Raleigh Sojourn. Choosing a touring bicycle.


Choosing a touring bicycle; Raleigh Sojourn.

For our 3rd touring bike option we’re going with what is in my consideration, the best factory equipped touring bicycle on the market.  Here is your next option, the Raleigh Sojourn from http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/road/sojourn/

Please comment if you have ever ridden, owned, or know anyone who owns this bike.  Email photos of your setup to me at recklesscognition@gmail.com and have them posted on this site.

Raleigh Sojourn Touring Bicycle

Raleigh Sojourn Touring Bicycle

Before we begin please check out the links on the left side of the page.  I am riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker from South Korea to Portugal to raise money for charity.  If you can sponsor or donate to the journey it would be great, even a dollar will help.  You can learn more here…Bike Journey

Frame- Steel (Reynolds 520 Butted Cro-mo) A little about this type of steel…..it is pretty similar to the 4130 cro-mo you’ll see on most other steel frames, but 520 is only available by special order and used by only a few companies, including Raleigh USA.

Chainstay Length- 460mm or 18.1 inches

Brakes- Disc (Avid BB5 Road 160/140mm roto)

Tires- 700x35c with double wall Freedom CTX 2.3 Trekking rims

Hubs- 32h (mentioning this because it is a little unusual to see a 32h on a tourer, usually look for 36h)

Weight- 34.5 pounds (HEAVY!)

Price- $1,100

The Raleigh Sojourn is certainly a very interesting package.  I say package because as I mentioned earlier, this bike comes out of the factory as close to fully-equipped as the other tourers available. Let’s look at exactly what comes stock on this bike…

You get those famous SKS Fenders, Cateye reflector set, Bell, Water bottle mounts, Rear Rack, Lezyne Pressure Drive pump as well as one of those famous Brooks B17 saddles and WTB Dirt Drop handlebars.  There are also replacement spokes connected to the rear.  Sounds great, especially for someone who doesn’t want to end up spending an extra 300 dollars equipping their bike with all these extras.

But, we have to look at a couple of what I consider major issues with this touring bicycle.  The first are the hubs.  Only 32 spokes scares me a bit and makes me think the designers of this bike don’t really expect a heavy load to be carried on the bike.  36 is the norm and most bikers will be turned off by only having 32.

Secondly, I’m not a fan of disc brakes.  If you’ve read the original posts on this blog, you’ll understand why.  They’re strong in the wet conditions, but they are bulky, heavy, and hard to repair/replace on the road.  We’ve got some positive feedback from riders on this site about the disc brakes, and I am not refuting that, but just would rather have the cantilevers on my ride.

In conclusion, this bike is a tough choice.  There are some serious downsides (brakes/spokes), and some serious upsides (lots of accessories/nice frame/price).  Changing any of these options are going to seriously up the price and may alter its attraction.

How are ratings calculated?

Overall Rating:

Raleigh Sojourn:

Value:  4.5/5

Quality: 4.8/5

Compliance: 4/5

Overall: 13.4/15

With a $1,100 price tag, the Raleigh has low-end components like Shimano Tiagra and Deore, lower than the Trek 520, and the Long Haul Trucker.  But there are a lot of accessories here, like the Brooks saddle, the SKS fenders, the pump, bottle mounts, and rear rack.  That adds up and tends to normalize the price difference between similar models.

Quality. There aren’t many complaints about the Raleigh Sojourn.  It is said to have and extremely strong and rigid frame.

Compliance. Fully equipped but losing major points for having only 32 spokes and for having disc brakes.

Overall though, still a decent score and well worth a test ride if I were you.  I did get a chance to test ride this bike the other day, unloaded, and found it just about as comfy as my Surly bike.  I liked the WTB Dirt Drop handlebars and grip tape, lots of hand positions and a nice wide bar to be able to ride like a typical bike.

Check out the complete ratings here.

