From the workshop

  • Pimp your Surly

    We think Russ of Path Less Pedaled's video skills are pretty great, so we asked him to help us tell the story of turning Amanda's feral factory-built Surly Long Haul Trucker into the far foofier sort of city bike we ride ourselves:

    What did we do, exactly? What didn't we?

    • Replaced the front hub with a Shimano dynamo powering the super-bright LED lights wired fore and aft. These are Busch & Müller models Cyo and Toplight Line Plus. Modern hub dynamos and LED lighting are efficient and durable enough to leave on 24-7 without noticeable drag, and bright enough to add even daytime conspicuity.
    • Replaced the drop handlebars with North Road-ish town bars, this time from Linus, swept back and wide for a more upright ride, easier access to brakes and shifters, and great control.
    • Converted the bar-end shifters to thumb type, a Velo Orange widget.
    • Substituted classic slim four-finger brake levers from Tektro.
    • Added Ergon grips in fake cork, for comfort.
    • Swapped in a Brooks B17 Special saddle, antique brown, with copper-plate undercarriage and large hand-hammered rivets. Don't hate it because it's pretty: there's nothing more comfortable, most of the time.
    • Swapped in supple, efficient Schwalbe Big Apple tires, 2" width. These are among the lightest tires that won't fall into streetcar rail tracks.
    • Mounted Velo Orange polished aluminum fenders, full coverage.
    • Added a double-leg kickstand, Pletscher.
    • Mounted a brass bell on one of the headset spacers, Crane.
    • Added front and rear racks from Soma and Racktime, respectively, for her existing Ortlieb panniers, together with top-mount baskets, including a Wald 139.
    • Switched to MKS Sylvan touring pedals with Power Grips for plain-shoe foot retention.

    We didn't remove the Surly decals. These bikes are worth this much intervention because they have great bones; it's not their fault that most bikes in this country are still sold as "sport and leisure" goods rather than transportation, so they come stripped down. The total cost brings the bike into the range of one of our premium WorkCycles town bikes, which have similar functionality but are a) much heavier and heavier duty and b) near-zero maintenance. Given the magnitude of the changes undertaken, we had to remove relatively few original high-value parts, all of which will find good homes at one of Portland's nonprofit bike rehabilitation and skill-building centers.

    Amanda has returned wanting less front rack. We thought that might happen, given that the steering geometry isn't ideal for large front loads borne high, but some things require trial. We'll keep at it.

    Amanda bought her Long Haul Trucker elsewhere, before we stocked many Surly bikes. She hadn't ridden it much at all in the year she'd owned it, because she felt too stretched out on it, the saddle was torture, and it wasn't equipped practically for her dark-rainy-trip-to-the-market needs. We did cut her a deal in exchange for appearing in this video, but normally we don't charge anything for labor on component and accessory installation at time of purchase on bikes we sell.

  • Ross Evans pilots Xtravois 2.0

  • Name that frame

  • Sun Atlas Cargo, $679, cro-mo

    Yes, $679. Rides well! Shown with 2011 Xtracycle Freeloaders and Mugwump deck pad, sold separately. Will accommodate 2 Yepp Maxi child seats!

  • Brooks Select

    From tough old Swedish cows, not the sadly normal too-tender feedlot stuff.

    We just received these.

    In the 80′s, in Germany, I bought a leather coin purse. A lot more street commerce occurs in coin there than bills, so you needed a way to schlepp all those chunky Deutschmark coins. The purse was pale, stiff, almost pink leather, flesh-tone. I hated the color, or lack thereof. But soon enough, oil from my fingers and the constant burnishing from being in my pockets darkened and softened the leather. After a month or so it was mottled honey color. By six months it was light nut brown, with russet spots. When the purse finally wore out several years later, it was nearly ebony, velvety supple: beautiful. I was sorry to retire it.

    I’ve been riding Brooks saddles for as long, and I like about them the same things I liked about that coin purse: better, more beautiful with use. Grant Petersen coined it beausage.

    Everybody talks about the break-in period with Brooks saddles, frequently with reference to the narrow hard thing that came on the 1970s 10-speed that somehow never broke in (probably because it wasn’t actually ridden very much). As leather articles made for an intimate place, their metal bits on bright display, they have a whiff of masochistic pleasure-pain about them, like Victorian sex toys.

    This whole theme is totally overblown. With the exception of a few especially hard and narrow models intended for racing and race-like riding, Brooks saddles are pretty comfortable out of the box. The popular model B17 takes me about 100 miles to become as comfortable as one with 5000 miles on it. The broader B67 and similar are comfy almost immediately.

    This is especially true in more recent years. Brooks saddles aren’t as stiff as they used to be. In fact, there’s been quiet murmuring in some quarters about them wearing out much faster than in days of yore. The reason, I speculate, has something to do with modern agribusiness in the UK, where cows are raised as quickly as possible to slaughter weight, in part to avoid that nasty bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The skin never develops the integrity characteristic of older, slower-growing animals.

    The new Brooks Select line of saddles comes from old Swedish cows raised on pasture. Tough like in ye olden days. What’s more, like my pinkish coin purse, they are un-dyed. This means that while they might look shockingly like the skin they are at first, they also should undergo the most beautiful patina development process, recording stories over their many years of service, progressing naturally through most of the colors of the standard Brooks dyed lineup: Honey, Antique Brown, perhaps almost to Black if you’re a very, very good boy or girl.

    If you’re more the type to buy acid washed jeans, distressed faux-antique furniture, or to eat your pudding before your meat, why then there are the “Pre Aged” saddles. Me, I’ll take a ghastly flesh-tone Select version any day; just give me some time.

    Note that the B67 has hand-hammered rivets, smooth to avoid abrading clothing. Haven’t seen this treatment on other than the B17 Special and Pro models before.

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