Calibre’s Rake 29 is the brand’s beginner-focused hardtail mountain bike, featuring a 100mm fork, 29in wheels and trail-oriented geometry.
The GO Outdoors in-house brand has updated the Rake after a hiatus from the market during the pandemic forced by supply chain issues.
Upgrades to geometry and a trail-ready spec make the Calibre Rake 29 one of the best budget mountain bikes around. It’s more than capable of tackling the vast majority of what trail centres have to offer.
The new Rake 29 is available for only £550 when purchased with a Member’s Card, which costs £5 a year, or £700 without.
At that price, the Rake 29 is deep into bargain territory, and should be considered by anyone searching for an entry-level hardtail.
It’s not without flaws, but Calibre has done a stellar job with the Rake 29.
Calibre Rake 29 frame details
The Rake’s frame is made from 6010 alloy tubing, with the head tube and down tube connected via a gusset plate for added strength.
The welds are well-finished compared to the metallic scars found on some bikes at this price point.
Calibre sympathises with home mechanics, giving the Rake full-length external cable routing. This should improve longevity in inclement weather and enable easy replacement.
The bike features welcome utilitarian features – the front triangle can accommodate the usual two water bottles and the rear sports a rack mount, boosting versatility.
The frame is built around a 135mm quick-release rear end.
That isn’t uncommon for bikes at this price point, though it would have been nice to see thru-axles. Most of the best mountain bike wheels use 148mm-wide thru-axle spacing, which will make upgrades difficult in the future.
Calibre says it opted for quick-release to reduce the cost of the bike.
Calibre Rake 29 geometry
|Seat tube length (mm)||380||420||460||500|
|Effective top tube length (mm)||603||617||647||678|
|Head angle (degrees)||66||66||66||66|
|Head tube length (mm)||100||110||120||130|
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74.5||74.5||74.5|
|Rear centre (mm)||445||445||445||445|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||65||65||65||65|
The head angle on the new Rake 29 has been slackened from 67 degrees to 66 degrees. This is paired with an unchanged 74.5-degree seat tube angle.
The reach measurement also remains the same, with a large-frame bike coming in at 472mm.
Calibre offers the Rake 29 in four sizes, ranging from small to extra-large.
Calibre Rake 29 specification
Considering the price, Calibre has done a stellar job with the Rake.
The bike is available with either 29in or 27.5in wheels.
The £550 Rake 29 I tested sits at the top of the range, above the Rake 27, which is priced at £500 (with a membership card).
For the cash, you get a coil-sprung RockShox FS-Judy TK fork. This features simple rebound and preload adjustment, plus a lockout, enabling you to stiffen up the fork on smooth terrain.
The bike is built around a 2×9 Shimano Alivio groupset. An 11-36 tooth cassette is paired with a 22/36 chainring. That gives a wide range of gears, including a nice low option for steep climbs.
It’s not a full Alivio groupset, however – the cassette and front derailleur have been swapped out for cheaper Shimano alternatives and a KMC X9 chain is specced.
The cockpit comprises a full suite of Calibre-branded finishing kit.
The 2.25in-wide WTB Trail Boss Comp tyres are fitted around 25mm-wide unbranded rims, built onto a Shunfeng hub.
While a dropper seatpost is out of the question at this price, the Rake does have a quick-release seatpost collar, so you can lower your saddle at the top of the trail.
Calibre Rake 29 ride impressions
I tested the Rake 29 near my home in North Wales, taking it on rough bridleways, around trail centres and down some backcountry downhill tracks.
While I spent most of my time testing the bike on blue- and red-rated trails, I wanted to see how it managed the progression a beginner might ask of it, sending it down some loamy local trails to find its limits.
Calibre Rake 29 climbing performance
Considering the Rake 29’s weight, it puts on a commendable show when the trail starts to climb, with the seated position offering a comfortable riding position to tap out long climbs.
