Jonathan’s primary use for his Polyvalent was for an-all around city bike. He wanted it to handle all the hills of San Francisco and also be able to ride it out to the North Bay on the weekends. We decided not to go with any super nice parts on the build as he also locks the bike outside overnight.
I really wanted the bike to be an all-purpose type of bike so I was sure to include fenders, wide tires, a rear light (Jonathan wanted to use his own LED front light) and a big front rack to carry groceries or whatever. Jonathan decided to use most of the parts from Velo Orange for the sake of simplicity and not have to go all over the web to find parts from different shops.
I recommended the Jitensha flat bars because I love them as they are upright enough to feel comfortable, but not too upright to the point your sitting with your back straight up. The wheelset was a stock wheelset acquired off the Rivendell website. As for gearing, we used a Quickbeam “dingle” crankset geared 46 x 38. There’s no front derailleur, but I believe Jonathan usually runs the chain on the smaller ring. The cassette is a 12-30, but he ordered a Rapid-Rise rear derailleur (unknowingly, I think) and paired with the Sunrace friction thumbies makes for kind of an interesting combination. The bike is geared pretty low.
Velo Orange fenders were used for this build and after working with them, I have to say I am not really a fan. My biggest peeve is that, unlike Honjos, there is only one center bolt that connects the fender strut to the rear of the fender. This allows the fender to shift and bend laterally. Honjos are nice because they have two as to allow it not to sway or bend, making the fender stay in one place. Leather washers were also used to install the fenders to the frame to dampen vibrations and noise, but the front rack (as pre drilled for 26″/650/700) was not nearly low enough to attach the rack to the fender so I left it unattached.
The rack is pretty well made. It’s very light for being a steel rack and tangs that connect to the rack eyelets below are very sturdy (I discovered this when I had to cut off the bottom of one – there was a lot of heavy breathing and sweating involved). The rack comes with an optional detachable railing so you can carry boxes (or beer) without it sliding off the front end. The one thing I do not like is the fork crown attachment. The piece of metal that it comes with can be bent by hand and by attaching it to the fork crown at only one central point, it doesn’t provide for enough lateral support if your steering were to rapidly go from left to right. A much better system is if it were bolted to the top of the fork crown on either side.
Lastly, one item to note is that because this bike has short horizontal dropouts and matte black paint, that makes for the wheel to slip out quite easily. It’s very important to really clamp down that quick-release tight and also sand down the dropouts so the matte black paint is not so slick. By sanding it down, it will provide some friction for the quick-release to grab on to.
The ride quality of the frame is comfortable, but I found it to be too flexy for my tastes. The tubeset could be stiffer, the rear drop outs could be a little bit longer and I wish the top tube brake cable guides were actually stops instead of just guides.
You can find the photos of the build here: Jonathan’s Velo Orange Polyvalent build.