The cyclocross season is just around the corner, and even though muddy fields seem like a distant memory as the sun is shining, I put the Raleigh RXW Race bike through its paces last spring. I raced it, trained on it and also took it on a huge Welsh off road adventure, and I couldn’t have asked to have been on a better bike.
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Raleigh are committed to cyclocross development, sponsoring riders including Hannah Saville and Joanna Rycroft and even making models for kids. The team were on hand to answer any questions I had about the bike, and their appetite to make incredible cyclocross bikes was apparent. The RXW Race is the first women’s specific carbon cyclocross bike, and underpins that commitment to developing racing across the women’s and men’s disciplines. The model I tested was developed with the help of Caroline Mani, a pro CX rider from the states.
The RXW Race is the top level of women’s specific cyclocross bikes that Raliegh currently offer, and retails at £1,850, with two sister cyclocross bikes in the range starting at £800. Raleigh describe the RXW Race as ‘carbon perfection for women who dream of muddy fields’. Spoiler: I’m going to agree with them.
The frame on the Raleigh RXW Race Women's Cyclocross Bike
I had to review a smaller frame size than usual, as the sizing only goes up to a 52. Normally riding a 54 frame (depending on geometry), I actually got on extremely well with the 52 and found it handled so much better than my own cross bike, which is a little on the larger size. However, at my height (5’6) I’m only just under the limit for this bike (Raleigh advise 5’7).
Having slogged my way through a first cross season on a heavy do-it-all gravel type bike, to be able to ride carbon now is a real treat, and this RXW Race bike only emphasised the delight you can get while racing a lighter bike. Any concerns about whether a carbon frame and forks can withstand the demands of the rough stuff should be put to one side. Weighing in at 8.1kg what you have here is a really nippy bike, which feels incredibly solid and ready to deal with the demands of the day.
The RXW Race geometry is what you would expect to find on a racing cyclocross bike...
The RXW Race geometry is what you would expect to find on a racing cyclocross bike, but with the emphasis for this model on female specific RSP+ handlebars and women’s specific saddle, the Selle Royal Sirio as standard, although I would always advise to get a bike fit to ensure your measurements are bang on. The top tube is tapered, meaning maximum comfort when shouldering the bike, with the rear brake cable routed along the top tube to keep things neat and out of the way, and the gear cable internally routed.
With a standard high bottom bracket, the WRX Race uses a reinforced bridged seat stay with a good amount of clearance. What let the frame down was the bridging on the chainstay, which doesn't allow the heaviest of mud and muck to clear through, which can be a problem on some cross courses, particularly when it’s been raining.
Raleigh are looking to remove the chain stay bridging on the women’s frames - but as they pointed out to me when we discussed it this bike came 2nd in a CX World Cup race in Belgium. That isn't to say they should rest on their laurels, and it's good to hear changes are being made for future models. Many bikes suffer with the same problem when the going gets really tough. It’s a compromise between keeping the bike light and ensuring it is stable enough to cope with the demanding conditions.
There are two sets of standard bottle cage bosses on the RXW Race bike (will take two bottles), and no bosses for mudguards or panniers- this bike is built to race.
Component on the Raleigh RXW Race Women's Cyclocross Bike
- The Raleigh RXW range
- Race: £1850. Carbon, SRAM Rival groupset, TRP Revox rim brakes, American Classic TCX Tubeless wheels with Schwalbe x1 tyres. 8.1kg.
- Pro: £1500. Aliminum. SRAM Rival plus SRAM Rival Hydraulic Discs, Cole Rollen CX Tubeless wheels with Schwalbe X1 tyres. 9kg.
- Elite: £800. Aliminum. Shimano Sora groupset, Tektro CR710 rim brakes, RSP CX2.0 23mm wide section profile wheels, Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres. 9.8kg.
Stem and seatpost Of course, you can make the best frame in the world - but when retailing a built bike, a brand needs to offer decent spec for the price of shoppers will look elsewhere. The Raleigh RXW Race comes well dressed - but if you want to spend a little less, there are other models with the same frame and altered components.
The stem and seatpost are both Raleigh RSP+ components, the seatpost being carbon and the stem alloy. The carbon seat post only added to the comfort levels over the rough stuff.
The bike came with the standard as sold groupset, SRAM Rival 1x, 11-32 meaning a single 40t chainring on the front and an 11 speed cassette. No need to worry about only having 11 gears, over the handful of differing rides I used this bike for I rarely found myself undergeared. Keeping the gearing simple is often preferable, as you ride through the mucky stuff a mechanical is the last thing you need!
Many cross bikes come with disc brakes, but in order to keep the price point reasonable on a racey carbon frame, the RXW Race comes with cantilever TRP Revox brakes. Personally I have no problems with these - once upon a time these were the only option. The UCI have allowed disc-brakes in cyclocross races since 2010. It is undeniable that discs allow for a greater amount of mud clearance, therefore keeping the bike moving during a race, and discs can enable better braking control and modulation when the conditions get really tough. However, the cantis on the RXW Race were more than up to the job, not only in the confines of a taped cross race but also when being ridden across some real back country terrain in mid Wales. They are lightweight and effective, and ultimately cost saving.
The RXW Race comes standard with aluminium 700c American Classic tubeless ready wheels, and I found them to be lightweight and really good enough for the levels I ride and race at. Schwalbe X-one high performance racing tyres come with the bike, described by Schwalbe as ‘one of the fastest cross tyres ever’. These tyres are also tubeless ready, so you have the whole system ready to go should you wish to avoid the risk of getting pinch punctures.
There was great debate about the colour of this bike. It was undeniable that the paint work was immaculate and well - fast looking. But the purple divided opinions: some were of the view that it’s purple because it’s a women’s bike, others (including me) thought that actually it looked slick, stand out and pretty racey. I will admit that I found the decals on the forks and chainstay a little old school. Less is more in my opinion, but I’m really clutching at straws here.
The finish was excellent, and I really did give the bike a very good test over the Welsh hills, not holding back on putting it through its paces over very rough ground. I was anticipating some chips on the paintwork after that, but there was not a scratch. Seriously impressive, and more so than other very well known bike brands I have used for this sort of riding.
All in all, this is a fantastic little cross bike, and I was rather sad to see it leave my stable. It is fast, fun, lightweight and really packs a punch in the response department. An excellent offering for a women’s specific racing bike, chapeau Raleigh. More of the same please.
Pros: Responsive, lightweight yet solid
Cons: Bridge on chainstay can hamper efforts on heavy mud
Interested in this mud slaying, cx-ing machine? Check it out here.