On-One’s Free Ranger is an evolution of its very popular Space Chicken with increased tyre space, an extra bottle/top tube bag mount and tweaked geometry. That said you’re still getting a light, responsive full carbon frame with significantly better spec than most alloy bikes from mainstream brands.
Apart from the price, there’s nothing obviously radical about the Free Ranger, but there are no obvious short cuts either. The tapered head tube syncs neatly with the tapered fork and the top and down tube use a square section with rounded corners. The seat tube is a skinny and rounded for a 27.2mm seatpost with a removable front mech hanger and threaded bottom bracket at the base. The deep tapered rectangular chainstays are asymmetric, with the drive side dropping low to give clearance for 700x48mm or 650x52mm tyres and a double chainset if you go for the Shimano Ultegra spec (£1,799.99).
The 142x12mm rear dropouts have a replaceable gear hanger and offside axle insert and the flat-mount rear brake is tucked out of the way of the rack mounts and any luggage. On the subject of carrying stuff, the mainframe has three bottle mounts and a bolted top-tube mount with rack and mudguard mounts on the rear dropouts and mudguard mounts on the fork. Unlike its Space Chicken predecessor, there’s no provision for an internally routed dropper seatpost though.
The frame comes in XS to XL sizes and, if you’re not into the vivid Cadbury’s Creme Egg wrapper colourway, there’s an ‘unwrapped’ chocolate brown and caramel option too.
Components and build
Our test bike came with SRAM Force 1 groupset, carbon cranks and hydraulic discs with 160mm rotors for plenty of stopping power. It’s not a complete Force group though as they’ve sneaked on a cheaper PG1130 cassette and a PC1110 chain rather than the XG1175 cassette and PC1170 chain it should have. That means over 200g more weight and an 11-42T rather than 10-42T ratio spread but it does slide onto a standard SRAM/Shimano freehub and shift quality is fine.
The Fulcrum Racing 900 wheels it comes with are sturdy rather than sprightly too, but they’re a solidly reliable set that’ll take big miles and regular beatings in their stride. The Selcof finishing kit is similarly solid and workmanlike, and the flared bar is a nice touch for extra leverage in the drops. The standard tyre spec is the underrated, yet rapid Panaracer Comet tyre in a basic wire bead 38mm format. Our bike came with the chunkier Rivendell-designed, Panaracer-made Jack Brown Rock ’n’ Roll tyres though and we’re not complaining. Relatively light for a full-size 43mm carcass and the webbed knob tread pattern works surprisingly well in wet and muddy conditions right over onto the edges. There’s only a bit of buzz on the road and, like the rims, they can be turned tubeless for better puncture protection and low-pressure smoothness.
Because all Planet-X bikes are built to order from the frame up in Rotherham, UK you can change wheels, tyres, stem length, bar width, bar tape and saddle for a nominal fee as part of the online buying process. That’s a definite plus with the saddle too as the supplied San Marco Monza Start will be too narrow for most riders' idea of rough road comfort.
Ride, handling and performance
Even with the heavy rear cassette, the overall weight is still very competitive at 9.4kg for our large sample and that backs up the light and lively feel of the frame. While there’s a bit of growl from the tyres on tarmac it’s always very keen to pick up speed and isn’t bothered if there’s a gradient to work against either. Power delivery is crisp and sharp through the carbon Force cranks which helps encourage you to attack steep or sticky situations rather than gear down and give up. To check its full potential, we switched to fat 32mm road tyres for part of the test too. That turned it into an impressively swift winter/back-road bike that’s also sharp enough for cyclo-cross use.
The bright frame feel, 71.5-degree head angle, 74-degree seat angle and short reach and wheelbase for a given size definitely put it towards the alert, if borderline-twitchy side of the handling spectrum. The reach is also relatively short which is why we ended up on the large-sized frame. The Jack Brown tyres flattered technical ability when the bike might otherwise have got flustered though and when it came to ripping through twisty singletrack at speed, the Free Ranger was a riot.
There’s enough flex in the tapered forks and rear stays to suck the worst sting and ricochet out of rocks and roots when descending at the limit of bravery. The skinny 27.2mm and thin-wall frame tubes reduce rider rattle on rooty singletrack, feral towpath and tractor-rutted farm tracks. A different saddle and more cushioned bar tape would definitely be on our list if we were regularly riding for several hours at a time though.
Even without referencing the price, the Free Ranger would be a very enjoyable, light and efficient gravel or daily grind all-rounder that we’d be happy to recommend. Add the fact that even Canyon’s Grail equivalent at this price has an alloy frame and a lower-tier SRAM group (though it does get DT Swiss wheels) and you’re looking at an absolute bargain.
- Temperature: -2 to 9 degrees
- Trail surface: Mixed dirty woods, moorland backcountry, towpaths, gravel shooting tracks
- Route: Mixed Yorkshire Dales roads, gravel tracks and singletrack, South Yorkshire towpaths
Tech specs: On-One Free Ranger gravel bike
- Price: £1,499.00
- Frame: Toray T700 carbon
- Size: Large
- Weight: 9.45kg
- Groupset: SRAM Force 1
- Crankset: SRAM Force 1 42T chainset, PG1130 11-42T 11-speed cassette
- Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 900 Disc wheels (12x100mm front, 12x142mm rear)
- Tyres: Jack Brown Rock ’n’ Road 43mm tyres
- Brakes: SRAM Force Hydro160mm hydraulic disc brakes
- Bar/stem: Selcof Zeta V2 100mm stem. Selcof Sterrato flared handlebar 440mm
- Seatpost: Selcof Zeta 27.2mm seatpost
- Saddle: San Marco Monza Start