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Monday, October 15, 2012

Raleigh M40: Dipping into dirt

The Raleigh M40 glamour shot. Courtesy Anthony Bareno/Velo Cult.
If you joined us here last time, not only would you have not been rewarded with a photo of Tom Baker on a bike, but you would have read that one of the reasons I got the Raleigh M40 mountain bike was to do more dirt riding. Not necessarily "mountain biking", more offroad rambling and the like. To be honest, I've avoided dirt and gravel roads when I could. (Especially gravel roads.) I hated the feeling that I was losing control of my bike at any second. But I was doing this dirt/gravel riding with bikes with narrow to middle width tires. Maybe a fattish tired bike would be the answer?

Enter: The Raleigh M40.

It's a common route for folks who want to convert a mountain bike for city use to go for a middle width tire, most commonly one that is 1.5 inches (40 mm) wide. Because we all know that narrower tires are "faster".* I could have gone that route, but why? All three of my other bikes have tires around 37mm wide. I wanted variety. I wanted something wide. I could have gone the whole Fat Franks route, but I decided to give the Rubena Cityhoppers V99 a try. They are also wide and colorful like Fat Franks, and a little bit cheaper. The tire width measures 52mm (2.0") wide, 15mm wider than anything else I have.

Riding around town I quickly found the big advantage of fatter tires: shock absorption. The bumps didn't seem as bumpy anymore. In fact, I was actively seeking out bumps, potholes, what-have-you, testing out how these tires ride over them. This is in marked contrast to my normal riding style on my other bikes, where bump avoidance is the norm. As such, I've found that if I ride the Wayfarer after riding the M40 for a couple days, I need to consciously remember to change my approach to rough stuff.

And you can see where this is leading! Since I've been seeking out the bumps, I've been seeking out the dirt where I can in town. Alleys, unimproved roads, paths, what have you. The bike handles well. I've been having fun.

The biggest test so far was on Thursday during my Springwater-Elk Rock Island-Powell Butte adventure. Powell Butte is one of the few places in the city limits of Portland where one can legally mountain bike.** What better place to test out the M40? I rode up the Old Orchard Trail from the Springwater to the summit. There was quite a bit of climbing which caused heavy breathing, but I got most of the way to the top while in the saddle. (I had to stop for some joggers at one of the steepest sections, and this broke my rhythm.) I wanted to test the bike on a dirt descent, but I couldn't connect to the trail I wanted (Old Holgate) due to all the water tank construction. Maybe next time I'm out there I'll try it.

So far, so good. Looking forward to more dirt adventuring in the near future!

*Don't tell Jan Heine this!
**The lack of legal mountain bike spots in Portland really chafes the MTB community.


  1. *Don't worry,your secret's safe with me...I don't know Jan Heine anyways :p

    **LACK OF MTN BIKE SPOTS??? Oh my...I'd always fantasized about living in Portland,but that fact,may change that =/

    I'd never seen those tires before,I dig the looks of them. Where could one score a set,and will you be doing a longer term impression of them? I ask because as you probably know,my Xtracycle is a 2000 TREK mtn bike conversion-currently I'm running full-on knobbies (2.25"ers),but will most likely be swapping on some 2.15"er whitewalls-which still seem a bit knobby compared to true street treads,but those colors and your thoughts on them have me thinking about these-what colors they come in again?

    The Disabled Cyclist

    1. Two ideas:
      1)Leif Erickson Road goes for miles and miles and is a blast on balloon tires. Many good choices for bombing down to the 30.
      2)Unimproved roads of outer SE, if you exit the Springwater at SE 37th headed N and follow it along you get an idea of how much fun these can be on a mtb.

    2. DC, the Rubenas are available through the normal bike channels. I ordered them through my local bike shop. The Cityhoppers come in the colors pictured above, and there are two versions: a basic one and one with reflective sidewall and more puncture protection. I think they're about $20 for basic and $30 for puncture resistance/sidewall. (The black ones are a few bucks cheaper than the color ones.) I'll be riding the tires in the coming months, so I should have more to report soon.

    3. Anon 11:59am, I did think about riding Leif but ended up doing Springwater, as I wanted to test the riding capabilities on mostly pavement first before I switch to mostly un-pavement. And yep to those unimproved roads on the SE periphery. In fact, I used a bunch of them on the way home from this ride, in the dark, through the Woodstock neighborhood. Woodstock has the benefit (or detriment, depending on who you talk to) of having so many unpaved roads and alleys.

  2. anon: ha! i took 37th all the way from the springwater to NE liberty for my 37th birthday. you're right; it probably would have been better on a different bike. :)


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