Review: Raleigh Roper

By Josh Patterson

The Roper and its singlespeed sibling, the Furley, are new models in Raleigh’s line-up. You may have already inferred that the names are taken from the pair of landlords on the, regrettably, long-running sitcom Three’s Company. The story of how these bikes were developed, and their intended uses, led to their quirky names. “We wanted to make a ‘landlord bike,’ one bike that could do everything,” said Raleigh’s Brian Fornes. More specifically, Raleigh’s designers wanted to create a bike that was supremely capable of daily commuting, gravel road adventures, and light-duty touring.

Staying true to the company’s design goals of one-bike-to-rule-them-all, the Roper offers features and components that balance performance, versatility, and durability. The frame has enough clearance to run fenders with the stock 700x32c tires; it can accommodate up to 700x38c tires without fenders. Thoughtful touches include two spare spokes mounted to the drive-side chainstay, and that the rear disc brake is mounted to the non-drive-side chaintstay, rather than the seatstay, tucking the brake caliper neatly into the rear triangle and simplifying rack and fender mounting. The Roper has eyelets for both.

In my opinion, the best thing about the Roper is that it is equipped with disc brakes. The Shimano R505 cable-actuated discs are mated to Shimano 105 STI levers. Initially, braking performance was less than ideal. This was easily remedied by removing the bar-top brake levers which, even when properly set up, significantly increased cable drag. Once removed they were never missed.

The drivetrain is also Shimano 105, save for the FSA Gossamer 50/34-tooth crankset. Both the Roper and the Furley frames use BB30 bottom brackets. The larger diameter of this bottom bracket’s shell allowed Raleigh to work with FSA to develop a BB30-specific eccentric bottom bracket, which is spec’d on the Furley. (Several other companies now produce BB30 eccentrics, should you decide to turn the Roper into a singlespeed.)

The Roper’s handling is very neutral. The frame features traditional cyclocross geometry—more relaxed handling than a road bike, but more nimble than touring bikes—but is much more versatile than Raleigh’s cyclocross race bikes. Though my so-called 55cm test bike fit well, I question Raleigh’s sizing, since the seat tube measures 53cm and the effective top tube is 54cm. Better to simply call the frame a “medium” to avoid confusing potential buyers.

At 26lbs., the Roper is no lightweight, and the butted 4130 chromoly frame does not ride with the same sprightly nature that lighter, thinner-walled steel frames are known for, but it has a sturdy feel that gets the job done. I did my best to ride this “landlord bike” on as many mixed-surface adventures as possible. I mounted larger, 700x38c tires for my commute, which includes a long stretch of fist-sized railroad ballast. We also went on numerous urban rides and even tackled some singletrack together. In each instance the Roper proved up for the task.

My criticisms of the Roper are few: the cable routing for the front and rear brakes could be cleaner. An additional cable guide mounted on the fork’s crown would help route the front brake housing along the fork’s leg. Additionally, the rear brake caliper is positioned in a manner that allows water to easily contaminate the rear brake line, pooling at a bend in the housing at the bottom bracket—something to consider during winter rides.

Despite these cable routing issues, the Roper is an impressive bike, one that makes very few concessions for its versatility. The Roper would be a good choice for the cyclist more interested in relying on one bike for their daily adventures than worrying about maintaining a quiver of bikes, each suited to a specific duty. The $1,500 price is very reasonable for a bike as capable as the Roper.

Tester stats

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 145lbs.
  • Inseam: 30”

Bike stats

  • Country of origin: China
  • Price: $1,500
  • Weight: 26lbs.
  • Sizes Available: 50, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 59cm
 

 
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