Monday, August 18, 2008

Rawland Sogn - Initial Impressions

I've had the Rawland built up for a couple days now. All up, I've probably ridden it about 30 miles. About 10 miles of dirt/trail and the rest on paved roads. I dig this bike. It's really the mountain bike I've been looking for. It takes stupid-fat tires (2.3"), has stoutish tubing, and disc brakes -- yet it handles quickly, and dare I say, nimbly. It handles, with 41mm tires, much like my RB-T. So it really is a perfect fat-tired-road bike.

As far as "road" bikes go, I'm not going to break any land-speed records on this bike, but it's perfectly suited for riding paved roads out to the dirt trails and roads and handling both terrains nicely.

Frame Finish
As I mentioned in my initial post on this bike, the frame is made by Maxway. It's tig-welded and powder coated red. The finish is what I would expect of a $500 bike: all the threads need to be chased and if I were really anal I would've faced the bb shell and head tube.

Nice detail on a nice fork crown. That makes up for the lack of a real head badge.You can just make out the cable stop for the rear shift cable. That's one detail that I find sort of annoying. On the canti-version, they spec downtube shifter mounts.

The paint on one side of the forks is a bit faint, and one of the small frame decals was put on up-side-down. This kind of stuff doesn't bother me in the least.

The finished details that I *do* care about are good. The frame is straight. A quick check with the frame alignment gauge shows at least a perfectly straight rear triangle relative to the front triangle. All the braze-ons are in the right spot and the bike set up as easy as any other.

The welds are very nice. This is similar to other Maxway frames I've looked at closely. The welds are tidy and with the thick powder coat, they almost look fillet brazed from a distance.

Fillet or TIG'd?

I have some new stuff on here. New to me anyway. The obvious biggies are the disc brakes. They are a pain in the ass to set up, but not really any more of a pain than most cantilevers. I still need to fiddle with the front brake to get it perfect. I used mechanical calipers that were compatible with drop bar levers: medium-grade Shimano mechanicals.

For wheels, I'm running LX hubs laced to Velocity Blunt rims. These rims are disc-specific and seem pretty sturdy. Like all Velocity rims, they were easy to build up. Unlike any Velocity rims I've had, these had huge, ugly decals on them when I bought them. It took me about 3 hours of peeling and wiping with nail polish remover to get all the decal and sticky residue off. I'd do the same for the Ritchey post and stem if his logos weren't etched into the alloy.

Ritchey drop-outs

I found the Rivendell Silver bar-end shifters online from some guy who didn't like them. I don't know how anyone could not like these shifters. I had high expectations and they were exceeded. These are the smoothest friction bar-ends I've ever used.

Tires and Ride
The tires I have on there now are the Rivendell Fatty Rumpkins. So far, the volume makes a huge difference in how I ride on rougher sections of trail. I don't have to be so mindful of the bike/rims under me, which is nice.

The tread doesn't help much for cornering or climbing on the sandy, dusty stuff we have right now on the trails. I expect, like most inverted tires, these will do well on hard-pack. But the money part of these tires is just the volume. They let me bounce and roll over sections that I would normally pick and finesse through. Both riding styles are fun. But it's been fun to do a bit of bombing on this bike and still feel the control I like with my RB-T.

The up-side-down-bike-shot: look at that tire clearance! Crazy stupid clearance, Clarance.

I plan on donning the crazy fat 2.3" knobbies this Friday. I'll to Beacon or Riverside State Park and play around for a couple hours. I'm excited to see how the bike handles with those huge tires and how it handles in more traditional XC mountain biking and trail riding.


Unknown said...

I can't stand the Shimano mechanical discs, I've set up and worked on a few sets for different people and they are a pain in the butt. If you ever find yourself suffering from upgradeitis look into Avid BB7s. There's a road lever version, stupid simple setup, and easy to adjust for wear. I fully understand the argument that discs aren't necessary on many bikes for many situations, but I'll never own another bike without them.

Anonymous said...

