Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Bikes

I've had quite a few bikes over the years including two from Rivendell, three or four from Surly, a custom from Curt Goodrich, an old Stumpjumper that has been reconfigured numerous times, several 3-speeds, a Brompton, a Redline 29er, a Big Dummy, a Xtracycled, pug-fronted, kid-cranked Santana tandem, and a couple 1970s and 80s road bikes, a garbage-picked Trek Multitrack fixie, and several I'm sure I've forgotten. This time of year I start to scheme about putting together this bike or that bike for this or that purpose. This Winter I've been successful at letting the new-bike fantasies pass, which is helped along by my (hopefully temporary) tight financial circumstances and the past experiences of indulging in these winter flights of fancy. The plan is to stick with three four bikes and my kid-hauler tandem. Here's what they are and why I like them.

Surly Cross-Check: The Surly Cross-Check is possibly the most common single bicycle model that I see in the wild in Minneapolis on a daily basis. I've admired the CC since I first saw a dark metallic green one back in 2004 or so, but at that time I had a Rivendell Atlantis, which is so similar in many aspects to the CC that it didn't make sense to have both. Later the Atlantis was sold, but I still sat on the fence about buying a CC. I knew as soon as I saw it that the 2011 model in Robin Egg Blue with the newly added mid-fork rack mounts was the bike for me. I bought a frameset and transferred parts from my previous fixed-gear onto it. I thought it was perfect right away - neutral handling, not too twitchy or too stable, just right. Since this was to serve as my commuter and light-duty exploration bike, I had to rack it: an economical but excellent Topeak on the back and a not-so-economical but excellent Tubus Duo low-rider on the front. Now I can carry four panniers on frivolous weekend camping trips or even on longer more heavily-loaded tours. Tire clearance is ample for 40 mm tires with fenders, but with lightweight 28 mm or 32 mm tires, it's as close to a "road bike" as I'll ever want. I go back and forth between keeping it geared with a compact double crank and a 12-32 9sp cassette:

And fixed-gear, which I prefer in the winter or for general commuting, around-town use:

On a recent shenanigans-filled excursion, some friends and I took our bikes somewhere where we probably shouldn't have. One wonderful aspect of the CC became apparent as I hoisted, and a couple times threw the bike onto steep bluff embankments I was climbing. I realized that I can abuse this bike, that I don't have to baby it, and it can take everything I do to it. And if I do somehow go too far and break it or it gets stolen or whatever, I can replace the frame or the whole bike at a relatively modest price, but that worst-case scenario seems unlikely. Sometimes people who buy fancier bikes don't think about this limitation: if the bike is too pretty, or too delicate, or too expensive, or too hard to get, it's possible that the rider will limit him/herself to only the most genteel of cycling experiences. And then it's harder to have fun.

Surly Troll: This is the bike I took to Death Valley, and the bike I will likely take on similar adventures in the future. It's everything the Cross-Check is, but stouter and with huger tire clearance. It's my worst-case scenario bike, ready for anything, especially when the quality and/or existence of a road is in question.

Brompton: This is a bike that many cyclists do not understand. First thing to know: it's not a novelty, but a serious bike (despite admittedly unconventional looks). It's a folder that becomes carry-on in 5 seconds, but it rides pretty well, it's rugged, and it can actually handle heavy cargo, with ease. Therefore, it makes the perfect touring bike, especially when incorporated with other forms of transport.
Some like-minded friends and I have unofficially chartered a group called B.A.D.A.S.S. (Brompton And Dahon Adventure and Survival Society). I have a few ideas for B.A.D.A.S.S. "events" that will take advantage of the capabilities unique to folding bikes.

Curt Goodrich: This is my "classic" touring bike and by far my fanciest, most expensive bike (see above about the consequences of fancy, expensive bikes). It actually has big tire clearance, so versatility is greatly improved over that of the actual classic touring bikes from the 1970s and 80s.
goodrich on dirt
mighty steed pre-tour
This bike is actually undergoing some major cosmetic surgery and updating, so it won't look like this anymore. You'll see.


Anonymous said...


Would you ever add a suspended mountain bike to your collection of machines? Seems like you need a bike for trail excursions and more 'extreme' off roading.

Bald-n-Surly said...

I'm always impressed, after I get back on my CC after a layoff for winter or what have you, how right it feels. Great bike. I even used it for actual cross racing this year. Bit heavy in that world but not terrible. And like you say, takes everything you can throw at it.

Big Dummy Daddy said...

I'm here to support your "too fancy" hypothesis. I bought my bean green Cross-Check in '01 just after very nearly buying an Atlantis. The Atlantis rode wonderfully, but my awareness of how the inevitability of minor damage would affect my riding psyche tipped in the CC's favor. I've never regretted the choice and still love my CC after more than 10 years, though I do sometimes look longingly at the plethora of braze-ons on the newer models.

Wide Receiver said...

Alas, I was one who failed to achieve Total Enjoyment because my bikes were too special, but 'tis no more. I have shed most such bikes and shall shed one more. (Not put them in the shed! Actually shed them!) I now ride their less expensive brethren which remain with vigor and abandon and I do not hesitate to modify, strip, cannibalize and have my way with them, throwing them up hill and down dale. Forsooth.

Mark said...

Oh, crap. I was thinking about getting one new bike. Now, I'm thinking about getting four!

Anonymous said...

I have a Tubus Duo that I am taking from a Troll to a Cross Check. It fits the Trolls fat front fork perfectly but not the CC. Did you use some spacers or just bend the Duo arms to use with the CC?