Reid Cycles Falco Elite review

Direct-buy budget road bike

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Reid Cycles is an Australian-based brand that’s quickly gaining traction within the entry-level market, offering factory-direct pricing with bikes starting as low as $199 shipped. With its own retail stores in most major Australian cities, it’s no surprise that you don’t have to go far to see a Reid chained to an urban pole or coasting through the city.

BikeRadar tested Reid’s top-end offering, the Falco Elite. It's a Shimano 105-spec road bike at just $929 or, as we tested it, $1129 with a quality Mavic Aksium wheelset. At this price, it offers better components than the bikes featured in our sub-$1400 grouptest. How is this achieved? Read on…

We tested the Reid Falco Elite against two other direct-buy road bikes – be sure to read our group test summary, which includes analysis of build quality.

Frame and equipment: flawless groupset, but lacking detail in assembly

The Falco Elite’s frame has a strong resemblance to other aluminium frames we’ve seen in the past. As Reid sources its frames from China, it shouldn’t be a shock that other brands have access to the same manufacturer, and in some cases the same frame design. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this ‘white-label’ frame is perfectly solid – but it’s worth noting as one of the factors that enable Reid to offer the pricing it does.

Thick, swoopy chainstays add a little style and keep your heels away from the frame : thick, swoopy chainstays add a little style and keep your heels away from the frame
Thick, swoopy chainstays add a little style and keep your heels away from the frame : thick, swoopy chainstays add a little style and keep your heels away from the frame

Swooping chainstays give heel clearance

The aluminium frame features an extremely thin, ‘aerodynamic’ profile through the front triangle. Out back, the chainstays are heavily formed to swoop around the wheels and then provide plenty of heel clearance. The construction is solid and is unlikely to show any durability issues.

The front fork is a basic carbon fibre unit, which features an aluminium steerer tube – something that’s extremely common in bikes up to $2000. The carbon is designed to reduce weight, while adding some compliance to the ride quality.

The Shimano 105 drivetrain is near flawless and, with much of the same shift quality as Shimano’s Ultegra offering, the 105 is a trusty workhorse groupset at a slightly higher weight. Usually Shimano 105 components aren’t seen until the $1500 price point; even then it’s common not to see a full 105 groupset used, including the brakes.

Mavic aksium wheels are one of the highlights on this bike - providing proven durability and respectable performance - but only available at a $200 surcharge: mavic aksium wheels are one of the highlights on this bike - providing proven durability and respectable performance - but only available at a $200 surcharge
Mavic aksium wheels are one of the highlights on this bike - providing proven durability and respectable performance - but only available at a $200 surcharge: mavic aksium wheels are one of the highlights on this bike - providing proven durability and respectable performance - but only available at a $200 surcharge

Mavic's Aksium are well-regarded entry-level wheels

For a $200 surcharge, the Mavic Aksium wheels cut off nearly half a kilo of rotating weight compared with the Falco Elite’s standard wheels. Rotating weight plays a large role in a bike’s handling, and less weight in wheels and tyres makes for a nippier accelerating, quicker stopping and generally more nimble handling steed. The Aksiums are proven hoops from the French wheel specialists, offering a perfectly consistent braking surface, smooth rolling hubs and a decent weight for the price too. 

Reid have chosen entry-level fsa components. the brand is well-known, but the parts aren't really any better than 'house-brand' parts of this price-point : reid have chosen entry-level fsa components. the brand is well-known, but the parts aren't really any better than 'house-brand' parts of this price-point
Reid have chosen entry-level fsa components. the brand is well-known, but the parts aren't really any better than 'house-brand' parts of this price-point : reid have chosen entry-level fsa components. the brand is well-known, but the parts aren't really any better than 'house-brand' parts of this price-point

Full Speed Ahead (FSA) is a well-known brand, but the Omega series is the cheapest offering

Reid chose FSA components at the handlebar, stem and seatpost – this brand is well respected, and the components do the job well, but they're not necessarily any better than the self-branded components seen on other similar priced bikes.

The remainder of the kit is adequate, albeit somewhat lacking compared to the rest of the build. A basic non-sealed headset keeps the handlebars turning, but will need occasional servicing to keep it smooth. The well-padded saddle is a little slippery on top and had us sliding around. A no-frills set of toe-clip pedals is also included.

Ride and handling: limited by stiff ride and limited sizing

With a proven, full Shimano 105 groupset, high-quality Mavic Aksium wheels and FSA components, one anticipate the Reid riding well beyond its price tag – and it does, to a certain extent.

Sharp, aero lines on the reid frame may look stylish, but they certainly didn't help the ride quality: sharp, aero lines on the reid frame may look stylish, but they certainly didn't help the ride quality
Sharp, aero lines on the reid frame may look stylish, but they certainly didn't help the ride quality: sharp, aero lines on the reid frame may look stylish, but they certainly didn't help the ride quality

Thin 'aero' shapes are still rock solid, but don't help with comfort

We expected the slender-profiled frameset to sway under power and lack a sense of urgency, but instead we were greeted with a rock-solid foundation to apply power and be rewarded for our efforts.

Leaning the bike into corners meets with a level of confused confidence. The stiff frame tracks perfectly straight and doesn’t wander from the pointed line, but the plastic feeling tyres show the limits with a quick loss of traction.

With a short rear end, it’s easy to quickly change the Falco’s direction. The negative is that when climbing out-of-saddle, you need to be careful to keep your weight balanced between both wheels, otherwise the rear wheel can spin, resulting in a quick waste of energy.

The stiff frame that’s so good under power is also the bike’s greatest weakness, giving a harsh ride quality: nearly every crack, divot and variation in the road surface can be felt.

We'd expect that simply changing the tyres to a higher quality, 25mm model will help with both the cornering confidence and the harsh ride quality – but it won’t magically fix the latter.

Major brands such as Trek or Specialized often offer entry-level bikes in six to eight different sizes, while the Falco Elite has just four sizes to choose from.

The limited choice still covers the majority of the population, but it’s far harder to get an exact fit. We had to compromise, with the ‘small’ being far too little, and the ‘medium’ being close to a size larger than our ideal 53.5cm top tube length (reach).

Based on this, even after we adjusted the handlebar and seat heights to our usual settings, our weight distribution between the wheels wasn’t ideal.

With such great components at rock-bottom pricing, it’s easy to be swayed to buy online. But as we found with the Reid, these savings can come at the cost of ride quality and performance. Online vs store-bought is something we’ve covered before, and there’s still value to be found in buying from a conventional outlet – the Reid is undoubtedly a solid machine at a stellar price, but a bike is more than the sum of its components.

Be sure to read our full direct-buy shootout to find out more of the Reid’s build quality and your other options at this price-point.

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