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Cairn E-Adventure Limited Rambler Edition is a great commuter bike that can handle a bit of singletrack and bike-packing mini-adventures.
- Brand: Cairn
- Product: E-Adventure Limited Rambler Edition
£4,289.00Currently on sale for £3,289.00
- From: Cairn Cycles
- Great when laden with luggage
- Minimal motor drag
- Impressive battery life
- Not that cheap for direct sales
- Stiff frame
Let’s get straight to conclusion. Although this bike is pitched partly as an e-gravel bike, the Cairn E-Adventure makes the most sense when it has a job to do. Ideally carrying a load of some sort. The bike makes loads of sense when you’re carrying stuff. Whether it’s on your back in a rucksack or – ideally, – when it’s in bags mounted on the bike itself.
As a mixed terrain commuter bike and/or as a bikepacking rig, this bike is really ace. We would make the caveat that, as regards bikepacking adventures, it totally depends on how far and how remote you wish to go (any battery biking has its range limits).
When we took the bike out unladen as a pure gravel bike it was capable enough but there was a relative harshness to overall ride. Even with the terrain flattening 700c wheel size (not the 650b hoops you see on some gravel bikes). The carbon fork looks cool and is covered in useful mounts but it didn’t feel to be doing much in the way of buzz killing. The saddle and seatpost combo were also decidedly not-flexy either.
It’s gotta be hard to design a non-suspended e-bike that doesn’t exhibit a bit of clang over the rough stuff. Sure, you can put up-to-45mm tyres on it, and even a gravel suspension fork, but that isn’t the bike as it comes. There’s also the Cairn BRAVe in the brand’s line up if more rough stuff is definitely on your menu.
More voluminous tyres would be the first thing on our upgrade wishlist. Alongside a different saddle. As for a suspension fork, we’d probably keep it rigid and maintain all the luggage and easier mudguard capability that comes with the supplied fork’s Anything mounts.
Oh yeah, the mounts. There’s loads of ’em. Racks, bottles, mudguards, luggage. Pick four.
This Rambler Edition is the third incarnation of the Cairn E-Adventure. The frame has been revised quite a bit both in terms of geometry (it’s a bit longer, lower, slacker yep) and general weight shavings. It is also now ready to accept a 30-40mm travel suspension fork.
The harsh ride notwithstanding, there was a lot to like about the overall geometry of the Cairn E-Adventure Limited Rambler Edition. It can be hustled along singletrack just fine without feeling like you’re about to be chucked out of the front door if you sneeze. There’s loads of standover, which really helps you commit to all sorts of unlikely, risky, mountain bikey moves.
Uphill, we’ll be honest and say that our dropbar chops are not the best and so we really liked having a motor! With a motor it was simply more viable to ride with our hands on the tops thus ensuring better, more constant pressure on the rear tyre contact patch. You can put more grunt down when you’re in the drops but we often ended up spitting rear wheel a lot more.
Having said that, the extra weight of the e-bikeness of the bike does come in useful in terms of traction and grip generally. It’s a lot less skittish off-road than a non-assisted dropbar bike. Sure, one person’s “lot less skittish” is another person’s “not as playful”, but we’d rather have the stability thanks.
Once you’re on terrain where the wind becomes your main adversary and you need to be in the drops (ie. anything faster than jogging pace) it was perfectly fine and efficiently low-slung enough to do the whole heads-down, wind-cutting, man-machine, aero-centric thang.
The semi-controversial use of 700c wheels instead of 650b proved to a total non-issue. If anything it just made us wonder why on earth 650b has become the gravel go-to. It’s not better than 700c, anywhere. Maybe it’s because we’re coming at it from a 29er MTB direction and 700c x 38c ain’t that unusually big feeling. Regardless, bigger is better.
