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First Impressions – 2011 Raleigh Record Ace

Right, then…

I’m a little late in posting this due to holidays and such, so I guess it’s time to do a first impression report on the Raleigh.

OK, to date I have 77 miles on her.  The first 26 was a shakedown ride.  The remaining 51 was more of a “real” ride.

Now, the bike.  But first, a warning:  I am not what society calls a “roadie”.  Yes, this is a road bike and I ride it, but that’s it.  I have not ridden any other type of road bike, so I cannot tell you the difference between Reynolds, Columbus or True Temper tubing.  Nor do I have first hand experience with aluminum, carbon or titanium frames, outside of the fact that the first is really stiff, the second can break at times, and the third is expensive.  My other bike (a Dawes Galaxy), while quite a nice bike, is a touring rig, so it is going to ride and handle much differently.  That said I feel that the Raleigh is somewhat light and crisp (relatively speaking – it is steel after all).  I’d reckon the weight to be 20 to 21 lbs.  The bike responds to inputs (steering, power) somewhat quickly.  I have not noticed any frame flex when I accelerate.  Steering is responsive without being twitchy.  While descending, it feels like the bike is in a groove – I can pick a line and hold it nicely.  I’ve heard some bike reviews use the phrase “laterally vertical, yet stiffly compliant” (or something like that).  I’d use that to describe this bike if I knew what the hell it meant.  Let’s just say that the frame is somewhat stiff, but does not chatter my teeth when going over rough road surfaces.

As for the drive train, the bike originally came with full Ultegra, but that included a 53/39 chain ring, which is just too tall for this dude.  I had the LBS install a 50/34 Sora that I pulled off of the Dawes.  Yes – blasphemy, I know.  Maybe someday component weight will become an issue and I’ll replace it with an Ultegra compact.  Overall, everything works well – it goes when I tell it to, with no chatter or missed shifts.

The Record Ace comes with Weinmann CR19 Double Wall rims, which are fine, I guess.  They’re round and mount nicely to the bike.  I believe they are 28-hole rims, which helps me in that I weigh ~225 lbs, so I’m not worrying about rim failure.  I did upgrade from the Vittoria 23’s to 25 Gatorskins, which I’m told helps with the ride, a bit.

I was originally concerned about the Brooks Swallow saddle.  It looked like it was called Swallow, because that’s what my ass was going to do to it, when I sat down.  Not so.  In fact, I find it’s more comfortable than the B17 I have on the Dawes.  Further, after 77 miles, the seat appears to have started breaking in (much to the amazement of the LBS that sold me the bike).

Then, there are the aesthetics.  At the risk of coming across as shallow, one of the things that attracted me to this bike was its looks:  The lugged frame, the pearlescent white paint, the brown saddle and bar tape – it all comes together in a very pretty package.  Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen a better job matching the bar tape to the saddle, but that’s me being a PITA.

Overall, I like this bike – a lot.  Further, I like the fact that I have about 40 more cycling years left in me and that – saving anything really bad happening – this bike will be around for all of them.  Mind you, if you’re looking for the fastest, lightest, bestest bike out there, this isn’t it.  If you want something that really really nice, and provides a sweet, comfortable, stylish ride, then this might be the bike for you.

Finally pulled the trigger

Right, then…

After long last, the stars and – more importantly, the dollars – aligned.  Today, I put a deposit down on a 2011 Raleigh Record Ace.

This was not a decision that I came to easily.  First off, there was the back and forth of even getting something else in the first place.  Did I really need this?  Why isn’t the bike I already have good enough?  What will be different?  Then, once the decision to get something else was made, I went between buying new or buying an old bike or frame from Craigslist or eBay and refurbishing it.  Once the buy new decision was made, then it got really hard:  Which one?

Oh, the agony.  The downside to the internet is that it provides so many options.  The original plan was to get a Grand Prix – essentially the same frame as the Record Ace, but with Tiagra components.  Then there was the Revenio 3.0 – 105 but aluminum frame.  Then of course, the Record Ace.  Or the Masi Grand Criterium (better pedigree, but 105 components).  Finally there was the Salsa Pistola – better frame material and equal components, but funky geometry.

