Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trolling Around in 650B

Surly Troll 650B
While Surly offers a range of practical, attractive, versatile bikes that riders everywhere love, none of them I find particularly appealing. Instead, I seem to be drawn to their weirdest and most extreme creations: their fat tired monsters. So naturally, when I saw Susan's new Surly Troll, I was delighted. Sure, it wasn't a Pugsley, but it was nonetheless glorious. 

Surly Troll 650B
The Troll is a 26" wheel steel mountain bike with clearances for 2.7" tires. Built with eyelets for fenders and racks, it can also be set up as a commuter or utility bike, as well as an off-road touring bike. 

Surly Troll 650B
Susan built it up for all of the above, converting it to 650B while she was at it.
 
Surly Troll 650B
The tires are of course the 42mm Grand Bois Hetres. I realise now that I forgot to ask why Susan chose this wheel size, so normal it has become around these parts.

Surly Troll 650B
The Troll frame can be set up with cantilever/v-brakes or disc brakes - though I think the 650B conversion leaves only the latter option. 

Surly Troll 650B
The Troll features interesting dropouts that I have not seen before. They are horizontal and resemble track ends, yet made with a derailleur hanger, making it possible to build the bike up with either hub or derailleur gearing. 

Surly Troll 650B
Susan has the bike outfitted with fenders, the Tubus Fly rear rack,

Surly Troll 650B
the slightly swept back Metropolis handlebars,

Surly Troll 650B
dynamo lighting,

Surly Troll 650B
and one of those crazy super-bright headlights that point down to illuminate trails at night, powered by a battery pack.

Surly Troll 650B
There is something about the way this bike is set up that seriously excites me. I look at it, and I want to do "that" kind of riding, whatever that is. An overnight tour along pitch black dirt trails maybe?

Susan encouraged me to try the bike, and I did. The brief test ride proved to be surprisingly informative. The bike rode smoother than I expected. Very nice in fact. The Troll is not a lightweight bike, and it is not fast on the road. But it felt maneuverable in tight spaces and was not as difficult uphill as I expected. The stepover of the frame felt lower in practice than the images suggest, making it easy to hop off the bike without having to swing my leg over the back (I should note that I rode the bike with the saddle about an inch higher than shown here). There was no hint of toe overlap even with the 650B wheels. The disc brakes worked well, though I tried them in a very limited capacity.

Surly Troll 650B
The one drawback of this bike for me was the high bottom bracket (40mm BB drop on the frame), which made it difficult to get the saddle height where I wanted it. I like to be able to put a toe down when stopping without getting off the saddle, but the frame geometry + 650B conversion made that challenging to accomplish with full leg extension. However, I think that with the 26" wheels the bike was originally designed for, it should be okay. I could also try converting the Surly Ogre (a 700C version of the Troll) to 650B. Its 68mm BB drop should be just right for getting the saddle where I like it. 

Surly Troll 650B
But of course I am just aimlessly fantasising here. I understand very little about mountain bikes and even less about their monster variations (still trying to figure out what exactly a suspension-corrected fork is). Still, I think that one excellent use for a machine like this could be as a winter bike. The Troll is not quite as extreme as a Pugsley, but neither is it as bulky. If fitted with 26" wheels and fat studded tires it could be just the thing for snowy Boston winters. With the frame priced at $500 MSRP, some strategic budget component choices could make for a fun and functional build.

Surly Troll 650B
Susan purchased her Troll frame from Harris Cyclery, where she works as a custom fit specialist and lead salesperson. Naturally, she built it up herself, with parts she "had lying around." I hope she enjoys her cool new bike, and I thank her for letting me try it!

63 comments:

  1. You could also build up a S-A dynamo+drum for non-standard wheel sizes.

    Try getting the disc brakes wet. They stop fine, and as a bonus, they (ahem) "sing". If you use two different size rotors, you can play chords.

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  2. I don't understand the need for 584 wheels on this otherwise fine build. I'd love to run fatter tires since the 559 wheelsize is well suited to them. From a distance it looks like just another hybrid bicycle (not that I think that's a bad thing) I guess many folks want to poo-poo the hybrid but it seems to me that's all we're riding really are glorified hybirds. My main ride is a specialized allez so I'm certainly not "hating" as the kids call it.

