Bicycle limbo

Six months later, the great bicycle hunt continues.  Yes, that’s right, I have yet to replace Baby Jake.  While I haven’t spent every waking moment thinking about this decision, it is always somewhere in the background.  So where do things stand?

If I could walk into my preferred bike shop right this very minute and buy a Salsa Vaya [3], I think I’d do it and be done with it.  Is it 100% my ideal, dream bike?  No, but I’d call it good enough.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option.

At this point, seven-plus months of riding non-road bikes is making me question whether or not I even want a road bike configuration.  I spent most of my time on Baby Jake with my hands either on the hoods or the tops (possible thanks to the secondary brake levers), and very little time in the drops.  So, in addition to the touring bikes I was originally considering, I’m somewhat considering some kind of a hybrid instead.

I mentioned to Matthew the other day that I just wanted a non-longtail version of Big Blue.  I really like that bike.  No, it won’t win any speed contests (except maybe among cargo bikes), but it’s just so sturdy, and capable, and reliable.  I haven’t put in any particularly long rides on it (nothing over 10-12 miles), but I’m always pretty comfortable.  And, while it’s not quite a step-through frame, I do like the easy mount-dismount with the sloping top tube.

In that vein, I’m rather in love with the Kinn Cascade Flyer.  Of course, even if I could get one here in St. Louis, it’s significantly over budget. (We could probably set this up as a bike that both Matthew and I could ride, which might make the expense more justifiable, at least in my head.  AND it’s already set up to accommodate our Yepp child seat.  Just sayin’.)

Source: Kinn Bikes

The Surly Long-Haul Trucker is still on the possibility list, though at this point I’m tempted to wait until the fall and see what colors they’re offering in 2016.

But that’s months away, and, in the meantime, I am actually riding less because, when Big Blue is not available, I don’t have a bike I really like riding.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have the perfect bike, but there is something about having a bike you really love, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.  As stated in a recent Hum of the City post:

A long time ago, I was reading advice on what bike to buy. The article is now lost to the internet wayback machine, but it said that when you go looking for bikes, there is often the bike that you think that you should buy, because it’s the practical or affordable choice, and the bike that you want to buy, the cool bike, which is the bike you desire whether or not it’s practical or affordable. And the author said: “Buy the cool bike.” Why? Because you’ll ride the cool bike, and not leave it in the garage . . .

. . . but I can testify now that with a bike this beautiful and practical, I found myself making up useless errands to run so that I could ride it more often.

In contrast, when Big Blue is not available, I find myself putting off errands that I could do by bike [on BUB], waiting for another time, which then often ends up being a time when I’m out and about in the car.  And while I’m not sure it’s entirely rational (I rode the bike to work 12 miles RT for six months, and it was fine), BUB just doesn’t feel all that reliable.

Much as I would like to make a decision, this all adds up to me being “n-1” and pretty firmly stuck in bicycle buying limbo, while the weather is inviting me to get out and ride more!*

* n = current number of bicycles one owns.  Since there’s always a bike out there that’s newer, better, or serves a different purpose, many bicyclists say their ideal number of bikes is n+1.  n-1 = 😦

And the great bike hunt continues

Are you tired of reading about this?  If you said, “Yes,” I completely understand, because I’m tired of thinking and writing about it.  But maybe writing will help clear my thoughts (or help someone else who’s bike shopping), so here goes.

On Friday, I visited The Hub and rode two Kona touring bikes, the Sutra and the Rove.  They both have steel frames and disc brakes.  The Rove has SRAM integrated shifters, and the Sutra has bar end shifters.  They felt fairly similar, ride-wise (their geometries are basically identical).  When I lifted each bike, the Sutra felt heavier, due to some heavier-duty, touring components (the Sutra also comes stock with fenders and a rear rack, which contribute some to the weight).

If I was choosing between the two, I’d lean slightly toward the Sutra.  If I buy a bike with bar end shifters (the Sutra or the Surly LHT), I’m going to have the shop swap out the bar end shifters for the Shimano integrated shifters (planning to use those currently on my Kona Jake, assuming they are undamaged, which they appear to be).

I spent a decent bit of time on both Konas on Friday, and, while I have not made an overall bike decision, the time on drop handlebars clarified a feature of the 2010 Kona Jake that I really liked — a second set of brake levers for the “top” position (for a tutorial on possible drop bar hand positions, see Lovely Bicycle’s overview).

It may be mostly the fact that I got used to having those brake levers there on the Jake, but I really, really like having that option.  I feel like I have more stopping power using the brakes on the tops (though, technically, adding the second set of brake levers to the system reduces overall braking power slightly).

So, I’ll also be asking the bike shop to move the bar top brake levers from my old Kona Jake to whatever the heck I finally decide on.

At this point, my gut and/or make-a-decision-and-get-this-over-with feeling is to order a non-disc [brake] Surly Long Haul Trucker from The Hub.  They don’t stock Surly bikes, but, unlike Salsa, they can order Surly bikes.  (But part of me says the LHT is similar enough to the Kona Sutra, and I’m being silly and should just go with the Sutra they have in stock.)

