Rambler Revisited

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Four months in, and I am more impressed than ever.

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I might be just beginning to understand and appreciate the full potential of Rob Perks’ smart design of the Ocean Air Cycles Rambler. Versatility is one of the main features he emphasized in my pre-order phone conversation. But until I changed my build, I didn’t fully appreciate what he told me. The Rambler performed very well in its drop bars and front rando bag configuration. It provided a more sporty alternative to my otherwise upright Rivendell builds. The honest truth, however, is that I am no longer a “sporty” rider. My style is somewhere between cyclotourist and lollygagging. So I decided to change the build to better match my ride style.

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The unstated goal was to make it more of an ideal “#coffeeoutside” bike. I switched out my Noodle drop bar for the Albatross. That gives me a very comfortable position, and it works just fine for the speeds I travel. I also removed the Swift Industries front bag, and replaced it with a Wald medium basket and Sackville Shopsack medium. This gives me more load capacity, more packing configuration flexibility, and easier on/off. I wondered how these changes would impact my appreciation of the Rambler that performed so well as a sporty rando bike.

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I am amazed how well it works. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I was afraid that wider bars, closer to my body might somehow compromise the otherwise excellent handling. Just the opposite.  This configuration better matches my ride style and seems to have made the Rambler even more of a tailored fit for me. It was a delight today on (relatively) high speed paved descents, standing climbs, and twisty, rocky forest trails.

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For my purposes, the basket/Shopsack combo works better than a traditional rando bag. My partially full rando bag tended to result in “loose” contents that bounced around and rattled. But the new approach allows me to custom fit my load by folding or rolling up my bag and securing it with a net or bungee. I’m also finding that it is easier to pack, and easier to remove/replace the Shopsack than the rando bag. Since I’ve switched bars, I’m not as limited in the width of my load. It doesn’t need to fit between the drops.

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And here’s the really cool part. The basket/Shopsack/Albatross combo allows me to carry larger loads, and the design of the Rambler handles it extremely well. Even with a sizable front load, I was able to easily pick my lines through rocks, roots, and ruts on rough terrain. I was amazed how well it worked. I’m so impressed, I’m seriously considering a larger front rack to make my wider load a little more stable.

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So I might be well on my way to building the ultimate (for me) “#coffeeoutside” bike. But given the lesson I’ve learned about the Rambler’s versatility, I’ll bet there is more it can do well.

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How about camping? I’ve got a Tubus Tara front rack that plays well with the Rambler’s fork. I’ll bet I can carry everything I need for a warm weather S24O with the basket and a couple of small front panniers. If not, maybe I’ll add a small saddle bag. Either way, I’m looking forward to trying it out. It if this works out as well as I imagine, the Rambler could be considered a true “all-rounder” for my purposes.

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Among current skinny tubed, low trail designs, I believe the Rambler has some wonderful advantages for many of us. If people are noting the low trail geometry and thinking “rando”, I’m afraid they might be missing some of the Rambler’s best (and under-appreciated) features, and features that Rob specifically designed into the Rambler. If you seeking a versatile, spirited frameset that can do lots of things well, you might be looking for a Ocean Air Cycles Rambler. Normally, with any kind of “do it all” products, we expect compromises. But I feel no sense of compromise when it comes to the performance of my Rambler. My headtube decal says, “OCEAN AIR CYCLES, USEFUL STUFF MADE IN THE U.S.A.”.

No kidding.

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25 thoughts on “Rambler Revisited

  1. What a great looking yellow bike. The color just pops in all of the pictures. But better than its looks, you have a bike that fits you and your riding style well.

  2. “My style is somewhere between cyclotourist and lollygagging.” Chris, I believe this describes a lot of us, me included. Perhaps leaning more toward lollygagging. It’s so good to hear that the Ocean Air project is such a successful design. Rob truly hit the sweet spot for a lot of riders. That the Alba / basket / shop sack combo works well is a big plus for lollygaggers everywhere.

    • Thanks. I did this post for two reasons. First, I have had several folks send me private email messages asking about this bike, and how it compares to my Rivs. Second, because I sense that the Rambler might be slightly overlooked or under-appreciated out in the marketplace. I might do a few minor details a little differently, but it seems like a pretty cool design to me.

  3. My son just picked up a rambler and I’m seriously jealous. Delightful bike. BTW, if you wanna move the rando bag let me know. I’d like one.

    • Robb, as you know, I’ve sent you an email expressing a willingness to sell the Swift bag. I just wanted to respond publicly here, in case you decide you aren’t interested in mine. Maybe someone will help me fund my “front rack project”.

    • Thanks, David. There are a few little minor details I might do differently if I could, but overall it is serving me well. I suppose my blog post could have detailed some of the minor “cons” (which mainly amount to personal preferences), but my purpose was primarily to praise the versatility.

  4. Uh oh. Quiet down, Chris, or the marketeers will catch wind of this Coffee Outside bike trend. That means next year, Trek, Giant, and Specialized will debut their “Coffee Outside” bike lines. 😉

  5. Chris, glad you’re enjoying your Rambler. I’m 100% with you on the cyclotourist/lollygaggling riding style! I’m also with you on your experience with the Wald basket & Riv shopsack combo. I use that setup on my SamH and it’s truly convenient and functional. Happy cyclocoffeelollygaggling!
    ~ Richard

  6. I also used to be concerned about speed and after I hit fifty I didn’t really care any more, my stable now has a LHT and my new ride is a 650b Surly straggler, I get the BQ wide tire low psi style that Jan is endorsing, I really enjoy the slow roll of the lollygag lifestyle well put. Jim

  7. Chris

    Great informative report. You seemed to validate the early review which observed the Rambler handling did not change as the front load increased.

    John Hawrylak
    Woodstown NJ

    • Thanks, John. Obviously, with a larger front load one can feel a difference in the inertia when turning the front wheel. But the handling in general seems consistent to me.

  8. Wonderful build!
    The Rambler looks right at home as an upright go-anywhere-do-anything kinda bike. One question. How do the downtube shifters work in your situation? Meaning, is the position comfortable or would you consider moving the shift levers toward the cockpit to reduce how far down your hand/body has to travel to switch gears?

    Also, please do consider posting your component build list. There are some components I am curious about.

    • Thanks, the Rambler is a joy. Regarding downtube shifters, they seem fine to me. If I were to change, I’d go with stem shifters. I’ve tried that before and have found it also works well for me. So far, I think I prefer downtube or stem locations over bar ends or elsewhere on the bars. I might post my build list, but haven’t done so before because it is basically comprised mostly of whatever I had at hand and never really seemed noteworthy.

  9. “Ramblenuering”. Good one there. Yeah, I miss my Albas on the Atlantis. Feels like every stable should have something rideable in that persuasion. By in large my QB has been parked. Maybe I should freshen it up with an Alba conversion. The front is already sporting a basket. But it’s those pesky hills that have grounded it. Thoughts.

    • “Rambleneuring” is a term that I borrowed from Shawn after he christened his new custom Bantam the “Rambleneur”. If you enjoy Albas, and have multiple bikes, yes, it seems at least one should be so equipped. As for pesky hills, if you have a freewheel, how about low-enough gear for climbing and coasting down? In my mind that would be consistent with a comfort oriented single speed.

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