Thinking Again

My moratorium on looking at bikes and thinking about bike stuff came to an abrupt end. My wife asked me a little bit ago about what kinds of things I’d like for my Birthday and Christmas. Being a patriotic consumer, I know I SHOULD immediately have something to say to that, but there really isn’t much I want. Aside from a nice bottle of scotch to nurse for a year or 2 I really don’t have anything on my list.

This brings me to the only material thing on my horizon which I have to think about, and that’s the light racer-type bike that I promised myself when I pull weigh-in numbers under 200 for a month straight. Even my best projections put that goal a year or so off, but the wheels are turning, and I’m having many of the same internal debates I had years ago before I brought the Trucker.

I have to say right off the bat that my definition of ‘racer-light’ involves a steel frame, NOTHING carbon, wheels with 32 or greater spokes, a cassette with 9 or less cogs, fenders, and 28 tires or larger. I know this description would seem antithetic to ‘racer’ for most, but. 1) I crave durability and plan on riding any bike I buy from now until the day I die. 2) The 52 pounds I’ve lost so far, and the 75 I’ll have shed by the time I make this a reality count 1000 times more towards any land speed record I’ll ever break on a bike than the extra $4000 I could spend towards any ‘4 pound equipment diet’.

the LHT has been nearly perfect in every way. My only misgivings about going right out and buying a second frame for a rackless build with lighter wheels are,

  1. BB Drop – Out on the road for long miles I really like the stable feel, but on short runs in the city I lay down sparks with a pedal while cornering at least once a month. I have to think about turns with platforms the way I have to think about stoplights with clipless pedals.
  2. Predictability. 93% of the time it’s nice. The LHT handles like it’s on rails, but sometimes I wish for something that was just a ‘bit’ quicker – that had a little more liveliness to it. The best way I can describe it is when I commute on the Blue 1×7, I feel I can really ‘toss it around’ like my old bmx bike. By comparison, the Trucker feels like it’s there. Stable, dependable, and if I was going to upstate New York and back, that’s exactly how I’d like to feel all day, but it’s nice to get out for an aggressive ride now and then too. Full on road geometry with a 74+° headtube would probably be too much, but a little quicker would be nice.

Short list as of October 09…

Velo-Orange Randonneur Frame – They’re not even out yet, so not much to write.

Rivendell Bicycle Works “Rodeo” – I know this smacks of snobbery at its finest, but if you are going to go through the trouble of designing and building a lugged frame, give it a gorgeous contrasting paint scheme, and put a $2000 price tag on it, why in the name of all things sacred would you choose to christen it with a title that evokes images of 1950’s westerns and twirling carnival rides? To me, this feels like the sort of ‘who cares’ anti-marketingese that Surly is known best for, and frankly, I’ve grown more fond of their scrawly logo than I think I could ever be to look down and see the word ‘Rodeo’ between my legs. Although I really love the looks of many of their other frames, a glance at the geometry charts and they’re all skewing a little too close to the CS length and BB drop formula that my Trucker is known for. the Quickbeam would be a nice option, but they’re on their way out.

Soma Stanyan – Black with contrasting polished lugs. NICE. I know nothing of the ride.

Salsa Casseroll and single – lots to like, but I just get a little turned off by straight forks. It’s an aesthetic choice. Nothing personal.

Which brings me full circle back to Surly. Good old dependable beautiful Surly (careful if you are sensitive to visual overstimulation, they just redesigned their site and it’s got bacon, donuts, and crazy stuff strewn all over it now)

Surly Pacer – Strong contender, but they’re taking away the silver frames! TOO SOON! I need another year!

Surly Crosscheck – It feels strange, but of all the bikes above, and any other for that matter, I keep coming back to this one as the most logical choice.

