Yes, we’ve read all of the bike touring blogs and all of the advice on the best bike to use for long-distance, off-road touring.
And no, you're right, a Raleigh 20 isn’t it.
A while back, in a fit of madness, we decided to use Raleigh 20s to race the McLeans Island 6 hour bike race. We had a great time- the thing you notice about riding one is that almost everyone has something to say when you ride past.
Sure, some of it isn’t very complimentary.
But some of it is, and we were amazed at the number of people who at one stage in their life owned one. [Fun fact: they were the biggest selling bike in NZ in the 70’s, due to being manufactured in large quantities by Morrison in Hastings.]
We never won any races, but did manage to win ‘Best Dressed’ one year, and secure ourselves a new pair of shoes as a prize. (You can read more about that in a future post ..)
Anyway, this prior experience meant the Raleigh 20 was the natural choice for our Tour Aotearoa bikes, because we figured, despite what the internet says (because really, what do the people who are fitter, faster, more experienced than us really know about the right bikes anyway, right? RIGHT??), Raleigh 20s have many clear advantages over conventional carbon fibre, disc braked, modern bikes:
1. They have 20 inch wheels, so rather than smooth out the bumps and separate the rider from their environment, they connect us intimately to the terrain so we can ‘feel’ it.
2. As well as feeling the terrain, we can hear it. With the advent of quiet electric vehicles, people seem concerned about the dangers of not hearing vehicles coming. Raleigh had the foresight to design some clever mudguards and chain guards that amplify rattling noises, so that even if you are riding at night with no lights and a blindfold, people can hear you coming, and you can hear precisely how rough the terrain is.
3. The braking system is simple. No complicated hydraulics means much less to go wrong, and it completely negates the risk of braking too much, or too suddenly. At most, you get a gradual reduction in speed. It’s all very civilised.
4. They look - in a word - majestical.
5. And, finally, so we don’t get off on the wrong foot, with expectations of a well organised, slick expedition, I’ll be honest: Raleigh 20s suit our general approach to things. They’re probably going to be running late, and something is probably going to go wrong. People also think they’re a little bit daft, and that they should probably move with the times and grow up a bit.
Join us for the ride!