Many people ask what sets apart a bike shop quality bike, over other bikes out on the market. The Raleigh Cadent 3 is an example of a bike shop quality bike being sold direct to consumer. In this day and age of direct to consumer methods, being able to see what makes a good bike over something that is less valuable is quite important.
One of the first things to aim for in direct to consumer is sticking with name brands. Off brands, and other distributors will struggle to warranty, or even provide minimal service for your new bike. Whether there is shipping damage or something wasn’t right with the bike upon build-up, you would rather deal with an established company that can be contacted for customer service. Additionally, if you need to replace a part, the OEM is the best way to get a matching rim, or something similar. Drivetrain parts are easy to find in the market.
Build quality is also quite important. Your out of box experience should be easy, with simple instructions, that will have you riding in a few short minutes. Generally, bikes like the Raleigh Cadent 3 are at least 85% assembled in the box. That means you will put the bars, seat, pedals, and front wheel on. This is done with standard tools, nothing special needed. The bike might be rideable in this status, but it is best to fine-tune the brakes and derailleurs. A great idea is to complete the base assembly yourself, and have a local bike shop perform a tune-up at a much lower cost than an assembly.
The Cadent 3 looks smart. It doesn’t have tons of decals and logos. It is quite understated. Although it will look like an expensive new bike, it might work in an urban environment as a perfect commuter bike.
The frame is well designed and features 6061 aluminum tubing on the frame itself and a carbon legged fork. The steerer on the fork is also carbon which is rare on this level of bike. The frame is semi-sloping which allows for a larger head tube which raises the bars up but then slopes the top tube down more rapidly for standover clearance.
The bike comes in four colors currently, gray, blue, green, and red. So you can go bright with the green and be seen, or muted in the grey so you don’t stand out as much. All of the paints are clear coated to a semi-matte finish. Be careful trying to polish off smudges or blemishes. It is easy to go through the clear coat and leave the shiny color showing through.
This bike is quite sturdy and well built throughout as we will discuss further. From rack mounts to the overall setup, there is nothing lacking for most riders. The 5 frame sizes will be applicable to most riders. Size medium for 5’10” and XL for taller guys beyond 6’3″.
Raleigh considers this a pavement based fitness bike. Many of us would call it a hybrid. With most every hybrid on the market, you get a wider seat with cut-outs and an ergonomic flat handlebar as your main contact points.
Let’s start with the bars. These are pretty typical amongst bikes of this type. They are a 15mm rise bar, with around a 12-degree sweep back toward the rider. This seems to be a fairly standard low-pressure hand position for most riders. If there were issues, a local bike shop could recommend other bars and stems that can adjust the fit further for you.
This bike runs a standard micro-adjust seat post that nearly any seat can be used with. The seat is padded and reasonably wide. However, everyone is different, and it is recommended to try out many saddles until you find one of your likings. Many people find Terry saddles to be quite comfortable.
When you get the bike, the first adjustments to get a good starting point should be the angle of the seat and the bars. With rise bars, a good starting point is to look at the area that rises, the riser part should be perpendicular to the ground. This allows the bar to sweep back reasonably, and be comfortable. But this is just a start point. With the seat, loosen the 6mm bolt that holds the seat to the post, and on flat ground, adjust the seat to be parallel to the ground, or level. As you ride, adjust that tilt up or down a degree or so, nothing harsh, until you find the best angle for you.
Next, we will look over the drivetrain. This is not the most basic drivetrain, there are some good upgrades, and it is reasonably up to date. The Shimano components are easy to maintain and find replacements when they wear out.
The rear derailleur is Shimano Acera. It is mated to a Shimano Acera shifter set on the bars. This allows for 9-speed shifting to occur. Occasionally you might see a manufacturer run a better rear but cut costs on the shifters and with fewer gears available. This is not a bike like that.
The hyper-glide cassette works great, with smooth quick shifts. You can easily shift under load for steep grades without worry. Replacing a chain or a cassette on this bike is inexpensive, and if you are riding regularly during the week, it should be replaced on a 6-month interval. If you are riding over 200 miles a week, you would want to replace it more frequently. A stretched chain wears a pattern into the gears, replacing it prior to it fully stretching prolongs the life of the drivetrain at a much lower cost.
The Shimano Alivio front derailleur works well on the Acera triple crankset. The Alivio is pretty easy to adjust and has a big side plate to help lift the chain between gears. A very tried and true choice here.
Raleigh chose to go with Tektro disc brakes on this model. Manufacturers cut costs by using mechanical cable-driven disc brakes. On the Cadent 3 that is not the case, and a good quality hydraulic disc is used.
These Tektro discs are a single-piston caliper. Normally, a single-piston does fine for most terrains. If you find that you are riding many hills, and need more stopping power, upgrading to a 2 piston brake, and larger rotors will help with heat dissipation.
The nice thing with these brakes is that you can stop using one finger! They are that powerful. If you are on steeper hills, you will want 2 fingers on the levers, but still, these have great stopping abilities. Pads will normally last a few years in dry clean conditions. Add in moisture and dirt, and you will see faster wear. Pad replacement is cheaper than a chain and can be found in most shops around the world.
Tires and Wheels
The Raleigh Cadent 3 is not a race bike. With that, lightweight wheels are not really the goal, although these do just fine. They are a semi-aero rim, with machined sidewalls for a smart look. They are double-wall aluminum, so they are fairly tough for most riding conditions.
The Formula hubs compare to everything in this price range. They are strong, and work well. There are few issues with bearings, and getting dirt or water inside the hub.
Vee Rubber Company out of Thailand makes the tires. Vee uses mostly natural rubber compounds, which have a great road feel with plenty of traction. Keep your air pressure up, and you should have few issues with flat tires.
I would recommend adding a tire liner between the tube and the tire. Tire liners are polyurethane belts that prevent most punctures. Mr Tuffy is the main manufacturer of these. You will save a ton on tubes running these liners are they are massively effective in preventing flat tires.
The Raleigh Cadent 3 is an excellent example of the quality you would rely on from a bike shop quality bicycle. Raleigh offers excellent warranties and plenty of customer support for assembly or other issues. It is a name brand known around the world and respected quite well.
The Cadent 3 has quality throughout. It can be ridden anywhere and has the components that will take some abuse and still perform admirably. Proper maintenance will allow this bike to last for many years.
The hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro instill confidence and are easy to maintain. The Shimano drivetrain does everything it is asked to do. With low-cost chains and cassettes, you can keep the shifting perfect like the first day you rode.
The Raleigh Cadent 3 is an excellent buy with much value for the money spent. Bikes of equal quality and parts choices are in the same price range. Grab yourself a Raleigh and enjoy cruising your neighborhood, and adding brisk rides to your exercise regimen.