Surly LHT (photo from
Surly LHT (photo from

But there’s still a little piece of me leaning toward the Salsa Vaya (from non-preferred bike shop), in part because of this review over at The Path Less Pedaled, which talks about it being more responsive and less sluggish than the Surly LHT.  The other feature I like is the sloped top tube.  I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference for most rides, but it would be nice when riding in a skirt or a dress (though I could use BUB or Big Blue for that).  On the other hand, I’m not really sure that I want disc brakes (which come stock on the Vaya, vs. the option for a non-disc LHT).

I should probably revisit the bike shop and ride both the Surly LHT and the Salsa Vaya again, but I’m feeling worn out, and the trip across town, just to do that, again, is not exciting.

If money were no object (and I lived in the U.K. and could go to the shop in person), Thorn bicycles seem pretty interesting.  In the U.S., Rivendell Bicycle Works has some interesting options (again, not realistic on my current bike buying budget).

It’s frustrating because I don’t feel excited about anything.  I realized over the weekend that this point in our longtail search, the trying to make a decision, wasn’t particularly fun or exciting either.  The excitement and anticipation came after we’d made a decision, while we were waiting for the bike to arrive.  Then, once Big Blue arrived, riding was fun.  I’m just ready for the fun part here.


Update: A friend shared this very appropriate TED Talk link.  “Paralysis” very accurately describes what I’m feeling right now regarding this issue.

Bicycle shopping woes

It’s been a month since Baby Jake’s demise, and I have yet to settle on a replacement.  After seeking a bit of input, I decided that some kind of touring bike might make a pretty decent commuter.  I was considering the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Kona Sutra, when I wrote this post, and Rebecca brought the Salsa Vaya to my attention.

On September 3rd, I visited a couple of bike shops and returned home to post the following:

Gah — my frustration with inventory at StL bike shops continues! Visited The Hub and Maplewood Bicycles this morning. Both shops were very happy to ORDER a Surly LHT (or a Kona Sutra) for me, but neither stocked any touring bikes, so I left without test riding anything 😦

It’s a a chicken and egg problem: the shops don’t want to stock bikes that might not sell, but it’s pretty darn hard to sell a bike that you don’t stock!

Two days later, after a phone call to confirm inventory, I visited Big Shark:

Rode a Salsa Vaya [2] and a Surly LHT, and saw a Kona Sutra (two in stock, one too little, one too big for me to ride), at Big Shark this morning.

I felt a little guilty, knowing I would likely order my new bike through my preferred bike shop, and not Big Shark, but I needed to get my hands on these bikes somewhere.  I left with the information that if I wanted the Vaya, I’d have to wait until late September/early October, when the 2015 models came in.

Stock image from
2015 Salsa Vaya 3 (stock image from

I was rather decided on the Salsa Vaya 3, when a local bikey contact mentioned that he was interested in selling his year-old Novara Randonee touring bike, fully outfitted with fenders and rear rack.

It just happened to be my size, so we met for me to test ride it on a Saturday morning (9/6).  I liked how it rode and even felt fairly comfortable with the bar-end shifters.  While a used bike would not have the advantage of life-time free tune-ups that come with a new LBS purchase, the savings over new ($800-$900, in this case) were substantial and attractive.

I told the seller that I would get back to him with a decision in 24 hours.  At that point, he’d had no other contacts about the bike (it was posted on CL).  I also thought I communicated that if he received an offer before I contacted him, and I needed to decide sooner, to please let me know.

I’d pretty much made up my mind that I was going to take the “pre-loved” Novara, and I was already picturing my new ride, and really looking forward to it, especially since I’d discovered that riding BUB was a literal pain in the neck (and upper back and shoulders).

Six hours later, the bike was sold.  To another buyer.  Whomp, whomp, whomp.

So, back to the Salsa Vaya.  My next step was checking to see if The Hub could order the Salsa Vaya.  I was fairly confident they could, since I already knew they could order a Surly LHT (even though they don’t stock Surly bicycles).

After waiting for a week, I got the bad news — Salsa bicycle sales are restricted to official Salsa dealers.  That meant I could either get my first choice bike OR a [different] bike from my first choice bike shop (The Hub), but not both.  I’ve basically been sitting on this information for ten days, trying to figure out what I’m going to do.

In the meantime, The Hub got a 2015 Kona Sutra in my size, and the co-owner pointed out that they also have a [my size] 2014 Kona Rove in stock (very similar specs and geometry to the Sutra, but with integrated brakes and shifters as opposed to bar-end shifters, which was part of the appeal of the Vaya).  I’m hoping to ride both tomorrow.

2015 Kona Sutra (stock image from
2015 Kona Sutra (stock image from

Both of these Kona bikes are a bit more like a cyclocross bike than a touring bike (comparing geometries to the Vaya and the Surly LHT), and, since I’d kind of settled on a touring bike, I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the other hand, I was pretty happy and comfortable on a ‘cross bike (Baby Jake) for quite awhile, so maybe it’s not a big deal.

In the meantime, I’m minimizing time on BUB (despite new tires, a tune-up, and a new chain, cassette, and rear derailleur cable), due to comfort issues, which means I’m riding Big Blue (the longtail), whenever Matthew doesn’t need her to transport G.  But I’m ready for a new primary bike already!!!