Excited about the new Rawlands rSogn

Size M/L rSogn. Photo borrowed from the Rawland Cycles blog.

I was going to wait until the bike was finalized to post this, but I think it is getting close enough. You can read all about the planned rSogn on the Rawland Cycles Blog.

Rawland Cycles is updating the Sogn. The Sogn was already a nice bike, but the revisions are just going to make it better. The new bike will have the same tire clearance (58mm knobbies fit) and offroad friendly sloping top tube of the original, but gets lighter tubing and a geometry that is friendly to front loads while still working well unloaded offroad.

This almost makes it a mass produced variation of Gifford, the bicycle that I built in my basement and posted about in painful detail on this blog.  The tubing specs are the same.  The geometry is basically the same.  The construction methods and some details (fork bend, bottom bracket style, braze-ons) are different.

I’ve spent far too much time thinking about this style of bicycle. I don’t have a good name for it, but let’s call it a Rough Stuff bike. It is great on pavement with fenders and a commuting or light touring load. It is great on dirt roads. It is good on singletrack. It is the Subaru WRX of bikes: doesn’t look like anything special, but performs well on pavement and on dirt, and at the end of the day it can carry your groceries home too.  I’ve built 7 of them using a variety of frames in the last decade, and Gifford is the best of them by far.

Sean (the owner of Rawland Cycles) is running the design process well.  I was worried at first that this bike could end up with the “design by committee” failing of some other projects.  That usually produces a mess, where the final bike doesn’t follow any single vision and tries to make everyone happy.  Sean is being good at both listening to input and making tweaks here and there, but keeping his vision of what he wants to build and making sure that the bike meets his vision of how it should be ridden.  He’s had to make some decisions that might cost him a sale or two (cantilever brakes instead of disk brakes), but I think that is better than putting on mounts for both.  The Simpsons had a classic episode about this problem, where Homer ended up building this:

"The Homer".  A nightmare of designed by committee, even though in this case the committee was just Homer.  Photo borrowed from Wikipedia.

$500 (introductory price) is very nice for the frame and fork.  I’m probably buying one, even though it goes against my current plan of getting rid of bikes (at the moment I’m being too effective at that, I only have 2 rideable singles…Gifford and my MTB).

Disclaimer: I’ve been emailing Sean and providing my input on the bike, but get no kickback for this posting or my input.  I just want to see him sell a bunch of them because it is going to be a great bike.


  1. Mark Roland says:

    I”ve been participating in the rSogn design by committee as well. I was also thinking “too many cooks” but as you point out, Sean is doing a great job. It also helps that someone like yourself, with lots of valuable hands-on experience, is involved and is having a real influence. Because I don”t have that experience with this type of bicycle, but definitely want to try one, it gives me confidence that the finished product will be a good one.

    A couple of questions. One of the design goals for this bicycle is to make it lighter than the previous edition. Being unfamiliar with what the numbers of the various tubesets represent, maybe you could help clarify. Originally planning to use 7/4/7 oversize, after input (and I have to think yours was critical here) he has decided on 9/6/9 standard. I realize “lightweight” is all in context, but how does this tubing compare to: the original dSogn; the current production Boulder All-Road (not the custom, or earlier prototypes, which I understand used 7/4/7 standard); some of the other inexpensive 650B frames from QBP. Is this tubeset comparable to a standard 531 frame? My 4130 Nishiki? I”m not concerned with specific weight per se, but from the Bicycle Quarterly reviews and feedback I”ve seen on the iBob list, the tubeset definitely makes a difference. Although I like the “rough stuff” capabilities, I don”t want to sacrifice much road performance, since realistically that is where I currently do the majority of my riding. Of course the All-Road is $700 more, so if performance will be close…

    Also, though I”ve said standover is over-rated, the standover heights on the rSogn (ML-which fits very well everywhere else) seem a bit high for a sloped tt bike–slightly higher at the midpoint than my 58c-c Nishiki with 32 Paselas. Especially if the bike is designed for light off road. I was puzzled that bringing the tt down on the ht 10mm actually raised the SO height, but I believe that was an inconsistency in the tire size Sean was basing it on. Still, maybe it should go a bit lower on the seat tube? Alex, what is the standover on the Gifford with the Quasi Motos, and what is your ht/inseam/saddle ht? Sorry to be so verbose. Thanks for all your input on this!

