Despite my Dad's observation that "a Swiss Army Knife really isn't much of a knife," I've always preferred the mutts to the purebreds. While some folks delight in having the ideal knife for cutting, a set of perfect screwdrivers for every fastening chore, the right cork screw for that vintage bottle of French wine and so on, I've always liked the idea of one gadget that does a lot of things. It doesn't have to do everything perfectly as long as it's enough to get the job done.
I've done some long rides on minimal gear, like riding the GDR on my Monocog or touring back to Minnesota on a fixed gear but when I think about riding fast with my pals on the road and climbing the steepest stuff I can find on the mountain trails, then even I can see the value of those Disraeli gears. I mucked around a bit with a little mountain bike but those cyclocross bikes have always had an appeal for me. I've never been tempted by cyclocross racing, mind you, it's a little too muddy and the races are a little too short for my tastes, but some of the bikes are just so darn versatile. Something like a Surly Crosscheck has always been high on my list of bikes I recommend. A cross bike would be a little faster than the mountain bike and be at home on the road or the trail.
Have I mentioned that I have this weird bike karma? Some bikes just find me and some bikes I have wind up finding their way to more fit owners. The Kogswell Model G is a great bike and in it's three-speed configuration I think it's perfect. Well, perfect for everything but that really steep back country trail. But perfect for my buddy Ken. Ken who rides on roads and stays off the steep trails. Ken who takes forever to decide to buy a bike but who has the Model G on a semi-permanent loan now. And my son Eric got his bike stolen but I happen to have this mountain bike to give to him. So now I can explain with a straight face to my very understanding wife (who really just rolls her eyes at all these velo permutations) that we really are simplifying things here.
My latest bike is an old steel Novara CX. Novara is REI's house brand and this old CX is kind of workhorse bike like a Surly Crosscheck. It's not at all fancy, it doesn't have lugs, and there are lots of chips in the paint. Reflective tape and stickers do wonders for covering up a dinged paint job. I swapped the bars and shifters for something I like, but that's why I have a big parts pile. The stem is the ugliest thing I had in my parts box but it's the right length and somehow it just seems right. The CX can take massive tires but for now it's fine with 28 mm tires for commuting. A guy on the iBOB list is selling me a set of 700*40 Specialized Hemisphere tires for twenty bucks. That twenty bucks is the only money I've sunk into this bike thus far. Once I have the fat tires I'll see how this bike works in the backcountry. The low budget also explains the funky color of the bar-tape, it's what I had laying around. Of course the fenders and rear trunk are custom coroplast specials.
Is this bike the one? I don't know. I never know. Could I come up with a better bike to ride to work? Probably. Could I come up with a better bike to bomb down the back side of Tiger Mountain? Sure. But do I carry the perfect knife and a set of screwdrivers and a wrench and everything else in the front pocket of my shorts? Nope.
I've got a little red knife in my pocket. It does a pretty good job on a lot of tasks and I carry it with me every day. And now I've got this bike. It's kind of ugly but that appeals to me. As Stuart Smalley might say "it's good enough and doggone it, I like it!"