This latest version of the Ribble CGR AL takes the platform one step closer to being the one bike for all occasions. The redesigned frame is not only lighter and better looking than it's predecessor, it has a much more engaging personality both on and off-road. It's has a robust build quality that leads to maximum confidence when off-road or fully laden, without feeling dull and lifeless.
By James Bracey
Mavic's Aksium Disc wheelset look the part and have an enviable level of reliability so you can happily throw them into any terrain you feel like taking the CGR. They are however quite heavy and don't have the kind of zip that can transform a bike. You can use Ribble's bike Builder and change the wheel choice for an additional cost if you want to upgrade.
As it's name suggest, the CGR AL is built from aluminium (you can also get a titanium or steel framed CGR for extra choice) and has a much more refined shape to its predecessor and has the look of a thoroughly modern machine. Gone are the curved tubes and overly built stays and dropouts and in their place are a collection of slimmed down but still uniquely profiled tubes that give the CGR a cleaner look. The main tubes have a slight triangular shape that increases strength without adding weight and the seat stays now have a dropped position and curved lower portion to increase rear triangle strength, whilst adding a degree of comfort to the frameset.
Going back onto tarmac and this new CGR is a completely different beast to the previous version. It feels agile and whilst it still isn't race bike fast there is a new level of urgency when really piling on the power. The new frame design also provides a very comfortable ride (obviously the large volume tyres contribute to this). All in if you were to swap the tyres for something more road specific there's no reason the CGR AL couldn't make an excellent all-season club run partner.
The finishing kit is all Ribble's in-house Level componentry barring the comfortable Prologo saddle. This is all perfectly functional kit but I had an issue with the reach of the handlebar being too long. The wouldn't be problem on a pure road bike but it results in a position that feels a little too stretched when off-road. A shorter stem might offset some of this but I felt would compromise the actual reach to the tops of the handlebar. Fortunately it's a simple job to swap these out at the time of purchase for something a little better suited.
Available in a several basic build levels as well as now available in two colour options, the CGR also benefits from Ribble's online Bike Builder program that allows you to customise and tweak the spec and component measurements to create the perfect CGR for your riding.
Ribble’s BikeBuilder software allows many combinations of how the Ribble CGR can be specced. We went with the latest 11-speed Shimano 105 R7000 spec but you can also choose from Shimano Tiagra, GRX and Ultegra groupsets or even SRAM Apex or Rival 1x options. The Shimano 105 groupset is a great option if you want to use the CGR for road riding a large proportion of the time. For the CGR it goes without saying that this is the hydraulic disc brake version of the 105 groupset.
Ribble is renowned for affordable pricing and there can be no quibbles over the cost of this Ribble CGR AL. Starting at £1,399 in this Shimano 105 guise it’s not the cheapest bike in the gravel/all-road section of the market but that price is a reflection of the relatively high specification we went for. You can still get the same frame and wheels albeit with a 10 speed Shimano Tiagra groupset for just £999.
The CGR's geometry has been tweaked to provide a more relaxed and confidence inspiring position. The head tube has grown as well to keep you in a good heads up position ideal for fast off-road riding. The new, slimmed down carbon fork has plenty of steerer on show though so you can adjust the position, say if you want to get lower.
My first ride on the CGR was a bit of a baptism by fire around the singletrack in my local woods. It gave plenty of feedback when hitting roots at both ends (as most gravel bikes do!) but stayed measuredly on line and was a blast on the climbs. The Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres lived up to their name and were grippy enough to cope with the loose, loamy conditions.
Ribble's do-it-all CGR has had a massive revamp for 2019 and whilst it still retains a broad appeal thanks to that 'versatile' buzzword it has has been refined into a much tighter package. One that aims to move it away from a bike that, although offered dependability, produced a rather uninspiring ride experience. This new CGR (standing for Cross, Gravel and Road), Ribble assures us, has a ride quality to match the famed durability.
Disc brake specific, the CGR has thru axles front and rear to add stiffness and to aid dependable braking. It's also good to see Ribble opt for a threaded BB to keep annoying noises at bay.
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