Reality bites…

…and it doesn’t hurt that bad.

This time I’m going to revamp the One Bike idea a bit and make an attempt to bring it back to reality.  My last post was a mental exercise prompted by another post over at Singularity.  In summary, if you could only have one bike, what would it be?  No holds barred.  Spare no expenses.  Win the lottery.  Mine turned out to be an A. Homer Hilsen.  (Or a Sam Hilborne, but I don’t much care for slopey top tubes.)  I think there’s some merit to this exercise, but there’s a little problem, too.  A new A. Homer Hilsen costs $2,300 for the frame and fork.  While that may be realistic for lots of folks, I can’t swing $2,300 for an entire bike.  Half that is more realistic.  Half again, and use the existing bits and pieces I have lying around is completely realistic.  That said, let’s rewrite the rules.

  1. One frame-set only.  We’ll save this one for last.
  2. Multiple wheel-sets are permitted.  This is what makes one bike possible.
  3. Multiples of a given component are permitted.  Not as necessary as #2, but awfully convenient.
  4. Cost is not a factor.  Name your price.  Obviously, no one expects anyone to talk about their money in public.  But be realistic.  Figure out what you’d need in a bike and then try to track down something that works.
  5. As few variations as possible.  Not a problem.
  6. As little hassle as possible.  I really don’t ever try to build in hassle.  It just happens.
  7. Call your shot.
  8. Justify.  7 and 8 kinda go together.  e.g. I need a trailer hitch because I tow the kids around in the trailer.

That’s just one variation.  Price.  This little change requires much more flexibility in the finished product.

  1. The 7-speed stuff is still on board.  This was a surprise.  I’ve had difficulty finding decent quality 7-speed cassette hubs, spaced 126 OLD.  The pickier I get, the scarcer and pricier they are.  That’s the way when you have to troll eBay and Craigslist for old parts.  If the One Bike were based on a new frame, rear dropout spacing is likely to be somewhere between 130 and 135mm, which changes the game entirely.  The RM40 is a low-end, current production 7-speed hub from Shimano.  Alternately, I can simply use modern 8/9/10-speed  road or MTB hubs with a little 4.5mm spacer behind the cassette.  A third option is going back to eBay.  Unlike road hubs, MTB hubs, spaced for modern frames, from the early 90s are plentiful and much less expensive.  Plus, I have my own stash of 7-speed shifters.
  2. Instead of two sets of identical wheels, we’re now at two sets of wheels.  One front wheel has a dynamo and the other doesn’t.  Looking at the wheels currently in my possession, I can do this if I settle on 26″ rims instead of 700c.  I have more than one set of 700c wheels, but they’re all different enough from each other that I’d have difficulty swapping them.  The rims are different widths, which would require brake adjustments.  The hubs are different widths, which will probably require derailer adjustments.  If I were to use my existing 700c wheels, I’d be violating rules 5 and 6.  Parallax hubs are cheap and plentiful and for some unintentional reason I have a box full of them.  I currently have two MTB rear wheels built on Parallax hubs.  I’ve given away more of these hubs than I currently posses.  Odds are, if someone puts a mountain bike that didn’t come from a department store on the curb, it has a Parallax hub.  They’re everywhere. So I have two 26″ rear wheels, and both have rims of similar width.  Within a millimeter of each other.  I have two front wheels, also with similar rims.  One of them has a dynamo hub, which solves the night riding requirements.  This leads me to the conclusion that my One Bike needs to take 26″ wheels instead of 700c.
  3. Tires.  I decided I’d need three sets.  Utility, winter and fun.  For 26″/559ISO rims I currently have some Bontrager Satellites, Nokian W106 studded, Panaracer Fire XC Pros and a few other mismatched tires.  The Bontrager and Nokian tires satisfy the utility and winter requirements.  None of the other tires really contribute to sporty road riding, but they’re there, and they’ll work in a pinch if I need a spare.  That’s 3+ pairs of tires for 26″ rims, adding more influence to the 26″ decision.
  4. I don’t have a Sugino XD crank, but I have several crank sets that I could put to use.  There’s an MT60 triple and a matching bottom bracket in the parts bin.  There are a couple long cage rear and a couple triple front derailers, too.
  5. Some place to attach racks.  I have two bikes that, so far, could be made to serve as the One Bike, but neither has any accommodation for racks, aside from drop out eyelets.  I’d have to use P-clamps to secure racks to the seat stays.  This works in the sense that the rack is attached to the bike and can hold panniers, but the rack will wiggle a lot more than if it was screwed directly to the frame.
  6. Drop handlebars.  Both of those existing bikes are mountain bikes.  Mountain bikes tend to have longer top tubes than road bikes.  I don’t think drop bars are a good solution on most mountain bikes because of that.  Combine this with the rack problem, and it’s pretty obvious that I need a new frame.
  7. Now I have to concede another sticking point.  The brakes.  I specified caliper brakes instead of cantilever.  With all my other nits, like wide tires, this was the sticking point that led me to the conclusion that those two bikes from Rivendell were the only current production models meeting all of my requirements.  If I make an exception for cantilever brakes, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Let’s break it down.