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    1. Not many clincher tires out there ride as smooth yet fast with the durability of the Hetre.

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    2. I've heard some arguments for 650B over 26 and 700, but that's the first time I've heard "better tire selection" as the main one. I remain open minded, but I have to feel like 650B is a solution in search of a problem for 99% of applications.

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    3. @MatthewJ - it only takes one adequate clincher to make 26" work, and I'll bet that Schwalbe makes one. I'm pretty fond of Big Apples, which would fit that bike. I've not tried Hetre yet, but Big Apple is darn nice (and I have used many many tires over the years, including silk sewups, which were also pretty darn nice, though lacking a little in durability).

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  3. I learned a while back that track-end type rear opening dropouts are a royal pain with fenders when you have a flat, even more so, if you use a metal fender. Of course I didn't realize this until I had my first flat on a bike with this configuration. I practically had to remove the fender to get the wheel out! Dropout orientation is something to keep in mind if you plan to use full/proper fenders. Otherwise - cool bike!

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    1. Try it with fenders and a CHAINCASE! : ))

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    2. The axle on the Troll is sitting well forward of the derailleur hanger. Not good for shifting gears and completely backwards in terms of wheel removal with fenders.

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    3. For years, I rode bikes with fenders and "standard" front-opening dropouts. Flats sucked. Heck, working on the bike sucked. My current ride has vertical dropouts, and they make wheel changes a dream, fenders or no. I'm never going back!

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    4. Fenders optimal for commuting and road riding will make changing the tires a pain.

      Blade type fenders are often preferable for off road camping tours. Just bend them out of the way when fixing a flat.

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    5. I've got an Ogre with SKS Longboard fenders (which are most definitely full coverage) and I have no problem removing the rear wheel, even when fully inflated. I guess it does help that they are plastic.

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    6. Adjust the axle so only 3mm or so extends beyond face of locknut. That's all you need. Clamping force of the QR is on the locknut, not the axle. Yes, you adjust with a file and/or a hacksaw.

      Remove the QR completely. Grasp both forkends and/or chainstays. Spread the rear forks. The wheel will drop out. This manoevre does not take you anywhere near the spring constant of the rear forks (the spread is not permanent, it will spring back), spreading the forks 7 or 8mm does not require much strength

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  4. Oh my stars! On the fork! Love it. :) And I'm a sucker for gum wall tires. Looks like a fun bike!

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  5. A suspension corrected fork is a rigid fork for use on a frame designed to use a suspension fork with X amount of travel.

    A suspension fork with 100mm of travel is going to be taller from the dropout to the crown when the fork is not compressed than a non-suspension corrected fork. If you we're to take a frame designed for this 100mm suspension fork and put a non suspension corrected fork on it the front of the frame would sit too low thus throwing off the geometry and making the bike handle horrible. So if you want to run a rigid fork on a frame designed for a 100mm suspension fork, you would need to buy a suspension corrected fork that is designed to replace a suspension fork with 100mm of travel.

    Hope that makes sense.

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    1. It would make sense except for one thing: How is it that this frame can be used "with a 100mm suspension-corrected fork, or ...the 4130 CroMoly Troll fork" (highlight is mine)?

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    2. It sounds like you can have a fork made for the Troll and use it instead of the stock fork, which is suspension corrected, or a suspension fork.

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    3. I suppose that means that the geometry is optimal with 1) the Troll fork, which happens to be suspension corrected for 100mm of travel, 2) any aftermarket fork which is suspension-corrected for 100mm of travel or 3) a 100mm travel suspension fork.

      100mm is pretty standard travel for general purpose mountain bikes these days.

