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The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1x exudes class and comfort, and thanks to plenty of stability and neutral handling allows you to just get away from it all, on the road or off. Its weight can sometimes be a limiting factor, though.
I love a quality steel frame and the Robinson didn't let me down. It's just so damn comfortable, in a way that only steel can deliver. The ride quality from the tubes feels soft, like it smooths the road surface out but still gives you all of the good vibration, so you can still feel the feedback and be involved in everything that is going on.
The Light Blue has achieved this without sacrificing stiffness. True, it's no oversized carbon fibre race bike, but it can take plenty of power through what in the modern world looks a tiny bottom bracket junction.
With the level of comfort on offer you can just waft along on the road for hours and hours without feeling like you are having to work too hard. Overall, it is a heavy 10.55kg, but thanks to the low ratios of the cassette offering you some bailout gears, you can spend a lot of time in the saddle just tapping out the pace.
Once up and rolling, it is quite surprising how quickly this bike can travel, the 38mm tyres singing along on the tarmac. The pictures you see here were taken before I picked the bike up; I flipped the stem over and put all of the spacers bar the 5mm one on top of the stem for a lower, more sporty position which definitely helped on the road.
That tyre clearance means you aren't limited to the road, either. This is one of those bikes that is great for getting out there and exploring, and if you spot an unexplored byway or gravel track out of the corner of your eye, the Robinson is totally able to take on the challenge.
The neutral steering that you get on the road feels faster on a loose surface, but the bike never becomes a handful, just even more fun to ride.
The Halo Twin Rail tyres don't have a lot of tread, and on really fine gravel they don't half move about a bit, but the Robinson never feels out of control. Even at speed on some gravel descents I was happy just to let the bike float around as it lets you know exactly what it is up to.
That lack of grip can be a bit of a pain when climbing as it takes barely anything to make the tyre slip; you have a bit of a challenge if you need to get out of the saddle for a steep climb – and herein lay another problem for me. I'm used to a 110mm stem, but the S/M size Robinson had a 80mm one and I kept whacking my knees on the handlebar.
Both of these things can be rectified easily and cheaply, and if you're going to be spending plenty of miles off-road then just get some knobbly tyres.
On the whole I found the Robinson really relaxing to ride wherever, really. A four-hour ride on the gravel tracks of Salisbury Plain was really enjoyable, and similar length jaunts on the road were just as much of a pleasure.
All of this talk of relaxation and comfort might make the Robinson sound a little dull, but it is far from it. It's a fun bike to ride on and off-road.
I enjoyed seeking out some downhills and just letting the Robinson go for it. With a 1,019mm wheelbase and that weight, there is a feeling of stability, and the Robinson carves a smooth line as you guide it through the apex.
If you have to brake hard in the bends there is a bit of flex in the steel fork legs but not enough to detract from the handling; you just kind of work around it, and to be honest if you're chucking a bike of this style into bends like a razor-sharp-handling race bike then you are only looking for trouble anyway.
The Light Blue has selected Reynolds 725 chromoly steel for the frame which, thanks to being heat-treated for strength, uses butting to create thinner walled tubes, reducing weight without sacrificing stiffness.
The TIG welding is very neat and tidy and the whole frame and fork are finished off nicely in a robust paint job, available in either this Gloss Army Green or Gloss Gunmetal Grey.
If you are used to carbon or aluminium alloy bikes then the tube profiles look unbelievably skinny, especially the straight-through 1 1/8in head tube. As I said earlier, though, it all works from a stiffness point of view for the type of riding the Robinson is designed for.
Many will be pleased to see a threaded bottom bracket, especially as the Robinson can take full mudguards while still running 32mm tyres. It makes it a viable winter commuter and there will be no issues with water and grit sneaking in past a press-fit BB and causing creaking.
It can take a rear rack, too, if you want to go down the pannier route for riding to work.
Unlike most disc-equipped bikes, the Robinson uses quick releases rather than thru-axles, and I've got no issue with that. On high speed descents, and I'm talking 50-60mph here, I have felt the fork legs twisting when I've needed to brake to a standstill, caused by the disc being on one side of the fork. This is where a thru-axle comes into play, as threading the axle into the fork increases stiffness, reducing flex, but for the style of riding the Robinson is aimed at, it's not going to be an issue.
