This story originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Five years ago, I didn’t know a thing about bikes or cycling culture or that people were starting to turn adventure cycling into a career — I just knew I liked to ride long distances and that sleeping outside was really nice. I wanted to give dirt touring a shot and I knew my ’90s aluminum road bike wouldn’t cut it, so I turned to a friend who spent a lot of time obsessing over all things bicycle.
The idea of building up a used frame with used parts was seriously daunting — albeit an unbeatable learning experience — and initially I was set on buying a new complete bike for the ease of it. That is, until my friend sent me an eBay link to a purple Surly Straggler frame in my size. Bonus: it came with a custom Porcelain Rocket framebag!
I’m a sucker for a good story and love to learn the details about my used goods’ past lives, especially the ones I plan to integrate into my daily life. Before committing to the buy, I asked the eBay seller if the frame had any good stories behind it, not really expecting much. What I got in return was a list of all the gravel tours it had previously endured and an accompanying Flickr gallery supplying visuals.
My heart fluttered knowing that this bike’s first tour was on the same route I’d planned to take on as my first tour, and that its rider (also on their first bike tour) was Sarah Swallow, who quickly went from a name I didn’t recognize to a name that inspired me to create my own bikepacking stories. Scrolling through the myriad adventures this piece of welded purple steel had already taken, I placed myself in the photos with it, also experiencing those dirt roads and dreamy vistas. Learning the legacy of my new touring bike merely confirmed that I was destined to ride it all over the place, and so in the ensuing years, that’s exactly what I did.
If you’re reading this magazine, I’d wager you’re also a sucker for good stories. Next time you’re contemplating buying a used bike, ask the seller what stories the bike holds — you might just get an extra dose of inspiration along with your purchase.