Monday, November 11, 2013

The Desert Island Bike

Castlerock Beach
You know the drill in this scenario: 
You're stranded on a desert island and you can only have one bike! What bike will it be? Hmmm?
I've been thinking about that one lately, as I now get to play this game for real - sort of. Okay, so moving to Northern Ireland is not exactly the same thing. But hey, Ireland is an island. And the area I'll be living in is kind of remote. I say it's close enough.

So what are some desert island bike criteria? Well, the bike must be reliable, durable, adaptable. Whatever distance and terrain you need to cover, it should be capable of covering. Whatever elements  you'll be exposed to, it should be able to withstand. Whatever supplies you will need to haul - be it driftwood, those eels you caught for dinner, or your lunar-powered laptop - it should have provisions to haul. 

But a desert island bike should also be fun - because, let's face it, you're on a desert island and stuck with only one bike forever (or until you're rescued, or until you smuggle a second bike on your next trip over - whichever!). 

A desert island bike is the bike that can serve as your entertainment, your mode of transportation, your means of exercise and your anthropomorphic companion, all rolled into one. 

But you must also take care not to overdo it. In theory, a Ti-carbon monstercross bakfiets might seem like just the thing. But in practice it could prove daunting for everyday use as an only bike, what with the constant polishing of the cargo box and the hydraulic disc brake bleeding. Sometimes simpler is better. 

The desert island bike can be a fantasy bike that exists solely in your imagination. It can be a real bike that you've always thought would be perfect for such a scenario. Or, it can be a bike you already own - the one you've realised you would not be able to cope without. 

For me that bike would probably be the Brompton. Sure it is not a fast sexy roadbike, but it can tackle hilly roads. It is not designed for dirt, but can act like an all-terrain vehicle if called upon. It is not a cargo bike, but can handle a heavy crate of eels with aplomb. Its dynamo lighting will illuminate my thatched cottage (circa 1620 and unrestored, so no electricity - score!). And it's tiny enough to be folded into a lifeboat. Just as importantly, I know that should I find myself without this bike even briefly, as I recently have, I start climbing the walls (and when you're living in a stone thatched cottage, that's not hyperbole; you can totally climb the walls as the stones make for sturdy footholds). 

Anyway. So here I am, packing the Brompton while other bikes stay behind, their fates unknown. But I cheated at the Desert Island game: My Seven roadbike is waiting for me in Ireland, left there during my previous trip. So in fact I will have two bikes. Sport and transport, for the love of god don't make me choose! But the desert island bike is fun to contemplate anyway. What would yours be? 

63 comments:

  1. A rando like bike with 42 mm tires and low gearing so I can go over any surface and grade that might be on my desert island.

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  2. Didn't have it made with Island living in mind, but my stainless steel Clockwork would make a great 1 bike only desert island choice.

    KVA stainless tubing is lightweight and lively. Without load the bike is good fun to ride, if not quite as sublime the Kellogg.

    At the same time the Clockwork accepts small to mid-size (up to around 60 lbs) with grace.

    Unpainted stainless steel would resist rust better than regular steel and hold its looks better than aluminium in the salt air.

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  3. I have a simple one, from rivendell. One gear with the off 43 mm off road tires. Another set of wheels,with a two speed kick back and 32 mm road tires. Been riding my other bikes, and dreaming about lots of other bikes, but this combo always keeps me coming back.

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  4. Forget the desert island bike! Where can I get a lunar powered laptop?

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    1. Please visit my sponsors www.bestlunarpoweredlaptops.com

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  5. I think it would have to be a Gazelle Basic!

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  6. Haha.... I'm with on this one, I said 'Brompton' to myself as soon as I read the opening lines. So versatile and no matter how big the rescue boat was, there'd always be 'room for a small one'!

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  7. Pleased to hear it's the Brompton. Got mine with the idea that it could be the last bike I ride into the sunset, a lifeboat bike, a beacon of resilience. I'm wishing yours will always have a fair tailwind and a lovely road. Thanks! Jim Duncan

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  8. Without a doubt the Brompton! Until you've tried one you don't know what you're missing.

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  9. For me, it would be the only bike I've owned in the last decade, my Trek 520 touring bike. I use it for commuting, for touring for riding off-road and for hauling the groceries.