The 74.5-degree effective seat tube angle helps centre your weight on the bike and leaves no room for excuses on steep terrain, egging me on to tackle ambitious attempts of steep root-riddled shoots with zero fear of looping off the rear of the bike.
However, ride the Rake on a rocky ascent and you soon realise how stiff the frameset is. This makes getting power through the pedals on rough technical sections difficult because it’s hard to find a rhythm.
Climbing comfort isn’t helped by the Calibre-branded saddle, which provides little in terms of comfort due to its elongated shape and minimal padding.
While the Shimano Alivio groupset is not the sharpest, especially when changing under pressure, it gives plenty of range – the low 22x32t granny gear will get you up pretty much anything short of a wall.
The main compromise to the Rake 29’s climbing performance comes from the heavy wheelset, which slows acceleration and makes the bike feel heavier than it is.
I found this notable when climbing up steep, bendy climbs where constant acceleration was needed to maintain momentum.
The RockShox FS-Judy TK supports the bike well on the climbs without feeling too soft.
There is a lockout adjustment on the fork crown that enables you to stiffen the fork, though I only felt the need to use it on extended fire-road climbs.
Calibre Rake 29 descending performance
Compared to most bikes of a similar price, the Calibre Rake benefits from a long, low and slack geometry. This helps make the bike feel composed and confident when descending.
The relatively long reach measurement of 472mm gives you plenty of room to move around the bike and makes it feel composed at higher speeds.
The 66-degree head angle gives the Rake a good balance of stability and playfulness on steeper terrain.
Although the skinny chassis of the RockShox Judy fork means steering can be vague through technical corners, it provides good isolation from the trail and was easy to set up up for my weight. This is limited to adjusting preload and rebound, so riders at the bottom or the top of the weight range may find it more difficult.
The Rake 29 is more than capable of trail-centre red routes in the right hands, but it feels out of place on steeper, more challenging descents with bigger compressions.
As well as providing ample damping, the WTB Trail Boss Comp tyres find grip well on a variety of terrain, from loamy forest floors to loose rocky surfaces.
They also help to mitigate the Calibre’s harshness and I found myself letting the tyre pressures down to a risky 18psi to compensate, opening myself up to pinch flats.
The Clarks M2 brakes stand out on the Rake 29, delivering decent power levels and a consistent bite point that gives high levels of confidence when going down the trail.
The lever’s reach can be adjusted via a hex key, and while the lever is designed to accommodate multiple fingers on the blade, one-finger braking is easily achieved.
There is a sense that Calibre has tried to make the Rake 29 as much fun as possible, while sticking to a tight budget.
It’s not the quietest of rides when descending on rough surfaces. The clutchless rear derailleur meant the chain often jumped off the chainring on rockier sections, though the front derailleur would guide it back into place after a pedal stroke.
The noise isn’t helped by the externally routed cables, which bang against the frame on large knocks.
The lock-on grips give the handlebars a good sense of security, which isn’t always promised at this end of the market. The Calibre bar is nice and wide at 800mm, helping you feel confident with a more planted feel over the front of the bike.
Calibre Rake 29 bottom line
The Calibre Rake 29 is a great example of the fun you can have on a hardtail mountain bike without spending a fortune.
Its spec is something to covet at this price point and, while it may not be as capable as bikes 10 times its Member’s Card price, the Rake 29 is certainly comparable to those priced in the segments directly above it.
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Bottom bracket||Square taper 73mm BB|
|Brakes||Clarks M2 Hydraulic disc|
|Cassette||Shimano Acera 11-36T|
|Fork||RockShox FS-Judy TK 29|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Dual pull|
|Grips/Tape||Calibre Trail lock-on|
|Handlebar||Calibre Trail Alloy 780mm|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Alivio 9|
|Seatpost||Calibre Trail 30.9 x 350mm|
|Stem||Calibre Trail 31.8mm clamp|
|Tyres||WTB Trail Boss Comp 29 x 2.25in|
|Wheels||Unbranded 25mm wide rims built on Shun Feng hubs|