A Proletariat Porker
As nice as it is to wish for the latest and greatest in the world of mountain bikes, not everyone has the expendable income to spring for that $9,000 carbon full-suspension bike, and will need to adjust their sights to a more attainable two-wheeled goal. Thankfully, in this day and age, buyers have to make a concerted effort to buy a truly “bad” bike, and even those with a more earthbound budget can get a whole lot of bicycle for a relatively small amount of money. This rings especially true with Raleigh’s new foray into the world of all things fat, the Rumson.
Raleigh has created a bike that won’t necessarily set hearts ablaze when reading the spec sheet, with its part selection being relatively utilitarian when compared to the gilded greatness of the SRAM Eagle and other high-end componentry in the marketplace. But as trite as it may sound (and feel to write), the Rumson is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Drivetrain duties are handled by the perfectly-respectable 2×10 SRAM X5 system, which may give up a couple milliseconds between shifts to its X0/X1 brethren, but never failed me in the field and always found the right gear, regardless of how click-happy the reviewer got. Cranks were provided by FSA–while again a no-frills option compared to featherweight options, a capable choice nonetheless as they did everything a crankset should do–hold pedals for your feet and spin when prompted.
One component that I was truly impressed by was TRP’s Spyke brake system, a mechanical brake option that provides a seriously-impressive level of braking power and modulation. In fact, while switching between my personal fat bike with its Avid BB7 brakes and the Raleigh, I would find myself over-braking with the Rumson, leading to some impressive endos on trail (which, naturally, I recovered from skillfully, though no photos exist proving this)–impressive for a heavier-set bike.
Which brings the review to the only true negative that I can discern from riding the Rumson. I’m by no means a weight weenie, with many of my bikes being heavier and more old-school than my peers, but even I have a point where I have to draw the line. I had my misgivings when lugging the boxed-up Raleigh to my second-floor apartment, wondering how much fun a two-wheeled lead weight was going to be. After channeling my inner Hercules to get the disassembled bike into my home and begin building it up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the frame is not only quite good-looking, but also a bit of a lightweight. “Where could all of this weight be coming from?” I wondered aloud while peering into the cardboard cavern, wondering if the folks at Raleigh were being cheeky and packed in a pile of bricks to make me break a sweat while moving the bike. Then I picked up the wheelset.
I have a theory that the wheels specced on the Rumson were used as mooring for ships in a past life; there’s really no delicate way to put this, but the wheels have taken the “fat” in “fat bike” all too literally. They’re heavy, upsettingly so, and they are truly the only real shortcoming in what is an otherwise great bike. Thankfully, there are loads of options these days to replace the unfortunately hefty hoops that Raleigh chose in what I can only imagine to be an attempt to keep the price of the Rumson so competitive.
Complete claimed weight of the Rumson is just under 36 pounds.
The real kicker for this shameful wheel selection is the 26 inches of non-descript off-brand rubber wrapped round them. The tires are of such poor quality that the manufacturer seemed to be to ashamed to even put their name on the sidewall–truly, there is no indication of where these tires came from or who made them, just a marking of 26 x 4.9 embossed on the side. Maybe the tires were going to be orphaned by an unloving manufacturer and Raleigh opted to save them from a tire fire in an altruistic move; though I have to wonder if the rubber wouldn’t do better providing fuel rather than traction, as there isn’t really much of the latter to speak of. (The website notes that these are CY tires.)
Tire-related diatribes aside, it’s honestly difficult to find fault with the Rumson. It’s truly a second-generation fat bike, with geometry designed more for a fun, flickable experience on trail rather than the long and upright geometry of past fat bikes. Just a few years back, fat bikes were designed more for cruising along well-groomed cross country ski trails and vast expanses of land, and while this current crop of bikes can still cover miles and miles of smooth terrain, frame designers have managed to borrow ideas from the rowdier mountain bike segments and incorporate them in to what I’ll affectionately dub “The Second Generation of Fat Bikes.”
Specifically, the Rumson sports a 69-degree head tube angle, 460mm chainstays, and a 620mm top tube length in the size large. For more geometry details, be sure to visit Raleigh’s website.