  2. Mark Roland says:

    I guess I”m wondering why the Snekka is getting 8/5/8 if that’’s an all-purpose gravel rider, too. Is it just for the Neo-Motos? Because from the comments, it doesn”t seem like people will be spending much time with those on the bike.

  3. Sean says:

    Hi Mark,

    Great questions. I wanted to offer some background information before Alex responds to your questions. I had thought of exactly the same after going with 8/5/8 standard for the Snekka. However, like you suggested, the Neo Moto was also behind the decision on 9/6/9 standard. In a similar vein, I reconfigured the geometry which was initially based on the Quasi Moto as the maximum tire size. That changed to the Neo Moto when we made a pragmatic decision to keep the Pacenti MTB crown. As far as sloping, I did not want the rSogn to look out of place when running on the Hetre and the Pari Moto. Back to tubing, we might want to take another look at this so as to determine whether or not 8/5/8 is feasible with the Neo Moto.


  4. Alex Wetmore says:

    9/6/9 standard diameter (meaning 25.4mm top tube, 28.6mm downtube) is very similar to most 531 tubesets. Columbus SL is another well known steel tubeset with these dimensions.

    I don”t know the what tubing was used in the original Sogn, but I”d guess that it is 9/6/9 oversized (28.6mm top tube, 31.8mm downtube). That 1/8″ larger size increases stiffness on the tubing by a whole lot. So much so that a 7/4/7 tube (despite having 33% less metal for most of the tube) has the same stiffness in 7/4/7 oversized as 9/6/9 standard.

    For a bike that is being ridden offroad it makes sense to use a bit thicker tubing which is better able to handle dents and that is less fragile. That is why I was recommending 9/6/9 standard instead of 7/4/7 oversized early on.

    I think that 8/5/8 standard is another good option, but if I were specing this bike (not as a custom, but as a production bike with many potential riders) I”d use 9/6/9 just to get a little more robustness. The interest in planing has many builders and riders pursuing the lightest and most flexible possible tubeset for a given situation. I think that is reasonable to do on a custom bike, but it makes less sense on a mass produced bike where you don”t know the riders weight and how the bike will be ridden. At the other end of the spectrum it is sad to see that most mass produced bikes area heavily overbuilt these days. 9/6/9 standard has proven itself as a reliable option that rides well.

    Surly frames (I assume that is what you meant by QBP) usually use very stiff and beefy tubesets. The Pacer uses 9/6/9 oversized, and I think the Cross Check does as well. The LHT has a double oversized top tube. You can find the tubing specs if you search around…Surly doesn”t publish them on their website, but has made them available through email.

  5. Mark Roland says:

    Hi Sean, Alex,

    Sorry to have split this conversation off a bit, but I”ll post a similar comment over on Sean’’s blog. A couple of things–one, I feel like I”m learning a lot. Two, I know how dangerous people with newfound knowledge that is not yet correlated with their real world experiences can be! But…I wonder in this instance if the 9/6/9 is not leaning toward overbuilt for the “lighter, stripped down Sogn” (I paraphrase.) I understand Alex’’s point about a wide variety of riders on a production frame but a.this is actually a “limited” production, comparatively speaking, b. with the frame tubing specs published, true clydesdales (and how many are there, and in this niche) can go for an overbuilt QBP frame. As far as a ding or a dent, I”d rather get one (never have yet) and have a bike that’’s more responsive every time I ride it. The Large could be a 9/6/9.

    Another possibility: After I wrote the comment above, my BQ came in the mail with the 650B MAP review. Jan seems to have come to the conclusion that the top tube thickness is most critical. Maybe the bikes could be spec”d with an 8/5/8 tt.

    Finally, while it would be cool to have the Neo-Motos, that kind of turns it into a mountain bike, not an all-rounder.

  6. Mark Roland says:

    P.S. And with all the guys who follow iBob and BQ looking for lighter and planing, a lot of them may not want to take the plunge with a 650B custom. There’’s your customer–go even yet another step further and differentiate the rSogn from the overbuilt bikes, while still creating a true and capable all rounder.

  7. Alex Wetmore says:

    9/6/9 standard is not overbuilt. This is similar to the tubing used in almost every race bike made from the 60s through the early 90s. It is lighter tubing than most sizes of the Bridgestone RB-1 during the RB-1 last years (when they used oversized top tubes). The tubing will be about 50% more flexible than what came on the original Sogn (if that bike was made with 9/6/9 oversized…just a guess).

