All that being said, the more you ride, the more you know what you like and what works for you. For long rides on remote roads, I decided to build a bike that worked better for me than what was in my stable. What follows is a general description of that bike and large doses of personal opinion of what works for me. For better and worse, I deliberately selected each component and put it all together. I even chose the light blue color to represent the expansive prairie sky. It's spot on for me.
|Simple, strong, durable. Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross bike, fresh off a dusty ride.
Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles designed this steel "monster cross" frame and fork around a 35 mm - 45 mm tire on 700c wheels. For you mountain bikers, that's about 1.4" - 1.8", which is less than a standard 2.0" - 2.25" mountain bike tire, but much wider than standard 23 mm road tires and even UCI sanctioned 33 mm cyclocross tires. The Black Mountain steel frame and fork I chose are designed for rim brakes, so I put on Shimano XT V-brakes pulled by Cane Creek drop bar levers. That's plenty of braking power and modulation for this type of riding. Yes, I purposely rejected a frame beefed up for disc brakes. I prefer the smooth ride of a slender, gracefully curving steel fork made possible by the use of rim brakes. The result here with the Black Mountain is one smooth ride, even on rough roads.
|Front end ready for action, with clearance below for mud and above for lights and bags.
|For a lot of folks, that's a lot of spokes. 32. And that's just the front wheel.
I chose a simple, strong, durable 2 x 9 drivetrain, with Shimano LX/XT derailers, a 50 x 34 compact road crank set and a 12 - 27 cassette. This drivetrain is a proven survivor of nasty conditions, like the 2014 version of Odin's Revenge, where only I was one of only six finishers ahead of a long trail of broken chains and derailers. Also, this gear range has proven to be more than enough gears for me on long gravel rides and events, including Odin's Revenge, Almanzo Royal and Dirty Kanza. For the BackBone, I'll keep the 2 x 9, but will switch to an 11 - 34 cassette to gain a couple of easier gears, due to the length and difficulty of the route and the weight of all the additional food and gear.
|Yes, that's a vintage top pull Shimano XT front derailer, which eliminates the necessity of wrapping shift cable around a low hanging pulley. That's one less thing to clog, misfire, malfunction or break in muddy, gravelly conditions.
|My other bikes are single speeds. And this one may be one, too, after the BackBone.
Simple, strong, durable. Ready to go remote. Let's ride.