Bucking the Trend

In my previous post, No Such Thing as Junk Miles, I wrote about how a lot of road bikes today are overly influenced by racing -- making them too narrowly focused for the needs of many people who otherwisecould be well served by a good-quality road bike, but instead get steered into mountain bikes, "comfort" bikes, and cruisers because they don't want something that essentially boils down to a racing bike. There are exceptions, of course, and I thought I'd highlight a few bikes available today, to fit a range of budgets, that buck the current trends in bicycle design by being simple, comfortable, and versatile.

Surly Pacer (photo used with permission from Surly.)
Surly Bikes, a brand from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP -- which supplies many bike shops around the country), offers a couple of bikes that fit my description of versatile road bikes. They also are pretty affordable. Using chrome-moly frames, welded construction, and single-color powder coated finishes, they are not particularly fancy, but should prove to be durable and enjoyable. The Pacer is Surly's answer to the question "Why can't I just find a sporty, no-nonsense, comfortable road bike?" Something like this would be a good choice for someone who wants a nice road bike for spirited riding -- but who isn't trying to be the next big thing in Cat 5 racing. Then again, it's about as racy as a lot of high-end racing bikes from my youth. The folks at Surly say it's a bike for "all-day rides" and it will fit tires up to 32 mm, which is a nice thing. Tires make a huge difference in comfort. It has eyelets so one could add fenders (though I'm guessing it would only take 28 mm tires with fenders). Available as a complete bike, or as a frame set for a truly customized set-up. I've seen Pacer frame sets sell for around $500 - $550, and complete bikes about $1400.

Long Haul Trucker (photo used with permission from Surly)
Also from Surly is their Long Haul Trucker. This bike would be a great choice for long distance, loaded touring, commuting, and more. With slightly heavier-gauge tubing, it should handle heavy loads and anything else a person can throw at it as well. It can accept fenders and racks of all kinds and configurations. One particularly interesting thing about the LHT is that in many frame sizes, it can be ordered in either a 26" wheel or a 700c wheel version. (26" available from 42 to 62 cm frame, 700c available from 56 to 64 cm.). Considering that an awful lot of people out there ride mountain bikes that never leave the pavement, I really think that many people who might think they need a mountain bike would probably be suited just fine with a 26" wheeled LHT. Like the Pacer, it can be purchased as a complete bike, or as a frameset, which gives a person lots of options for tailoring the bike to their own specific needs. Equip it as modern or as "Retro-grouchy" as you like. Complete LHTs seem to average around $1300, while frame sets are likely to be found for $450 - $500.

A Velo-Orange Polyvalent, built to completion
with a lot of V-O branded components.
(photo used with permission from V-O)
Velo-Orange offers several models of nice road bike frames for buyers on a reasonable budget. Their Polyvalent and Campeur frame sets are both welded with butted chrome-moly tubing and painted in single-color paint jobs with tasteful, understated graphics. The Velo-Orange designs tend to have a classic French flavor, being influenced by great French road/touring bikes of a golden age. According to the V-O description, the Polyvalent Mk II (French for "general purpose") is designed for "cyclo-touring, brevets, and fast club rides." It is designed for 650b wheels (a size about half-way between 26" and 700c) which is a size that was often used on those golden-age French touring, or Randonneuring bikes. The Polyvalent is only available in four sizes, between 51 - 60 cm, which means very short or very tall riders may need to look to one of the other models. The Campeur frame is designed to be a very versatile bike, capable of loaded touring, or riding on pavement or path. It is designed for 700c wheels, and is available in sizes from 51 - 63 cm. Both bikes can be built up in a variety of configurations to suit many types of riding styles, and Velo-Orange can supply most of the parts needed to complete the bike (V-O has a full line of classic and traditional styled parts and accessories -- many with their own brand name). Some new, or newly re-designed models are in the works at V-O, like the Pass Hunter, and Camargue, and should be worth checking out once they're available. Current frame sets sell for about $500.

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