Thursday, July 16, 2015

News Season: Raleigh Gravel Bikes For 2016

Roker Limited: Ultegra Di2, Carbon frame
Raleigh has been very proactive in getting into the gravel road bike/all road biking scene. It's no secret here on this blog that Raleigh tapped my opinions on what makes a great gravel road bike and made the Tamland series using 100% of my suggestions. That bloomed into the Willard aluminum bikes and now, in keeping with the weatherman theme, the carbon Roker series.

For 2016, Raleigh will have the most extensive "all road" line up available. Starting with the Roker carbon bikes, Raleigh has detailed the rigs out to accommodate most all gravel road riders needs. Massive tire clearances for the 40mm Clement MSO's is first up. But what isn't as clear is that the Roker will have three bottle mounts, flared drop bars, and tubeless ready wheels. Again, all models across the series will also reflect these features. Specific to the Roker models will be the internal routing, Electronic cable compatibility, and the through axles front and rear. These bikes will also feature hidden fender mounts and threaded bottom brackets. 27.2mm seat posts as well for better comfort. Geometry-wise they will be like the Tamland but due to constraints in the molding process, the Roker will have an ever so slightly lower bottom bracket. A good thing, if you ask me.

The top of the line Roker Limited will be a rarer bike in the series, but will be super racy with Ultegra Di2, hydraulic brakes,  and American Classic Argent Disc wheels. Expect to pay above 5K for this one, but the MSRP has not been finalized on this model as yet. The Roker Comp will have what looks to be hydraulic brakes, but again- spec is being finalized at this time, so I don't have specifics. The Roker Comp in blue and black will be $3300.00. The red white and blue Roker Sport will be $2500.00

Raleigh Roker Comp
Raleigh Roker Sport

Okay, the Tamland is the steel frame/fork gravel-all road rig from Raleigh that started it all for them a few years ago. It's still one of my favorite bikes, and of course, it should be, right? Anyway, the changes here are minor ones- Third water bottle mount, of course, but you probably will have to shim it out with longer bolts to clear the down tube routed cables. Just a heads up there. That's a common work around touring bikes have used for years. The Tamland also gains an integrated seat clamp, flared drop bars, and the tubeless  ready wheels. The Tamland One will be $1750 and the Two will run $2400.00

Raleigh Tamland One
Raleigh Tamland Two

The Willard sees some significant changes. The aluminum frame/carbon fork bike will now have through axles front and rear. Then there will also be an interesting comfort feature in the vibration damping stem, (not anything like a traditional suspension stem, by the way), and a vibration damping seat post. Raleigh is calling these components "Anti-Shock". Tubeless ready wheels with the flared drop bars as well. Prices are $1400.00 for the Willard One and $1750.00 for the Willard Two.

The Raleigh Willard One
Raleigh Willard Two

Okay, I have to say I am biased, since Raleigh asked me about geometry and features and then went with that for the Tamland.  The following models in this series were then influenced by that. But that said, I have heard lots of positive comments from Tamland owners, so it is pretty clear that the ideas work here. The dealers also seem to be pretty happy with the line as well, since I have heard nothing but positive reactions to the Tamland and Willard series through my Raleigh USA's internal contact. All that to say that my liking this geometry and feature set is one thing, but if it doesn't get sold, it wouldn't matter, and you wouldn't be looking at these 2016 models. There's definitely something going on here.

My take is that Raleigh is fine tuning and upscaling the idea of a gravel bike to a finer degree. The Roker models, with their carbon frames and forks, have the latest technologies for road bikes applied to the Tamland blueprint. Threaded bottom bracket in a new 2015 carbon frame? Awesome! The Willard, with the entry level price points, has features that some so-called gravel bikes don't have that cost twice as much. The third bottle mount on the Roker and Tamland was something missing and is a welcomed addition as is the wheel capability to become tubeless. (Now we just have to wait for the tire manufacturers to start catching up.) The flared drop bar idea will hopefully introduce folks to the ability to utilize the entire drop bar, not just the hoods position, with greater comfort.

Some might wonder why the Tamland seems to be somewhat overlooked by the magic wand of technology here, but have no fear. My understanding is that the Tamland is up for some refining down the road, but what will be done exactly is not decided at this point. Until that time, the Tamland is still a viable steel rig with, in my opinion, outstanding qualities. That said, the detail of going to an integrated seat binder is a nice touch, as is the tubeless capable wheel set.

Thanks to Raleigh USA for the images and information used in this post. See Raleigh's new website which will have all the spec details on these bikes and more soon.


youcancallmeAl said...

no secret is an understatement

Garth said...

