Moda Rubato £999

Affordable race bike

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The Moda Rubato is very much a race bike, with no concessions to versatility or commuting practicality. Look elsewhere (at Moda’s own Bolero for example) for mudguard eyes or clearance for big tyres. This would be annoying if the Rubato didn’t do such a damn good job of being a budget race bike, but it delivers so much fast and furious fun that it’s easy to forgive what might otherwise be seen as deficiencies.

  • Frame: Light and rangy, the Rubato’s frame is a classic road racing configuration that demands you hammer it and rewards you with gobs of speed (9/10)
  • Handling: Massively flickable without being twitchy – a tricky balance to achieve that makes it heaps of fun in any downhill twisties (9/10)
  • Equipment: Individual mix of own-brand parts. Microshift transmission works well out of the box and is Shimano-compatible for future upgrades and replacements (8/10)
  • Wheels: Stiff and light, the American Classic wheels are head and shoulders above most wheels on sub-£1,000 bikes. Light Kenda tyres aid the bike’s overall feel (9/10)

Put simply, the Rubato loves to go fast and is easy to spin up to speed and keep there. Point it up a hill and it forges ahead with a flattering enthusiasm, jump on the pedals on the flat and it surges forward, and tuck into the drops and you’re rewarded with insanely confident line-holding and easy flickability into turns.

The Rubato’s frame is built from double-butted 7005 aluminium, long the most common material for medium-priced bikes, with a carbon fork. There are no frills or gimmicks here, just a classic, long top-tube road racing layout with a short head-tube to allow the rider to get into a flat-backed racing stance.

That singlemindedness is emphasised by Moda’s choice of a long stem and traditional bar with a long throw and deep drop. It all speaks of a bike designed for hammering, and that’s exactly what the Rubato inspires: heads-down, no-nonsense lactic acid boogie.

The wheelset aids and abets these high-octane shenanigans. The American Classic Victory wheels would set you back £300 on their own, and they’re shod with light, grippy Kenda Kaliente tyres. The combination breezes along easily and there’s no brake rub under hard efforts – often a problem with middleweight wheels.

Where most £1,000 bikes have Shimano 105 transmissions, Moda doesn’t so much go against the flow as get right out of the river with its Microshift gears. The combined brake/shift units use a large lever behind the brake lever to pull cable and a button on the outboard edge to release it. They work well after adapting from whatever else you’re used to, although the shift feel is a little mushy compared with Shimano or SRAM.

From the drops, it’s also harder to reach the release button to shift up the rear gears. Nevertheless, Moda deserves respect for taking the risk and fitting components that aren’t from the big players.

Also intriguing are the single-pivot Barelli brakes. Single-pivot brakes are light but don’t work with levers designed for dual-pivot brakes (which is all modern brake levers). To get round this, these brakes have a built-in cam, which increases the leverage without adding much weight. The practical upshot is plenty of well-modulated, easily controlled stopping power, which is exactly what you want when you succumb to the bike’s seductive speed.

The Barelli name – Moda’s own brand – carries through to the finishing kit, which is once again decent mid-range gear with one notable exception. The Rubato has an infinitely adjustable seatpost, so you can tweak the saddle position to get your exact preferred angle.

What you’re getting here is a great frame and wheels – the heart of any good bike – with a good chainset and a functional collection of other running gear. Based on previous experience of the Microshift gears we have concerns about their longevity (we’ve seen premature corrosion on front derailleurs) but as they’re entirely Shimano-compatible you can always swap them out one at a time as they wear.

The Moda Rubato faces some stiff competition at £1000, but it stares it down and leaves most of its rivals in the dust. Its frame and wheels are the equal of our benchmark, the Cube Attempt – and it’s racier and half a kilo lighter than the Cube. If you want a thoroughly racy bike and you’re prepared to take a chance on the unusual components, the Rubato is well worth the risk.

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