MUD, MOUNTAINS AND WORK ON MONDAY
Grade Bicycle System is a modular bike for bikepacking. Bikepacking covers a wide range of trips, terrains and styles. Everyone does it differently, but there's a common thread - people rarely want to do the same thing twice. The project is a solution to make more types of trips accessible without committing to one specific set of gear. Most bikes on the market look to be the fastest and lightest bike for one very specific bike of travel and terrain.
This isn't the fastest or lightest bike on the market (and that really doesn't matter), it's the only bike that empowers you to do as many things in your lifetime as possible.
BIKEPACKING Self sustained travel on minimally loaded bikes. It can be done on gravel, mud, dirt or road. Every trip and person is different: some like traveling for months strictly on road in hotels and tents, some like to go deep into the woods and sleep in a hammock.
EXPERIENCE I went on two bikepacking trips. After endless research on equipment and gear, I got a feel for what bikepacking was all about. I also learned that good lights are important, and hammocks and iPhones don't hold up in the rain.
TOM + SARAH SWALLOW A couple years ago, Tom and Sarah closed down Swallow Bicycle Works after being sponsored by Specialized for adventure cycling. They’ve been bikepacking around the country, and met up with me to tell me about their gear, and why they do bike packing.
BUILD + MODIFY While looking at bikepacking forums and subreddits, I noticed a common theme: I have a a bike that's good for what I did, but not what I want to do next, how do I alter my current bike? Often bikes weren't set up to be altered, and alterations means grinding, cutting, adding spacers and voiding warranties.
DO AS MANY THINGS AS POSSIBLE As I sorted through research, I looked to drive the bike with not just small ergonomic problems, but broad values. Bikepacking is all about trying new things, and bikepackers rarely want to do the same thing twice. My goal for the project was to make the bike that empowers you to do as many things in your lifetime as possible
UNCONVENTIONAL FRAME For a bikepacker, everything you bring has a purpose. When my goal was to clean up and simplify the setup, I learned pretty early that it didn't mean to take things away, but to integrate as many functions as possible. I created a relatively complex frame which integrates a lot of parts that are traditionallty third party.
TUNNEL Grade takes advantage of the space inside the frame. A lock box keeps a passport or wallet secure and dry. Cobra clips line the frame to simplify packing and clean up the process. A power line and brake cables run inside the tubes to avoid damage and visually keep the bike clean.
HOOK & LOCK Rather than bolting pannier rack or seat pack onto the frame, each rack hooks into the rear of the bike. The racks hook into the slots, then a spring locks it into place. Twisting the knob releases the rack, making changes quick and easy, while also avoiding swinging while riding.
INTERCHANGABLE FORKS Fitting the same bike with two different forks opens up a lot of possibilities. Traditionally this is not possible simply because manufacturers don't size the bikes to be possible. With a quick change Grade can go from road to mountain easily, while now this typically means a whole new bike.
AIRLESS TIRES A goal was to reduce as many on-road repairs as possible. Punctured tires are a common issue and carrying the gear to make the repair is cumbersome. The life of the airless tire is much longer and can hold up to more damage. And just in case, the bike and brakes are still sized to be replaced by a standard bike wheel.
TWIST TO CHANGE Following a central rail, the bead of the tire is pushed through a hole and twisted to tighten the bead onto the rim. With a central rail, several different tire widths can be put on the same rim without a lengthy wheel change.