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You may still be asking “Who needs a gravel-specific bike?”
We’re seeing a massive shift to riding gravel here in the United States. As drivers become more distracted, the ever-present risk of dying at the hands of some 16-year-old’s has roadies like me looking for a safer alternative.
In the United States, at least 30% of the roads are unpaved. In my county, that percentage is much higher.
Gravel grinding opportunities are ubiquitous and offer excellent variety for the roadie. Sure, you’ll have a few more bike handling challenges, but the overall ride is very similar to what we are used to.
And it gives us a chance to see new places and explore routes that our road bike just couldn’t handle.
I have one friend who regularly takes his gravel bike through fields (where he has permission) and on fire roads.
Why Not Go With A Cyclocross Or Mountain Bike?
As gravel riding became more popular, cyclists would modify their existing bikes. A classic example would be a cyclocross that had enough room for a tire that was 40c wide.
Or you’d take a mountain bike and use the skinniest tires that you could.
A Gravel Grinder like the Tamland takes aspects of both. It has the clearance for wider wheels but might also bring in a lower bottom bracket and slacker, more comfortable geometry than a traditional cyclocross would use.
The Raleigh Tamland combines low gearing with a long wheelbase Reynolds 631 Cro-moly steel for what may be the smoothest dedicated gravel bike. Ideal for commuting, touring and exploring gravel roads, but is geared too low for racing.
The frames on these bikes are perfect for gravel grinding. You have more slack in the headtube and a lower bottom bracket.
When you are riding on unstable gravel, you want to get as low as you can. This lower center of gravity does a lot to increase that stability.
Your steering isn’t going to be as snappy as a cyclocross or road bike. But you don’t want snappy steering. You want comfort and stability.
The wheelbase seems to be one of the longer ones among gravel-specific bikes, which does a lot to help add to your confidence navigating sketchy sections.
Even with this longer wheelbase, you have the advantage of the comfort-oriented seat tube angle. Regardless your frame size you have a 72.5-degree or higher seat tube angle, which keeps your lower back rocked forward at a comfortable angle.
Anyone who has been riding for longer than ten years will love and respect Chromoly steel.
Sure, you have that added weight to contend with. But you also have the unmatched ride qualities of steel. It absorbs road vibrations so well.
On gravel riding, this becomes all that more important, and short of a titanium frame, I think you’ll have a hard time finding a more comfortable setup for all day riding.
Both the Tamland 1 and the Tamland 2 offer a carbon fork. Carbon is great for sucking up that road chatter (or chatter generated by a lack of road, in your case!)
Because the carbon fibers are interwoven on top of them in a lattice formation, the vibrations tend to get lost in the latticework and does a lot to save your hands.
The downside of Chromoly is the weight. This bike is heavy.
The upside is that you get a ride that is eerily smooth
One thing you will notice is that this bike has an abundance of grommets for mounting water bottles and frame racks.
Even the cables are routed on the underside of the frame to give you clearance for mounting frame bags with.
The front fork is drilled for fenders, but it is missing the mid-fork drill holes that would be needed to mount a front rack.
In the world of modernization where bike companies are competing on who can add the most “curves” to a bike frame, Raleigh stays true to their history with a more classic frame design.
This kind of style runs very close to the fixie tradition and is perfect for the commuter/ touring lifestyle.
Tamland 2 Review
Both of the Tamland versions are geared low. The good news is, you can climb any gravel hill with a full rack of camping gear.
The Tamland 1 runs the Sram system. Mostly built from the Sram Rival and Force lines, it is one of the fastest-shifting systems out there, in my opinion.
I see a lot of this 1×11 gearing where a single tooth is used on the front, and 11 gears are available to select from on the rear.
In theory, it makes sense. In most gearing systems, you have a lot of duplicate ratios. The 1×11 removes that overlap.
However, you are also limited by the gear in the front. So while this one can still get down to a nearly 1:1 gear ratio (1.1, to be exact), it is limited on the high end.
Which only matters if you plan on doing some road riding. Typically on these bikes, you will be on the lower end, anyhow. But I enjoy the option to go faster.
Bomb Proof Wheels
The thru-axles are something I love about these gravel bikes. Nothing says “I’m a badass bike” than swapping out puny quick-releases for bona fide axles.
With 15mm thru-axles, this one is beefier than a lot of the competitors offer. Diamondbacks’ Haanjo, for example, only uses a 12 mm axle.
160mm Disk Brakes
I just wanted to throw this in there since braking is important to me. TRP is very common on these types of bikes, and their Spyre system is a solid choice for mechanical braking.
Tamland 1 Review
Shimano 105 Shifting
You know as well as I do that the Shimano 105 shifting system is one of the best in the industry. I find these systems to shift well and be trouble-free.
The front Chainring is only a 34t and a 46t.
The 34t is good, but I wish it had that 50t on the front so you could access high-end road speeds on those moments when I’m cruising down asphalt.
There is no brand name on the front cranks. This is not typically a part I like to go cheap on. FSA is my bare minimum. And even though FSA is an “off-brand” they are a good brand.
The non-branded front crank isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it counts against this bike.
The wheels and braking look very similar to the Tamland 2. 160 mm mechanical rotors with Spyre dual-action brakes. You can’t go wrong with this setup.
Tamland 1 Vs 2? Which Should I get? (Spring 2017 specs)
I know the 2 is spec’d out to be a better bike, but for gravel riding, I feel like the differences are enormous.
On the Tamland 1, you have a no-name bottom bracket and crank.
And then you are planning on dragging those through some of the nastiest conditions we have invented in our civilized society.
If you honestly plan on riding this bike on gravel, I have a feeling you could easily make up any savings in part replacements and upgrades by the end of the first year on that front crank.
That said, the Tamland 1 does have a slightly wider range of gears and a higher gear ratio available for road cruising.
So, if you foresee yourself doing mostly gravel riding, then get the Tamland 2. But if you are going to mostly be commuting and just want the flexibility to grind with the buddies on the weekend, then get the Tamland 1
It’s pretty standard with a lifetime warranty on the frame and one year on the parts unless they are branded (i.e., Sram, Shimano). Then you’ll have that brand’s warranty (n my experience, that is typically one year).
You’ll have to work with your local authorized bike shop and have proof of purchase for warranty claims. You can read the full details, here.
I think that this bike is going to appeal to college students who dream of one day doing a cross country bike tour. It’s going to appeal to roadies who love steel frames and miss the “good old days.” It’s going to appeal to the dedicated commuter who wants to add fenders and have this be the last bike they ever have to buy.
And it is going to appeal to gravel riders who spend all day in the saddle.
But for someone who wants an all-around bike that can do road and gravel equally, and for the rider who values weight over comfort, this bike will be too slow, too heavy and too comfort-oriented to be a good choice.
But that is biking for you. Compromise.
Raleigh has demonstrated that they are equal to the best bike brands in the industry when it comes to keeping up with the times and offering what their client base wants.
I love it when a brand listens to their customers.