Words and photos by Jeff Archer. This post originally appeared in Bicycle Times #6.
Almost everyone in the bike industry has a love of all bikes. Some prefer the road while others prefer the trails, but each rider can also appreciate the other. Many of the famous mountain bike makers, such as Jeff Lindsay, Gary Fisher and Ross Shafer, started out building and/or racing road bikes.
Most cyclists also appreciate the utilitarian possibilities of the bicycle. There’s something appealing about accomplishing some of your daily tasks on two wheels. Joe Breeze may be the best example of promoting the utilitarian bike. Back around 1977, Joe created a purpose-built mountain bike from scratch and is acknowledged as the first person to do so. His Breezer mountain bikes were available through 1998, when Joe quit distributing them. In 2003, Breezer came back with a full line of utilitarian bikes with the tag line, “transportation for a healthy planet.”
While Breezer became known for a wide range of transportation bikes, there was at least one earlier effort from another one of mountain biking’s founding fathers, Ross Shafer. Ross began building frames on his own starting in 1976. Then, in the early 1980s, he began building bikes for Santana during the day, while continuing to build for himself at night. These initial frames were sold under the Red Bush name, which was changed to Salsa Cycles in 1982. The Salsa frames were highly sought after, but many riders were more familiar with Salsa stems, which were available in an almost infinite variety of lengths and rises and seemed to be on nearly every custom bike of the era.
Manufacturers often liked to roll out special projects for the annual bicycle trade shows. In 1994, Ross had made a 24”-wheel frame for his son’s 9th birthday and took it to the trade show to present the concept. When attendees saw the bike, Salsa started fielding calls from people asking for a production version. Not wanting to let a niche go unfilled, a total of 10 frames were built and offered up for sale…to the sound of crickets chirping. The “demand” dried up before the paint had dried on the frames!
For the 1996 show, Ross, once again, wanted to have something new and unique for dealers. This show bike was the aforementioned town bike. The idea was to offer a complete bike with internal gearing, eccentric bottom bracket, rack, fenders, lights and a kickstand for well under $1,000. While the price obviously precluded the use of a custom U.S.-built frame, the show bike was made in-house using Columbus tubing. Many of the parts, such as the Shimano Nexus 7-speed internal hub and dual-leg kickstand, were production-ready parts, but others, such as the King headset and MAFAC cantilever brake, wouldn’t have been found on the production version. The prototype was finished in a unique metallic blue-to-clear-coat finish. Once again, the response from the show goers was very positive. Based on his previous experience with the 24” wheel, Ross asked buyers for deposits, which once again resulted in those chirping crickets. The prototype was the only Salsa town bike ever produced.
The next year, the Salsa name was sold to Quality Bike Parts and the town bike project never saw the light of day. With the recent popularity of similar bikes, it appears as if Ross was about a dozen years ahead of the curve.
To see what Ross has been up to lately, check out his newest creations at Six-Nine Design. To see a virtual tour of the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, including one of the 24”-wheel Salsa bikes mentioned above, check out MOMBAT.org.
Drawing on Scott Sports’ European sporting and racing heritage, the Evo 20 is designed to be an urban bike that is well-suited to its environment and fun to ride. In practice, I found it to be a very well-thought-out bicycle that had just about everything you’d find yourself needing to navigate through your city’s streets and alleyways.
The Evo’s frame and fork are aluminum so there’s no worry about rust. There are adequate fenders fore and aft to ward off the spray from the Continental City Ride II tires. I think the addition of a small mudflap on the front fender could limit the very small amount of water that gets to your feet when riding around rain-soaked roads.
The tires are pretty great in most conditions as well. These tires have a very nice tread that sheds water well and puts a lot of rubber on the ground. An added bonus is their internal belt, which enhances the puncture resistance of the tire. Nobody wants flats, especially when you are on your way to work or a hot date and don’t want to get dirty patching tubes.
