A year with a Vagabond
All this thing of “gravel” and “freeroad” bikes is nice and dandy, with lean pedallers hammering into the distance on California backroads. BUT. First off, I’m 90kg of overweight middle age prowler, so was in need of something “more”. Then, I’ve killed various road iterations by clamping on the kid’s trailer, riding them offroad and, hardest on them all, commuting under any weather. A gravel bike was simply gonna meet the same demise, without taking in account that the more buyable ones (under £1500) simply weight like a mountain bike (have you ever lifted the £800 Specialized?). Then flipping into the Genesis catalogue, this thing showed up. And it was not only that I find it a beautiful and nice bike, also I simply remembered John Tomac hammering downhill on drop bars: this had also disc brakes and modern gear, ohoooo!
So, I had to buy this bike and in the end had it, courtesy of Saddles and Paddles in Exeter that sorted one out for me. How is it? It’s built with Genesis’ own 4130 Mjolnir (thor’s Hammer), and feels very nice. What really got me, is so much lateral stiffness for a steel bike, but remember that Thor’s Hammer was not renown for being light, especially loaded with bike bags. This can be overlooked, as the whole thing here costs as a Salsa frameset. I mean, talk about a good deal!
Here are some things I’ve done with this horse: first and foremost, commuted it under every kind of horror weather. With this one you are not riding around the stones that litter the road under foul raining: you just smash into them sending them where they belong. I have offroaded it, because it’s its goal: take you on nice road rides that end on bridleways, that end in singletracks. Though heavy, it’s brilliant both on and offroad. It can drop (small) and it can jump, and behave properly on trails. If you are catching up speed on rutted trails, teeth clatter will get you in the end. And of course lots of road riding both loaded and not. Beware of the thin tired roadies though, because if you’ll try to keep up to have a chat, you will be very exhausted very fast: a pure road bike it is not, but will open so many doors that… well, who cares?
There are some gripes. We are talking a £900 bike, that for me is a lot. And those wheels with no name hubs (squealy), honest but heavy rims and godonlyknows spokes are good for a £500 bike. There is not interchangeable derailleur hanger because when asked, Genesis answered that “it is strong enough”. I have lived through the cross country racing of the 90s, when a badly bent hanger meant a 50% chance of having to change the whole beloved frame. C’mon guys, I know we have shadow derailleurs, but it’s also 2016. Though easy to use, the cyclocross shifters are slightly loose and not the top in precision. But you’re not gonna race this thing to the finish line. And last one, the inline post: except triathletes and short dwarf like people, who uses this posts anymore? God only knows.
Of course, being the cheeky guy that I am, I’ve been carried away dreaming. Sooner or later I will get a carbon fork, a 1x sram crankset and some even lighter wheels and shed a couple of kilos from this beast, and will still be slow as I am. But I’m still opening my mouth gobbling small insects trying to act as John Tomac like 20 years ago.