Sunday, July 10, 2016

Road Bike Update: New Albion Privateer and Raleigh Technium

I had intended to do a post updating my thoughts on each of my bikes. I got the Jones update done, but now I'm already deviating from that plan by combining two bikes into one post. But, as I rode my New Albion Privateer and Raleigh Technium this spring, I couldn't help comparing and contrasting them:

Living (temporarily) with my parents has many nice features beyond free rent and inter-generational quality time: they live close enough to my work that I can easily bike commute. The (non-drive side!) shots above are from my "long" route to work, just eight or so miles of quiet country roads. Besides commuting time, I'm finding more quality road time than mountain biking time lately. The roads around here are new to me, and better than around Dublin: hillier, for one. And, it takes about 20 extra minutes to drive to any mountain biking trail I usually go to. So I've been pulling out each of these bikes almost in turn for road duties. How do they compare?

The biggest difference is the riding position. The Raleigh has some Salsa 'cross drop bars on it:

while the NAP has Rivendell Albastache bars:

I was quite taken with the Albastache bars when I originally put them on my Velo Orange Camargue, but the shine has been wearing off lately. I think much of this is because I have them mounted a bit low. Going slow, I have too much weight on my hands. Going faster is better, but it doesn't feel as good as it does in the drops on my Raleigh. This is pretty surprising, since I've mostly given up on drop bars over the last few years. But on the Raleigh, I find I'm comfortable for multi-hour rides. For instance, on Saturday morning I got the desire to climb the hill up Mad River "Mountain", so I set out early, heading west. What's amazing is how effortless and comfortable this ride was, just rolling along quiet country roads with views like this:

I felt like I could just keep going. The Raleigh is lively enough that climbing Mad River hill wasn't too bad, even though I only have a single 42t ring up front and just six speeds in back:

I was a bit bemused to find an encouraging sign at the top:

I was using a fitness tracker thingy on my phone, which was useful to track my routes where there weren't handy directional monuments in the middle of the road:

Notice my lack of dork disc!

I'm sure saving that 10g made the climbs easier, and now Sam has a new frisbee:

With a stop in North Lewiburg for a cherry Coke and donuts from my emergency cash fund, I ended up with 38 miles of riding over about three hours, and one of my best rides of the year. I was still pretty comfortable on the Raleigh at the end, and I think this is largely due to the shortish top tube: just 575mm, where my Crosscheck was more like 615mm and the NAP is about 600mm. I have the bars about 5mm above my saddle, letting me use the full range of hand positions. I've never been this comfortable on a drop bar bike before.

It's not all Coke and donuts with the Raleigh, however. I don't spend much time worrying about descents in the normal course of my (flatland) riding, but these hills gave me some 30mph+ descents. That got me thinking about the marginal quality of my brakes and the potential for looseness in my threaded to threadless setup. That slowed me down some. Also, taking a hand off the bars revealed a bit of wiggle in the front end, which the lower trail NAP doesn't exhibit.

I took the NAP to Marysville Sunday morning for a library run, maybe a dozen miles each way (I forgot to start my phone app). Where the Raleigh was at home on the open road, riding the NAP felt like riding a city bike or hybrid out of its element. I couldn't quite get a comfortable position on the bars, ending up feeling I had too much weight on my hands AND on my seat. That's a neat trick. Even with an uncut 350mm steerer and an upjutting stem, my bars were still too low. And look at all those spacers!

It probably didn't help that I was carrying my heavy Burley rack on the back and a load of books up front:

Still, this route was quite a bit flatter than Saturday's, so the weight should matter less. My saddle was a bit high. Lowering it helped, but I never got the seamless feeling I had on my Raleigh. This ride will not be a high point of my summer.

My issues with the NAP are mostly due to setup, and use. It has decent tire clearance and fine brakes, but I think I'll change the bar to some type of mountain riser... basically, making it into a hybrid. With racks, bags, and fenders, it will be nice for running around town. However, while the low trail fork is nice when riding solo, it makes the handling pretty nervous when towing the trail-a-bike or trailer, or both.

I don't have strong feelings for the NAP. You could easily remove the decals and put "BIKE" on the downtube in white stencils. It functions well, it gets the job done, it's neither super lively nor too stiff. I could put a disc cross fork on the front to better match the handling for how I use it, but I doubt I will invest that much in it. I've been eyeing the Rivendell Clem Smith Jr lately as a town bike. Once you've had long chainstays, it's hard to go back!


  1. Eric, your photos are not showing once again. Suggest you switch to WordPress for better photo handling. Thanks

    1. Thanks Don. I thought I had an easy fix for the photos, but Google makes it quite difficult to share photos from their Google Photos to their Google Blogger. Should be simple, huh? But I'm not quite ready to jump ship yet.

  2. Eric, Got all 12 this go around, thanks much.

  3. Great review! I enjoyed your post on the Jones too. Kinda makes me want one. Almost. The NAB looks like a real interesting bike if I was ever inclined to replace my Cross Check. Though I'm also pretty tempted the new Black Mountain Monstercross frame set with the biplane fork.

    1. I can agree with that, I've looked at the BMC many, many times. But, I think the replacement for my city bike will either be a Riv product or something with disc brakes.


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