The quest for the perfect bicycle

The perfect bicycle. . .does not exist.

Much like the perfect car, the formula for the perfect bicycle is an unquantifiable combination of specifications, expectations, and circumstances. It varies from person to person and minute to minute.

My Honda is almost perfect, unless I’m making a lumber run at Home Depot. The pickup is better for that, yet it is simultaneously too big (to park) and too small (for 8′ lumber.) Groceries? The Honda is overkill; I can fit a full load in the sidecar of the Ural. Feel like relaxing? Go slowly in the VW bus, unless it’s cold out because the heater doesn’t work. On it goes. . .

For much of my life I was a skinny-tired bike snob. I had a carbon-fiber Kestrel with clipless pedals and 23mm tires, and I loved it. That bike was light as a feather, agile, and tons of fun. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! It was useless off road; it was suicidal on gravel; I didn’t care. I stayed on pavement, and I was fast. I sneered at the deluded fools around me lugging heavy knobby-tired, fully-suspended mountain bikes on paved bike paths. Why would you commute in a cement mixer?

Alas, time and gravity come for us all in the end. My back is no longer able to tolerate an extreme forward cycling position. My hands become numb after only a few miles on drop bars. The Kestrel began to gather dust. I stopped riding for fun.

On vacation a few years ago I rented a dual sport bike and took it on my favorite paved bike trail. I was sold. Upon returning home, I sought out and purchased a Trek 8.3 DS. My solution had arrived. It has a more upright riding position and compromises on 38mm tires. It can handle a bit of off-pavement riding, but it’s really suited to pavement and potholes.

I am a tinkerer, so the Trek was customized. It grew a rack for cargo, a bottle cage, a cycle computer, and a pleasant bell for warning the clueless on the local bike network. My current job is only 5 miles from home, so I added a mirror and a set of LED head- and tail-lights for commuting possibilities.

It’s almost perfect. On paper at least.

I fell down a Youtube rabbit hole recently. I discovered Dutch bikes, belt drives, and CVT transmissions. I made a mental shift from ‘cycling for the sake of cycling’ to ‘cycling to get somewhere.’ I was inspired to finally start bicycle commuting. It’s been going well, but I have uncovered a few shortcomings with the Trek as a daily commuter. The riding position is still too far forward, making my hands go numb from too much weight on them. The saddle is OK for my commute, but it becomes painful on 20+ mile days. The computer is finicky and now redundant thanks to my Apple Watch.

They say the best commuter bike is the one you have. It’s hard to argue with ‘just do it’ as a philosophy. But I am a tinkerer. Parts are on order. Stay tuned. . .