Practical Advice for Transportation Cycling

Sometimes, all that matters is getting from Point A to Point B as cheaply, safely and efficiently as possible. You don't need a fast bike, you don't need a pretty bike, and most of all you don't need an expensive bike, you just need one that works.

Friday, August 22, 2014

One Bike to Rule Them All

While casual riders or those who are strictly into the utility of cycling are perfectly content with only a single bike, most of us who like bicycles develop a habit of accumulating them, as we find one bike is suited to one type of riding more than another. In spite of this, we sometimes discuss the perfect "do it all" bike, like we'd ever be content with just a single toy. 

I know from long experience there is no ideal bike for every situation, but I also know that with the right bike you can get by just about anywhere, even if "ideal" isn't in the mix. It's a bit like a Swiss-Army knife or Leatherman, it's not so much about having the perfect tool for every job, but having a good-enough tool handy. 

This kind of thing is on my mind now because I'm about to make a move from my New Jersey base of operations to the snow-and-cheese-bound cycling paradise of Madison, Wisconsin. The thing is, as I move to one of the most bicycle-friendly areas I've ever seen, I'm only going to be able to bring one full-size bicycle for the time being (I will be putting others in storage and getting them later) so I've had to think hard about which one of my "fleet" will be coming with me. 

Of course, me being me, I had to overthink the whole thing, but I eventually decided on my Van Dessel "Country Road Bob" for a number of reasons. 
First off, Madison is not super-hilly, so a singlespeed drivetrail won't put me at a big disadvantage in getting around. After the move, I'm hoping to find a job working at a bicycle shop, but things will be up in the air and for the time being I won't have access to a full shop's worth of tools, so a basic, low-maintenance drivetrain will be easy to keep in good working order. With it's cyclocross frame and Mountain Bike style brakes, the Bob also has plenty of clearance for wider, knobby tires for winter riding, and with the hub flipped to the fixed-gear side, gives me plenty of control on slippery surfaces. Its fairly unique frame design and bright paint scheme makes it easy to spot from a distance and therefore a bit (not a lot) more theft resistant, and finally, if I'm going to be leaving my native turf, I'm bringing a bike from a New Jersey company with me. 

I did make some modifications to the bike, in preparation for it being my Number One ride again. The biggest of which was to replace the 12-year-old carbon fork with a steel one (All City Nature Boy, for those playing the home game). While I've never had trouble with the super-rugged Van Dessel fork, it's old, I'm heavy, and I expect to be putting a lot more mileage on the bike than I have been. But more so, this gave me the opportunity to use a longer steerer tube and raise the stem a bit. The Country Road Bob has a very short head tube, and with my seat height I had the handlebars about six inches below saddle level. This would be fine if I were trying to be athletic, or actually capable of riding fast, but for commuting in traffic I found it put a lot of strain on my neck and shoulders, so I now have a more comfortable, but swill sporty four-inch drop. The new fork also has braze-ons which will let me add a front fender if I feel the need (the old fork had no eyelets at all, even for a clip-on fender like I have on the rear). I chose this particular fork because it was nearly as light as the carbon one it replaced, had a rustproof treatment inside and out, and looked cooler than the other options. 

Otherwise I've installed one of my favorite all-around saddles on the bike, the Terry Liberator Y, and added a Minnehaha large saddlebag for tools and small items. With a couple of clip-on lights, I should be ready to hit the (new) town!

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