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.
ComponentsSIZES: M:15, 17, 19 W:13, 15, 17
FRAME: Atomic 13 Aluminum Hybrid, w/EASE Comfort Geometry
CRANKS: Forged Aluminum 36t Chainring
BB: Sealed Cartridge
SHIFTER: Shimano SL-8S20 Nexus Revo 8spd
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.