Drink. Drink. Drink. HODALA!
It started with a dead bicycle. In February, I had my bi-yearly maintenance on my old Raleigh Port Townsend and gave it the works for winter cycling… which I did an inordinate amount of this year. Sadly, metal-on-metal interfaces got the best of me, and I had a corrosion-frozen seatpost that would not release for the first time in three winters. Despite several hours with hammers and pipe wrenches, the post wouldn’t budge.
The frame was rough anyways. With a twice-broken derailleur hanger, a bent limiter screw on my rear dropout, an aftermarket fork and a nearly ovalized headset from crashes, and corrosion throughout, my frame had seen better days. I decided it couldn’t hurt to see if Raleigh was interested in joining the blog by sponsoring me with a new one. Lucky me, they were!
Introducing… a Special Edition Raleigh Roper Disc, custom-built in a batch of 50 to commemorate the 2013 Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships in Philadelphia!
First off, what a hysterical bike.
A single speed championship rig with a derailleur hanger, what?! According to a Raleigh rep, the single speed edition of the Roper, now produced as the Furley, was still in pre-production when the single speeders hit up Philly. In lieu of a single speed frame, they recommended riders cut a notch out of the derailleur hanger and use it as a bottle opener. In my case, I get a fully functional gravel-eating cyclocross bike with full gearing that happens to have a killer competition as its namesake. I just hope single speeders don’t key my frame when they see my cassette.
The frame is 525 cold-rolled Reynolds steel, fantastically light and supple. The geometry mimics Raleigh’s higher-end carbon cyclocross frames, with a short wheelbase and aggressive tuning. The components are almost all ported directly over from my old bike, and most are in perfect shape. I’ll need a new 50t chainring soon, and a front derailleur, but the original Port Townsend persists in some form. I think the handlebars and cranks will be the only stock pieces left in a bit.
Here are the specs, with new bits highlighted:
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Shadow Rear Derailleur
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Sora Front Derailleur
- Chainrings: FSA Road 50T/130mm
- Casette: Shimano Deore 9-Speed, 11/34T
- Cranks: Shimano Sora 175mm 2-piece
- Chain: Shimano Ultegra/XT 9-Speed Chain
- Bottom Bracket: Praxis Works PF30 Conv Bottom Bracket (68mm Road)
- Brakes: Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brake, 160mm w/ Cane Creek Drop V Brake Levers
- Headset: FSA Semi Integrated Headset Cartridge Bearings
- Front Wheel: Shimano XT Front Disc Hub (32H Front 6-Bolt Disc)
- Rear Wheel: Shimano XT Rear Hub (36H) w/ Mavic A 719 rim, laced 4-cross
- Tires: Continental Gatorskin / Gator Hardshell, 700 x 28c
When I ported parts over from the old bike, I removed the extra brake levers on the flat section of my drop bar to cut weight and simplify repairs. I also changed over the seatpost to a lighter aluminum post. This time, I slathered on plenty of Anti-Seize Lubricant, which you can buy in single-use packets at any auto parts store for a dollar.
The new bike now has mechanical disc brakes in the front and the rear, and with the absence of the extra levers, the stopping power is incredibly well-modulated. If you’ve never used disc brakes, the differences are precision and bad-weather reliability. Compared to road calipers or V-brakes, disc brakes like the Avid BB7 let you slowly apply braking power on a huge gradient, from a feather touch when you’re drafting a city bus to a full, immediate stop when that bus does. Unlike rim brakes, they also perform when the weather is terrible, or when your wheels are coated in mud. For a bad-weather rider like me, this is a godsend.
The bottom bracket is a neat piece of tech. BB30 bottom brackets are notoriously terrible in wet weather. So terrible, in fact, that I can’t believe they’re still in production. When I met another tourist named Victoria last week, I asked her if she had had any maintenance issues on her 3,000 mile tour from San Francisco to Massachusetts. She responded “Oh yes. My bottom bracket…” and I guessed correctly that she had a BB30.
When Cannondale developed the larger BB30 shell, the idea was to save weight by eliminating the interior bottom bracket shell and increase stiffness with a larger diameter. Admirable pursuits, but the reason the bottom bracket made the jump to mass production across a range of frames was a decreased manufacturing cost. Sadly, despite abysmal wet weather performance and chronic creaking issues, it doesn’t look like the PF30 and BB30 bottom bracket shell sizes are going anywhere.
So, what’s a winter rider to do?
I found the Praxis Works Bottom Bracket through the Mountain Biking forums, since a lot of MTB’ers were looking for a mud-ready system that wasn’t prone to creak. Praxis’s converter bottom brackets are machined with Ultegra-quality precision and sealing, and fit into my PF30 bottom bracket shell with a delrin sleeve. Installation doesn’t require a bottom bracket press; I did mine with a pipe wrench wrapped in a towel, and my mechanic said it looked perfect. Plus, since it’s a converter, I can keep using my Shimano crankset.
Delightfully, this new bike build didn’t cost as much as a new bike. My Shimano XT derailleur was still functioning perfect after a few thousand miles, and so was most of my drivetrain. Raleigh was nice enough to provide the brakes, seatpost, and headset alongside the frame. Since my old hub was an Ultegra hub, I had to re-lace a Shimano XT 36H hub I got as a generous gift from another tourist on the Bike Forums, who had a spare sitting around his shop. I had Josh, my mechanic, lace it 4-cross instead of 3-cross since it provides a little more tortional rigidity, perfect for my huge quads and heavy braking.
The paint job is definitely a highlight. This little section is along the downtube, in reference to UCI’s ban on handups in cyclocross events. Grab a beer before the finish line, and you’re disqualified.
Team Hodala is Raleigh’s sponsored cyclocross team, and they tore it up at this bike’s namesake event.
I’m running the thinnest tires I’ve ever used, which hit my rim’s minimum at 28mm. Fat by road cyclist standards, but supple and skinny to me. The frame still has clearance for my 40c Schwalbe Smart Sam Plus in the front, so when I need an extra knobby monstercross bike, this is still one bike to rule them all. It actually has more clearance than the Port Townsend did.
Kelley and I took the bike out for a spin on the dirt sections of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, remnants of an unfulfilled promise by my home town, North Adams. There’s a rail trail all the way from Adams to Pittsfield, and another section straight through Williamstown, but North Adams sits right in the middle with no finished sections whatsoever. They just added a bike rack downtown, though, so I feel gluttonous complaining as I’m one of very few cyclists that live there year-round.
The trail got rough in some places, with railroad ties, gravel, deep ruts, puddles, and wet mud. The bike felt like an entirely different animal, and at 27.5lbs, was a dream to ride. Remember, my old bike was pushing 35 with racks. I feel like I’m flying, ready for my own Tour de France. With the lighter frame, I can lift the entire bike off the ground in a bunny hop when I’m clipped in, a useful commuter skill I plan on practicing religiously for the next couple of months.
The frame will still take a bike rack, but I hooked it up with frame bags for an overnight bikepack up Mt. Greylock on Thursday night. Jim Wetzel came with me (as always!) and we conquered the summit at around 10PM, decked out in blinkies to warn the pot-smokers and lost thru hikers as we bombed down the mountain. Jim’s Univega almost self-destructed on the way down.
It’s a good bike, one I’m anxious to get acquainted with over the next few months. Since it’s lighter, faster, and smaller than my old bike, it won’t haul gear like the Port Townsend. I can swap my Surly fork over if I need two racks for an expedition, but for now, I’m happy to keep things light and snappy with the straight blade. I look forward to putting a few earned scratches into that beautiful paint job.
I think I’ll call him “River Phoenix.”