Is it really necessary to invent yet another type of bike? Well, all I can say is that I am definitely coming around to the idea!
At first I thought it was just another marketing ploy to convince cyclists with a lot of spare cash that they needed to buy another bike to add to their bike stable, but whilst I think that may be true in some instances, a couple of bikes have caught my eye and made me think again, and now I find myself contemplating my first purchase.
Back in the days when I rode with the local cycle-touring club (I was very young ……), the more adventurous Sunday rides included off-road sections which we called ‘ruff-stuff’! I loved them but they did involve a lot of walking. The steel-framed bikes were heavy, difficult to stop (!) and lacked the necessary gears to get you up the hill, but it was great fun trying! When mountain bikes arrived on the scene (I was still very young ….!), I was first in-line but would never consider riding them on the road. So is there a half-way house? I think so. The most significant development in road bike design in the last 5 years is the introduction of disk brakes, which not only means you can stop on a dime, but also allows a re-design of the back stays (chain and seat) and front forks to accommodate fatter tyres. So with the correct gearing and a higher bottom bracket, I say let the new age of adventure road-biking commence!
Over the last couple of years, and without really realising it, I have been turning my current road bike into a proto-Adventure Road Bike, by increasing the tyre width to 28” and changing the rear cassette and derailleur to MTB spec, and I have rarely had to push my bike on off-road sections, but I am looking forward to the easier stopping capabilities on long off-road descents, and the added comfort of suspension and wider tyres, that a ‘real’ Adventure Road Bike promises to bring.
For me, it isn’t just about added comfort and off-road capability. I admit to having minimalist tendencies, so in my ideal world I would own one bike that was capable of adapting to many riding environments, rather than owning lots of different bikes. I’m hoping that with an Adventure Road Bike, I just need two sets of wheels, a robust heavier pair with wide tyres for the adventure days, and a lighter pair with narrower tyres so that I can keep up with the Bella Velo ladies on my purely road-riding days. The practicalities of this are far from proven, but I like the idea.
So which bikes have turned my head?
Last year saw Cannondale introduced the Slate, the first drop handle-bar bike with 3cm of travel in their Lefty Oliver front fork, and this year sees the introduction of the Specialized Diverge with the new Future Shock, giving you 2 cm of travel. Both bikes also give you the option to use either 650b or 700cc diameter wheels (I had to go on some seriously nerdy websites to find this out with regard to the Slate!).
I think it’s time to try them out. Watch this space…….
If you want to read more about Adventure Road Biking click here for my quick introduction.