Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

While we were toying with the idea of making a 650b version of the Straggler (at the time, just for smaller riders) we looked around our ranks and realized that we didn’t really have that many “smaller” riders here at Surly.  Of course Trevor would get one to test ride, but that was back when he was the smallest person here at Surly, so he was it (now Ben2.0 or Kate could test them too, but they were too late, so suck it New England!!)

So we went outside the brand to the greater numbers of our momma and daddy corporation QBP and found some Wee-Folk (as my Mórái would say) to ride the prototypes and give us their feedback.

One such “wee-person” was this woman here.

Lindsay Piper is her name and she sometimes works with Surly helping us get out soft-goods ducks in a row.  She worked with us on the pants, the 100% merino hoodie and the jersies.  A few weeks ago she offered to write up her thoughts for the blog, and squeeze out three or four of her fifteen minutes of fame, so I said, “hell yes.”

Here are her thoughts.

Oh the things we get used to….  You see I’ve been short my whole entire life. Never have I ever surpassed a whopping 5’3¾”, to be precise.  I suppose a childhood filled with a steady stream of my older brother’s hand-me-downs instilled me with minimal expectations, fit-wise, when it came to sporting goods of all kinds, so for a long time I never really thought that much about bike geometry.  If I wasn’t completely straining to reach the handlebars, and didn’t catch a top tube to the lady parts upon dismounting, I figured I was good.  Toe overlap?  What’s that?  At some point I figured out that if I didn’t pedal through corners, I wouldn’t bite it, so I just stopped pedaling through corners.  The terror of being unable to reach my brakes from the drops on certain bikes meant I just didn’t use the drops.  Silly silly duckling.

Since those days my ability to discern better bike fit from worse has certainly improved, but I retained a blind spot about a lot of things because I just never knew anything different, because 700c. ALWAYS 700c.  At the smaller end of the spectrum, fitting a little frame around a wheel of that size means that certain geometric compromises are going to be made, because there’s really no other choice. So I’ve never known anything different in a drop bar bike, and never thought about it much.  It’s kind of like how I wouldn’t be thinking about how goddamned bad I want a peanut butter cup right now, if I’d never seen, smelled or eaten one of those delicious, delightful beasts before.

Early this spring, the Surly enginerds were hard at work on the Straggler 650b design, and suddenly my wee stature became an asset. Test a bike?  Reaching objects on high shelves not being in the job description, I was all too happy to help.  It also happened that this was also the year I had the stroke of genius to sign up for the Almanzo 100, so I had plenty of miles to get under me.  My first impressions were good, if somewhat nonspecific.  Fit? Good. Comfortable.  Handling? Good. Predictable.  Nimblish.  It took a number of miles for the Straggler & I to get to know one another.  I knew I liked it better than other bikes in my stable; I just couldn’t quite put a finger on what kind of mojo was going on there.  So one day I’m discussing the bike with A3, and he’s asking me whether I had any toe overlap.  Fun story, I had no idea. Hadn’t checked or noticed, because you see, I was still riding my same old way.  The way I’d taught myself to avoid death by bicycle long ago.  So I started trying some stuff, and then I did Almanzo, which was basically a gravely trial by fire.  The snow hung around way late in Minnesota this spring, so I really hadn’t had a chance to do more than 10 or 15 miles worth of gravel, in between a lot more paved miles, because snowplows.  Right.  Almanzo happened, and I didn’t die, in fact I had maybe the most fun ever, just cruising at my own pace, talking to people, eating pocket snacks, and enjoying the wonderfully comfortable ride of my Straggler.  Each downhill and corner was taken just a little faster & more aggressively than the last, riding in ways I never would have before, and I was learning about the bike & what I could do with it. The joy of paradigm shift via bike at the speed of whatever the hell I want.

After the Almanzo experience, and a spring & summer full of good times by bike- camping, bar-hopping, cruising, concert going, exploring & general farting around, I know what’s going on.  That feeling?  That je ne sais quoi?  It’s confidence.  More so than any bike I’ve ever owned, I feel completely in charge of the Straggler; but that change only happened after I let go of my old bike handling habits. Getting back on 700c bikes now kind of feels like riding a baby giraffe (or so I assume), wobbly and awkward.  I vastly prefer whizzing around corners, hopping curbs & plowing through lumpy grassy puddly gravely places aboard my Straggler 650.  Of course I do have one problem; now I want all my bikes to be peanut butter cups 650Bs.