Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Raleigh Furley Review: First Impressions

Its been a few months since I sold off my Surly Pacer and bought this black beast so I felt it was time to share my first impressions of the bike in all its glorious single-speededness.  Originally, I made the choice to purchase this bike with the idea that someday it would make a good gravel grinder and a decent light-touring bike.  I thought about going with another Surly, such as the Crosscheck but I went for the disc brakes and the fact that I could actually sit on this one at my local shop.  It also had some cool features that made me lean towards the relatively unproven bike versus the venerable Crosscheck.

First off that list of cool features was the price.  I was able to pick up the Raleigh for a really reasonable price and would have paid substantially more for a Crosscheck.  I also liked the overall parts selection on the Furley as I wanted to try out singlespeeding right away.  Surly bikes are equiped with OK stuff, but the fit and finish of the stem, bars, grip tape, and saddle were a bit nicer on the Raleigh.  The disc brakes were also a big plus (more on that later) because living in Idaho, I plan on riding up and down some big hills, and I don't want to worry about brakes while I'm going downhill at 30+ mph. 

One of my favorite pictures taken of any of my bikes... I just like it :)
Riding the Furley is fun, period.  It rides predictably, stable but not sluggish, and can carve a corner pretty well.  I don't want to make this a review about singlespeeding, but I will say that riding a singlespeed bike is quite a bit harder, I work harder on the flats than usual, and the hills are no longer just minor blips on the ride radar.  For one thing, the bike is heavy, 26 pounds out of the box.  I won't say thats a bad thing because the reason this bike is so heavy are the reasons that I like it:  burly wheels, steel frame, and disc brakes.  I lightened it up by removing the cheater brake levers and replaced the stock saddle with a bit more performance one that suited me.  Hills definitely are more of a challenge and that has actually been kind of a good thing for now.  I will say, that I think this bike is one that would really shine with a wide gear range drivetrain like the Sram Apex group or a Shimano group with one of the new 10-speed mountain derailluers and cassettes.  It really is a great bike to ride a long distance, and I can see it going on some really long rides in the future in some very mountainous places.

Now for some negatives with the stock setup:
Flatlanders will find the stock gearing pretty slow if they are speedy.  I swapped the stock 18 tooth sprocket for a 16 tooth one just so I could ride my "normal" speeds without spinning wildly in the saddle to go 18 mph.  Another thing to mention is that the brakes.  They are finiky and sometimes impossible to get silient.  The stock Kenda tires are really heavy with wire beads and have terrible flat resistance.  I got a flat every ride with them on, and since I dislike slime for the most part, I went with some Specialized Armadillo tires to use for my pavement commute.  I'd like to get some Schwalble Marathon's for touring this summer, but that's another time and for now its just base miles for fun and relaxation from the daily grind of teaching 9th grade science. 

If you're debating getting a Furley, you should know that there are some negatives; however, if you're like me and value simplicity in a bike with some style and a bit of versitility thrown in, the Furley is one of the bikes on the short list to consider.  If you're like me and have a local shop that carries them, ride it and see if its for you.
"Mr. Furley," as I call him, all decked out with lights, fenders, and road tires to make commuting more enjoyable.  I've had very few flats with Armadillos, in fact, none in over a year of riding on the tires.  First on my Surly Pacer, and now on this bike.  No flats in Idaho with goatheads abound... that's a winner right there. 


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on this bike... I hope to pick one up once I can save enough spare change

  2. Its a fun bike. The brakes are a bit of an annoyance at first. Buy from a good shop.

  3. This review is spot on! Love this bike for all the same reasons. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one getting pings in the brakes. Be interested to know how you secured the front fender? I'm trying to install some now and noticed that the mount point for the left front stay is in front of and under the disk brake caliper!

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback, Stupid cheap brakes... I used a fender that has a plastic "break-away" eyelet on it a first, Planet Bike Cascadia's I believe. But then it caught on my toe and broke away (imagine that!). So I took the metal stay and bent it slightly to go around the brake caliper, it fits perfectly underneath.

  4. Just bought one of these. I will be using mainly for urban commuting, so I think I'll put on some smoother tires. Will check out the Armadillo's. I don't love the disc brakes so far... would have been ok with V-brakes but I know the discs will be better in rough weather.

  5. What type of fenders do you have on there now? Wondering if the fenders on ym current ride will transfer over.

  6. Got a Secialized Rockhopper a couple of years ago. Got a flat just about every ride. Fitted tire liners from REI, no more flats