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Ribble CGR Ti review

24 Apr 2020
Verdict:

The Ribble CGR Ti shows that the British brand is capable of making titanium frames competitive with the old masters

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
A versatile, fun and impressively built titanium bike without the usual pricetag
Against 
On the stiffer side of titanium in comfort terms

There’s a certain snobbery stitched into the fabric of cycling. A perfect example came when some friends of mine excitedly asked which sparkly adventure bike I was riding this month. ‘A Ribble?’ came the disappointed response from those who were assuming the answer would be some artisan Italian brand.

But the snobs are wrong, and the Ribble CGR Ti is proof that a British brand best known for making sensible, middle-of-the-road bicycles can compete with the biggest names at the top end of the business.

Shine on

The Ribble CGR Ti is far from the mould of what we would have expected from the brand even as recently as five years ago. Quite literally, it’s not from a mould at all, as instead of being a mass-production carbon frame, the CGR Ti is hand-made from titanium.

‘The frame is welded in Taiwan, and is the result of a long-standing relationship with a supplier out there,’ says Andy Smallwood, Ribble’s new CEO. ‘Tubes are custom drawn to our own spec and the tube profiles are our own.

‘We know titanium has a tendency to be a little flexy, so the oversized chainstays, down tube and head tube are designed to maximise power transfer.’

The frame is made from triple-butted 3AL2.5V (grade 9) titanium tubes throughout, as we would expect from most high-end bikes made from titanium.

Ribble has used a bi-ovalised down tube, meaning it starts as a vertical oval shape near the head tube before curving into a horizontal oval at the bottom bracket, which in theory helps boost stiffness by maximising the contact area at these crucial junctions.

The CGR Ti is designed to be ‘all-road’ – suitable for tarmac roads, gravel trails and everything in between. I’d say it errs on the side of gravel, with enough tyre clearance for 47mm 700c tyres or 2.1in tyres on a 650b wheel.

Buy the Ribble CGR Ti from £2,199

That makes the CGR Ti incredibly versatile, and thanks to its decent price you could buy a second set of 650b wheels to go with the 700c wheels and 40mm tyres it comes with, and still pay less than you would for some of its rivals’ bikes.

This Ribble CGR Ti costs £3,359 fully built. To put that in perspective, at the time of writing the retail price of a new Ultegra Di2 Disc groupset alone is more than £2,000. The rest of the build, including a full Zipp Service Course finishing kit, isn’t cheap either.

The top spec CGR Ti option costs only £600 more and includes Zipp 302 wheels, which have an RRP of nearly £1,300, alongside the latest Ultegra Di2 R8070, meaning the cost of the frame effectively disappears.

The major players in titanium, for example Van Nicholas or Litespeed, charge at least £2,000 more for a similar spec.

The (very impressive) Dura-Ace-equipped Van Nicholas Skeiron we reviewed last year cost more than £8,000. Of course, value doesn’t mean much if the product doesn’t measure up to the pricier competition.

When done badly, titanium frames can harm the metal’s reputation for longevity and comfort and stiffness. So it’s time to ride. 

The Ti fighter

I’ve tested a few fantastic titanium bikes, but I’ve also experienced some middling or low-end titanium frames that have had an unsettling level of flex, alongside a hefty weight penalty. Equally, some titanium frames can be quite the opposite – too harsh to truly enjoy.

So in all honesty I was half-expecting a fairly average bike here given the price point, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Reactions to pedalling were spritely, and there was a useful amount of feedback from the road, something that is invaluable to handling.

In that regard, the CGR has a curious geometry tweak, in that it has a fairly slack head tube angle of 72°, but a fairly steep 74.5° seat tube (on a standard road bike, both angles usually sit around 73.5°).

The steeper seat tube lets the rider sit forward over the bottom bracket, which for me offers a more powerful position akin to my racing set-up. The trade-off is that a steep seat tube transfers more road vibration directly up to the saddle, and indeed the CGR Ti can feel a tad robust at times.

However, the compliance offered by the 40mm tyres does more than enough to offset that ping through the rear end.

The clearance for those wider tyres is achieved with a long chainstay length, which at 435mm is close to a mountain bike set-up. That’s much longer than the 420mm chainstays seen on the similarly pitched Open UP, which is achieved by dropping the driveside chainstay.

Strangely, though, the CGR Ti doesn’t feel soft at the rear end as a result, and packs the punch of a racy road bike when standing on the pedals. Of course, the bike still sacrifices some speed to a decent road set-up.

When on a road ride with slimmer tyres, I found the extra weight, high front end and longer wheelbase required a little more effort to keep pace with the front of the group. But once it got off-road it truly shone.

On rocky descents and loose gravel the CGR Ti always felt stable and in control. It wasn’t as compliant as, say, a Specialized S-Works Diverge, but titanium simply can’t match carefully engineered carbon or integrated suspension units in terms of comfort. However, letting the tyres down a little helped soften the ride when the terrain got rough.

All in one

The CGR Ti was thoroughly fun. I was happy to ride on bridleways, gravel tracks and even some mountain bike trails, all the while slipping back onto the road at a respectable pace.

With mudguard and pannier eyelets, the bike also lends itself to winter riding, commuting and/or touring, and still has the classy aesthetics of a summer road ride.

Buy the Ribble CGR Ti from £2,199

Indeed, my only real criticism is that this model’s spec doesn’t fully exploit the CGR’s off-road potential. I’d personally have opted for a 1x groupset, probably Shimano’s mountain bike-clutched XT Di2, rather than the unusual option of a 53/39 double chainset, which proved a little too much gearing for most off-road riding.

Of course, given Ribble’s bike-building platform, the consumer can make that choice.

It may not have the same romance as a custom Italian frame, but the British bike brand must be applauded for bringing some of the best elements of titanium down to an affordable level.

Can it overcome the snobbery that exists in the bike market? I hope so, because this is a very good bike for an extremely good price.

Spec

Frame Ribble CGR Ti
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Di2
Chainset Shimano Ultegra Di2
Cassette Shimano Ultegra Di2
Bars Zipp Service Course SL 70
Stem Zipp Service Course SL
Seatpost Zipp Service Course  
Saddle Fabric Line Sports
Wheels Mavic Aksium Allroad Disc, Schwalbe G-One 40mm tyres
Weight 9.5kg
Contact ribblecycles.co.uk
Price: 
£3,359 full build, £1,799 frameset

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