Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thinking About The "Rat Bike"

 A Raleigh Willard One at the shop where I work
Okay, if you've been poking around here for a while you already know what I think a "gravel bike" should be like. Not that you should have one like it, but it's been my ideal, if you will, cogitated over many, many miles of gravel and experiences over the years. That said, my ramblings struck a nerve with some folks and in another stunning turn of events, Raleigh actually took some of my ideas and turned them into the Tamland. Then they went and switched the frame and fork materials, spec'ed the bike differently to some degree, and called it the Willard.

Now, when I found out about the aluminum framed, carbon fiber forked Willard, two thoughts immediately jumped into my head- One was that my high school sweetheart's Dad was named Willard. The other was the movie by the same name. If you are familiar with that movie, you know it is a horror flick about killer rats. In my mind, (admittedly, a twisted mass of neurons), the Raleigh Willard is "The Rat Bike". Well, that's my own issue, and not what I was wanting to get into here, so......

The Two!
Al-yoo-min-yum. The material chosen to construct the two models of the Willard from, is an interesting choice here. Sure.....lots of lesser expensive road bikes share this material, but they are not going on the "paint shaker-like" surfaces we ride on out here, in general. That alloy stuff has a reputation, ya know, and it may not be true, but many feel that aluminum is a rough riding frame material. I don't think that it necessarily has to be that way, but if you've ever noticed, many companies are not flouting a "compliant aluminum alloy frame" in their marketing materials. I suppose that's got more to do with that aforementioned "reputation" that aluminum has than anything else. That said, I'd like to put my suspicions to rest and see if this, or some other aluminum frame might actually be a nice riding frame set. 

I know- lots of you out there are thinking this is a stupid thing. No way an aluminum frame rides nicely in the same or similar manner as a steel or carbon frame can, right? Well, I am thinking it is a possibility, and maybe, just maybe, this here  Raleigh number can do it. If not the Willard, why couldn't it be another aluminum frame? I mean, look how much an air frame flexes, fer cryin' out loud. I would think someone could figure out how to make a bicycle frame in aluminum do that. Oh wait.......they already did. Vitus anyone?

Anyway, just some crazy thinking around these parts for today. Nuthin' unusual!

Bonus: Here's a cool video I received from a French manufacturer that is pushing the gravel scene in France


Doug Mayer said...

A couple Willard 1s showed up at my LBS; the owner and I agreed that for ~$1200 it has to be one of the best values in 'road' bikes in a long time.

David V said...

I’ve been considering the Willard 2 as a replacement for my uncomfortable, heavy CX bike that I ride on the Katy Trail. The surface of the Katy Trail is a lot smoother that most of the gravel roads, so I was thinking the aluminum alloy would work out okay. In 2014 I rode over 2300 miles on the Katy Trail; hope to do more in 2015. Any thoughts?
Based on the specs and the price it seems like a pretty good deal.

Guitar Ted said...

@David V: Well, it does seem like a killer value. The ride shouldn't be all that bad. Considering your intentions, I'd say go for it. (And then let us know what you think!)

Steve Benes said...

@David V - I have an aluminum CX bike (Blue Norcross SP), which isn't particularly compliant. I swapped the seatpost for a Syntace P6 HiFlex and it transformed the ride. Highly recommended for aluminum frames.