  1. There is a ton of overlap in the frame designs, head tube and seat tube angles are the same. With a liberally cut steerer on the fork I could get the bars high enough to enjoy long rides well into my senior years (Slightly lower than the trucker with its long head tube, not ‘double stem’ high). Essentially, aside from the higher BB and shorter rear triangle it’s the same ride. I tried reading through the Surly Owners group forums for comparison information between the 2 frames and the ride, but cross conversation and erroneous advice made it frustrating to say the least.
  2. The dropouts are semi-horizontal, so If I wanted to lace up a single speed wheel I could experiment there with minimal investment. That’s nice since I’d never want to own a DEDICATED single bike again. An IG hub would be an option for a build too.
  3. Next on the list of likes is tires. Very few other non-Riv bikes let you run ‘near 29’er’ size rubber. I do miss the Schwalbe Marathon Crosses and aiming for rocky dirt roads a little bit since I pulled them off last summer.
  4. Last but not least, it makes sense because it takes 135 wheels, canti brakes and all the stuff that I’ve already got in parts bins sitting around the basement, so if I did get it, it wouldn’t be the ‘little prince’ of my bike collection that needs all kinds of fancy parts to operate. While we’re fairly stress free financially right now, if we were ever really strapped for cash, it’d be nice to know I could keep it running with some duct tape, zip ties, and a pair of the clearance sale brake pads that I stockpiled for the 1×7 5 years ago.
  5. I could lock it up at the grocery store without developing an ulcer worrying about it while I run in for a loaf of bread. (didn’t I already say last but not least?)
  6. Oh, and If I don’t like the colors they’re sporting when they do their next production run (beef gravy brown?), there’s still a good chance that they’ll keep their black in the mix. I can live with black.
  7. I can make it look like (click to go to respective owners galleries)







or this.


Drawbacks – Unless I take a hair dryer to all the decals I’ll suffer from a horrible case of aging hipster fashion disease sometime in the next 5 years.

I had a bit of curiosity about the feel of a lugged frame over a tig welded frame until I had a conversation around mile 80 at the Seagull Century. I bumped into a Riv owner (who also turned out to be a long haul trucker owner too), and during our conversation I asked him how much of a difference he felt between the ride of the two bikes. His words were that the comparison was nearly all aesthetic. What a beautiful look it is to admire, but when it comes down to it, I’m more of a slave to function than than form. Know thyself.

These are just incomplete scribbles, so feel free to comment and tell me I’m FoS and really want a Madone with Campy 11. It’s totally subject to change with the whims of the market too. NONE of it helps me with my original conundrum, because I can’t very well ask the wife to buy me a pair of Paul Brakes or a wheel for x-mas until I have an idea what I might be bolting them down to. I know, what awful problems to have. Maybe I’ll roll in to a bike store a year from now after I reach my goal and fall in love with something on the spot, but I really doubt it. My tastes have become WAYYY to specialized to groove on practically any complete bike out there now.

Well, now I can go back to not thinking about it again. I just had to spend a little bit of time on a rainy day and dump my thoughts out so I could go back to math, eating right, exercising, riding and all the other stuff I have (and want) to keep at.


17 thoughts on “Thinking Again

  1. When I was reading your wants and needs in the first half of the post, all I could think was “Pacer or Cross Check… forget everything else. Pacer or Cross Check.” When I got to the bottom and saw the reasons you were actually leaning in the same direction, you had already made all the exact points I was going to make… like scary verbatim. Although I suspect the CC would have a very similar “on rails” predictability as the LHT.

    And, YES!, why must Surly use decals that look like scribbles on a middle school skate punk’s notebook? I hate the graphics. Although thoughtful of them them to not clear coat over them so they can be scraped off.

    And, on Rivendell, I couldn’t agree more, although I suspect they pronounce Rodeo like Rodeo Drive. Their bikes are gorgeous, obviously, but I can’t be fooled into believing that 95% of the Rivendell philosophy isn’t just about aesthetics, and actually get a little peeved when Rivendell tries to pretend their philosophy is about function. I prefer Riv’s less pretentious Maryland cousin, VO, and we Marylanders can avoid the shipping fees (yay!), but have to pay state taxes (boo!).

      • Ha! Which brings us right back to my slight issue with Rivendell. They make great, gorgeous bikes, without question. But I find the pretension suffocating.

      • I just now looked up the Rodeo, as I wasn’t really familiar with the model, and noticed that they spell it Roadao. Get it, because, it’s like… a road bike, but with an extra a replacing the e so you don’t pronounce it like a beer swigging Texan. They want you to pronounce it like a chardonnay sipping Californian. Ha! Lamename.

      • Yeah, you have to call it something so that people know what to say when they call up to place an order, but when you’re competing for the top 1% of the market is not the time to play around with ambiguous puns. I’d rather see it just be called Rivendell Road or something. The owners of custom Rivs would probably be mad if a production frame was made that had Riv big on the downtube.

        I have an illustration degree and desktop publishing software so I could just get off my lazy butt and make my own graphics instead of complaining about how I hate everything else….

