I am sure that many people would have let out a sigh of disappointment when they learned that they would be given anything short of a candy-apple red â€œsharkâ€ convertible to cruise the Vegas Strip in. However, I drew a breath of excitement when Brian, at the Raleigh booth, handed me a 2009 Raleigh Clubman on the last day of dirt demo to use as a commuter while in Vegas.
The Clubman is a Reynolds 520 Double Butted chromoly road bike teeming with charm and warmth of the traditional British craftsmanship. Itâ€™s a very versatile machine forgoing standard vertical dropouts in favor of semi-horizontal, forward facing dropouts, allowing for a single-speed conversion should the desire arise. The Raleigh continues with traditional accoutrements such as a pump peg, two water bottle mounts, and a steel fork with an investment cast crown and dropouts. The paintjob is a very simple, but appealing graphite with blue undertones and subtle decals. The fabled Raleigh Phoenix badge still adorns the headtube, although the pop-riveted metal one is now a simple sticker.
The frame geometry airs on the side of traditional road, as my 57cm frame had a 57cm sloping toptube. Versatility is assured with manipulated seat and chainstays, fork crown, and long-reach brakes. This bicycle has room for a wider tire, dare I say perhaps a 32mm or even a 35mm. The Clubman comes equipped with a Shimano Tiagra nine speed drivetrain, including shifters, derailleurs, and a compact external bearing crankset. An Avenir wing handlebar offered a comfortable spin on a traditional drop bar. The Vittoria tires and the Freedom rims were a nice touch as well. Perhaps the icing on the cake would be the factory equipped Brooks Swift Saddle, replete with hand hammered copper rivets with chamfered edges. I hope most owners of the Clubman will give the Brooks its needed break-in time, as the saddle is very firm at first, but a thorough break-in will pay off with a very comfortable saddle. As a longtime Brooks user, I assure the aforementioned to you.
Upon proper set up, I took the English Gentleman for a spin. The commute from the Dirt Rag compound to the Sands Convention Center is roughly a 3-mile grid of hot, black, tarmac, which, at times is not entirely smooth. The Raleigh was a joy; fast, supple, and surprisingly stiff in the bottom bracket with all the compliance expected in a steel frame. Smooth acceleration and satisfactory breaking could be expected from the Raleigh at every request. The taller headtube gave the Raleigh a slower handling feel then many road bikes I have sampled, although given the expected usage and the ability to change the bicycleâ€™s platform, I felt this to be a smart choice. The Raleighâ€™s compact gearing was an excellent decision, allowing enough go-power to hang with your roadie friends and enough low end to climb everything.Â A little light duty touring would be welcomed by this platform, although true touring riders should seek out the more appropriate Sojourn model.
Looking back at this week filled with bright lights, bicycles, slot machines, and yellow shooting glasses, I am very happy to have been able to employ the use of the Clubman on the Vegas strip. It got me everywhere I needed to goÂ and places I wanted to go, with speed, efficiency, and comfort. Do I have any complaints about the bicycle? Perhaps only one, and it pertains to any bike I have ridden that employees the use of a quick release lever on anything but a vertical dropout. A large bump can cause the wheel to misalign itself, which happened a few times. That being said, The Raleigh Clubman is an excellent bicycle for anyone looking for a classic and classy ride for the asphalt, rail-trail, or anything in-between.Â â€”Evan Perrone.