After two weeks of mostly road riding, this past weekend I returned to the beguiling dirt trails of suburbia:
To urban and rural types alike these environs may seem tame, but make no mistake–you never know when you might have a pulse-pounding wildlife encounter:
I could practically feel its hot breath and smell its flatulence. Or vice-versa.
Yes, I may be a civilized sort, what with my indoor plumbing and wireless Internet connection and access to multiple TV streaming services, but as soon as I enter the wild all my senses come alive and I revert to an almost animal-like state. I’m also an expert tracker. For example, I know this was left by a gravelista running exactly 36psi and a left cleat that needs to be adjusted inboard by two exactly degrees:
While this was left by an adult male, 6’3″, riding a light blue girl’s Mongoose mountain bike, size small, with both front and rear v-brakes unhooked:
And I didn’t even have to taste the dirt to figure that out:
Though I admit I did smell it for awhile.
Of course one cannot brave such conditions on just any bicycle. (The guy on the Target bike with the unhooked v-brakes notwithstanding.) No, to undertake such a journey I must be able to trust my bike with nothing less than my very life. Moreover, it must be both capable and comfortable, able to traverse both pavement and bare earth with equal aplomb, and ideally have a kickstand for when I need to stop and go pee. My Platypus is such a bicycle.
Have you ever ridden a bike and noted how it evokes your undergraduate days of learning about Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious?
However, I do remember May 2021 like it was only two years and four months ago, and that’s when I first got the ‘Pus. Some bikes spring fully grown from the head of Zeus. For example, while I did briefly Riv-ify it for cheap thrills, my Jones is pretty much exactly as I received it:
This is because the Jones is designed around certain parts (the bars, the plus-sized tires), and so there’s really no point to getting all funky with it. The same thing kinda goes for road bikes:
We each have our saddle and pedal preferences, and we may like one slightly different handlebar bend than another, but ultimately a road bike is a road bike, and they’re pretty much all the same in terms of overall setup…well, mostly:
But some bikes can inherently be set up lots of different ways; moreover, it can take time to figure out just what they want to be. (Or what you want them to be. They don’t want to be anything. They’re just bikes.) The Platypus is like that. Looking at the frame, you could see it as an everyday bike with fenders and baskets for commuting and running errands, or with fatter tires and bags for mixed-terrain rambling, or even lean and “mean” (or as mean as a Rivendell could be) as sort of a genteel upright speedster. What attracted me to it was the whole “mixte” (or at least mixte-adjacent) thing, and my crotch and I had reached the point where I was ready to explore the exciting new world of generous top tube clearance. Furthermore, with my kids now able to ride their own bikes I no longer needed the brute child-hauling capability of the WorkCycles, which I passed along to a friend–and which, now that I think of it, had taught me to appreciate the virtues of a step-thru frame in the first place:
So the Platypus seemed like something that would be good for WorkCycles-type stuff like errands, family picnics, and so forth, yet also the kind of bike I might actually want to just ride for several hours by myself in a recreational, sporting fashion–and as absolutely phenomenal as the WorkCycles is at what it does, you really don’t want to just ride it for several hours in a recreational, sporting fashion. You really don’t.
Then there was the fact that my wife had moved from a WorkCycles to a Clem Smith, Jr. for the same reason the previous fall, which made me want a bike like that too:
Beyond that though I wasn’t sure exactly how to set it up beyond a vague notion that it should be able to carry stuff while also being fun, and while I did order some key parts along with it I also kind of let it evolve and filled in the blanks with stuff from my vast stores of mediocre parts:
Here’s how it looked when it first came together:
Some bikes ride just the way they look, and while the Platypus is certainly comfortable, I quickly learned it’s also lively in a way you might not expect from the upright position as well as all those lugs and tubes. I knew I wanted a basket on it, and after riding it “naked” for a bit just to get to know it I installed one:
However, owing to that unexpected liveiliness, for awhile I had the notion that apart from the basket I’d keep it sort of minimal. That didn’t last:
The whole point of a comfortable bike is that they’re, well, comfortable. You can’t get comfortable if you can’t relax. And you can’t relax if you don’t have everything you need on you at all times–tools, tubes, patches, that sort of thing–and so I added the voluminous saddle bag, which I’d previously been using on the Homer. Similarly, I also found I could relax more on trails with more tire volume, and it turned out I could fit a set of ’29er tires in there no problem. In turn, I also found that, while it’s by no means a mountain bike, it’s also willing to go deeper into the woods than you might think. Switching the bar-end shifters for thumbies, putting on larger pedals, and adding a second set of grips for cranking up steep rises further enhanced its all-terrain rideability:
Around this time I also lowered the bars from the Rivendell-approved “lofty” position you see in all the above photos to a positively reckless “roughly level with the saddle.” Because I like to live dangerously.
A nicer rack for the voluminous saddle bag followed:
As did a period during which I switched the Tosco bar for a Choco, which felt great on the road:
Though I ultimately went back to the Tosco, and overall I think it’s a better fit for the bike–or at least how I ride it.
So while I’ve loved the Platypus from the beginning, it occurred to me this weekend that I’ve finally got the bike exactly how I want it:
Now all I have to do is remember to stop fucking with it.