Light on its Fat Feet
Thanks to this cross-pollination of frame dimensions and angles, the Rumson is an absolute blast on technical downhill trails, which classically haven’t been a fat bike’s natural territory. When I first straddled the bike, I was amazed at how similar it felt to my personal hardtail, a Transition Trans Am, with a very short reach to the wide Raleigh-branded handlebars, which attach to the steeply-raked aluminum fork by way of a short stub of a stem. Had it not been for the 5 inches of rubber, one could easily be fooled into thinking that they were atop a true trail bike. Though still skeptical of the previously-mentioned tires, I was surprised at how much joy this monster truck of a bike stirred up when taken down some of the more technical trails in the Anchorage area.
The Rumson has an uncanny ability to elicit many a whoop and hoot from the rider, with its desire to surf around corners and lift its front at the slightest provocation. Was sliding around every switchback with a foot out in imitation of a motocross rider the fast way down the trail? Of course not, but Strava be damned–this bike wants to play! I almost felt derelict in my journalistic duties because more often than not, I didn’t have any sort of GPS tracking active while I was riding as the Rumson convinced me to silence my inner XC-race weenie and just shred for gnar’s sake.
In fact, in a truly surprising feat for the author, I rode without getting fully kitted in lycra on several occasions. The Rumson changes you and reinstates that joy you felt when you were a kid in the sandbox, running over all obstacles with a Tonka truck, just enjoying the carnage.
Sometimes, rowdy geometry and comfortable geometry are two mutually exclusive features, but Raleigh has managed to create a blend that not only is capable of railing berms, but also of being saddled up and ridden for the long haul. Over a long weekend, my fellow bike-loving Anchoraguans decided to ride out to the Juneau Lake cabin by way of the Resurrection Pass trail. This provided an excellent opportunity to load up the frame bags and see how a fully-laden fat bike would do on trail.
Loose and Loaded
Trail conditions held steadily at the “less-than ideal” mark, with deep, half-frozen ruts, ice flows, and half-frozen puddles being the key features for the ride. The challenging conditions and added weight from the weekend’s gear and rations did little to shake the Rumon’s stability. In fact, when powering through half-foot-deep pools of slush, I couldn’t help but feel that I was aboard a BMW GS1200 adventure motorcycle: once up to speed, there was little that could slow the Rumson, which ensured that a grin was planted on my face for the whole trip.
As enjoyable and predictable as the Raleigh was climbing up the steep trail to the Juneau Lake cabin, the best part of the trip was yet to come. Every good mountain biker appreciates going out for a rip downhill, but this historically has been left to those riding a skinnier-tired bike. Taking a fully-loaded fat bike downhill in sub-par conditions simply wouldn’t have been advisable a few years back but, thanks to the playful geometry of the Rumson, the trip down the mountain may be one of the more memorable cycling events I’ll have for quite some time.
Steering was uncharacteristically fast, with the bike being more than willing to change direction with even the most minute input from the rider. The chunky terrain provided the riders with an innumerable amount of extra credit booters and ramps, proving that, given enough encouragement and suspension of self-preservation, pigs can, in fact, fly. The Rumson took every jump with aplomb, returning to earth predictably over and over, with its wide footprint providing the cushiest of landings. By the time our group had made it to the trailhead, I couldn’t help but just laugh and babble on about what a blast it was putting the bike through its paces.
One thing that sticks out when reflecting on the Rumson is how little time I spent thinking about the specifications of the bike, its geometric details, componentry, or even its weight. All the details just seem to fade into the background, and all that I can focus on is how it reminds you how much fun you can have when you relax a bit and focus on getting silly on the trails. It makes even a jaded rider stop taking himself so seriously and convinces him to leave the heart rate monitor at home, turn off Strava, put on the crummiest flannel in their wardrobe, and go out for a rip. Take it from someone who religiously shaves their legs–that’s impressive.
Did I set any new records on my favorite trails? Absolutely not. Will the bike satisfy diehard gram counters and gear snobs? Nope. Does the Raleigh Rumson successfully combine flickable geometry, capable componentry, and wrap it all up in a surprisingly fun and irreverent package, all at a hard-to-believe price point? I certainly believe it does.