Did you tell Chet about the bike we made last night?

“Chet, Chet, Chet…”

So you have 26” mountain bikes that are growing up to 29” mountain bikes, meaning bikes in general and frames got bigger. 

You have road bikes getting compacter. 

Out on the fringe you have cross bikes.

Then you have people starting to do mixed surface-cum-‘gravel’ rides on cross bikes, and mountain bikes. People doing wacky shit with skinnier tires. Weirdos putting drop bars on mountain bikes. No disrespect to John Tomac.

Past the outer marker you have fat bikes.

Riders start taking touring bikes more off-road. Mountain bikers are converting bikes to camp for bike packing. Somewhere both mountain bikers and bike packers realized that big, fat, tires are the real deal in most cases. This was after a lot of ‘em started riding in the snow in winter. Bikepackers are mashing up mountain bikes and fat bikes. Some are even bike packing in the winter for fucks sake.

Commuters and ‘Quaxers’ are using mtbs, hybrids, cargo bikes, and roadies all for city stuff. Some of ‘em venturing on to dirt. Some of ‘em utilizing bike packing gear/techniques to just carry more groceries. Folks taking to e-bikes in droves.

Gravel and bike packing-specific bikes show up.  

All of these bikes start getting thru axles front AND rear as default, making wheel changes even easier. And bikes and wheels stiffer and stronger.

Old school bmxers are building ‘grown up’ bmx bikes with mountain bike parts and frames over in Jimmy’s garage. But really, when you were a kid, your bmx was already a road/gravel/bikepacking/moutain machine by fucking default. The earth was your domain.

Single speed mountain and road bikers. Single speed bike packers. Single speed endurance racers.

Companies are producing drop-bar mountain/bikepacking/touring bikes for, you know, Ghost Grappling. Top-level mountain bikes are now available with relatively unobtrusive batteries and drive systems. These will only shrink with advances in technology.

Most, if not all, of the above you can find in rigid, front, or full suspension formations.

You have a lot of folks getting into a more upright, stretched out position on bikes. Less aggressive, less-race oriented. Yet the endurance nuts are still crushing routes and times on combinations of all the above, so it’s not about race geometry. It’s about stability and comfort. Lots of people finding 2 or more ‘types’ of riding to get into and trying to adapt bikes to do multiple types of riding. The frame is the base.

Awhile back, I abandoned drop bars on my gravel bike as I was having some shoulder issues and went to a wider, upright bar. Then I put that same bar on the 3 bikes I ride most. And the same saddle. And I pretty much dialled in the cockpit on the three bikes to be damn near exactly the same. So what I’ve wound up with is:

  • A Surly 1 x 11 Karate Monkey with a 27.5” x 3” and a 700 x 45 wheel set. This is the mountain/gravel bike
  • A Surly 1 x 9 Pugsley with a 26” x 4” and a 29” x 3 wheel set. This is the winter/bikepacking/sometimes cargo bike
  • A Surly Shimano Alfine Troll with a 26” x 3” wheel set. This is the cargo/all-season(fenders)/errand/commuter bike.

And my position on all of them is practically the same. The bar height is pretty much the same from the ground. All with practically the same gearing too.

Despite my having several bikes I often think about the ‘one bike’ idea. Consequently whenever I  think ‘one bike’, for some reason I hear INXS’ ‘The One Thing’. That aside, I also think that at some point having one bike would be easier. Less maintenance. Less storage space. And if the bike always felt relatively the ‘same’ regardless of wheel/cockpit setup, well then that seems like it would be nice.

This weekend on a ride on one of  the above bikes, I was thinking that, probably for me, the biggest hinderance to having just one bike is wheel/tire clearance. Then I thought that drop bars were still nice sometimes too, and swapping bars/brakes/shifters is a huge drag. 

Weird Science

What if we could use the magikal and almighty AI to calibrate a frame for a person’s size and position that also had clearance for wheels from 26” x 5” all the way through to 29” x 3” – and fenders. I know that would require some serious mathinometry in the drivetrain/chainline/hub-spacing departments, but if AI is going to kill us all in the end, maybe it can do us this one solid first.

Great, you say. Probably doable. What about the bars, shifters, etc.

It dawned on me this weekend that with the advent of electric shifting – and presumably at some point electric braking, or at least some type of easy connect/disconnect hydraulic couplers similar to air compressor connections – that pairing multiple sets of shifters and brakes to a single derailleur is nothing more than a bluetooth formality. 

Utilizing headset spacers – or perhaps even something fancier – for height adjustment, one could swap bars/shifters/brakes/accessories with a single stem cap bolt. Combine that with swapping wheels and, one bike.

Of course this quiver-killer frame would have bolt on points/barnacles on every surface/location possible to easily facilitate racks, fenders, bags, lights, etc.

  • Put a set of drop bars on, lower the height and throw on the 700 x 45 wheel set and you are gravelling.
  • Riser bars and 27.5″ x 3″ wheel set and you are mountain biking.
  • Put on the 26″ x 5″ wheel set when the snow flies. And pogies are much easier to use on riser bars.
  • Running into town for supplies and a slurpee? Smack on the 700 x 35 slicks and a rack and panniers and you’re set.
  • Heading out for the weekend to the mountains – the 29″ x 3″ wheel set is your huckleberry. Riser or drop bars? Really it’s your choice, you could easily try both, at various heights. Or let the terrain decide. Is it a singletracky/technical route? Risers. Long, meditative flats and rollers? Drops.
  • Add to any one of these options that you can include a battery-assist that you’ll hardly know is there, should you underestimate the distance to the next convenience store for fuel.

Granted, you’d still have to deal with swapping a cassette around or you could run an IGH on all your wheel sets? That gets pricey. And multiple sets of brake rotors. I will leave it to our robot overlords to sort all that out.

I am fortunate enough to own several bikes and having multiple means it’s nice to be able to go out and jump on one without having to swap wheels or bars depending on the adventure. That said, I can see a time when for whatever reason the stable will shrink, and often entertain myself trying to imagine what that looks like. 

Here’s some photos I took from a ride I did today. It was none of the types of riding discussed above, I just rode around and took pictures.

Feel free to drop me a line and call out my madness, or even more so if you’d like to invest in my new bike company.