Some bikes just can’t be put into a box. Sure, they still arrive at the shop in a box, but we’re talking metaphorical boxes here – those imaginary pigeon holes that the established cycling world seems intent on assigning to a given product.
Well, at Brixton we’re not especially subscribed to that establishment. Correspondingly, the bikes that speak to us the most are always those that refuse to conform. The bikes that straddle the definitions of riding discipline. The bikes that let you write your own rules.
It’s not just an attitude thing either – in our book these bikes are by far and away the most practical, and they offer better value for money. One bike for two or even three jobs? Can’t argue with that.
Surly Bridge Club
Where better to kick off the list than a frame that’s designed around three different wheel sizes? Most famous [to us] for being ridden around the country by BC stalwart Terry, the Surly Bridge Club is a genuine chameleon of a bicycle. Take a look at the 700c stock build, and at first glance it’s not so far removed from the hybrid/town bikes we see on London’s Superhighways every day. Indeed it is perfect for commuter duties, with the tough steel tubing soaking up the potholes and scarred road surfaces. Try to fit a 26 x 3.0” knobbly to one of those run-of-the-mill hybrids though, and the difference will become immediately clear.
Our favourite configuration of the Bridge Club is “urban MTB”. 27.5” wheels open a massive range of tyre options, from slick road rubber to full trail tread. The geometry sits between those road-bound hybrids and cross-country mountain bikes, to offer a compromise that is no slouch on the tarmac but still handles the rough stuff with confidence. Even if the link between trails is an hour on the road, the riding position means this is nothing like the hard work it is on a trail hardtail.
Heading out on a tour? Simply configure for the surfaces you’ll encounter and start fitting that luggage. Mounts are, quite simply, everywhere. The heritage of the Bridge Club’s globetrotting predecessor, the Troll, is pretty evident.
The OG of genre-splitting bike design: the Fargo was Salsa’s first drop-barred mountain bike design. The latest version has taken that format and run with it, for a bike that takes any surface in its stride.
Boost spacing provides enough room for monster 29 x 3.0” tyres, while the relatively slack headtube angle keeps you tracking true through the rockiest of rock gardens. So far, so MTB – but here’s the twist. The frame dimensions are optimised for drop handlebars, which allow multiple hand positions. If you’re traversing the Atlas Mountains, that is the set up you need.
A final treat from the Fargo is Salsa’s Alternator Dropout technology. This opens up a raft of drivetrain options from derailleur gears, singlespeed, or even a Rohloff hub gear running a belt drive!
Surly Midnight Special
Built for modern road bike handling while making use of the larger volume of 650b tyres, Surly’s Midnight Special has quickly become a favourite around here. While it may have been originally designed for the wide, fine gravel roads of the US, this brief works rather nicely for the average Surrey B-road. The springy steel frame and cushioning of the tyres might sound a little leisurely on paper, but in fact the ride is swift and engaging – just with a little added comfort. Who doesn’t like that?
Being designed around the 650b x 47mm tyres means there’s plenty of room for some rubber with a little more bite. This is ideal if you wish to explore the UK “gravel” scene, which more often means sloppy bridleways. The sharp handling is a far cry from the confidence-inspiring manner in which the Fargo will swallow up technical descents, but there’s no better way to make an easy MTB trail fun again than riding it on a borderline unsuitable bike!
Testament to the Midnight Special is the sheer number of custom builds we have put through the workshop since its release, with specs ranging from the smartly practical to the no-holds-barred superb.
Trek Checkpoint ALR
The Checkpoint may be the gravel bike of Trek’s lineup, but it has plenty more strings to its bow. Comfortable endurance geometry coupled with very accommodating tyre clearances lends itself very well to winter road bike duties. The capacity for three water bottles within the main triangle screams audax.
Even the SL series carbon frames offer mudguard mounts, but we have picked out the aluminium ALR models in particular here. The additional rack mounts mean that you’re not limited to framebags and bikepacking adventure. Whack a pannier rack on there, load up your laptop and you’re ready to head into the office. Commuter, training roadie, off-grid adventurer all in one machine.