The Fall-Line Guy

The Fall-Line Guy

Last year my cohort Fatty interviewed the now-former Editor-in-Chief of Bicycling, Bill Strickland, for the Fattycast. In the interview, Strickland revealed that he had trimmed his stable to just a single bike. Then I lost consciousness.

He admitted that he had ample opportunity to cheat. Due to the number of bikes that pass through Bicycling‘s offices, if he wants to go ride an enduro bike or an aero road bike, options are always within reach. Even so, he was attempting to use a single bike to embrace as many sides of cycling as possible.

I’m not even going to claim that I could do that. Hell, I won’t lie and tell you I want to try to do that. I’m not even interested. One bike? That’s like asking a chef to prepare a four-course meal with a single knife. Even if you wash said knife after each use, you’re not going to slice up a baguette with the same knife you used to butcher a pig. You get the picture, right?

But since then, I’ve kept the idea in my mind as a thought experiment. What if I found myself in a situation and I needed to get by with a single bike? What if my stash got ransacked and I needed to go out and buy one bike until I could gradually piece my stable back together?

This winter, I ran across a candidate, the Raleigh Stuntman. Raleigh, facing a pinch in the high end of the market from behemoths like Trek, Giant and Specialized, refocused its lineup on more affordable offerings, as well as being more targeted in their appeal. So while they still offer the Grand Prix (a $2200 beauty with Campagnolo Veloce), it’s their bikes like the Clubman, which comes with fenders and goes for less than $2k even for the carbon version (though the steel one is just $799) and their all-road adventure bikes that are attracting attention.

Our man Hottie got to try the Roker last fall and liked it a lot. When I was at PressCamp back in January I enjoyed my first opportunity to ogle the Stuntman, Raleigh’s top-shelf adventure bike.

Tacks of Brass
The Stuntman is maybe the ballsiest production bike on the market. Allow me to explain. This is a steel bike made with Reynold 631 tubing and an aluminum alloy fork. It’s spec’d with a SRAM Rival 1x hydro group with a 40t chainring and an 11-42 cassette. Not bad for an adventure bike. However, where most production adventure-y bikes fail is that they chicken out when it comes to wheels/tires. The product manager specs wheels with a narrow rim and then goes with a 32mm tire because … hell, I don’t know why. Raleigh went with a 28mm-wide Weinmann rim and—wait for it—50mm-wide Clement X’plor LZY tires. And if there was any doubt just where you can go on this bike, they sourced a dropper post with 65 to 80mm of drop, depending on the size of the bike. The post is only 27.2mm wide so the frame and post aren’t unnecessarily stiff for the kind of riding this bike will receive. Even the bar is meant for adventure riding; it’s got a 16-degree flair.

When I think of every adventure bike I’ve seen and then I factor out all the cool custom stuff I’ve seen at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, I’ve not seen another bike as aggressively spec’d. But that’s not the most amazing part of this bike. With hydraulic discs, a wide-range cassette, bomb-proof 32-spoke wheels, premium tires and a dropper post, I’d have expected this bike to go north of $3000. It was introduced at $2499 and has since received a priced cut to $2299.

Where the rubber leaves the road
There’s an aspect to this bike that is comical. The tires this bike rolls on are bigger than what I first began mountain biking on back in the 1980s. My first tires were only 1.75-inches wide. These are a full 2-inches. And then there’s the fact that they are 3-inches larger in diameter. I can’t help but wonder how long it would have taken us to go to flat bars if we’d begun with wheels and tires like these. Why? Well I can tell you on my very first ride on an unpaved surface I could tell that this bike was remarkably easier to control than those early MTBs.

It’s worth mentioning that I drew this conclusion while riding on a flat, gravel path. Riding on what I’d call actual terrain only reinforced my rushed judgment.

In the weeks I’ve had this bike, I’ve ridden it on plenty of fire roads, gravel paths and more than a few miles of singletrack. I’ve also ridden plenty of pavement to get to the unpaved delights. Allow me to get one little detail out of the way: this bike accelerates with all the verve of a goosed tortoise. This wheel/tire combination isn’t light; however, what riders often forget is that a heavier set of wheels and tires are easier to keep at speed due to the increased rotational mass. So while starting from a light is not where this bike shines, if you spin a small gear, keeping this bike up to a speed you’ve reached isn’t that hard.

Where this bike really shined was on smooth singletrack. Despite the relatively tame tread pattern of the LZY tires, the bike tracked well on the firm dirt and when pitches turned steep the dropper post was handy. However, the release was high on the bar, near the stem and that meant any time I thought I might need to use it I needed to sit down and lower the post before the terrain actually got steep because I was unwilling to have my left hand out of reach from the brake lever. I’m just funny that way. So I’d really like to see someone invent a lever that can be reached while my hand is in the drop.

Stuntman was nimble as a paring knife. It reminded me of what early mountain bikes felt like, the drop bar notwithstanding. I’m not going to get into frame stiffness. It was stiff enough for the riding I was doing and when you’re riding 2-inch tires pumped up to 20 psi (23 psi in the rear), you really can’t tell much about how stiff a frame is unless it’s flexible enough that the wheels are twisting out of plane with each other.

