In recent years I have increasingly become a vintage bike sort of guy. There several reasons for this. One is that I am, by necessity, quite frugal: the amount of disposable income that I can divert towards bike related purchases is not as large as I would like. With patience and persistence it is possible to find good quality old bikes for reasonable prices. Take for example my $50.00 Apollo road bike that I bought last summer.
Another reason is utility. While the technology of bicycles (and bicycle marketing) marches relentlessly on, in many cases these old bikes still perform their intended function with aplomb. A nice English 3-speed remains a great bike for everyday practical, comfortable riding and with only moderate attention will last for generations. In the 80’s there were vast numbers of sport and touring road bikes manufactured and sold and many of these are beautiful machines that are a joy to ride. My ’83 Nshiki touring bike is easily the match of new touring bikes such as the Surly LHT.
This is not to say that I don’t appreciate newer bikes. My ’08 Kona Jake is a great bike and has handled everything I have thrown at it over the past couple of years (except for that rim destroying hole I hit at top speed this past summer. Sorry Jake.) There is a fantastic array of excellent new bikes out there for all types of riding. If I were any sort of competitive cyclist or a semi-serious mountain biker I would consider the technology emibodied in the new bikes to be essential. However, my needs are simple and for my commuting and utility riding my little fleet has sufficed.
Despite all this I have been obsessing over a certain new bike this past week. Like the mountain critter pictured above it is tough and ugly, with a multitude of aspects. Please regard the aptly named Surly Troll:
The Troll is a mountain bike with multiple personality disorder. It’s geometry is similar to Surly’s well regarded 1X1 but it has a lot more build options. Disc brakes? Yes. Cantis? Yes. Rear Derailleur? Yes. Internally geared hub? Yes. Rack and fender bosses and eyelets? Yes. It has frame clearance for 26 X 2.7″ tires which doesn’t quite make it a fat bike but that’s still pretty dang big.
The rear dropouts are bizarre looking but laden with possibilities. I particularly like that it is designed to accept a Rohloff hub axle plate although realistically it will be a long time before I could afford one of those expensive marvels of engineering. I also like the holes for attaching a trailer. I am already mulling over new designs for my cargo trailer hitch with this frame in mind.
I have almost convinced myself that I need this frame. I could build it up into a pretty decent all round bike with the parts I already have on hand and upgrade at my leisure. It’s an excellent bike for a chronic tinkerer like myself. In different configurations I could use it in a variety of ways: utility bike or rough-road bike camping in the summer and fat tired snow riding in the winter. It will take a little while for me to save the cash but I think this may be my next acquisition.
While researching the Troll I came across an excellent blog that demonstrates the capabilities of the Troll. If you have any interest at all in expedition touring I recommend reading While out Riding. Specifically, there is a thorough Troll review.