Friday Group Ride 421

Friday Group Ride 421

I used to go to this ice cream place near my home in Memphis where half the staff made amazing milkshakes and the other half could not. This latter detail never stood between me and my desire to enjoy a butterscotch milkshake. However, when one of the less talented members of the crew did it, inevitably I’d get about half way into the milkshake when a big glop of un-blended ice cream would clog the straw. Great progress … and then nothing.

Recovery from the fires in Sonoma County last fall has, in some quarters at least, been much the same way. Despite allegedly “streamlining” the permit process, many homeowners are clogged in the upstaffed office. People are suing the government contractors that cleaned lots because in many cases they removed the foundation for the home. Why? Because the contractors were paid by the ton and it was more profitable for them to develop a reading comprehension problem on the line that said, “Leave foundation.” And nevermind the law, people are back to smoking as they hike on trails that wind through brush drier than the chain on a bike at Burning Man.

So many cyclists lost homes here (with 5300 homes burned, that translates to at least a few dozen cyclists), that the community now has something of a track record for what a cyclist does when starting from scratch. In most instances I’ve heard of, riders went with a gravel bike, reasoning that in losing a road bike, a mountain bike and a gravel bike, a gravel bike was the one bike that could more or less fill the role of all three, the needs of a pinch being what they are.

A source tells me that our local Specialized Concept Store, NorCal Bike Sport is the biggest seller of Diverges worldwide. I’ve watched as friends started with a gravel bike, added a second set of wheels and then waited a bit for some of the ash to settle before adding a mountain bike.

It’s seemingly natural to be a cyclist and ever-aware of the N+1 quiver challenge. It’s like a tool set; you’ve got all the tools you need until you need to do something for which you lack the proper tool, right? I’ve known very few cyclists who were simply acquisitive in the way a collector is. Nearly always I see people buy a new bike so that they can ride in a way that their current equipment won’t allow.

The transition to a gravel bike with two sets of wheels—one set up with 35s or 38s, the other set up with 25s or 28s—was a dance move people around here were already picking up on prior to the fires. For some, living in households with a spouse prone to outbursts of, “What the hell?! Another damn bike?!” Buying a gravel bike was a way to make a transition to more modern componentry and disc brakes when their existing road bike still had plenty of life left in it.

But sweetie, I can’t ride the bike I have on dirt roads.

So while our man Robot is enjoying the last of his summer vacation, this week’s ride asks, have any of you gone N-1 and eliminated a bike from your quiver only to replace it with a bike that wears two suits? And even if you haven’t, is that an idea that resonates with you?

, , ,


  1. scott g.

    The Rivendell Atlantis had a touring wheelset and a go fast wheelset.
    One bike to rule them all.

    I have night kit (dyno wheel + lights) that goes on the all day road bike in winter.
    Club runs night rides over winter, so I only need a night bike for 3 months a year.

  2. Jeff vdD

    Yep, bought an adventure bike, sold the road bike. Adventure bike’s primary wheels run 40mm, with a backup set bearing road 28s (that measure 30). Adventure bike is tubeless, road bike wasn’t. Adventure bike is 1x, road bike was 2x … the only real drawback of my current setup, and it’s a small one, is swapping chain rings depending on the elevation profile of the ride.

    As eTap rear derailleurs accommodate wider cassette ranges, I’ll make that move, trading gear spacing for range. I’m not all that particular about gear spacing for the riding I do, so not really worried.

    A big part of my move was trading carbon fiber (frame, fork, seatpost, and wheels) for metal (leaving only the fork and cranks made from plastic). I’m loving the decision more with each passing ride.

  3. Brian Ogilvie

    I effectively do all my recreational riding on one bike, a Boulder All Road with 650B 42 mm tires. It’s good for everything from smooth pavement to short stretches of discontinued roads, and particularly nice on dirt, gravel, and the chip seal that cash-starved towns in western Massachusetts are increasingly using when they repave roads. If I had lowrider bosses added to the fork, I could use it for light touring, too, and get rid of my dedicated touring bike.

