The Raleigh RXC Pro Disc looks great, and its performance almost lives up to the visual expectations. Given the Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting and ENVE fork and cockpit, we were excited to ride the bike more than some other disc brake-equipped options, but the wheels left us underwhelmed.
Ride & handling: High riding and not super grippy
The bike sits higher than some thanks to its 55mm bottom bracket drop, which puts the BB about 1cm higher than on a bike with 67-70cm drop. While you might not notice the height, you probably will pick up on the resulting, higher saddle, especially when you’re hopping back on the bike after a run section. On the plus side, the higher bottom bracket gives you a bit more clearance to ride over short obstacles and pedal on off-camber sections without clipping a pedal.
The handling is fairly neutral, with 63mm of trail, and the bike remains stable at all cyclocross speeds. For reference, many performance road bikes have trail in the 59-62mm range, which makes them more sensitive to steering inputs. For ’cross, when the course is bumping you around, a little more trail to keep the bike tracking can be a good thing.
The most notable difference in handling compared with other disc brake CX bikes was from the wheels and tires. Although the Cole C38 hoops have good, smooth bearings and fairly stiff tension, the rims are surprisingly heavy for carbon, and disappointingly narrow.
With rotor, the front wheel weighs a relatively heavy 1.1kg (2.43lb). Worse, the skinny 19mm rim means your tire is skinny (an internal rim diameter of 13mm makes the stock Vittoria Cross XG Pro 32 measure a slim 29mm).
Our Vittoria XG Pro tires measured 29mm on the Cole wheels
In cyclocross, tires are everything. Besides minimizing your critical contact patch, the narrow setup means less overall volume, and therefore less cushion and traction.
Frame: Rear caliper mounted on chain stay
The Raleigh RXC Pro comes in five sizes, from 50 to 59cm, with our 57cm test machine weighing in at 8.87kg (19.6lb). The 1,235g carbon fiber frame is PF30, but the RXC Pro uses a step-down bearing for the 24mm Shimano Ultegra cranks.
The rear of the bike is fairly stiff laterally, for good power transfer. The flattened seatstays are designed to flex a bit vertically, and may provide a modicum of comfort. But honestly, you will get much more of your cushioning from the tires.
When rebuilding the bike from the frame up, we found the internal cable routing relatively easy thanks to an internal sleeve in the chain stay, and the flat underside of top tube makes for comfortable shouldering and a good spot for a logo on the otherwise understated branded graphics.
Raleigh has carried over the high bottom bracket from its aluminum series. “We’re based in the Pacific Northwest,” said Raleigh USA’s Brian Fornes. “Sometimes, having a slightly higher bottom bracket has its advantages in the mud and multiple barrier crossings.” Beefing up the frame for the disc mounts also resulted in a stiffer frame than the caliper version, according to Fornes.
Unusually, the RXC Pro Disc features a rear caliper that sits on the chain stay
The RXC Pro also has a chain stay-mounted rear caliper. While tucking the brake neatly inside the frame instead of sitting it on the seat stay, this design also brings the frame much closer to your left heel. On our 57cm bike with size 45 shoes, we would occasionally bump the bike with our foot when out of the saddle.
Equipment: Ultegra Di2 and ENVE spec offset by Cole wheels
Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 is sweet. Yes, the system adds weight, but it shifts perfectly, every time, under load and in any weather. We have heard from racers who have accidentally unplugged one of the derailleurs in the heat of battle (read: no more shifting until reconnected), but this never happened to us.
The bike has Tektro RL721 brake levers on the tops of the handlebars, which we found to be unnecessary additional weight as most people race ’cross with their hands on the hoods or in the drops. That said, you could certainly remove the levers in favor of a straight line of cable and housing from the shifters to the brake calipers.
We found the brakes to be wonderful on modulation but the top-end stopping power wasn’t great. For racing cyclocross, though, it’s a good setup. Our test bike had Hayes CX-5 disc calipers, but the production line RXC will come with Avid BB7s.
We loved the shape and feel of the ENVE compact bar and its matching stem. The bars have a neat integrated end cap cone, and besides the unique look, the rubber cap stays in place better than a traditional plug during the inevitable cyclocross spill. Plus, the compact bar allows you to maintain a similar body position with your hands on the hoods and in the drops.
The carbon clincher Cole wheels should be lighter and wider at the rim. Fornes explained that if Cole’s C24 wheels had been available in a disc clincher, Raleigh would have specced them: “With more options being made available, things will change.”
It’s hard to go wrong with ENVE components and Di2
In sum, if you like a high bottom bracket then the RXC Pro Disc could be the right bike for you. With the Ultegra Di2 and ENVE spec, there’s a lot to like. However, we do feel that the wheels should be lighter and wider for the price.