Words & Photos Chris Catchpole
One hundred and twenty five years is a long time. In Raleigh’s opinion it’s something to rejoice about… and why not? Surviving that long as any business is well worth a good party, and looking back on the highs and lows that Raleigh has experienced over the years, it must be especially ready for a good chance to celebrate the achievement. Since Raleigh was bought by Dutch outfit Accell for £62m (which owns other bike brands like Koga, Lapierre and Ghost) its future is looking pretty rosy.
Raleigh has marked the occasion with a string of good-looking bikes. This one, the Sojourn, is a totally new model. Despite being designed in the USA, it looks (almost) every part the smart traditional British touring bike. It has also marked the occasion quite literally, with a natty ‘125 year anniversary’ sticker on the down tube. It makes you feel like you’re in the presence of a special bike. It’s a shame the clean lines are spoiled somewhat by the disc brake cabling that runs along the side of the down tube, but maybe I’m being a bit too traditional.
From the smart decals and paint design, to the retro-look Reynolds steel frame, the bike is an attractive package from top to bottom. The colour-coded mudguards and matching Brooks contact points of saddle and bar tape show that Raleigh was not happy until everything looked just so. When it comes to the metalwork, everything seems well thought out. The chunky seatstays look solid at the top and curve delicately to accept both the rear rack and mudguards. It’s very nicely done.
On the rack
On the front, the mudguards elegantly bend around the discs in a very tidy way. There’s the option of adding a front rack if it suits you. Bear in mind that your choice will be limited though, as pannier racks and disc brakes aren’t always the easiest two components to match together on a front fork. And although it’s better than some, there haven’t been any radical concessions to ensure the fitting will be easy.
Talking of the disc brakes, the cable-operated Avid BB5s on the Sojourn are strong, yes, but quality modulation and adjustability are key features saved only for the top-spec BB7. This left our pair with a nagging squeak that wasn’t easy to silence. That aside they did the job, in an industrial kind of way.
When it came to ride quality, once the Sojourn was up to speed, it rode nicely. The frame is comfortable, although the ride can be a bit bumpy thanks to the budget tyres and heavy wheels. Swapping the tyres out for some suppler Schwalbe Kojaks improved the ride instantly, and is recommended as a quick and easy upgrade.
The budget wheels weren’t the best at picking up speed or handling the bumps, but they proved strong and reliable. They stayed true throughout the miles of riding, and if any trouble had occurred, there are two spare spokes, clipped neatly to the chainstay, should you need them.
The choice of gears at your disposal here seems pretty standard and sensible. When you’re riding with a heavy load at your back, a good variety of small gears are necessary to get up those big British hills. So the road triple at the front and a wide cassette at the back (11-34t) gave me a small enough ratio that I didn’t have to stop and push at all.
Take it higher
Overall I’m left with mixed opinions of the Sojourn. Although it looks great I never really bonded with it. Sure, everything works, but nothing really inspired. It’s a bit too heavy, and a bit too slow. Elegance is a luxury saved only for the aesthetics. There’s an art to cutting corners, and I don’t think compromising the ride is the best choice for the customer.
In this anniversary year, it might have been worth Raleigh’s while taking the Sojourn and making it all the bike it could be. A full-on tourer such as the Dawes Galaxy maybe. A bike like that really could have been memorable. While Raleigh is celebrating its 125th birthday, I hope it takes the good from this bike into the future and develops the theme even further.
Raleigh Sojourn specification
Frame Reynolds 631
Fork Chromoly steel
Wheels Freedom Ryder 23 rims/Shimano M435 hubs
Brakes Avid BB5 discs
Levers Shimano Sora
Front mech Shimano Sora
Rear mech Shimano Alivio
Chainset Shimano Sora 50/39/30 triple
Cassette Shimano HG50 11-34t, 9 speed
Saddle Brooks B17 black
Bartape Brooks leather
Tyres Vittoria Randonneur Cross 700Cx35
Croix de Fer
Created as a ‘do it all’ bike, the Croix de Fer is closer to a master of all its trades than the jack of any. For the same cash as the Sojourn you get a better groupset (although not touring specific), upgraded BB7 brakes, and a better steel frame. The Croix de Fer uses a more expensive Reynolds 725 steel over the Sojourn’s 631. Genesis is so happy with the bike, that the new season’s model is unchanged apart from the dark grey colour.