Flat-barred road bikes offer many of the fast paced advantages of a conventional road bike, with the confidence-inspiring position and good visibility in traffic of a mountain bike. Over the last few years, we've seen them develop within their own niche, with their own geometries, a choice of drivetrains and even disc brakes. The Gryphon goes down the dedicated 'urban warrior' route, with mechanical disc brakes, rack and mudguard eyelets and a road-inspired drivetrain - all for under £360. We tested it in Bristol's hectic streets to see how it measured up.
The Gryphon uses the same 7005 plain gauge aluminium tubing as the
Carrera Valour also reviewed on BikeRadar. However, it features a flat-bar specific geometry - which is great to see at this price - with an extra 30mm of length along the top-tube to compensate for the decreased reach of flat bars over dropbars. Plain gauge tubes aren't as light as double butted ones but they're perfectly acceptable at this price.
The rear frame triangle is disc specific (there are no mounts for V-brakes) and there are rack eyelets on the dropouts and seatstays. We fitted Topeak's Super Tourist DX disc specific rack (CP196) without any problems, although the positioning of the eyelets makes loosening the skewer a little fiddly. As rack and mudguards share eyelets, you'll need extra long bolts
to fit both at the same time.
In terms of tyre clearances, the Gryphon can take up to 28-30c tyres (we tried Continental's top touring 700x28c). A little more room in the chainstays would have allowed more options for canal path-friendly rubber. Elsewhere, there are two water bottle mounts and a replaceable mech hanger. Welding is neat enough, and the grey-blue finish is good looking. It's worth noting that with only three sizes available, you may need to play around with different length stems and seatposts to get the correct fit.
Again, to keep it at this price point, the forks are rather heavy chromoly rather than lighter aluminium or the carbon offerings that are seen on some £500 models. But they're well specced, with mudguard eyelets at the dropouts.
Disc brakes make the Gryphon stand out at first glance. Although they are becoming increasingly popular on city-based flat-barred bikes, they're still rare at this price. Designed for the recreational end of the market, Tektro IOs use cable pull callipers with standard 160mm rotors. For road use, stopping power matches decent rim brakes and is superior in wet weather. They're also easy to maintain, being mechanical rather than hydraulic.
SRAM's SX5 shifters and rear mech are a highlight in the drivetrain, also representing good value for money. Shifting is easy with two thumb pads and there's a handy display to let you know what gear you're in. Gearing is road worthy, with a 12-26t (tooth) spread at the back and 50/36t compact alloy chainset. However, novice riders might find this set-up overgeared - making it hard work on steep climbs or if hauling any panniers. A 48/34t compact or a triple would have been better. On the plus side, it does give a good top gear for zipping along city streets and it's certainly more than adequate for flatter locations.
The dead-flat handlebars, stem and seatpost are finished in an understated matching matt black. The 120mm stem and layback seatpost give a more stretched position than some models we've tried (like Specialized's Sirrus Elite) and there are a few spacers to tweak the handlebar height. Halfords' own grips and saddle proved surprisingly comfortable.
The Gryphon sports a good looking wheelset with black spokes, black rims and subtle graphics. The DBR-1 rims are double walled for added strength and are disc specific. They're built up with 32 spokes front and rear on unbranded hubs, which are easy to service with their cup and cone bearings. Although the hubs are sealed to keep out grime, we did notice the bearings weren't particularly smooth running, but the wheels were well tensioned and remained true.
Despite the Mtb appearance of a flat-barred set-up and disc brakes, on the road the Gryphon doesn't roll at all like a mountain bike. Having light 700x25c rubber pumped to a high 100psi max pressure reduces rolling resistance, increasing speed dramatically over knobbly tyres. The downside is a loss of comfort over bumpy surfaces because of the smaller cushion of air. Most of the testing was carried out during dry weather and the Innova tyres were surprisingly grippy, with good puncture resistance too.
Flat-barred road bikes can be a blast, offering all the speed and liveliness of a road bike with the assured position of an Mtb. The ability to look up and around in traffic, and increased control from flat-barred brakes and shifters really boosts confidence. This is especially relevant for riders taking up cycling or coming from an off-road background.
Handling on the Gryphon was fast and accurate without being twitchy, with no toe overlap to speak of. It's not the lightest of bikes, which becomes noticeable when climbing, given the road-style gear range, but open it up on the flat and it carries its speed really well. In fact, it's more at home on tarmac because those thin, fast rolling tyres aren't well suited to canal paths, and limited clearances don't allow much scope for fitting wide tyres.
At £360, the well specced Gryphon packs a lot of punch for the money. With its disc brakes, road specific gearing and rack and mudguard clearance, it's ideal for hard and fast city riding. The mechanical disc brakeset is a real bonus, giving the Gryphon the impression of a higher priced bike - it comfortably undercuts many of its direct competitors on price.
Roomier clearances and a smaller geared chainset would have added more versatility for weekend road rides on country lanes and canal paths, but if your budget is strict and you're looking for a fast city bike for year round use, then the Carrera Gryphon is a good option.