In terms of build kit, it was generally all fine and dandy. The 13-speed Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain behaved itself and proved to be happy to get covered in muck and wet. The range of gearing on offer was appropriate. The disc brakes were really good. Even with modest-to-MTB-eyes 160mm rotors there was never an issue with having difficulty slowing down in time. And they offered impressive levels of feel and feedback even when riding on the hoods in loose terrain. The wheels stayed true. The cockpit combo felt sorted. The tyres were okay generally but we’d swap in something a bit more wet friendly (as well as girthier) pretty quickly if it was our bike.
As for the motor, it performed really, really well in terms of delivery. Not overly jerky or surge-prone but definitely noticeable and grin-inducing.
It’s worth noting that with a bit of battling technology and apps, you can modify the assist given in each mode, as well as the way it’s applied. If you find the standard setting a bit all or nothing (akin to a Bosch), you can change it so the power is applied in a more Shimano-esque gradual curve. Tuning the assist levels so that you’re using less when you could easily use more of your legs, but still getting the oomph up the hills, can also go some way to extending your range.
We found ourselves using the lowest setting (Breeze) most of all and enjoying its push, occasionally poking the panel all the way up to max power (Rocket) if we felt we needed some more oomph getting a laden load over a steep crest. We didn’t really find ourself using the middling power (River) mode very much at all. YMMV.
A large factor in our rather binary all-or-nothing mode choosing was the location and operation of the control. The top tube panel worked okay-ish but compared to an e-MTB bar-mounted remote it felt awkward and sketchy to use whilst riding along off-road. It reminded some of us of living with pre-STI down-tube shifters! Having to take a hand off and accurately tap the panel to engage a different power mode was always rather dicey feeling. Hence, staying in one mode a lot of the time.
We appreciate that with the multiple hand position nature of dropbars, there’s not a very easy alternative to a top tube panel. So… over to you Fazua. Invent something better. Another niggle is having to remove the battery to recharge it. Can we have an integrated charging port next time please?
Spare batteries are available by the way and one would be a wise purchase for those who do wish to head out into the further flung wilds without having too much range anxiety. They weigh 1.4kg and cost around £500.
Fundamentally, the Cairn E-Adventure Limited Rambler Edition is not the hugely versatile do-it-all dropbar that some may hype it to be. When it’s ‘naked’ the bike rides rather harsh and can quickly reach the 15.5mph assistance cut-off point rendering the whole point rather moot (it does pedal pleasingly drag-free beyond the cut-off speed by the way). BUT… Enough carping. On with the praising. This bike may well have quite a narrow remit but there’s also a lot of people out there who will dig this remit. If you want a car-replacing commuter bike that can handle a bit of singletrack and you also fancy going on some modest wild-camping bike-packing mini-adventures at the weekend (or even midweek overnighters), you’ll love it.
Cairn E-Adventure Limited Rambler Edition Specification
- Frame 6061-T6 alloy
- Fork Full Carbon with Anything mounts
- Wheels Hunt Gravel X Wide
- Front tyre Vittoria Terrano Dry 700 x 38c
- Rear tyre Vittoria Terrano Dry 700 x 38c
- Chainset Miranda Delta Alloy, 165mm, 44T
- Drivetrain Campagnolo Ekar 13 speed 10-44T
- Brakes Campagnolo Ekar hydraulic disc, 160/160mm
- Stem Cairn Adventure, 70mm
- Bars Cairn Adventure 20 Degree Flare, 65mm Reach, 105mm Drop, 42cm width
- Grips Cairn Tacky Gravel 3mm tape
- Seatpost Cairn Carbon, 27.2mm, 350mm
- Saddle Selle Italia X Base
- Motor Fazua Ride 50, 58Nm
- Battery Energy 250x, 250Wh
- Size tested XS
- Sizes available XS, S, M, L, XL
- Weight 14kg
- Head angle 70°
- Effective seat angle 74°
- Seat tube length 430mm
- Head tube length 120mm
- Effective top tube 532mm
- BB height 80mm BB drop
- Reach 375mm
- Chainstay 430mm
- Wheelbase 1,016mm
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