  2. I really admire VO’s business model and think they make some great stuff. I also really like Rivendell’s bikes, but when I look at their branding scheme they go 2 ways at the same time like you said. I know there’s plenty of people out there who can spend 4-6 grand on a bike and ride it around like it cost $500 (just like there’s lots of people out there who spend $45k on a car and park it on the street in the city), but that ain’t me.

    The more I started writing and the more I started thinking about it, the CC really does make sense. I think the higher bb and short chainstays really would change the ride. When I had an ENO hub on the 1×7, I could feel a difference in the handling between the fore and aft positions of the wheel, and that was +- 20mm tops. There’s a 1.4″ or 35mm difference between the CC and LHT in the chainstays, but if the illustrations on their site are accurate, that’s measured from the front of the CC drops, so you could probably tweak it back a bit. The idea of having 2 bikes that I could mix components between would be really cool too. (a fast light wheelset for slimmer tires on unloaded trips, and I could take the mavic a719’s on the trucker and put them on the CC with 700×45’s if I wanted to explore some singletrack)

    Wish I knew someone with a 58-60 CC I could ride around for a while. Buying a bike is like buying a pair of shoes. You never REALLY know if it’s right until you’ve tried them on for a couple of days. I got SUPER LUCKY with the LHT. There’s time…

  3. I like the prospect of a CC with two sets of wheels: one lightweight for your 28’s; and one bombproof for 42c knobbies. Plus don’t forget that the LHT wheels would match up as well for any short tours you want to take, or if something should break.

    I would be concerned about having a “nice” bike parked around town or on campus. An understated CC wouldn’t draw the attention that a Riv or nicer bike would.

    Ultimately, though, you’re going to have to get a 1970ish Raleigh with a front basket and 27″ wheels so you look appropriate with your tweed jacket and pipe.

    • My leather jacket with tweed patches… Or is that the other way around… No, I don’t teach, but it would be fun to make people think I do.

      Every conversation about bikes that I’ve had with myself over the last 4 years has ended with “bikes are made to be ridden, not looked at.”, so I’m not sure why I would think any differently this time. The more I think about being able to swap parts between bikes, the more I like the idea…

  4. Have you checked out any offerings from Jamis? They do a lot with nice steel these days (though I think it’s geared more toward commuting and touring, honestly).

    • Yeah, I’ve glanced at them. I didn’t really get into all the manufacturers because I’m pretty much done buying complete bikes. 1) Most of them are too segmented in their product lines. Say road bike and it’s got a carbon fork and integrated headset. 2) I’m done with the machine built wheelsets. All I needed to do was throw a few variables like kind of wide range gearing or good tire clearance and I’m replacing more parts than I’m keeping. The Fuji Connoisseur and Raleigh Clubman are cool designs too.

    • Yesh. 25c tires (a little thin but it looks like there’s some room in the forks for more), brooks swift saddle, 9sp cassette – it comes about as close as any complete bike to what I want. They have the 09′ model on sale at REI right now, but alas, it is not even close to time….

  5. I have more than my fair share of bikes, and of late I’m circumspect of my Crosscheck, at least in its present incantation. I always prefer my LHT to the CC. I find the CC a little squirrely, but perhaps that’s because of being used to riding super stable mounts like the LHT or the Bleriot. To be honest, as I sit here thinking of all the bikes I’ve been on the one that *feels* the best is my newish QB, and that’s not hyperbole. It just feels great. Yes, climbing can be a hassle with only 1 or 2 gears to pick from, but from cockpit to saddle to width to stability, it feels great. RBW talked me up a size and it was the best decision by far. I love the assurance and stability the frame provides.

    All that said, sometimes you need gear and for that I don’t ride the QB, but after a couple recent slightly longish road rides (45 and 30), I probably won’t get on the CC anytime soon; it’ll be used for what it was designed, riding cross.

    • Thanks for weighing in. Do you ever find yourself striking a pedal in the corner with the LHT? I’m starting to think it’s just me.

      I haven’t ridden many bikes, but a few of the bikes I’ve owned have gone through multiple incarnations. That’s what makes fit so frustrating, is that I know how much different a bike can feel when you move the bars and saddle forward, or make other adjustments which change the way your body weight is in relation to the wheelbase. I hated my blue bike before I put the moustache bars on. (that’s harsh, but I do enjoy it MUCH more now) I guess when the time comes I’m just going to have to find some shop I can go on test rides at and drive the staff crazy for a few months :)..

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