My Bicycles

Here’s the five bicycles I am currently using listed from oldest to newest. Each has it’s own purpose:

The Blue Truck/Xtracycle Cargo Bike

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This is my cargo bike I use for errands like shopping, picking up supplies at the home center and picking up our Farm Share from our CSA.  IMG_0335

It started life as either a 1987 or 1988 Specialized Rockhopper. Here it is in 2006 setup as a super commuter with drop bars, fenders, rear rack and studded tires. It’s the bike I’ve owned the longest of the five I currently ride. My brother had bought it new when he owned a bike shop. Raced a few seasons of mountain bike racing in the late 1980’s and then stopped riding it. In 1991 he visited me in the Twin Cities of Minnesota where I was living. He brought this bike along and left it with me. Free bike! He said he was having trouble selling it as a used bike in his shop. At the time I was in my late 20’s and I hadn’t ridden bikes much since college. In 1992 I started doing some commuting and general riding around the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area. Back then I rarely saw other people commuting by bicycle. Amazing how things have changed. For the next 10 years this is the only bike I rode.

In 2005 I bought a brand new Surly Cross Check and had it set up as a fixed gear. It became my main commuter bike. At the time I was trying to figure out how to carry more stuff on my bikes. I started looking at cargo bikes. When I came across the Xtracycle Freeloader conversion kit I knew the Rockhopper would be an excellent donor bike. I stripped it, had it powder coated and bought many new parts for it. Since 2007 it’s been my main errand bike. I ride it once or twice a week about 7 months a year. I don’t ride this bike in the sloppiest winter weather. I prefer to minimize the number of bikes that I expose to that abuse.

2006 Surly Pugsley

This is an original Purple Pearlsizzurple Surly Pugsley. In 2005 Surly released the very first commercially available fatbike. When I saw the first pictures of it I “got it”. I understood what this bike was built for. I had to have one. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Although I’ve never been a mountain biker, I loved winter. And I loved riding bikes. What could be better than riding a bike on snow. In June of 2006 I ordered one. Of course back then you couldn’t buy a complete bike. Surly sold the frame and fork, the 65mm Large Marge rims, and the Endomorph 26 x 4.0″ tire. And then it was up to you to figure out the rest of the parts. It was the first one this bike shop owner had ever seen or built. Only one other shop in this town sold one. Mine was the second fatbike to be sold in Duluth, Minnesota. Since then I’ve ridden thousands of miles on snow. I use it for recreational riding in snow, commuting when the roads are snow covered, and a couple of winter races early on. I rarely ride it in the summer months.

2008 Ellis Cycles Light Touring-Custom

This is my once in a life time dream bike. I’d always wanted a handmade custom fit bike from an one person workshop. It was much beyond my means in term of price at the time, or even now. I didn’t know it at the time but it would be the first of two custom bikes I would buy. I’d been lurking on custom builders websites for years and dreaming. I’d never found a builder that clicked just right with me. And then I stumbled upon a picture of an Ellis frames, ironically on another builders site, and knew this was the builder for me. Dave Wages had only been building under the Ellis Cycles name for about 8 months when I called him in August of 2008. He had learned his craft under Dave Kirk and Ben Serotta at Serotta Bicycles. He moved on to Waterford Cycles. He spent 8 years building one of a kind bicycles there. In 2008 Dave hung out his own shingle under the Ellis name and has risen to be one of the top builders in the country. From 2009 to 2014 Dave won no less then 5 top awards at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Dave was wonderful to work with. He built me a bike that is an absolute pleasure to ride.  Ellis is Dave’s middle name. Interesting to note, my Father’s middle name is also Ellis.

I use this bike for leisurely rides around town or long rides in the countryside.

2013 Brompton S6L Folder

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I like unique, interesting, well engineered bikes. The Brompton has always been a huge curiosity for me. The more I read about them the more I wanted to get one. But with all my bike purchases it has to have a purpose. I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t have space to store many bikes….not even small folders. If I buy a new bike it has to be used for a particular purpose. When I read in 2008 or 2009 that a group was trying to get passenger rail service restored between Duluth and Minneapolis I realized a Brompton would be the perfect compliment to weekend rail trips to the Twin Cities. There was my reason to buy one. In 2013 I went ahead and bought one, not even knowing if I would use it or like riding it. Turns out I thoroughly enjoy riding this amazing little bike. I commute on it many days of the year and throw it in the back of a car whenever we travel somewhere. We still don’t have rail service yet, but I’m ready if it ever becomes a reality.

2014 A-train Cycles Custom Ultimate Commuter/Camping Bike

 Since I started riding through the harsh winters here in Northeastern Minnesota back in 2003 I’ve been on a quest of sorts to come up with the best low maintenance commuting bike. A bike that can get me up the hills in all weather and road conditions. A bike that can withstand the massive quantities of  sand and salt dumped on our streets over the 6-7 months of wintry weather we have. After much experimentation with all sorts of drivetrains and brakes, this bike represents my idea of the perfect Duluth commuting bike. Internal gearing by Rohloff, belt drive by Gates Carbon Drive, disc brakes, hub generated power for the headlight, room for wide tires(2.0) with fenders, and stainless steel MS3 tubing by KVA. This bike also was designed to replace two previous bikes. My main commuter, a Surly Cross Check converted to belt drive. And a Surly Long Haul Trucker that I used for camping.

I hired Alex Cook at A-train Cycles to work this miracle. I initially wanted to go back to Dave Wages for this build. But looking at his current prices, he was definitely out of my price range. I had known about Alex and had been impressed with his work. He’s young, but he has the attention to detail of a much more experienced builder. To keep the cost down I wasn’t planning to go with Stainless Steel tubing. But I didn’t tell that to Alex in our early conversations. I think he assumed I wanted stainless and when he quoted me the price with stainless I just went with it. I think I could have gotten a non-stainless from Dave close to the price of the stainless from Alex. That’s neither here nor there now.

The end result was exactly what I had pictured in my mind. Alex did a incredible job translating what I described into a beautiful functional bike that ticked off every box I wanted. Even the ride quality. I wanted a comfortable bike with a decent BB drop like the LHT without it’s sluggishness, and a nice handling, responsive bike without the twitchiness of the Cross Check. Alex nailed it!

I use this bike for all-weather riding & commuting and bicycle camping.