Raleigh Rush Hour Flatbar – On Test
Although I had seen Raleigh’s Rush Hour Flatbar online and on the tradeshow floor at Interbike, it wasn’t until I unpacked the box in my basement workshop that I really appreciated what a beautiful bike this is. Raleigh has obviously had an eye on the designs coming from the small builders at the Handmade Bicycle Show, and they’ve used that inspiration to create a modern classic that retails for just $820 complete.
The frame is TIG welded from Reynolds 520 butted chromoly steel tubing. Although it sounds exotic, Reynolds 520 is not one of the proprietary tubesets manufactured on Shaftmore Lane in Birmingham, England. It’s 4130 chromoly steel manufactured in Taiwan to the Reynolds standard. And as you might have guessed, the Rush Hour is not welded by a cheeky old bloke in Nottingham, but by a factory worker in China. That said, it’s definitely a high-quality frame, built to take all the abuse the average bike commuter can throw at it (and then some). The frame is drilled for brakes, but has no cable stops or bottle cage bosses. The track fork ends feature simple, but effective, integrated chain tensioners. The only drawbacks to this style of tensioner is that they use a small Allen key and have to be backed out to allow the wheel to come forward in the dropout to be removed. The benefit is they’re super clean looking and easy to adjust.
The straight blade fork is lugged chromoly steel, and looks every bit as sharp as the rest of the bike. Like the frame, it’s drilled for a brake and comfortably holds a 28c tire (but probably not much more). The frame and fork really take a back seat to the matching chromoly integrated handlebar and stem. The single-bolt stem is about 105mm with a negative rise that ends up pointing just a hair above 90°. The handlebar is 500mm wide (20″) and comes straight as an arrow—no sweep, no rise. At present the lack of sweep feels a bit awkward, but I’m hoping it will grow on me. If it were possible to get 5° or 10° of bend, though, I would take it.
Although the frame and fork are the heart and soul of the bike, the parts mix is what really sets the Rush Hour apart from the competition. The first thing most people notice are the 32-hole, baby blue Weinmann DP18 deep section rims. They’re definitely accentuated by the white Vittoria Randoneur tires. The wheels are completed with 14g stainless spokes, alloy nipples and unmarked, polished-aluminum, high-flange track hubs. The hubs feature 5mm Allen key bolts and no cutaways in the flanges.
To true bike aficionados, the Brooks Swift saddle gets just as much attention as the rims, if not more. There’s not much to be said about Brooks saddles that hasn’t been said before—they’re a saddle you have to “earn” by putting in some miles before it’s broken in and comfortable. They’re undoubtedly beautiful, and lend an air of sophistication to any bike. Here, the Swift is complimented by a set of lock-on grips with leather (or leather-esque) padding and matching straps on the toe clips.
The 165mm Sugino RD2 Messenger crankset is another touch of quality—the 46t chainring is remarkably round, which is something of a rarity on sub $1000 complete bikes. Another highlight is the blue anodized Cane Creek headset that matches the unbranded anodized blue seatpost collar. The pedals are a decent quality track model from Wellgo, and the nameless 27.2 seatpost has a machined finish that gives it a high-end look and feel. The bike ships with a pair of Tektro dual-pivot brakes and inline levers, which do the job admirably, as does the 1/8″ KMC chain.
The parts mix is so complete that I only changed one thing after the first ride—based on my local bike shop’s advice, I swapped the alloy lock ring for a steel Dura Ace model. One small nit to pick (or shall we call it one wish unfulfilled?) is that the bike didn’t come with a top tube protector. A small, simple leather one (like this) would be a classy way to keep the handlebar from damaging the top tube. As it works out, I chipped the paint on both sides of the top tube already, and while it’s barely noticeable, it’s kind of a bummer to mar such a pretty bike.
Stay tuned for updates on the Raleigh Rush Hour Flatbar down the road.
Visit www.raleighusa.com for more information.