I Bought A Gravel Bike (My Ribble CGR 725 Review)

It’s new bike day for the first time in nearly 10 years.

And shock horror, it’s a gravel bike. A steel-is-real Ribble CGR 725. A la mode in terms of function, and classic in terms of frame material.

So here is my review, in which I will:

  • kick off with an introduction to the bike;
  • give my TED talk on why I wanted a Ribble;
  • run through the specs; and
  • shart out a very high level assessment of what it’s like to ride.

All vajazzled with my sparkling repartee.

Quite the image.

Let’s begin.

Watch My Ribble CGR Video!

If you want…

The Bike

This is the Ribble CGR 725. The 725 denotes the steel frame version. You can also get the CGR in carbon, titanium and aluminium. Aluminum.

Ribble CGR 725 gravel setup

In my totally correct opinion, the 725 and titanium frame shapes look great. The aluminium and carbon versions not so. I’m not a fan of the kinky seat stays, which I guess are shaped like that to provide a more compliant ride given their differing material qualities.

The 725 actually refers to the type of steel tubing used: Reynolds 725. I’ll stop there to avoid overwhelming you with my framebuilding knowledge.

Ribble CGR 725 Reynolds tubing

The CGR stands for Cross Gravel Road.

If memory serves – yes, I could look it up, but that’s not this blog’s MO – the Ribble CGR was right at the forefront of what nobody at all calls ‘the gravel revolution’.

I hypothecate that Ribble didn’t have the confidence that early gravel grumblings would turn into the wallet-emptying pseudo-religion we see now.

So it hedged its bets with a name that tried to tickle all three testicles.

Basically the Ribble CGR is a sturdy groad bike with disc brakes and clearance to fit nice grobbly tyres. A riding-on-potholed-Derbyshire-roads in the winter … bike.

Which is what I wanted… for a long time

A Brief History Of Wanting A Ribble Winter Bike

I’ve hankered for ages. Like 14 years ages.

Back in the late noughties, we lived in south east London.

A guy living opposite us had a titanium road bike (the first I’d seen) with fancy wheels. I was impressed.

Ribble CGR 725 riding front

His second bike (maybe his third) was the old blue, aluminium Ribble 7005 Winter/Audax (which he actually had a child seat attached to). I continued to be impressed.

My (trusty) Dawes road bike, whilst not ideally suited to London potholes, just about did the job when I needed to commute or ride out to the countryside.

My bought-in-haste-and-astonishingly-heavy lead-framed Scott hybrid bike performed bike seat duties.

Whilst tempted by a new Ribble, a nibble, I couldn’t justify another velo. The winter bike idea got shelved.

I was dangling at the end of Ribble’s long fishing line though. Every few months I’d fiddle around in the ‘bike builder’ section of their website, speccing up an imaginary purchase with different gears and wheels.

Ribble CGR 725 outside

When the original CGR came out, my desire loins started glowing. It was clearly a winter bike, but one dressed up in marketing gravel-spiel to make it seem a little cooler.

It was a lurid yellow puke-colour though, so my pubic pulsations were kept in check.

Then the updated version of the CGR was released, including the steel one with the classic navy blue and orange colour scheme. My loins went into bachman turner overdrive.

Then I waited a further 5 years and only bought the bike when it went on sale. Proving that my Yorkshire-bred wallet control is a stronger force than my loinal lusting.

The Specs

We’ve already mentioned that I bought the the steel frame CGR. I went for the bottom of the range version in terms of specs.

I did very little twea-arking. I may have swapped out the standard flared handlebars for narrowish road ones and opted for a slightly shorter stem, but that’s about it.

The bike has a SRAM Apex ‘one-by’ groupset, with a single 42 tooth chain ring at the front and an 11-speed 11-42 tooth cassette at the back.

Ribble CGR 725 SRAM Apex 1x

I’m a spinner not a grinder, a lover not a fighter, but the easiest gear has a 1:1 ratio, which is actually lower than the ‘oh my god there are no more gears’ … gear on my road bike.

At the upper reaches, I am able to spin out. Yes, even with these disco legs. If this was my only bike, I’d probably go for one of the two-buy chainset options. But as it isn’t, I didn’t.

Ribble CGR 725 Apex chainring

In terms of wheels, this CGR variant comes with Mavic Aksium DCL 19, which do a better job of being bombproof than being lightweight. For my pot-hole use case, that’s the right way round.

As standard, the wheels came sheathed in WTB Riddler gravel tyres. As I discovered, they’re quite happy cross-dressing in Continental GP5000 road tyres. Other tyres are available.

The rest – brakes, shifters – sorry, shifter, dingly bell – are all SRAM Apex, along with SRAM disc brake rotors. So a nice consistent groupset across the bike.

Ribble CGR 725 SRAM cassette

At this point, I should say that Ribble doesn’t do a SRAM Apex version of the CGR anymore. The lowest spec steel frame CGR comes adorned with Shimano Tiagra.

But at the start of 2023, with SRAM looking to clear stock ahead of an impending Apex refresh, there were clearly deals to be done.

A spark re-ignited the hibernating rodent in my pants. The price of the CGR 725 fell to a level that even this deep-pocketed, short-armed Yorkshireman could not ignore.

And that price? £1,199, which is good smack for a proper groadventure bike.

Buying The Bike

The buying experience from Ribble gets a 6 out of ten. The first part was excellent.

It was a couple of days after Christmas when, like an agitated sparrow hawk, I espied the deal on the interhighweb.

I circled the deal like an aroused bull shark.

Ribble CGR 725 bike fitting

Then I had a video call with a Ribble sales guy. Like a flaccid hybrid office employee.

We mainly discussed frame size.

