Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It May Never Happen: Part 2

A while back I posted this missive which was about a specific bike to gravel grinding and how I felt the "bike industry" was not ever going to make this bike for various reasons. Just yesterday an e-mail exchange with someone related to the bike industry sparked what you are about to read today. (Assuming that you continue to read, that is!) So- I must post the usual "TK" inspired disclaimer: 

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

 First of all, the intentions of most of my ramblings have been about riding bicycles on gravel roads, but during the e-mail exchange mentioned above, it was suggested that just such a bike as I am envisioning is what most cyclists who ride on "any road" should be riding. So, calling this bike a "gravel grinder" might be a misnomer. It may not be the right name at all.

It reminds me of the "Rough Riders" , whose motto, "Any Bike, Anywhere" doesn't let the type of bike you have define the type of terrain you want to ride on. Which is pretty cool,but this "zen terrain cycling" mind set is not where the vast majority of cyclists are at with regards to "what to do" about picking out hardware suitable for "most riding needs".  And when it comes to those "needs", I believe the bike industry is mostly oblivious. Yes- they just don't get it. As a bike shop mechanic, I see it every day.

I saw a thread on an on-line forum that I believe is a doorway, -a portal, if you will- to where most riders are coming from when it comes down to "all arounder" bikes. I have decided to lift this list directly from the thread I saw it on:

A.) Strength / Durability - I am a Clydesdale and uses for the bike would include primarily commuting on some pothole infested roads, weekend solo road rides, and possibly some light touring. I am not interested in carbon, aluminum is just fine by me. Wheels would need to be relatively bombproof.
B.) Flexibility - The ability to easily convert the bike for a variety of uses (road rides, commutes, etc.) This would include the need for rack/fender mounts and proper clearance to run anything from 25mm slicks to 32+mm with tread.
C.) Comfort - I am not a racer. I'm not even a strong rider. I just like to ride. I don't particularly care if the bike is aero... or terribly light weight (I'm neither of those things, so why should my bike be). I do want something I can get on and ride long distances. I want to have to stop riding because I'm too tired... not because I'm too sore.
D.) Groupset - I've been spoiled by the performance of 105. I am also intrigued by the possibilities of Apex. Any higher up the food chain I know is going to conflict with my next point...
E.) Price - I am a cheap bastard. I would likely have to be out the door for under $1500.
Interesting, isn't it? I am going to comment- point by point- on this list.

Trek CrossRip: Close but...meh!
  •  Point A: Frame material choice can accommodate whether it is steel or aluminum, so I will table that for now- What is interesting is the comments about durability for what I would call "average sized people". Rear wheels- in particular- seem to be woefully inadequate. 
  • Point B: While I like the direction this person is going, I would say that the opinion expressed here is conservative. Listen- folks will do more on a bike that can do more. Give them clearances for up to 42mm tires and 38mm with fenders. More clearance will not hurt sales. 
  • Point C: Bike industry folks- (if you are paying attention here)- if you do not get anything else from this, take down notes from "Point C" and listen up: Folks are not interested in being someone like the Pro cycling team you sponsor. Heck- they can't even relate to that. They just want an efficient, very versatile, multi-road surface bicycle. This means taller head tubes, slacker angles, and better designs on frames and forks that are not so damn stiff. 
  • Point D: 11 speeds? Electronic shifting? Hello? Most folks do not have any interest in this sort of "halo" componentry. Decent, long lasting, good looking, and value oriented parts are what folks want and need. 9 speeds are plenty, really.
  • Point E: Yeah...the clincher. Bicycles are getting more and more expensive while the vast majority of cyclists are scratching out a living where expenses are increasing to the point that recreational activities are suffering. Here's an idea: Make the same, great looking 9 speed groupset for the next ten years. Do not change it. Make it affordable, durable, and polished. Want to see more folks on bicycles? Keep the price of entry reasonable, but packed with value, versatility, and durability. 
Okay- but what do you call this bike? Good question. I think the way the thread starter on the referenced post talked about it would be really a good place to start: The "All Arounder" bike. A bicycle that can go from pristine pavement to smooth single track and everything in between. It can haul stuff on a rack, but it isn't a touring bike. It can do gravel and some dirt, but it isn't a cyclocross bike. It can be ridden fast, but it isn't a racing bike.

I wrote about this five years ago and called it "Adventuring". I was thinking a bit fatter tires back then, but the post is still relevant today just as much as it was back then. Call it an "any road bike", or as some do- an "all road bike". Whatever- but in my opinion, the bike industry is really missing it here, and folks are left to scratch their heads in bewilderment at what most companies focus on.

Tomorrow: Brakes Revisited.


Velocodger said...