The Evo has a 10-speed Shimano drivetrain with a 48x36x26 crank matched up to an 11-34 cassette, which equates to plenty of gears for all those fun hills! Of course, once you go up you’ll need to come down, so Scott equipped the Evo with a set of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors. Snazzy.
While you’re pedaling around town you’ll probably want to pick up a thing or two from the store and cart it home with you. To aid in your deliveries, there’s a Racktime rear rack that not only has a spring clamp to hold down your precious copy of Bicycle Times magazine, but also features the Snapit system. Snapit allows you to securely mount and remove bags by way of a simple latching system. Of course if you don’t have a compatible bag, you can just use the rack normally. While you are in the store you can prop your bike up with a kickstand that does a pretty good job of keeping the bike upright and stable.
What will they think of next? I’m glad you asked. Lights that never need recharging. Yep, the Evo has a Shimano dynamo hub that powers a front and rear light. The rear light does not blink; remember Scott is a European brand and they don’t like blinkies over there. It’s plenty bright though.
That brings us to the front Busch & Müller light. Great idea, poor implementation. Unlike the mid-headtube mounted light on the cheaper Evo 30, the 20’s front light sits on top of the fender and is positioned in a way that the fender and tire can obstruct the beam. The light can be tilted so that the beam is not obscured, but then it does not illuminate the road directly in front of the bicycle. I would suggest relocating the light to a point higher up on the frame.
Other than the front light’s somewhat perplexing placement, Scott Sports did a great job with the Evo 20. It incorporates pretty much everything you’re going to want in an urban commuter and wraps it up in a comfortable, fun package.
- Price: $1,399
- Weight: 32.7 pounds Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
- More info: Scott Sub Evo 20
Linus Bike blends classic styling cues with modern parts to create everyday transportation that’s both fashionable and functional. Linus offers some of the classiest looking bikes available right now and the Rover 3 continues that tradition.
Backing up that aesthetic are some stout 29-inch wheels with 45 mm-wide tires, which certainly add a lot of functionality to this robust package. Speaking of functionality, the Rover offers front and rear fender mounts and will accommodate a rear rack for day-to-day utility.
The steel frame is available in one size only, a medium, that’s said to fit folks from 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet, 3 inches. At 5 feet, 7 inches, I’m obviously just a touch under the recommended height range but had no issues fitting on the Rover while riding. However, the frame’s upward-arching top tube didn’t offer any standover clearance for my 31-inch inseam.
The Rover’s riding position is very upright thanks to relatively short top tube and highly swept handlebars. A quill stem sticks to the traditional look and offers a welcome range of height adjustment for the one-size-fits-most frame. Caliper brakes do their best to slow bike and rider, and are adequate for all but the most aggressive riding.
That said, the Rover encourages a relaxed, we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there attitude. Those big Kenda tires provide a nice big contact patch and the large volume offer a lot of comfort on rough surfaces. These tires are reinforced to guard against flats as well. The Rover’s Shimano Nexus three-speed hub is a nice touch in my hilly terrain, providing a gear low enough to mostly prevent walking.
On flat ground, I often found myself between second and third gear, but swapping the rear cog from the stock 22-tooth to a harder 19-tooth or easier 23-tooth cog might eliminate some of the hunting back and forth.
As a mountain biker at heart, I really appreciate the Rover’s ability to navigate off-the-beaten-path stretches of my urban settings. Its wide and tough tires allow me to ride along railroad tracks, through industrial zones and take singletrack shortcuts through our city parks on the way from point A to point B. I really appreciate that versatility.
Sure, you can buy more technologically advanced bikes at this price point, but they don’t look as good as the Rover. If you’re into classic styling and versatility, the Rover might be just your ticket. Folks looking to save a few bucks should consider the singlespeed Rover 1, which retails for $539.
- Price: $629
- Weight: 31.9 pounds
- Sizes: one size, medium
- More info: linusbike.com