Bicycle Built for 1: Part 1

I think my trusty Trek mountain bike, after carrying me over hill and down dale, through hell and high-water is now probably going to serve as a family work horse. It is spectacularly too awesome for this role, but this new chapter of it’s life will only add to my long love affair with the bike that just keeps excelling at every ride and situation I throw at it.

So with that now settled in my mind, my thoughts are turning toward a bike for myself. So when would I actually be riding without my family in tow?

Terribly selfish Functions:
1/ Country touring is always something I’d like to think is just around the corner for me, and is definitely something I’d like a new bike to do. It’s not necessarily something I would always do on my own, but it’s a function that would be central to a ‘complete’ bicycle package. The Trek could do it, has done it, and I would love to put more Km’s on the Trek to add to our history,  but I believe I could, given my other required functions listed below, come up with a more suitable geometry. Any bike that you can tour on will almost certainly be able to handle a kids seat and trailer anyway.

2/ Commuting is something I do alone, and reasonably regularly on a bicycle. I could happily undertake this on almost any machine that offers some reliability. So while this may not be a defining feature, reliability is of course a major requirement. Having a couple of bicycles actually means I can ride different machines depending on my current whim – which is a nice and very privileged option.

3/ Morning constitutional rides either for a quick coffee, or with a mate or two as a regular Saturday morning jaunt would be great. I would probably be riding with ‘real’ road bikes, but that’s not necessarily what I am after. Essentially I would need something light enough, and efficient enough to keep up. In my mind there’s no such thing as a fast bike – It’s like having a fast shoe.

4/ Fire trails and off road day trips aren’t out of the question, and so while not a primary consideration I’d like the bike to be capable in that regard. I’ve loaded up  city bikes’, ridden them out of town and flexed the bejesus out of them in the process. My experiences gave me a certain amount of faith in the ability of a good quality steel bike frame to take carry loads over bitumen, gravel and dirt roads.

5/ I am shallow and aesthetics are a consideration. Often a minimal ‘form follows function’ approach leads to aesthetic outcomes in my opinion – so while I’ll be looking for a clean, light bike – I have some bike gear fetishes I may also need to satisfy. As I already own the greatest mountain bike ever made, I don’t need another one and am thinking of something more refined. I certainly like the look of older bicycles – but how functional are they? The Polyvalent frame from Velo Orange looks great and I think would fit the bill – but I’m not convinced at this stage.

6/ For this to be more than an academic exercise, the bike needs to be affordable. I am however thinking long term for this bike. It’s a bike that I would like to have at least as long as my only other new bike purchase (13 years ago). So good quality and the ‘right bicycle’ may actually be expensive. I’m not frightened of 2nd hand – but it’d have to be very well reconditioned – almost like ‘New Old Stock’.

So to summarise.
comfortable fit (geometry), Reliable, efficient, strong, stylish without being too flashy, good value.

  1. Yep, I share all that criteria.

    Nailing it down some more though, I think disc breaks are a true advance in bicycles, and so if buying a new frame today, it should be one that can mount discs. But some frames mount the disc in a spot that makes mounting fenders and racks difficult, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.

    Another thing I’m still considering is the 29inch wheel. If it is proving so good for people, why has it taken more than 30years of MTB to catch on? Why did we start with 26, or did we? I like the more upright riding position too, and I’m wondering if a stiff fork that can fit a 29inch wheel would mimic the rise you get when on suspension forks…

    Steel is a must.

    And what about the internal hub? I’m struggling to find a good review for the Alfine 11 speed disk hub. How is it turning our for people? Is it better than a cluster and deralier?

  2. Some of those Monster Cross bikes look pretty good. Frame geometry will dictate what wheel you can fit to the frame without toe overlap.

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