Raleigh Coasting review

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
By Yokota Fritz

Raleigh Coasting

About $450.
Steel frame, 700x35 tires.
Shimano Coasting group with 3-speed automatic shifting and coaster brake.
Perfect for casual riding, commuting.

Other resources

Photos from my Raleigh Coasting test ride.
Bicycling magazine on Shimano Coasting: No shifting, low maintenance, all fun.
Sheldon Brown's Interbike 2006 report includes his thoughts on Shimano Coasting.
Visit Raleigh USA for U.S. Dealer locations.
Raleigh Bicycles Blog.
Raleigh Commutes Blog.

I poked, prodded and rode Raleigh's new Coasting bicycle based on the Shimano Coasting group. With the Coasting project, Shimano and its bike industry partners worked to create a bike for the 160 million 'latent cyclists' in America who know how to ride a bike but do not. They're not interested in performance or the latest technology; they just want to ride a bike for fun.

While the Coasting offerings from Trek and Giant are cruisers appropriate for the bike path with big 26 inch tires, Raleigh took their inspiration from the old English three-speeds like the classic Raleigh Superbe to create a hybrid city bike with 700c wheels, a steel frame with a fairly lively geometry, and a practical front rack (complete with bottle opener) for carrying stuff.

Other nice details on Raleigh's Coasting bicycle are a retro leather saddle with big coil spring, the Coasting chain (and wow! what a chain it is), leather grips on the swept-back handlebar, and attractive shimmery paint job. The other Coasting offerings invite the rider to wear flip flops and sun hats; the Raleigh bike has a more refined, casual yet civilized look and feel.

Minor problems

My sample bike did not shift properly on my test ride; we figured out this was due to a problem with assembly. Because bike shop mechanics may not be familiar with the Coasting mechanism you will want to check for proper operation.

Raleigh Coasting: Coffee ride

Sheldon Brown is famously skeptical of the Coasting experiment, calling Coasting “a wrong-headed exercise in form over function.” Coasting adds mechanical complexity to simplify the actual bike-riding experience. Sheldon, though, prefers the ability to quickly get at the mechanical bits so riders can fix them. “Making the bike look simple is not the same as making it be simple. The hubcaps over the wheels cover up the stuff you need to get at to fix a flat tire.”

Sheldon Brown also objects to the missing front brake, which he considers to be a safety flaw. I'm personally not a big fan of coaster brakes either, but I think this may be because I'm not accustomed to them. Positioning the pedals after you stop, for example, is difficult with coaster brakes. I suspect the target market for this bike won't care about the lack of front brakes. Front brakes are required for bicycles in the UK.

Because of the automatic three-speed shifter and coaster brake, no cables clutter up the lovely clean lines of this bike. The hub caps and special fork ends may make it a little more difficult to fix a flat, but Raleigh has equipped the Coasting with flat-resistant Kenda tires.

When I noted the lack of a fender to Raleigh marketing coordinator Carey Schleicher-Haselhorst, she explained that they considered fenders but kept them off due to pricing. “We wanted to keep this bike at a certain price point that would be appealing to that first time rider and unfortunately adding a set of fenders was going to pop the bike into a different price bracket. We put the money into the specific coasting chain, the chain guard with the window, the rack, 700c wheels, the grips and seat and frame silhouette,” Carey told me.

Riding the Raleigh Coasting

Some fat-saddle hybrid bicycles are so overbuilt that they really impact the ride. The Raleigh Coasting bicycle, though, feels just like a bicycle is supposed to feel. I didn't expend a lot of energy pushing past unnecessary bulk. The wide leather saddle with its coil springs very effectively smoothed the ride without getting in the way of my pedaling. The steel frame, traditional geometry, moderate fork rake and Shimano Coasting components quietly and efficiently transfer power to the wheels while giving a responsive yet comfortable ride.

Coasting is perfect for neighborhood trips to the coffee shop, but the Raleigh also is a nice commuter bike. This bike is built well enough for the occasional charity ride.

While bike shop revenues were up last year, actual unit sales are down. The National Sporting Good Association recently announced that cycling for recreation plummeted in 2006, falling behind bowling – bowling! -- in popularity. Shimano and their builder partners have put a lot of energy into Coasting in the hopes of growing the bike market pie. In spite of the slight shortcomings I mention above, overall I think this bike is a winner. Raleigh did an excellent job of designing an attractive city bike that I think will appeal to non-cyclists.