Great rundown on your new rig John. I'm looking forward to seeing it up close in the near future.

Apertome said...

What an awesome bike. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Gino Zahnd said...

I've put this frame in the shopping cart like 10 times on the Rawland site. With each of your posts, I get closer to hitting Checkout.

Can't wait to hear your report on the stoopid-fat Pacenti tires and XC riding.


Anonymous said...

Nice set up. Should be a hoot. Very much what I've been evolving toward for winter riding in SLC. So... ...what racks are you considering for your winter riding - custom porteur ala Alex? Rear? Humble messenger bag? Only asking bc it looks like the chainstays might be a bit short for a rear pannier set-up (and bc its my chronic MTB-as-winter-commuter problem).


John Speare said...

Sean: I'll keep that in mind when these die. I love stupid simple. These just make me feel stupid simple.

anon: not sure on racks. For now, I'm liking it fenderless and rackless. I'm sporting a backpack or messenger bag.

As a mid-trail bike it would be miserable with a porteur rack, but a low-rider would work. That's what I'm leaning towards, though there'll be some hack-age to get it to work with the discs.

Anonymous said...

Sweet! I second the motion for Avid BB7 road brakes, have 'em on my Lemond Poprad and they're fantastic. If you've never ridden on 2.3 tires before, you're in for a treat, it feels like you're on a motorcycle, in a good way.

I'm not quite ready to make the leap to 650b, so instead I have the Poprad and a dedicated "29er" mountain bike.

Steve Chan said...

Thanks for the review, I've been really close to buying this frameset as well and wanted to see some reviews.

Do you have any basis for comparing the Sogn vs. other road oriented 650b bikes like a Kogswell, Bleriot or even a LHT with 26" tires?

John Speare said...

Hey Steve:
Given the monster tires currently on the Sogn, I'm not sure a comparison to other road bikes makes much sense.

I had a 26"-wheeled Atlantis for a couple years. I have ridden the G1 Kogswell P/R about 40 miles; I also have a hacked Trek 520 porteur that is running 650Bs. I love the CdV tires: they seem like the perfect amount of cush and they roll nicely.

It would be intersting to put the CdV's on this bike just to see how it compares to my RB-T though.

Compared to the Atlantis with fat tires, this bike seems "quicker" in the handling sense.

Jimmy: I'm not religious about 650bs but I'm not afraid of them either. They're just wheels and for may size (5'10") they make good sense for the kinds of bikes I want to ride. I've ridden my buddy's Karate Monkey and really liked it. If this same bike was in 700c/29er, I would've bought it. I'm not sure I would've if it was 26. Weird, eh?

jim g said...

John -- so, does it "plane"? I'm curious especially because you've mentioned liking the standard-diameter frame tubing of both your 520 and RB-T, yet here you seem to like the "stouter" tubing on the Rawlands. Thanks!

John Speare said...

Jim: nope. No magic in this frame. Not yet anyway. I figured getting this geometry + fat tires + discs + steel out of a prodcution bike was about the best combo I could hope for. Getting it in standard diameter tubing would be great, but that's likely a custom bike I'll never buy.

joe said...

Cool bike, I'll third or forth the avids that's what's on the monkey and I don't remember them as trick to set up. Check Old Man Mountian racks, seems like they had a lowrider that was disc freindly not positive though

Arleigh Jenkins said...


Would you mind if I posted your write up on with the appropriate linkage to you?


John Speare said...

arleigh: link away

Anonymous said...

You own something called a "frame alignment gauge." My god you are a geek.

Anonymous said...

John, RE: "If this bike was 700c/29er.." Someone else pointed this out:

Scroll down a couple of posts for shots of his 29er Rawland. I just posted there and asked about fender clearance, etc.

Rachel said...

It's not just the frame alignment gauge that makes John a geek, Jon. It's the friction shifters! :-)

Rachel said...

This's not Rachel by the way. It's Bradley. I gotta stop letting her use my computer, or I gotta start checking who I'm logged in as.

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