Bikes are not built to be hung from walls, but ridden. Though beautiful in their own ways, I would for the most part consider my bikes to be work horses. Purpose built- nothing too fancy and with a practical component group- put together to be ridden. Though I have a love of all bikes, my bike collection has shifted some over the years, mainly reflecting my income and the place I call home. With that, many of my previous fascinations have come full circle. 2010 marks my first year of cross racing (single speed category,) and though I grew up mountain biking, I have never raced it. I’m hoping to start racing singlespeed mtb bike in 2011 (yet another bike I’ll need to get…sheesh.)
Another faction of cycling that has been of much interest to me without ever owning a bike built for it is Randoneering. I can’t really explain why really, except that I lived in the Bay Area during the time that Rivendell was getting it’s start, met some of the early employees, saw their bikes and was immediately enamored. The integration of naturally occuring materials, fenders, equipment that is made to last, how could I not be intrigued? Then I got into bike touring and mountaineering. Randoneers- who often look like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Eddy Merckx- really get to see some beautiful country and their sport seems to blend road racing and touring quite well. Randoneering can easily become a dark tunnel lined with hieroglyphics pertaining to the traditions, theories and prophecies surrounding geometry, frame materials, tire dimensions, and how many backup lights one should carry. The “discussions” (grown up talk for fights) concern carbon vs steel, wool vs lycra, compact vs traditional geometry, the list goes on and on.
For those of us just getting into Randoneering- Don’t dig too deeply or you may fall in over your head. Just get a bike that is built well, will adapt to the accessories that coincide with the sport and then give it hell. You can always get a Boxer later. I appreciate seeing what I would call good deals available to the everyday cyclist. By “every day cyclist” I mean the folks that pay retail and keep the lights on at shops and the rest of the industry afloat. It’s true that there are few people getting rich off of bikes. Even so, there are on occasion, bikes released that seem to be designed to stay with a person for years, if not for a lifetime.
As anybody that has both purchased a bike and built a bike up part by part can tell you- buying a complete bike is far cheaper (not to mention easier.) Once you have a parts box you can pull from, it becomes easier to upgrade- switch frames or individual parts that fit or work better for you. It can of course be a lengthy process to build that parts box, as the parts usually wear down before the frame does.
The 2011 Raleigh Port Townsend caught my eye as a cost effective way for me to enter the wild kingdom of randoneering as well as being a solid urban road bike/commuter. Ringing in at under $900 complete, it’s a lot of bike for the money. One of Raleigh’s numerous steel road bikes for 2011, the Port Townsend is built around a butted Reynolds 520 steel tubeset and outfitted with Shimano Sora derailleurs, Shimano cantilever brakes, Dura-Ace Bar-con shifters, and it even comes with fenders and a cute little front rack. The stock gearing is a 34/50 compact double chainring with an 11/25 9sp cassette. Knowing the bike comes stock with 700x35c tires- means that you have lots of options for widths and tread, providing comfort over the occasional fire road, double track trail, cobbles, or the general suckiness of urban roadways.
The front rack will support a larger handlebar bag, and you can attach a rear rack or even just a saddle bag, making day trips easily manageable. The paint is understated- not too flashy, and along the same lines as their other performance steel bikes. The stem is a threadless design that looks to pays homage to the classic quill stems used on so many bikes throughout the years.
So there you have it. The Raleigh Port Townsend. Ready for your commute through the streets, your first 200k brevet, or even light credit card touring. A trip to Port Townsend anyone?
For 2011, Raleigh is also offering a number of other performance minded steel bikes including the Rush Hour, Sojourn, Record Ace, and even their race ready, lugged, Dura-Ace equipped International. See them all at Raleigh Bicycles.