I bought my 29er for Leadville in 2014, and since that time my beloved 26 inch Yeti ARC has hung silently in the garage. Fortunately, I’m a subscriber to Bicycle Quarterly magazine and for the past several years I’ve been admiring Jan’s 26 inch Firefly “all-road” bike. The Yeti seemed to be a solid base from which to construct an all-road machine, basically all that I needed to do was mount a rigid fork and some drop bars.
The fork was the easy part. I simply sent Chris Igleheart of Page Street Cycles the measurements of the bike with the suspension fork and asked him to create a new steel fork that maintained the biek’s original geometry. The result, which is picked up at his (you guessed it) Page Street (Portland) shop was perfect. The drop bars weren’t so easy.
I first tried to live with the existing flat bars; nope. Next came the Jones bars, an improvement, but not what I was looking for. I wanted drop bars so this spring I went down to the Seattle Bike Swap and picked up a some bars, bar end shifters and, as a bonus, a Brookes Cadmium saddle. I try to use the same bars and saddle on all of my bikes and I was fortunate to find exactly what I needed.
For brakes I bought a set of TRP Hylex RP hydraulic discs. These are the only non-shifting hydraulic brake levers that I could find and they work great. I especially like the retro ergo levers.
The key to this entire setup is the tires: Rene Herse cycles Rat Trap Pass 26 X 2.3 road tires. I am shocked by how well these tires roll – even at 30psi. Neither the small diameter of the wheel nor the extraordinary width of the rubbers seems to negatively impact my speed. The smooth ride, even on gravel, however, is extraordinary.
I completed the build with a Tubus Tara front low rider rack. I hindsight I should have gone with the Tubus Ergo as the Tara doesn’t play well with my Ruth Design Works panniers. Fortunately, the Tara does accommodate my eighteen year old Ortlieb panniers.
Once the bike was completed, I was eager to get it onto some gravel for a good shakedown. A post on the Seattle Randonneurs Facebook page noted an ideal ride through the Campbell-Global tree farm. The Campbell-Global tree farm is a massive chunk of land between the town of Snoqualmie on the south and the town of Index to the north. For either eight dollars a day or fifty dollars a season, cyclists can enjoy well over a hundred miles of prime, low traffic gravel riding.
I met my buddy Dan in the town of Preston early on a Saturday, it was still early season and the air was cool but not cold – arm warmer weather. The descent into Fall City is on a mixture of paved trail and narrow road, this would be the only vehicle infested portion of the route. From Fall City it’s a quick jump onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which took us north to Duval.
A little roadwork through Duval took us to the Tolt Pipeline Trail which goes arrow straight to NE North Fork road and the entrance gate of the Campbell-Global Tree Farm. A flat in my high volume tires required some significant work with the mini pump, but after only a few extra minutes of pumping we were back on the road. The road ended at a gate past which it was made clear that trespassing would not be taken lightly (this is the entrance to a municipal water supply reservoir). After several back and forth efforts Dan and I found the correct route and we continued on blissful gravel to the exit above Snoqualmie Falls. We had only been passed by one truck during our entire three hours riding through the Tree Farm.
A quick downhill and we were back on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The final few miles of uphill back to Preston went easier than expected and soon we were back to our cars. The Yeti made it through her shakedown without an incident. The ride was smooth and stable and I don’t believe that I had any disadvantage to Dan on his Specialized Diverge. Perhaps Dan was holding back a bit but in the end we rode as fast as we both wanted/needed to ride.