Monday, November 8, 2010

Raleigh Calispel i8 and Circa i8

We have mention Raleigh's bikes several times before, but these two models had previously escaped notice.

Raleigh USA sells two very similar bikes with 8 speed Shimano Nexus internal gear hubs. The Calispel i8 is marketed as a hybrid and has 700C (622 mm) wheels with moderately wide tires, while the Circa i8 is listed as a "comfort bike", with cushy 26" x 1.95" tires. Otherwise, the frame geometry, components and accessories are about the same, including an unfortunate lack of fenders, despite the inclusion of kickstands and ample chainguards.

But what's really worth mentioning on these bikes is the list price. Both are available for only $550 at REI and at local bike shops, about the lowest price for a bike with an 8-speed internal gear hub in the North American market. Considering that the hub alone is listed at $300 and generally costs over $200, these bikes are a steal, even after adding $50 to install a set of good-quality fenders.

Raleigh Calispel i8

Raleigh Calispel i8 (W) - Tan Metallic - 2011

The Calispel is the "hybrid", meaning 700c x 40 mm tires and a slightly sporty look to the aluminum frame.

Geometry is "relaxed", with a 70 degree headtube and 68 degree seattube, similar to those found on classic roadsters or "Dutch" bikes. Combined with a high headtube and swept-back handlebars, and reasonable bottom bracket height, this provides an upright seating position and the ability to put a foot down easily at traffic lights. The shallow headtube angle and low fork offset (40 mm) should make the steering very stable.


SIZES:  M:15, 17, 19 W:13, 15, 17
FRAME:    Atomic 13 Aluminum Hybrid, w/EASE Comfort Geometry
FORK:    Aluminum
CRANKS:    Forged Aluminum 36t Chainring
BB:    Sealed Cartridge
SHIFTER:    Shimano SL-8S20 Nexus Revo 8spd
BR.LEVERS:    Tektro
BRAKES:    Tektro V-Brake
REAR COG:  Shimano 20t
RIMS:    Weinmann XC260 Double Wall
TIRES:    Kenda K-192 w/Kshield 700x40c
PEDALS:    Avenir Comfort Platform
HANDLEBAR:    Alloy Comfort Easy Reach
STEM:    Alloy Quill
SEATPOST:    Alloy Micro Adjust Bootless Suspension 27.2x350mm
SEAT:    Avenir Deluxe Comfort
HEADSET:    Threaded 1-1/8"
COLORS:    Tan Metallic (W); Brown Metallic (M)
SPOKES:    14g Stainless Steel
GRIPS:    Avenir Comfort
EXTRAS:    Rack and Fender Mounts, Water Bottle Mounts

Raleigh Calispel i8 (M) - Brown Metallic - 2011

Raleigh Circa i8

Raleigh Circa i8 (W) - Metallic Tan - 2011

The Circa has a slightly more laid-back look, with wider Kenda K841A w/Kshield 26x1.95 (47 mm) tires on shorter 26" (559 mm) wheels. Otherwise, the geometry and components are nearly identical, and the head tube and seat tube angles are still 70 and 68 degrees, respectively.

For shorter riders or those commuting on rougher roads the Circa would be a better option, but for most medium to tall riders the medium-width 700c tires on the Calispel may be preferable. I also happen to prefer the styling of the Calispel frame, but with these two bikes you get a choice.

Raleigh Circa i8 (M) - Metallic Black

Don't forget to check out our previous posts on other Bikes for the Rest of Us by Raleigh

The Raleigh brand, like Schwinn in the US, fell far from the days when it was the largest bicycle manufacturer in England, and I am not entirely sure who owns the brand today. But it appears the new owners have been putting a good deal of thought into their bikes for the last 4 years, and the East-Asian frames and components are the same you will find on a Trek or Specialized. And the price is right.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you did a post about these great Raleigh models! I have the Calispel i8 (womens version) and absolutely adore it. It's my first "real" (ie not Wal-Mart) bike and I ride it daily for commuting, errands, and fun. I don't know enough about bikes in general to make a sweeping judgement, but I can say that - for my needs at least - it's the perfect all-around bike!

Anonymous said...

Oh - I did add a set of fenders, and a rear rack (panniers forthcoming!), and Planet Bike front and rear lights. And reflectors in the spokes. I also switched out that truly unfortunate seat - it's very gel-y and padded - for a less cushy (and more comfortable, to me) Serfas seat. Currently saving up for a Brooks B67s ;-)

Joseph E said...

Thanks for your review!
I've had a chance to spin around on one of these at the Bike Station in Long Beach, CA, where the Calispel i8 is used as a rental bike. The shop says they are capable of handling the abuse typically inflicted on rentals, which is a good sign.

They really should add fenders and a rear rack as standard options. Unfortunately, very few bikes in the <$1000 range have good saddles, as you've found. Good luck with the Brooks B67; make sure you try one out before you buy.

Joseph E said...

Serendipitously, Lovely Bicycle is comparing Brooks saddles today:

Velouria said...

I like the classic touch of the connector piece between the curved top tube and the downtube.

But you know, Raleigh still makes a classic, high quality 3-speed loop frame roadster type bike that is only available for the Northern European market. It's really a wonderful bike and I think there would be huge demand for it here if they decide to offer than model in N. America. I am really not sure why they do not.

Joseph E said...

Velouria, that's a real shame. The old Raleigh bikes are real classics; someone should make modern replicas, perhaps with a cheaper-than-Brooks leather saddle, and import them.

I'm seen several companies that produce great bikes for other parts of the world, such as Giant, but don't export them to North America. I suppose it's for the same reason that car manufacturers don't send us the tiny city cars sold in Asia and Europe, but in this case I think they are missing a new and growing market.