The Robinson is available in five sizes covering top tube lengths from 533mm through to 610mm, and the geometry is pretty typical of what we are used to seeing on road bikes that are capable of a bit of adventure or gravel riding.
This S/M has an effective top tube length of 550mm and a 140mm head tube at an angle of 71.5 degrees. The seat angle is 73.5 degrees, chainstays are 425mm and the wheelbase, as mentioned earlier, is 1,019mm.
If you like your stack and reach measurements, then you are looking at 566mm and 382mm respectively.
As the name suggests, this Robinson comes based around a Sram Rival 1x groupset. It's also available in other builds: with Shimano's 105 groupset sporting either mechanical or hydraulic braking, a Sora groupset, or if your riding is going to be primarily gravel based, a 2x GRX group that includes a 46/30t chainset and 11-34t cassette.
Gearing on our test model is based around a 42-tooth chainset and an 11-36t cassette, which is a decent spread of gears if you live somewhere flat. A 42x36 bottom gear isn't that low, and while I didn't struggle with it on my daily rides, if you are spending your day exploring the local hills then you'll probably want an easier ratio to spin.
It's the same at the other end of the cassette too. On my favourite descents I'd be spinning out way earlier than I normally would on a 2x road setup.
The Rival choice is a good option for those who want the Robinson to be a bit of an all-rounder.
The shifting from the Rival group has a very precise feel and it changes gear well even when under load on a climb – impressive considering there are some quite large jumps across the sprockets.
The rear mech has a clutch which keeps the chain taut, so you don't have to worry about it dropping off the chainring on rough surfaces. It also reduces the chances of chain slap damaging your frame and means the drivetrain is much quieter when the going is rough.
Our test model has the £300 optional upgrade from TRP Spyre cable-operated brakes to Rival hydraulic; while the TRPs are some of the best mechanical stoppers out there, I'll take the performance benefits of the Rival hydraulic callipers any day of the week.
The Robinson gets 160mm-diameter rotors front and back, which is plenty of stopping power even if you decide to load it up with luggage for a bit of an adventure.
Once the pads were bedded in, stopping power was impressive, and you get plenty of feel through the lever for modulation.
For the stem, seatpost and handlebar, The Light Blue has chosen Genetic products. I've tested quite a few of these in the past and it's good quality kit, especially for the money.
I like the Driser-16 bar, but like Mike said when he tested it, it does limit the fitting of lights and computers because of the riser section.
The bar is comfortable, though, with its ovalised tops giving a large platform for your hands, and the 16-degree flare of the drops gives you extra stability when descending at speed by increasing the width between your hands.
The Genetic Syngenic seatpost is simple to adjust and does everything a seatpost needs to. Perched atop that is the Gusset R Series saddle which The Light Blue describes as having a mountain biking bias. It certainly has more padding than I'm used to, but I found it quite comfortable even on those long rides where I was spending a lot of time seated.
I'm a big fan of Halo wheels and these GXC Discs proved themselves to be tough, reliable and good performers on and off the road.
Many brands skimp on the wheelset to bring a bike in on price, but The Light Blue has invested well, with these having an rrp of £149.99 for the front and £269.99 for the rear.
They aren't that light at 780g for the front and 1,025g for the rear, but with a 28/32-spoke build they are plenty strong enough and will easily deal with the rigours of gravel riding.
Their internal width of 21mm (26mm external) works well with the 38mm tyres fitted and they are tubeless-ready, too.
As I mentioned earlier, the Halo Twin Rail tyres haven't got a huge amount of tread for off-road grip, but they are a good choice for a bike that is likely to cross over between tarmac and gravel.
They roll smoothly and offer decent levels of grip on the road, and I have had no issues with punctures throughout the test period. There aren't any signs of cuts through the tread, either.
This version of the Robinson V2 has an rrp of £1,724.99 with the TRP Spyre brakes, but our upgrade to SRAM Rival hydraulic brakes brings the price up to £2,024.99.
Competition comes from the £1,799 Sonder Santiago, which gets a 2x Rival groupset including the hydraulic brakes as standard, but it is over 1.5kg heavier, which is noticeable, with the Robinson feeling more 'sporty'.
The Robinson also feels more fun to ride than the £2,100 Bombtrack Audax, with its Columbus Cromor frame and carbon fibre fork. It has a Shimano 105 groupset, is a little bit heavier, and the cable-operated brakes are awful.
