Jon D. Generous and trusting, Jon offered to lend me the bike to photograph and test ride. Long story short, Jon's Rawland is now staying over for a visit.
So what is so special about this bike? The Rawland rSogn is a production randonneuring frameset, made for 650B wheels and wide tires, with low trail geometry and standard sized tubing. Currently priced at $725 and available without a wait list, it is the most accessible frameset with this combination of characteristics available on the market today, as far as I am aware.
Not everything about the rSogn is "classic randonneur." The dramatically sloping top tube, mostly welded frame, and threadless steerer mark it as a modern bike. But for anyone interested in trying out the low trail/ 650B handling characteristics, this is a comparatively affordable way to go. And it's not just about affordability: rSogn owners seem very pleased with this model - describing it as fast, responsive, and comfortable over long distances. It is reputed to be a fast brevet/ road-to-trail bike that fits cushy tires and is optimised to carry a front load.Rawland Cycles is a tiny operation based in Danville, California. Owner Sean and his spouse Anna run the company and design the frames, which are hand-made in Taiwan. Sean is of Norwegian heritage and he pays tribute to this with the Nordic theme that runs through everything from the company name, to bicycle model names, to the graphics and even frame design.
Here is a side view. The flat top of the crown is engraved with Rawland's Nordically-stylised "R."
The decorative motif on the seat tube complements the font used elsewhere on the decals.
The bicycle's owner built up the frame with a needle-bearing headset, dynamo lighting, downtube shifters, cantilever brakes, a wide range double drivetrain, handlebars set slightly above saddle level, and a large custom front rack. The build is heavy on Velo Orange, mixed with Shimano, IRD, Grand Bois, Berthoud, Cane Creek, and other usual suspects. If you have a question about specific components, please ask in the comments.
Jon rides clipless, but he switched the pedals out for flat ones so that I could ride the bike. For tires, he switches between the 42mm cream Grand Bois Hetres for road-to-trail riding and 2" knobby Pacenti Quasi-Moto tires for rougher off-road stuff.
too large for me. The frame measures 53cm x 57cm with a sloping top tube. Not only is the reach quite long, but even if we were to flip the stem and move the spacers, the handlebars would still be several inches higher than what's on my other bikes right now. Additionally, I am not comfortable using downtube shifters on serious rides, and there is no easy way to change this aspect of the build. All in all it just wouldn't be fair to attempt a review out of this. But what I can do is provide some feedback that is not test-ride-dependent.
As for drawbacks, the main one for me is weight: As shown, the Rawland rSogn weighs about as much as my similarly built Rivendell Sam Hillborne - close to 30lb. I am told by those who've ridden both bikes that the Rawland is more responsive and faster, particularly uphill, and that is good to know. But I'll be honest: I am a little tired of heavy roadbikes. I would like something lighter, and I know it's possible. Aside from this, I would of course prefer it if the frame were lugged, but that is a matter of personal taste. The double-plated fork crown and the decorative lugwork on the headtube do create sufficient visual interest to keep me from dwelling on this for too long.
Coincidentally, Rawland has a new model coming out - the Nordavinden - that could address both of the above issues. It is a lighter, sportier frame, with an almost level top tube, and they are offering it in a size equivalent to the size I normally ride. While the larger frames are designed for 700C wheels, the smallest (my size) will be 650B with clearances for 42mm tires. If I were to consider a Rawland for myself, I think this model might be more appropriate for me than the rSogn. [Edited to add: There is now a review of the Nordavinden.]
Chasing Mailboxes couple each have one. Chris Kostman of AdventureCORPS has one and it is his favourite bike. And here is another owner's in-depth review.
And of course there is Jon, this particular bicycle's owner. Jon is only a little taller than I am and does not have the bike set up in a particularly aggressive manner. But according to his riding buddies, he is super fast on it. Jon has other bicycles, but the Rawland rSogn is his favourite - both for commuting and for brevets. Last year he completed a good chunk of the Boston Brevet Series on this bike, and hopes to do more, longer ones this year. He also rides quite a bit off road, and his rSogn turns into a mountain bike when fitted with fat knobby tires.
As usually happens with bicycles I am excited about, there is too much information to fit into a post without making it ridiculously long. If you have any specific questions, please ask and I am sure a number of owners reading this will be glad to give you feedback. My sincere thanks to Jon for being so nice and loaning me his bike. It is doing well here and making new friends. Full set of pictures here!