If I was looking for prettiest bike of the year, the Ribble CGR Ti 650b would be a definite contender. There’s a certain classic purity about titanium frames, as well as timelessness, because they retain their looks whatever’s thrown at them.
The Ribble CGR Ti 650b is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
My recent experience aboard Ribble’s carbon-fibre CGR was extremely positive, and although sharing that model’s cyclocross/gravel/road designation, the titanium version is a very different beast indeed.
Ribble CGR Ti 650b frame and kit
Ribble claims the seamless, triple-butted 3AL/2.5V frame weighs 1,700g, with the all-carbon fork adding 480g. That’s not a great deal more mass than a carbon frame, especially when you consider the potential lifespan and durability of each.
Its unfussy looks include an ovalised top tube, while at the back there are fairly slim, round seatstays with a bridge and elegant, mostly round chainstays with several crimped sections for tyre and chainring clearance.
The frame clearances are good, even with the 47mm tyres fitted, although they measure 45mm on the averagely wide rims of the Mavic Aksium Elite Disc UST 650b wheels, and there’s plenty of room in the fork.
Practical touches include mounts for two bottle cages, full mudguards and a rear rack for up to 20kg. There are specific, individual ports routing the gear cable and brake hose through the down tube, plus separate sealed ports for electronic shifting.
With mudguards fitted, the CGR Ti can still run tyres and wheels up to 700cx42mm, for all-weather plushness.
SRAM’s Rival 1 groupset offers a good mix of performance and durability, and in this case has a 42-tooth chainring and 11-42 cassette, a tried-and-tested combination that works well for the CGR’s intended use.
Although Hope hoops are an option for £250 more, my bike came with Mavic Aksium Elite Disc UST wheels in 650b size, shod with WTB Horizon tyres.
These are essentially bulbous 47mm slick tyres with just a fine file tread, and they create a satisfying low pitched rumble on the road.
With no more than 35psi, there’s obvious tyre compression when out of the saddle, which makes the CGR Ti feel utterly planted. Some swinging of the FSA Adventure bar wrestles the bike up to a useful road speed, and I could enjoy the ideal riding position the medium frame allowed.
The front end’s 170mm head tube is tall enough to be relaxing, but with no spacers, still low enough to tuck into the drops for descents and swift road progress. It’s no rocket ship, but can cover rolling roads efficiently and with a cultured ride feel.
At almost 10kg, gravity and rotational mass have their way on sustained climbs, and although stomping uphill is a useful option for a short time, the CGR Ti better suits sitting and spinning. It does feel like a faster bike that’s got shackles on, with positive responses at all speeds.
It’s very communicative too, giving incessant onboard commentary about the current surface conditions, which makes for a rewarding ride.
Ribble CGR Ti 650b ride impressions
Hitting the usual rippled and rutted hardpacked gravel reinforced my belief that big tyre volume is everything for this sort of riding.
Despite their lack of any real grip, the Horizons coped well with slick mud-topped stones and liquified dirt. I could have run lower pressures, even with the inner tubes, and with a tubeless conversion I’d ride at nearer 20psi away from tarmac, but comfort and grip were still impressive.
The Adventure bar’s 42cm hood width extends to 50cm at the ends of the flared drops, which maximises fine control when things get rough or fast.
Once I’d established the Horizon’s grip level, I could let the CGR Ti really go on gravelly descents, and found its bump-smoothing ability to be good.
The natural elasticity of titanium helps isolate the rider from jarring surfaces, and the carbon fork performed equally well, allowing me to concentrate on picking a line through the potholes that I could trust the CGR Ti to follow precisely. When holes were unavoidable, the added bounce in the tyres made bunny hopping a cinch as well.
Although not carbon, the aluminium seatpost is a practical choice, and any comfort difference was made up by the well-upholstered WTB Koda Race saddle.
Noticeably an off-road inspired shape, the Koda offers a comfortable cushioned place to while away the hours.
Ribble CGR Ti 650b verdict
Whether getting adventurous on gravel roads, towpaths or the highways and byways, the Ribble’s generous 1,031mm wheelbase and 72-degree head angle ensure stability, ideal for anyone adding a little luggage.
The CGR Ti is undeniably pretty, but has a very tough core and is a joy to ride everywhere.
Ribble CGR Ti 650b specifications
- Sizes (*tested): XS, S, M*, L, XL
- Weight: 9.81kg
- Frame: Grade 9 (3AL/2.5V) seamless, triple-butted titanium
- Fork: Full carbon
- Chainset: SRAM Rival 1, 42t X-Sync ring
- Bottom bracket: SRAM GXP
- Cassette: SRAM Apex 11-42
- Chain: SRAM PC1130
- Derailleur: SRAM Rival
- Shifters: SRAM Rival
- Wheels: Mavic Aksium Elite Disc UST 650b
- Tyres: WTB Horizon 47mm 650b
- Stem: FSA Omega alloy
- Handlebar: FSA Adventure alloy
- Headset: XX 1 1/8in—1 1/4in
- Saddle: WTB Koda Race
- Seatpost: FSA Gossamer alloy
- Brakes: SRAM Rival hydraulic disc, Shimano RT70 S 160mm rotors
Ribble CGR Ti 650b geometry
- Seat angle: 73˚
- Head angle: 72˚
- Chainstay: 43.5cm
- Seat tube: 55.5cm
- Top tube: 55.5cm
- Head tube: 17cm
- Wheelbase: 1,031.8mm
- Stack: 58.9cm
- Stack: 58.9cm