26 responses »

  1. Hello, I just completed a 5 day southern Utah tour with my Raleigh Sojourn in Sept ’08. 300 miles, 22,000 ft cumulative climbing, highest point was 10,500 feet, rode in rain and hail at altitude plus desert heat. I changed the small chainring lower because it is good to spin at all times, particularly when climbing at high altitude or at the end of a long day. I’m upgrading various parts on my Sojourn because I enjoy doing so, not because it needs it. Disc brakes worked very well in the wet riding I encountered but yep, in a crisis, I don’t know them mechanically compared to regular brakes. I weigh 190 pounds and was carrying 21 pounds of gear, excluding weight of water bottles (due to desert heat, I had 4-5 water bottles, some tall ones!). The wheels stayed true and handled the rough stuff well plus inadvertant potholes too. Perhaps the rims are plenty strong for that spoke count (?) in combo with the 35mm tires. It rides very comfortably and we did some 12 hour riding days. It is on the heavy side as you note, which is disconcerting. However it is not like I noticed it when riding. I wasn’t riding for speed records, number one. As you know, the bike weight comes into the most play on climbs, so that may be a concern for some. I was spinning, and not huffing, and I was fit and faster than my compadres on lighter bikes, so I didn’t notice. I have a larger size friend like myself and he has a Surly Long Haul Trucker and he said his Surly flexes when he stands on the pedals on hills, and the chain rubs the front derailleur cage. The Raleigh Sojourn does not flex; it is stiff. It rides on rails downhills, and was very stable at high speed particularly when going over road cracks, bumps, etc. The light hand pressure using disc brakes is great for touring; compadres complained of hand tiredness braking on long steep downhills. The front SKS fender could use a lower mudflap, which I will install.

  2. Forgot to mention that my friend with the Surly Long Haul Trucker says a regular sized water bottle sitting in the water bottle cage under the downtube hits his front fender. I don’t know this for myself (my Raleigh Sojourn was fine in that respect).

  3. I appreciate Peter’s review. My wife, Jean, and I are planning to cross Washington State on Route 20 and on into western Montana during May. I was concerned about the 32 spokes but see they are heavy gauge and note regarding rims and tire choice. I agree that the weight does not seem to be noticeable when riding but will let you know how it turns out with another posting in June.

  4. I use my Raleigh Sojourn to haul groceries from the store over some pretty rough roads. The frame remains stiff up the hills and I’ve never had an issue with spokes or rims. As others mention, the weight really doesn’t seem to be a factor, although I must admit going up long grades I have had a passing thought that perhaps the bike could be lighter. Yet, I could always not buy that extra bottle of wine and reduce the weight that way as well; nahhhhh.

    The handlebars are it’s greatest asset. The disc brakes I’m happy to have when hauling heavy grocery loads – especially in the wet and snow. I haven’t had maintenance issues with the brakes, but do notice that they can rub a bit when first starting out. The rubbing is fixed by lighting tapping the brake handle to free them up.

    • Quick update to my last post. Not only isn’t the weight an issue, I’ve compared this bike to my friend’s long haul trucker and was surprised to find his rig only 1 lb. lighter.

  5. I’m considering this one, mostly because I’m hoping to move back to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver area, think Seattle for climate). The disk brakes are a plus, but the 32 spokes is a little worrying. Should be good for commuting, though.

  6. Finished a run from Spokane to Rye NH on the Sojourns summer 2010. The bikes are solid and comfortable. Ok, disc brakes: bring rubbing alcohol, kitchen wire scouring pad, and emery pad to roughen up the brakes and pads once in a while. They glaze. And carry replacement shoes. Avid BB5. That’s it.

    Front fender: toe overlap is not good. Maybe a mountain bike short front fender to keep some spray down. Without the fender, no problem. I am still on my first fender having knocked off the rod covers with my toes. But Jean has broken two fenders when her foot got caught on tough hills. The fenders are not standard as the rods have to get around the disc brake fittings. So that is annoying. I think Raleigh should rethink the angle of the front fork to accommodate the fender on the touring bike and ensure there is no overlap. When you are on a stiff mountain, you are down to 3 miles per hour and balancing a heavy load.

    My experience with the rear wheel with 32 spokes was not so good. I understand Raleigh has gone to 36 spokes and that is good. The original 32 showed splits by Fargo and Great Northern Bikes in Fargo rebuilt using the hub. But it failed severely by Vermont. Doon at his bike shop in Rochester VT built a 36 wheel and it has held true. He laced it with more crossovers that the factory built wheels offer.

