My Bike - a Reilly Gradient

If you follow my blog you might have noticed that the beautiful black Genesis Croix de Fers have gone. Christine and I have both splashed out big time, upgraded and are now in possession of a pair of Reilly Gradient titanium bikes.

The Croix de Fers were beautiful but for some reason, they weren't that comfortable. No matter what we did, the bikes always felt a bit long. This was a big issue for Christine in particular as her bike gave her back pains. Fitted with Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres, which we use when we're touring, they were also heavy, a problem for us because we have to cart the bikes up and down several flights of stairs to our flat.

Despite these shortcomings we were fond of our bikes. The Croix de Fers have taken us across France twice and it felt disloyal even to think about getting something else. Still the longer we put it off the less use we were going to make of any replacements (we are getting pretty ancient). I then met Mark Reilly, a Brighton based bike designer with 25 years experience and within minutes had placed an order for his latest bike, the Gradient.

Out with the old

If you're only going to have one bike, can afford titanium, then the case for a Gradient is pretty overwhelming. It's a 'go anywhere do anything' bike. So far I've used it mainly for touring but my sort of touring involves canal paths, gravel tracks and abandoned railway lines and the Gradient is the perfect bike. Already it's crossed Spain and Portugal, travelled down the east coast of the UK and in 6 months has clocked up over 4,000kms.
Test run in Shropshire

On the platform at Malvern

More recently, back home in Brighton, I've swapped the wheels for a set with road tyres (I've got more money than sense) and my bike has been transformed from a trusty tourer to a thoroughbred racer. The difference is amazing and to be honest I hadn't really appreciated how much easier cycling gets with lighter tyres - the bike even sounds different.
On a train in Portigal

One of the bikes key features is its ability to accommodate large 40mm plus tyres, the type you would normally associate with mountain bikes. This might not happen but I would like to go back to Spain next year to do the off-road version of the Ruta Vía de la Plata , I'll fit the bike out with a third tyre configuration so I'll then have three bikes in one.
After a good lunch in Portugal

I'm not going to attempt to take you through the bike's technical configuration but if you follow the link to this review, the bike being discussed is essentially the same as mine. This includes the use of Hunt Wheels, a company located at Partridge Green and about 10 miles to the north west of Brighton. Partridge Green is where Dark Star is brewed so as well sourcing the wheels locally, visits there give me an excuse to stop at the pub and drink a pint of my favourite beer.
On top of the Cantabrian Mountains

Christine has essentially got the same bike as me although we've got a different group set (she has Shimano Ultegra and I have Sram Force 1) and she wanted a paint job. Mine is classic titanium, and will never lose its looks, while hers is bright orange and will age gracefully. Needless to say, Christine is very pleased with her bike, carries it up the stairs effortlessly into our flat and never complains about her back.

I have to say, having the man who designed and put the bike together just down the road is a big advantage. My wife, in particular, is a very demanding customer and demands instant attention whenever she hears a squeak. Nothing has been too much trouble as far as Mark Reilly is concerned and he's been a really nice man to buy a bike from.
On a bus in Spain

The other thing that went with Croix de Fers was the Ortlieb pannier bags. We have always travelled light, had made do with just one bag and resented the weight associated with these bags. We've switched to a saddle bag bikepacking system with the bags made by Apidura. They work a treat, everything is so light and streamlined and with the new bikes a lot easier.

So call me fickle but the Croix de Fer has gone and despite its looks, is not missed - I have a new love in my life.


  1. John thanks for that interesting post.
    I realise my joints are worsening and I may have to use a bike more for further adventures so your pointers are of great value to me.
    Will folow up your reviews.

  2. Hi John
    I am looking at buying a bike for touring and am wondering if you think that the Gradient would be good for this, particularly if the aim was to be offroad as much as possible on gravel tracks, paths etc. Not serious mtb tracks however. Would the bike work well and take loaded front and or rear panniers do you think?
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Jay

      All I can say is it's been great for me. I've travelled off-road on gravel tracks on 20 day trips and know someone who made it all the way to India on a similar setup. We don't camp and travel very light so can't vouch for panniers but can't see why they would be a problem.

      I only have one bike but I'm using my Gradient as a road bike, touring bike and a mountain bike. I've recently been blasting around the South Downs off-road and the bike has been excellent.

      You should try and contact Mike Reilly, have a chat with him, and find out a bit more about panniers. He is very helpful.

      Best wishes


  3. I easily managed the trans-Cambrian way on 40mm tyres, dual panniers and a bar bag, full bike packing. Normally a mtb route, the bike was far more capable than me and coped with everything the route threw at it: some pretty big rock gardens, rough gravel, fire roads and tarmac. It's an awesome bike