Tell it like it is GT! Thanks.

RHB said...

I ride a Specialized Expert Sport Disc for a couple of months now, and it's pretty close to this hypothetical "all-rounder".

MMcG said...

Would such an all rounder have to have 700c wheels?

Guitar Ted said...

@MMcG: It would to be marketable to the masses. ;) Besides, the traditionalism that exists in the 650B road niche, which argues the finer points of fork rake, geometry, and aesthetics of their own bikes,would look on any mass produced bike made in the mold I am suggesting and summarily dismiss it as stupid.

Ben said...

Totally agreed, GT, you nailed it. It's one of the reasons I keep my LHT because it's bomb proof, paid for, fits big rubber and is comfortable.

Granted it's also a big pig to lug up hills thanks to the loooong geometry and all that, but I'll take the tradeoffs.

Van H Savell Jr said...

I am tryng to see how this bike differs from my 2008 lemond propad or my 2006 redline conguest sport. Agree with you however in principle. The redline was under 900 USD new, 8 speed, does everything.

The Debt Diet said...

Doesn't this post perfectly discribe a Surly Crosscheck?

Kate Geisen said...

A friend rides a Surly...something (go ahead and revoke my feeble bike person credentials. That's only the tip of the "what I don't know" iceberg). Anyway, he calls it his adventure bike. Go anywhere, do (most) anything is a pretty cool bike to have.

Guitar Ted said...

For those suggesting bicycles they feel fits the bill: See my earlier post- linked in the body of this one at the top- and also note that there are certain nuances of the bikes mentioned that do not fit the bill. For instance, a surly Cross Check, while very capable, has a tallish BB and a very short head tube. NOT what I would have for the bike I am suggesting here. Again- it may work just peachy for many folks, (thus their popularity), but it could be done better.

Chad said...

How about we take a step back in time for the name, and call it a "Bike".

"back in my day, we didn't have 50 kinds of bikes, you just rode your bike everywhere"~ every old timer that walks into my store, and he's right.

"Bike", i like it.

Chad Ament

Mauricio Babilonia said...

There's gotta be a happy medium between the plastic/electronic racer bike and Grant Peterson's Un-Racer ideal. When you say "all-rounder," I can't help thinking of the latter. Great bikes, don't get me wrong, but the Atlantis (and it's cheaper sibling, the LHT) are just a little too rhinolike for what you've described. All-road seems a much more promising classification.

Regarding Point B, why not 45? That would be 42 + fenders in most cases and give you a ticket to the monstercross show.

Point C? Exactly.

Point D: I wouldn't be averse to going all the way back to 8. In fact, I've just plain refused to give it up. Seems to me that more material in the chain means a more durable chain. I've never broken one, and I'm not exactly super-nice to my bikes.

Point E: $120 for a cassette? $60 for a chain? $50 for a chainring? Really? Admittedly numbers I've pulled out of the netherworld, but they exist. Good grief.

Anyways, the Space Horse is coming along and just might make an appearance at the GTDRI. We'll see.

Gino said...

On the price thing, I love how the with recent innovations Shimano has been lowering prices on parts. The new 11 spd Ultegra just showed up at Q and apparently some of it is cheaper than the 10 speed. It's like that with the 9 spd and 10 spd MTN parts too (like cassettes).
Assumed shimano thoughts: "oh you want to keep riding your older still working great stuff, well... we'll let you do it but we will charge you more to replace those parts that go out even though all of our R&D money is now in the new stuff."

MG said...

I'm with ya' brother...

A bike like the Singular Peregrine sounds exactly like what you're talking about, doesn't it? Capable of accepting Nano Raptors, but not too overbuilt to run it with 32c road tires... I've seen that frameset in so many different configurations it's silly -- the definition of 'all arounder' if ever there was one.

After my prototype Singular Puffin fatbike is finished, a Peregrine will likely be the next bike I'll build up and I think I have you to thank for it.

Thanks buddy!

Mike DeWalt said...

I'm in exactly the same spot ... and also a clyde who likes to ride. Given my size and the terrible potholes in my town ... and the fact that I ride alot on crushed limestone trails, I built my own bike. Based on a 29er mtb frame (cheap aluminum), niner carbon mtb rigid fork, disc wheels I had built with 36 spokes in the rear, big apple tires (have both 2 inch and 2.35 inch) , road drop bars, singe ring up front 36 teeth, and a 9 speed 12-32 tooth rear. Tiagra brifters (left one not hooked to anything but the brake). Works perfectly for me.

BluesDawg said...

This sounds a lot like a description of my 2009 Salsa Casseroll.

Guitar Ted said...

@BluesDawg: Yes- close, but the head angle is still too steep on those.