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  10. I have to say -- I have enjoyed this article immensely. For me I would say the Brompton and the Royal H. We'll, maybe it's time to buy a Rando bike too:)

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  11. It was not a game or fantasy for me but reality. I found it and the other bikes I had were given away since I had no interest in riding or maintaining them. I'm still passionate about all things biking but no longer obsessive and this bike does everything need and it's fun, fun, fun to not have a car and absolutely love my single bike.

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  12. Definitely not... Brompton. Why would I need a folding bike on a desert island is beyond me.

    What I would take is likely a titanium Mukluk. I would need a bike that can go anywhere and having a Brompton with those small, skinny wheels means that would end up carrying it more than riding it.

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  13. On one hand, this is at odds with Shelton Browns 'golf club" theory of bicycles. Different bikes for different purposes - and optimization is lost with increased flexibility for different tasks. This is what I tell myself when I want another bike.

    That said, what I find limiting in most respects of my life, bikes included, is myself. I have rarely been limited by my bicycle. My weight and de conditioning limit my speed on the road. When I fail to commute, it is because of sloth, not the weather. The same with errands and groceries.

    So, more or less accepting my limitations - I will also cheat but take two bikes, the one I already have. My 1980 custom 531 steek Romic I bought used on ebay for faster and dry weather riding AND my all purpose trek 7900 that is rigged for rain and darkness. Neither are optimal, but neither am I.

    They've served me well for decades and we have grown "into each other". They have been with me through many failures, shortcomings and even the odd success. They have made me happier, and I am loyal to them. If I could have any other (and I can) - I would have no other.

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  14. I haven't tried a Brompton, but I'd like to take one for a spin. Among my current bikes, my desert island bike would be the Bike Friday New World Tourist. It handles well loaded or unloaded, takes up little space, and can be folded or packed, though not as quickly or elegantly as the Brompton.

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  15. I'd second (or is it third?) the motion for a 650bx42 randonneur-style bike capable of performance and dirt road suitability. Maybe set up as a camping bike, with a handlebar bag support rack with removable front and rear tubular chromoly racks for those trips when the handlebar bag is too small. Brand of bike? Might as well dream here: a custom René Herse.

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  16. I would take my new Betty Foy (fitted with hetres) because I couldn't be parted from her and I could use her albatross bars to hang my washing from (or use as a frame for the mosquito tent). Come to think of it, I could also use the bar-end shifters as a bottle opener...

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  17. I would totally cheat and accidentally leave 4 bikes on the Island, which happens to boast an international airport with direct flights "home".

    Though why you'd choose a place with spotty wifi is beyond me.

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    1. I figure spinning for wifi will help me develop good work ethic.

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    2. 1600s Cottage? She's clearly a sucker for the sensation of hearing critters burrow in the roof. I expect there will be goats in there before long.
      Who needs lights when you have a soundtrack like that?

      If I could only choose one bicycle, it'd be a relatively modern roadster-style bike, or possibly a drop-bar mountain bike.
      I still need to try a Brompton and see what they're about.

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  18. It's funny, but I've been thinking along those lines recently. What would I choose as my only bike? A Rivendell Betty Foy. For transport. for climbing hills, for step-through ease, for touring, for style. Never even tried one, but she's my baby.

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  19. When decision time came I chose a bike that loves me back...The need for transportation dominated, but it also had to be comfortable, reliable, and fun to ride no matter the conditions. I don't race but I enjoy pushing myself and getting out of the saddle on climbs....I'm also finding it feasible with this bike to go off the paved roads and haul my paint supplies into the woods b/c it's set up with racks which have also allowed me to not fret about overnight trips or longer tours. Custom fit and fit with components for the long haul, including Rohloff hub, it's a dream machine. Most importantly, it makes me happy whenever I'm on the saddle or wherever I happen to be. I can look at all the sexy machines out there and not be envious b/c I know they could not make me as happy. It's that simple, and when my life conditions forced me to downsize this bike has served another function of being an anchor..... It's lovely enjoying life with my Sweetpea.

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  20. I saw this and thought it might be useful know your in Northern Ireland. It shows three of the best places to ride a mountain bike in the country.

    http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/article/sponsored-feature-northern-ireland-on-the-mountain-bike-map-38935/

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    1. Interesting, thanks. None of the trails featured there are near me, though I do have a selection of at least 3 more low-key ones nearby.

