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Revolution Courier Hydro Disc 2012

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Tested by Neil Watterson

Review

Nimbleness. Now, there's a word I've never written before. But it sums up exactly what you want from a commuter bike: the ability to squeeze between obstructions and get to your destination without undue fuss.

So that's what I was looking for when testing the Revolution Courier Hydro Disc hybrid. It's a bit of a long bike name, but then, so is the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative who sell it. You see, this bike doesn't come from a multi-national conglomerate, but has its roots deep in Scotland - and they know a bit about making bikes.

On paper, the bike is well specified: 7005 aluminium frame, carbon blade forks, Tektro Drako hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, 9-speed Shimano Acera gearing, Selle Royal saddle. It may not have the top of the range kit and some competitors at the same price-point look better on paper, but the frame, with its lifetime warranty, and carbon fork make a great basis for a long-lasting bike. Anyway, the components are robust enough and you can always upgrade later in the bike's life, if you feel the need.

The frame is clearly biased towards road-bike ride levels - there's little flex in the rear triangle, helping you get the power down on smooth and undulating roads. It's a little harsh on the patchwork-quilts of tarmac left behind by utility-company excavations, but steer clear of major ridges - and potholes - and you'll be fine.

Oddly, you also get a decent ride along gravel tracks - that's partly down to the fact that you're shifting the weight from the saddle to the pedals and partly because of the cushioning effect of the 700x32 tyres. Even at full road pressure they take the edge off the bumps as you skip from one piece of gravel to the next - and the alloy rims don't flinch even when you hit tree root-lifted tarmac at speed.

The tyres themselves have a good puncture resistance thanks to the inclusion of Kevlar in the carcass, and perform pretty much as you expect they should - good on tarmac, but tested by Autumnal leaf mulch, wet drain covers and sodden wooden bridge slats, where traction is easily lost.

Finding traction most of the time isn't hard. The 11-32 tooth 9-speed rear cassette and 44/36/24 tooth triple front crank give you a wide array of gear ratios, though I only found myself dipping into the middle ring once or twice during testing. Admittedly, I don't live in the most mountainous part of the UK, but for most commuters the top two chainrings will be adequate.

Edinburgh Bicycle say they have included the third chainring to enable the Courier Hydro Disc to be used as a touring bike, which makes sense, as the gearing is quite low overall. I tend to spin the pedals with a high cadence and frequently found myself in seventh or eighth gear on the flat - if I was faced with proper downhill sections I'd soon run out of gears. And this bike does encourage you to keep the pace high - on the first day's riding I knocked ten per cent off my usual commute time. Some of that was gained by slip-streaming a roadie, but other commuter/hybrid bikes I've tested haven't had quite the same speed bias as this. Which, given its weight is interesting.

It's not the lightest around; Edinburgh Bicycle give a rough model weight of 12.3kg and my test 22-inch model with SPD pedals, lights, computer, bell and rear mudguard tipped the scales at 13.5kg, but it is agile.

The fork angle inspires confidence with none of the vagueness of steering of some steering setups. The 20mm low-rise handlebars give a good balance of sportier looks and handling comfort, and to ensure you can get the perfect handlebar position, the Courier Hydro Disc features an adjustable 100mm stem, so you can raise it, or lower to your desired position. Altering the angle will obviously change the effective length of the stem but, in practice, most people will stick within about 30-degrees of flat, making it less noticeable.

The whole setup allows you to make rapid changes of direction - essential if you want to make decent progress in city traffic and help you react to dozy drivers intent on cutting you up. The brakes help in this regard too.

Tektro Auriga Draco hydraulic brakes sit at both ends of the bike, inspiring confidence even in the wet when rim brakes would be coated by road-grime. They're easy to use, work progressively and, perhaps just as importantly, are easy to set up - none of this shim nonsense you get with other brake types.

If you're relying on a bike as a means of transport you want ease of maintenance, so I was a bit annoyed to ping a couple of the push-on cable clips off within a few minutes of picking up the bike. These were soon replaced with more sensible, but less aesthetically-pleasing, cable ties to hold the hoses and cables in place. They still don't prevent the cables from scratching the paint round the headset, but prevent them from flapping around annoyingly.

The frame has pannier rack/mudguard mounting holes and the front forks are also designed for full-length mudguards - essential commuter bike accoutrements. The Selle Royal Viper saddle is comfortable, though designed more for a sporting riding position than upright riding and is easy to adjust using the single clamp bolt.

The Courier Hydro Disc's subdued colour scheme doesn't shout 'look at me' - a benefit especially if you have to leave the bike in city centre locations. Its austere bluey-grey and black is only set off by light detailing using red anodised trim: skewers, rear mech hanger, seatpost clamp, headset spacers and clamp. It looks confident and stylish, but doesn't attract the eye - a casual observer wouldn't necessarily notice it if you didn't point it out. And that can be a benefit at the train station bike sheds - it's unlikely to be singled out by thieves.

So, it's fast, but not flash. The Courier Hydro Disc encourages you to cycle faster, but also allows you to stop quickly. And you can easily negotiate obstacles on it. If that's not a measure of its nimbleness, I don't know what is.

As a postscript to this review, you know when you start to wonder about something and eventually have to check it out? I've just reached that point with the Courier Hydro.

Each time I've ridden it I've noticed the vast amount of clearance between the tyres and the blades/rear seat stays. I know that the clearance is there to give room for fitting mudguards, but the gaps are huge - they looked big enough to take 26-inch mountain bike tyres. So I tried some in it.

Some quick measurements showed my 26x1.9 Schwalbe Land Cruiser-shod rims would fit the Courier - but that the Courier's 700C wheels wouldn't fit on my mountain bike and it worked.

The clearance on the front blades isn't huge - wider or knobbly mud-biased tyres would certainly foul the forks - but the rear seat stays have almost a finger's worth of gap at the sides. Riding through thick claggy mud could be a problem, but for indulging in a bit of smooth singletrack action it would be fine, albeit slightly more choppy than most mountain bikes. Quite how long the carbon blades would last with this sort of use, I don't know, but as long as you're sensible, it should work.

Alternatively, just use the vast amount of tyre clearance to fit some cyclocross tyres to the existing rims, fit some flat bars with bar ends and head off into the hills. The Courier Hydro is a true hybrid!

At a glance

Verdict Stiff-framed urban bike that encourages you to ride fast – but has the reassurance of hydraulic disc brakes to slow you down again.
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