14 May 2009

A real "Sport Utility Vehicle"

sport utility vehicle rigid mountain bike commuter
Whoever coined the phrase "sport utility vehicle" touched on some intrinsic part of the American psyche. Evoking adventure and practicality, the phrase is very much in tune with how Americans like to think of themselves. Sure, there are those of us who love all things European; haute couture, design, ballet, opera, etc. but I think we all at some level understand the American appeal of the Jeep Cherokee and a Brooks Brothers sack suit.

Budd bikesI've been watching bike trends for just a short time really, and love the resurrection of the old three-speeds, but it's my prediction that the rigid mountain bike of the early nineties will be the next style to be pulled out of basements and retro-fitted for commuting. Indeed in conversations with local framebuilder Matt Budd I mentioned that his design (at right) reminded me of this idea, and he was very enthusiastic, as that was exactly his inspiration.

There are many beautiful Dutch/Danish bikes available, and there are gorgeous custom bespoke bikes which defy categorization, but it's my opinion that the converted rigid mountain bike, like this one I photographed yesterday, may be the true American 'sport utility vehicle' (with bonus points, as it's a lot more sporty and a lot more utilitarian than the Ford Explorer!).

However, my husband says "Don't even think about touching my Yo Eddy!"

sport utility vehicle rigid mountain bike commuter


Carice said...

I think that you have a great point about the american love for simple practical design.the geometry of mountain bikes is also pretty forgiving on less than perfect city streets. And this looks like a great bike- nice proportions, nice simple accessories

However there are two (and a half) things that I think would really increase the utility of a true sport utility bike. Looks like Matt's design has these.

1) Chain guard- So annoying to have to mess with your pant leg when you ride, and one can't always wear skirts..

2) Rack or basket so you could take stuff with you easily.

2 1/2- I know that those are technically the kind of pedals that you can use with regular shoes, so I'll make it a "half suggestion" but those don't look like they'd be very comfortable with the shoes I wore to work today.

jhaygood said...

That is exactly what I ride (half the time). It's my old 1990 Bridgestone MB-1. Bought it back then as a mountain bike, but switched it to some skinny, slick tires, added fenders and a rack and now it's a solid, steel-framed workhorse that really flies. It does have 26" tires (and switching to 700c doesn't work easily - the cantilever brake mounts are set for the 26" size...)

But it's a great commuter/kid trailer tower now. Love it.

'Xander Labayen said...

you are right on track with this one.. Marin is already moving into the hybrid stages on their 29er singlespeed commuters.. however i'm looking for an 80's bianchi mountain bike frame to slap on some rigid forks and fenders and an xtracycle!

aj said...

I've been shopping Craigslist for a few months now picking out 1990's steel mountain bikes for friends who want to get into urban cycling. You can get great bikes for $100 that can be turned into the perfect urban machine with the swap of a few parts.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right:


(just bought one!)

jb said...

Yes, my mid-90's Fuji Discovery MTB has evolved over the years. First, it was smooth tires. Then a rear rack. Last fall, it became an Xtracycle with disc brakes in the rear, V-Brakes up front, and a month ago, received real fenders, and handle bars that I don't have to ride facing the ground with. It even features a bell.

The Stouts said...

I've been thinking the same thing. The reality is that at some point people start to look back at whats sitting around readily available, cheap, and sufficient to do the task at hand.

old standard hardtail mtb's are a dime a dozen and can certainly be made to do the job quite well.

Heck I've taken my wife's old steel mtb from high school, put nice fenders, rack, bars, saddle on it and logged probably 15k miles now. I really ought to do a post about it.

BTW, I love seeing the Bikes At Work trailer hitch on that thing. It truly is a utility bike.

RidngPretty aka Shelly said...

Do you keep up with bike forum's Classic & Vintage (C&V)?
At any rate, a while back a noobie girl was wanting to buy vintage and explained her commuter bike needs, (plus she explained she wore skirts and 'nice' clothing). She didn't wanted to get snookered on CL and was asking for help.

So the wise sages there seemed to generally concur...guess what of all things, yep a mountain bike! They went on to explain to her how to retrofit it for commuting, with fenders, tires, chainguard, racks ect.

Also wise sages there stated vintage MTB are what smart people are buying up now because vintage MTBs are vastly overlooked.

Charlotte, I swear you must be psychic because I wanted to write a whole post on this one myself but you're beating me to it!

spiderleggreen said...

I have a mid 90's Gary Fisher that I'd like to make more commuter friendly. It has been my winter beater, and does have a rack. But I'm finding that I'm leaning to far forward and may be looking for some more upright handle bars. I am very happy with my 60's Schwinn three speed, partly because it puts me in that upright position.

BTW Retrovelo bikes started with the 70's mountain bike shape and built from there. Those things look hot!

Charlotte said...

Spiderlegreen: I had to get a Nitto Periscopa stem to change my position. Rivendell says "We sell tons of these, and most of them go on wive's mountain bikes, as a way to get the bars higher and closer, and it always works." I can say that it worked for me!

Anonymous said...

There must be something in the air... all these great posts steering people back to what's right around here.




I still reserve the right to get a fancy-schmancy bike fresh out of the wrapper, though!

Jenn (TinyChoices.com) said...

Yup! I've taken my heavy old '93 mountain bike and added fenders, a rack, a basket, and upright handlebars, and it's the best thing ever for commuting here in NYC. The final touch will be a chainguard, then I'm all set!

The best part is that it looks like a Frankenbike at this point, so it's pretty safe locked up outside my building 24/7/365. Oh, of course, I've also added locking hubs. :)

reverend dick said...

I am 98% certain that the bike pictured is not an old mtb, but a Surly Long Haul Trucker with the decals changed.

Charlotte said...

Reverend Dick,
You're probably right. This was the touchstone of my musings - I am speculating on the future, and would love to see some photos of existing bikes mentioned in these comments... (hint, hint jhaygood, aj, jb, mr.stout, and Jenn!)

Anon of Florida said...

I think that early 80s mountain bikes with lugged joints, dutch-like angles would be ideal for this revival, if new manufacture was attempted. These came from an brief period where the mountain bike was a frankenbike mix of touring, BMX, and cruiser influences.

I posit this:

With a Dutch style chainguard, and a lower bottom bracket, there is an instant city bike of mountain bike origins.

Matt Budd said...

Some of the features that I've included on some of the BBW frames I've built for this purpose that also have merit are disc brakes and an eccentric bottom bracket.

The discs allow you to run a 700c that rolls a little smoother with skinny slicks than the 26" that you can still run with big fat tires when the riding gets really rough in the winter.

The eccentric allows for chain tensioning and running the bike as a single speed or fixed gear without ever having to mess about with the brake position.

When designed for it a single frame can have a hugely versatile range.