First Impressions: Redline Conquest Classic

Redline Conquest Classic

"Classic" is the operative word here. This is an all-arounder sort of bike from Redline that was meant to evoke a classic era of steel road bikes, but with all mod cons added. I had guessed its lineage was Schwinn World Sport, but was steered to think more along the lines of Nishiki or Raleigh bikes from the ’70s and ’80s. (Not so classic as a European constructeur bike, but more popular in the U.S. and less expensive.)

Its frame is double-butted 4130 chromoly steel, with very similar geometry to Redline’s other Conquest bikes, which are generally geared (no pun intended) toward cyclocross. Right off the bat I was comfortable on this bike, as it’s essentially a steel version of my cyclocross-centric Mountain Cycle Stumptown  main ride. The big difference is frame material and the way it behaves: my Stumptown is aluminum, built to be quite stiff when pedaling, but to flex vertically just a tiny bit in the rear to take the edge off rough stuff. The Stumpy’s beefy aluminum fork actually feels stiffer than the rear end, although Easton carbon handlebars absorb just enough vibration. The steel of the Conquest Classic is somewhat heavier and more flexible, and the fork is definitely more flexible (on purpose); the first time I stood up to sprint from a stoplight, I could feel the steel give in a way I wasn’t used to. Since then I’ve grown accustomed to it, and haven’t been bothered by any undue wiggling. On the plus side, going down a cobblestone road I could tell the frame was shielding me from the full paint-shaker-at-the-hardware-store sensation. It’s been interesting figuring out how exactly my Stumptown’s stiff frame with more forgiving handlebars differs from the Classic’s more forgiving frame paired with stiffer aluminum handlebars.

Avid BB5 disc brake on Redline Conquest Classic
One big modern convenience added to this bike is Avid BB5 disc brakes. The rear disc caliper is tucked nicely in the angle of the seat and chainstays – a location that makes adding a rack and rear fender possible. (Of course the frame has eyelets too.) I’m so glad I don’t have to do without disc brakes for this test, as I’ve come to depend upon their superior stopping power.

Justin remarked that he wasn’t fond of the look of the gumwall Hutchinson tires, and at first I agreed, but now I’m thinking they add to the classic look of this bike. The sparkly "Caramel" paint with chrome detail on the fork and rear triangle is a really nice classic touch, as well. I found out, though, that chroming is getting too expensive, and so this bike won’t have it for the 2011 model year – better get it while you can. 

Shimano Tiagra shifter on Redline Conquest Classic

The handlebar tape is faux-leather with holes, along the lines of a ’70s sports car steering wheel, maybe more "classy" than "classic." Regardless, it makes me feel faster, so that’s a good thing. The Shimano Tiagra shifters definitely have more comfortable hoods than what I’m used to.

I generally prefer a bike with drop handlebars and a wide range of gears for my daily commute. Although riding the Torker Graduate (my last test bike) to work was fun, its upright position led to springtime headwinds and the tendency to look around a little too much (and possibly to stop and have an even closer look), which stretched my commute time longer than was really necessary.

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