A Romantic Getaway

Poli springs another surprise.

It's time for the backpacking test. This test will determine whether I actually have acquired a bike for all uses or if I'm back to square one, another bike in my basement with the same area of use as the solitary frame now stored in a dark corner.

The new bike gets loaded with everything needed and then some for a one-nighter. in the local forest of Oslo. That's as specific as I can be. There aren't many spots where you may have some privacy in Oslo, and I sure won't share my semi-secret locations with the whole of the world wide web.

Reluctantly, the bike even doubles as a tent pole.

The target is about 25 kilometers away. Most of it is fire road, but a significant chunk consists of quite demanding singletrack.

Since Poli responded so remarkably well as an enduro machine, my expectations of her as a longhauling bikepack tool have lowered. As this blog has been all aboout, I'm looking for the multi-purpose bike, but the aggressive geometry that made her respond so well on the descents, has made me think she may disappoint on this journey.

The bikepacking setup.

And then she delivers. Heavily loaded, the fire roads are no challenge. The technical singletracks are completed with a smile on my face. Nothing can stop this machine. I throw roots and mud - and even snow - on her - and she proceeds steadily.

I can't help being utterly surprised and content. To make the experience even more pleasant, I would consider a 11-46 cassette instead of my 11-42 and plus-size wheels. However, those upgrages would be more for commodity and not for necessity.

So the conclusion? Sure, a fatbike would be superior when bikepacking. And yes, a full-suspension enduro bike would outperform her on the most rocky descents. But this is an outstanding option for those looking for a compromise and go-to bike for all activities. For my sake, I think I the miles will provide a whole lot of smiles.

She works on snow, too!

The First Brief Kiss

Well, that was... Different.

Do you know that feeling you get when you meet someone and she irks you in a way that you haven't experienced before and it leaves you kind of vexed, a bit offended and yet you still want more?

My first ride on an enduro-style singletrack on Poli was, in a nutshell, just like that. In bicycle terms, it was bumpy, and I'm looking forward to the next ride.

We sought out one of the longest, most challenging downhill segments in my home town Larvik, Norway. There aren't that many to choose from, but Larvik does have some fun trails.

In this case, "we" were a duo, the sidekick being my father, designated photographer. The first ride in rocky terrain must be documented, potential faceplant and all. We hadn't contemplated camera shutdown, which was what happened.

The designated trail is about 500 meters, starting with a passage made up of rocks scattere on a quite a wide trail. Then the trail narrows and the descent flattens so that the ones chasing record times can pedal to make up time. Further along, the trail narrows into a gorge becoming ever deeper due to rainwater having made this part its path. Finally, the path turns into a beautiful flow trail.

I used to be King of the Mountain here. Strava connoisseurs will understand. But unbeknownst to me, and to my utter disbelief, some young local punk has bereaved me of that honor, beating me with one oh so bitter second. 

There will be time to grieve my loss of entitlements later. Currently, I have a bike to test. So off we go.

I pedal out, gaining speed before the rock garden. Hitting the rocks, I am thrown away like a ball in a tombola machine. The stiff tail makes sure I feel every rock up my back, spine and finally my head. I have to break. Yet in the middle of it all I can't help suspecting that it's not really the lack of a back suspension that makes this challenging, but rather lack of technical skills. In my defense, it's the first rock garden I've been through in roughly nine months.

Out of the rock garden and into the flatter parts. The bike gains speed, every push on the pedals making itself felt on the surface. Into the gorge, the water - it rained heavily just the day before - making it difficult to get a clear view. Then into the rock garden. Wait, what rock garden?! I had forgotten about this part, and this is so much worse. Mud, rocks and water everywhere. No bike could save me from this as I slide sideways down the hill, cursing myself for not bringing knee pads because it would just be a casual ride in familiar terrain. Some more desperate clutches on the brakes, steadying the machine and then I'm out on the flowy part. Again the bike finds itself on a surface on which it thrives. Then is over. Job done.

Exhausting. Exhilarating. Let's do it again!

Addendum:

The bike has completely won me over. On the second test, the first proper ride, I took her to some of my favorite trails in Oslo. And oh she flies! The aggressive geometry makes me feel so secure descending, and the lack of back suspension doesn't take away anything from my riding style. I suspect a full suspension frame will be available on sale soon.

Is This Love At First Sight?

She doesn't look too shabby, does she?

Slim yet sturdy, What else can you want from a bike? The lady in red, black and yellow is ready to roll. Steel frame and sexy looks from top to bottom, back to front. Scratches on the different parts are just considered beauty marks adding to her distinguished personality.

privee22.jpg

Well-used wheels and a scratched crankset may not win her the bikini part of the beauty contest, but I'm confident she will take home the prize through pure brilliance at the Q & A portion. "How will you contribute to world peace?" the panel of judges will ask her.

"Ride me," she will answer, revealing that black chainstay with a flirtatious look.

And then, when that certain someone does take her for a ride, his evil plans will vanish from his thoughts, like a goldfish resetting his memory.

Zen moments will pour over me like torrential rain on my two-wheel trips on this bike. Either that, or the lack of a rear suspension will make me want to chuck her in the river.

This May Get Weird

You asked for details.