I have had a blast on my Tamland 1. The geometry really is spot on and the price for the value is unbeatable. My only complaints are that the FSA components are complete junk and I think we are learning that through axles are really going to be the way to go with disk brakes. Now that I am looking to do some competitive rides it really is kind of a heavy bike. If the Roper has the same ride quality as the steel Tamland then I expect that would be the bomb. A threaded bottom bracket is wonderful. By comparison, Salsa has fallen for PF even on their steel bikes now!

Guitar Ted said...

@Garth: Although I cannot spill the beans, what I've heard should make you pretty happy about the 2017 Tamland. ;>)

Shawn McKelvey said...

Hello Ted, I've just bought a Tamland 1 frame. I'm replacing my stolen Diamondback Haanjo. I'm looking forward to building it up over the weekend, but I am worried about the fork being too short for me. I'm going from a 175 mm tube to 120 (56 to 54 frame), but still seems like I might benefit from a new carbon fork. What do you think? The fork I'm looking at says it can only handle a 38 tire, which is a bummer. Do you have any suggestions? What would changing the offset from the 50 of the stock fork to a 45 do to the handling? Anything? Thanks for any insights.

Guitar Ted said...

@Shawn McKelvey: The new fork must have a straight 1 1/8th" steer tube to work. I know of few that have that and disc brake compatibility, although I am sure there are a few out there somewhere.

A 45mm offset vs 50mm will result in more trail. That will slow down/stabilize the handling more, which could make the bike feel overly sluggish and/or floppy at slow speeds. More importantly, it could exacerbate or cause toe overlap, since less offset means the wheel is closer to the down tube than it would be on a 50mm offset fork.

Finally, it will almost certainly make the frame ride more stiffly, since almost every carbon fork manufacturer values stiffness above any flexibility. Also because having that wheel "tucked up underneath" of you more, due to the offset, will cause the ride quality to suffer.

I don't recommend this change and would use the original steel fork over anything carbon not designed for this frame, weight be damned.

Shawn McKelvey said...

Thanks a lot Ted. Much appreciated.

Shawn McKelvey said...

Again, thanks for the advice Ted. My worry about not being able to get the handlebars up high enough was much ado about not much. I bought a 54 Tamland One frame and am about half way through building it. I'll be installing Shimano br 685's over the weekend.

I put on a 46-34 crankset made from a 5750 and cx50. In the rear is an 11/36 SRAM cassette, so I should be able to climb like SpiderMan. That also leaves me a 50-36 & 11/32 on reserve for road rides; same length chain for both combos, so no changing required, and I set up the front mech with the road combo, so no need to adjust that between switches, either.

An fsa-slk post, Brooks B17 I, Compass Barlow Pass 38's with Mr Tuffy's, on a 32 spoke wheelset from VeloMine ($240) made of Shimano Rs505 hubs and H Plus Son rims. I have the Clement Xpolrer 40's with Rhinodilla liners for off road and Gatorskin 28's for the road rides.

I'm 6' and weigh 240, so durability, toughness and most importantly, comfort are everything to me, bike weight; relatively nothing. At the end of the day it should be about 25.5 lbs with 2 empty water bottles. Everything is as tank like and bullet proof as I could reasonably make it. One thing that I observed when walking back from the bike shop was that I could walk behind the bike and with a light touch, keep it going straight. Very stable, Lincoln Towncar like handling. I will post more as the Tamland develops.

Shawn McKelvey said...

I've got a 105 GS. I did a lot of reading to see what the possibilities are re:ring/cassette/chain combos. I found where folks have been fine with the 36, GS 105 combo. I was worried about the FD needing adjusting with every crank/cassette change too, but if you set it for 50, it should be ok with 46 as well. My last ride was 50/34, 11/32 and I was redlining a lot in the hills of LA. I know it's not the Alps or anything, but my fitness is what it is.

I hear and admire the HTFUr's out there, but the best way for me to HTFU is to stay on my bike for hours and hours. That's only going to happen if I can get a nice, luxurious ride. I'm not racing anyone; I'm not out to impress anyone; I'm just trying to use the bike to enjoy life and gain fitness.

I'm totally regretful about having my DBack Haanjo stolen, but I'm trying to put a redeeming spin on it and embrace the moment to get the correct bike for me. The Haanjo was fantastic, but it was a 56 and to stand over the top tube flat footed was uncomfortable. Though I'm right at 6', I have a 30" inseam, so the 56 was always a hair wrong for me, even though I had an 80 stem. Here, I've got a 100 stem, with a 25 setback post and just from sitting on it in my living room, it feels great.