Bike test: Bristol Bicycles Randonneur
Bristol Bicycles produces understated aluminium bikes at sensible prices. The Randonneur is the company’s most expensive non-electric bike. I upped the price by choosing mudguards, a rack, a flared handlebar and eight-speed Shimano STI rather than bar-end shifters. (In addition to a degree of customisation, Bristol Bicycles offers bookable test rides and a lifetime frame and fork warranty.)
The 6061 aluminium frame may be straightforward – round tubes, no hydroforming, threaded bottom bracket, external cabling – but it’s tough, practical and comprehensively equipped with bottle bosses. The Randonneur’s steel fork has fittings for bikepacking bags too.
Dropouts are quick release rather than thru-axle but I didn’t get any rotor rub. While the Sora disc brakes are ‘only’ mechanical and lack the bite of hydraulics, they were smooth and silent.
The Shimano drivetrain and shifters were very good. And while triple chainsets are getting scarce, nothing matches a triple for letting you ride at a consistent cadence.
I’d go for a lower bottom gear than the Randonneur’s 24in (28/32) for expedition riding, although on my local climbs I was able to spin comfortably. Handbuilt wheels and a disc brake-specific rear rack round out a well-considered package.
Aluminium tourers may still be in the minority but the Randonneur will be a little lighter than a steel equivalent. With 38mm tyres it’s easily comfortable enough on poor surfaces, tackles kerbs and potholes with aplomb, and is surefooted on loose grit and dry towpaths without feeling too sluggish on smooth tarmac.
It carries loads comfortably, the slack head angle and stretched-out wheelbase keep the handling stable, and the wide gravel bar – flaring out to 50cm on the drops – helps on more challenging surfaces, making the Randonneur suitably versatile too.
Light enough and tough enough for commuting, kitted out for full-on touring, and with bikepacking capabilities and loads of tyre clearance, Bristol’s Randonneur lives up to its name well. The aluminium frame keeps the price down and doesn’t compromise the quality of the ride.
Ridgeback Voyage £1,349.99
Reynolds 725 frame, a Sora/Alivio drivetrain (48-38-28 chainset) and hand-built wheels make for a good looking tourer.