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Ra Bikes' Valravn Steel Frame Is What Makes This SRAM-Filled Gravel Monster Truly Great

Countless cycling teams are roaming around the world, promising to be the answer to your cycling needs. Well, one team, Ra Bikes, led by Ralph Richardson, has crafted a two-wheeler that can be the very definition of a bicycle done right.
Valravn 7 photos
Photo: Ra-Bikes / North Riding Manufacturing Ltd / Edited by autoevolution
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Folks, Ra Bikes is a relatively new cycling crew, especially compared to industry giants like Trek, Specialized, and Bianchi. Born in 2017 out of passion, this crew has managed to stay alive by crafting bikes that are absolutely specialized for a particular type of terrain. But, in today's case, that terrain is just about anything that can be ridden; today, we'll be taking a closer look at the very optimized, very comfortable, SRAM-supported Valravn platform.

As Ra Bikes states, the Valravn was brought to life when SRAM unveiled their Rudy gravel suspension fork and XPLR drivetrain, so Ra took things into their own hands and crafted a unique machine to accommodate the new gear. But, this required the creation of an entirely different demon, so expect to see some features and geometry not often encountered.

Since the whole thing is basically built around that suspension fork, let's start with that. Overall, the whole thing boasts 40 mm (1.6 in), which isn't much when you think about it, but then again, this is a gravel bike; a suspension fork is rarely seen on something like this. Sure, it doesn't sound like much, but if you throw some gravel underneath, that 40 mm is more than enough to reduce road vibrations, leading to a more comfortable rider, thus, longer rides.

Valravn
Photo: Ra-Bikes / North Riding Manufacturing Ltd
So to accommodate SRAM's fork, Ra built a frame out of Reynolds 853 butted steel tubes. Steel? Yes, steel. Why? Countless reasons, of which are the elastic properties of this metal alloy; Steel bends before a break is visible, whereas aluminum and carbon first break before a bend is visible. In short, hit it against rocks and bang it against trees. Hell, don't even worry about rocks flying into the frame.

One aspect of the build I want to point out is the way the seat stay connects to the seat tube. Could you have a look and tell me what you see? If you've noticed that little piece of steel that connects the two portions, you know your bikes. I'm honestly not sure if I've ever seen a seat stay like this. If I had, I would've written about that bike. But the question remains as to why it's designed like this. If we sit and ponder a bit about bicycle dynamics and frame design, I would say that this little piece of metal helps the rear triangle flex just a little bit, reducing more of the road's vibration as you ride. But just how much pressure can it take; we're yet to find a destroyed Valravn.

Diving deeper into just how comfortable this bike can be, we need to consider tire clearance. Overall, the Valravn is crafted to accommodate a pair of rather beefy gravel tires; a pair of 700 x 50c puppies will be standing between your bike and the ground, coasting over rough patches of sand, gravel, and even singletracks like you're riding on clouds. With that front fork thrown in, OMG! That seat tube is also built for a dropper post, so your descents are just that much better.

Valravn
Photo: Ra-Bikes / North Riding Manufacturing Ltd
Now, there's something I need to point out about this bike. If you've fallen in love with the machine you see in the image gallery, don't because that's a complete build, limited to only ten units ever to come out from Ra, and priced at a solid £7,500 ($9,500 at current exchange rates). That's right; what you see is going around $9,500, so you better be a die-hard cycle addict or use such machines to bring home gold daily. Do consider that all this does include a custom fitting too, and some details like engraving and a wide range of accessories.

If you don't have the cash for a complete SRAM XPLR setup, then a stand-alone frame is your best bet. Best of all, a simple frame is going for a whole lot less than a full build and even allows you to throw on the gear you already own, assuming components figures allow you to do so. a frame alone is going for £1,950 ($2,460), with custom fitting adding on another £350 ($440). But you can see what the result of all your work and trouble will be.

Once you've thrown on your favorite tires, the handlebar with your preferred level of flair, the groupset you want, and even the XPLR fork - it's a must considering the bike was molded around it - you'll be looking at a gravel, road, and trail-ready monster bent on keeping you in the saddle among the most demanding of conditions. Throw on those frame bags, a rear rack, and water bottles, ride off into the sunset every weekend for the next few years, or bring home some more gold. Just a little something to show you where this whole gravel trend is headed.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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