    The only other bike that I use regularly is a Breezer Uptown 8 with a step-through frame; it’s perfect for my 6-mile round-trip commute and for occasional errands.

    I haven’t actually sold any of the others (two folding bikes, a couple touring bikes, and an old hybrid), but I should get rid of one of the folders, at least. The hybrid comes in handy for guests, and the Bike Friday New World Tourist for trips where I want a bike.

    1. Author

      “Western Massachusetts.”


      Would love to hear about your touring bike; anyone who can talk lowrider bosses has my full attention.

    2. Brian Ogilvie

      Here’s a photo of the Boulder from last year:

      It looks pretty much the same these days except that the bar tape needs replacing and the saddle is darker from another year of sweat and leather treatment. And the front fender caught a stick and crumpled, so it’s been replaced by a similar one from V-O, plus PDW safety tabs. I tried a couple rides without fenders, but when I ran across chip seal that was still wet from rain, the result was more water and road grit thrown up on the drivetrain, frame, bags, and rider than I normally get in a month, so fenders went back on just before this year’s D2R2.

      When I ordered the frame in 2012, Mike Kone didn’t spec lowrider bosses on the fork, but they’re now standard. I might send the fork back to Waterford over the winter for the treatment.

      The other touring bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Tough as nails, but not as much fun to ride as the Boulder.

  4. Michael

    I am embarrassed to say “only sort of.” I have a steel couplered big-tire road bike that can be made to do everything but rough single-track. I go to other countries for year-long contracts and only take this bike. I love it and have a blast exploring on it. I have a bike-packing setup for it so can tour too. But, when I get home, that bike tends to sit most of the time and I pull out bikes that are ideal for whatever the ride is I am planning. I have proven to myself that I can make the one bike do most things (add in a mountain bike and I am probably completely covered) but I don’t choose to simplify. Embarrassing, really.

  5. Alan S

    I’d go N-1 but usually once I own a beloved bike, it stays with me for life. Hence the 1980 Trek 720, the 1988 Jamis Diablo, etc….

  6. Alanm9

    Thinking about it. I have a new disc roadie with 28 slicks for the weekends and an old rim brake roadie for the 14 mile ride to work that I was planning to replace. Maybe upgrade the wheels on the disc and put bigger tires on the stock wheels for the commute. Then dump the old bike. I have cash for either option and room in the garage, but I’m also cheap and just favor the ethic of “having what you want and wanting what you have”. Hmmmmm….

  7. Dan Murphy

    First, I’m kinda old at 64. Not OLD, just getting there. Consequently, I’m not as picky about having the perfect bike for the situation.

    Two years ago, I got a Seven Evergreen SL. It was a lot of money and I had a whole list of justifications for spending so much on a bike (semi-retirement gift to self, last new road bike in 18 years, etc.), but the main reason was that we were going on a 6+ month trip around the USA and I wanted a versatile bike. The Evergreen, with two sets of wheels, nailed it. I rode the singletrack at LaPine OR almost every day, rode the weekly group road ride with the SpokeNGear gang in Two Harbors MN, rode a dirt ride with the same group, had a great dirt ride in Custer SP in SD where I saw my first badger poking his head into prairie dog dens, had a gorgeous dirt ride in Livingston MT that turned just a bit scary after seeing a sign about mountain lions, had a fantastic road ride in Napa/Sonoma (?) valley that made me think about moving there, had a semi-tense dirt ride in Victor ID armed with bear spray, and on and on. If one were to have just one bike, a ride like this works really well.

    Getting back to the “old” part, I don’t feel the need for a dedicated road bike now. If I were younger and rode more aggressively, maybe I would want a road machine. I used to beat the crap out of myself riding the technical trails of New England (see “granite”) and had rotator cuff surgery to prove it, but I haven’t touched my mt bike in a long time. I can ride out my back door and put together pieces of country roads and dirt for hours, and that’s working great for me right now.

    Like everything else in my life, my riding has evolved over the years, and the gravel bike with two sets of tires is where I’m at. Gotta say, I feel bad for my Merlin road bike, my Santa Cruz mt bike, and my IF cross bike.

