Which Bike to Ride?
Most of the time, I ride two bicycles: My 1973 Alex Singer Randonneur for spirited rides with friends, and my Urban Bike for rides that involve carrying loads that do not fit in a handlebar bag. (Due to lack of time, my Alex Singer Camping bike does not see much use these days.)
Last year, Bicycle Quarterly tested a number of great bikes. I enjoyed some of those bikes so much that I rode them much further than the customary 300-400 km that constitute a normal Bicycle Quarterly test. Out of curiosity, I tallied up the kilometers I rode last year on various bicycle types:
- Alex Singer randonneur and similar 700C bikes: 5061 km (40%)
- 650B randonneur test bikes: 4485 km (35%)
- Urban Bike: 2003 km (16%)
- Other test bikes: 1071 km (9%)
The truly surprising part is that 650B randonneur bikes accounted for 35% of my annual distance, even though I don’t have a 650B randonneur bike! This means that when I had a 650B test bike in my basement, I rode it almost exclusively. As my friend Ryan joked: “I see you are riding the 650B test bike again. I guess you need to check out one more detail of it!” (In fact, I asked the builders’ permission to “extend” the tests.)
It’s not so much the wheel size as the tire width that made these bikes so appealing. The 42 mm-wide 650B tires not only smooth out the rough pavement of Seattle’s streets, but they also allowed me to explore gravel roads in the mountains that would not have been much fun on narrower tires.
It also is interesting that 16% of my riding distance involved hauling loads. If I did not have my Urban Bike, I probably would have driven a car for a good portion of that distance. That would have been a lot of time spent in a car and not on a bike, plus a lot of gasoline burnt.
Most of all, I have concluded that I really need a 650B randonneur bike of my own! (The 1948 René Herse in the drawing above would suit me fine, if we can update it with modern lights.)
Which bike did you ride most last year?