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  21. interesting question, I would take my new randonneur with me:

    http://www.kurtz.hu/galeria/KPC1/KPC1_02.jpg

    not really the same question, but a nice one too:
    what is the correct number of bicycles to own?
    answer: n + 1 (n = actual number of owned bicycles)

    best regards and all the best on your Island.

    P.S. Paris-Brest-Paris will be easier to reach from Ireland

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  22. If the desert island had public transit, my Brompton. Otherwise, it would be left behind -- while it's probably my most-ridden bike, I find it stops being comfortable at around mile 40 or so. I'd probably opt for the Gunnar Crosshairs I almost bought last year -- jack of all trades, master of none, but can haul groceries and do light off-road and ride long distances.

    If it had to be a bike I already own, I'd keep my old, beat-up Nishiki rigid MTB and call it a day. I've had it since I was 10 and I rode it on a metric century a few weeks ago -- it's not fast, but it's comfortable and versatile. The 'cross bike would just be the more modern, slightly-faster version.

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  23. Desert island and the bikes I currently have? Oh dear, I have a bike frame, needs all parts, my lovely vintage amazing light rando is not complete enough to ride, my husband and I just got ride of all the "extra" bikes, I still have a vintage raleigh with flat worn out tires. My only functioning bike is my raleigh sports with drum brake which I love but want to hurl off a cliff. So, I'd have to take it. If the island is flat, it will be fine, the bike can go very fast despite it's heft and is good on trails. Having fantasized about a green raleigh sports for years and years, I got what I wanted, and it would be my luck/fate to be stuck with it forever. be careful what you wish for?
    Okay, if I were you, I'd try ship all my bikes, or at least several of them, not sure how many you have at this point, but the mercian, the 650b dirt bike thing, yes.

    But wait! You are going where I would be in sheer heaven! I am short and it's hard to find second hand high quality bikes in North America, but in the UK and probably Ireland there are oodles of small and lady framed bicycles with 531 tubing, good parts that sell for nothing, but nobody willing to ship to Canada! I have dual UK citizenship and always wanted to move to Europe, have been seriously considering Northern Ireland before you suddenly shifted there in the summer. I was like, wait a minute, that was my wee plan! I'd be curious to know more about it.
    So, if I were moving to Europe/UK/Ireland, I would sell or give away the bikes except for the lovely british built rando and buy new/used bikes, save up for a mercian and pick it up.

    My biggest concern is actually my cats, sounds like a dreadful long winded process!

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    1. Your wee plan : )

      Moving here with dual UK citizenship should be very easy for you. Flying into Dublin, then bus to NI is probably the easiest and cheapest travel option even from Seattle. If you have any specific questions about travel logistics, feel free to email me.

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  24. As whichever bike would need to be impervious to Sand and coconut ingress I'd go with a slightly updated Raleigh 3 speed but with the luxury of Stainless wheels (heavy but last longer than alloy) Tough enough and also repairable with any Imperial sized Palm Leaf spanners

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  25. Not really surprised of your choice. The Brompton seems functional yet less than optimal fun and the Seven is something you fell in love with when it first whispered to you so long ago. The others, just frivolous dalliances in comparison. Godspeed.

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  26. For a desert island there is only one choice really. A fat bike. All that sand and stuff. Eww.

    Now for the hypothetical only one bike ever again? A cyclocross bike. I could live with that...

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  27. I've gotta go with my Surly Ogre- its steel so the ride quality is almost Ti like but with the ability to fix it with a simple stick welder or a brazing torch. It can (as setup right now) run 700x26 road tires or 29x3.0" knobbies allowing it to go anywhere with a simple tire swap (I have a solid 2000 miles on the rims as road wheels and went dh'ing @ Highland bike park with em this afternoon).

    Brake wise, it can do discount, V's or canti's. Might even be able to handle a coaster brake, haven't seen that done but I don't doubt it one bit.

    Drivetrains- everything but a belt drive thanks to the sliding dropouts, der. hanger and Rolholf speedhub mounts.

    Rack mounts- yup, it's got em all and will even do fenders at the same time. Also comes with trailer mounts for all your hauling needs.

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    1. As a LAST resort, tack it back together with a stickwelder and then go seek quality medical attention. When there is no wire to bind a length of broomstick to the broken tube, no epoxy and dental floss, no hose-clamps and scrap metal, then go find you a Farmer with a Buzz-Box, but not before.

      I've had to reconstruct 2 bikes that got gobbed back together that way and neither ended up 100%. The vast majority of people who could stickweld well enough to keep from burning and blowing craters on thin tubing either all got Tig/Mig welders or died years ago.

      Spindizzy

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  28. Dear God, no electricity? But hey, your internet is wood-burning, right? So all's good.

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  29. I'd keep my road bike. Because at the end of the day I can take the train to work, and get around by bus, but I can't live without being free to ride fast up a mountain road and down the other side.

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    1. I thought I would be okay with that type of arrangement at this point. Until I tried it. 3 weeks was enough to know that a transportation-specific bike was a must.

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    2. Probably I'd take my either my 1992-ish Bianchi or My 1982 Centurio pro tour 15. Both are quick enough to ride fast and both have the capacity to haul a load - the centurion more so than the Bianchi

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    3. Transportation and fun don't need to be mutually exclusive. Fenders, lights and a front rack don't make a bike slower or less fun, if they are part of the initial design, rather than "accessories" that rattle, spoil your bike's nice lines and otherwise make a nuisance of themselves.

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  30. So this "one bike" thing, does it include spare parts? Because if that's the case it's simply a question of frame geometry, because close to everything else can be modified according to what your parts are. My hypothetical one bike would come with a trunk of parts, including the xtracycle frame, wheelsets, and the proper tires (in this hypothetical world, I would, of course, bring along a stock of 650x28b Resist Nomads -- they don't exist in our world, but proper 650b tires would mean I'd not have to pack 700c wheelsets into the parts bin.)

    So the question would be a relaxed front end geometry, or something steeper?

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    1. Clever! 10 points to Gryffindor. Just make sure this interpretation of the rules is allowed...

      Spindizzy

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  31. I suspect that if I found myself having to only have one bike it would be my 'Crossbike.

    I can ride it on gravel and flowie singletrack, with a messenger bag I can carry 10 or 15 pounds of whatever, I can keep up with my saucy roadie friends until they decide it's finally time to throw me off the back(at which point no other bike I own is going to help me anyway) and big miles on a day stolen from work is as nice and pleasant on it as anything else I own right now. I can do my 4 CX races a year so I can continue to pretend to be a bike racer. It's just about as capable as the mountainbikes we used to race in the 80s to0 so I could still do 90% of the Mountain Bike riding I do these days.

    I unfortunately WON'T be able to ride down stairs so much, jump stuff or do endo's but I could get enough riding done to stay happy. Unfortunately, my 'Cross Bike is the bike I'm the least invested in romantically. I don't find myself wanting to just sit and look at it or want to have it in the same room with me when I'm just hanging out like I do with my old roadbike or the Mongoose I've had since High School. BUT, if I had to only ride one bike I could sell a bunch of the others and procure me a 'Cross Bike I could love. A Ti Mudhoney or something like it in STEEL with lugs from somebody making them in a dirty basement somewhere. That would be a bike to love and cherish till death did us part.

    I'd still miss that old Mongoose though.

    Spindizzy

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  32. NO WAIT! I take it all back, FATBIKE! No, wait, I take that back...

    Hot-Rod DL1 with a coasterbrake? My old Mongoose Race Cruiser with a 3spd Sturmey? I can't make up my mind. Maybe I'll just steal a different bike every time I need one.

    Such a deceptively simple question, sooo hard to decide. It's like having to pick one outfit to wear for the rest of the year, One piece of furniture, One book...

    Velouria, make it stop.

    Spindizzy

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  33. A folding bike as escape vehicle would be too close metaphorically to closing down relationships, so I would choose an intact frame with a compass to find my way.

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  34. I second the 650B randonneur bike. It can offer the joy of speed (and even the actual speed) of a racing bike, yet it can handle any road, any weather and be ridden at night. If you add front low-rider racks, it can even handle a significant load. In fact, Bicycle Quarterly's second tester Mark has just one such bike that he rides 90% of the time, from "training rides" to camping trips to commuting.

    The idea that you _need_ many bikes stems from the fact that most bikes today aren't that well-designed, so each has inherent compromises that aren't really necessary. It's really not that hard - most of us make do with one car, too! Having fewer bikes means you spend less time on maintenance and have more time to ride!

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  35. Best of luck with the move. It's a beautiful spot.

    Depending on what part of NI you're moving too, try make a trip (In good weather!!) around the Inisowen peninsula (And stop in Harry's on the way back for sustenance.

    If you're ever in Dublin and fancy a cycle, or want any recommendations for around the country, do shout!

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  36. an early '90's non-suspension mountain bike with 26x 1.5 in tires and albatross bars. exactly what i'm riding now

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    1. I'll second that. I've got an '89 Rockhopper with Albatross bars, full mudguards, rear rack, 2.1 Schwalbe Big Apples and a 3x1 drivetrain.
      I use it for Audax, gravel grinding, trail riding, touring, shopping, commuting etc. Its cruiser-like set up means I can also pull wheelies and bunny-hop kerbs on it with ease. Fun, practical, cheap, recommended.

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  37. I'd take my Trek Y-Foil. Primarily because I can't bring myself to ride something that looks like it came from a bad 60's sci-fi movie about the year 2000 where there are people around.

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  38. Oh, my desert island bike is obviously Archie, my 1974 Raleigh Pro fixed gear (42x16). It's the bike I do all my brevets on. I've had a lot of good times with that bike. It's a bike I can sit on for days on end and still like. Desert island, here I come!

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  39. Enough about bikes--more about the rustic cottage please! what is the heat source? what about lighting? what is the nearest village like? Hoping it won't be cold and damp....And wishing you all the strength you need as you navigate troubled waters.

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  40. I have too many bikes of all types right now. I did a 70 mile ride to Point Lookout from Brooklyn and found myself wanting to use the mid 70s Peugeot PX-50 rando bike I built. I am looking to build up another as a commuter or lock up bike because it is soooo comfy. It's a little (lot) heavy ... but so am I !
    I can't lock up the first one as a daily driver because I can't bear to think of a pair of Maxi Car hubs, Lefol Fenders, Brooks Flyer Special, Stronglight 49Ds, Gran Boiseses and all those other goodies sitting there just ready for the taking.
    I'll put one together with less special stuff, or leave it stock, cottered cranks and all. The position is so comfortable and the rolling resistance does not feel much different from my 700X23 tires. They end up going too high on eBay, especially with the shipping involved. But that is my long winded choice.

    Victor K.

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  41. I'd have to have a tandem - just in case someone dropped by. And I could convert it for carrying loads, if needed.

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  42. Since I already have only one bike on this desert island called Texas, it would have to be my mint condition 1977 Raleigh Sports. It was your articles on Lucy that motivated me to start using the Raleigh again at age 60 and after about 25 years of not using it. Best of luck on your new adventure.

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  43. My current bike is my only one, so it's already a desert-isle bike! A girl's schwinn varsity from the '70's, switched to single-speed and with rack+fenders. She's quick as any bike I've had, comfy, sturdy as a tank, and can handle a full load of laundry or a week of groceries.

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    1. I can't tell you how many old Schwinns I see around my community. No surprise, really, because though a bit heavy they were extremely well made and fixable. I'm looking for one myself to keep parked in the house for visitors, since I've not car. Sweet bike!

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  44. My 6-speed Brommie - i've used nothing else since i bought it 2 months ago! I'm off for 2+ weeks birding in Maroc in December so there will be a bit of desert and coastal tracks to continue putting it thru its paces.....

    Laurie -

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  45. I'd have nothing but my trusty Yuba Mundo. In orange, with stoker bars :) I love my bike.

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  46. Hate to say it, especially since I'm considering selling it and downgrading permanently to the grocery bike, but my Soma San Marcos is about as much a desert island bike as I can think of. Its a true Jack of all trades (and yes, its a master of none). I love it but I also know its nothing but a glorified sort-of-expensive hybrid. Why am I thinking of selling it? Because after the MS ride I've been so disgusted with myself I hate to ride, but that's today's topic I think.

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