Tongue firmly in cheek, I call this bike a gravel grinder. Not because I am hopping onto the coattails of the latest marketing craze in the bike industry, nor because it is a new model for Seneca Cycle Works (indeed, I have no production “models” to speak of, as each bicycle is custom made). But this bike will ride really well on gravel roads. It will also ride well on dirt, on singletrack, in mud, and even on pavement or packed snow. 30 years ago, this might have been called a “mountain bike”. Tomorrow, it might be called an "adventure bike" or something else entirely. In the end, it’s a sweet bike. With streamers.
This bicycle was designed and built for Elizabeth B., an enthusiastic but relatively new rider who is eager to get out and explore what southern VT has to offer. Built around 26” wheels and what was once considered a standard set of mountain bike components, this bike is versatile, compatible with a huge range of parts and accessories already on the market, and easily adaptable to different riding situations. A full set of rack and fender braze-ons were built into the frame, as was a vital component that I find missing on many modern “high-end” bicycles: a kickstand plate.
The kickstand plate is unique in that serves several duties: by offering a flat mounting surface, I can mount a kickstand firmly to the bicycle without fear of damaging the chainstays. The plate also serves as a chainstay bridge, stiffening the rear triangle slightly. And finally, an integrated fender boss, threaded M5, will make mounting fenders a breeze.
The components on this bike are a mix of new (Shimano SLX drivetrain) and not-as-new (Fox F100 RLT suspension fork, wheels, tires, skewers, etc.). The nice thing about some of these not-as-new parts, like the Chris King ISO disc hub set, is that despite over a decade of service, they still function like new. In fact, Chris King ISO disc hubs are still being produced today, largely unchanged from 10+ years ago. These particular hubs have been on two other bikes already, and are about to be put into service on a third. With a simple overhaul, they are as good as new. I greatly admire products like this: well built, made to last, user-serviceable. They may not be cheap to begin with, but they will prove their worth as the years go by.
I would be remiss if I did not make special mention of the dropouts. Paragon Machine Works, in my opinion the world’s foremost manufacturer of machined metal frame components for bicycles, has been making these dropouts for a number of years now. They are special because they place the disc brake caliper low, mounted on the chainstay, so that a set of double (M5 thread) eyelets can be placed above the dropout onto the seatstay. This allows a rack and fenders to be installed without interfering with the brake caliper. They are also designed with a replaceable derailleur hanger. Paragon Machine Works is one of those companies (along with the likes of Bicycle Forest, Sputnik tool, Anvil Bikeworks, Henry James, and others) without which the custom bike industry would certainly not exist the way it does today.
Elizabeth was lucky enough to receive this bicycle as a surprise gift. Legend has it the bike was snuck into the house late on xmas eve, complete with a big red bow on the handlebars, only to be discovered in the morning. Happy trails Elizabeth!