Monday, January 1, 2007 12.00am
For all that Raleigh sponsors road and mountain bike champion Nicole Cooke, it's probably best known today for its 'bread and butter' budget hybrids and mountain bikes like this Explore LX.
The frame is hi-ten steel, with a down tube that's fashionably fatter than a structurally strong metal like steel needs. As with the steel quill stem, steel bars and steel seat post, this weighs against it off-road. Bolted wheels add even more mass, although with 36 spokes apiece strength shouldn't be an issue.
An upright riding position is hampered by the fact that the 230mm seat post is too short for the frame, so you end up sitting too low. It's harder to pedal and your bodyweight slumps on the saddle like a sack of potatoes. Handling is further hindered by an awful fork, which flops, flounders and tops out with a clank over the slightest trail ripple.
The good news is that the gears and brakes work well. Shimano Tourney gears index reliably and Promax V-brakes stop you without that panicky spongy feeling the TNT's brakes provoke. It's a pity that the freewheel evidently can't deal with two slightly damp rides; ours almost seized solid.
Where the TNT White Rock is a bad bike with a few nice component choices, the Raleigh Explore LX is a reasonable bike spoiled by a few poor components: the fork, seat post, and freewheel. Go for the £10 cheaper rigid-forked Explore, swap the seat post at point of sale, and you could get a bike that's adequate for towpaths, flatter fireroads, and trips across town.
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