Raleigh may have a proud British heritage, despite being sold to the Dutch, but the Sojourn has American ancestry. It's been available across the pond for some years now but it's taken a while to find its way here. Style-wise it takes a few cues from recent North American disc based touring machines with a touch of MTB in their DNA. Think Kona Sutra or Salsa Vaya but with a slightly less compact frame.
It's a very handsome bike: the retro paintjob is very pretty, the painted metal mudguards are stylish and the whole thing is topped with a Brooks B17 and matching Brooks leather bartape. That paintjob looks a bit brittle though, with big flakes missing around various bolts and fixtures.
At first glance it certainly looks like a smart bike that deserves a price-tag somewhere north of a grand. Look closer however and some of the components seem out of place. The disc brakes are BB5s, not the best in class BB7s. The shifters are Sora, not Tiagra. The rear mech is Alivio, not Deore, the tyres are cheap and heavy Vittoria Randonneur Crosses and the hubs are cheap as chips Shimano M435s. None of these components are truly bad but they are definitely not what you'd expect on a bike at this price. All of a sudden the expensive Brooks saddle and tape start to look like a bit of gloss designed to increase sales appeal to people who might not spot the cheaper bits underneath. Perhaps I'm being unkind here, but I'd much rather have a basic, no-name saddle if it meant having BB7s, a better mech and some nicer tyres. An experienced friend who used to work in the business thought it was an £800 bike, which seems closer to the spec than the £1100 list price.
All those budget parts mean that it's a hefty lump of a bike. According to the road.cc scales it's 14.5kg, on the heavy side for a tourer at this price. A lot of that is down to the wheels and tyres, which my scales say weigh a whopping 5.75kg on their own. The wide metal mudguards don't help either, they are beautiful, rattle free and easy to setup, but heavier than chromoplastic.
The biggest distinction between a 'classic' tourer and the Raleigh is, of course, the introduction of mechanical (as opposed to hydraulic) disc brakes. I've been riding BB7 discs on my Kona Dew Drop for a few years now and absolutely love them, so I'm definitely a fan. I find them more powerful and reliable than other brakes, which is just what you want when you've got 16kg of fully loaded tourer to stop. Sadly Raleigh have specced Avid BB5s on the Sojourn. Little brother to the mighty BB7s they are much harder to dial in, with just one dial on the inside calliper. That can make alterations (necessary with mechanical discs, which aren't self-centring, unlike hydraulic discs) more awkward as the only way to adjust the outer calliper is to fiddle with the cable. BB5s are definitely what you'd fit if you were building your bike to a very tight budget – but seeing as the price difference between them and the BB7s is about £27, and that's at full retail, it's an odd call on a £1100 flagship tourer. That said, they do work pretty well, so take my grumbling with as much salt as you feel necessary.
Shimano Sora takes care of shifting duties, mated to an Alivio rear mech. Gearing is a reasonable spread with a 30/34 bottom gear that should get you up most things, no matter how heavily laden.
For all my gripes about spec and price, the Sojourn does come fully loaded, with the mudguards and rack thrown in. The rack is a no-name item and only rated to 18kg which seems a little modest if you like a bigger load. It's okay though and the broad top gives a good platform for extra loading. The frame also has a few nice touring touches like a pump peg and spoke carrier complete with spare spokes. The rear wheel has 135mm mtb spacing, ideal if your hub explodes while on tour.
Throwing a leg over the bike for the first time produced further grumps. It felt slow, really slow, hardly surprising when you consider the weight of the wheels. After a few (hundred) miles it started to grow on me, the ride is very plushy and this is an extremely comfortable bike even if the handling is a little stodgy. As a test I swapped out the wheels with the ones on my Dew Drop. Lighter wheels and tyres (Conti Gatorskins) meant a slightly harsher ride, but much better rolling resistance and acceleration. As the tyres alone account for 1300g of the wheel weight I'd consider swapping them at point of purchase. Weirdly I found that it actually climbed better than any bike this heavy and slow has a right to, even on some vicious Devon chevrons. I'd guess that a combination of low gears and even lower expectations mean that chugging up a cliff at walking pace becomes normal and there's just no point trying to go faster. Consequently I'd just sit back, push against the weight and twiddle my way up in good order, rather than pushing hard and arriving as a sweaty heap having saved a few precious seconds.
