South Coast-based Reilly Cycleworks has produced the Gradient as a do-everything adventure and gravel bike, with a lovingly finished titanium frame and smart specification in this £2,399 complete bike. It provides a ride that is as lovely as the bike is to look at, with space for wide tyres for heading off into the wilderness or adding dirt and gravel roads to your route, and a high level of refinement.
Frame and Build
The frame is made from 3Al/2.5V titanium with carefully profiled tubes to provide the right balance of stiffness and compliance. The downtube has a flattened top section and the top tube is tapered, to provide more lateral stiffness, in combination with an oversized 44mm head tube and chunky chainstays.
- First Ride: Lauf's new gravel race bike and fork, the True Grit
- See our buyer's guide to gravel and adventure bikes here
The do-anything capabilities of the Gradient are served up by its ability to take tyres up to a 44mm wide, so you have a huge range of options from a fat slick tyre for road duties to one of the growing number of decent gravel tyres for tackling bridleways or a gravel events. There are also rack and mudguard eyelets on the frame and fork so you could transform it into a winter training or daily commuter workhorse, or slap on a rack and go touring for a week.
The rear brake hose is hidden away inside the downtube while the gear cables are easily accessible as they are externally routed. There's an externally threaded bottom bracket which I know many people will be happy to see. No creaky press-fit to worry about here.
Disc brakes and thru-axles are natural bedfellows for this type of gravel/adventure bike, and Reilly has specced 12mm thru-axles front and rear, with neat titanium dropouts on the frame and a Selcof full carbon fibre fork. Disc brakes are mounted using the older post mount standard. Nothing wrong with that, post mounts provide easy adjustment, but the industry is rapidly moving over to flat mount which offers slightly cleaner aesthetics and a bit less weight.
You can just buy the frame for £1,399, add the Selcof fork for £1,599, or get a complete bike like the one pictured for £2,399. That price includes a full Shimano 105 groupset, with mechanical gears and hydraulic disc brakes. It's hard to fault Shimano 105 with high quality shifting across the cassette and compact chainset.
The Shimano BR-R505 levers don't win any style awards, but the hoods provide an exceptionally comfortable fit. Your hands fall naturally into their curves and the brake levers are easy to reach with a lovely feel when applying force.
The rolling stock is a pair of Fulcrum Racing Sport DB wheels shod with Continental Cyclo X King tyres. They're cyclocross tyres, as the name suggests, and good for purely off-road use. The block tread pattern finds good grip in a range of conditions, from loose soil and sand to mud and gloop.
The Cyclo X Kings are slow on the road, as you'd expect of such a tread pattern. I'd have preferred Reilly to fit a gravel tyre with a smoother centre tread such as a Panaracer Gravel King to push the Gradient's multi-terrain capability and provide a better balance of on and off-road use. And given the frame's 44mm tyre clearance, you might as well take advantage of it with fatter tyres.
The Fulcrum wheels are solidly reliable, with an aluminium clincher rim and thru-axle compatible hubs, but at nearly 1.9kg they are far from the lightest. They're robust and bombproof however and ideal for battering along rocky roads and tackling woodland trails.
Finishing kit comprises a nicely shaped aluminium Zipp Service Course handlebar with short reach drops that put you in a good position and extended drops that shortens the reach a bit. A Reilly branded aluminium stem, nice carbon fibre seatpost with two-bolt saddle clamp and slim saddle round out the details.
Ride and Performance
The Gradient provides a lovely ride. It's composed and comfortable, the titanium frame providing a sublime balance of stiffness and comfort. The carbon fork and oversized head tube gives the handling a crispness and it changes direction quickly when you want it to.
I swapped the knobbly tyres for a faster rolling gravel tyre and this simple change provided improved on-road speed without compromising off-road grip on the dry conditions that prevailed during the test period. I tackled everything from predominately road rides to entirely off-road jaunts, exploring the bridleways and woodland trails around where I live and mixed up the terrain as my whim took me.
Switching from hard to loose surfaces shows the Gradient's handling to be well honed. It's fast and steady on the road, but plenty of fun if you throw it through corners at high speed. The Gradient is right at home negotiating narrow tree-lined singletrack with loose corners and steep climbs and would be a good choice if you're looking for a bike to tackle one of the growing number of gravel events like the Dirty Reiver.
It's a smooth ride, the titanium frame, despite the oversized tubes, provides a vibration-absorbing feel over any road or gravel surface. Ergo, it's a relaxing ride: it looks after you on longer rides or routes with lots of rough obstacles. There's no twitchiness to the handling at any speed, and that trait comes into its own when you're riding over a loose surface such as dirt or gravel where you want the bike to be predictable. As such it's adept on challenging terrain with lots of ups and downs and testing corners.
It's a great all-rounder, as Reilly intended it to be. While I didn't test it laden with panniers or shod with mudguards, it's clear the performance ensures it offers the versatility to turn its hand to any type of riding you have in mind for it. If you're in the market for a titanium adventure road bike with the geometry and tyre clearance for tackling mixed terrain or off-road adventure, and like the option to be able to fit a rack and mudguards, there are a few good choices vying for your hard-earned cash. You can safely add the Reilly Gradient to the shortlist.
Buy the frame and build your own dream bike or go for the complete bike with its solid and dependable kit choices – though change the tyres for better mixed surface riding – and you've got a fun, entertaining and highly capable bike ready for any adventure.
See more at www.reillycycleworks.com