Raleigh Port Townsend Review
That the explosion of bespoke road and light touring bikes at handbuilt shows has caught the attention of the large bike companies comes as no surprise, with bikes like the Raleigh Port Townsend clearly taking design prompts from the well-attended shows. While show bikes are out of range for most consumers, the Port Townsend brings the cohesive look of show bikes to a more digestible $900 complete production build.
Meant as a serious commuter and dirt road explorer, the Port Townsend delivers out of the box. The round-tubed Reynolds 520 butted chromoly frame and drop crown curved blade fork are time tested designs, with geometry tuned for the long haul. The geometry is squarely between ‘cross and road, with the 72º head and 73º seat angles of a cross bike, but a road-like 65 mm of bb drop and a 50 mm fork offset for more stable handling. The 1053 mm wheelbase on the tested 59 cm bike frame is long and stable as compared to road and track bikes, but not as stretched out as a loaded touring bike, and while the top- and headtube measurements are the same a similarly sized road or ‘cross bike, the matching stock stem yields a more upright position with less saddle to bar drop. The small bits like hooded dropouts and a chain keeper show that cyclists that know their way around had their hands in this one. Finished off with metal fenders and small front rack, the Port Townsend appears more put together than many bikes twice its price.
Cantilever brakes paired with comfortable Campy-shaped Tektro levers do the stopping, and while the bike ships with 28 mm tires it has clearance for at least 35 mm tires with fenders for when you need more cushion. A Sora double 50/34 tooth front crankset and a 11-25 cassette provide real world gears, controlled by classic bar end shifters. For those used to integrated shift and brake levers, bar end shifters have a learning curve and require a more relaxed shift as hand moves back and forth between shifter and bar, but keep the cost down and are durable to a fault. The classic bend bars, faux-quill stem, toe clips with leather straps and riveted saddle match the aesthetic goal.
Over the course of the review there were a few all-day hauls blending road and trail, hitting sections of blacktop between long runs along gravel road or crushed limestone trail. It’s not an aggressive feeling bike by any means, but it does not feel sluggish like longer and more relaxed touring bikes. The Port Townsend is stable but not at the total cost of the ride—while certainly not a crit racer, the bike remains enjoyable to ride on short jaunts even if the real specialty of the bike is when the miles really start piling on. All day or across town, the Port Townsend is equipped for the ride. During the ride I wanted to take the long road home, after the ride I found myself planning out the next.
At 28 lbs the bike is a far call from lightweight, especially in light of the vast numbers of carbon road bikes more than 10 lbs lighter crowding the shop floor. While the front rack adds to the look and I did find it useful with a packed handlebar bag, you can lose it and 1.5 lbs along with. The metal fenders and mid-level parts also come with a weight penalty, but start changing out these things and you might as well look (and start saving) for a bike more like the one you want.
As an all-weather commuter I can’t think of anything save lights and a bottle cage I’d add to the spec, though if I could have two wishes I’d swap the 11-25 cassette for a wider range and spec it stock with larger volume 32 mm tires. Just a few more teeth on the cassette would make the end of the day hills that much easier, and larger tires the gravel more forgiving. Give me a third wish and I’d turn it into a third bottle mount and maybe even another pair of rear rack eyelets, but these aren’t deal breakers. The Raleigh Port Townsend is a wonderfully riding bike, enough so that the miles I turned made me question the worth of paying much more besides feeling better on the scale. For a similar build but with integrated shifters and caliper brakes check out the Raleigh Clubman for a couple of hundred dollars more. www.raleighusa.com