    I think that a lighter frame with a low trail geometry is likely to have shimmy for too many riders.

    I had a 7/4/7 standard bike built for this sort of riding and it rode very nicely, but my 9/6/9 Gifford rides just as nicely for me and is much less likely to break (the other one did).

  8. Mark Roland says:

    I was suggesting 8/5/8. Do you think it’’s a possible tradeoff in losing a slight amount of robustness but gaining a bit of liveliness?

  9. Jimmy Livengood says:

    I wish I knew what my Novara Ranonnneur tubing specs are. It’’s “standard” (28.6 down and seat tube, 25.4 top tube), and rides fantastically as a gravel pounder/rigid 29er-lite/cx bike. At the seat post the tube is .9mm wall thickness, so that gives a clue. I really appreciates Seans combination of openness and decisiveness in this process, it’’s been nicely done.

    I have lighter-weight standard tubed Trek (1984 model 760). I believe it’’s 7/5/7 according to the catalog. It’’s a different animal all together, but I can”t imagine that tubeset surviving for long under me in rough-road/light singletrack situations.

    After seeing Alex’’s Gifford in action, I”m sorely tempted to drop a deposit on the rSogn. Naturally the Singular Peregrine has just gone on sale, and I really can”t afford either (not to mention I just acquired a dSogn), but I”ll have to try and make room.

  10. Mark Roland says:

    @Jimmy–Not only can I not justify the cost, I have too many bikes. I plan to sell a couple (which ones?!) and send Sean a deposit. This is an excellent opportunity to try this wheel size on a well-designed, affordable frame. The bike probably has a wider range of tire size capabilities than I would pick, but hey–it’’s not a custom. Though in some ways it almost feels like it thanks to Sean’’s generosity.

    I don”t have as much experience with rough stuff riding as some guys, but I wonder about frame breakage being a big problem. Obviously with super light tubing you start running a higher risk. I recall reading that some of the MB 0 frames had problems. But even there, could it be largely a matter of quality control? Lighter tubes take more skill to join properly.

    Anyway, I don”t think the 8/5/8 falls into fragile territory. I”m also not sure why the Neo Motos would be the deciding factor–wouldn”t such wide low pressure rubber actually help protect the frame from severe hits? Or is it just that the nature of the tire would be encouraging people to jump off rocks or whatever?

    It’’s all good, I”m in at this point, regardless of tubeset.

  11. Alex Wetmore says:

    9/6/9 with a 28.6mm downtube is already lighter tubing than would have come with a production mountain bike and is lighter than most cyclocross bikes (production or custom).

    8/5/8 for this kind of use should probably be heat treated, which should push the price up a bit (wholesale pricing on the US for a heat treated downtube and top tube, everything else being equal, would raise the price by around $40-$50). Heat treated tubing is also more brittle, which is where denting becomes more of a concern. No one plans on denting bikes, and a lot of these bikes probably won”t be dented, but dents do happen.

    9/6/9 just gives the bike a lot more flexibility in how it can be used than 8/5/8. It can be a randoneeuring bike, a rough stuff bike, a front-biased touring bike, a commuter. 8/5/8 is more likely to shimmy for some riders, probably won”t work well for touring, and is borderline for rough stuff. The other two options listed above (randoneeuring bike and commuter) are markets that are already well served by other companies. The rSogn is unique for being a low trail, lightweight bike which can fit wider tires and be ridden comfortably on rough dirt roads and easy singletrack.

    I do believe that planing exists, but I worry that everyone feels the need to go with the lightest possible tubing just because that is what planes for Jan and Mark. Jan and Mark have a leaner build than most recreational cyclists. I know from the Bike Quarterly 3-bike tests that I couldn”t reliably tell the difference between 7/4/7 standard, 7/4/7 oversized, and 9/6/9 standard. I do believe that I can tell the difference between 9/6/9 standard and 9/6/9 oversized (all of my 9/6/9 oversized bikes have been turds). Jan is the first one to say that the planing tests show that planing exists (for at least some riders), but that we can”t predict which tubes will plane for which riders.

    These three dealer catalog pages from the 1993 RB-1 give us good insight into the tubing that Grant thought was appropriate…on a racing bike. Note that it is all thicker than what we are talking about for the rSogn:

    53cm and smaller RB-1 got 8/5/8. 54.5-57.5 RB-1 got 9/6/9. 59cm and 62cm got 10/7/10 for some tubes.