  7. Rode my Raleigh Sojourn almost 5000km from Vancouver to Toronto. The 2010 version has 36 spokes. The bike was solid, I was carrying close to 60lbs of equipment. Perhaps I was lucky but I never broke a single spoke and never had a flat tire (Vittoria Randonneur). Wore out the back tire after 4500km. It’s true, this bike is heavy. It’s definitely not built for speed but it can handle heavy loads and rides the road like a rail at high speeds down the steepest hills. I never felt unsafe even at speeds of close to 80km/h.

    A lot of tourers I met rode Surly’s and I never heard a single complaint about them. There are a lot of good touring bikes out there. Go with what fits you and your budget best.

  8. I just bought my sojourn – 36 spokes. I’ve heard a lot of people saying to change the brakes from Avid BB 5 to BB 7… I don’t know the difference and until they wear out, I’m not changing! One thing I did do, was to have the LBS move the shifters from the bar ends to the tube. Personally, it felt awkward reaching out there to change, and having them on the tube is a much more ‘natural’ place I feel. I also changed the pedals – I wanted to be able to use both regular shoes and SPD’s.. gives me a choice I guess. The bike, moves beautifully, no flex, it feels like it would just roll and roll and roll. I used to have a Raleigh Touriste (late 80’s model) and this bike reminds me of the ride. I’ve always had a thing for Raleigh… such a shame they’re not made in Nottingham any more, I for one, would pay more for that!

    • Yes. We have completed three rides now: 2009 across Washington State; 2010 Spokane to Rye NH; 2011 Point Reyes CA to Tilamook OR. The 36 spokes is better. The Avid BB5 seem to work fine and the pads are less expensive than BB7. Field adjustments are much easier than the traditional rim brakes. Rubbing alcohol, an emery board and wire scouring pad are handy if they glaze–from riding them on descents. I work them front back front back and it seems to reduce the frequency of glazing.

      I hope the new frames reduce the chance for toe overlap. My front fender is significantly shorter now but still keeps dirt out of the steering tube.

      But the ride is so superb that all the negatives are–poof! And you’re off.

  9. Yep, I’ve found the toe overlap to be pretty shocking. Even if I shortened the front fender, my toes are still hitting the tyre. I think, if I have to find a complaint, thats it. Other than that… great bike! Taking it Singapore to Bangkok in June – five weeks I think should do it easily…. with time for beach breaks!!!

      • Hey Michael, I’m really looking forward to it. Not sure how I’ll deal with Southern Thailand…. The problems there are a bit of a worry, but saying that, I’ve read so many good things about it too. I read you changed the fender, but I think, even by doing that, the overlap is still bad. I’m really not sure what to do… it’s a wee bit dangerous I think…

      • Blackie, The overlap does remain even with the fender trimmed–broken off actually when my foot tore at it. Rubbing up against the rubber seems less of a problem for getting a foot or shin scraped though. The whole thing is a problem if you are weighted and very slow up a grade and you foot jams the wheel. But I tore the fender bit off playing about in a parking lot and forgetting. Basically, don’t wear open-toed shoes/sandals and try to remember.

        I agree about being wary in Southern Thailand. We were robbed in Petchburi before we reached Hua Hin and that ended the bicycle portion of the trip. They didn’t not shoot, but my bike was bent and we had to replace passports and lost a Nikon. The police had advised us against traveling through the city but we ignored them as we were advised that bandits would string wires across the road all the way from Chiang Mai and that hadn’t happened — so we were overly confident. The police rescued us in a Dodge pickup with a 50cal machine gun mounted–much like Somalia. Security is supposed to be much better in Thailand now–I am talking 1978 and the communist insurgents were the threat at the time. Now it is the Muslims.

        Taking alternatives? One of our best memories was the train from Bangkok to Hua Hin. At the stations you could buy nya heng — dried sweet beef and sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf — from people through the window of the car. The worst train was Singapore to Penang with diesel fumes filling the cabin being the major memory. That and the midnight bus which drove the road between Phuket and Bangkok quite fast fearing bandits–and no nya heng. And of course there were stories about train robberies — probably just to sell bus tickets or worse — airplanes.

