Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Rawland rSogn, The One Bike To Rule Them All

For the majority of my cycling career, I have longed for just one bike that would do anything and work in nearly any circumstance or setting. My slogan is "any bike, anywhere," and I live by that credo, having first brought this philosophy to the cycling world with my seminal "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?" article in the the February 1993 issue of Bicycle Guide. (That article inspired a teenager named Sean Virnig to start riding his Bridgestone RB-1 in the woods near his Minnesoata home, laying the foundation for a bike company he'd later start called Rawland.)

I got to know Sean in the summer of 2010 when he and his wife Anna attended our Rough Riders Rally in Marin. Besides being the most interesting people to attend, they also won Best in Show for Sean's Rawland Drakkar bike, shown above.
Despite enjoying taking nearly any road bike down nearly any road or trail, I'd always believed that one optimal bike could really be "the one bike to rule them all." And so it is, after a 22 year quest, that I am pleased to own and ride such a mythic bicycle, the Rawland rSogn. This bike will go anywhere and do it with style and aplomb. It also has two sets of wheels for presto-chango self-reinvention.
Above: I prefer down-tube shifters in most circumstances. These are 8-speed era Dura Ace shifters which Sean had in his stash and kindly donated to me. Because these don't normally mate with modern Shimano derailleurs, the cable is attached at the rear with the Sheldon Brown routing.

Massive tyre clearance, front and rear: Above you can see the Rawland set up with 38mm wide Pacenti Pari-Moto road tyres, and below you can see it with the 2.1"/51mm wide Pacenti Quasi-Moto knobbies.
According to the Rawland Bicycles website, the rSogn is a contemporary lightweight steel all-arounder. Carrying on the success of the cantilever Sogn (cSogn), the rSogn is a reissue of this versatile all-arounder, hence the moniker. The rSogn was conceptualized and then specified through a month-long, open-forum process. Optimized for 650b wheel size without toe overlap in any tire size, the rSogn features the following elegant features many have come to appreciate, in no particular order:

• 8/5/8 standard-diameter tubing: MD and ML
• 9/6/9 standard-diameter tubing: LG and XL
• Non-heat treated tubing
• Pacenti biplane MTB crown
• Fits 58mm tires (e.g., Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3)
• 63mm rake for low trail; ideal for top-load
• Low, graceful fork bend
• Takes double-ring, spindle type cranks
• 68mm bottom bracket shell width
• 1-1/8” threadless steerer
• Stainless steel cast dropouts
• Head tube reinforcing rings
• Metal head tube badge
• Rear and front rack mounts
• Equidistance fender mounts facing the wheels
• Lowrider mounts
• Seat stay frame pump peg
• Triple water bottle mounts
• Star water bottle braze-on reinforcements
• Seatstay rack mounts
• Split brake cable stops at 10 o’clock
• Stainless steel chain hanger
• Down tube shifter mounts
• 132.5mm rear spacing for use with either 130mm or 135mm hub
• 27.2mm seat post diameter
Regarding the wheels:
The stock wheels on my rSogn are 32 hole, front and back, built by Mark at Rivendell. They have Shimano 105 hubs laced with straight gauge DT spokes to Velocity Synergy 650B rims. The tyres are 650B Pacento Quasi-Moto 2.1 (51mm) knobbies. Cassette is Shimnano HG40 8-speed 12-30. I have used these wheels with various tyres for quite a few years on various bikes and 650B conversions.
The alternative set of wheels were custom built for me by Dave Prion (below), the general manager of The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, CA and my friend and wheel builder since the mid-80s. These are custom "event" or road wheels. The rear features a 24 hole Chris King R45 cassette hub laced with 24 butted Wheelsmith spokes to a 36 hole Velocity Synergy rim. 12 spoke holes in the rear rim are not used. The front features 18 butted Wheelsmith spokes laced between a 36 hole HB011 6-volt 3-watt dynohub and a 36 hole Velocity Synergy rim. 18 spoke holes in the front rim are not used. The tyres are Pacenti Pari-Moto 650B 38mm. Cassette is Shimano HG40 8-speed 12-28.
Here's the full build-up of the bike:
Brand Rawland rSogn 2011 (Size ML; see size chart below) Saddle height: 77cm; Reach: 80cm
Serial # M11051227
Headset Chris King
Bars Ritchey Classic Silver: 44cm width, 31.8mm O/S center section, 128mm Drop, 73mm Reach
Stem Ritchey Classic Silver, 9cm
Brk Levers Sram S500 road brake levers
Brakes Paul's Neo-Retro cantilivers with Paul's Moon Unit cable hangers, Paul's Rack Adapter bolts, and Paul's Funky Monkey front cable guide (and Nitto rear cable guide)
Saddle Berthoud Aravis, titanium rails
Post Ritchey Classic Silver, 27.2, 350mm length, 25mm Offset, 43x38mm cradle
Shifters Shimano Dura Ace 7402 8-speed down-tube
Front Der. Shimano Dura Ace 7700 (9-speed era)
Rear Der. Shimano XTR M971 (Recent 9-speed era) with JagWire inline cable adjuster
Bottom Bracket Shimano Isis
Crankarms Ritchey 175 with 34/50 rings; Arms custom polished and laser-etched by Tom at Perfect Perforations.
Pedals Ritchey Peloton (Look Delta style)
Chain Sram 8-speed
Cages Nitto R (3)
Tape Ritchey "cork"

Click here for a full slideshow of the bike with nearly 50 images.
Thanks for the amazing bike, Sean and Anna!


MG said...

Thank you for the writeup! You have a lovely bike! My husband and I both own Rawland dSogns, and have been really happy with them.

Anonymous said...

The Rawland rSogn is a bike I have been interested in for some time. I have followed your philosophy of one bike/all rides for, oh, say, 50years. I rode everything I ever owned on trails including a 1960s Peugeot fitted with tubular/sew-up tyres. (Not the later tubular cyclocross tyres of my Andre Bertin.)
My only reservation about your build is that the two pairs of wheels seem a little too specialized. You might wind up right back where you didn't want to be - riding on one set and finding yourself unable to follow a different route because you are on the 'wrong' wheels/tyres.

Chris Kostman said...

Well, the reality is that I rarely need those knobby tires. I've done about 50% of my off-road on a road bike miles on 23-25mm tyres, and the rest on 27-29mm. So even the 38mm tyres on the "road wheels" for the Rawland are plenty wide for a lot of the riding I do off-road and, frankly, wider than I'd like for the road. Since those fancier wheels are more intended for events, most of the time I'll ride the Rawland with the 32 spoke wheels, but with the skinny "road" tyres on them. Changing tyres on a bike is like changing shoes on my feet for me: I don't need tools and it only takes a minute or two.

Anonymous said...

Your "event" wheels sound interesting. Sean just posted some super lightweight wheels on the Rawland blog that were built with the new Pacenti rim. I understand that at the time, the Synergy rim was the go-to rim, so that makes sense. And the rear hub makes sense, but what I don't understand is your choice of the dynamo hub for an even wheel. This hub is much heavier than a non dyno or a different dyno hub. How did you select this piece of gear?

Chris Kostman said...

Most "events" for which I would use this bike are long-distance and require riding into the night, thus the need for lighting.

cycling events in cork said...

Good share.Your bike is very cool.Very sobering...thanks for sharing your experience...