Of course, each decision was made and unmade several, painful, times.  Even as I walked in to WGB today, I was bouncing between the Record Ace and the Pistola, when Tahn suggested the Orbea Onix (one of the few carbon fiber frames he’d bother suggesting).  Then we threw the Masi back into the mix, again.

Conversation narrowed it down to the Masi and the Raleigh.  The Raleigh had a better gruppo (Ultegra) than the Masi.  1 point for Raleigh.  The Masi had a good gruppo (105), but better wheels, seat post, stem and handlebars.  Point to Masi.  The Raleigh wheels had more spokes, meaning they can take more weight and torque; point to Raleigh.  The Masi came from the factory with a more real-world crankset (50/34), while the Raleigh had a 53/39, which is way too tall for Bay Area Hills; point to Masi.  The Masi had a more aggressive rider position than the Raleigh, but it would be cheaper to change the stem and steerer on the Masi than to upgrade the cranks on the Raleigh; point goes to Masi.  It was about locked up, until I remembered something:  Earlier this year, I had Tahn take a 50/34 Sora crank off of the Dawes and replace it with a Sugino triple.  The Sora crank, while a bit heavier than the Ultegra, would work just fine with the rest of the Ultegra bits.

The decision was almost made:  It got down to measurements.  In the smaller sizes, the Raleigh comes in odd sizes; the Masi in even.  Measuring pubic bone height, I required a bike with 54.6cm frame.  Masi did something inexplicable – their frames went from 53 cm (too small) to 56 cm (too large).  Raleigh had a 55cm frame.

Game, set and match goes to the Raleigh.

I put down 50% deposit today.  It should be in within 1.5 weeks, or so for Tahn to build it up.  In the meantime, I’ll drop off the Sora cranks so he can install those during the build.

I haven’t had a new bike for Christmas in 30 years, I think (although, this is more of a Christmas/Birthday gift to myself).

While this is, in fact, a completely irrational purchase, I see it as such:  I figure I have a good 35 years left of cycling, barring any nasty diseases.  That works out to just under $60/year I’ll be paying for this bike.  Not a bad deal.  Further, there’s no reason why it should not last – it’s steel, like the Dawes, and that’s 40 years old.

I’m looking forward to this!

In other news, I’m back in my groove again, I think.  Back running, back riding.  Now, time permitting, I’ve been doing long rides – typically 40 miles or so.  Since Thanksgiving, I’ve lost 10 lbs (funny what eating better, not drinking and exercise can do, right?).

Also, I’ve finally pick up a beater/foul weather/ride to the bar/leave it locked up at the Caltrain station all day bike.  Actually, I re-acquired it.  It was the only new bike I’ve ever bought – something called a Biscayne Lazer mountain bike that I bought from The Off Ramp in 1992 for a trip up to Sonora.  I probably put about 100 miles on it, and there it sat.  So far, I’ve added lights, fenders and a rack for functionality purposes.  I’m going to convert it to a single speed as the shifters were gummed up.  Right now, I have it okie engineered as a single speed (shifters have been removed – I have  the rear shift cable pulled taught to keep the derailleur in place and wrapped around the chainstay.  Today, I bought the tools and supplies to make it a proper single speed.  So that should be a fun project.

The purpose of this was twofold:  One, I did not like leaving the good mountain bike or the Dawes sitting unattended for hours on end at Caltrain; now I can leave this bike and if someone steals it, I’m not out a lot of money.  Secondly, I want to start my own wrenching.  I have no problem giving my money to Dick and Tahn, but I don’t like the feeling that the bike is just a mechanical black hole.  It makes me feel sort of…limp.  What’s cool is that after the conversion is done, I can use the tools for other forms of maintenance.

Good times.

Ascension…

Right, then…

This morning, I woke up and felt like I normally feel after taking meds.  I see this as a good sign that my condition is improving.  In fact, I think it would be a good motto for life:  “Strive to feel like you’ve taken your meds.”

So, while I’m still a bit enfermo, I’m ascending from it, which is good.

Now – on to other things…I finally got down to Willow Glen Bikes to order a front rack and a handlebar bag for the Dawes.  For the bag, I’m going with the Velo Orange Champagne bag.

