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Redline Conquest Team

Review: Redline Conquest Team

scottmares's picture

Right Out of the Box

4

First Impressions

We received the Redline Conquest Team as a frameset for evaluation and built it up with house components (courtesy of Ritchey and SRAM) for testing. Right out of the box, I was impressed by how light the Conquest frameset was. The super light RCT full carbon fork was equally inspiring featuring an very attractive 12K weave.

Ease of Assembly

Once we received all of the parts, we took the frameset to a local bike shop and had them build up the bike. When picking up the bike, the technician commented that it was an easy build and that he didn't have any problems putting it together. If you are building up a frameset, this would be a good time to point out that not all bike shops know how to properly assemble cross bikes. Just because a shop carries cross bikes, don't make the assumption that they will have mechanics on-site that know how to properly build them. Hopefully we experienced the exception and not the rule. Let's just say we won't be going back to this local shop.

Bling Factor

Redline has had a passion for the cyclocross community for quite some time. In fact they are one of a handful of cycling manufacturers that has a dedicated person to head that area up. Tim Rutledge is the man driving the evolution and development of the Redline cyclocross line. With Tim's extensive history in American cyclocross and racing in Europe, he was the perfect man for the job. With the Conquest Team, the red and black paint job on the frame was first rate. However, the real bling factor comes from all the details that Redline included on this frameset. The lightweight all carbon fork with 12K weave is the first thing that catches your eye, weighing in at a mere 350g. This is one of the reasons that the bike is so light. Quite frankly, I am surprised that Redline is not offering this fork as an aftermarket upgrade. Although I am sure that other companies are happy that Redline is not doing that. When most bicycle companies decide to enter the cyclocross market, it's usually an after thought. They tend to toss some tubes together, slap some paint and decals on it, and call it their cross bike. This is not the case with Redline as it's clearly evident that there was a lot of thought that went into this frameset. After closer examination of the Conquest Team, it appears that Redline's approach was to design each individual tube first and then had the frame made. The down tube is what I would call a bi-oval diamond, meaning that it is bi-oval at the head and bottom bracket but diamond shaped in the center. The seat stays and chain stays are both "S" shaped. This provides maximum power and mud clearance for the seat stays while giving you the most power to the drive train in the chain stays. Redline used a solid block of aluminum and machined out the power stay which is very unique, precise and works nicely.

Road Test Ride

4

Climbing

The Conquest Team frame is very stiff so it climbs pretty well on the road. This is due to several factors. First, the down tube is multi-shaped. It is oval vertical at the head tube and oval horizontal at the bottom bracket. Next, there are "S" bends in the rear chain and seat stays. Not to mention Redline's very own Power chain stay, which is a solid piece of aluminum that is CNC and then welded into place on the drive side of the chain stay.

Cornering

It was really fun taking the Conquest Team out to Portland International Raceway (PIR) for the weekly race and going through the sweepers that are there. Once the bike had the line it was solid. The trick was not to try and muscle the bike in the corners but to lead it in and out of the corners instead. This is not surprising when you look at the geometry of the Conquest. All of the sizes have a 45 degree offset in the fork but the 58 & 60 frames have 73 degree head angles. While we tested the 58 frame, it's interesting to note that the other sizes have a more conventional 71 or 72 degree head angle. With a steeper head angle, the bike had a quicker reaction time.

Handeling

The Redline Conquest Team is very quick in taking input from the rider but not too overly twitchy at the same time. It's a race bike which is very quick and precise. A novice rider would most likely say that the bike is very twitchy and they may not like it as much. So if you have not been racing for a bit or you are new to racing cross, this bike might be a little much for you. However, the seasoned rider will no doubt be able to handle and appreciate this feature.

Ride Feel

This bike feels like a aluminum bike, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Aluminum bikes are stiff and responsive, and the Conquest Team is exactly just that. The front end feels very light due to the super light fork that comes standard with this frame set.

Dirt Test Ride

5

Climbing

As mentioned before, Powell Butte park is one of our favorite locations to test cyclocross bikes. With it's variety of terrain, Powell Butte has lots of up and downs. The Conquest Team scampers up climbs like a squirrel up a tree. Is there something on the path? No worries as it will go right around the obstacle thanks to the shaped tubing.

