ROAD BIKE REVIEW, RALEIGH MERIT 3 AND REVERE 3
The Raleigh Merit 3 and Revere 3 are the “Men’s” and “Women’s” versions of Raleigh’s new premium aluminum endurance road line. As always, we take issue with the idea of bikes being gender specific. There are a good number of men who fit best on “women’s” bikes and a good number of women who fit best on “men’s” bike, so be sure to get sized by an experienced fitter. Except for the slightly shorter top-tube on the Revere line, both bikes have identical specifications.
Endurance road bikes have come to dominate the road market. While more comfortable and stable than full-on race bikes, they’re still designed for fitness-minded, aggressive riders. In fact, a few years back, most European race bikes had what could be called “endurance geometry.” Their bottom brackets were low to the ground, creating a stable ride that was well-suited for long hours in the saddle and fast, sweeping alpine descents. It was only with the advent of mass produced carbon frames–which are produced in molds that can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars–that companies began making race bikes more aggressive to accommodate both fast-cornering criteriums and long road-races. The bottom line is that endurance bikes are performance bikes, so long as you think of performance as being fast and efficient over long distances, not as rocketing out of corners at full speed.
Endurance bikes in the $1300-$1500 price range, like the Merit and Revere, are typically very well equipped. While you may find some carbon bikes for only one or two hundred dollars more, any benefit of the carbon frame is offset by the need to upgrade components. By contrast, a ~$1500 aluminum bike will have a light-weight frame, a carbon fiber fork, and components like Shimano Tiagra or 105, which offer excellent day-to-day performance with few compromises.
While we’ve been “hands-on” with the Raleigh, we’ve picked out a few other bikes to compare specifications.
|Raleigh Merit / Revere 3||Specialized Diverge Elite||Giant Defy Disc 1||Fuji Sportif 1.3|
Specifications are subject to change, not responsible for ytpos, etc.
The Raleigh is clearly very well-equipped at the price point, but what distinguishes it are features that determine the overall ride ride quality in a way can’t be achieved simply by upgrading components.
All the companies above know that tapered forks and thru axles improve the performance of a frame. In fact, you’ll find those features on all these companies “race” bikes. Tapered forks, which get larger where the down-tube meets the head-tube, make a laterally stiffer front-end, improve power transfer, and provide better tracking in corners. Thru-axles, which are a larger diameter than standard quick-release skewers, also provide better power transfer and tracking, plus they guarantee proper alignment of disc rotors.
Thru axles and tapered forks, however, typically improve power-transfer and tracking at the expense of comfort. This is especially true on aluminum bikes, which don’t have the innate shock absorbing qualities of carbon or steel. Most companies, therefore, save the tapered forks and thru-axles for competition bikes where comfort is often sacrificed for marginal gains in speed. By all expectations, then, the Raleigh–which has the features of a full “race” bike–should have a harsh, uncompromising ride, and yet it is as smooth or smoother than many carbon endurance bikes.
Raleigh achieves their smooth ride through the proprietary use of an “anti-shock” stem and seatpost–which shouldn’t be thought of as suspension. We’ve seen suspension posts and stems in the past–they’re usually flimsy, energy-sapping gimmicks which wind up in the garbage or warranty-bin. The anti-shock post and stem, by contrast, provide zero noticeable flex or bounce. They dampen shock in an unobtrusive way, creating a ride much like high end steel or carbon, yet without any of the front-end or bottom bracket flex typical of the more supple frame materials.
Clearly, we love this bike. Every new model year we have a problem choosing what to stock in this very competitive price-range, but this year was easy. There are a few caveats, however. There is a weight penalty to the thru-axle frame and wheels, so if you’re looking to build a super-light machine, you’re still going to be relegated to carbon. Remarkably, the anti-shock stem and post have little, if any, weight penalty, but they do limit fit options, as they’re only available in a limited number of sizes. (You can swap out for aftermarket components, but you’ll lose the anti-shock properties.) Finally, you’ll want to upgrade the cheap Kenda tires as soon as they wear out, or even before you ride out the door. They’re good enough, but given that the bike comes in $100 less than some of its competitors, Raleigh should have upped the price a few dollars to cover some better rubber. All-in-all, however, these are minor complaints. Assuming the bike fits without major alterations needed to the post or stem, there is no other bike we can recommend so highly.