There are two lenses through which one can view a bike tour; a lens of relaxation, or a lens of adventure. For a relaxer, logistical issues and unexpected hard knocks just aren’t on the menu. That’s not why he’s touring… he’s touring to decompress, stay reasonable comfortable, and to see the world on his own terms. The adventurer sees things differently. She takes her comfort and relaxation on the world’s terms- which could mean comfort when the long-lost sun dries clothes that have been wet for days, and relaxation when a scheduled ferry doesn’t come. Terrible roads, inconsiderate drivers, hoards of dogs and/or children in hot pursuit… are all great fun, with the right mindset and a capable bike. Which brings us back around.
A good urban bike isn’t always fit for touring, but any good touring bike is a perfect fit for the city life. Groceries, laundry, for some even potting soil and chicken feed packs up and hauls just as easily as toiletries and camping gear. But there is one requirement in the city that isn’t so crucial on a rural tour; lighting. On tour, dedicated bike lights are rarely needed. The vast distances are typically covered by day, and that headlamp that lights up the tent at night can light up the road well enough when it’s needed. In town though, lights are a necessity. Batteries are expensive, and then once they’re dead they turn into toxic waste. What a pain! Generator lighting is a small and worthwhile investment for the urban commuter… no batteries = no dead batteries = no toxic waste. Best of all, modern lights and generator systems are fully automatic. Not only does one not need to worry about batteries, he doesn’t need to worry about anything. The lights come on when the sun goes down, and five minutes after the bike stops, they go out- and that’s one less thing to think about.
This little 26 inch tourer is equipped with the Lumatec IQ Cyo headlamp and Schmidt SON hub- which combine to deliver a car-bright beam from the effort it takes to climb ten feet over a mile’s distance. What makes more sense than that? In addition to the usual Littleford features of integrated racks and overlapping seat stays, this bike also features extra low rear pannier rails for maximum stability and a deep, deep midnight blue paint job with a hand-painted moon.
Dutch bikes have charm. They’re comfortable. They tend to be heavy, but the Netherlands are flat… so who minds? South Carolina isn’t quite so flat- so this mixte weighs in at a respectable 28 pounds, and is equipped with a Nuvinci Continuously Variable Transmission- which takes the individual gears out of the drive train and replaces them with a smooth and buttery continuum of ratios. The frame is equipped with removable front and rear racks and a similarly detachable front basket. Gearing and rear brake routing is fully internal. Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, while not typical of a traditional design, were chosen for their combination of excellent stopping power, simplicity of design, and ease of maintenance.
My daily ride was due for a revision. It was high time I brought it up to speed with some more current Littleford features. I rebuilt the rear rack, updated the horizontal rack struts to mount through the seat stays, and made all of the attachment points on the frame and racks stainless steel. I also built an integrated front low-rider rack (not shown) for heavy touring and installed eyelets on the outsides of the fork crown to accommodate a future randoneering style platform/basket rack. Later I added a detachable wooden trunk for around town use.
In addition to the contest requirements (a security mechanism, fenders, front and rear lighting, reasonable cargo capacity, and the ability to free-stand under load) the Team Littleford entry also featured some proprietary touches. As on all Littlefords, both front and rear racks are detachable. The front rack sports a platform plus center-pivoting rails for custom Philosophy panniers. When unlatched the bags automatically swing outward for easy access. The wooden rack platforms were salvaged from a thrift store find; a 1970′s waterski board. A hidden latch (below the left rail of the rear rack) opens the hinged rear platform to access a discreet u-lock holster and glove box underneath.
While I’m happy to help develop even the foggiest vision of a customer’s dream bike, sometimes that vision arrives more or less intact. Cheryll knew just what she wanted. She mailed me the bright green and fuchsia color samples, and I determined her frame geometry from her measurements, insight and photos; two of her riding different bikes and one side view of a stationary bike that she had found particularly comfortable. (It allowed for a more upright posture than any road bike she could find.) The end result was just what she was looking for… crafted and delivered from 2000 miles away.
Matt’s commuter is a mix of modern and classic. The fillet brazed frame and 3 x 8 speed drive train is more contemporary, while the center-pull brakes and burnt orange paint scheme give a 70′s feel. The sporty frame is built to tour should the need arise, with a 73 degree head tube, 45 mm chain stays, ample fender clearance, and rear and low rider rack eyelets.
This is Craig’s light and snappy sport tourer. In order to complement his well-used vintage Campagnolo components, I went for a classic feel with old-fashioned steel road geometry and a pearly antique silver paint job. The lower bottom bracket, longer chain stays, and overlapping seat stays keep things comfortable and perfectly functional for long-hauling. This bike was the first Littleford to feature a completely integrated rear rack. The horizontal support struts mount flush to the seat stays, discretely fastened by allen bolts from the underside of the stays. When the rack is removed there are only two small tunnels remaining. (Coming soon; integrated deer whistles!)