The chap explained that I could order online at that point, to lock in the price, then follow up with a visit my local-ish showroom to check the sizing and ‘dial in’, as they say, some of the accoutrements (as they don’t): stem length, crank length, number of spokey dokeys.

At the showroom visit, as well as checking frame size and handlebar width, I got some helpful advice on setting up the bike and also made my son take a slo-mo video of me on the jig.

Then it got a bit painful.

Delivery was delayed, partly due, as it turned out, to the different handlebars I’d ordered being out of stock.

Ribble could have contacted me to discuss in-stock alternatives… but didn’t. It took some effort, mine, and quite a few weeks, to find this out.

Ribble CGR 725 unpacking

Anyway, the CGR arrived eventually. The frame and all components were present and correct and in full working order. A bit of light assembly on my part and I was the erect owner of a new gravel bike.

Ribble CGR 725 fitting pedals

But enough chuffwaffle…

What Is The Ribble CGR Like To Ride?

Important disclaimer: I am not a bike reviewer. I know nothing. But then you knew that.

My immediate impression was that the CGR is fun to ride. And that impression remains six months later.

It’s responsive and, insofar as an incompetente can judge these things, ‘connected to the road’.

Ribble CGR 725 riding behind

How could it be otherwise? It’s not an anti-gravity bike.

The Riddler gravel-flavoured tyres are quite fast rolling on roads. So fast-rolling that I was fooled into thinking I was easily keeping up with MAMILpals on full road setups. I easily kept up … until I blew up. And realised how much extra work I was doing.

I was fooled because I translated the smooth ride into the CGR being a ‘magic carpet’ bike (may or may not be a term), one that is both fast and supremely comfortable.

Ribble CGR 725 Mull of Kintyre

Sure, it’s fast, but only, to quote Twain, Shania, when I’m ‘blowing out of my arse’.

I’ve since switched to Continental GP5000 road tyres. Being narrower and higher pressure, these give a firmer ride. But sheathed in less knobbly rubber, I can, again like Shania, go harder with less effort. Which I hope isn’t libelous.

The CGR feels solidly built. Whence riding, there is no shake, rattle or indeed roll.

I’m no particular judge, at all, but the quality seems high. The frame welds are neat. The paint work was immaculate.

Talking of which, the bike overall looks great, particularly with the bigger, tan wall grivvle tyres.

More than that, to my decidedly middle of the road aesthetic persuasions, it looks fantastic. Other opinions are available. None of them are correct.

Ribble CGR 725 side on

I’ve enjoyed the ‘one by’ setup, my first time swinging that way. I like that it one requires one hand, and you can’t cross gear. It may be SRAM’s bottom of the range variant, and the older generation at that, but I am a big fan.

We’re drifting off topic. The groupset is not unique to this bike.

So instead let’s discuss the…

Future Plans For My Ribble CGR

When I bought the bike, I half-planned to buy some super-duper road wheels and then revert the Mavics back to the original gravel Riddlers. Griddlers.

Then I could swap quickly between the two wheelsets, depending on my desires of the day.

But I’ve got other pure road bike options, well one, so I’ve decided to keep the CGR set up for gravel and crap-roads. My winter beast (also the name for my penis).

Ribble CGR 725 tyre clearance

There’ll be post soon on my decision to repoint my whole bike portfolio (not a term), so stand by for that one.

I’ve not mentioned all the points where racks, panniers and other velo-luggage can be attached to the bike. Unlike its owner, the CGR appears well-endowed.

Ribble CGR 725 lugs

I imagine it’ll be a practical choice for touring and bikepacking, neither of which I’ve ever done.

If and when I do, it’ll be the CGR that I use for these adventures, and I can report back on carrying capacity and multi-day riding comfort.

Final Thoughts

I really like this bike. It does exactly what I wanted. It handles the shit-holed roads where I live with aplomb.

It looks good, particularly in the steel variant.

Ribble CGR 725 rear wheel

The CGR is a well-priced bike anyway, but at the price I paid it was a bargain.

I did think that this bike may be the ‘quiver killer’. My one bike to rule them all.

But it isn’t.

It may tick the gravel-adventure box but, at least in the steel-framed variant, it’s not going to be a lightweight road bike, even if I swap in a set of featherlight wheels.

I can, and do, use the CGR as a regular road bike, riding with my local MAMILgang. But I still see the need for a (probably carbon) super race bike.

Ribble CGR 725 Mull of Kintyre

Hiring a BMC Team Machine with 105 Di2 electronic gearing on a recently TdF-themed trip to the Alps did not cool my excitement jets. Whilst I wait to score big on crypto, I’ll focus on upgrading my Trek Domane.

So the only cast iron conclusion to draw from reading this review (let’s suspend belief and call it that) is that the N+1 problem is real and affects even the best of us (me).

Peas. Out. Happy riding.

Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

11 thoughts on “I Bought A Gravel Bike (My Ribble CGR 725 Review)”

  1. Hi
    Thanks for this very informative.

    It’s a bit weird though, being another Andrew Montgomery mamil and thinking of buying a cgr 725. Almost like it’s meant to happen…..

    Reply
  2. Great review!
    As a fellow of the one pure-road and one gravel/winter/cross/touring/babyseat/trailer/everything else bike school, a tip I can offer if you decide to give touring/bikepacking a go (and you should – it’s awesome – best way to see our glorious lands) is to give some Schwalbe Marathon tyres a go.

    IMO they are an awesome compromise between knobbly’s and Conti GPs – relatively light and fast (enough) rolling on road but strong enough to handle some of cumbria, yorkshire and northumbria’s rough stuff whilst being a pleasure to keep pace on the miles of black top (and the inevitable pot holes along the way)

    Reply
    • Hi John – I am 5’ 9” and I went for the small size. They recommend that if in doubt you go for the smaller of the available size options. The video call option on the website was very useful.

      Reply

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.