MG’s new Rawland dSogn and her new ‘Chasing Mailboxes’ blog

I like my Rawland dSogn 650b monster ‘cross bike so much that I had to ask owners Sean and Anna last fall if they might have an extra in MG’s size. Knowing it was a discontinued model, I expected that they would all be gone. To my absolute delight, they had an unpainted dSogn left in stock and we had a deal. It was sent it out for a silver powdercoat paint job that turned out quite sparkly.

After all these months, we finally got it built up at College Park Bicycles and MG took it out for some tweaking today. MG wrote about it in her new blog, Chasing Mailboxes. Another niche bike! We hope to get in some dirt road rides with these bikes — they are made for pretty much anything a rigid mountain bike can handle.

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Iron Cross VII Quick Report

UPDATE: I added my GPS track to MotionBased. It came out a little shorter than actual distance. See it Here. I also uploaded a map of the course below the post.

I just got back from the Iron Cross VII cyclocross/expedition race in the Michaux State Forest. Bright sun and trees bursting with red and orange leaves made for a perfect fall day. This was my second year at IC, and I posted the same time as last year, a barely-sub-six-hour 5:50 for 62.5 miles.

See photos by me from the course and scores of shots from the start & finish by MG at my Iron Cross VII Flickr page.

I don’t ride singletrack more than once or twice a year, and this is my only race of the year, so I know that I’m mostly there for the challenge and scenery. The course features miles of difficult singletrack with big rocks, roots, creek crossings and unrideable hikes up steep inclines. Overall, riders are either crawling up long grades — think Shippensburg Road — or careening downward on sketchy gravel and winding singletrack. The granny gear and big ring got a good workout.

After flailing through the singletrack last year on a cyclocross bike with 32mm tires, this year I went to the other end of the rubber spectrum and rode my rigid Rawland dSogn 650b mountain bike with 58mm Pacenti Neo-Moto tires — and a sprung Brooks Flyer saddle. There were only a few of us out there with big tires, and just one other bike with a sprung saddle.

This combination did not make me any faster, but I stayed on the bike for most of the singletrack and enjoyed the course much more. The tires rolled well enough on pavement and gripped like mad on dirt hardpack, while letting me plow over rocks and roots most of the time. I had a blast flying down the gravel roads, knowing I could bomb over the rocky bumps.

All that said, I’m beat. This is a tough ride for a non-racer. By mile 50, I was starting to wonder what I was thinking when I entered. The satisfaction at the end, however, is not unlike the feeling of finishing a super-hilly brevet. And, finishers get wool socks!

Thanks to Yellow Breeches racing and all the volunteers for another fine edition. See you next year!

Rawland dSogn Build and Ride Report

As promised, here are the details of my Rawland dSogn 650b disk brake bike. This was one of the frames discounted by Rawland in December for minor blemishes, though I can’t find any on this frameset. The red powder coat paint is evenly applied and looks good. The decals are applied over the paint and I suspect they will not last forever, but that’s OK by me.

I posted a set of photos at my Flickr page.

Melting the Snow

Melting the Snow

The bike set up well, my shop said. There is one feature to consider — the seat tube bottle mounts are low enough that the bottom bracket clamp will install between the two holes. My shop said my plastic Profile cage installed without any problem.

I took a few test rides and it feels a lot like my Rivendell bikes, but sturdier: solid with a hint of spring at the bottom bracket. I rode it around town with the semi-smooth Fatty Rumpkin 650bx42mm tires from Rivendell.

The verdict: fun! The handling had a tiny bit of shopping-cart feel compared to my road and tour bikes, but that will be a good feature on the trails when I have knobby tires mounted. The long seat post was a non-issue — I was able to get away with a Nitto two-bolt post and felt no flex. A Brooks sprung Flyer smooths out the bumps. I bopped around a nearby park and rode it on some broken path. It brought back the feeling of my balloon-tire Western Flyer bike I had as a kid. I steered that bike down streets, dirt alleys and gravel roads in rural Illinois without giving it a second thought.

For my intended bar height I left the steerer tube uncut. For cross racing I might lower the bars a little bit, but otherwise they feel good at saddle height of about 30 inches from bottom bracket to saddle top.

Ready for fun.

Ready for fun.

I have a set of disk 700c wheels that I plan to install and test ride with 32mm cross tires, and will report back on the outcome. I’ll also install the Pacenti Neo Moto 58mm knobby tires and post a trail report.

Here is the component list:

Frame: Rawland dSogn Medium-Large, disc specific, 650b
Headset: Velo Orange Grand Cru 1 1/8″ threadless, silver
Handlebars: Nitto Noodle 46cm
Stem: Dimension 80mm
Brake/shifters: Campagnolo Veloce Ergo, 10-speed
9-speed adapter: Jtek Shiftmate
Cross levers: Tektro
Seatpost: Nitto S-83
Saddle: Brooks Flyer
Wheels: Peter White-built Velocity Synergy 36-hole silver rims, rear offset; Shimano XT 6-hole disk hubs; butted spokes.
Brakes: Avid BB7 disk, 160mm disks
Crankset: Shimano XT M739 110/74 26-36-46 175mm arms
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Un-91 square taper
Front derailleur: Shimano XTR M900 clamp
Rear derailleur: Shimano XT M761 long cage
Cassette: Shimano XT 11-32 9-speed cassette
Pedals: Shimano M520

Rawland 650b dSogn Frameset Unboxing

I hope you continue to have a great time this holiday season. We’re now in that golden period between Christmas and New Year’s when the pressure is off. Whew!

Rawland is a new steel make from Sean Virnig that is designed to use the big 650b knobbies from Kirk Pacenti, the 58mm Neo-Moto and the 51mm Quasi-Moto. The design, by Pacenti & Ben Witt, is reminiscent of the early unsuspended MTB bikes, with drop bars instead of flat or bull moose bars.

Sean recently put some blemished framesets, including the single-speed Olaf, the cantilever brake Sogn and disc dSogn, on sale for $350. This is a great deal on a Maxway-produced frameset. Maxway makes Surly framesets, produced Rivendell’s 650b Bleriot and now makes Riv’s new Betty Foy mixte and Sam Hillborne 650b/700c road&randonneur bike.

I grabbed one of the disc-only dSogn frames in medium-large. It arrived just before Christmas and to my eye it is without any flaws. The powdercoated paint is a little thin in a few nooks and crannies, which I understand is the challenge of powdercoating vs. spraying.

I posted a set of photos of the unboxing at my Flickr page.

I have not had a chance to begin building it. I’m going to transfer the parts from my LeMond Poprad disc, which is a great frameset but can’t take big tires. It can take 650bx42mm tires, but there are no knobbies in that size and I want to run those fat Pacenti tires. Plus, the Sogn can take 700c wheels with 35mm tires, which are about the same overall size as the Neo-Moto.

Gino Zhand raced his dSogn with 700x35s this fall; see his photoset for views of his bike set up both ways. Like the Poprad, the dSogn uses a threadless steerer tube and tig-welded steel; I expect it to set up a little heavier than the Poprad due to the steel fork compared to the Bontrager carbon fork used by Trek.

I plan to put the Poprad disc frameset with Cane Creek headset on sale. Contact me if interested. It’s a 2008 58cm disc-only with lots of steerer remaining above the headset. It has just three rides so far totaling less than 100 miles and virtually no marks. It’s a great cross racing bike that can also take fenders and racks, with the smart placement of the rear disc mount on the chainstay.

Stay tuned for a ride report once the dSogn is up and running.