By Nigel Wynn
Moda may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking about a new bike, but to dismiss this UK brand’s machines would be a mistake, especially at the incredibly competitive £1,000 mark. Rather than go all out to make an attention-grabbing specification in the traditional sense, the folk behind the brand choose a different and — in our opinion — far more sensible route.
Complete bikes at this price will always have a degree of compromise in the specification; there’s simply not the budget to be able to include a whole host of top-line components. Many of the bigger brands will often focus on an expensive rear derailleur and the like, hiding the cost-saving parts from view. Moda has done almost the complete opposite.
The two largest costs when building a bike, for the bike company and home builder alike, are the frame and wheels. These also have the greatest effect on how the bike rides. The Rubato frame doesn’t try to do too much, concentrating instead on getting the basic things perfect. Geometry is key to how a bike rides. Head and seat angles, and the way they combine with the fork shape and frame’s overall scale and layout, change where the body is positioned in relation to the wheels. A well-balanced frame and fork will have the rider sitting very centrally in the bike, with the perfect amount of rider weight on the front and rear wheels.
This may seem a very simple thing to do, but very small changes have a very large impact. Too far forward and the steering feel is compromised; too far back and steep climbs can be problematic too high and descending becomes scary; too short, stability falls off a cliff; too long and the handling becomes boat-like. The list of pitfalls is almost endless.
The long and short of it is the Rubato is bang on the money, offering a great compromise between an engaging ride and stability at speed. Double-butted aluminium (thinner in the central, less stressed areas of the tubing to reduce mass) is reasonably large diameter. This allows the wheels to follow each other perfectly when cornering without it feeling overly harsh.
Again, this is a compromise Moda’s designers seem to have got bang on. Any larger diameter and the ride quality would suffer; any narrower and the steering accuracy would fall off as torsional stiffness (the resistance to the twisting loads when steering technically challenging corners) reduces.
The high modulus carbon-fibre fork also greatly assists the steering accuracy and it’s the same fork found on higher-priced Modas. A cheap fork is often where companies can save weight, with an often-devastating effect on the ride.
American Classic Victory wheels sell for a penny under £300 on their own. To see a pair of wheels of this calibre on a bike at this price is pretty much unheard of. With cartridge bearing (easy to maintain) hubs, double-butted stainless steel spokes (in readily available sizes to ease repair come the inevitable) mate to 24mm-deep aluminium rims. At just under 1,700g, these are great riding wheels. The low weight means the overall ride of the bike is far better than it has any right to be.
We’ve got three quarters of the way through without mentioning much about most of the bike. The truth is the two things (frame and wheels) that make the biggest difference to the rider’s ultimate enjoyment are what we, and Moda, concentrated on with the Rubato. The Microshift White shifters and mechs may lack the brand cache of the bigger names, but the shifting quality is comparable.
A slightly flexy shift lever isn’t as accurate as higher priced offerings, but the gears and ratchets seem very well made, so it should last. The only real compromise is the SRAM S150 chainset. The ratios are great for this level, but it isn’t the stiffest. Moda knows this, but a replacement won’t cost more than a few new chainrings if you shop around, and it doesn’t detract from the ride at all.
With Barelli-branded alloy finishing kit and reasonable Kenda tyres, the Rubato impressed us. No bike at this price will ever be perfect, but we regularly grabbed the Moda from the shed despite there being more expensive options available. In our world, that really says everything.
Alternative: Moda Bolero £1,000
The Bolero shares the Rubato’s same killer hoops and double-butted alloy frame tubing, but there’s a little more stability and a slightly higher front end to maintain the ride quality. Microshift White gears return and the Bona shifters happily nudge the chain from cog to cog without an issue.
With slimline mudguards as standard and the same great price, the Bolero would suit newcomers and hardcore cyclists after a winter training bike. We adore those ice blue graphics too.
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