2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp Review for Publication

I spend most of my day reading things written but very poor writers so a lot of (all of?) the time my writing here is pretty shitty. Here’s a better review of the bike.

The massive discounts brought by widespread internet retailers have finally hit the cycling world in full force. Raleigh and Diamondback; two brands owned, among others, by conglomerate Accell Group have begun direct-to-consumer sales of boxed bikes ready to assemble at enormous price discounts from the previous retail and street prices.

5 years ago this bike would have been $2500, easy. Today it’s $549, shipped to your door with free returns if you’re not happy.

Now, it lacks the cachet and marketing of the bigger brands. There’s no trendy graphic designer spamming Instagram shots of the bike conquering Moab, just some bike designer in Taiwan or China who’s been doing this sort of thing for decades and is focused on making a good, reliable bike that meets price points and timing requirements. The bike is spec’d to fit the widest amount of people through the smallest number of sizes. It’s engineered to incorporate every available technical development that will still allow it to meet it’s price point.

32mm wide rims ready for tubless install? Check

2×10 gearing? Check

Tuk’t chainstay for short wheelbase? Check

Air fork? Check

142×12 and 15mm thru-axles? Check

Hydroformed tubing? Check

Hydraulic brakes? Check

The bike is the end result of 29er 2×10 evolution. From here we springboard into multi-degree head tube angle changes, 1x systems and “boost” spacing – whatever that is.

As the bike was out of stock on the website (since replenished) I spent the better part of a work-from-home day driving to Chattanooga to buy the bike from a craigslist seller in the parking lot of Hamilton Place mall. The $20 in gas was a fair exchange for an essentially unridden but already assembled bike.

In person the bike is impressive, the frame is well formed and looks exactly like a mountain bike should look. Fat tires, sharp tubes and fun color scheme bring everything into focus. This is a bike for shredding as much as showing off.

I decided to ride the bike with everything stock except the saddle. The limp pancake was banished immediately to my pollen-coated balcony storage area for ugly and unwanted bike parts.

The bike, my preferred saddle and myself headed to the trails after a thorough inspection – trust but verify those craigslist sellers. My first ride is a blur of high speed corners, shoving the bike left and right as the forest melts beside me. Descents taken at a speed I’d never before attempted, my vision blurred from the rocks, roots and ruts; bike bucking wildly as the terrain rejects us but still tracking straight and holding a good line.

What was expected to be a half-hour, maybe an hour turned into almost 3 hours. The first section of Sope Creek went so fast and so well that I did the thing everyone who ever has a new bike they love instantly does – take the bike around and show it off to all the trails. Introduce it to the rooty run-up I can only clear half the time and see how it goes. Can it handle the rock garden at speed? How well will it track through the snake rock rise? The off-chamber downhill root section that always bucks my rear wheel 1-2 inches off it’s line?

The Tekoa handles everything as if it is old hat, the bike has been around and done enough that there is no surprises. Reliable consistent geometry, like the favorite bike I didn’t know I was missing. I am faster on this bike than expected, almost a dozen personal records fall on a ride where I was holding back and still getting to know the bike. The times broken were hard won, set on gritty summer days where I’d hit a loop so hard at the end I would spend minutes coughing and trying to get my heartrate down. Douse myself in cool water to come back to the earth. Leg-shatteringly hard efforts on the climbs, full race pressure for 19 minutes and 3 seconds, 19 minutes and 24 seconds, 20 minutes and 8 seconds. I remember the mental and physical focus that makes a third of an hour feel like eternity as my heart is rent from my chest. Legs full of fire, air thick and hard to exhale.

First ride, new bike.

18 minutes and 3 seconds.

Part 2:

As the glow of a fast and technically correct ride fades I think more and more about how the bike rode and what I didn’t like. The fat tires and wide rims make the bike slightly hesitant to lean and dive into corners. I am slightly too far forward and too crunched up out on the stock seatpost and stem. The seatpost clamp looks like it is straining with all it’s might to hold on. I think the bottom bracket it creaking.

So I change the stem (+5mm reach) I change the bars (+20mm width) I change the grips (+5 padding) I move the brakes and shifters (+10mm outboard). The bottom bracket, like all mail order bikes, has been installed by with an air-tool and takes a monumental effort to remove. After which I find it completely dry, I grease the threads reinstalled and the bike is creak free. I mess with the pressure in the fork, a little (+5 psi) more seems good. I get the bike close to perfect

I ride and then I race.

Blankets Creek is everything mountain biking in Georgia has to offer. 

The race leaves me suitably impressed with the bike’s acumen for extremely high speed riding. As we all know, as fast as you can possibly go when riding alone is not nearly as fast as you can go riding with others, in a race. Speed is a drug, blasting through my veins, infused in each pedal stroke. The bike wants to be raced, feedback from pedaling is strong – pedal hard and it asks you to pedal harder. I have no problems moderating my line, I find the smooth line dozens of times a minute as my responses are translated instantly to the wheels, tires and pedals. Everything seems to slow down as rocks and roots appear with plenty of time to maneuver or power over – there aren’t any surprises, the bike handles everything, a well-oiled machine.

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