In the end I did over 500 miles on the Sojourn. We never became best friends but it did get me up some pretty brutal hills and handled well when fully loaded (full disclosure: illness meant a planned mini-tour never happened, so I tested it with fully loaded panniers and a 100k audax). Although I wasn't sorry to see it go I didn't begrudge the time I spent on board. For what it's worth, I'm also testing the Surly Long Haul Disc Trucker and a Dawes Super Galaxy (reviews to come). Both have better kit and are lighter, faster and more fun to ride than the Sojourn, but they're also a tad more expensive. My money wouldn't go on the Raleigh but if you can cope with the various shortcomings (and a simple change of tyres would make a big difference) and can find it at a sensible price then the Sojourn is a nice bike and worth considering.
Smooth riding tourer but very heavy and modest spec for the money.
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Make and model: Raleigh Sojourn
Size tested: 55cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Material: Frame - Reynolds 631 butted CroMo Fork - 4130 CroMo fork with cast crown
Gender: Unisex Adult
Gearset: 27 speed Shimano gears - Sora 50/39/30T chainset with 11 - 34T HG50-9 cassette.
Brakeset: AVID BB5 disc brakes for road with Shimano 160mm centre lock rotors.
Wheelset: Freedom Ryder 23 Trekking double wall rims on Shimano M435 hubs with Vittoria Randonneur Cross 700C x 35c tyres.
Controls: Avenir 200 Series 31.8mm Short drop handlebar on Alloy ahead stem bar with gel tape on 3D Forged stem & 1 1/8" alloy A-headset.
Finishing Kit: Brooks B17 aged leather saddle on an alloy micro adjust seat post. Wellgo M21 Alloy pedals with leather straps. Full length steel colour matched mudguards.
Frame: Reynolds 631 butted chromoly touring frameset
Forks: 4130 chromoly touring fork with cast crown.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Oversized 631, so it's pretty heavy.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The front end is surprisingly aggressive for a touring bike, very low. I measured it at 93cm to the top of the bars, the same as the bars on my fast audax bike. The Dawes Super Galaxy is 98cm to the top of the bars and that's with another 5cm of upward adjustment in hand!
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The fat tyres and steel frame give a very smooth and comfortable ride, it's a proper armchair.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
No, you're always pushing against heavy, dead tyres.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Slow and reassuring, this is a tourer after all.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a bit of a barge, to be brutally honest.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I didn't rate the tyres but they do offer a smooth ride, albeit a slow one. I wouldn't bother with the Brooks bar tape, or if I did I'd fit padding underneath. It doesn't offer much cushioning at all. The front end could be a little higher, it's a little aggressive for a touring bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tyres and wheels. They blunt acceleration and dull the ride.
Better than you'd expect - just sit back and twiddle.
An £1100 bike deserves better.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano Sora works fine, so long as you get on with the thumb button (I do) but it's a budget option. The rear mech is even cheaper. Alivio, on a £1100 bike? Really? You'd expect to see a £20 mech on a budget hybrid, not a top of the range touring bike.
They go round, but very slowly
Very, very heavy.
Again, corners have been cut here I feel.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The wheels and tyres are the biggest let down on the bike. They're very heavy, I weighed them (inc tyres and cassette) at around 5.75kg for the pair. That's 1.25kg heavier than the wheels and tyres on my (much cheaper) Kona Dew Drop. The tyres offer a very comfy ride but they are a cheap option and weigh 650g each (manufacturers figures). The hubs are another of Shimano's ultra budget Alivio range (M435s) which is too cheap for a bike at this price. Word on the net is that they aren't that well sealed either. If I was buying this bike from a shop I'd be negotiating for a wheel and tyre swap before dropping any cash.
I like Sora.
Sora shifters last well, despite being less sexy than Tiagra and above.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I like Sora, not everyone does. The brake/gear lever does have a very long sweep, which makes fitting a bar bag even more of a problem than it already is.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
I can't help feel that Raleigh have tried to sprinkle a little Brooks fairy-dust on the Sojourn. Yes, the saddle and tape look classy and are very traditional, but fitting them means you get bog-standard cheapo bits elsewhere. I'd prefer a basic saddle, BB7s and some Deore.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, more than I expected.
Would you consider buying the bike? No - too expensive for the level of kit and too heavy overall.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? With a hefty discount, maybe.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
I enjoyed riding the Sojourn, but it's too heavy and too expensive to be a serious contender.
Age: 42 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....85kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides