With my list of potential bikes in hand, I went out to a few local shops to see what they had available.
My first stop was a hip urban/cross/specialty bike shop near the university. At the very least, I knew that they would have some good advice for winter riding. When I pulled up, I knew that I was in the right place, given the large Karate Monkey sitting out in the used bike corral.
Is it that easy? The search done at the first stop? Not quite...
Wanting to play it cool, I went to browse the shop for a bit. Before long I was chatting with one of the guys about what I was looking for. His first thought was a Salsa El Mariachi, his favorite bike from the past season. My favorite thing about the El Mariachi is the adjustable dropouts. They are much cleaner than the typical sliding system. Great looking bike with an nice build kit, all for a cool $1500. Thankfully, he didn't have my size, so I couldn't be tempted
Next up was the Brodie Unibomber. He admitted that the tire size could be an issue in finding studded tires this season, but that should change. Alternatively, one could probably fit a 1.5 inch 700c tire in the frame, considering the frame makes up the basis for the Brodie Monster, a 700c bike, obviously, that would require some wheels, but a trade was possible. Well, there is a wrench in the plans. To muddy the waters further, he said that he could knock $150 off the bike, down to $1200.
Finally, I asked about the Karate Monkey out front. He said a guy just traded it in for a fat bike. The build was pretty standard: Surly hubs, Shimano crank, Avid BB7 brakes. A few upgrades included an older model Easton carbon bar, and a White Industries ENO freewheel. The bike had definitely seen a few winters, it was dirty and there was a decent amount of rust on the frame. All surface rust, mind you, but it was a bit of a turn off.
My other cause for concern was the BB7 brakes. In my experience, mechanical disc brakes are terrible. Noisy, always rubbing, and no power. However, my experience was based on building and test riding hybrid and cross bikes with STI levers (typically Tiagra) and BB7 brakes. What a difference some cable pull can make! I was very impressed with the brakes in on the Karate Monkey (mind you I had the lowest of expectations, grin). More than enough power for what I intended. Now for price. They wanted $1000 for the Surly.
It was the cheapest bike that checked all of the boxes. Tempting, but I had only been looking for a few days at that point. I didn't want to do anything rash. I told the guy at the shop I would think about it and headed home. I felt confident that the market for a large, disc braked, single speed was small enough that it wouldn't sell in the next week.
With these very real options as a baseline, I hopped onto PinkBike to see what was listed in the classifieds.
As expected, there where a couple Niner SIR9s that where well out of my price range, a few more AIR9s that were much closer, and some Surlys that were all over the map. It was an exercise in near misses (or is it hits?). Wrong size, not willing to ship, etc. And anything that seemed close in price was across the country. Given that shipping is going to add to the total cost, the Surly was starting to look more and more like the best deal I was going to find.
I spent a little over a week searching, emailing, and calculating shipping costs to little success. The weather was starting to turn and it was about time to make a decision. Okay, I will go to the shop after work and buy the Surly. As these things seem to happen, I was doing some coffee break browsing and came across a SS 29er that was about an hour drive away.
I emailed the guy about some more details. The bike was a Norco Judan belt drive, RockShox Reba fork, Avid Elixer5 brakes, and tubeless wheels. $800? SOLD! Even better, he was coming through town in a couple days and could drop it off.
That gave me a few days to anxiously await the arrival my winter warrior.