  1. 26″/559ISO wheels
  2. Road bike geometry
  3. Rack eyelets
  4. Well under $1000.  Closer to $500 is better.

I can think of a few off the top of my head, the most obvious being the Surly Long Haul Trucker, but there are others.  As it stands I already have nearly every part necessary to build up a new frame set.  I might need a chain and cables and maybe a few odd small parts, but it’s pretty obvious that if I accept reality I could have the One Bike.

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13 Responses to Reality bites…

  1. Steve Wagner says:

    A bit(e) of reality, on the Internet? How confusing.

    But, I suppose that if I did the same kind of write-up (and I still might, if I can overcome by current bout of laziness), I’d just buy a Cross-Check, keep a couple of sets of wheels (one SS rear, one IGH, one dynamo front, one not), and go from there with whatever’s in the bin (and there’s definitely enough).

    I suppose this is part of the genius of Surly. That is, whenever we get down to brass tacks, one of their bikes always seem to be either the obvious choice, or at least in the running.

    • the sloth says:

      It’s hard to argue against a Cross Check, especially if you’re running single speed or an IGH. I’m not a fan of horizontal dropouts for derailer applications, but a CC would definitely be in the running had I stuck with 700c.

  2. Pondero says:

    Brilliantly done, Sloth! Your reasoning and presentation is clear and intelligent.

    If my replacement AHH wasn’t used (close to the $1000 mark), and if I didn’t have almost everything needed for the build, I don’t think it would have been reality for me. I’m still trying to sell stuff to repair the bank balance.

  3. adventure! says:

    I feel your pain, as I wouldn’t mind a Riv or something similar, but don’t have the scratch. Have you thought the vintage frame route, specifically an 80s to early 90s mountain bike? After getting my Raleigh Crested Butte, I feel a lot of these are undiscovered gems that are way versatile and well built. They won’t ever be fast road bikes, but they do real well as “all-rounders”. And man, tire clearance!

    • the sloth says:

      Yep, I have considered the vintage MTB route. My current “all-rounder” is a 1990 Schwinn High Plains. I’ve camped, shopped, towed, rode this thing all over the place. It has gobs of tire clearance and will take fenders with ease. I also have an 87 MB-2, which doesn’t have as much tire clearance. The MB-2 takes 126mm rear hubs and the Schwinn takes 130mm. Neither has rack eyelets. They also both have the typical long MTB top tubes. The MB-2 is way too long for drop bars. The Schwinn has a shorter top tube, but also a shorter seat tube, so I can’t quite get the bars as high as I’d like. Stay tuned. There’s a plan for the MB-2. The Schwinn is going to live with someone else soon.

      • adventure! says:

        No eyelets? Damn.
        Yeah, the geometry isn’t the most perfect on some of these bikes, especially if you want to attempt to convert for drop bars. My Crested Butte has a really long top tube, which I’ve countered with really swept back bars (Civia Duponts).

        In the modern department, have you looked at the VO Campeur?

        • the sloth says:

          I considered it. Then disqualified it based on wheel size, which is tied to my existing parts stash.

          My MB-2 is set up similarly to your Crested Butte; Albatross bars, sprung leather saddle, Wald basket, chrome fenders. I have a few small changes planned for her, but she’ll retain her role as the back-up bike for quite some time, even if I do have the One Bike.

  4. doc says:

    A 26″ Trucker gives you more options with tire width, and the larger sizes don’t look as funky when they’re sporting 60mm Big Apples or a set of knobbies. Plus you could probably play around with the frame sizes and cockpit to get it just right.

  5. Wilson says:

    I love these monster posts! Good material as well. I am searching for that perfect combination of elements as well!

    ~Wilson

  6. Jon says:

    You might want to look at the Handsome XOXO…

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