Calibre Rake review£450.00

Forget the price and just ride flat out!

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The Rake is all-new, but Calibre’s design team has clearly sweated the component and ride character details to make it a cut-price, full-throttle trail bargain.

There’s a lot going on with the frame. While the head tube isn’t tapered, which limits later fork upgrading potential, it’s flared at the top and bottom for strength — and that’s just the start of the hydroformed details.

The curved hexagonal down tube has pronounced ridges along its top side for extra stiffness, and the D-shaped top tube hides the gear cables/rear brake hose underneath.

Pronounced keyhole curves on the chainstays give adequate, if not amazing, tyre space. The centres of the stays are also flattened and curved inwards to help suck up ground shock.

A post mount for the rear brake makes it easy to stop pad rub. There are no rack mounts and just one set of bottle mounts. That does mean you can drop the seatpost fully, but you have to crank the painfully stiff seat clamp quick-release cam up super-tight for security.

With a bang-up-to-date ‘enduro length’ 465mm reach on the large frame, this is a bike you’re going to want to get low and lairy on.

Calibre Rake kit

Calibre even fit lock-on grips, which won’t slide round or slip off on the first wet ride
Calibre even fit lock-on grips, which won’t slide round or slip off on the first wet ride

Calibre has fitted a wide 760mm bar for extra steering leverage, added secure lock-on grips and matched it to a 60mm stem to keep the steering balanced over the 69-degree head angle.

That stem is clamped onto a smooth-stroking RockShox XC 30 fork with adjustable initial sensitivity (preload) and rebound damping.

The front tyre is a 56mm-wide WTB Vigilante with a properly chunky tread and the grip to match.

The Prowheel cranks use pressed-steel chainrings, which are a standard replaceable fit if you ever manage to wear them out or bend them. Long chainstays help to keep the Shimano Acera/Altus shifting sweet, despite a lot of chain flap and slap over rougher ground.

Calibre Rake ride impressions

RockShox’s XC 30 has its limits but it’s smooth and more reliable for the price
RockShox’s XC 30 has its limits but it’s smooth and more reliable for the price

That chain clatter is the only thing likely to disturb you if you’re ploughing through rougher sections of trail. That’s because Calibre has done an outstanding job putting together such a capable trail bike for the money.

While the 30mm stanchions of the RockShox fork can twist and stutter if you really push it hard, you can still tackle steps, roots and rocks with speed and confidence.

In fact, the fork’s so smooth that I had to add some preload to the spring to stop it feeling too soft when cornering, but then that’s the whole point of having that adjustment.

While the head angle is relatively steep by more expensive hardcore hardtail standards, it’s still slack enough to provide a slight self-correcting element when things get sketchy.

The long reach and low bottom bracket sit you right down onto the trail for a great sense of connection and security, instead of feeling perched on top.

Add a grippy front tyre, well-judged stem length and the power-steering effect of the wide bar, and the Rake outclasses bikes like the Voodoo Aizan, Diamondback Sync 3.0 and Saracen Tufftrax Comp Disc when things got fast and techy.

The Calibre’s cleverly-shaped frame tubes and 29-inch wheels also provide a smooth, speed-sustaining ride. In particular, the heavily manipulated rear end soaks up an impressive amount of impact force and vibration, so the Rake flows through trouble rather than getting hung up on it.

If I had to pick fault, then the wheels are heavy and the knobbly front tyre means the Calibre doesn’t accelerate or roll as easily as other similarly priced bikes on smooth stuff. But the knowledge that the descents are going to be a lot of fun makes it much easier to suck up the suffering on climbs, and that wheel weight also contributes to the sense of locked-down security and stability.

Note: the price listed is with a £5 Go Outdoors discount card. For international pricing and delivery, visit Go Outdoors.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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