As always, bikes are posted in descending order of how much I like them at this moment:
1. Surly Karate Monkey (2012, XL):
"Wait," you sputter, "where is THE JONES?"
Not even top three.
A lot of how much I like a bike is based on expectations. A used KM frameset that cost me ~$225 is off to a great head start against a $1350 Jones. But even independent of value, the Monkey is no slouch: I liked its ride better than my high zoot Ritchey, tire clearance is generous, and the handling is sharp. It's just a smartly designed frame, as long as I don't attempt to run gears with the track ends.
The last time I posted the Monkey on my blog, it was set up for city duties. I've tried setting up mountain bikes for city duty many, many times, and it just never takes. I think the excessive air gaps around the tires bug me.
Sharp eyed readers may notice I'm no longer running the Panaracer Fat B Nimble 29 "+" tires (actually, about 2.6") in the rear. The worked OK on some shorter Dublin rides this spring, but on longer rides this summer at Alum, the constant rubbing during cornering or accelerating began to wear on me. I replaced it with a Maxxis Icon 2.35"... and I'm starting to think about how a 27.5+ set of wheels would fit. Maybe when my bike budget recovers from buying the Jones.
2. 1987 Trek 330 25.5"
The Trek moves up the pop charts some just because, if not new and shiny, at least it's new to me. But I should also give credit to the pillowy and fast Pari Moto tires.
I initially built it up with drop bars, but the reach was a bit much for me. Below, I have it built with flipped over Albastache bars:
My intention was this would be a good configuration for riding around the neighborhood with the kids, but still fast enough for my now longer rides to the library. After a ride with Henry this morning, the bars are still too low/forward for slow speed riding, so I spent a bit of time this afternoon in the shop putting On One Mary bars on. This should make for a nice utility bike. No big tire gaps!
3. 1986 Raleigh Technium 25.5"
4. 2016 Jones Plus 25"
Maybe it's unfair the Jones places so far down this list. It's a wonderful bike, both the best climbing and the best descending bike I've owned. It's super stable through the rough stuff. It may also be the most comfortable bike I've ridden. However, as I've put more miles on it, I've uncovered a few niggles that combine with its premium prices to knock it down my list:
- I don't really like the Bushnell bottom bracket. It always feels like it's about to strip when I'm adjusting it. I would much prefer Paragon sliders.
- The widish Q factor of the Shimano cranks bugs me a bit. They're typical for a modern mountain bike, measuring about 177mm wide, but I can get my KM over 20mm narrower than that with old tech Suntour cranks. The KM feels better and more natural to pedal as a result.
- The Jones handles superbly and is confidence inspiring, but no one is ever going to describe it as "flickable." Of course, I spend 95% of my ride time going up, down, or dodging trees, where the Jones excels, but I sometimes miss that 5% of the time where I want to casually pop off something. Jonsie will do it, but it takes a bit of planning.
- I've previously complained about the through axle and wide front rim, so I won't go into those again. Actually, I think I'm coming to terms with the through axle.
5. 1998 Specialized Rockhopper FS, 21:"
Everyone knows the thing to do with old steel mountain bikes is make them into a townie, right?
I can check that box now, but I never liked it this way. When I picked this bike up for $50 off CL this summer, I had an image of a mountain bike going back to when "Mountain Bike" and "Mountain Bike Action" magazines were both still ongoing concerns and worth reading, respectively. With the Trek 330 for running around town, I spent time this weekend sending the Rockhopper back in time, only it picked up a 29" front wheel somewhere along the way. Report to follow.
6. 1982 Trek 510, 25.5":
This one kind of frustrates me, mostly because I think I overpaid for it. The frame is pretty beat up, the headset was horribly indexed, and it looks like the rear stays are out of vertical alignment. I've replaced everything except the front wheel and front brake, and now use it as my fixed gear, out of whack wheel and all. It does ride very spiritedly, and it's my only frame with fancy thinned lugs. You can't find a midlevel frame today that does this:
7. 2015 New Albion Privateer, 60cm:
It's hanging on the hook for sale, so that should tell you all you need to know:
It's a fine frame, but I'm enjoying riding the 650B Trek that has taken it's spot.
I should draw a trend of my bike buying some day. I think it would show I'm generally moving towards older and cheaper bikes. V brakes and steel frames and threaded bottom brackets and quick release wheels all worked fine 20 years ago, and they still work fine today.
Maybe I'm just getting older and cheaper too.