Raleigh Mustang Elite review£1,000.00

Would wild horses drag us away from this gravel rider?

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The heron-crested British brand has been on a roll the last few years, its bikes consistently scoring well in our tests. The Elite is the second most expensive in the Mustang range, and comes with SRAM 1x11 and hybrid brakes. According to Raleigh, Mustangs ‘live on a diet of tarmac, potholes, mud and gravel’, which makes it ideal for this test. Road during the week, on- and off-road adventures out of working hours.

The TRP Hy/Rd brakes combine cable actuation at the levers with hydraulic reservoirs at the brakes. While we had reservations when we first tested the setup – reservoir placement, potential cable softness – none of these appear to be justified. And though not quite on a par with the full hydraulic setup on the (much more) expensive Specialized, we reckon it’s the best non-hydraulic system around.

Another way that the Mustang differs is that it has thru-axles – axles that screw into holes in the fork and frame rather than axles that fit into dropouts. It results in a very positive connection between wheel and frame and helps to make the most of the disc brakes. 

Excellent mechanical/hydraulic braking is helped by the rear thru-axle
Excellent mechanical/hydraulic braking is helped by the rear thru-axle

The other significant feature is the SRAM single-ring 1x11 drivetrain. This may limit the number of gears available to you, but doesn’t reduce the gear range, and if you want higher gearing – for faster riding – or lower, for fully laden touring, you just change the chainring. 

No need to worry about front derailleur placement as there isn’t one. The transmission is stealthily silent when you pedal, which contrasts with the very loud freewheeling.

We were concerned that the jumps between gears would be clunky and overly pronounced, but we quickly got used to it – and to having a single gear lever paddle. Push the lever to move the rear mech to a bigger sprocket (lower gear), tap the lever to go the other way across the cassette for a higher gear. 

It worked faultlessly, and we couldn’t get the system to misbehave, in spite of our best – or worst – efforts. The chainring is designed with narrow-wide teeth that don’t let the chain bounce off, and SRAM’s boffins have seemingly got it right.

You get used to the SRAM single-paddle setup very quickly
You get used to the SRAM single-paddle setup very quickly

Raleigh hasn’t gone tubeless yet, but the tubeless-ready rims are paired with high-quality tubeless-ready Schwalbe G-One tyres, allowing you to do away with the tube if you desire. But the ride even as it’s specced is the best here. It thrums along nicely on tarmac, copes well with grit, gravel and rougher stuff, and is comfortable, practical and versatile.

Our go-to Tubus rack wouldn’t fit the 142mm rear triangle, and welds at the bottom of the seatstays may hamper some racks or necessitate the use of washers, but the Mustang carries loads with confidence. Some of the threads could have been better but your local bike shop should be able to sort minor issues like this.

The grippy rubber bar tape is comfortable and we like the flattened bar tops, though Raleigh has missed a trick by not going for a flared bar which would be better for control. Overall, though, Raleigh has created a bike that’s great for tough commutes, fun days out on rough tracks and longer trips.

The SRAM Rival 1x11 transmission worked faultlessly and we couldn’t get it to misbehave
The SRAM Rival 1x11 transmission worked faultlessly and we couldn’t get it to misbehave

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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