Raleigh has a deep and rich history in the cycling industry. Being one of the oldest bicycle companies in the world, Raleigh was started in England in the year 1885. It grew quickly and became the largest bicycle company in the world several times over the 20th century.
Within mountain bikes, Raleigh was one of the first companies to mass produce mountain bikes when they became popular in the early 1980’s. Overall, they specialize in building good quality bikes with competitive pricing. The key in buying a good mountain bike is to realize the majority of your money goes for good suspension and wheels. Many think that the drivetrain is expensive, but the reality is much different.
Raleigh offers 3 models of mountain bikes, with each model having two levels of component quality. Their entry level bikes are very affordable and less than $300. Their top level bikes are right at $1000. We will dive into each model, and cover the pros and cons of each offering.
The Raleigh Eva 2 is the first bike we will take a look at. Realize first off this is a bike shop quality bicycle, and with that, a bit higher in price.
With that higher price, you will find something different from a lower priced bike and that is frame sizes. If you are just starting into cycling, realize that a bike is not a one size fits all endeavor. We are all different, our heights and proportions vary wildly, and with that, a bike should be sized to fit your needs. One of the key reasons that bikes go unused is because they are sized wrong, and because of that are uncomfortable.
The Raleigh Eva 2 is equipped with 27.5″ wheels which are a great compromise wheel size for newer riders. There are other wheel sizes, larger and smaller, however if you are looking to truly be off-road, you want to gravitate to larger wheels as they roll over the terrain much easier.
One of the large issues is that the Eva is not all that upgradeable. The stem is set for smaller diameter bars, where any upgrade bar is going to be a 31.8 clamp size, and this is set for 25.4 which generally means basic steel bars.
The brakes are great though. For a rim brake, these V style brakes are not the basic stamped steel arms you see on cheap bikes. These are forged arms, that are stronger and will give good adjustability and strong braking.
The Raleigh Eva 3 is the upgrade over the Eva 2. Nearly everything about the Eva 3 is upgraded. The frame design is a little bit more aggressive, so when you are riding your trails, the bike will be more responsive in technical areas inspiring confidence.
The Eva 3 takes a significant step up on brakes. Gone are the rim brakes, and powerful hydraulic disc brakes are installed. This is a great upgrade, and usually seen on more expensive bikes. With that, stopping with 2 fingers is a breeze, and helps to reduce hand fatigue.
There are two things that could be improved with this model. Those are the wheels and the drivetrain. The wheels are a bit heavy from a performance standpoint. The drivetrain is quite basic, and only 21 speeds. While you get awesome brakes, the drivetrain is lesser.
Entry Level Mens
The Raleigh Talus 2 is the currently offered entry level bike. Overall, at a price point below $300 it is a good value.
To start, you can get up to 5 different frame sizes. So if you are short, you are not stuck riding a giant bike, and vice versa. That is important for those that intend to truly ride the bike. Proper seat to bar reach, and standover height is important for bike fit.
Much like the women’s counterpart Eva, the Talus runs 27.5″ wheels, a basic drivetrain and V style rim brakes. I think it would have been easier if Raleigh had equipped these bikes with mechanical cable drive disc brakes. The manufacturing costs are not that different, but the braking confidence is valuable.
Mid Level Mens
In considering mid level bikes from Raleigh, the Talus 3 is interesting. In trying to understand their decisions in brakes for instance, it makes the consumer wonder.
The Talus 3 skips over cable mechanical disc brakes and goes straight to hydraulics. I guess they figured that with such a slight cost difference, why bother? Brakes are important on a bike, and being more competitive at this price point makes sense.
If you were to come to me in a store, I would try to talk you into a small upgrade. Moving up to the Tokul series of bikes makes sense for the money involved.
Upper Level Mens
The Tokul Series of bikes from Raleigh keeps it simple. Where other brands put together a low quality suspension bike at this level, Raleigh instead looks to do the proper upgrades and build a bike that will perform well.
The first thing you will notice is there is no front derailleur. Yes, this bike at a low price point is running a 1 x 9 drivetrain. Not only does this cut a pound of weight off the bike, but it simplifies shifting.
The Tokul 2 is a great choice if you are looking to get more serious about your off road riding. It runs a more aggressive geometry on the frame, so you will feel the responsiveness right away.
The wheels and tires are both upgraded. It even runs through axle on the front! If you are spending time off road, finding the right tires for your dirt is important. The Kenda Honey Badger 2.2 tires are a great start and should perform in most conditions.
The rear derailleur is a Shimano Altus, but is the newer Shadow style geometry. This allows the chain to track cleaner, and the derailleur to create positive and quick shifts. The reality with a mountain bike is that if you ride it any, you will damage the rear derailleur eventually. For $50 or so, you can upgrade when that happens.
I only wish they would put a better suspension fork on the bike. SR Suntour is not really known for producing performance oriented forks. They do fine for entry level though. A performance fork here, will drop weight, and give better control of the movement. This cuts down upper body fatigue in rough conditions.
Top Tokul 3
Finally, the top of the line Tokul 3 at just under $1000 offers some good value as well. It runs a well designed 6061 aluminum frame that will get you on a geometry and bike fit that makes sense.
The Tokul 3 is a bit of a throwback model in its look, decals and paint. It runs one of the original red colors, and low key graphics. While the bike is quite modern in every way, the look is quite retro.
The SR Suntour fork that is used here is upgraded. Not only is it thru axle, but it runs a coil spring and damper system. You get some adjustability, and no elastomer springs to fail.
The drivetrain upgrades to SRAM NX 11 speed which makes it a 1 x 11 setup. This gives you several advantages. The Tokul 2 ran a 9 speed 12-36 cogset, this 11 speed has a wider range 11 -42 so both the upper and lower gearing is wider, but there is more steps in between.
Finally, the wheel and tire combination moves up a level to tubeless. Running excellent Vee rubber, the tubeless setup is a great thing. It cuts down on pinch flats, and drops rotating mass, so the bike accelerates better, and you can run low tire pressures for traction without worry.
While you may see some older models listed as old new stock from time to time, these bikes are the best versions available from Raleigh. The model offerings are very much in tune with the market today. While many people can be impressed with the $5000 uber slick full suspension bike, the bread and butter models are all under $1000.
Every manufacturer can be second guessed about components, Raleigh makes smart choices throughout their lines. While I would love to see disc brakes everywhere, the economics of making bikes plays its hand here. Also, I would love to see something besides SR forks on all the bikes.
If you are looking towards a good quality bike shop bike as one of your first better quality choices, seriously consider Raleigh. With over 100 years of experience, and also been building mountain bikes from the start, they are a wise choice in the below $1000 range.