Preparing to join the growing echo of world travelers on bicycles is something we have been talking about for a few years and it is finally reaching the action stage. Our first test is going to be a 10 day ride down the Oregon Coast. Not all of it, just from Tillimook to Brookings.
The Search For A Bicycle Begins…
I am no stranger to bikes. In fact, I owned a bike shop for many years – Perpetual Cycle. This didn’t change the agonizing hours spent trying to decide on a bike to carry us across distant lands. In fact, I feel my knowledge of bikes was a hindrance more often than it should of been. My most memorable adventures were always a result of very little planning and spontaneity.
While it is easy to argue otherwise, I feel knowledge is a curse to humanity. It creates the word “should” and that one word alone is the cause of all social problems. It needs to be stricken from our vocabulary. Then we can all live in peace.
Being a creature of habit, the search for knowledge has a chokehold on me and so I continued my mission for our perfect ride. Only to once again discover, like so many others have – The perfect bike does not exist. Which is why a lot of us have so many flavors of bicycle in storage. But then we can say that the perfect bicycle is the one we are on right now.
This did not detour me and I set out to answer a few important questions:
- What are our touring daydreams?
- What is our riding habit or style?
- What are our physical limitations?
- How well will the bike handle touring weight and pulling a trailer?
- How packable is it?
- How versatile of a frame is it?
- What material is the frame made of and is it easily repaired?
- Will it handle any terrain we ride it through?
- How well does it handle on snow?
- Does the frame geometry fit us?
- Is it a pleasure to ride?
- Where do we plan on riding?
After answering these questions we made a decision on the Surly ECR and so far we are incredibly happy with our choice.
Why We Chose The Surly ECR…
Deborah and I want to spend as much of our touring off paved roads as much as possible. And we would like to continue riding through winter snow. At this moment, the logical choice for us seems to be a fat bike. We were happy to discover that Surly released a 29er touring frame that we felt reached a happy balance between the advantages of both the fat and touring bikes. There are some disadvantages to the ECR but that is the case with all bicycles and products in general.
Here is a quote from Surly’s webpage about the ECR (they just say it better than I can). It has handle just as they say for us.
“ECR is of the 29+ category, a name we made up when we introduced the Krampus. 29+ means more width, more height, more traction, more cushion and more float than standard 29ers. The approach angle of such big tires (close to 31˝) combined with the extra traction and float of high volume, low weight rubber make this bike extremely capable of going lots of places, from roads to trails to little-traveled back country. While the ECR borrows from Ogre, Krampus and even the Long Haul Trucker, its ride quality and capabilities are unique. It’s a pack mule, a pedal-powered escape pod. Wherever you want to explore, this is the bike that can get you there.” – Surly ECR product page.
Our Daydreams… We have visions of riding the Continental Divide Trail, Trans-America Trail (not the bicycle route), and many other unpaved locations. The ECR’s 29+ wheels, overall design, and component group is well suited for demanding terrain.
Our Riding Style… Like my hiking style, we ride at a photographers pace. Riding slow and stopping a lot to explore. Daily mileage is of little concern because we see the journey as being much more important than the destination. The ECR offers a pleasant ride at our pace.
Our Physical Limitations… We are fortunate, being in our 50’s, to have no limitations beyond the inevitable aging process.
Handling… The ECR is amazingly smooth, stable, and easy to ride. Climbs like a goat even fully loaded. This bike was made to haul things and that it does, well beyond my expectations.
Packability… This is possibly the main issue with the ECR. It doesn’t pack very small or efficiently for transport. It’s made to be ridden, not shipped. We have never cycled anywhere outside of the United States so I am sure we will discover a few inconveniences when we reach other countries. Especially when it comes to the wheel size being uncommon. In fact, I think the wheel size is going to be the only concern always in the back of my mind.
Frame Material… The ECR is made of 4130 CroMoly steel. TIG-welded Double-butted main triangle. This should be easy to repair in any country if needed. If you want to read more about Surly’s 4130 CroMoly steel, follow this link.
Bike Fit… There is nothing more important in cycling than bike fit. A bicycle that does not fit properly will cause more physical damage than most riders realize. Sore knees, back, shoulders, and butt are sure signs a bike does not fit properly. Hands falling asleep and neck pain are also symptoms to watch for. I had spent years fitting and correcting issues for cyclist in my bike shop – It is what I specialized in and was known for. If the ECR did not have the right geometry for us, I would not have considered them – Fit is that serious of a consideration. Fortunately, the ECR does work out well for us.
Pleasure To Ride… Both Deborah and I have to admit that the ECR is easily the most enjoyable bike we have ridden together. There are many trails Deborah struggles on with her other bikes but with the ECR she just breezes down the path. In many sections I keep hearing her happily yell out, “I made it! I made it!” Such a fun bike to ride.