Die hard mountain biker James Vincent dips a toe into #dirtydropbargoodness with the Ragley Trig Adventure.
- Brand: Ragley
- Model: Trig Adventure
- From: Hotlines UK
- Price: £1,499
- Tested by: James Vincent
- Duration: 5 months
Although Ragley is better known for its rowdy hardtails, there are a couple of gravel bikes quietly lurking in the range. The Trig Gravel takes a marginally more conservative approach and rolls on 700c wheels, while the Trig Adventure on test here, feels much more like a mountain bike, rolling as it does on 650b wheels with a SRAM Apex 1×11 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes. Whilst most of my regular riding takes place on big mountains in the Lake District, being in lockdown for most of the summer meant staying more local, and the trails immediately on my doorstep are somewhat tamer and don’t require 160mm of suspension or 2.4” tyres to have fun on. On paper, the Ragley Trig Adventure seemed to fit the bill. Let’s see if reality matched up to the expectation.
Ragley Trig Adventure: The Frame
Constructed from triple butted 4130 cro-mo steel with a carbon fork, finished in fetching battle green paint with tasteful black graphics and tan wall WTB tyres, the Ragley Trig Adventure really is a great looking bike. The fork comes ready with routing for a dynamo, while bottle and rack mount bosses adorn the frame and fork, hinting at its versatile nature, but they don’t overpower the look of the bike. Whether it’s the low standover, smaller 650b wheels or 1x drivetrain, as a package it doesn’t scream old fashioned, long distance tourer. Instead, the Ragley heritage shines through and there’s definitely more than a hint of an old school mountain bike vibe going on.
Having never ridden a gravel or CX bike before, on paper the geometry is definitely steeper than I’m used to, with a 70° head angle, 74° seat tube angle, paired with a 402mm reach. In reality, it’s not actually that bad. At a shade over 6ft, I’ve been riding a size 55cm (large) frame and the sizing is pretty much perfect, with a reasonably stretched out but not too extreme and back breaking position on the road. Off road, my weight is definitely further forward than I’m used to, but the low standover and light weight makes it an easy bike to move around on and position on the trail.
Ragley Trig Adventure: The Kit
Helping me feel more at home is a 1×11 SRAM APEX groupset, with a 40t chainring and 11-42 cassette out back, offering a reasonable compromise of on and off-road gearing. The shifter uses SRAM’s DoubleTap technology, which although efficient, took me a little while to get used to. Unsurprisingly, brakes are also from SRAM – little hydraulic ones with 160mm rotors front and rear, and they’re more than adequate with any lack of power (in comparison to the 4 pot brakes and 200mm rotors I’m used to) being offset by the huge leverage provided by the long and comfortable levers.
Rims and tyres are from WTB. Serra rims (23mm internal) are laced onto no-name hubs, with bolt through axles front and rear, and the wheels are shod in 650x42mm light/fast rolling Resolute rubber. The bike is delivered with tubes, but the rims and tyres are ready to be set up tubeless with a healthy dose of sealant. The tyres offer a surprising amount of traction off road, only getting overwhelmed when things get really sloppy, and positively zip along on tarmac. There is clearance for 700 x 40c or 27.5 x 2.1” tyres should you wish to experiment.
The supremely comfortable saddle and seatpost bear the Ragley name, while the bars and stem opt for the full stealth look. The flared bars are wider than your average at 440mm (420mm on the smallest size), and offer a multitude of positions, all very comfortable both on and off road.
Aside from a short lived dalliance with an old road bike cobbled together from a mishmash of parts a few years back, I’ve not ridden tyres this skinny since the early 90’s, and when I informed my riding buddies I was getting this to test there was scorn and derision from the get go. Mainly along the lines of “what do you want a gravel bike for?” and “it’ll just be a shit road bike and a shit mountain bike – make your mind up and pick one or the other”.
And you know what, they were right. On the road it runs out of top speed way too early, the large jumps between the gears are off putting on the flat and it’s heavier than a dedicated road bike so climbing is never going to be its forte. And don’t get me started on how it performs as a mountain bike, what with the complete lack of suspension, narrow tyres and drop handlebars!
But (and this is a big but). It’s not trying to be either of those things.
It’s a ride to the shops bike, a cruise to the pub (and wobble home again afterwards) bike. It’s a spin to the beach to enjoy the sunset bike and a pedal with my family bike. I’ve ridden twisty singletrack into town, stocked up on craft beer and then pedalled home on the road fully laden with hops. It’s been used to explore the back lanes of South Cumbria, and it was more than ideal for supporting a friend on part of his record breaking LEJOG run.
