With my 'wants list' in mind, I set out searching for a bike that closest met my needs while still being in my price range. First stop, the internet.
I wanted to research which manufacturers had models similar to what I was seeking. I had figured that a new bike would be out of my price range, so I wanted to get a list of potential bikes to look for on the used market.
Surly was an obvious place to start. If you are looking to do pretty much anything with a bike, from cross, to touring, to fat bikes, to some combination of all three, there is a good chance they have a model to meet your needs. Earlier in the summer I had dreamed of building a single speed monster 'cross bike that I could use for a commuter, so I knew that the Straggler was an option. However, it is fairly new to market, so there was little chance of finding a used one.
The Karate Monkey, on the other hand, has been around for years, so there is bound to be a few of those around. Locally, they are priced around $1800 new, so that definitely wasn't an option.
Niner has a few models that can be fitted with their 'BioCentric II' eccentric bottom brackets in order to make them single speed. Their design seems to be better than the “set screw” types that were first to market. I have a bit of a soft spot for Niner because my mountain bike is a RIP9. There may be a few SIR9 around, but they will likely carry a price premium over the more common AIR9. The carbon fork from Niner looks great and would be a nice, but ultimately unnecessary, addition.
Next up, was the Brodie Unibomber. A pretty great build kit, including hydraulic brakes, and Deore hubs (not fancy, but the cup and cone is easy and simple to maintain and service at home). Great looking bike in their "pearl green apple" color, and unique fork design. All for a cool $1300. Almost close enough to justify a splurge. The only major reason for pause is the fact that is a 650B bike.
For my purposes, the wheel size itself isn’t an issue, it would roll just the same over the terrain that I was intending to use it on. Tires, however, are an issue. As I mentioned earlier, studded tires are a must, at there are currently very few options at the 650B tire size. Schwalble has the Ice Spiker Pro, which retails for an incredible $165/tire. That is pretty much it. After some searching, I did find that Nokian intends to have a couple models this winter, but both availability and information was scarce. Not promising.
With a couple models, I had a starting point for my search.