All Good Things

Life is full or ironies and, indeed, it was not very long ago that I opined regarding the upkeep of old bikes in order to keep them in service as long as possible and that, as long as the frame was still good, the bike should theoretically be able to keep going indefinitely. Alas, upon inspection of the frame of my trusty Cannondale F4 a while ago, I noticed a crack near one of the rear stays. Not a massive crack and I’m not really sure how long it’s been there but unsettling nonetheless. And I guess even if the stay cracked right though, it would probably not be a life threatening situation but it could mean quite a long walk home. And so, given that the bike is something of a pack horse which means continuous extra stress on the frame and also given that the bike is about sixteen years old now, I decided that maybe a replacement was in order.

I scouted various shops and websites for quite a while and toyed with ideas for various models and configurations for another commuter – drop bars, flat bars, something oriented around all-terrain riding, more of a road oriented machine, new, used, steel, alloy. I thought hard about what the most functional steed for the intended use would be and tried to put aside any unhelpful aesthetic preferences which may taint my choice.

Given that it would mainly be an inner city commuter used to get me from home to the CBD as fast as possible while being able to carry all I need for a day in the office, I thought a 700C, road oriented, flat bar commuter with a 2×9 drivetrain ought to be what I aim for. My selection criteria were boiled down to roughly the following:

  • 700C wheels with smooth but slightly wider than road tyres to soak up the bumps. Also the wheels needed to be burly enough to take the weight of the load in my panniers.
  • Mounts for rack and fenders. Rack to hang my Ortlieb panniers off and fenders because water from the sky is fairly clean while water off the road is not so clean.
  • Flat bars for a more upright position and thus better visibility in traffic.
  • As I’ve mentioned before, 2×9 drivetrains are approximately the sweet spot when you’re balancing between gear range, quality of components and cost of consumables like cassettes and chains. So, this is what I settled on.
  • Road oriented geometry. There’s various kinds of bikes that can be assigned to commuter duty. Mountain bikes (like my old Cannondale) are commonly used by adding a rack and some smooth tyres but they can be slower and less comfortable than they need to be for this purpose. Aluminium or steel road bikes are also used with the addition of a rack but the downsides of using those are that the frames can be a bit too thin and fine which can cause them to flex excessively or even break with a decent load. Also, because the riding position on them is quite stretched out with the rider’s head quite low, visibility in traffic can be impeded. What I wanted is some compromise between the two but more biased toward a road bike setup.

Spacialized Sirrus commuter

After several rounds of distillation, my selection criteria finally pointed me toward the Specialized Sirrus. I also looked at similar bikes in other brands but the Sirrus seemed to have the best balance of everything I was looking for. The last hurdle was talking myself into parting with the required outlay. Although not a particularly pricey bike, the miser in me wasn’t prepared to part with full retail cost for one of these beasties so there there was one thing left to do – Gumtree.

I monitored the classifieds patiently for several weeks until, amazingly, exactly what I was hoping for popped up one day. One summer blue Sirrus 3.0 in my size, 2×9 drivetrain, a couple of years old and practically unused. Probably a Covid bike. Half the price of full retail. Score!

The Sirrus was as new but lacked a few of the things I really liked on my Cannondale – fenders, Origin8 Space Bar and of course my Topeak rack to hang my Ortlieb pannier bags on. Luckily, my bargain hunting also left me with some funds to spare. Even more luckily, all I really needed to buy was a set of fenders that fitted the Sirrus properly because I had everything else either on the Cannondale or sitting in my cupboard of bike spares. I decided that silver fenders would work best with the summer blue paint and about 60 Aussie King Prawns got me a set complete with all the mounting hardware and rubber beaver tails.

Specialized Sirrus light tourer

Riding the Sirrus felt comfortable as it was so, for now, I’ve abstained from swapping the handlebars out for my Origin8s. Instead, I found a pair of stubby, rubberised bar ends similar to the ones on my Scott Scale in my spare parts cupboard and put those on. Now, I have multiple hand positions on a flat, almost straight handlebar that is narrow enough to give an almost road bike like feel but still wide enough to keep the bike steady when loaded.

The last thing on the cockpit was the grips. I ditched the stock ones in favour of a set of ergo style ones which set me back another 25 bucks. Maybe, I’ll end up with the Origin8s later on but for now this is working really well.

Then it was just a matter of migrating the Topeak rack, my stem bag and my favourite blue aluminium pedals off the Cannondale and the job was pretty well done. Almost.

The Sirrus isn’t a top end bike (nor does it need to be) and one component that bike companies scrimp on to keep costs down is the bottom bracket (out of sight, out of mind). On a bike like this you may end up with one that lasts years without issue or you may get one that is decidedly lacklustre. I got the latter. It wasn’t much side to side movement but annoying enough to replace it. Luckily, even really nice bottom brackets aren’t that expensive. Another 40 bucks from my kitty got me an Ultegra road bike bottom bracket which was really easy to install myself (but you’ll need a bottom bracket spanner) and has made a night and day difference to the way the bike rides. Well worth the upgrade.

Pine Rivers Park on Specialized Sirrus

So, that’s it. My new commuter/light tourer/city bike is complete and I’m really pleased so far. It’s nimble around town, able to carry what I need and comfortable on a longer jaunt…it even does OK in the aesthetics department.

As at this writing I’ve put it through its paces on a few different rides and, of course, several commutes so stay tuned for upcoming write-ups about those.

Ride safe and see you out there sometime.

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The producer of the Velo Moda website acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where I create and publish content from, the Turrbal and Jagera people, and pay my respect to Elders past, present and emerging. I recognise their continued connection to the land and waters of this beautiful place.
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