Let’s go… off road!
With a 70° head angle, the Ragley Trig Adventure is surprisingly capable off road and nowhere near as sketchy as I initially feared. The wider than average flared bars and excellent SRAM Apex Hydro brakes certainly help in that regard. Off road climbing is a joy too – coming in at 10.8kg (confirmed weight, with pedals) it flies uphill compared to all but the lightest XC race machine. Admittedly the lack of suspension and skinny tyres means you need to pay a bit more attention to maintain traction, and there’s no denying that things can get a bit loose and slidey in muddier conditions, but that’s all part of the fun.
Twisty singletrack is a hoot, and the direct power transfer and (relatively) light weight means it accelerates out of the turns like the proverbial rocket. The wheelbase is shorter than I’m used to, which combined with the forward weight bias means it’s more sensitive to roots and other lumps on the ground, but stay focussed and you’ll get away with a lot. The frame has routing for a dropper post, and the addition of one would definitely help with its off road capabilities – it would be one of the first upgrades I’d carry out if this were my bike. I might also fit some knobblier tyres to make it even more capable off-road, but that would detract from its rolling speed on tarmac.
Hit the road jack…
Talking of which, I could of course fit a closer ratio cassette to smooth out my pedalling cadence on road, but anyone who’s concerned about such things is missing the point with this bike and its simplicity is a large part of its appeal. Besides, such changes would force you to fit a front mech to get the range back. As it is, the 40t chainring and 11-42 cassette work well for most situations you might find yourself in.
Of course, it’s never going to keep up with a dedicated road bike on a Sunday morning chain gang, but as I’ve said before, that’s massively missing the point of this bike. On tarmac, the only real issue I had was with the 170mm crankset – for some reason, my legs were overly sensitive to the shorter crank length and when sprinting out of the saddle things felt a little cramped.
The most major issue I had in the five months of testing was that the front axle worked itself loose a couple of times on longer rides. Oddly, this only happened when riding exclusively on the road – maybe it’s something to do with the higher frequency vibration of running on tarmac, or maybe it was the bike telling me to get back off smooth tarmac. Either way, make sure you crank the bolt thru axles up tight. The only other issue I encountered was that the rims took a couple of rides to seal when setting them up tubeless, leading to a nervous couple of rides peak lockdown when I was wary of venturing too far and ending up stranded with a flat tyre.
I would have liked to see a 10-42 cassette, but you’re limited to an 11T minimum sprocket out back thanks to the Shimano type freewheel. Sadly you have to draw a line somewhere on the specification.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- The SRAM Apex shifter took me a little while to get used to and the shifting was a little bit clunky at times.
- The front axle had a tendency to rattle loose on longer rides so make sure it’s cranked up tight.
- It’s not a mountain bike
Three Things I Loved
- Although I didn’t use them, it has rack & mudguard mounts aplenty, along with a dynamo ready fork. It lives up to its name and is ready for adventure whether that’s trekking across continents, commuting to work or just ripping up your local singletrack.
- The riding position, especially on the drops, was nowhere near as scary as I feared. I might even go so far as to say I enjoyed it!
- It’s not a road bike
It’s an oft used cliche by bike reviewers that they don’t want to give a bike back, but the Ragley Trig Adventure has opened so many doors and riding possibilities that in this case I really do mean it. Yes, it could be slightly lighter, or have slicker gears with closer ratios, but as it is, it strikes the perfect balance between being a utilitarian tool and a desirable thing to be enjoyed. When it goes back to Hotlines, it will be sorely missed and leaves a massive hole in my garage.
Frame // 4130 Chro-mo Steel
Fork // Ragley Carbon
Hubs // WTB Serra 100x12mm front, 142x12mm rear.
Rims // WTB Serra i23
Tyres // WTB Resolute 650×42 TCS Light/Fast Rolling Tan Sidewall
Crankset // SRAM Apex 1 XSYNC 40t 170mm
Front Mech // NA
Rear Mech // SRAM Apex Long Cage
Shifters // SRAM Apex
Cassette // SRAM 11-42t
Brakes // SRAM Apex Hydro, 160mm rotors f&r
Stem // Ragley 6061 Alloy 80mm
Bars // Ragley 6061 Alloy 440mm
Grips // Black Cork Cushion Bartape
Seatpost // Ragley 27.2 x 400mm
Saddle // Ragley Brown
Size Tested // L (55cm)
Sizes Available // S, M, L, XL (50cm, 52cm, 55cm, 58cm)
Weight // 10.8 kg / 23.8 lbs
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