We are going to talk about bits and bobs. All parts mus be transferred as efficiently as possible from one bike to the other. There are still no plans to procure new items, as upgraditis still hasn't kicked in. All parts have served me well for years on my current yellow bike. They are thoroughly tested and thereby trusted.

The cuts and bruises may not look entirely good on a brand spanking new frame, but each scratch is a distant memory of a fall or a close encounter with a rock and branches. So here we go, let's get technical!

Wheelset: Syntace W35 MX 29"
Rear derailleur: Shimano XT 11 speed
Shifter: Shimano XT
Crank: Shimano something (old and scratched)
Chainring: Wolf tooth Components narrow/wide 32T
Cassette: Shimano XT 11-42
Bottom bracket: Shimano BB92 PF
Brakes: Shimano XT
Stem: Syntace Megaforce 2 50mm
Handlebar: Syntace Vector Carbon High 20
Seatpost: Rock Shox Reverb non-stealth
Fork: Rock Shox Pike 140 mm
Headset: Production Privee
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Discs: Shimano XT

Did I forget anything?

I can already now tell that an upgrade to a 27,5 wheelset with boost may be imminent. Those adapters converting the 12x142 hub to a 12x148 work fine while they sit where they're supposed to. The problem is to make them stay there when entering the wheel. If I have to remove the wheel when out and about, I'm afraid I will have to carry the bike home. Unless I bring sticky tape so that they will stay in place while inserting the wheel. This is not, by the way, an acute attack of upgraditis. Every analysis says it's much more sensible to buy a new wheel than to carry sticky tape.

Take All Your Clothes Off, Baby

A budget build means not everyone gets their way.

Day one in my allotted space in the basement. Cramped among bike tires, pots, cardboard boxes, a ladder and sundry articles either in storage or in sporadic use, this is where Poli – yes, she has a name now – will rise. Like Phoenix out of the ashes. Only that in this case, Poli will rise out of the debris of a slaughtered bike.

Poli won’t be equipped with brand spanking new parts. Costs must be kept down, and that means that one bike will lose its life – I mean, wheels – so that another one can roll.

Chiquita is a Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. My first trail bike and my first and only full suspension bike. I’ve had a ton of fun on Chiquita. Yet all good things come to an end, and I’ve decided to strip Chiquita of all her intimates – wires and all.

In our era of consumption, people may not remorse getting rid of something as material as a bike. However, five years and numerous of adventures makes me a bit melancholic now that Chiquita will be reduced to a faded yellow frame, hidden behind cardboard boxes and the ladder in the corner of the basement.

I may blow the dust off her again if the hardtail project is a complete failure and my body needs the cushion offered by a full suspension bike. After all, old love doesn’t rust, and particularly not if it’s made of carbon.

It's a Slow Builder

The first all-important baby steps have been taken.

A friend helping someone needing help with his bike, is indeed a good friend.

If I were a bike mechanic, I would probably have a rank of 3 stars out of 5. I would be able to fix almost anything, but customers would have to be patient and consequently my fee by the hour would be low. I would, in other words, get the job done, but would have to work extremely long hours in order to feed myself.

On my own projects, time is not of importance. I start out optimistically, then start to sweat, then start to curse, then have a break, then undo what I have done, then give up only to finish the job a couple of days later. I don't expect this project to be any different.

However, there are some certain things I can't even try to do due to lack of proper tools. My go-to guy when it comes to bike mechanics is always at hand, and he has helped me start the build by installing the bottom bracket and headset. 

Now the rest is up to me. I think I have all the parts I need, but it's common to find out you miss something while you build. Or maybe you don't even muss it, but you rather suffer from acute upgraditis.

The Rationale Behind the Multi-Purpose Bike

In an era in which the multi-purpose bike is all but dead, can the multi-purpose bike survive?

"You'll ride much slower on technical trails," they told me.

"You won't be able to pack it properly for multi-day rides," they insisted.

"The bike is neither bird nor fish. Why don't you buy a specialized bike, such as a fatbike for bikepacking, instead?" they inquired.

If necessity is the mother of inventions, stubbornness and spare time are the stepfathers of vanity projects. I have a trail bike - Chiquita. I have a commuter and touring bike wrapped into one - Celia. And I have a bike for winter use - Reina - a necessity in Norway where road authorities try to make commuting as unpleasant as possible by throwing road salt around like it was confetti at a party.

So with my bike needs initially covered, how do I justify a new project? My reasoning have been working overtime to solve one of these great conundrums of life. It's quite a common challenge for those of us with bikes as a hobby.

To counter the fact that I have three bikes, my reason pointed to the arguments that I have had so much trouble with the rear suspension, that it's not ideal to use a full suspension bike for bikepacking and that I have lost strength due to ongoing injuries and consequently I won't compete on Strava any more.

Oh, the mind works in mysterious yet ever so familiar ways. We always manage to rationalize our choices, so I have ended up with a Production Privee GT Shan. Steel, of course, since steel is real. That also means that I revert from hypermodern carbon to reactionary steel. Steel hardtail for trail use and a 140 mm front suspension for bikepacking... Let's first build her.

Will it become my trail rocket? Will it become my touring mule? Will it become my weapon of choice both for Sunday rides and Monday snowstorms? Or will it beat me up in a rock garden to the extent that I throw it in the river?