S is for Bicycle
Well, I suppose technically “S” is not for bicycle, but for spring, in this case. However in my mind as the weather turns towards spring, and the calendar turns to April, I turn to bikes.
I’ve had my Raleigh Sojourn since the first week in December, but with the weather around here in Seattle I haven’t really had the time to focus on the bike, just to ride it now and again when it’s been nice out. I should also mention that I am by no means, a bicycle expert. I can name and change out any component you can point at. I know the principles of how to create a bike, and have ridden my fair share of them; but I think that only makes me a bike nerd, not an expert. I mainly enjoy transportational & recreational cycling. I’ve never ridden in a Crit; never owned a pair of spandex pants; and have never filled my face with dirt while single-tracking down the side of a mountain. I have however tried to bike to the golf course with my clubs on my bike; gotten a couple of kids all over the place by bicycle; tried to use my bike to lose weight, save gas, and feel better. I’ve used my bike for therapy. And if time was no object, I would bike everywhere.
For my entire adult life I have always purchased used bikes. Pre-Sojourn, my last “new” bike was a 14 speed Raleigh Technium I bought in the 10th grade. I worked and saved all summer for that, and if memory serves, my parents probably still kicked in. Every since then, I have picked up bikes at garage sales, swaps, ebay, and craigslist. At the end of last year I felt like I had ridden enough to treat myself to a new bike. The search went on for days and weeks and months, sure custom steel or titanium would have been nice, but it sure was hard to Justify spending upwards of $3,000 bucks on a bike. In the end I wanted something stylish, that could do it all.
I certainly do not want to assume that I can tell you what a beautiful bike looks like to you … in fact for straight up looks it think it’s hard to be my 25 year old Centurion. The Raleigh looks good though, and luckily that’s only the half of it …
The Sojourn, as it turns out, is a very capable bike for me. First of all, out of the box it come with nearly everything you need to start commuting, sans water bottle cages. You’ll find a pump, spare spokes, even a bell. The bike is fitted with some real niceties, including a Brooks saddle, and matching leather bar tape, bar end shifters, SKS fenders, great tires, and a great Tubus rear rack. I’m not going to go into every spec because you can of course get them from Raleigh’s website.
The bike sports a pretty compact geometry, that at first glance made the bike look a little small to my eyes, but upon riding it, I’ve decided it gives it a bit of a spritely feel. I did the build up on it myself, and one of the things I noticed right away, is the quality of the crank arms was noticeably lacking, which automatically got me thinking that the bottom bracket was a place that may have been equally skimmed on. I immediately fitted this up with some new Ultegra kit, I had. The 140mm disc on the rear was a little thought provoking as were the wheel hubs, Joytechs.
I’ve put a few hundred miles on the Sojourn so far, and I have to say that I couldn’t be more pleased. The bike is solid, stable, and quick. Not fast persay, but quick. I’ve really become a fast fan of disc brakes. I know all of the arguments out there against them, but going down Seattle hills in the rain has proven to me that they are the right type of brakes for what I use this bike for. If I was going on a 3 month tour of Vietnam, I may think twice about the discs, but commuting and light touring here in the states, I think they are just perfect. I am a little disappointed in the selection of which brakes Raleigh went with. The Avid BB-5s, seem a little light in the “feel” department to me. I gave them a chance to break in, but still they seemed to go from nothing, to stopped, without much in the way of modulation. I have since switched these out for the Avid BB-7s and am much happier. The hubs and wheels that concerned me a first, have turned out to be just fine, I have dropped into many a pot-hole, off more curbs than I care to count, and into plenty of rocks on the trails, and haven’t so much had to turn a spoke. I suppose at some point these wheels will wear out (although with the disc, I don’t know how long that will be) and then I’ll think about what to replace them with, but for the time being these are great.
One thing that was a surprise for me was the WTB mountain drop bars. I have always ridden drops on the street, and never really given much thought to other bar configurations. These WTB bars, are still drops, but the have a huge flair out from the hoods down, and are exceptionally wide, too wide, I thought. After having spent some time with them though, I just love them. They are very much like the OnOne Midge bars, which I have now read many good things about.
My overall impression is that this is a wonderful bike. Great for commuting, and light touring. The specs might be a little light to consider it a fully loaded, world touring machine, but for me, it’s the perfect set up for a daily 26 mile commute, the occasional distance ride 75+ miles, and even hauling some kids around in the trailer.
Do you have a question about the Sojourn that I didn’t address? Leave a comment, and I would be happy to go into greater detail about anything you’d like … I know when I was looking around for bikes, I really couldn’t find much info on this one. I want to make sure people know what a great all-arounder this is.