    I like 8/5/8 tubing, I just don”t think that this bike is the right place to use it. I did have my new randonneuring/commuting bike built with Kaisei 019E (8/5/8), but that bike won”t be ridden in these kinds of conditions.

  12. Jimmy Livengood says:

    @ Mark

    My Novara Randonee (not randonneur, I mis-typed earlier) has been awesome. It’’s an older (90s?) welded frame. I”m at 215lbs, and with 42mm micro-knobbies I”ve been on lots of mountain bike trails, cyclocross, grocery shopping, whatever.

    I”ll sort of echo what Alex says about tubing, though I haven”t been in any controlled tests, but my experience says that my 7/5/7 bike would be too noodly for the way I ride dirt. My Novara is about perfect(standard tubing of unknown butting). My Traitor Ruben, which I otherwise love, is just dead(OS tubing, probably thick). Not sure how to describe it, but when I”m tired and going uphill and put in a bit more effort, it just sits there and soaks it up with no discernable increase in speed, almost fighting me. The Randonee and my 7/5/7 bike have always felt eager, even when I”m tired, to reward my pedal efforts with a bit of speed. Completely unscientific, but consistent through all types of loads and terrain and weather and body position and component changes, each bike always behaves about the same.

    This is part of why I”m excited about the new rSogn, and why I was really hoping the Snekka would be disc compatible.

    I”ve got a dSogn now, but don”t have much saddle time on it so I”ll have to see if it’’s better than the Traitor.

  13. Mark Roland says:

    While I still think the 8/5/8 is more in keeping with the “lightweight streamlined” concept of the rSogn (and would love to see the bike 1/2 pd lighter) and am not convinced that the old Bridgestones could not have been safely spec”d with 8/5/8 even in larger sizes, I defer to the greater real-world experience of Alex in the matter of tube selection. Though as one final aside, I”ll say falling into a pothole on a Pari Moto is more likely to do damage than running over some wash or tree roots or stones on a Neo Moto. If you take the logic too far, you end up with all bikes at 10/7/10.

  14. Jim G says:

    Alex, did you notice that Sean mentioned the possibility of a version of the rSogn in titanium?!? That”d be the ultimate mixter bike IMO — something you can ride hard and put away wet! What’’s your take on Ti tubing for this bike?

  15. Alex Wetmore says:

    I hadn”t seen that, I have been behind on reading blogs. That is pretty exciting, I”d probably have to consider that option.

  16. Travis says:

    These are the Surly LHT tubing specs it is way overbuilt and probably the stiffest bike I have owned.

    Tubing specifications:
    • TT: 31.8 mm (0.8 x 0.5 x 0.8 mm)
    • DT: 31.8 mm (0.9 x 0.6 x 0.9 mm)
    • ST: 29.8 tapering to 28.6 mm at BB (1.2 x 0.6 x 0.9 mm)
    • Stays: Straight gauge (0.9 mm)
    • Fork blades: 1.1 tapering to 1.4 mm

  17. Greg B. says:

    Thanks for posting about the rSogn. I am considering purchasing one, but I was wondering how my position on the bike should differ from my road bike set up. I have a custom Hirose. This bike rides beautifully, but I wouldn”t feel comfortable riding it off-road. In Japan, many of the cyclist have explored the local mountains on ”pass hunters”. The reason I am interested in the rSogn is that I am trying to build just that. I rebuilt my Alan cyclo-cross bike with this in mind, but I learned the hard way that the frame will only accept a 30mm tire in the back. So, I was wondering when people build up a ”rough stuff” bike, how they have altered their position on the bike compared to their road bike?

  18. Anon, If You Please says:

    Hello Alex,

    I figure you more than anyone might be able to answer this question: for one trying to choose between a NOS Kogswell P/R and a rSogn how would you choose? By how, I”m thinking what criteria to consider to be able to select one of these over the other?

    I”m guessing *which* would you choose is kind of loaded, but if you feel you can answer that, by all means please do.

    Thanks very much. (I”ve been wrestling with this ever since I saw you mention the rSogn. I have two days left to decide, and figured I should just ask for a little help. :-) If it helps, I can offer I”m about 130lbs and not particularly powerful, though feel I make up for it with exceptional aerobic capacity. I”ll use this mostly for commuting here in Portland, but hope to get in the occasional “rough stuff” ride. I have an ”87 Miyata sport-tourer I”m reasonably happy with wrt planing but would like something a bit more… spry.)

