I’m coming up to the end of my 100 day money back guarantee on my Thorn Raven Sport Tour, and I think it’s time to put my thoughts onto virtual paper.
I cannot claim any qualification to compare this bike to any other modern velocipede because I had such a long lay-off from cycling that the last time I rode, the mountain bike hadn’t been invented, much less the hybrid. I’ve owned a Brompton for a couple of years, I bought a Ridgeback Neutron (Shimano hub gear) because I couldn’t afford the Thorn, but then the funds appeared and, after some research, I took the plunge, safe in the knowledge that if the bike and I didn’t get on, there was Thorn’s famous guarantee I could fall back on if all else failed.
I took delivery of the beast on 22nd September and since then, I have covered 1188 miles on it. They haven’t been totally trouble-free miles: on the first Critical Mass I attended, I was having trouble with the seat pin slipping, and subsequently had similar problems with the carbon bars. Clearly, I had had to fit / adjust these myself and the problem arose because I was just too reticent with the allen key. I had read that carbon needed careful treatment, so a phone call to Bridgewater sorted me out: tighten up as much as you would for alloy bars/seatpost and any damage will be replaced under guarantee. Well, I did, and the seatpost problem was sorted out instantly. I think I have now got the bars where I want them as well, although this took a little longer.
Simon L3 had advised that a Thorn Raven was, first and foremost, for hauling heavy loads. Presumably the Sport Tour version was for hauling heavy loads a bit more quickly? If so, then that was exactly what I needed, because every time I get on a bike, I am hauling a heavy load. The luggage is extra to this.
Rogerzilla tells us that his is dull to ride. That may be so, but at 52 years old, arthritic and overweight, I am not bothered about twitchy, responsive frames. I am keen to reduce my bulk, and I think that it is no coincidence that I have lost at least a stone since riding the Thorn. I just love riding it. It is relatively effortless, it has loads of gears which some have considered superfluous in flat Essex, but I need them, it is a stiff frame, made out of Reynolds 853 conical tubing. I have managed my first Audax, I have had at least one other 70-mile plus ride and several over 60, and I have had absolutely no aches and pains as a result of riding. Neither have I had any saddle soreness, although that is probably more down to the fact that in the last 100 days I have also taken to wearing purpose-built cycling gear, combined with a Brooks saddle.
I suspect that the wide tyres slow me down a little, and indeed during a 40+ CC ride one of the other riders, possibly fed up with waiting for me at the top of every hill, commented towards the end of a ride that he thought I might go a little faster if my tyres were pumped up harder. I countered that the tyre concerned (Panaracer Pasela Tourguard) were pumped to the 65lb/sq in recommendation, but that it was purely a result of my enormous bulk that I am slow.
People have passed comment on the noise of the gears, especially in 7. Yes, they do make a churning, meshy mechanical noise, but it is not particularly obtrusive, and I have known many a freewheel on a derailleur-equipped machine which is far louder. I can’t say I have noticed the noise getting any less, but it doesn’t bother me at all. While riding alongside Vicky, she commented that she rather liked the noise. Most of the time, the noisiest part of the bike are the saddle springs in the Brooks Flier.
One thing I have noticed is that, in some gears, freewheeling is quieter than in others. Also, in at least one gear, the ratchety noise pulsates as though at certain stages of the wheel turn there is more going on that at other stages. My poor brain can’t get round this, so I put it down to some sort of highly complex sun-and-planet movement within the hub.
I have a Schmidt front hub with B & M Lumotec front light, and it is pretty good, but I haven’t noticed it being any better than the Shimano / Basta combination on the Ridgeback. However, that has not stopped me spending some Christmas money on Solidlights, such has been the enthusiasm amonst some ACFers.
I should make a comment about the main reason for me getting so much carbon: as an arthritis sufferer, I wanted the nearest thing I could get to an orthopaedic bike. Very wide grips on the bars, padded bar ends, you name it, I wanted it. I am not sure how much it has helped my arthritis, but I am pretty sure that my pins-&-needles are rather less on the Thorn than they are on the Ridgeback.
I definitely wanted straight bars as I also have a fairly long-standing back problem which has recurred once since riding the Thorn. There was one spacer left on the aheadset, so I bunged it in below the bars and now I think the riding position is pretty well perfect.
I am very satisfied with my bike. I was wondering if I had made the right decision, and whether a straight-barred Condor might have been as good, and of course until I have ridden one I will never know. However, I am covering more miles than I ever have before while suffering no ill effects which I can put down to cycling. I would be out riding it now except for the fact that my left shoulder is currently suffering a good deal of arthritic pain and I have been unable to shake off a really nasty cough & cold which has been affecting me for the past fortnight or so.
I have had one broken spoke, and the good people at Thorn sent me some spares and asked me to keep them informed of any other problems. I have been perfectly happy with the after-care service.
I shall be taking it to Derbyshire for the Hopey New Year ride on 6th January. I’ll let you know how I get on.