We may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase through links on this page. Learn more.

Raleigh Willard Review

Last updated: May 21, 2020

Category: Gravel Bikes

Fully kitted out and ready for gravel and road riding, the Raleigh Willard family brings plenty of performance to the table without the premium price tag attached. A great mid-range series of bikes, they do great justice to the budget gravel bike market.


Sights focused on dirt trails, gravel roads, and paved stretches; they match the exact definition of a gravel bike and perform just as you’d expect. Providing plentiful attachment points for additional racks and panniers, they’re ready for adventure and an excellent choice for a wide array of activities.

GroupsetFrame materialFork materialBrake type
Willard 1Shimano ClarisAluminumAluminumMechanical Disc
Willard 2Shimano SoraAluminumAluminumMechanical Disc
Willard 3SRAM Apex 1AluminumCarbonMechanical Disc

As with many other Raleigh bikes, the Willard series are numbered according to the price and caliber of components used, with the higher the number being indicative of better quality pieces and materials being used.


Each of the three entries are composed of the same 6061 Aluminum-alloy frame which has proven to be lightweight and durable. As a result they each boast the exact same frame geometry and thus shouldn’t be a problem when trying to decide which bike fits your body the best.

Sticking to an alloy aluminum front fork on both the Willard 1 and 2, you’re well sorted out with a versatile and strong front end. An aluminum fork is right in between steel and carbon fibre in terms of specs and feeling.

Willard 1AL-6061 Alloy Gravel, Thru-Axle, Flat Mount Disc, Taper HeadtubeAlloy SPF Formed, Tapered Steerer, Thru-Axle, Disc Post Mount
Willard 2AL-6061 Alloy Gravel, Thru-Axle, Flat Mount Disc, Taper HeadtubeAlloy SPF Formed, Tapered Steerer, 12mm Thru-Axle, Flat Mount Disc
Willard 3AL-6061 Alloy Gravel, Thru-Axle, Flat Mount Disc, Taper HeadtubeCarbon Monocoque Tapered Steer,Flat Mount Disc, 12mm Thru Axle

The Willard 3 however prefers a carbon front fork which improves lightness and agility as well as offers superior vibration dampening, something that you might show preference to if you do a lot of bumpy road riding.

While not a complete world of difference or revolutionary by any means, most people enjoy using a carbon fiber front fork in most circumstances, though that is of course offset by the increased price.


The bread and butter of these bikes, each of the Willard rides choose a different set of components. Overall, we can certainly say that each tier is better than the other, though they’re all adept at handling most any challenge that you throw at them, provided you’re not trying to do some serious mountain biking.

The Willard 1 shows up with a series of Shimano Claris parts with 16 speeds to pick between. This is plenty for most any application and they’ve proven to be a reliable set of parts found on budget bikes around the world. Easily serviced with replacements readily available at practically every cycling store, they’re found frequently for a good reason.

Willard 1Willard 2Willard 3
ShiftersShimano Claris ST-2000, 8 SpeedShimano Sora ST-R3000 Dual Control, 2×9 SpeedSRAM Apex 1, 11 Speed
Front DerailleurShimano Claris FD-2000Shimano Sora FD-R3000, 31.8mm Band ClampN/A
Rear DerailleurShimano Claris RD-2000, 8 SpeedShimano Sora RD-R3000, 9 SpeedSRAM Apex 1, 11 Speed
CranksetAlloy 3peice Road Crank, 46/34 Tooth, Square TaperFSA Omega Adventure, 46/30 Tooth, Mega ExoPraxis Works Alba M30, 38 Tooth Direct Mount
BrakesTektro Lyra Mechanical Disc, 160mm RotorsTektro Lyra Flat Mount Mechanical Disc, w/160mm RotorsTRP Spyre-C Mechanical Disc, w/160mm Rotors
CassetteShimano Claris HG-50 8 Speed, 11-32Shimano HG400 Cassette, 9 Speed, 11-32TSRAM PG1130, 11 Speed,11-42
ChainKMC X8KMC Z9KMC X11-1 EPT Anti-Rust

The Willard 2 bumps up the level and selects an array of Shimano Sora ingredients which prove to be better than those on its predecessor. Offering 18 gears to play with and also familiar to bike shops everywhere, the Shimano Sora lineup is seen as one of the industry standards for mid-range rides.

Deviating from the norm, the Willard 3 boasts an 11-speed SRAM APEX 1 groupset which is considerably better than the others. Snappy, sharp, and sure to bring a smile to your face, it’s an objectively greater selection of components and don’t let the lower array of gears fool you, 11 is often enough for almost any terrain you’ll entertain.

Consistent among the three brothers, they all hire mechanical disc brakes to do all the stopping, though the TRP Spyre-C brakes on the Willard 3 are a good chunk nicer to use than the Tektro Lyra brakes on the other two.


A considerable difference between them, the Willard 1 & 2 use the same Raleigh aluminum alloy 28-spoke wheels which unfortunately aren’t compatible with tubeless tires. While not a requirement, the ability to use tubeless tires proves to be a nice advantage for durability and weight. Found on the Willard 3 are tubeless-ready HED Tomcat wheels which have great longevity and are lightweight as well.

The first two Willard bikes use the same 35mm wide X’PLOR USH tires which are excellent road and gravel tires with a rather low rolling resistance and can confidently accompany you on all sorts of terrain.

Willard 1Raleigh Alloy Double Wall, 700c, 28 HoleClement X’PLOR USH, 700x35c
Willard 2Raleigh Alloy Double Wall, 700c, 28 HoleDonnelly X’PLOR USH, Wire Bead, 700x35c
Willard 3HED Tomcat Disc, 28 Hole, Tubless CompatibleDonnelly X’PLOR MSO, 700x40c, 60TPI

Alternatively, the Willard 3 chooses wider 40mm X’PLOR MSO rubber which provides a good sum more of handling and control off-road while weighing practically the same as the others. Considering the wheel can go without tubes, you’ll get a lighter overall wheel assembly and better performance as a result.


Equal in terms of saddle, handlebars, and overall frame geometry, you won’t find any difference in terms of immediate comfort between the three bikes. They all seat you in a partially aggressive position which is certainly comfortable enough for a day of city commuting and gravel travel.

Willard 1Raleigh Series Saddle with Steel RailRaleigh 200 series 31.8 with 12 Degree Flare, 38/40/42/44Resin Platform Pedal
Willard 2Raleigh Series Saddle with Chromo RailRaleigh 200 series 31.8 with 12 Degree FlareResin Platform Pedal
Willard 3Raleigh Series Saddle with Chromo RailRaleigh 200 series 31.8 with 12 Degree FlareN/A

Add some padded bike undershorts to the mix and you’d be fine with a whole day of riding without getting sore. In terms of pedals, both the Willard 1 and 2 give you standard platform pedals to place your feet onto, while the Willard 3 doesn’t include any at all, which nudges you to select the best pedals for your purposes.