Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Ideal Bicycle

If you could only own one bicycle, what would it be?

For those who own a cornucopia of bikes it's inevitable to entertain the possibility of culling the fleet, retaining one all-around bicycle. It would certainly clear out our garage—which isn't a bad thing—though I'm unwilling to break down and do such a ghastly thing quite yet. However, owning a singular bike has its appeal.

Would I keep a bike from my current stable? Or, is there another type that's a more appropriate fit?

For purposes of this exercise I'll consider my current bicycles and their attributes. I won't include the Peugeot UO 14; it's new (to me) and therefore is untested.

What stands out? 
To narrow my thinking process, I've made a concise list of each bike's striking feature(s), in order of personal value.


Ross Mt. Saint Helens - Step-through ease, stable and solid frame, versatile front rack


Trek 830 Antelope - broadest gear range - I use all three chainrings, rock solid frame, best bike for hilly rides


Miyata 610 Grand Touring - most comfortable ride, frame soaks up road surfaces, lightweight frame

Increasingly, I have some discomfort, lifting my leg over traditional diamond frames—even more so with Miyata's higher top tube. Once I'm out riding, however, it becomes a moot point, as long as I refrain from constantly getting on and off the bicycle.

It's never an issue when I ride the Ross. In fact, even with handlebars that are too low, it's pure joy to climb aboard her frame. It's clear that I will—and perhaps already have—gravitate towards step-through style bicycle in the future.

For my ultimate ride, I envision a lightweight frame, ultra low gears (like my Trek with 34t freewheel), ample fork and drop-out clearance to accommodate wide tires and fenders, a simple front rack, plus multi-position handlebars for touring.

For now, the Ross is the closest in my bicycle closet—my go to bike. For sure it's a bit on the hefty side and could use lower gears, but for now it's a bike I can continue tinkering with, and with the ability to raise handlebars, it might suffice as an interim ideal bicycle.

15 comments:

  1. My go-to bike is my Raleigh pioneer. Yup probably the lowest level bike I own, but defo the comfiest ride, the one that can take the most abuse, a great range of gears. If I was rich enough to do a frame building course - I'd use that bike as the template for the geometry to build a better quality material beast

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    1. What I find interesting is that the more bikes we own, the broader basis we have for comparison, and possibly the least likely bike we gravitate towards. It's not about what bike costs the most, but about the fit and comfort it provides -- and that is unique to the individual.

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  2. What about converting the Miyata 610 to 650B? It would lower the bb and let you have wider tires. You can always change the gearing with a different cassette, chainrings or both. Try to tilt the bike to one side to lessen the top tube height when mounting and dismounting the bike.

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    1. I've read about that type of wheel conversion. It would certainly provide more fender space. However, the forks are too narrow for wider wheels. It's funny that you mention leaning the bike to one side. I've been trying that lately. It feels very counter intuitive to me, but that's because I've been lifting my leg in standard manner for 30 years. And yes, I could change the gearing, but it's not the bike I see growing old with -- at least as I see it now -- so I'm not ready to make a big investment in it's makeover.

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    2. I think the big issue with that is the 610 has cantilever brakes, which because the brake bosses are where they are, don't allow wheel conversion easily. I've heard about people switching from 27" (630 mm) to 700C (622 mm) with canti brakes, but the rim on a 650B (584 mm) is much more of a distance. Of course, building wheels with drum brakes could get around that hurdle. But that's a lot of money.

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  3. Nice choice in bikes for personal use / function for your personal favorite all rounder. Before making the switch to a lower framed recumbent I used to lean the Diamond Frame bike real low then put my leg over the top tube" 'it worked fine except on days with heavier loads in the racks / Panniers.

    Mike

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    1. Oh shoot, just read accyclist response after I posted, never mind.

      Mike

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    2. Mike, the more confirmation the merrier! I can always use advice.

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    3. It is a Grail Search, Miss Annie. I will be eternally doomed to own two bikes, I fear, and perhaps they will be named Near and Far. This is my current situation, with my 1981 Super Le Tour and my '91 Mongoose Alta. The Schwinn is my long rider (and The One Bike, should it ever be necessary to choose) but the Goose is my buddy, my goofy friend who makes me laugh, my beer-bike and my neighborhood rambler. (I was trying to write about this in my last post but as usual, got a little sidetracked.)

      Lately I have been web-dreaming about a Surly Ogre, a utility tool of a bicycle and trying VERY hard to be the One Bike to Rule Them All. But, forced by reality to...uh..to face reality, I am gradually coming to terms with the duality of cycling, the bi-cycle nature of bicycles: it takes two, baby, it takes two. One for the highway, one for the 'hood.

      That being said, every time I glance down at the 35mm front tire on my old Schwinn I want it to be a 50mm.

      And every time I'm banging around town on my little Goose, I want those 26 inch tires to be 29ers.

      So there ya go.It's a Grail Search. It never ends and somehow, I suppose that is how it should be.

      tj

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  4. Annie there are a plethora of nice 70's steel step through frames out there/ I imagine with some looking you can find a light-weight version of your Ross that you can then build up with a mega range (34t) freewheel for the gearing you want. Of course I tend to get as much pleasure out of searching for the bike as I do building it so that could just be me talking. If you hit the lotto try one of these http://www.rivbike.com/product-p/f-cheviot.htm

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    1. Now you're talking! I've been in love with the Betty Foy for many years, but this orange Cheviot looks like the cat's meow for me.

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  5. I agree with TJ here, it is a grail. If I had to....out of my bikes, my Surly LHT would be my single rider. That said, I love my other two bikes, a Schwinn Le Tour roadie and Ogre. I have only had Ogre since last July and it may just turn into the choice for a single bike if I had to. But, I don't!!! And that right there is the great thing about life as I know it!!
    If I would happen to hit that elusive lottery, I think a couple of bikes from Rivendale might have to arrive at my house.

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    1. Perhaps for those of us who like to bike tour it's better to have two bikes: one for the long haul and one for around town commutes.

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  6. This is definitely food for thought. I also agree with TJ/JB in finding the "one" bike is a bit of a grail. I've thought about getting a custom bike that would an all-rounder for my styles: light to medium touring, city utility, a sportier ride. I don't have the scratch for that right now, and worry that I'm not quite there yet, like I need another couple years before I know exactly what I want.

    Right now I'll be satisfied with what I have, which in a minimalist-ers sense (whatever happened to that 57 Things guy?) is too much: Three daily riders, plus one special bike. If that theoretical gun was to my head, I could see whittling it down to two, but I'd still want two. It's nice having that second bike in case something happens to one and it's either in the shop or I'm too lazy to fix it right away.

    This year I'm going to do my damndest to not get another bike, at least. Of course, this is not a hard rule, but I don't want/need another project, as I already have too many. I almost pondered buying a cheap folding bike for its general usefulness, but decided that I would rather get a decent folder if I was going to go down that road.

    One day I'll figure it out, I'm sure! ;-)

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    1. Shawn - I'm also happy that I don't need to whittle down my stock. In fact, I'm considering getting a cheap folder. We are going on a family trip this summer (in fact, going to Portland!) and I can't imagine 2 weeks traveling by car without an hour ride each day to unwind.

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