This week I’m highlighting D.C. commuter, Rootchopper, and his bike. I love the look of this bike and when I saw it dressed up in Ortliebs on his flickr page, I wanted to know more about it.
As Rootchopper is a dedicated commuting cyclist with a lovely steel bicycle, I thought he’d be a perfect candidate for Bikes to Like. Take it away, Rootchopper!
1. What kind of bike do you have?
My bike is a Specialized Sequoia purchased in February 1993 from Spokes Etc. in Alexandria Virginia.
I was looking for something a bit more robust than my Trek 1200 for commutes and possibly for touring. The Trek was a great bike but the spokes on its wheels broke from time to time. Don’t you just hate when that happens? (“Ping!” “
Damn!!” No swearing on this blog🙂)
I should point out that this bike bears absolutely no relation to the current Specialized Sequoia models. For one thing, my Sequoia has a heavy chrome-oly frame; the current models are aluminum. My bike was marketed in the U.S. as a commuter and, I am told, it was a very popular touring bike in Europe. Today’s Sequoia’s are built for fast day rides. To use a car analogy, my Sequoia is a Ford F-150 pick up truck; today’s Sequoia’s are more like Ford Focuses.
2. Where do you ride it?
I mostly ride it to and from work. I live in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, Virginia, and work at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. It’s about a 29 mile round trip mostly on the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River.
3. What do you like about your bike?
It’s really a sturdy steed and it’s pretty comfortable, for a diamond frame bike at least.
4. Fenders or no fenders?
One of the cool things about this bike is that it came fully equipped with all sorts of goodies. In addition to a rear rack, it came with front and rear fenders and a generator light system. The generator was located at the base of the seat post between the chain stays. It was activated by a shift lever mounted on the seat post. The power from the generator made it was via wires through the frame to a headlight and into little metal snaps on the rear fender that fed the juice to the taillight.
This system looked good but it had three shortcomings. The lights were actually not very bright, so I had to use additional lights anyway. The fenders were kind of flimsy. I damaged the front fender by some over aggressive parking. Finally, the generator contacted the rear tire directly (not the rim or sidewall). This caused rapid tire wear and made pedaling a bit more difficult. So I removed the entire set up and replace the fenders with a set from Planet Bike.
5. Does your bike have name? If so, what is it?
I have tried to come up with a name for this bike on several occasions but he won’t come when I call him!
For a while I called him Scout, after Tonto’s horse. Then I found out that my friend Keith Adams had a bike named Scout so I dropped it. Since I am a fan of the Lonesome Dove miniseries, I thought about naming the bike the Hell Bitch after Captain Woodrow Call’s horse but that sounded a bit harsh. So I just call it The Sequoia.
6. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?
That’s a very tough call. I love, love, love my Brooks Champion Flyer saddle. The bike came with a Specialized saddle with a depression in the rear for private part preservation or PPP. The foam in this saddle lasted several thousand miles but then started to compress, potentially compromising my PPP. So I bought a Terry Liberator saddle. This had a big cut out for PPP but the opening was lined by stitches. This featured cause extreme discomfort during my first bike tour. So I replaced it with a Brooks B-17.
Even without a cutout or divot, the B-17 was comfortable from the get go and excelled at PPP. That saddle lasted about 7,000 miles before a saddle rail snapped on it during a day ride in the Catskills. I liked the suspension feel of the snapped rail so I replaced the B-17 with a Champion Flyer (which is just a B-17 with springs). That saddle also broke a rail after 7,000 miles, but it was so comfortable I bought another.
There are several other parts that I like. I replaced the original stem with a stem with a higher rise. This gives me a more up-right riding position for my surgically repaired back. The bike came with every narrow drop handlebars. I like the wider handlebars on my Bike Friday so I replaced the narrow bars on the Sequoia. Wunderbar! My little rubber pump peg thingy lets me carry a frame pump under the top tube. The third hand chain keeper keeps my chain from falling off. I replaced the Shimano 105 chain rings with 3 smaller chain rings which IO spec’ed after consulting Sheldon Brown’s website. My knees are much happier. And finally the rack, which is still the original Blackburn, gets used nearly every day with red roll top Ortlieb panniers.
7. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?
I think the only thing I would add is that this bike has well over 30,000 miles on it over 18 years. If a bike fits reasonably well and is mechanically sound, there is no reason (assuming you can find replacement parts) to spend a bunch of money for a new bike.
Thanks for sharing all the ins and outs of your Sequoia, Rootchopper. I’ll see you on the commute!