraulic SRAM HRD brakes provided plenty of control. There’s that bit more bite and modulation than with the Ridley’s mechanical set-up, and the SRAMs need noticeably less effort.

I didn’t miss the second chainring. The range of gears offered by SRA M’s lx system is so large that I was able to find a low enough ratio for all but the steepest ascents. Although I spun out on faster roads, this was no different to a two-ring set-up, and the clutch
derailleur kept chainslap to a minimum on bumpy terrain, even in higher gears.
The Raleigh’s handlebars have grippy rubber-effect tape that has a lot of cushioning, so they were particularly comfortable to hold when riding over bumpy terrain and gave a confidence-inspiring grip. The SRAM hoods were also easy on the hands.

I really liked the Schwalbe X·One tyres. They have a grippy tread profile which worked well in rough, dry conditions; I’d expect them to hang on well in the wet too. They rolled well on the Cole wheels, and even at low pressures didn’t bottom out on the rims.

There is plenty of mud-clearance too, so the Raleigh should keep going once winter arrives and the gloop returns. The fork allows plenty of space around the front wheel and there’s no shelf behind the bottom bracket – a favourite place for mud to collect.
The matt paint collects dust, though, so the bike needed a wash after each ride – but bike washing is a fact of life if you ride cyclo-cross.

Review: Youth Cycle Sport reviews Raleigh Performance Road 26

Raleigh has rediscovered the racing pedigree that it was once so famous for, and its current adult cyclocross bikes are some of the best available – there’s a real buzz about Raleigh now.

We were very pleased to see such a strong contender from Raleigh, showing that the company understands children’s requirements.

Our test rider really took to the Raleigh. He said it was one of the best in the group for “chucking around”. It was the bike that he chose to ride for fun after all the formal testing and photography was done.

Raleigh Performance 26 (£425, 10.1kg)

The track record of big brands trying to offer quality children’s bikes is not good. Their designers, product managers and marketing people rarely seem to understand what’s really important, and the resulting bikes are often badly sized and far too heavy.

So a couple of years ago we would have been sceptical about a brand like Raleigh entering this market. But more recently Raleigh has rediscovered the racing pedigree that it was once so famous for, and its current adult cyclocross bikes are some of the best available – there’s a real buzz about Raleigh now.

At the launch of its new 2015 Performance range we knew that Raleigh was taking the children’s market seriously, and the new Performance 26 road/CX bike’s specification certainly looked competitive.

Like several other bikes in this group test, the Raleigh looks quite similar to the iconic bike from Islabikes that created the market in the first place. Not surprising, perhaps, given how successful the Luath has been.

With its plain blue frame and forks and its black finishing kit the Performance 26 doesn’t make much visual impact, but it looks mature and business-like.

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With a virtual horizontal measurement of 500mm the Raleigh is average sized amongst this group. It is quite a compact frame design though (i.e. a steeply sloping top tube) so there’s a lot of standover height and the saddle could be set very low if required. However, if a child really needed their saddle set quite that low then the bike is probably too big for them.

At 152mm its cranks are the appropriate length for the rider of a bike like this.

The bars are the same width as all the others but they are shaped rather differently – we’ll say more about this later.

However, the saddle lets the bike down and prevents it from getting full marks for geometry and fit. We recognised it as the same adult saddle that was fitted to the RX Elite that we tested previously. It’s too long and wide for this bike and limits the rider’s agility when riding out of the saddle.

The Microshift brake levers have a suitable short reach for small riders.

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The Raleigh’s very compact frameset has traditional round aluminium main frame tubes and steel forks. It’s an unremarkable looking frame with its plain mid-blue finish and simple branding, and we would like to have seen some of the panache trickle down from Raleigh’s great adult cyclocross bikes.

There are braze-on fittings for a single bottle cage and a rear rack. There are mudguard eyes front and rear, plus a chainstay bridge with a drilling to mount a rear mudguard too. So the bike would make a good tourer as well as cyclocross and road racing bike.

