The RSD Catalyst 700+ is designed to transition between the city streets and the gravel beyond—perfect for my neighborhood and style of urban cycling. A few minutes away from my house is a great park with miles of gravel and dirt paths. I frequently use the park as a corridor to run errands, get to work, or jump on the Great Allegheny Passage trail. Because of the varied surfaces and distances I encounter on such outings, I like a bike that can easily and comfortably get me where I’m going on my ever-changing routes.
Several things make the Catalyst a great option for cyclists who like to mix it up. First and foremost is the ability to use large tires. The Catalyst comes stock with 700×45 tires, and can fit a 2.25 inch wide tire in the frame but only a 1.9 inch wide tire up front due to limited clearance in the carbon fork. The Maxxis Overdrive tires feature Kevlar protection and reflective sidewalls, and traction was great for everything I found myself pedaling over and through.
Another quality I admire about the Catalyst is the long top tube, which limits the dreaded toe/tire overlap—especially when running large tires. The medium I tested has a 23.4 inch top tube, which is longer than most mediums. RSD combines this with a short stem, keeping the reach to the handlebar in check. Sizing may be an issue for some riders, as the Catalyst only comes in two sizes.
The 4130 chromoly Catalyst has mounts for a rear rack and front and rear fenders, and I am happy to report that the front triangle has ample room for a large frame pack. The only downside to using a framebag is that you lose access to both water bottle cages and there are no bosses on the underside of the frame to make up for it.
The swept-back FS A Metropolis handlebar creates an incredibly comfortable hand and wrist position while riding. It took me a few rides to get used to the bars, but I soon noticed that my hands just naturally fell into the right spot. Combine that with the forgiving carbon fork and extended time in the saddle was a bit more tolerable on my hands, arms and upper body.
The Catalyst has only a single chainring, which limits its usefulness in some situations. The 40 tooth chainring is matched to an 11-36 cassette offering a decent gear range but nothing really great for super-hilly, long commutes. A consolatory bonus is the front chainring guard, which does help protect your pant leg. In the end I did not find myself wanting a second chainring, but the frame does have cable stops for a front derailleur.
Thankfully RSD decided to equip the Catalyst with some decent brakes. Avid BB7 discs matched up to 160 mm rotors felt like enough stopping power in most situations. When loaded down, I’m a bit on the heavy side so a 180 mm rotor up front can be helpful. I’m just happy that RSD didn’t cut corners with cheap brake calipers.
After all was said and done, I really enjoyed my time on the Catalyst 700+. If you want a bike that can tackle the urban environment with a bit of dirt and gravel thrown its way, this is a solid choice at a great price. Looking for something fancier? RSD offers the Catalyst in stainless steel and Ti versions too.
- Price: $1,399 as tested, $529 for the frame only
- Weight: 25.2 pounds (complete)
- Sizes: Medium (tested), large