Experience has shown that when I find myself staring at a bike for inordinate periods, change is on the way. The X bike had been getting the evil eye for some time. While it had been outfitted as a fast tourer for the better part of two years, and proved a comfortable and spritely ride, she just wasn’t getting the miles on her that a bike should. So focusing on the build, mentally assembling parts, imagining ride qualities, and potential uses; the process had begun.
First and foremost with ensuring that a bike gets ridden: comfort. Right from the start there was going to be a switch to upright bars. My experience with the LHT has been too good not to spread the love to this bike. Trekking bars, Jones Loop bars, VO Crazy bars…they all got over-analyzed and priced, but I decided to play it safe with what I knew was working. The Soma Oxfords came in at half the price of the Albatross, yet are almost identical in shape. The cockpit is a little tighter, but the bars are also a tad lower, so I’m still stretched out some, and the initial impressions are good.
The Oxford bars meant I could duplicate the LHT both in the cockpit with accessory mounts, and with V brakes. It took two tries, but these Tektros have better stopping power than the cantis. Sooner or later another pair of Kool Stops will show up and the bike will stop on a dime.
It’s a mystery, but this bike had to have big tires. I fought it, I truly did. The Vittoria Randoneurs are great tires and I’ve been very pleased with their ride. Maybe it was the snow and my pre-occupation with fat bikes this winter. The 42c knobbies were on the Marin, which my wife never rides, and they were just crying out to go back on this frame and create a badass look while we bounce over potholes and finally have rubber appropriate for the Stony Creek trail or the fire roads in Micheaux. Even before I had made up my mind on this, I removed the fenders and started researching front derailleurs. It was just going to happen.
Still, in my head, I needed to define the bike. It needs to have purpose. I need to be able to put it into a category so I can call it something. The LHT is easy – it’s a touring bike that I happen to use for all types of rides. But how does my Teutonic need for order out of chaos categorize a cyclocross frame with cruiser bars with knobby 29” tires?
Put a basket on it. As impractical as the mix of parts so far has been, a Wald basket is incredibly practical. More old school, but I have a true need to be able to carry a load of books, a DVD or two, and a jacket one or two days a week. Too tight for a Carradice, but perfect for a Wald basket. Suddenly, we have an errand bike. No need for panniers, just throw it in the basket. Bungees for now, a cargo net in the future.
I hated having the front rack on the back just to hold a light; this was karma. The tail light is now elegantly mounted to a chainstay using some cobbled together clamps, and maybe someday will end up on a rear rack even though I wanted to limit the stable to only one tank. My bikes just have a way of gaining weight. The Cyo got moved from the fork to the bars, and the basket is secured using zip ties.
So ultimately, the X bike has morphed into a kind of Rural Assault/Errand/Trail machine that can be modified quickly to take on panniers for an Adventure Tourer or swap out to the Vittorias for longer day rides. There certainly is some overlap with the LHT, but I think the result will be more riding, which is a good thing.