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A bottle opener but no fenders? How many times have I been out on my bike in the Seattle area -- 155 days of rain/year -- and said, "Man, if I just had a bottle opener!" I think I'd opt for fenders, but I'm not their target audience.
I *am* quite accustomed to coaster brakes - I usually get a thousand miles or so on my Schwinn Racer - they're still a nuisance. The drum brakes on my Gazelle (and now the Xtra) are much sweeter and simpler to deal with.
I do think this is misguided marketing by people who don't "get" cycling. Did the folks who dreamed this up get out and ride ... more than once?
I saw the cute little presentation the Trek prez gave in Taipei. Had to wonder; he gets on a soapbox about getting the bike companies to invest more into advocacy (hooray! great idea!) ... and cites all kinds of practical cycling evidence (that we should have more folks riding to work, etc) ... but then look on the Trek site for evidence that they're promoting that... where's my magifying class?
Oh, and I forget who made the point that people dont' say "I would ride my bike but I don't understand gears." They say "I'd ride my bike but an SUV will cream me." (Then they get in their SUV and ...)
On a national scale, Trek gives a big chunk of change to Bikes Belong, which is the industry trade group. I've read also about some significant things they're doing in Madison, WI, leading and paying for a lot of the effort that's needed to be recognized as a LAB "Bicycle Friendly Community."

Trek execs have also managed to get their neighbors at Pacific Cycles involved in advocacy, which I think is a pretty big win.

I thought the fenders were a pretty big drawback too at first, but then if you think about the target market of "latent cyclists," they're not going to be out riding in the rain.
To uncork the latent cyclists will require non-bike related issues to be addressed... a coaster can never replace road safety. As long as parking is virtually free and abundant, no amount of simplification features will be sufficient. However gas at $10/gallon would may help simplify certain decisions...

Funny how I keep seeing exactly that comment about gas prices... except that the tipping price keeps getting higher. Once it was two bucks a gallon that would get people on their bikes; then three, then five... as long as it's gradual, I don't think prices will do it for most folks.
The right rah-rah "Do it for the red white and blue," I think, could do it.
Gas prices are one of the key ingredients in deciding how we live. We have embedded the cost of fuel into virtually every product. Trouble is fuel prices are still too low and now just approaching the prices paid over 30 years ago.

From an individual's perspective, when they reach a level that when filling up the SUV every month is more than the mortgage payment, much will change. Either Iraq is the 51st state or most SUVs will be sitting in back yards as a club house for the kiddies.

What's funny is how over 30 years ago, President Carter (as did his predecessors) said this over-dependence was a serious problem that needed swift and effective governmental action. This national security issue has yet to be addressed.

Oops, correction: successors v. predecessors.

Thanks for the tip to the speech. The issue of whether the TREK web site should also be used as the source of advocacy is debatable. He probably feels the need to build critical mass first before too many resources of the company are used to support others.

Anyway, as the president of TREK explains, advocacy has been overlooked and underfunded for too long. Without a friendly road environment, no manner of bike reconfiguration will be sufficient to increase bike use. The potential benefits to society are enormous.... I agree.

Good speech:

I met sheldon at Interbike. We were having a "private party" in our booth and one of my co-workers didn't know who he was and kicked him out. It was hilarious.
I can imagine. I've crashed a couple of private parties at trade shows. I'd love to hear the details some time.
Does anyone know where can I get one of those nifty front mini-racks without having to buy the Raleigh Coasting attached to it?
Okay peeps, this bike is designed for me and people like me that could care less about a 1600 dollar bike, and would rather not walk around in bike shorts and those ridiculous bike shoes that go clickety clack in starbucks. Reading your posts makes me realize that the previous opinion I had about CYCLISTS and their superior demeanor was actually alittle kind. I'll buy this bike, sit on my porch with a PBR, throwing pinecones at all you "real" bicyclists. And I'm stoked about the bottle opener.
Well, I know how to ride a coaster bike since that is what I grew up with. I am researching which kind to buy and am excited about reading about the raleigh...my first 5-speed was a raleigh that I paid $126 for wayyyyy back in the 70's. I never quite got the hang of handle brakes and can't wait to get back to a 'real' bike!
I bought a Schwinn cruiser style thing with Coasting. It's really nice and all my friends love it. The shifts are really smooth.. there's a little bzzt and suddenly you're pedaling slower. It's really great for cities and places with stop and go. I'm kind of worried about the coaster brake wearing out.. I don't know much about them, but I do know that a mechanism 1cm thick and maybe 6cm in diameter isn't much when it comes to slowing 100kg down from 40km/h. It gets hot fast and takes a long time to cool off.

Added bonus: you can easily wire a flashlight or something to the dynamo, just for fun :)

I've gone for a few long, hard rides and it has served me well, although I wish 3rd gear was higher. I would change the cog but I'm a bit of a purist XD

Oh, and the ride on mine is jittery and stiff due to ridiculously high tire pressures and no frame flex or anything. The springs in my seat haven't softened up yet.

I'd recommend it though.
I don't know who they were marketing the bike to but its like it was made for me. due to an accident I was in I have little to no use of my left hand/arm so I had to ride a beach cruiser all the time try to keep up with a family on modern bikes .I need to ride in an upright position and it was hard for me to use hand brakes and feel safe so the coaster brakes are great and to have some gears to help keep up is great also. it is nice to ride again feeling more safe.
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