I liked riding around on the Robinson. In a test month where I also had some three-grand carbon aero bikes to blast about on, The Light Blue was great for just chilling out and getting out for a ride while focusing on the surroundings, thanks mostly to a really comfortable frame and fork.
Capable adventure/gravel/road bike with loads of versatility that delivers a beautiful 'steel' ride quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1X
Size tested: S/M
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
The Light Blue lists:
Frame Reynolds 725 Steel Tig welded
Fork DB Cro-mo Steel
Handlebar Genetic Driser 16
Stem Genetic STV
Bar Tape Genetic Padded Cork
Saddle Gusset R Series
Seatpost Genetic Syngenic
Rear Derailleur SRAM Rival 1 11 speed
STI Levers SRAM Rival 1 11 speed
Chain SRAM PC-1110 11 speed
Crankset SRAM Rival 1x 42T
Cassette SRAM PG-1130 11-36T
Brakes TRP Spyre
Wheels Halo GXC Disc 28/32
Tyres Halo Twin Rail 700x38 Skin Wall
Colour Gloss Army Green or Metallic Gunmetal Grey
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?
The Light Blue says:
The Robinson's sprightly Reynolds 725 steel frame fused together with the latest trend in off-road high-performance '1X' gear systems. SRAM Rival 1X uses a single front chainwheel driving a wide ratio 11spd rear cassette to deliver a useful spread of gears in a simple to use, lightweight package.
Adding the 38C Twin Rail tyres into the mix allows you to discover that staying on tarmac roads is no longer the only option.
Genetic's fashionable new Driser 16 handlebar raises the effective handlebar height and includes a comfort and control enhancing 16 degree 'flare' in the drops.
Gusset's R-series MTB biased saddle and comfortable Genetic padded cork type handlebar tape bring quality contact points to the rider.
International Standard 160mm discs delivers braking confidence in all conditions with cable operated TRP Spyre calipers, or upgrade to a full hydraulic SRAM system for the ultimate in stopping ability.
Halo's premium level Vapour GXC Supadrive gravel wheelset offers future compatibility with tubeless tyres if desired.
By switching to narrower tyres, there's capacity for mudguards and a rear carrier to be added, morphing this SUV into a useful everyday commuter.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The range starts with a Shimano Sora model (£1,199.99), then the 105 with cable operated brakes (£1,574.99) below the standard Rival model (our test bike has upgraded brakes, bringing it to £2,024.99). Above it are the 105 hydraulic model for £1,949.99, and Shimano GRX for £2,249.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The Robinson has a really good quality frame and fork, neatly welded and finished with a hardwearing paint job.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made using Reynolds 725 heat treated, double butted steel. The fork is also made using double butted steel.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is pretty relaxed for the road, which means it's fun off-road without feeling twitchy.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The reach and stack figures are exactly where I'd expect them to be for a bike of this type. The riser bar makes the Robinson slightly taller than the figures would suggest, though.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. The frameset has a lovely comfortable 'steel' ride quality to it.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's not the stiffest bike out there but well within the limits of what I'd expect a bike of this type to deliver.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is fine and on the whole the Robinson does 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?
It is balanced on the road and works well off-road, remaining the right side of fun without being twitchy.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle offers plenty of padding for jaunts off-road.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Halo wheels are impressively stiff.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The spread of gears from the cassette and chainring is decent enough for the majority of road riding but the lower ratios of the 2x GRX option would improve efficiency on tough gravel sections.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The SRAM Rival groupset works well across the board. The shifting is crisp and precise even under load.
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?
A solid set of wheels and a welcome investment to the overall bike, there will be no need to upgrade any time soon.
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?
Good tyres for road and other hardpacked surfaces but they'll struggle when it's loose under foot.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The Genetic kit works well. I especially like the Driser handlebar because of that 16-degree flare.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Sonder Santiago comes in cheaper for a similar build but it is quite a bit heavier; the £2,100 Bombtrack Audax is also heavier than the Robinson and it's not as fun a ride.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The ride quality and comfort define the Robinson – it is such a fun and easy bike to cruise around or play about on. The only things I'd tweak would be the stem length and tyres for my style of riding.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 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,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!