If we were writing this test straight from a spreadsheet rather than after a couple of months battering around bridleways, cyclepaths and back roads, the Arkose 3 would be aceing it.
Seriously impressive spec
The 22-speed Shimano 105 shifter and gear setup would be enough on its own to put it clear of its largely Tiagra pricepoint peers, and that’s before taking into account the hydraulic 785 Ultegra brakes – complete with finned pads. That’s remarkable value.
The increase in braking control is obvious too – not just in the greater feeling of consistency that comes with every lever pull, but also in terms of wear over time. That’s because the fully hydraulic system automatically compensates for pad wear – unlike some cable-braked bikes where we’ve had to stop and manually adjust the pads mid-ride on particularly wet and gritty days.
Hydraulic brakes with finned rotors at this price?: Immediate Media
Hydraulic brakes with finned pads at this price?
And that’s not the end of the good news, either. The Alex Draw rims are tubeless-ready if you’re looking to reduce impact punctures on rougher tracks, and the loose-ball Novatec hubs potentially prolong lifespan if you learn how to adjust them. Together with the Kenda Small Block Eight tyres they’re responsively light and fast rolling, but still have enough tread to give you some control over where you’re going in gravel or mud.
The relatively relaxed head tube and tapered-top fork combine with a short stem and compact curve bar to give the Arkose fast reactions when control does start to slip away. That means there’d be nothing stopping you from tackling a summer cyclocross race or a long-distance bridleway adventure without any modifications. It’s equally well covered when it comes to everyday versatility thanks to rack and mudguard mounts in the big L-plate recessed dropouts and Low Rider rack bosses on the carbon fork blades.
Workhorse ride character
So with such an excellent specification, why does the Arkose end up not come out with a higher score? The first negative is subjective in that not all of our testers were bothered by it, and some simply learned to live with it. For others, though, the massive square-edged lump of the hydraulic reservoir under the palm of their hands on the 505 levers was a total turn-off, especially off-road where they complained that it concentrated bruising badly.
Related: Shimano RS505 review
Even those who weren’t too bothered by the unique lever shape complained about the jolting off-road ride, saying that it sapped both control and morale as soon as the Pinnacle was pointed at even slightly rough cycle paths.
For some, the massive hydraulic reservoir under the 505 levers was a total turn-off:
For some, the massive hydraulic reservoir under the 505 levers was a total turn-off
Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of rigidity that repays with a powerful feel through the pedals, either; it’s an enthusiasm-deadening dullness that seeps into the whole character of the ride, and it feels flat and uninvolving even on the smoothest of roads.
With reasonably voluminous tyres already fitted and an overall weight that should make it spark, not sputter, it’s hard to see any obvious way to upgrade some real joy into it either, and despite the excellent spec the Arkose always felt like a workhorse at best, and never a giddy-up thoroughbred.