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    4. In response to Velouria's question of:
      "How is it that this frame can be used "with a 100mm suspension-corrected fork, or ...the 4130 CroMoly Troll fork" (highlight is mine)? "

      According to Surly, the stock Troll fork is a 100mm suspension corrected fork.

      http://surlybikes.com/bikes/troll
      Fork: TIG-welded 4130 CroMoly, 100mm suspension corrected, tapered straight blade. Low- and mid-blade fully threaded through-blade rack eyelets; fender mount eyelets at dropout; 1-18" x 260mm threadless steer tube, 51mm disc mount, removable cantilever pivots, line/housing guides

      So on the troll you can use:
      1. The stock fork (which is a 100mm suspension corrected fork)
      2. A different 100mm suspension corrected rigid fork
      3. A suspension fork with 100mm of travel

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  6. I noticed that the welds aren't as good on this bike as the Pacer or Cross Check Surlys. I love the color, though, and wish Surly would make other models in cool colors.

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    1. The purple is nice, but I mourn last year's Agent Orange, which, to my taste is exactly the right hue for this excellent bike.

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  7. I guess you travel in 650B circles. I have one friend who rides a 650B setup on one of his bike configurations. You make the idea seem very nice although I am not prepared to convert or buy another bike.

    From reading Jan Heine, it sounds like wheel size, tire width, and handling are related. You'd want to ride the 650B if you want to run something wider than 32mm and less than full mountain tires. Am I reading this correctly?

    I have heard from others what Fixie Pixie said and it makes sense. Otherwise the bike seems quite fun, although not all that far from the owner's Sketchy. I'm curious to see how she uses them.

    It is fun to ride on trails, as much as I do on my Surly. I have to find more local rides that don't require full suspension. Maybe the owner could share some.

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    1. Oh, no! The Troll is SOOO different from the Sketchy. The Sketchy is fast and light, takes minimal effort to power up hills. The Troll, is slow and heavy (but steady steady). The Troll is really slow. But, the troll is for running to the grocery store, or lollygagging around town on potholed streets... it rides over rutted bike paths, it takes me through Cutler Park... it's for when I want to sit up and look around...and be mellow... for those days when I don't want to take things too seriously....

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    2. Looks can be deceiving! I'm sure I'd having a better chance of noticing the difference if I saw the bikes in person and had the chance to ride them. At least I hope to see the difference.

      I have an IF, a modified club racer, and a Surly cross check and the difference in weight is remarkable, as is the difference in how they ride, especially on hills and trying to go fast (which is a relative term). It is nice to have more than one bike. I'd one more bike, perhaps like a bike as you built but sometimes think more of a Linus-ish city bike. One day ...

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  8. The difference between 26" (559) and 650B (584) is 25mm. Only half of that adds to the height of the saddle. If 12.5mm of saddle height is going to put your foot on the ground, go ahead and lower the saddle.

    The total distance from saddle top to pedal with crank at bottom is over 80cm. Lowering the saddle 1.5% does not reduce power output 1.5%. Maybe 0.5%. And that reduction will only be at 100% max. At 80 or 90% output the power reduction is negligible. On a mountain bike you're probably more interested in torque than power anyway and you'll get better torque with a lower saddle. Not to mention that you'll have better control in the rough with a lower saddle.

    You are reading The Third Policeman, yes? Take to heart the admonition concerning the High Saddle and the Low Handlebar. Think of the peril to your three internal organs. What shall become of your atoms and molecules?

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  9. Because the troll fork is suspension corrected. Very few rigid 26" forks today are not.

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  10. Thanks for the nice write up. In response to some comments: I chose 584's partly for the heck of it, because I happened to have some tubeless capable 650b rims, and partly because the Hetre's are such awesome tires and I don't think there is a slick 26er that runs as nicely as the Hetre. But I chose 650b's largely, because I wanted fenders and the fender line was much nicer with the 584's than with 559's. Otherwise, I'd be perfectly happy with 559. As for it being "just a hybrid", well, Heck yeah! But, I will say that I've ridden hundreds of hybrids, and they don't ride as smoothly or handle the rough terrain as well, or have such adventure capable features as the Troll (or Ogre). This bike an all-out "I can do whatever the heck I want" adventure bike. As for reverse dropouts, YUP, they suck when one wants fenders but has to remove the tire to change a flat... so, I installed a slime tube (GASP, HORROR) in the rear, and ultimately, I'd like to ride the Hetre's as a tubeless set up. However, the hetre's are so voluminous, that it's not too much trouble to remove the wheel if the tire is all the way deflated. I will add that yesterday, I decided Troll didn't need gears and he is now a single-speed, and flat changing should be easier.

