It’s About Riding with the Kids
Eric ties cycling into many aspects of his daily life. He rides his daughter and son to daycare or elementary school, commutes to work, gets out on his own to explore the world around Ann Arbor, or spends part of the weekend riding with the kids and his wife Tish in the Irish Hills where his in-laws live. He thinks bike first, car second whenever possible. It’s not easy with a busy family and work schedule, but he manages to ride daily in some capacity.
This led him to a recent decision that many of us face as we immerse ourselves in the sport of cycling. Along with the all-weather commuter bike he uses daily, he realized he needed something more suited to wandering the dirt roads and byways, unencumbered by racks and fenders. He wanted a step up, yet something that matched his interests without buying more than he needed. He found just the bike in the Giant Roam 1.
The Roam 1 is a flat handlebar, aluminum road/dirt bike with a suspension front fork, disc brakes, a plethora of gears for the hills (triple chainring 8-speed), and 700c wheels. It’s not a mountain bike pretending to be a road bike, nor a road bike pretending to tackle the tough trails. It has a niche of its own. It handles dirt roads and easygoing trails comfortably for those who want to slip off the pavement when the opportunity arises.
The Suntour suspension front fork might add more weight than a rigid fork, but it also reduces the chatter and abuse a bumpy Michigan dirt road (and even some paved roads) can dish out. The arms will be grateful after a day out wandering and it will even soften the irregularities of a gentle single-track or a soft surface rail-trail. It’s not designed as an all-out trail bike fork, but that would be overkill for the purpose of this bike. It has a lock-out feature that makes the fork rigid for paved rides.
In terms of weight, about 34lbs., this large-framed Roam 1 is not light, though it looks and rides like a much lighter bike. It’s well balanced, has a very comfortable sitting position and rolls smoothly along. Even though it was a bit big for me, it felt very nice and agile and even took on the hills without much strain. Again, much of that weight comes from the suspension front fork, but it also adds up in other components such as the stem, handlebars, seat post, wheels, cranks, and even the frame itself. Part of what you pay for in pricier bikes is lighter weight components.
The 700c wheels sport a 40mm hybrid tire with few knobs in the center rolling area and pronounced knobs along the edges to dig in on dirt road turns. This is a nice all-around compromise that offers both grip on dirt and a good quiet roll on pavement. The front fork and rear seatstays give ample room for even wider tires, a great option for all-season dirt road riding. With good wide tires on those big 700c wheels, the ride can be quite pleasantly cushioned.
Manual disc brakes allow for quick stopping power and take some practice if rim brakes are what you’re used to. That was the biggest surprise for Eric. Once the brake is applied, there’s not that gentle slowing to a stop, but a more abrupt halt. Once you adjust to them, however, they become second nature and offer better stops in rain and in inclement weather than standard rim brakes, which, when applied, often need to clear the water, mud or ice off the rims before they do their job.
The gearing is well spaced for the range of terrain Eric encounters in Washtenaw and Jackson Counties. With a front chain ring range of 48-38-28, and a rear cassette range of 32 down to 12 (all of these numbers designate the number of teeth on each sprocket), there’s plenty of room to either haul good and hard on the flats and downhills, or spin like a hamster up the steep lung-sapping spikes we call hills.
Eric’s dream bike is the one he’s riding now. He purchased it recently and it feels just right for him. It gives him a more versatile bike than his commuter and allows him to wander freely along the region’s back roads with a good degree of comfort and versatility. “I like owning a bike that fits my riding style at the moment,” he noted. “When I’m ready to step into another one I’ll know what to buy because I’ll know more about what fits me then.” Eric tailors much of his riding to that of his kids. Like all kids, they’re growing and changing constantly and he loves exploring along with them.
Eric’s next bike (and, I hate to say this Eric, but you do have the biking bug, so another bike is eventually inevitable) will probably be one tailored to his kids’ interests as much as his own.
Eric did mention one other bike, however, that might be of interest. “If you’re willing,” he said with a glint, “I would like to try your tandem to see if it would be a good option for Tish and me.” It looks like I’d better clean the gritty grunge out of the gears so those two can get a proper sense of tandem togetherness. One piece of advice, Eric: the stoker in back is working as hard or harder than you are and you’ll want to praise them for that…even if it’s not always the case, if you get my drift.