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The Raleigh is supplied by default with Kenda road tyres. Good Raleigh dealers should be prepared to supply Schwalbe CX Pro cyclocross tyres instead though if requested.

Alex rims are very popular on bikes at this price. The Raleigh uses Alex ACE19 rims drilled for 32 spokes front and rear. The hubs are practical units with Raleigh’s “RSP” branding.

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Raleigh has indeed fitted a single chainring to the Performance 26. Its chunky 152mm cranks are Raleigh RSP badged but made by Lasco, the huge Taiwanese manufacturer of so many junior cranks. A chainguard is mounted either side of the chainring to ensure the chain doesn’t come off when riding fast over bumpy ground.

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There’s an 8-speed Shimano HG30 cassette with sprockets from 11 to 32 teeth giving a nice wide range of gears. The Altus rear derailleur is at the entry level of Shimano’s MTB range.

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The rear gear shifter is integrated with the short-reach right-hand brake lever from Microshift. We’ve always found that young riders like using the Microshift system: a brake lever, a separate gear lever tucked behind it to change to a large sprocket, and a small button-like lever to shift to a smaller sprocket.

Although the Performance 26 has no front derailleur Raleigh has chosen to keep the Microshift left hand brake lever/shifter in place rather than substitute it with a separate brake lever. They have, however, removed the two redundant gear levers and the mechanism from it. The advantage is that the left-hand brake lever matches the right-hand lever, but the installation does look a bit odd with its empty cable exit from the brake lever hood and the gaps where the gear levers once were.

You’ll find Tektro’s Oryx brakes on the Raleigh too. The Microshift brake levers are appropriately short-reach for small hands.

It does have Tektro RL576 cross-top levers fitted. As you can see from our head-on photo the Raleigh’s handlebars have a particularly curved shape and it’s all a bit crowded on the tops of the bars.

As a result the routing of the front brake cable is very tight, especially as the front brake hanger is mounted on the headset, close to the handlebars.

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Most of the bike’s components carry Raleigh’s own “RSP” branding, including the saddle, seatpin, 70mm handlebar stem, and 360mm wide handlebars.

They’re all neat and functional, with the exception of the saddle which has been taken from Raleigh’s adult bike range and is much too large for a bike of this size. Hopefully Raleigh will update the spec to include a smaller saddle, but in the meantime you should factor in changing it for a decent junior saddle like the San Marco Concor Junior or the Madison Y04.

The seatpost clamp has a lot of layback so make sure you take that into account when fitting the bike to your rider.

The handlebars are the same width as those of all the other bikes in the group, but their shape is a bit different. They have a nice short forward “throw” and very shallow drops suitable for small riders, but they are more curved and less square than the others – think of the shape of Cinelli’s classic Criterium 65 bars. That means there’s less space for the hands on the tops of the bars, especially with cross-top levers crowding the same area. On the other hand, our test rider found that holding the drops was particularly comfortable because there are no square shoulders of the bars to get in the way of his wrists and forearms.

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Our test rider really took to the Raleigh. He said it was one of the best in the group for “chucking around”. It was the bike that he chose to ride for fun after all the formal testing and photography was done.

You can buy the Performance 26 direct from Raleigh’s website, from big online specialists like Wiggle, or in person from many bike shops.

Raleigh is a very respected brand, of course, and we expect that buyers would be looked after well in the event of problems.

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Although the Performance 26 has a RRP of £425, Raleigh bikes do tend to be discounted. For example, at the time of writing the bike is available for just £360 from Wiggle – and that’s excellent value.

Raleigh’s image is on the up and up, so that should help the bike’s future resale value if it has been well looked after.

We were very pleased to see such a strong contender from Raleigh, showing that the company understands children’s requirements. The Performance 26 doesn’t quite have the quality of the Luath or the Juniorworx but it does the same job very well. At its discounted price it’s a bargain.

– See more at: http://www.youthcyclesport.co.uk/kit/reviews/group-test-26-wheel-roadcyclocross-bikes