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Meet Nolie: My New Bikepacking Rig

I'm not one to personify my things, but we're going to be spending a lot of time together.

The lowdown

  • Bike: Surly Bridge Club, XS

  • Wheels & tires: arrived with stock Surly ExtraTerrestrial 700 x 41 w/tubes, but switching to 27.5 x 2.2 Maxxis Ikon tubeless for the GDMBR

  • Pedals: Arrived pedal-less, installed Shimano clipless pedals, will switch to Shimano MTB clipless/platform pedals for the GDMBR

  • Handlebars: came stock with Surly Terminal Bars. I don't hate them but I don't love them, either. The flare is nice but they're sooo wide. At minimum they need to be trimmed down, but I'll likely end-up swapping them out for something that gives me more hand position options for the long days and steep climbs and descents... or try aerobars? Honestly I'm a little lost on this one...

  • Bags: Its first flair was a Green Guru top tube bag with the zipper incorrectly installed backward, which has proven to be stupidly annoying, but will tolerate it until my custom Rogue Panda frame + top tube set arrives (this was a pre-layoff splurge)

Very, very limited options

Last fall I began searching for an adventure bike to take on weekend and section bikepacking trips. While there are plenty of great bikes on the market, I quickly found I was limited because of my height.

For reference, I'm exactly 5 ft tall (er... short). While there are many things to consider when shopping for a bike, I focused foremost on sizing and type of riding. Very few brands mass-manufacture bikes fit for bikepacking with geometry and standover height suitable for shawties like me.

After a ton of research, it came down to just three options near my price range:

  • Salsa Timberjack: A hardtail wasn't my first choice and it was more than I wanted to spend, but definitely one to consider. Perhaps a future MTB bike if I venture into more technical riding

  • Surly Bridge Club: fully rigid, tons of barnacles, steel frame, sized right & within my price range. Yes please

  • Surly Straggler: more of a gravel bike, HELLA fun to ride (tested one a bit too large for me at Full Cycle Boulder), slightly above price range, not quite the long-haul pack mule I was looking for but a solid choice for more mellow routes or speedy group rides. Maybe one day...

Over the course of a couple months I called over 40 bike shops (repeatedly) looking for XS inventory of these three bikes -or even leads on small-framed bikes that didn't make it on my list. New. Used. I wasn't picky.

Several people suggested I buy a custom frame and build my dream bike from scratch. But honestly, I don't have the skills, budget or time for that (I did inquire at some frame shops, such as Stinner Frameworks but the frames alone were nearly double my base budget, the lead times were long (some more than four months) and they were still too large for me). Other fully custom options that offer smaller sizes include Seven Cycles and these companies owned by women (um, yes girl!)

So back to cold-calling bike shops! Each week, the calling perimeter got wider and wider, but still no luck for an XS.

Then one evening I was sharing my plight with a friend. He whipped out his phone and within a matter of minutes found an XS Surly Bridge Club in stock at a bike store in Minneapolis. I was too excited to be annoyed with how easy he made it look (I'm still convinced his search engine results were optimized differently than mine).

The next morning I called and bought it over the phone. They boxed it up and shipped it home to me.

Welcome to the family, Nolie

Watching the delivery dot near my apartment and hearing the knock on my door... it might as well have been a stork delivering a baby.

Still boxed, I decided to bless it with the name of one of my favorite authors: Nolie Mumey.

Nolie's colorfully-written books about the American West sparked my initial interest in and eventual love of the Rocky Mountains. During my freshman year in college, I checked out his book Teton Mountains from the library and read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. It motivated me to spend that summer interning inside Yellowstone National Park.

A year or so later, I scraped pennies in order to buy a copy for myself. At the time I paid $310 which was (and still is) the most I've ever paid for a book.

Nearly 15 years later, I find myself scraping pennies once again, drawing inspiration from his words and working towards what will be the next great adventure of my life; the GDMBR.


Over the next six weeks I'll be trying to test gear, settle into things that are working while still adjusting things that aren't.

Nolie might end-up looking different than the day he arrived, but he'll always exude the same wild spirit from his core.

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1 Comment

Love the bike. I have one too. And I agree that the bars are too wide. My /Surley came with the 27.5 wheelset. The handlebars though..."Okay" but not great. May swap out the handlebars from my old hardtail mtn bike I had to retire last December due to a badly cracked frame. Bough the Surly a few days later at the bike shop I was working at.

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