Edit (2014/09/02): I’ve been blown away by the popularity of this post having just spotted it’s received over a thousand reads. I’ve now done over 10,000 miles on the Roux Etape 250 (9,600 on this tour plus some commuting in London) so thought this review deserved an update. I’ll leave the original review first, written after about 2,500 miles, and start the rest of the review further down.
This will be a departure from my normal blog posts about my Bike tour across Eurasia. When I bought my bike, the Roux Etape 250, there was only one single online review and this revolved around someone riding it around a city for just a couple of days. Having checked recently there are still are no more reviews and very little discussion of the bike on forums and the like. It seems to make sense to write up a decent review of it considering I may be the first person to take this model of bike on a big tour.
Firstly I chose this bike as I couldn’t find anything nearly as well spec’d for the price (£700). The next best thing is a Surly Long Haul Trucker which will set you back about £950 but is not supplied with mud guards or a rear rack and is fitted with regular V brakes rather than Discs.
On the 20 mile ride home from the bike shop I got the bike from I immediately found two problems with it. The stock saddle is rough and the platform pedals are asymmetrical, as in one side of the pedal is much smaller than the other. The small side was actually two small for me to cycle on properly and was particularly frustrating when the pedal rotated around whilst I was stopped at traffic lights as whenI went to push off my foot would be in an incredibly uncomfortable position and rotating the pedal back round whilst moving was quite awkward.
I replaced the saddle with a Brooks leather saddle (THE go to touring saddle) and replaced the pedals with some big old flat touring ones that I could cycle on in snow boots if I needed too. With those changes made I happily used the bike for commuting in London for about 2 months and loved it, even putting just one heavy pannier on the back with my work clothes and lock in (potentially throwing off the balance of the bike) didn’t affect the steering at all. I also fitted a Tubus Duo front rack on the bike which fitted happily around the disc brake, albeit with a generous use of spacers, and found that the steering of the bike is still nice and stable with panniers on the fork.
After doing a small test tour from London to Brighton, with an overnight camp in the middle, I felt that the Roux Etape 250, when heavily loaded, needed some lower gearing so I swapped out the cassette with one that went down to 34. Ultimately this is more my preference than a qualm with the bike.
Next up was about 250 miles of happy touring across the UK and France before I found one of the stock inner tubes of the bike had ruptured on the shoulder of the valve stem. Not an uncommon problem when using a small handheld bicycle pump but I feel the stock tubes rubber valve stems, and lack of the nut that normally puts some of the strain of pumping onto the rim, warrant them to be replaced before doing any serious touring as you will eat into your spares rather quickly.
For the next 1,500 miles or so everything seemed great. The brakes are solid, just need adjusting about once every 500 miles, the gears are smooth and the drive train has been solid with regular oiling. The only major qualm has been the rear rim cracking around one of the spokes;
Now this is something that can happen when touring due to amount of luggage over the rear wheel but my bike isn’t loaded up with that much more than most other tourers and I haven’t been on too many poor roads so far so I feel it’s quite concerning for a rim to give out like this after only 2500 miles or so. Once I’d managed to replace the rim (after a very costly process getting a Mavic a719 imported to Serbia) I also noticed that it was significantly easier to reseat a tyre on the Mavic rather the stock rim. Might sound petty but this makes a huge difference when fixing a puncture by the side of the road in snow after cycling for 4 hours.
All that being said I do think the Roux Etape 250 is great, it feels amazingly stable going fast downhill with the luggage on the bike. No wobble in the steering at all. I’ve done 120km days and as many as 9 100km days in a row with the only pain in my body being aching thigh muscles. No sore hands or aches in my back or knees, a super comfy bike.
So to sum up, a solid frame, drive train and brakes but I would seriously factor in replacing the saddle, pedals and rear rim into your budget before doing any serious touring.
Extended part of the review after 10,000 miles and 10 months on the road.
The bike is still going very strong with no major problems, just wear on tear, despite facing some of the roughest roads I’ve ever seen. After the initial review I promptly crashed the bike on a pack of ice in Bulgaria which caused the mount of the rear mudguard to break. I ended up discarding the mudguard as cable ties where not managing to hold it on without it fouling the wheel, I ditched the front at the same time as I was about to switch to some 38mm tyres in Istanbul and at a glance it looked like the new tyres would would not have enough clearance.
After switching the tyres to 38mm I noticed this is probably the largest tyre size the rear of the frame could take, 40mm may just be possible. There is plenty of clearance up front though for a much larger tyre if you desire.
Another crash into the wall of a tunnel damaged my front right Tubus duo rack and slightly bent the lower rack mount point on the fork. The rack now pointed out at an angle but was still useable.
The bike held up beautifully across Asia Minor with the stock breakpads finally wearing out after the long descents in the southern Armenia mountains. They lasted 4,000 miles of loaded touring which is quite a result.
No major maintenance at all, just a few spokes going on some very bad roads, and the bike was still going strong.
Finally in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I decided to give the drive train a once over. Despite still going strong a chain measuring tool showed that stock chain was now stretched of the scale. 7,000 miles on a single chain is a hell of a result, I only give the thing one serious cleaning as well. After popping on a new chain and cassette I realised the lowest chain ring had been ground to fit the distorted chain so I had to swap that out too. No big deal, I could’ve avoided the cassette and chain ring problem if I’d rotated my chain and spare like many cyclist choose to do.
With the drive train holding up well I embarked on a fast sprint across China enforced by a tight visa. The rear gear cable snapped at one point but this is normal and a new cable was fed through in minutes, the brifters on this bike have been holding up superbly.
The bike has so far held up strong against some challenges including 400 miles in 4 days, a 145 mile day as well as successfully getting up a 4,000m+ pass in a snow storm in China…
There is occasionally some sporadic clicking coming from the bottom bracket but it comes and goes. This is something I’ll probably have replaced once I finish the tour as it is certainly in a sorry state. The damaged front rack mount from back in Europe finally gave out and threaded in China. Nothing a nut and bolt can’t fix and it is currently going well being held with a liberal use of cable ties.
After really putting this bike through it’s paces evidently it is more than capable of taking you and your luggage all the way across two continents despite the mud that’ll be thrown at it…
After around another 4,000 miles I went onto my third pair of brake pads, again they were polished off by a mountain range, the Qilian mountains of China. The front and back seem to wear out at the same rate which is not something I anticipated, I thought I’d be burning through the front ones much faster.
I’ll update this post in about a month when I expect to have finished the tour and bike will have something around 12,000 miles on it. Fingers crossed I make it!