|Still a work in progress- My Raleigh Tamland Two|
I'm limiting my comments here to the specifics that I feel make this bike suited better to gravel or not, so while you may want to know about the brakes or wheels, I won't be commenting on that here just yet. Stay tuned for a full review soon....
So, as usual here is my disclaimer before we continue.... NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....
Geometry: The entire reasoning I have for a specific "gravel bike design" centers around the geometry. Essentially, I think that a "gravel road" and "road" bike should have some things in common, while there are certain ideas about loose terrain handling that need to be incorporated as well. A mix of those two basic, general ideas, if you will. The Tamland borrows heavily from my thoughts on this, since Raleigh did actually take my advice on the geometry and incorporated their interpretation of that advice into the Tamland. So, the bottom line is- does it work?
Yes. Yes it does.
Longer answer: While many may disagree on the slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket ideas here, the fact of the matter is that on loose, deeper gravel those ideas incorporated into the Tamland yield a handling that is stable and a lot less scary than most cyclo cross derived bikes used on gravel, or those that are claiming "specific gravel bike geo" and are really just CX geo bikes with big tire clearances. (Niner anyone?) My only nit is that I am left wondering if Raleigh didn't go far enough.
Don't even look at a Tamland if your bike has to weigh less than 20 pounds. The Tamland is steel, has a heavy steel fork with a 50mm offset, (I haven't seen anything carbon with that long an offset), and it definitely has heft compared to the gossamer light carbon CX rigs you can get. That said, this steel frame is one of the smoothest riding steel frames I have ever ridden on any kind of a bike. I will admit that if Raleigh made a carbon version of this bike, which could be significantly lighter, I would look real hard at the savings account!
I've heard guys grouse about "long chain stays" and how they rob a bike of "snappy acceleration". I will admit that in terms of accelerating, I don't understand that statement. Maybe it has to "feel stiffer" to be "faster", and a shorter stayed bike will feel like it is rolling up under your hips when you stomp on the pedals, but that doesn't mean you are accelerating more quickly. It just means you feel something different. Horses for courses, but the Raleigh has longer stays and to my mind it goes as well as any other bike I have when it comes time to giddy-up. On a secondary note- If a bike feels "snappier" under acceleration, it generally is stiffer too. Not something I want too much of in a gravel bike. In my opinion, the Tamland strikes a good balance of stability, comfort, and stiffness.
Well, I have changed some things! But since those are components, I won't get into that here. I would maybe try a deeper bottom bracket drop by a few millimeters, and I'd like to try a half a degree slacker head tube angle, but this bike is close. Really close. It has an amazing ride quality due to the frame's tubing and the geometry package is very well suited to gravel road riding on gravel.
While that last statement may seem like a silly thing to write, I have heard and seen several comments that seem to be coming from folks that don't understand where this bike, (and other ideas I have suggested which this bike represents), is coming from. If you spend a ton of time riding all sorts of gravel roads, you already know where I am coming from here. If not, well then, maybe this would seem like non-sense then. I get that.
On a more specific level with regard to the Tamland, I would have liked to have seen a third water bottle mount. That's the only glaring issue from my point of view that this bike has for a gravel rider. Otherwise, in my opinion, this is the "Warbird-that-should-have-been". A steel framed bike with stability and comfort that fits up to 42mm tires with mud clearance. You can nit pick about the fork material, the over-all weight, and other finer points till the cows come home, but the Tamland Two, as far as I am concerned, comes into the scene as the prototype for gravel road specific geometry in a production bike that is versatile, stable, and smooth riding. Well suited for any sort of gravel road race or riding.
Could it be improved? Sure it could, most likely. Does it only do gravel? No- it does dirt single track like a champ, by the way, but it could be a great commuter bike too. I use it in that role a lot as well. Perfect for city riding on rough, pock marked roads. Either way you look at it though, this rig is certainly dialed in for a long gravel road ride. That's just what I plan on doing with it for a long time.