Saddledrive. You may have heard of it, but if you haven't worked in the cycling industry in the last few years it's likely you haven't. According to its website, Saddledrive "brings together America's leading independent bicycle dealers for their first chance to see next year's products from the best vendors in the industry."
I'm usually hesitant to trust words like "best" and "leading," but whether those words are true or not, we at Yawp! are honored to have been selected to go to the three day event in Ogden, UT.
So what kind of crazy new bike stuff did we see and what does it mean for you?
The Crazy New Bike Stuff That We Saw
I didn't go look at any of it. I was too busy:
Riding Surly Bikes
Yup. In a fantasy land of carbon frames, 10-pound full suspension road bikes, disc brake saddles, and gloves that wirelessly pick your nose, I went and rode steel bikes. Is this because I'm a curmudgeonly luddite? No. There's a fine line between a valuable advancement in cycling technology and a gimmick.
I'll be the first to admit to having been surprised in the past by what I'd thought was a gimmick but was actually a beneficial invention, so I'm not against trying an endurance bike that injects you with electrolytes or a 9" fatbike full of helium, but I'm not willing to stand in line to ride one.
On the event's first morning, I went to see some pals in the Surly tent and I asked them how I could best take advantage of Saddledrive. They handed me an Instigator with 27.5 wheels and told me to disappear for a few hours. Yeah, obviously they were trying to get rid of me, but their advice was useful nonetheless.
I've spent some time on a 26+ Instigator (which you can read about here), and I was really blown away by how nimble the bike was with the 27.5 wheels. I had remembered the Instigator feeling a little disorienting on climbs, which I had attributed to the slack headtube. However, with 27.5 wheels, the bike was a stellar climber while still eating up chunky descents faster than I can eat chunky ice cream (which is real fast).
I rode and loved that Instigator through some countryside that I could barely believe was Utah.
Even though it's only rained one other time in Utah since it achieved statehood, it was raining as I set out. I didn't care. The rain and the wet foliage were kind of refreshing. The day-to-day operation of a bicycle shop, as enjoyable as it is, often leaves introverts with insufficient time for insular weirdness, or whatever we use all of that alone time for. This particular ride felt like the first time I'd been alone with neither a schedule to keep or a deadline looming for a long, long time. Thanks to both Surly and their parent company, QBP, for that.
There was a cold breeze at the top of the mountain, but the clouds broke just as I arrived. The picture does justice to neither the view nor the Instigator.
I continued to ride for another couple of hours. There's a trail at Snowbasin called Sardine that seems to descend forever though a spectacular forest, with some pretty stellar views. I've been to Utah kind of a lot, and I've never seen anything like this.
I rode Icebox Canyon, which really deserved a lot of photos, but the (very steep) trail was so much fun I could not make myself stop (almost literally). I took the picture below at the bottom; you'll just have to imagine following this river through a lush and narrow valley. Not that I doubt your imagination, but it's better than you're imagining.
I was thoroughly impressed with the Instigator and with Snowbasin, not to mention a little tired, so I returned the bike to the Surly tent and found some lunch. After lunch, there was nothing better to do than repeat the ride on a different bike.
That Karate Monkey wasn't my size and it was still amazing. I hadn't ridden a single speed in years, and I certainly didn't remember it being any fun. It was, though. In fact, it was so much fun that I chose the Karate Monkey later that evening when I:
Rode Bikes With Surly
There isn't much going on in Ogden at night, so Surly took us on a late-night beer-and-campfire ride. It was the kind of ride that produces about 100 photos that are either completely black or blurry.
Within two or three minutes of leaving downtown, we were on some rolling, narrow singletrack. Our flickering commuter lights cast insectile flashes through dense, low branches. The trail was bench-cut, so to our right was a 6-foot wall of dirt and to the left a bottomless chasm. The forest closed in around us as we rolled through it half-blind, and from an arena nearby an absurd and unintelligible voice boomed over a loudspeaker, like an etherial being welcoming us in an alien tongue to a preternatural woodland. If someone told me I'd dreamed the whole thing, I'd believe them.
Despite a number of campfire beers, I woke up in good time and caught the shuttle back to Snowbasin in order to take care of some important business:
Riding More Surly Bikes
On Saddledrive's second day, I took out a properly-sized Karate Monkey, and had even more fun. I probably bring this up too often in blog posts, but we sell Surly bikes because we ride them, and we ride them because we love them.
Something else about Surlys that are pretty great: if you have a garage full of old parts, most of them will probably fit on a Surly frame. For example, I already had everything I needed to build this bike except for a Karate Monkey frame, which I bought promptly upon my return from Saddledrive.
If we're lucky enough to return to Saddledrive in the future, I'm sure you can guess what we'll get up to. In the meantime, here's the: