Cross, Gravel, Road, that's what the CGR initials stand for on Ribble's latest all-rounder. A disc brake-equipped, mudguard-shod 'do a bit of everything' machine that makes a lot of sense for the rider who doesn't always want to stick to the tarmac. Thankfully, this jack of all trades is no master of none.
The CGR is a very easy bike to ride thanks to some neutral and balanced handling. This might make it sound dull but it's far from it, especially when you go off-road.
With a long wheelbase, mounts for mudguards and racks plus being designed for disc brakes, the Ribble is likely to see a lot of use in the wet and cold of winter where the road surface is often less than ideal. A bike that's dependable and trustworthy when it comes to the handling.
Over the last few weeks we've seen the temperatures drop down here in the South West and the main roads have been covered in that post-salt greasy sheen that'll happily whip your tyres out from underneath you if you aren't too careful.
Even if the Continental Ultra Sport tyres do break traction (which they often do as their winter grip isn't the best), the CGR lets you know what's happening before it's too late, as the geometry and frame materials pass plenty of information through to the rider, making things easy to correct.
This might, to some, sound a little dull – road bikes are supposed to be the thoroughbred machines of the cycling world – but while the CGR might not be the most responsive or snappy to chuck down an Alpine descent, it is bloody good at what it does, while delivering a ride that'll still keep you on your toes when the conditions are less than perfect.
If you like to chuck your bike through a twisty descent then this is probably the only place you'll find the CGR lacking, as one downhill I attacked highlighted the Ribble's weakness here.
I'd come down it a couple of times in the daylight but on a little night-time light-testing ride, I decided to push things a bit on the singletrack road. Traffic is minimal because it takes you up to an army byway, so you can afford to take a few risks, but on a tight left-hander midway down I'd never noticed the drain sitting about a foot out from the left-hand verge.
It was wet so I sat the bike up a touch to go round the outside of the drain, but at 45mph the CGR just didn't have the steering speed to bring it back into line before I ran off the road on the right-hand side. Nothing major, I touched the grass verge but manged to make it round. I even got the Strava KOM too, with an adrenaline-induced grin on my face.
It's not a major criticism of the CGR, I'm just highlighting the limits. It's not a winter bike to replicate the racing traits of your summer steed, nor is it trying to be.
The Ribble likes to cruise, it's a great mile-muncher perfect for those winter base miles. Likewise on climbing and acceleration – the Ribble doesn't excel but it delivers competent performance. I found the best way to ride it was to stay in the saddle and tap things out through the pedals.
It is stiff, though, so when you do really need to get a shift on you aren't going to be disappointed about a lack of power transfer.
Taming the terrain
We know the Ribble CGR is designed to take on various terrains but other than what I've touched on above, how does it perform specifically on each of those?
Cross: The CGR isn't as tight and nimble as a dedicated cyclo-cross bike, due to its slacker geometry and longer wheelbase, but there is no reason why you couldn't use it in anger if you wanted to dabble in the knobbly tyred world.
Part of my testing took the CGR into the woods after fitting a pair of 35mm cyclo-cross tyres, and the CGR dealt with the terrain much better than I was expecting.
The track wasn't too technical, but there was plenty of soft mud and puddles mixed in with gravel and leaves. Plenty of surface changes to push the CGR off line, especially at speed, but again you always knew where the Ribble was going to slide, so a simple tweak of steering lock was all that was needed to straighten things up as you powered on. Even for the novice off-roader (which I am) the Ribble is unbelievably easy to control.
There's plenty of clearance too, so if the conditions are particularly claggy you won't find yourself having to keep stopping to clear mud and grass out.
Smack a hidden obstacle like a covered tree root under the leaves and, again, the Ribble rarely gets so far out of shape that you can't keep the tyres in contact with the ground.
Gravel: Within two miles of my front door I have access to miles and miles of hardpack gravel tracks up on Salisbury Plain, known as the Imber Range Perimeter Path. It skirts the vast army firing range and its rock-strewn, pot-hole-covered surface can be unforgiving and punishing on your muscles.
The neutral handling I have already mentioned plays its ace card on this surface, which can be quite unpredictable at times. In terms of controllability I'd say the CGR is just as good as many of the pure adventure bikes I've ridden, especially on the sections of track where small pebbles cover the surface like glass marbles. This can make any bike skittish when you hit them at speed, but the Ribble dealt with it all admirably with a bit of body weight and steering adjustment.
Road: When I was commuting in rush hour traffic for two hours a day, a Ribble Winter Audax was my weapon of choice through the cold months and on rainy summer days too. It was easy to ride and dependable, plus it could take a knock or two. The CGR mimics all of that but gives you the added bonus of extra tyre clearance, up to 35mm with guards, and disc brakes for consistent stopping in all conditions. It's not the quickest or sharpest handling bike out there, but it is very good at what it's designed for.
It's comfortable, too, which makes it a welcome companion for those long, steady, endurance-building rides through the off-season.
As you can see, the CGR covers every base rather well.
Frame & fork
The frame itself is actually pretty simple. I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all, it's just that in a world of various bottom bracket standards, thru-axles versus quick release and all the rest, the Ribble looks like a bike you could have been riding five or ten years ago, apart from the hydraulic disc brakes on a road frame, obviously. To me this means that the CGR is a tried and tested formula.
Ribble has chosen 7005 grade aluminium for the CGR, which is used on many bike frames thanks to impressive stiffness for its weight, and its ability to take plenty of knocks and abuse – ideal for the style of riding the CGR is likely to see.
The top tube looks to have been hydroformed, with its curved shape creating a compact style frame, allowing a bit more flexible seatpost to be exposed for a little extra comfort. The front end of the tube has a larger cross sectional area where it joins the tapered head tube, a two-pronged attack at adding stiffness to help with steering and braking forces.
Ribble has kept things pretty traditional at the bottom bracket too, with a frame designed for threaded bearing cups, Shimano's Tiagra model in this case. Bottom brackets like these are easy to fit for even the novice home mechanic compared to Press-Fit options, and the threaded versions are less likely to creak once you've been riding in the wet and mud.
A lot of designers slim down the seatstays or add curves to promote some flex and comfort for the rider, but Ribble hasn't done that here at all. The seatstays are quite chunky in fact, but like I mentioned, further up the frame isn't overly harsh so gets away with it.
Up front the fork uses carbon fibre legs with an alloy steerer, and again it all works well. The carbon brings a decent level of shock absorption while being stiff enough to resist the braking forces of the discs, even from high speed. In the pictures you can see Ribble has used the upper mounts to fit the mudguards but there are also more traditional ones down by the dropouts. I say that, as the selected mudguards don't offer much in the way of protection for your feet or riders behind, and the actual fit isn't the best either.
As far as the cabling goes, it has all been left to run externally with both the gear cables and hose routing travelling underneath the down tube. It does mean the cables will get hammered by all the mud and spray if you are running without guards, so a decent cleaning and maintenance regime might be the order of the day.
It's good to see plenty of guides for the rear brake hose to be located into, both here and on the chainstay; everything is then held in place with small cable ties.
Thanks to Ribble's online Bikebuilder, you can pick and choose how you want to specify your machine. The cheapest available Shimano Sora model comes in at just £799.
The model we've got here is specced with Shimano's excellent new Tiagra 4700, a groupset that is a near replica of its mid-range 105 group but without the extra gear; Tiagra is 10-speed rather than 11. Shifting is pretty much identical, with a crisp selection even under load with the Tiagra gear levers, but sadly this is lost here with the RS505 levers required for the hydraulic disc brakes. The gear changes just aren't that positive, and to be honest neither is the braking when compared with Shimano's higher level ST-RS685s that I was using on another test bike at the same time.
I'm a big fan of the ST-RS685 levers and Shimano's Ice-Tec rotors as a complete setup; it's something I've run on my own bikes with excellent results. The braking is solid, predictable and very powerful, which you can have real confidence in at any speed or weather conditions. The setup on the CGR uses the same callipers but a different Shimano rotor: a 160mm front and back, whereas with the setup I've just mentioned I was always more than happy with 140mm. The CGR build doesn't have the bite or feedback through the lever, and a few times I was caught out as the Ribble just didn't slow or stop as quickly as I was expecting.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what causes the difference, but the slightly less direct feel at the lever could be down to some flex somewhere. The braking isn't bad – it's much better in the wet or off-road than a dual-pivot calliper – it's just disappointing compared with the slightly more expensive levers.
The groupset specced does give a decent spread of gear ratios for on and off road, with a 34/50 chainset and 11-32 cassette. When things are slippery off road it's great to have the extra teeth on the cassette to remain seated and get weight over the rear wheel compared with a more road standard 28 or 25-tooth largest sprocket.
Our CGR also has an upgraded stem from the standard selection to a Deda Zero 2. The Deda stuff is decent finishing kit too, and brings a top end look to the overall bike. The whole build comes in at £1,046.49 at the time of writing but prices do seem to fluctuate on the website.
Wheels and tyres
Shimano also provides the wheels – its RX010 hoops are as strong as an ox. I literally smashed these off-road into pot-holes, tree roots and sharp rock edges and they didn't budge a millimetre. They are as solid as they come.
They also saw one hell of a lot of mud, grit and water without any issues in the hub department. I purposely didn't clean the bike over the test period to accelerate wear and tear on all parts, and there hasn't been the slightest grumble.
Tyre-wise, the CGR's 25mm Continental Ultra Sports are decent enough entry-level rubber, in a wire-rimmed setup. They staved off punctures throughout this hedge-cutting test period with ease, and are surprisingly quick rolling.
The only downside is their grip isn't the best, especially when the roads are damp or wet. It's mostly down to a mix of how hard the rubber compound is and the low thread count in the carcass, which makes for quite an inflexible tyre. Something more supple would adapt to the road surface better, adding grip.
Using Ribble's online Bikebuilder means you can spec the CGR exactly as you want depending on your needs and budget. You can upgrade the wheels, for instance, and down-spec on the gearing, giving loads of flexibility. The price changes instantly as you make the tweaks, so you can play about with various builds before clicking to buy.
As I've said, the cheapest model is a Shimano Sora build which comes in at £799.99, while a Tiagra model with mechanical disc brakes is £975, putting it squarely in competition with the alloy GT Grade at £949.99 with a very similar build (we've been big fans of the carbon model).
The Ribble, though, is aimed primarily at the road, where it is very adept, and if you were never to show it a muddy trail you wouldn't be disappointed – it makes an excellent winter trainer. The added value comes from just how good it is off road. It hasn't just had a few tweaks to make it fit with current trends, the CGR really does work across the board. Unless you specifically want to race cyclo-cross at a high level, the Ribble is giving you practically three bikes in one, living up to its name well.
Versatile winter trainer or commuter bike that'll easily take on the rough stuff as well as the road
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ribble CGR
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The CGR is based around a 7005 alloy frame and carbon fork with the full build completed using Ribble's Bikebuilder.
Chainset - Tiagra 4700 172.5 34/50
Bottom Bracket - BB-RS500 BB Cups (Tiagra 4700)
Rear Derailleur - Tiagra 4700 Medium Cage
Cassette - 11-32
Front Derailleur - Tiagra 4700 10 Double Front Gear Braze-On
Chain - HG54 4700/Deore/SLX HGX Chain - 10 Speed
Disc Rotors - Dirt Dissipation 6 Bolt Disc Brake Rotor 160mm
Shifters - RS505 STI / Hydraulic Disc Brake Set w/RS785 Calipers
Wheelset - Shimano RX010 Centre Lock Disc Wheelset
Tyres - Continental Ultra Sport 2 Rigid Tyre, 700x25mm
Handlebar Tape - Deda Cork Ribbon
Handlebars - Deda Zero
Handlebar Stem - Deda Zero 2 Stem
Seatpost - CSN Superleggera Carbon/Alloy 27.2 350mm
Saddle - Selle Italia X1 Flow Saddle
Mudguards - Zefal Narrow Guards
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Ribble says: "You might be just starting out on your cycling journey or perhaps looking to rationalise your bikes with an all-rounder – the CGR excels at everything from winter training or commuting duties right through to summer adventures or long-distance touring.
A light 7005 aluminium frame is coupled with a carbon fibre fork on the CGR. Disc brakes provide powerful and consistent braking that is superior to conventional rim brakes. If you're new to discs, you'll be amazed at the lever modulation (feel) and consistent power in all weather conditions.
For most people their bike purchases are carefully considered. It's a significant investment and that's why versatility and value for money often become major considerations. No one wants a bike that sits unused - taking up valuable space - a bike that's not 'pulling its weight.'
Versatility and practicality are at the core of the cleverly designed CGR - this is a bike that will not sit idle for very long. With the advantage of disc brakes, a carbon fork, mudguard mounts and pannier carrying capability this bike just ticks so many boxes.
The all-round practicality of the CGR does not prevent it from being a nimble and enjoyable ride and as the bike's designer says: 'We wanted a bike that was comfortable enough to ride every day, efficient enough to ride all day and even agile enough to take off road.'
If you are looking for one bike for that can do-it-all - the CGR is for you. There are no limitations with this bike only new horizons to explore."
I reckon the CGR is a solid all-rounder which allows you to have a bike that'll work competently on varied terrain for an impressive price.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The CGR is well finished and will withstand a lot of abuse.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is manufactured from 7005 grade aluminium with the fork being a mix of carbon fibre legs and a steerer made from alloy.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
For a bike of this type, winter trainer, gravel bike, it is actually quite long and low with a 550mm top tube, 145mm head tube on this 52cm model.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
As above, geometry details here - www.ribblecycles.co.uk/ribble-cgr/
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, it is a stiff frameset but just manages to stay the soft side of harsh.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, stiffness isn't something the CGR lacks.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The steering is slower than a race bike, but that means it works well off road and is especially helpful on wet, greasy winter tarmac.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle was pretty good for long rides, and even though the CGR is a stiff bike it doesn't feel uncomfortable.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Deda bar and stem combo is certainly stiff enough for off-road use.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A wider range 11-32 tooth cassette than you find on most road bikes gives you a slightly larger spread of gears, which means you can stay seated more often while climbing.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The latest version of Shimano Tiagra has the feel of 105 but with one less gear, which means you get great shifting and it looks smart too. I'm not a massive fan of the shifters used on the CGR, though; considering they are 105 level, the gear changes are nowhere near as crisp.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
The Shimano wheels took an absolute kicking on the rough gravel tracks of Salisbury Plain without the slightest of issues.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The Continental Ultra Sport tyres are decent enough entry-level models and are pretty robust, but grip on cold, wet tarmac can be sketchy.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Deda's entry-level kit is hard to knock for the price and it always brings a classy look to any bike. The RHM bar offers plenty of hand positions plus the compact drops suit most people.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, especially if I was a commuter.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Ribble CGR is one of those bikes that you need in your collection or that could replace most of your collection, a workhorse that'll cover the miles in crappy conditions without beating you up. You always feel in control too thanks to that well-balanced handling whatever the terrain.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.