What do you usually find on a ultra-budget bike, especially one from a multiple retailer not known for bike specialism? Typically the list will include poor tyres, brakes, wheels and excess in weight – and all too often no real knowledge of what makes a bike good especially in the way it handles.
Mastering the low-cost challenge
Thankfully the Rivelin, from mega-retailer GO Outdoors' house-brand Calibre, which has already wowed our mud-loving cousins with its budget full-suspension mountain bike, the Bossnut, meets the low-cost challenge head on and comes out on top in most cases.
The drivetrain is Shimano’s Claris eight-speed and functionally it's sound, with reliable easy shifts and a good range (though our early production model has a 11-25 block, those in stores will get a wider range with a 28 top).
The ride position is comfortable – a little taller up front and a little shorter in reach – and despite the bike's considerable heft, solidity and stiffness it’s surprisingly comfortable.
Some of that is down to the frame. The 6061 aluminium construction is pretty much what you’d expect of a budget machine, though the neatly shaped hydroforming of the tubing is something that historically was reserved for higher grade machines than the humble £300 asked of for the Rivelin.
What does surprise though is the carbon fork (almost never seen on a £300 bike) and some good tyres for the money. The Schwalbe Luganos won’t win any prizes for speed, but they roll smoothly and are supple enough – yet have proven commuting-tough too.
Going uphill, nearly 11kg of bike is never going fly, but it carries its mass well, and descending is helped by fine handling and that carbon fork, which both holds its line and smooths out enough of rougher surfaces well. Braking is also better than we’d have expected: the Tektro units are free of vibration and the softer-compound pads mean a lot of feel at the levers. Both elements ensure your stopping control is more than ample to control what is a weighty machine.
The Calibre-branded C3 saddle is your usual badged-up affair, but comes from the same factory as plenty of top-flight perches and proved itself as a comfortably appointed well shaped unit. Like the rest of the bike it's not going to win any weight competitions but it works, and works well.
The wheels, especially the rear, felt sluggish and draggy for the first few hours, but once they’d bedded in became smoother and much more free flowing. A quick inspection of the rear hub saw an excess of grease on the freehub body internals; a quick finger wipe to remove some freed it up further.
In all the Rivelin is a good solid bike, and one that’s at a seriously great price. What's most obvious is that its been put together by a knowledgeable team who’ve concentrated on getting the dynamics right, and putting the very limited money into good tyres and brakes makes for a positive experience even for the most inexperienced riders.
We’d suggest it’d be a good winter trainer or a cost-effective commuter – and not just because the frame includes provision for 'guards and a rear rack, but also because it’s a genuinely decent place to spend some time riding.