        So may as well just give up, right? Well, no, but do take local advice seriously and perhaps find someone who knows the territory and can accompany you and speak for you.

        Jean met some British cyclists who had reached Hanoi having crossed to Valdivostok and then down. We heard they had an accident with a motorcyclist in Luang Prabang — repaired the bikes and the broken leg — and continued. Makes me feel like a pansy. Have you read a Short Walk in the Hindu Kush?

  10. I’m considering a Sojourn. Questions:
    – How wide a tire can the bike accept? I plan to run fenders, though not necessarily the stock items (I want lower coverage up front). I live down five miles of sand/rock/hardpack farm road, so tire width is an issue.
    – The new (2012) fork looks like it has more offset than the old fork. Anyone know one way or the other?
    – Does the frame have provision for a kickstand, i.e. a mounting plate?

    • Dana, We ride 2009 Sojourns that do have the toe-overlap. Feet tore fenders and the solution is only partially adequate — short fender to keep debris out of the steering bearings and accepting a possible rubber burn for a scrape from the fender stay. I am riding 700 x 37 Panaracer Pasela’s that fit in the SKS fenders but are a bit close. They do well on the surfaces you describe but not soft sand fully inflated. They accept inflation from 3 – 6 bar so you could ride sandy tracks with softer tires. Much wider and you would probably change or remove the fenders. The disc brakes allow you a lot of latitude regarding size.

      The kick stand at the bottom bracket is tough since the spare spokes have a fitting brazed on to the frame. We tried and it just didn’t work out. The disc brake takes up the space on the chain stay so that seems to be out too. I draw using my bike as an easel and carry a light aluminum display stand that loops around the down tube and allows the bottom bracket to rest on it. It raises the rear wheel and uses the front to complete a triangle so the bike is free standing. The stronger solution would be to get a heavy rear rack with a traditional 1930s stand that swings down under the rear wheel — like the bikes still made in China. They lock into place.


      • Thanx Mike. I’m intent on running 44’s, full fenders and a kickstand. Sounds like I need to focus elsewhere.

      • Check out what these guys are riding. We met them in California and loved examining their very sturdy set up. Very large tires, hydraulic brakes, Germany, Iceland, Canada, US, Mexico — Tierra del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan is the goal.

        You can check out our story and pictures on:

    • I have a 2009 Sojourn and have a Pletscher Two-leg Kickstand installed on it. It fits no problem. The welded on spoke holder that was mentioned does allow enough room for the mounting plate.

      • I got the stand and am having trouble figuring out how to mount it.
        The plate to hold the extra spokes blocks the upper bracket that fits on top of the tubes.
        Did you mount the stand forward of the plate behind the seat tube?
        Or did you mount it behind the plate near the fender?
        If so, did you have to remove the extra spokes?
        Or did you cut off or file the plate holding the spokes entirely?
        The assembly has two feet that fit between the tubes and the upper bracket. I wonder if you could reshape those feet or perhaps they are soft enough to be reshaped by the plate when you tighten up the bracket.
        Please give me an idea. That spoke plate is frustrating.

      • Ah Jon, How right you are. Fits like a dream behind the plate for the spokes with the spokes removed. Funny, when I thought of sawing off the plate it dawned on me that I could simply remove the spokes and give it a go. And so they went–and can be taped easily elsewhere. Thanks. Mike

  11. Initially, I was thinking – why the extra weight of a kickstand??? But, then, it’s not a hell of a lot more on what is already a heavy bike. Good idea, I may put one on too…. Michael, what sort of handlebar bag do you use? My LBS told me that their bags wouldn’t fit the bars as they’re too fat (the bars)…. What do you think?

    • I use a Lone Peak for a handlebar bag. The plastic mounting loops are flexible but seems to me that there are many choices that would fit. I did carry too much weight in it and it would drift. Lone Peak is not the top flight but affordable. Detaches easily and has a rain cover. Nice all around.

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