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    1. I like it! I had a Karate Monkey. Now riding an Ogre. Yes, tire removal can be a PITA. Try it w/ an Alfine 8 IGH, chain tensioner and fenders ;)
      "I can do whatever the heck I want" -YES it can! I did an 'almost metric century' (short a few miles) a few weeks ago on it and enjoyed the Big Apples rolling :)

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  11. But really, the difference in diameter between a 559 with 50mm tires and a 584 with 42mm tires is only 5mm.

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  12. Oh, and I can't help but add... this bike has room for fat 650b knobbies (without fenders and rack of course) and a 29" wheel with a real 2.4 tire will fit the fork with plenty o' clearance. Tho I am pretty smitten by my Karate Monkeys, I LOVE the versatility of the Troll. Imagination is the limit!

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  13. Velouria (or cycledote), I'm interested in "one of those crazy super-bright headlights that point down to illuminate trails at night, powered by a battery pack." What's it called? thx

    Charlie

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    1. That's a Cygolite TridenX Plus... I like it.

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    2. Yes, thanks! I'm googling it now...

      Charlie

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  14. Nice as that bike is you have already many bikes that would take you on the same terrain as something like this. If you want to try out cross country/single track riding I would recommend trying a five inch full suspension trail bike like the Specialized Camber.

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    1. Yes. I am not considering purchasing this bike or most of the others featured here, just thinking out loud about what someone like me *could* use it for.

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  15. Purple, gumwall tires, fenders, great stopping power, and thumb shifters. This bike is setup to handle all kinds of riding and it's quite stylish. What more could a commuter, occasional off roader want?

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  16. This would be the perfect bike for my dream tour of Patagonia.

    Build it up, ship to Argentina, ride it into the ground for a few months, donate it to a local or fellow traveller, travel home light on luggage but heavy on memories.

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  17. "Fat tired monsters"? 42 mm isn't fat! Heck, 50 mm isn't fat! They are skinny and hard. If you want fat, try 559X 60 mm Big Apples at sub 20 on SnoCats (44 mm wide) so that you can run them down below 15 psi with no problems. Seriously, I know you are not an off roader, but you should try minimally fat tires of 60 mm or so: the difference over potholes, loose gravel, and sand is amazing. It's even better in 700C which lets me float over, or at least grind through, depths of sand that 26" can't handle. Tho' you might not fit a 700c frame that can handle 2.4" tires with fenders and mud clearance like the Fargo; otherwise I'd recommend it as an option for its relatively road bike geometry (short tt, large bb drop) and intelligent design.

    17" with SnoCat SLs and Big Apple Liteskins, for tolerable road rolling combined with sandy off road paths:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/BERTIN753/BIKESMISCELLANEA#5756631061145149906



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    1. 42mm is not in the monster category, but the frame can handle much wider tires. If this were my bike I would keep it a 26" and fit it with wide tires.

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  18. "Build it with a 100mm suspension-corrected fork, or roll the 4130 CroMoly Troll fork. The stock fork is spec’d with canti pivots, disc mounts, low- and mid-blade rack bosses and fender eyelets."

    I think this means build it clean like above or leave it stock with all kinds of gee gaws hanging off of it. Cosmetic issue, same geo perhaps.

    This kind of versatility is gaining popularity. Really the days of average people having 6 bikes collecting dust is so over. Blind, blind consumerism.

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    1. Oh yeah if the geo changes in any way, shape or form btwn the two forks I shall have no part in any such bike.

      One can easily hack together a geometrically imprecise frame oneself.

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    2. Okay, got it. Their description confused me and made me question my understanding of the concept.

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  19. That looks a very practical setup, and maybe even nicer as a low hassle single speed. What hub dynamo is it? It looks like Shimano, but hard to tell from the pic ...

    Call me insensitive, but I can't really tell the difference between the 26" wheels on my Surly LHT and 700c wheels on my Genesis. I sometimes think old style 27 x 1.25 wheels roll a bit more easily, but the perception may be influenced by expectations.

