Thursday, December 17, 2009

adventure bikes are the new fixed-gears

Whatever bikes are to you (or me) - transportation, recreation, sport, exercise, travel - they almost always have some capacity for inspiring adventure. I have been enjoying bicycle adventures since my earliest memories of riding a bike, and to this day my favorite type of riding is semi-aimlessly exploring the roads, trails, and alleys of wherever I happen to be. It isn't usually death-defying, or even vaguely risky, but it is fun, and I think of it as adventure. I suppose that's why I have always been drawn to bicycles that have a rugged, go-anywhere personality.
bike rocks
About five years ago, a friend was describing a custom bike he ordered as an "adventure bike", which was the first time I heard the term. I understood it as a cross between a mountain bike and a touring bike - a dirt bike with racks. I was instantly and permanently captivated by the concept, and my bike collection has been evolving in that direction, with a dwindling number of boring "road bikes" and a magically increasing number of inspiring, exciting fat-tire bikes, from this:
mighty steed pre-tour
to this:
pugstigator camper

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is into the adventure bike concept. Salsa has the new-ish Fargo, which, by classic, conventional standards, is ugly as hell, but if you already bought one for me as a Christmas gift, don't run out and return it - I'll take it and be grateful!


The king of the uber-adventure bikes is arguably the Surly Pugsley. As of Saturday, QBP had a seemingly safe inventory of last year's Pug frames in stock (I had my eye on one...), but by Tuesday, they were all gone. This afternoon, the Pugsley-specific Large Marge rims came into stock, and sold out in two hours! The Pug has been around for several years, and it was always sort of a novelty product, but now it seems to be semi-mainstream, and demand is suddenly way up. We had two Pugs in for service just today, and another in last weekend. (it's also worth a mention that there are several fat-tire competitors for the Pugsley now)

Besides all the bikes, a number of adventure-bike events have cropped up, including numerous winter endurance events and self-supported races along the Great Divide. And you can hardly swing a dead 29er tube without hitting somebody who is riding in one of the Gravel Grinders. We have loosely organized several gravel-road/back-road rides at HC, and had great turn-out and much enthusiasm.
gravel riding

Of course, one doesn't need a special "adventure bike" to have a bike adventure. Any bicycle that rolls is a potential adventure vehicle (if you own and ride a bicycle, you already know this). To advance this concept a bit: I am planning a modest bike tour in the not-too-distant future, and my tentative plan (cash-permitting) is to use a bicycle that would not ordinarily be considered appropriate for such an endeavor. Of course, I own about six bikes that would make good-to-fantastic touring bikes, but what fun would that be?

7 comments:

Dan A. said...

A timely post. I've been mulling over getting rid of my nice but rarely ridden "road" bike and replacing it with something better for off road/gravel everything you throw at it. Of course I already have two bikes that fall into this general category but they are each are a little different (at least that's what I tell myself).

KM said...

The Pugsley rocks.

MplsMTB said...

That Atlantis is sweet! At first I thought it was a restored Diamond Back Apex mountain bike from the mid-80s.

Great post! I like the way you think...

Forrest said...

It seems to me that the Hillborne I just got from you would make an okay gravel grinder or adventure bike -- at least I sure hope so. I put my Schwalbe Marathon XR 40mm tires on it, and I can't wait to hit the gravel roads around Iowa City. Will be a while, though . . .

Eric P. said...

Forrest - your Hillborne will be fine for that. I've used mine for similar.

These type of posts make me jealous. Even my new LHT doesn't seem "suboptimal" enough.

Anonymous said...

hi

ThisOneToo said...

I'm a little late to the party but, you have totally put my thoughts in to words! I have always ridden mountain bikes and prefer the rugged, utilitarian style bike opposed to the racy light weight bikes. I'm not a racer. I would much rather explore and take in the scenery. Now I just need to figure out how I am going to tell my wife I need to sell the mcr9 I just built.....