At the end of last week, I proposed a little mental exercise: design for yourself a single bicycle that would cover all of your cycling needs using only one frame, the minimum number of wheels and other parts, and whatever else you require for it to be enough.
In the rules for this exercise, I stipulated that you have to call your shot, and explain the needs you’re trying to meet. Here are mine:
- Year-round commuting.
- Leisurely and sporty road rides in and out of town.
- Touring with reasonable baggage.
- Occasional gravel races and other like events.
- Pavement, gravel roads, rail trails, occasional single-track.
- Ice and snow in the winter.
- Build-able and maintainable by a reasonably competent home mechanic (me).
Frameset: Custom steel, stainless steel, or titanium 700c wheel monster-cross frame with a steel fork. S&S couplers. Relatively low-trail front-end. Clearances for 45mm tires or 38mm tires with fenders. Braze-ons for racks, fenders, and IGH cable routing. Track fork-ends with integrated tensioners. E.D. coated (if steel).
Rear Wheels: For maximum configurability and year-round use while maintaining simplicity of setup, there are three rear wheels:
- Single-speed, using a high-end SS cassette hub (e.g., Chris King)
- IGH, 8-speed Shimano Alfine.
- Fixed-free, using a mid-range freewheel hub (e.g., Surly New Ultra)
Front wheels: For the same reasons, there are three front wheels:
- Dynamo (Alfine or Schmidt)
- Standard (e.g., Chris King)
- Standard (e.g, Surly New Ultra)
All wheels are either 32 or 36 hole, built three-cross with double-butted spokes to Velocity Dyad rims. The mid-range fixed-free wheel-set is for winter use only.
Tires: A selection of different types and sizes of tires multiply the variety provided by the multiple wheel-sets. There are four basic areas:
- 32mm road slicks (Panaracer Jack Brown Blue).
- 35-38mm touring. (Schwalbe Marathon Supreme).
- 45mm monster-cross. Panaracer Fire Cross XC).
- 35-38mm studded. (45North Xerxes or Polara)
Also, this range of sizes requires tubes of only two sizes (one, if you stretch things a bit)
Cockpit: 44-46mm shallow drop bars (something like a Salsa Cowbell 2) or dirt drops (Luxy, Woodchipper, etc.) with Cane Creek levers and Paul cross levers. IGH shifting with a bar-end from Jtek. Thomson X4 stem. Chris King headset and spacers.
Seating: Thomson Masterpiece seat-post and a Brooks B-17 saddle. Thomson seat-post collar.
Drivetrain: White Industries crankset with QR pedal mounts, single chainring with integrated bashguard, and a SKF JIS square taper bottom bracket. SRAM or KMZ chain.
Brakes: Paul Neo-retro (front) and Paul touring canti (rear) or Paul Mini-moto, with Koolstop salmon pads. Yokozuna cables and housing. Paul Funky Monkey front and rear cable hangers, if using cantilevers.
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 2 (clipless) and Velo Orange Sabot (platform).
Fenders: SKS Longboards, Velo Orange, or Honjo.
Racks: Custom-built rando front rack (large platform, integrated light mounts); custom rear saddlebag support or Tubus rack, depending on size of load.
Baggage: A variety of bags from Carradice, Acorn, Dill Pickle, Swift, and Revelate in combinations that fit the current situation. Or, a Mission Workshop Vandal.
Lighting: Schmidt Edelux (front) and PDW Radbot and/or PDW Fenderbot (rear).
Other stuff: ABUS folding lock with holster (on seat tube braze-ons), VO Retro Mk2 bottle cages, Lezyne Road Drive pump.
Roughly 90 percent of my riding takes place on pavement, rail trails, and gravel roads — and most of that from the back door. A substantial portion of my current riding time (though perhaps not mileage) is done either single-speed or fixed.
But since not all situations lend themselves to single-geared drivetrains — longer, hillier group rides and touring with a load come to mind — a geared drivetrain is required. The IGH provides a reasonable gear range, especially when paired with a reasonably small chainring, without having to completely reconfigure.
And of the several permutations offered by different wheels, tires, and cockpit configurations, I’d venture to say that it would be likely that I’d spend more than half of the time riding a single-speed with drop bars, 35-38mm tires, fenders, and dynamo lighting.
So perhaps that’s really the one bike for me, in the end.