Blue Bike has served me well as a commuter, grocery getter, and touring bike. It does pretty well in what I ask it to do, but I started to understand its limits this year. When the allure of biking down the rockiest roads, along the bumpiest trail, and farther than I could ever go on foot called to me, I started to wonder what other tools were out there.

Road or dry stream bed?

The last thing I need though, is another big-boy toy. I have two boats, a surfboard, a bicycle, three tents, cross country skis, a snowboard, and more. And while I’m not an acquisitive person, I want to find more ways to experience the outdoors; to go deeper into the woods and be completely self-propelled.  And to do so, I started to think, maybe one more toy might be ok.

When my son Merry said he wanted to go mountain biking, I used this as an excuse to see if reality was as good as my daydreams.  I’d been coveting Andy’s Bantam adventure bike for a while. With tires three times the size of Blue Bike’s, eyelets to bolt on racks and water bottles, and a clean, simple frame design, I thought it would take me where I wanted to go.

Trying to see beyond the stumps. Welcome to the PNW.

Andy was kind enough to lend me the Bantam and his daughter’s Surly adventure bike for Merry. We were both so stoked when we got the bikes home, that despite it being dark, we raced around the neighborhood, sans-lights, effortlessly rolling across people’s lawns, up embankments, over curbs and through a hilly park a few blocks away.

Portland has a legacy of random unpaved roads, right in the heart of the city. They are a combination of gravel, mud, rocks, and grass- a perfecting testing ground for my adventure dreams. I pedaled past the ROADWAY NOT IMPROVED signs finding an amazing amount of traction, thanks to the fat tires, limited vibrations even at speed, and a surprising amount of float to get over wet grass and loose surfaces. I grinned giddily, even as a mud stripe started to grow on my back.

When we finally made it to true mountain biking terrain, the guys with dual shocks and high-tech frames seemed comically overdone. Our simple adventure bikes rode up hill, over jumps, around banked turns, and across lumpy trails handily. With the handlebars set well above the seat, I had the comfortable, protective feeling of being in the bike instead of on top of it.

In the days that followed, I comfortably cruised on paved roads, through loose gravel patches, and down trails I initially thought might be too steep to handle. I doubt that I went anywhere quickly, but since I was having so much fun, I didn’t notice. I started dreaming of getting an adventure bike of my own.

With the pandemic still raging on and so many people out on the local trails, my desire to get away from them, to go even further, has strengthened. Like many material things these days, due to supply chain issues, it is increasingly hard to buy what you want with the swipe of a credit card, so I couldn’t just go out and get what I think I wanted right away.

In my mind, that was a good thing. I’ve had to contemplate if I really needed such as toy, and if so, what would really suit my needs, and how long I’m willing to wait for it. And now that I’ve settled that, I am patiently awaiting a new addition to my bike fleet in 2022…