That so many cables were internally routed (brake hose plus dropper post) made cleaning the bike a good deal easier.

Shrink to fit
The Stuntman comes in six sizes, which is a bit unusual for a bike in this price range. I’m much more accustomed to seeing four or five sizes. Raleigh deserves to be commended for offering such a broad range. The beneficiaries here are folks on the tall side, because almost no one offers both 60cm and 62cm sizes.

The run goes 52cm with a 53.5cm top tube (37.5cm reach), 54cm with a 55.5cm top tube(37.4cm reach), 56cm with a 57cm top tube (38.5cm reach), 58cm with a 58.5cm top tube (39.6cm reach), 60cm with a 60cm top tube (39.6cm reach) and 62cm with a 61.5cm top tube (41.6cm reach). I’ve been riding the 56, but have wondered due to the short stem (90mm), if I ought to be on the 58, which is also spec’d with a 90mm stem. From the geo chart it’s apparent the bike is taking some of the current mountain bike philosophy of longer top tubes and shorter stems and massaging that into the adventure category. I’d be interested to try the larger bike just to see. 

What’s truly remarkable about this bike is that it, like the Trek Domane, is one of a nearly nonexistent category: bikes with between 8cm and 8.5cm of bottom bracket drop. The 56 has 8.25cm of BB drop. That’s essentially unheard of. Why is the BB so low? For the aforementioned nimble handling and because as tires get bigger the BB rises. The reason you don’t see more bikes with this much BB drop is due to CPSC requirements for minimum lean angle before you get pedal strike. Bike designers play with this in all sorts of ways on kids’ bikes, like with a narrower bottom bracket or smaller pedals, but on road bikes the standard default is 7cm of drop. You’ll occasionally see 7.2cm on a production bike, but lower than that is essentially the province of custom builders. In spec’ing a 700C tire that is 50mm wide all the thorny issues of getting a bike with 8cm of BB drop by the CPSC evaporated.

There’s one other geo detail I want to note on this bike. All six sizes use a 50mm fork. I’d be concerned that with one fork rake you’d get six different characters, but all the bikes have a 71.25-degree head tube angle, except for the 52, which has a 71-degree head tube angle. The design of this bike is exceedingly well-thought.

What’s in a name?
The Stuntman derives it’s name from the 1980s TV show “The Fall Guy” starring Lee Majors. He was a stuntman in Hollywood and drove a GMC K-2500 Wideside. The brown/tan/red paint scheme of the Stuntman is an homage to that truck, though in reality Colt’s GMC was brown/gold/red, not tan. This inspired bit of cross pollination was the brain child of my buddy Stevil Kinevil of All Hail the Black Market. He and a now former product manager had talked about a joint project and while some folks have shifted seats, the bike made it off the drawing board, which is something of a miracle.

I can’t recall the last time I ran across a bike more aptly named. And bikes called “Pista” don’t count. The Stuntman is for the rider undeterred by a chance in circumstance. Asphalt? Fine. Gravel? Fine. Mud? Fine. Precipitous, stock-market-like drops? Bring it.

Final thought: To make a more versatile bike you’d need a magic wand, or an actual stuntman.

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    1. Author

      With tires that big and the low pressures that would be smart to run, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell the difference between the alloy fork and a steel one.

  1. Alex Hillis

    “So I’d really like to see someone invent a lever that can be reached while my hand is in the drop.”

    I recently ordered a bike (Flaanimal from Rodeo Labs in CO), and had them spec a sram front shifter even though I’m only using a 1x drivetrain. I plan to convert the shift lever to actuate the dropper post as some have already done. Seems to be not-that-difficult based on the YT videos I’ve seen. It would be amazing if they could spec that option standard on the Stuntman, but I don’t think Sram would be happy with them.

  2. Madcityspecv

    this guy was recently on my radar as a do all replacement for a cross bike that i felt had geometry that was too racy for my short stocky self. what it really came down to was utility, and while this bike would do 90 percent of what i wanted, I opted for a Salsa Fargo Rival 27.5. i appreciated the dropper post and the lighter weight, but the Fargo has more upright riding along with huge tire clearance for super offroad exploring and winter commuting, along with far more rack and bag attachment points for bikepacking. they’re virtually the same price, so it was a hard decision. The Stuntman is still really tempting!

  3. willis

    Curious – what was Strickland’s one horse?
    I tried to play the Fattycast interview but the internets were not having it.

  4. Shawn

    Nice write up, and nice bike and price point. I’d like to have seen a replaceable derailleur hanger on a bike that’ll be abused though.

    Also, I’ve had a one-bike stable since ’13 and love it. Full sus 29er mtb. It mostly sees pavement only to get to the trails, but I pump up the tires, lock out the squish, and do the local fast evening road ride a few times each summer. It ain’t easy, but I haven’t been dropped yet.

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