Raleigh Pioneer Elite 2

Laid-back town bike

A relaxed and stylish commuting bike with looks and handling to bring a smile to your face, the Raleigh Pioneer is a great town bike with some quirks in the equipment that prevent it from being as good as it could so easily be.

Ride & handling: A great bike to cruise through town on

Quite a few bikes bring a smile to our faces, but rarely because they encourage us to relax and enjoy the view. In contrast, the Raleigh Pioneer made our usual round-town routine a more relaxed affair with its stable handling and comfortable controls. Thanks to the upright riding position, the Raleigh gave great visibility in traffic but felt too laid-back for the hustle and bustle of rush hour congestion.

A relaxed commute along a canal towpath was handled with ease thanks to the surprisingly grippy tyres and added comfort of the suspension seatpost. Despite gripping well, the inflexible tyres combine with rigid forks and over-engineered handlebars to transmit all of the vibrations from the front wheel directly into your hands, the only flaw in an otherwise thoroughly capable towpath showing.

On hillier routes, the Raleigh coasted the downhills with a solid, reassuring steering feel before powerful hydraulic disc brakes brought the bike to a halt. The same solid feeling was evident on the uphill sections of the route, which were only manageable thanks to the wide range of gears available from the eight-speed Shimano Alfine drivetrain.

Raleigh pioneer elite 2: raleigh pioneer elite 2

Frame: Aluminium chassis combines classy looks with practicality

At the heart of the Raleigh’s ride is the all-aluminium frame, with geometry spot-on for solid handling and a comfortably upright riding position. 

All fittings needed to accommodate a full set of panniers, mudguards and two bottle cages are present if needed. Clearances are adequate for larger tyres and the robust tubing should resist denting.

The all-black finish had a pleasing sheen when delivered which kept its looks throughout testing. Subtle graphics completed an eye-catching frameset.

Raleigh pioneer elite 2: raleigh pioneer elite 2

Equipment: Hub gears and hydraulic brakes are low maintenance and good value

A single chainring drives a Shimano Alfine hub-gear, where the cogs and shift mechanisms are encased inside the rear hub. The system operated smoothly throughout the test, even when the gradient meant shifting gears while pedalling hard. The simplicity of a hub-gear is great for a commuter as there are no derailleurs to get damaged by careless locking, and the well sealed hub and straight chainline mean shifting should remain sweet with only minimal maintenance.

Raleigh pioneer elite 2: raleigh pioneer elite 2

While Raleigh have recognised the benefits of hub-gears for the urban cyclist, the combination of non-adjustable dropouts with a bolt-on chain tensioner just doesn’t work very well. On rough ground or after back-pedalling the chain loses tension which causes the pedals to jolt forward rapidly as you take up the slack. While not dangerous, this little quirk can be unnerving when pulling away from junctions and highlights a problem with using the same frame for both hub-geared and derailleur-equipped bikes.

Raleigh pioneer elite 2: raleigh pioneer elite 2

The swept-back handlebars and firm grips gave a comfortable hand position, but the ovalised cross-brace on the bars meant lights could only be fitted underneath the bar where the cables obscured the beam and made it difficult to get the lamps into their brackets.

Despite a few niggles, the Pioneer was a great bike to cruise through town on. The hub-gears and hydraulic brakes are low maintenance and good value given the £649 price tag. Confident handling and a sleek aesthetic make this laid-back town bike ideal for urban commuting.

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