In the Stable Part 2: 2009 Raleigh Sojourn

One of the many incarnations of this bike over the years... endurance adventure gravel grinder.

One of the many incarnations of this bike over the years... endurance adventure gravel grinder.

I bought this Raleigh Sojourn from my friend, Jessop Keene, while living in River Falls, Wisconsin back in 2013 or so. Jessop had a knack for touring (the stealth-camping kind), so I was initially confused about why he wanted to sell such a beautiful steel touring steed for a mere $450 or so. This thing was decked out with Brooks leather handlebar tape, a Brooks saddle, full fenders, a solid rack, Avid BB5 disk brakes, and Shimano Dura Ace bar-end shifters. Plus, the frame and fork had TONS of tire clearance (like, 45cm) and the 3x9 gearing was great for climbing under load. Basically, it was a bicycle tourist’s dream-come-true.

Looking back, I think the reason why Jessop didn’t want the bike was because he was also a hardcore road biker, and the weight & beefiness of the steel bike with all the accessories was not his cup of tea. A couple years later, in 2016, Jessop road cross-country from west coast to east coast in only a few short weeks, averaging something insane like 170 miles a day. He used a lightweight road bike with a teeny little seatpost-attaching rack, foregoing the usual panniers and oodles of gear typically used for trips like this (all he had was a small bivy sack and the most essential of belongings strapped to the top of the rack). His ultra-light setup made it doable, although I’m sure he still suffered at that pace. A heavy steel touring bike, like the Sojourn, would have made such a feat nearly impossible.

Anyway, I pretty quickly swapped out the Avid BB5 brakes for some BB7’s, undoubtedly the best mechanical disk calipers available. The main difference between the two models—and also between the BB7’s and just about everything else on the market—is that the BB7’s allow for fore-and-aft adjustment of both brake pads, not just the outboard pad. You can very quickly dial in (literally) the distance from pad to rotor with ease.

I also switched handlebars to some nice shallow-drop, non-ergo road bars. Instead of the stock semi-mustache, flaring drops that came on the bike from the factory, it had some nasty Nitto track drops on it… not sure whose idea those were.

When I moved to Honolulu, Hawai’i in 2014, this was the only bike I shipped.

Prepping the frame for shipping to Hawai'i

Prepping the frame for shipping to Hawai'i

More recently, I ditched the bar-end (aka bar-con) shifters and put on a pair of your typical integrated shifter/brake levers (STI, brifters, etc): Shimano Ultegra. I have been using this bike as a daily commuter (and sometimes as an adventure/gravel bike) and do not foresee using it for serious touring anytime soon, so this switch was a no-brainer. (Hint: bar-end shifters have a distinct advantage over fancy integrated levers for touring, in terms of surviving a bought of mechanical failure. The STI’s are very expensive and nearly impossible to fix if something went wrong out in the middle of Nowhere, USA, let alone Nowhere, Underdeveloped Country. In contrast, bar-ends are easy to repair with basic tools. However, they pale in comparison to the comfort, convenience, and efficiency of modern, STI-style levers.)

I also upgraded the shitty rear derailleur to a nice XTR (this thing has a long-cage mountain bike der on it to accommodate the large range of the cassette) and, while I was at it, replaced the entire crankset, chain, and cassette.

Shiny New drivetrain, freshly installed

Shiny New drivetrain, freshly installed

I almost forgot to mention that I wrecked the stock rear wheel—I was abusing it like it was a gravel/adventure bike and ripped some spoke nipples right out of the rim. So, I bought a brand new set of Shimano wheels with “centerlock” hubs. Thing is, I was too cheap to buy the centerlock rotors, so I bought adapters instead and reused the old 6-bolt rotors. Works fine.

After completing a recent century on this bike, I experienced a bought of weakness and numbness in my hands and fingers, especially on the right side. For days on end, I could barely pick up a pencil and write my name. I self-diagnosed it as destroying my ulnar nerve (in your wrist at the base of your thumb) from inadequate padding between it and my aluminum handlebars for 100+ miles of shitty roads. The culprit: that damned Brooks leather handlebar tape.

I loved that leather so much that I reused it over and over again for years, re-wrapping it and even supergluing it back together. The leather may look and feel sexy, but you may as well have a bare-naked, raw metal handlebar in terms of shock absorption. I picked up some cheapo black cork tape and couldn’t BELIEVE the padding I’d been missing out on through YEARS of riding this bike as my daily commuter, not to mention my primary road bike… and on relentlessly unforgiving O’ahu roads, to boot.

Anyway, I doubt anyone is going to read this long of a blog post about a 7-year-old steel 9-speed commuter, so this is THE END.