My Country Road Bob is a great, versatile, fun-to-ride bike, and it's wonderful for getting around and going places, but it isn't the best at actually carrying stuff. The leaned-over riding position makes carrying anything too bulky in a backpack or bag uncomfortable, and I really didn't want to festoon my light, zippy machine with racks and baskets, as it's both fun to ride and easy to manuever up a flight of stairs or onto mass transit. I figured the ideal way to go about things would be to acquire a second bike that I could make a dedicated cargo hauler, and keep the Bob for pleasure riding and light loads (admittedly, most of my riding anyway).
Fortunately, I happen to have found work at a pretty cool shop that specializes in refurbishing used bikes, and a used mountain bike in my size happened to come through the door. I snagged before it hit the sales floor for about $50 and set about setting it up for my needs. The bike was pretty perfect for what I wanted, it's a fairly modern, low-end mountain bike in good condition. This meant that, for one, I wouldn't feel bad modifying it to meet my needs like I would a cool classic bike or more valuable new bike, and secondly, all the components are common and easy to replace if they break or wear out.
As I've mentioned before, I think basic mountain bikes are fairly well-suited to utility use. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a rigid fork, making it easier to mount fenders and giving me one less moving part to worry about, but that's become a rarity these days, and the fork works fine for now (I'll break it eventually).
One of the first things I did was swap the handlebars for "butterfly" style trekking bars... just because really. These things are the Crocs of handlebars, kind of goofy-looking, but practical and comfy.
|It's a Giant Boulder. Aptly named because with an XL frame it's pretty giant, and it weighs as much as a huge chunk of rock.|
|Mounting the basket over the wheel instead of on the handlebars lowers the center of gravity and gives extra room for those weird handlebars.|
|I used a rack set up for 700c wheels, meaning it rides higher than normal, and attached the baskets as far back as I could because my big feet require a lot of room to avoid hitting the baskets with my heels.|
I also attached a mudguard to the underside of the rear rack to keep myself from getting road crud all up my back on wet days. At some point I'd like to put on a full fender set, but I was relying on what was cheap and what I could scrounge from the used parts pile, so the simple splashguard is doing the job for now. I put a less-squishy saddle on, and added a saddle leash to help prevent theft (the saddle and seatpost aren't worth much, but I've noticed that unsecured quick-release seatposts get stolen for no good reason in some neighborhoods). Some LED lights salvaged off a scrap-heap bike, and an old water-bottle cage completed the accessory outfitting.
When I was done I had a bike with an upright riding position, easy maintenance, decent cargo capacity and the ability to handle most terrain and weather conditions for under $100. Admittedly, I used some parts I had lying around, but I was also able to scrounge a lot from my local community bike center's pile of free parts, and save some money. Finding the right bike (especially for a tall guy like me) requires a bit of luck, but when it did come may way, I was able to make it and now have a very useful machine for relatively little cash.
|Pretty sexy, right? Actually, maybe a bit TOO good-looking, I may have to slap on some tape and stickers to make it look a bit more battered than it really is.|