The Ultimate Do-It-All Bicycle For Your Tiny Apartment
Big cities aren’t considered optimal for dedicated cyclists, who typically feel like penguins in a city full of sharks and polar bears. While navigating the city streets has dramatically improved thanks to initiatives like protected bike lanes, lower speed limits, and more visibility and numbers, one very important thing is still missing. Space.
People with just one bike can usually squeeze it into an apartment—hopefully out of the way of roommates and neighbors. But if you want to have a road bike as well as a commuting bike? Or a trail bike? Forget it. Maybe you can toss hangers on the walls and turn your place into a bike stable, but it’s not in the cards for most city slickers.
So here we are. You need a bike that can do it all. You need a cyclocross bike. You need this cyclocross bike. You need it right now, you strapping young two-wheeled filly.
This is a cyclocross bike.
When there is an extreme premium on space, it’s vital to examine your uses and priorities. If you're only going to bash trails, get a mountain bike. But if you want something to handle it all—fast group rides in spandex, gravel, non-technical single-track, daily city commuting—there's only one bike that can check all the boxes: a cyclocross bike.
Cyclocross bikes resemble road bikes in many ways, but have slight differences to make them more versatile, most notably the ability to fit wider and knobbier tires that can tame trails. Whether you're looking for something versatile because you don't have any space, or because you're traveling and not sure what kind of terrain you'll ride, there's nothing that can do it all quite like a 'cross bike.
If you’re planning on buying one, take into account where you’re going to lock it up. Your office doesn’t have an indoor bike stable? Your ride is going to spend some considerable time outside, and you might not want to go fancy.
With all this in mind, we decided to build a cyclocross bike from scratch that suits our particular needs. If you don't feel like picking up a ready-made model in the shop, you can choose and source the parts yourself and learn how to build it up to your own specifications, with the help of your local bike shop.
All finished, our bike rides beautifully and if you need some inspiration, here's the stuff we used.
The Frame - LeMond Poprad 2006
At the outset, we knew we wanted to go with steel. Classic, comfortable, and durable, steel made sense for us, especially since weight wasn’t a huge issue. Fitting the bill was a 2006 Lemond Poprad frame (he's back, by the way), made out of TrueTemper OX Platinum, a well-respected and high-quality steel. There are tons of different frames across all price ranges, from Surly Cross Checks and Soma Double Crosses to Geekhouse Mudvilles and Independent Fabrication Steel Planet Crosses. Get what works for you.
The Drivetrain -SRAM Rival 22
There's a strong case that the drivetrain is the soul of the bike. As you might already know, there are three main drivetrain suppliers: Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM. While each of these companies are masters in drivetrains, we elected to go with SRAM. It's a matter of personal preference, but the Chicago-based company founded in the ‘80s by three dudes has four particular specs we like: their unique DoubleTap shifting method, lightweight drivetrains, easy adjustment, and striking good-looks.
Coincidentally, our project dovetailed with a new drivetrain from SRAM—Rival 22. Picking up where the old Rival left off, Rival 22 goes up to a 11-speed drive train, keeping the cogs a little tighter for smoother shifting, and is available with hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes as well as classic cabled models. Though it’s just a notch above an entry-level drivetrain, the design is almost identical to the top tier Red group, just made with economical aluminum instead of carbon and titanium. In the miles we've racked on so far, it's been impressively smooth, responsive, and kept our steel bike feeling light. And whoever said gears are uncool is wrong.
Saddle -Fizik Antares R1
Since we plan to pile on the miles, we went with one heck of a saddle—the Fizik Antares. Fizik takes pains in letting everyone know not every saddle is right for every butt, and it’s important to find one that is comfortable and won’t put your junk to sleep, which is worth paying to avoid. Used by the pros, the Antares—named after a rival of Ares in mythology and a constellation currently in the sky—is what we imagine would be produced if Herman Miller designed a saddle. In the end, just make sure you find one that suits your rear.
Wheels -Zipp 30 Clincher
For most day-to-day riding, any durable wheel will do the trick. Whatever comes with your bike is probably fine, or whatever solid budget roller is likely to get you where you’re going. But if you want to get there a little faster or trim some grams off your bike, the most effective way is starting from the ground up with the wheels. Since we plan on doing some fast group rides, we decided to toss on a pair of Zipp 30s. A quick glance at the Zipp website might have you thinking they’re budget wheels, but these use much of Zipp’s wind tunnel-tested aero technology that have earned them several wins recently, including the World Time Trial Championship.
These wheels are light, fast, and have impressively smooth bearings, meaning one pedal stroke goes all the farther. They are also a little wider than many classic road wheels, so they're better for handling dirt tires.
Tires -Continental Grand Prix 4-SeasonandCycloXKing
Tires may be comparably cheap, but they arguably have the biggest effect on your ride. For pavement, we have Continental Grand Prix 4000 28c, which combine the legendary puncture resistance of Gatorskins with the low rolling resistance of Conti's legendary Grand Prix tires. And when it's time to go off-road, we have the Continental CycloXKing 35c at our disposal. Since the sizes are relatively close, you can use the same 700x28-35c tubes. So when you're packing for a trip, just toss the other pair of tires in the car and you're set.
Cockpit -Zipp Service Course SL
Lastly we outfitted the cockpit with Zipp bars, stem, and seatpost. While it's important to find the proper stem length and seatpost, choosing bars with a compact bend—like the Service Course SL 80—might actually get you using the drop bars. They're not just for decoration.