Riding the ALAN on the Leif Erikson Trail

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I have been contemplating a road trip involving both urban and wildlife adventures, and wanted to take the “perfect bike” that would be suitable for both environs.  Could it be the ALAN?

Alan in cross modeALAN in city mode

When I first purchased the ALAN it was set up for Cyclocross.  Because the frame is very small (48×48), it uses 24 inch wheels and has way more standover height than I need.  The Cinelli stem combined with the small frame made the bars far too low for comfort, so I decided to build the ALAN into a city commuter.  Recently I decided to try out some mildly knobby tires to see how the bike performed on dirt and hard packed gravel.  The tires I originally ordered were out of stock so I swapped my order for these Vee Rubber micro knobbies  shown below.

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These tires come from Thailand, and since I have nothing against tires made there I thought I would give them a try.  I lowered my pressures to 45 in the back and 40 in the front.  In retrospect I could have run them a bit lower for more comfort and control over the wet rocks and muddy surfaces I encountered today.

ALAN on Leif Erikson ALAN on Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson Trail in Forest Park, Portland, Oregon, is just about the most gentle way you could introduce yourself to to off-road riding.  There is an easy climb to about 500 feet, and then for several miles the road flattens out, but it feels like you are coasting…uphill!  Along the way I was treated to mysterious and unknown bird calls, and a few darting chipmunks (rarely seen in Pdx).  The tires performed well.  I had already tried them out for commuting and, with pressures at about 65 in the back and 60 in the front, they worked really well and were very comfortable on the pavement.

ALAN with Dura Ace ALAN in the mud

Today was not the best day to do an off-road ride.  The weather fluctuated dramatically from overcast to sunny to outright downpours.  The trail surface was difficult for me to feel confidence on because I did not have clipless pedals, and with the wet and muddy conditions, my shoes slipped off the pedals disconcertingly on occasion.  I ended up riding slowly, and was worried about the descent and whether my shoes would keep contact with the pedals over the rocky surfaces.

ALAN CyclocrossALAN on Leif Erikson Trail

All turned out well, and I managed to escape the downpour of hail and rain that came a few minutes after I arrived at the Thurman Street gate.

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Leif Erikson Trail is really a runner’s trail, but bikes are allowed and I never felt unwelcome.  In fact, I often ran this trail back in the 1990’s when my offices were located nearby.  Today I encountered many runners and only a handful of cyclists.  What I learned was that the ALAN could handle off-road conditions, and that any climbs more serious than what I experienced today would mean installing a new cassette with some lower gears.  But, other than that I was very happy with its performance.  The flexible frame and perfectly decent tires made up for not having any fork suspension.  It was great to be out in nature – even if the weather did not cooperate.  So, yes, I have decided that the ALAN as equipped is going to be the perfect “do-it-all” bike for the road trip I have in mind.

7 thoughts on “Riding the ALAN on the Leif Erikson Trail

  1. Nice bicycle and perfect test grounds, Nola! I’m all for conversions where appropriate and why not repurpose an ALAN for that very reason? I’m doing the same with another bicycle and am excited to report on it in another few months. Also, I have to say, those Dura-Ace bits, mainly the brake calipers sure are gorgeous! Have fun out there with your “new” ride!

    • Thanks, Josh. This ALAN came equipped with full Dura Ace and I left as much of it as I could when converting the bike to a city commuter. So it still has a Dura Ace BB, Headset and front derailleur as well as the brake calipers. Great components and beautifully made. The wheels are the original Shimano 600 hubs on Mavic rims. The bike is an amazing little commuter – the 24 inch wheels allow for immediate acceleration so it can be maneuvered quickly and handles extremely well at slow speeds. These same attributes worked well for off road riding. A shop mechanic once told me that she thought that cyclocross bikes make the best commuting bikes for Pdx and I now think she may have been right on about that.

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