Saturday, January 17, 2015

maybe a project

I hate my commuter bike that I use only rarely. It's heavy and ugly; the welds are gobbed like wads of gum; the suspension seatpost sags after a while, so I've set it a little too high when I first get on, and after a half-hour or so it's a little too low. I ought to put cyclocross in-line brake levers on in addition to the drop-brake levers (like I have on the Yellow Maserati), but I haven't, probably because I just don't love the bike. The best thing about it is a beautiful Nitto drop bar to which I attached friction bar-end shifters and aero brake levers that work with the Vee-brakes on the bike.

After Laura got Beaker, I had toyed with buying a lovely lugged frame for myself, but that totally won't work. There are a number of reasons for this, but the one that is most pressing for me is that if I build a bike that's too beautiful, I'll be afraid to use it. I know this because I sometimes need to use a cane to support myself; I have a small collection of canes, including one that's attractive and just the right height, that I didn't use for years for fear of wrecking it or wearing it out. I need utile more than beautiful.

I first cast an eye on the Soma San Marcos. Lugged and handsome, it was designed by Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bikes. Larger versions have a double top tube for added rigidity, and it's got long chainstays so I'll be able to keep the front wheel down on 25% grades... but it's too pretty to be a bike for use, and too quotidian to be a bike for eye candy.

Soma's got a number of other frames (I looked at the Wolverine and Double Cross), but then I remembered the fork on the Yellow Maserati. When I was building the Yellow Maserati, the carbon fiber fork on my first bike had developed a worrisome scratch, and I kept reading stuff about carbon fiber failures that had me uneasy (Alberto Contador's experience last summer has not improved my confidence). I had built the Yellow Maserati with a Surly fork. What does Surly have?

Well, lots, it turns out. I want room for wide tires, and not really a tourer like the Long Haul Trucker... but there's that cyclo-cross frame, the Cross Check, that has a lot of what I'm looking for:
  • Lots of sizes;
  • Chainstays longer than those on the Yellow Maserati;
  • Braze-ons for fenders and racks;
  • Price includes the fork;
  • External cable routing, and setups for downtube shifters (or not);
  • Room for wide tires...
  • ...and you can get a black one. (I'm color-challenged.)
I've already scouted out rims, a crankset, and a rear derailleur. I can use the Nitto bars and the brake levers I have, and finagle the bar-end shifters onto the downtube (and if that isn't comfy, I can always use these guys on the downtube to put the shifters back on the bar ends). I can probably build it up as an eight- or nine-speed with a nice wide range, because of the friction shift setup. I've still got that last BG2 saddle.

I may have a project.


  1. Replies
    1. I know. That is one of the ways in which you and I differ (or would do, if I had any beautiful bikes).