  8. Jay

    I replaced my Specialized Roubaix with a Giant Toughroad. I was only riding the Roubaix over the winter months because I have another road bike that I prefer. The Toughroad opened up more possibilities for diversity in my rides. I always thought that I would have that Roubaix forever. That’s how much I liked it. On the other hand it was too nice to just set in the garage. It has to be used to be what it is.

  9. Marc

    I sure did. Sold a full suspension mountain bike and a full rigid fat bike to replace them with a fat bike with a front suspension that I ride all year long. I live in Canada so a fat bike is a requisite to keep riding in the winter.

  10. Lyford

    I can easily see an endurance/gravel bike with two sets of wheels covering most of my cycling needs. That’ll ptobably be the next big purchase. Given the roads in this area I don’t see the point of a “pure” road bike that can’t take wide(28 & up)tires. But I’m not getting rid of the one I have now — there’s nothing wrong with it, and on good pavement it is a joy to ride.

  11. Tominalbany

    Yesterday, I pulled out the old Schwinn I bought for $400 with my first paycheck after graduating in 1989. It had been sitting on a rack in the basement for about 15 years. Unridden. Really. Suntour/Sugino components. 7-speed, index shifters on the stem. I inflated the tires and rode it around the cul-de-sac. My first thought? “Why would I get rid of this?” But, boy! The geometry and my body position. It was weird and hilarious at the same time!

    That said, I was looking at an All-Road/Gravel kind of bike. I’d like to upgrade to a bit more of a comfortable ride from my ’98 Serotta CTi, which is currently sporting 25 on the rims and 9-speed gearing.

    Questions for all of you folks. Why isn’t a cross bike an all-around bike? Why did they ‘invent’ a new style of bike for this riding? Is it something in geometry or position?

    I have a 1994(?) Mongoose mtn bike down there too. 7-speed with a triple, Gripshift, V-brakes. Maybe next weekend?

    1. Author

      So there’s a significant difference between cyclcocross bikes and all-road or gravel bikes. A true ‘cross bike has a high bottom bracket, as in 6cm or less BB drop. Lots of the Euro bikes used to be 5.5cm of BB drop. A true ‘cross bike also has a short wheelbase and reasonably low trail (5.5cm or less). Plus, it will most likely not have clearance for tires bigger than 35mm, and that’s only if it was built for mud clearance. A gravel bike will have geometry much more like a traditional European stage race bike—lower BB (7cm at minimum, and even more is preferable), longer wheelbase, more trail, clearance for 38mm tires at minimum.

      Now, how this all translates comes down to descents. Take a ‘cross bike on a steep and bumpy descent or a fast smooth one and you’ll feel your mortality in a mightily present-tense fashion. Whereas the gravel bike will take either of those circumstances and make you feel invincible. It’s that simple.

      Finally, most people I know have a different fit on a gravel bike than they would on a ‘cross bike. If you’re going to race an hour or less, you can have a reasonably aggressive position, whereas many gravel events are all-day epics and you want to be sitting up higher for comfort and to reduce some of the battering your upper body will sustain on bumpy roads.

    2. Dan Murphy

      What Patrick said.
      My original gravel bike is an IF Planet X cross bike I pickec up used on ebay. I loved this bike bike on the trails and any dirt, so much that I still haven’t sold it after getting my Evergreen. I just didn’t like it on the road. I wish I could give more detail, but I believe the higher BB and tighter geometry threw me off.

  12. Jeff vdD

    One way that I’ve seen the difference reveal itself is in riding no hands. On an adventure bike, like on a road bike, it’s no problem. On a CX bike, the twitchiness is noticeable and encouraging of keeping at least one hand on the bars.

    1. Tominalbany

      Thanks, Padraig and Jeff.

      Re: Jeff’s twitchiness comment. Make sense. I must’ve turned my current bike into a CX bike when I bought a set of rims (Mavic Ksyriums) with bladed spokes. I nearly lost the ability to ride no handed, the bike became so twitchy. I needed to be riding faster to keep it steady!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *