|Raleigh M40 in Rivendellesque pose.|
Well, I'm no stranger to mountain bikes. The first three bikes I owned as an adult were mountain bikes. This is not unusual, as I reached majority age in 1993, an era where mountain bike became the default adult bike. At the time I didn't mind this, as the bike previous to this was a crappy department store ten speed (yes, a Huffy), suicide levers and all. The flat bars of my first adult MTB, yet another Huffy that I purchased around 1995, was definitely an upgrade in comfort. This was the last bike I owned in my homestate of Connecticut, the last bike that was used purely for recreation, not transportation. When I moved to the Bay Area in the summer of 2000, I promptly bought a used Specialized mountain bike from a friend of a friend, and used it off-and-on for the eight months I lived in Oakland. And when I moved to Portland in the spring of 2001 and decided to become a "true bicyclist",*** I picked up a used Giant Rincon MTB. The Giant was the bike that I rode for five years. I didn't have any great love for the particular bike, and it was a tad too small and a tad too janky at times, but it got me to where I needed to. When I finally got some cash in 2006, I bought a road bike and didn't look back. I didn't think I needed another mountain bike.
But over the past couple years I thought about getting another mountain bike. Not for mountain biking per se, as I don't have much interest in any technical stuff. But maybe for winter hacking around. And I also wanted something with fat tires. Now the tires on my other bikes are not narrow, but at 35-37 mm wide they fall somewhere in the middle of the width spectrum.
|From Gypsy By Trade|
And what's really sparked my interest in getting a mountain bike over the last year is reading more and more about bikepacking. For those not in the know, bikepacking is bike touring/camping through more rugged areas, usually involving minimalist setups on mountain bikes due to the amount of dirt and gravel involved. Take, for example, Nicholas over at Gypsy By Trade. He's winding up a summer-long touring adventure that led him from Alaska to New Mexico, much of it on dirt roads and trails through wilderness areas. Take a look at some of his photos, it's hard not to get enticed by what he's done. (Unless you are the type who like the inn-to-inn style tour.)
My touring bike, the Surly Long Haul Trucker, is fine with some amount of non-paved adventuring, as it's got some decent widish tires (Schwalbe Marathon 700x35C). But they're widish, not wide. And I could theoretically put wider tires on the LHT, but this would alter the current setup of the Surly,**** a setup that I took me a long time to get dialed in. I want to keep the Long Haul Trucker the way it is, for now. If I really wanted to do more dirt riding, I'd need a different bike.
And truth be told, I would love to get something like a Surly Troll, a mountain bike purpose-built for touring, with more braze-ons than one would know what to do with. Or maybe a Pugsley. But right now a new bike like this is not in my budget.***** And do I even know if I would like this whole bikepacking-on-dirt-roads biz? Oh, sure, a Troll would be useful no matter what, but I don't have the kind of money to just experiment.
So enter: The poor man's bikepacker.
Yes, the rainy season is upon us, so this is not the best time to test the waters. But I'll have a bike ready for spring when the skies relent.
And yes, winter is coming. While winter in the West-Of-Cascades means rain and above freezing temps 95% of the time, there is that 5% where we get real winter of snow/ice and freezing temps. I've done winter biking in those conditions before (during the Great Snowpocalypse of 2008) using my old Univega three-speed. I had a studded tire on front, a knobbie on rear. Now I still have those tires, but they are 700C which means the only bike they'd fit on is the LHT. I'd rather have a bike in the reserve, set up the same way, for if/when real winter weather hits. With the Raleigh M40, I have just that. So I bought a 26" studded tire for the front (the bike came with knobbies, so I'll use one for the rear) and I'll set up the M40 with these tires as we move further into "likelihood of snow and ice territory" and leave it on there for the duration.
Now the question still remains: Will I like dirt? You'll have to wait for a future installment for the answer!
*This is the way Retro-Grouches communicate.
**Unless, of course, it's a Bridgestone MB series.
***Don't tell that Copenhagen guy this.
****For reasons too boring to put in the main body of text: Firstly, I would need different fenders. Secondly, the front rack, the Jandd Extreme, is already "maxxed out" spacewise between platform, fender, and tire. Anything bigger than what I currently have would mean buying a different front rack with a higher platform.
*****There is a complete Surly Ogre, the 29er version of the Troll on Craigslist for $600, almost a grand less than a complete one new. This listing is causing me great pain. If anyone feels like donating money for the cause...;-)