A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Raleigh Passage 4.0

When I was a boy, we all had bicycles. It did not matter what you rode really, it was all in how fast you rode, how far you rode, and which dares you would take. I remember riding for two hours in the summer heat on a single speed scratch built bike to swipe peaches from an orchard. I remember the arc a bike would make underneath a rider as he sailed through the air and into a water filled quarry. That was a fitting burial for a recalcitrant bike, burial at sea, beneath a laughing boy. Other times, we would strap twenty plastic milk jugs onto a favorite bike, so it would bob back up to the surface of the water for the next escapade. As I got older, I gave up bicycles for LBCs, little British cars. Those morphed into motorcycles, vintage aircraft and Land Rovers.

I finally decided to get back into bicycling, but over the past two decades, it seemed the spandex wearing skinny tired weight wienie race boys and their outdoorsy testosterone poisoned mountain biking brethren had taken over bicycling. Bicycling was no longer fun. It was no longer a way of getting around. It was a "sport", a way of life, and worse, a fierce and distasteful game of one-up-manship. I was much more of a beach cruiser type guy, but I could still appreciate the lightweight, geared mindset, just to get around town quickly, cheaply, efficiently, and to carry a few things on the way. I wanted a durable bike though, not a finicky carbon fibered anorexic space aged contraption.

Thus, when I went shopping for a bike, I was pleased to find a Raleigh in traditional British Racing Green. Click to enlargeYeah, OK, it's fabricated in China, not Nottingham, but the thought processes are still Raleigh. It's a Raleigh Passage 4.0, a nicely conceived hybrid bicycle. The "Hybrid" class of bikes is a blend of the mountain bike and the lightweight road bike, giving birth to a new breed, a bike for people like me, people who just want to get around efficiently and in relative comfort.

The riding position on the Passage can be altered through manipulation of the adjustable handlebar stem and seat post. I purchased a 21 inch version, and it seems like the first time in years that a bicycle has actually fit me. It has a pneumatic seat post to help smooth out bumps, as well as an oil filled SR-NEX 4010 hydraulic front fork to dampen knocks awaiting me ahead. The white tape trim is reflective, providing an additional margin of safety at dusk.Click to enlarge The frame is lightweight aluminum. The components are made by Shimano. Rubber is 26 inch Kenda 700's.

The Raleigh Passage 4.0 came with a very cushy spring laden seat made by Avenir. For me, it just did not sit right. I was starting to see this bike as a reincarnation of the Austin Healey Sprite. Only one seat would do, a Brooks, so I ordered up a Champion Flyer Special. This is a sprung single rail saddle that fits right on the Raleigh micro-adjustable seat post. In a honey color, is the perfect complement to the British Racing Green.

The Raleigh Passage 4.0 has a total of 24 gears, selected by Shimano EZ-Fire levers on the handlebars. Gear swaps are performed by a Shimano Acera rear derailleur matched with a Shimano C50 forward derailleur.Click to enlarge Good, reliable stuff.

It is difficult to not like this bike. It has the feel of quality that exceeds it's $349 new bike shop price. It's understated and classy, without a bunch of stickers in eye assaulting colors to grab attention. I did not have to do much more to make it into exactly the bike I wanted for standard get around and get the job done duty. I removed the rubber pedals and installed aluminum platform pedals. They will be more durable, and the spikes help keep my feet on the pedals despite dew or rain. I eschew toeclips. Finally, I installed a rear rack on the bike. A rack increases the utility of any bicycle immeasurably.

So, if the thought of being unable or unwilling to blend into the beautiful young Tour de' France wannabe set, the tanned and rugged mountain bike crowd, or the pierced and angry punk bikers has kept you away from bicycling, think again. There are bikes out there for the rest of us.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Mulliga said...

I understand what you mean, Xavier. The bike magazines in the newsstands are oftentimes unintentionally hilarious. I'm not sure much of the cycling population can even notice a 50 gram decrease in the mass of a component, but people sure have fun arguing about it.

Come to think of it, bikes have a lot in common with guns. Remember when shooting was just fun, instead of being all about split times, group sizes, and shot patterns? ;-)

6:33 PM  
Anonymous affe said...

Hmmm... since I ride both road and mountain, I wonder which category I fall into...

8:23 AM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

So, is that you flying off into the water? If you ever decide to do that, I've got one word for you... YOUTUBE! lol

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

put some fenders, sidesaddles, and a good chain guard on that Raleigh, and you'd have the bike i want but can't seem to find. oh, and remove about half the gears, including all the extra ones from the front gear wheel, otherwise i get too confused.

1:43 PM  
Blogger lee n. field said...

My goodness, what did that Brooks saddle cost? I haven't seen them in decades.

That does make it classic Raleight.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous ggia said...

Thanks for a fine report on your Raleigh. The Passage also is available in a low-step U-Frame configuration that is the tallest in the industry at about 48cm, according to the company's specs. Excellent for the taller rider who can't, or dosn't care to, swing a bum leg over the top bar of a diamond frame bike.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

It's good to know I'm not the only Hybrid bike rider around. That Brooks seat looks dandy, I might have to check around for one of those and see if it'll fit my bike.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just purchased the same bike this weekend. What make/model rack did you get? I'm thinking of adding one as well.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

The rack I used is a $20 Bell rack I found at Toys R Us. Fits great, and serves the purpose.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous bailey said...

Damn that's slick! Dude, you rock!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just tried out one of these bikes today. I swear, as I was wheeling it out of the bike shop, a couple of guys sort of looked at me and smirked that "what a dorky bike" smirk. I felt dorky riding it, but because it does look goofy, but it really was comfortable. I ended up trying a Trek SU 2.0 because I'm more used to the geometry. I didn't buy anything yet, but it was really nice to ride the Raleigh and not have a sore back when I was done. I have a Brooks seat on my old Bridgestone bike and I love how it looks, but it doesn't have the springs. The springs are awesome and look much more comfortable. I'm so glad I saw your post, because your bike looks really great, so it's nice to know you can make that comfortable bike into something cool. How is the Brooks seat compared to the gel seat that came with the bike (comfy, but funny looking).

11:13 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Anon, as you no doubt know, a leather seat takes a bit of breaking in. The springs do help, as does the pneumatic seat post. I just wet it down and rode it until it was dry.

I still have the gel seat hanging in the garage. The Brooks is actually more comfortable to me, now that it's broken in. I have the bike configured in a bit of a hands forward position, taking about 30% of my weight on my arms. It works well.

I rode the Passage again a few nights ago (I have a stable of bikes now, and usually ride a heavier bike because my dog comes along leashed to me) and i was thrilled by the ease of riding and the speed I had. The bike is nimble, quick and very sweet.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Great setup you have there, Xavier! I'm green with envy - British racing green, that is.

i have a 2007 Raleigh Passage 3.0 (bought new). 21" frame - I'm 6'3", around 280 lbs, but i love riding this bike around! - it just goes, me along with it...very fast & responsive, if a bit "twitchy" in the steering department) - but the Avenir gel seat is a bit much. A Brooks saddle looks like just the solution.

I also like the rear rack setup you've got. Excellent.

6:10 PM  

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