Thursday, 24 September 2009

Ordered a New Bike

I spent Tuesday morning this week at St. John Street Cycles in Bridgwater, Somerset, UK. I had an appointment there to talk to Dan about the Thorn Raven Nomad S&S (Edit: Link now for the Thorn Nomad Mk2), their Rohloff (hub geared) equipped 'adventure touring' bicycle. This is the bike I've ear-marked for this tour and hopefully, many more in the future.

The Raven Nomad is a cart-horse of a bike, designed specifically for tough adventure touring, capable of going virtually anywhere and doing virtually anything and not breaking in the process. In my opinion, it is to the biking world, what the Land Rover is to the automotive world.

I was already familiar with the bike on paper, as I'd downloaded the brochure (Edit: Brochure now for the Thorn Nomad Mk2) and studied it prior to the visit. Nevertheless, that was no substitute for seeing the real thing, so I spent quite a while looking over a shop sample and discussing some of the specification options with Dan. Seeing was one thing, but riding would be another thing again, so let's go for a test ride... 

I left the shop and headed west. My first impression was unsettling, the Nomad was extremely heavy. (No surprises there. The frame is heavy, the wheels are heavy, the tyres are massive and heavy and I expect the paint is heavy too. It's heavy for a reason though, to be strong enough to carry loads over challenging terrain). I fought the bike for the first few kilometres, trying to muscle it like a lightweight racing bike, but there was no instantaneous reward for my effort. The Nomad just rumbled along, soaking up my spirited efforts, but only slowly accelerating when asked.

After a while, though, this perception subsided as I adjusted to the Nomad's operating parameters and I started to enjoy the ride. Firstly, the bike was very stable, tracked around corners well and was generally easy to ride. The XTR V-brakes worked very well with very good modulation (no snatching at all), although the rear brake squealed a bit. Climbing hills was quite enjoyable and rewarding, too. The bike had enough low gears (even enough for a heavy load, I suspect), so I didn't need to strain. I just stuck it in a nice low gear, twiddled away and enjoyed the scenery.

Half way around, I stopped by a lake and watched some fishermen for a while. I also looked over the Nomad again. It's quite a nice looking bike, despite its purely functional remit and very well proportioned. It looked 'right' to me. The frame quality was high, with very neat TIG weldings and robust looking braze-ons. I liked the oversized (6mm) brazing points for the racks and the Thorn racks themselves were also chunky looking and thicker than other racks I've seen.

I reluctantly returned to the shop after an hour of riding. I met up with Dan again and we spent some time producing a specification and quote. I took this away and after making a few changes and checking everything in the evening, I returned to shop the next day and placed my order.

The bike should be ready in 3-4 weeks!

1 comment:

Shaun Fantauzzo - said...

hey shaun, my name is shaun and june 15th my friend and i leave vancouver, british columbia on bike headed for st. john newfoundland. maybe you could join the team and we could do it together?