Cornering

We originally tested the Conquest Team with road tires. Once the tires were changed to CX tires we saw a complete change in this bike. It went from a twitchy road bike to a stable and sure-footed cross bike on rails. Redline's attention to detail paid off as they have they have the correct geometry for this bike. The Conquest Team was very confident and wanted to be tested in the corners. It was very stable in every situation even when you had to make a very quick and unexpected course change like dodging a rock or tree root. The bike seem to make it almost natural and worry free.

Handeling

The Redline Conquest Team was a real joy to ride off road. Again, I can't stress this enough, I was really surprised how the bike changed from a twitchy road bike that required minimal input to a stable, will-do-anything-off-road cyclocross land speeder! The transformation was truly amazing. In the over-grown single track of Powell Butte Park, the bike really came into it's own. Time and time again, when I asked the bike to miss a tall root, rut or hole, it complied with very little effort on it's part. With some bikes, you have to fight to get them to do quick directional changes which requires a lot of energy from the rider. That's wasted energy. The Redline doesn't have this issue, almost as if it wanted to show off what it could do. It's very apparent that the folks at Redline have been doing this for a long time. They have put in years of focus on developing cyclocross bikes and it shows. If I had to describe how this bike handles in one word, it would be "fluid".

Ride Feel

A lot of the ride feel is partly due to the frame and partly due to the wheel & tire selection. The Redline Conquest Team feels more stable off-road than it did on the road. The ride is solid thanks to the aluminum frame with its multi-shape down tube, power chain stay, and "S" bend seat and chain stays. The other part of the puzzle was the feel of the new Clement PDX Crusade tires, named after the local Cross Crusade series. We will have a review on the latest mud tire to blast onto the scene shortly. But for now, let's just say that this tire is going set a new standard for mud tires.

Race Test Ride

4

Because we received the frameset in the middle of summer, we did race it on the road. We could not find any cyclocross races to put it to the test but we did race it at the weekly circuit race course at PIR. This series is a points series with hot spots and we are happy to report that we did score points with the Conquest Team while everyone else was on their road bikes. Good show on that part!

We Liked

We did like the lightweight frame and all the multi-shaped tubes that come with it. The power chain stay was really cool as well. Usually, when you get a cross bike you have to upgrade the fork to get a decent ride, but that's not the case with this Redline. The fork is pretty awesome on it's own and they should offer it as an aftermarket upgrade for older Redlines and other CX bikes. When we asked Redline about this, they declined to comment. So that would be a "no". The second thing that we really liked was how the bike handled after we installed cyclocross tires on it. This is when the Conquest Team really shined, making us realize that this is one of the best-handling cyclocross bikes that we have ridden to date. One feature that Redline went back and forth over was the front derailleur clamp. Well with a clamp you can replace it if it gets damaged and you can also go double or single with very little effort.

We Didn't Like

With all of the things that the Redline has going for it, there were a few things that we didn't like. While it doesn't affect performance, we would like to see cleaner welds on the frame for a more polished look. Give me a weld that looks like a stack of dimes and I will be very happy. Considering that this is Redline's top of the line uber cool CX frame set, what is up with the rack mounts? Not fenders, but racks. When I was riding the bike I was hitting my thigh on the rack mounts. I understand fender mounts and think that they are totally appropriate. But the rack mounts don't enhance the look of the bike and they detract from the perceived race performance of the frameset. If the rack mounts were an absolute deal-breaker, I would have at least camouflaged the bolts by painting them black to match the paint job

Upgrades

As previously mentioned, this was a frameset evaluation and not a bike evaluation. We had to supply our own group (thank you SRAM! you guys ROCK!) to test the bike. With that being said, we would like to see several upgrades on the frameset. For starters, we would like to see a bolt on the front derailleur mount instead of a clamp. Preferably one that bolts to the side of the frame, (which would allow replacement of the hanger) and is easy to take off if you wanted to go to a single chain ring. The second upgrade would be changing the 11/8" head tube to an integrated 11/8 - 1.25 head tube and head set, which would give the bike a more updated look and feel while increasing the stiffness of the front end a bit.

The Final Say

The Redline Conquest Team is an American designed race horse that is probably the most underrated frameset on the market today. While everyone has been trying to figure out what works, Redline has been doing it right for YEARS. The geometry and handling of the Conquest Team is the best we have ridden so far and was definitely the biggest surprise to date. If you are not about "SHOW" and all about "GO", then the Conquest Team is the most logical and smartest choice. You just might be a victim of marketing hype if you buy into another bike. Before you lay down a bunch of dead presidents on that fancy Euro steed I would suggest you go to a Redline dealer, throw a leg over one and find out. You can't go wrong.

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