    Again I really appreciate the effort if you have the time to consider this. If not, no problem; I understand you”re always busy with something. ;-)

  19. Alex Wetmore says:

    Mark –

    If your goal is to fit wide tires and do some “rough stuff” type riding then I”d go with the rSogn. Portland is a great location to be in for that kind of riding, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is practically next door and offers miles of great riding.

    If you want to use it just as a commuter/porteur and think you might be carrying heavier loads then the P/R begins to make more sense. That is doubly true if you want a more traditional look with a close to level top tube.

    However you mentioned wanting something spry, and that leans back towards the rSogn. None of the P/Rs, even the ones made with the lightest tubing, would be considered spry.

    The P/R is a great bike, and the rSogn looks like it”ll be a great bike too.

  20. Anon, If You Please says:

    Thanks Alex. That was helpful. Makes me think I the rSogn is what I really want. Always the dilemma, choosing between two great bikes.

  21. Alex Wetmore says:

    The biggest difference is that the rSogn fits 60mm wide knobby tires, or 50mm tires with fenders. The P/R was limited to 40mm tires with fenders, and couldn”t fit the 50mm 650B knobbies that are on the market.

    The rSogn also has a greater slope in the sloping top tube, which gets the bars higher without the long unsupported head tube of the P/R.

    The P/R frames were generally overbuilt, except for the gen2 models which shimmied for some users. The cause of that shimmy was never determined. I had suggested frame tubing options to Rawlands which were in line with bikes that had worked well for myself and other friends. Sean appears to be interested in planing, so the tubing spec is pretty light in hopes that it will plane for more users.

  22. Brian says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughts Alex. I really enjoy hearing about what you have to say about bikes (and other stuff). It sounds like Rawlands has taken the P/R idea in an all-road (RS) kind of direction, with (if it happens) Longleaf trying to optimize for urban (P) or long distance riding (R) specifically.

    My dilemma is that I love my gen2 P/R (set up in flat bar P mode) so much that that my skinny tire fast bike and MTB have languished. I”d like to pare my list of bikes by at least one, and I”ve considered getting a second cockpit/rack/fork for the P/R to be able to quickly switch between P and R modes, thereby eliminating the need for the skinny tire bike. But the rSogn presents a compelling alternative which would cover the RS and R modes with a lot less hassle overall. Maybe I can do subtraction by addition.

  23. Scott Gamble says:

    Did you notice Sean deleted all his blog posts again. This man is a marketing genius. /facepalm

    Absolutely nothing on his website about the rsogn or the snekka, or the norvadiven or anything else he has in the pipe now – just his same crappy website. There IS a pre-order link on their site that when you click it says look at the blog for details about the rSogn and others. Not helpful at all when there’’s no content to the blog anymore.

    What’’s with this guy?

  24. Steve says:

    Hi Alex,

    I have an rSogn, large, and like it a lot. I believe you are responsible for a lot of the decisions that were made on this bike (thanks!) –

    I have a few questions for you regarding this frame and the upcoming Rawland Stag:

    1)the fork on the Stag is currently specked to be lighter. Do you know what the blades are on the RSogn now? Are they considered “normal” or heavy duty? Are the same forks used for the Nordavinden as the rSogn? In your opinion, do the current rSogn forks flex adequately for road use? I am 200lbs, but it is hard for me to tell how much of the nice ride I have is due to the fork vs the Grand Bois Hetres. (ie: would a person notice the difference given the plush 650B tires?)

    I do not do a lot of dirt riding – mostly street.

    2) I know the tubes for the rSogn size are 9/6/9, and the Stag is coming in at 8/5/8 and 7/4/7 top tube in the 58 size. I assume the ride may be a bit “livelier”, but I am unclear as to “shimmy” risk for a 200 lb rider. Is shimmy based on rider size as well as tube weight and frame size (all factors), or do you expect this to be fine for most riders – just a little less suitable for off road stuff? I know the Box Dog Pelican uses 9/6/9 in all frame sizes, but that there is additional focus on the super light tubing/planing ability (which I assume is driving the specs for the new Rawlands) – any thoughts?

    Thanks Alex -