Mark Reilly is a famed British bike builder specialising in titanium. His decades in the industry have led to his eponymous brand working with fellow builder and designer Damon Fisher on bikes made from steel, carbon and Reilly’s speciality, titanium.
Like any metal, titanium needs to be manipulated correctly to enable the best to come to the fore. The Gradient’s frame does exactly that with what Reilly defines as ultra-butted tubing, which it calls Reilly Axis.
This multi-wall thickness material imbues the Gradient with a lively, light-feeling ride that’s complemented by the full carbon fork. The liveliness is increased further by the use of Hunt’s 1,629g 4Season tubeless-ready alloy gravel wheelset, here shod with Panaracer’s excellent Gravel King SK tyres.
The 43c beauties offer tenacious grip on dry dirt, yet their rounder profile means they roll well on tarmac.
GRX mech groupset with low 40/42 bottom gear. Robert Smith
Things are finished off with Shimano’s new mechanical GRX groupset in 1x guise and from the 600 series. The gear range suits its off-road intentions with a ludicrously low 40/42 bottom gear.
The GRX’s clutch-equipped rear mech stops the chain bouncing off in the rough and keeps chatter to a minimum; although after a few days’ riding the mech needed adjustment because it wasn’t quite engaging the 11-tooth sprocket when downshifting at speed.
1x GRX chainset; the frame can take a 2x option. Robert Smith
If you wanted to use the Gradient beyond gravel and on the road more often, consider opting for a 2x setup (the frame can take a front mech).
Equipment-wise there is little to fault: great gears, solid wheels, excellent tyres.
Reilly’s own stem and post with Ritchey EvoMax Comp bar. Robert Smith
The cockpit, which matches Reilly’s own sleek Vector stem with Ritchey’s brilliantly shaped EvoMax bar, is perfect and the combination of a Reilly carbon post and Reilly saddle make things comfortable at the back, too.
It really is the chassis where the Reilly wins big: the brushed finish and mirror graphics on the frame ooze quality and my large (57cm) test rig has geometry that’s the right side of sporty with a steep 73.5-degree seat angle and a 72-degree head combined with a stack of 589mm and reach of 395mm.
The brushed finish of the chassis is a class act. Robert Smith
It completely hits the sweet spot between comfort and speed and it all adds up to a ride that feels road-bike precise on tarmac, yet controllable on the rough stuff.
Reilly’s Gradient is an artisan bike handbuilt in the UK that represents very decent value for money.
Reilly Gradient geometry
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 72 degrees
Seat tube: 53cm
Top tube: 57cm
Head tube: 15.5cm
Bottom bracket height: 27.5cm