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  20. I find this bicycle to be rather ugly, plus the red and purple clash horribly. The whole machine just looks unbalanced. Another thought, form an engineering viewpoint the steering tube linkage looks very fragile. I would expect that a fairly minimal front end collision would produce a very large turning force where the frame tubes and steering tube meet and result in a written off frame.

    As commented, the horizontal "slideouts" do not work with mudguards.

    However the B&M front light and hub dynamo are the business. I have a similar set-up with a B&M rear LED park ad brake light. Hugely safe and excellent visibility in both senses.

    Nice saddle too.

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    1. The idea that red and purple clash is based on just one of many colour theories. I think everything here looks just right for the kind of bike this is.

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  21. What a great bike. I'm looking to an Orge as I prefer 700/29er for comfort and rolling over everything much more smoothly. One of the reasons is to get my 2 bikes down to one that'll do all I need of it.

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  22. hmm...what makes a bike glorious? well built,, functional, comfortable, allows for some fun, and last but not least, something one might like to look at....hope this bike meets those for it's owner!

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    1. It's a long standing thing. I like trollish looking bikes with wide tires. It is glorious because it is that.

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  23. Are the Hetres really going to make this much smoother than my 1993 Rockhopper ($40) with 45mm (measured) Schwalbe Kojaks ($60) and $20 riser bars? Admittedly, it is kind of ugly and dated looking, but it is great to ride and with a powder coat job, I think it would be just as attractive as this Ogre. High quality old mountain/ATB bikes are an absolute steal on Craigslist! (At least I sure hope mine was not literally stolen...)

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    1. I've had both Hetres and Kojaks. The Hetres are definitely more plush.

      Whether the difference is worth the $ and effort to convert is wholly up to the rider.

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  24. 'The one drawback of this bike for me was the high bottom bracket (40mm BB drop on the frame), which made it difficult to get the saddle height where I wanted it.'

    So this would be a drawback as a commuter bike?

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    1. For me yes, though by no means for everyone. For instance, Dutch bikes have enormously tall bottom brackets by design, to place the rider higher. Urbanised track bikes accomplish the same.

      But for me it is more than about the ability to put a toe down. I've noticed over the years that my favourite-handling bikes tend to have low, sometimes really low bottom brackets. This includes both city and road. As a result I have grown a little suspicious of high BBs - again from a personal preference standpoint and not as a general commentary.

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    2. Rather a nice discussion of some of the issues surrounding BB drop/height here:
      http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2007/2/21/bottom-bracket-height.html

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    3. Interesting. Some would disagree with his opinion about the center of gravity, though I have no view on this.

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  25. it was the stars that got me hooked!

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  26. A 26" canti bike that has clearance for a 650b, can use a v-brake like the Paul Motolites. There's an Atlantis, a smaller 26" one, running Hetres: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75638054@N03/6943764941/

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  27. & apparently now you can own this unique bike!
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Surly-Troll-16-single-speed-650b-supernova-dynohub-featured-on-Lovely-Bicycle-/330846494450?pt=Mountain_Bikes&hash=item4d07fcdef2

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    1. Ha! I'll have to ask the owner about this.

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  28. I built my troll around dec 12 and went for biggest tyres possible.I use halo sas wheelset the rims are 37mm wide.My off road tyres are duro leopards 3.0''.My road tyres are a 3g bikes boa-g 3.45''on the back.
    And a surly black floyd on the front,the ride is fab pot holes are dealt with easily.It also rode very well on snow.it got thru sludgy muddy trails my mountain bike would have bogged down and stopped in.I love the versatility of this bike.

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  29. So - I have the same model in black - the purple was sold out when I purchased mine. Mine is set up as a fendered, knobby-tired, off (or on) road tourer with alt, swept bars and a 9 speed drive train using mechanical hayes brakes as stopping power. The bike is excellent - fairly light for what it is, nimble steering, comfortable, and fast. Love the steel feel, and plan to put some miles on it touring and running about. I've only had it a year, but really like it. I have also contemplated the 650b choice of wheels and tires, and may wind up with that configuration this year. Excellent versatile bike - so many options!!!!!

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