I was going to go with an Axiom rack that would match (more or less) the rear rack on the bike, but I was talked into ordering a Nitto rack from Rivendell.  It’s a little more than I wanted to spend, but a) it looks good and b) I hear that Grant and the gang had a lean month, so I’m more than willing to do my part to keep a high-quality builder going.  Besides – it’s a good rack.

Also, after talking to Tahn, I’m going to put the original wheels with the 28’s back on.  Yes the Wheelsmith set is lighter, but I can’t get much over 25’s on them and the ride is too harsh for what I want that bike to be.  Right now, the handling is akin to when Hunter S. Thompson pumped The Whale’s tires up to 75psig – you feel every pebble and the handling is skittish.

Regardless, I reckon the bag and the rack will be in within a week or so, so hopefully, I’ll have a nice new configuration in a couple of weeks.  Then, it will be time to start toying with randonneuring.

Now – I’ve been looking for a go faster bike.  I originally was going to get something earlier this year, but some high dollar work was pushed out until 2011, so I held off.  Now, I just got a good check and am back to looking more seriously.  What also changed this was the fact that Willow Glen Bikes just started selling Raleighs.

In the olden days, Raleigh was a nice, English brand with a good reputation.  Then – like Dawes – they were sold to the Chineses.  (Chineses being plural for Chinese).  As a function of this, the build quality – like Dawes – summarily shit the bed, and as such, Raleigh was relegated to box stores and such.  I guess in the recent years, someone determined that this fate would not do for such a marque, so they bought the Raleigh brand and – apparently – started building some damn nice bikes.  What’s better is that they’re still humble – their marketing folks realized that they need to re-earn their reputation.  As a function of that, said damn nice bikes are also reasonably priced.  So now, I find myself at the point where I can afford a bike, again.

My original thought was to go for the Grand Prix.  520 Reynolds chromoly lugged frame, Tiagra components.  $1100

…and it’s red.  My concern was that I already have a steel, lugged bike – I did not want to spend more money to get more of what I already have.

After doing some research, I learned that at that same price point, there was also more of a hard-core racing type bike – the Revenio 3.0.  This has an aluminum frame, carbon forks and 105 components, which is fairly impressive for an $1100 bike.

This, naturally, is lighterer and fasterer and modernerer than the Grand Prix.  One drawback – the green tires.  I’m not exactly sure what that’s all about, to be honest.  They remind me of The Green Machine I had, growing up in the 70’s.

So, after doing lots of internet research, I decide it’s time to talk to Tahn.  The nice thing about Tahn is that he’s a bike guy.  Not a roadie, or a mountain biker or a commuter or a cyclocrosser or a fixter or a track bike guy…he’s just in to all bikes.  Further – and this disturbs me, vaguely – I think he probably knows me a little better than I know myself.  Then again, I’d rather that person be a benevolent entity, so I’m doing OK, here.

Tahn, after patiently listening to my blathering, proffered a third option.  The Record Ace.

Sigh.  I don’t blame him, but it seems that ever since I’ve gotten in to this crack habit, whatever amount of money I plan on spending, turns out to be woefully inadequate.  To be fair, this is the better value, over time.  First, with the Revenio, I’d have to replace the frame and fork after 5 years – aluminum frames have the potential to crack; carbon forks are notorious for sudden catastrophic failure.  Why not go with the Grand Prix, then?  Remember that was fitted with Tiagra components.  The conversation revolved around upgrading components over time.  A good idea, but the logic fails when you consider that Raleigh gets serious quantity price breaks on the gruppo’s they buy; LBS’s do not get nearly that much of a discount.  Thus, it’s actually cheaper to buy the upgraded gruppo up front.

But, I realize that I haven’t described the bike.  Steel 520 Reynolds tubing, lugged frame, Brooks saddle, Ultegra components – $1800.

Well, hell.  Being that – properly fitted and not factoring in nasty events such as stealage or total destroyosity – this bike could rightly last the rest of my life, it’s not such a bad deal.

The only teensy downfall is that this is a 2011 model…and WGB does not have it in stock yet…

…which is probably a good thing as I’m still at least a week out from being able to run or ride…