A New Beginning

Civia Bryant

For the past three years, my primary commuter has been a customized Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s been a great bike, and as regular readers of the blog already know, it’s gone through a number of permutations as I’ve experimented to figure out what exactly it is I want/need in a commuter bike.

Last month, I asked our readers if they thought I should keep the LHT or sell it and move to a new project bike. The poll results overwhelmingly said I should keep it, but being the rebellious sort, I went ahead and moved forward with a new bike to be used as my primary commuter and test bed for parts and accessories.

Civia Bryant

One of the primary motivations for moving to a new bike was my desire to keep learning and sharing that information (as stated in our mission statement). I’d basically gone as far I could go with the LHT, so it felt like the right time to move to a bike showcasing the newer technologies that seem to be of such interest to our readers. While considering a variety of criteria (belt drive, internal gear hub, disc brakes, etc.), the Civia Bryant jumped out. The fact that I’d ridden a prototype in 2009 and loved it was also a plus. Long story short, I received the bike in a box on Friday, and I’ve spent the better part of the last two days getting it into shape.

I expect this bike to be my primary commuter for at least the next few years. I’m extremely excited about it in its current form, though like the LHT, I suspect it’ll go through at least a few permutations. Along the way I hope to learn a few things about these newer technologies and share that information here the blog.

[Many thanks to the folks at the Bicycle Business in Sacramento, CA for ordering the bike for us. —Alan]

69 Responses to “A New Beginning”

  • jdmitch says:

    So jealous… Congrats!

  • Steve Butcher says:

    A fine looking machine, indeed! Those appear to be Michelin City tires judging by the distinctive tread pattern. I’ve a couple of bikes with those particular tires and really like them. I’m setting here wondering which component will be the first to be changed; the next accessory to be added. I’ll “stay tuned”.

  • Jammy says:

    Well done. Lovely build. It certainly looks more modern than the LHT, I am surprised you didn’t put on the Marathon Supremes.

    Thank you for sharing and keeping the blog interesting and fresh!

  • Alan says:


    Good call on the Michelin tires.


    The Michelins came with the stock build. I have a set of Supremes set aside for this bike, but I wanted to give these Michelin’s a try first.

    Thanks guys…

  • Leaf S. says:

    Alan, any plans for a generator hub for this new whip?

  • Alan says:

    Hi Leaf,

    I have such a smooth system with my rechargeables (which we use for all sorts of things around the house) and my little LEDs that I haven’t been highly motivated to make the investment. But yes, at some point I would like to invest in a hub generator (the new V/O seems like a steal) and a light (probably the Schmidt).


  • John L. says:

    Alan, one thing I will be curious to learn is your opinion of the riding position on the Civia. As someone who prefers a slightly more upright position, I’ll be watching to see how you like the drop bar setup.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Looks great Alan. Congrats!

    Do you always run flat pedals or do you also use toe clips?

  • bongobike says:

    Beautiful bike, enjoy it! I’m looking forward to your observations on the Alfine/Gates belt drive train.

  • John Lascurettes says:

    I’m going to be watching this space closely as I’m nearly certain this is my next bike. But I am still holding out to see if one can be ready-ordered with an Alfine 11.

  • Constance Winters says:

    I am glad that you did what was right for you.

    Though I too have “experiment bikes,’ for me they cannot be one and the same with my main commuter bikes – those need to be as ever-available and unchangeable as possible. It drives me crazy when I am not 100% comfortable with one of the components or accessories, but once everything feels good I have no desire to mess with my main commuter bike what so ever. Experiment bikes, on the other hand, can be in constant flux and it’s all right, because I do not rely on them.

  • Alan says:

    @John L.


    I purposefully left the steerer long which puts the top of the bars just at saddle height (they look a little lower in the photos because the kickstand lifts the rear of the bike 3.5″). My first impression is that the reach is similar to my other bikes (Hillborne with Moustache bars, LHT with flat bars), though I haven’t taken any measurements yet. Of course, the reach to the drops is further. When I have the opportunity (probably later this week), I may do another bike overlay to see how everything lines up against the other bikes.


  • Alan says:

    Hi Dolan,

    I mostly run flat pedals. I’m comfortable with toe clips and straps, but because I often hop on the bike in anything from Birkenstocks to boots to house slippers (not kidding), flat pedals work better for me. That said, on this particular bike, I may end up trying some clips again.


  • Alan says:



  • Alan says:

    @John Lascurettes

    The official word from Civia is no changes for the Bryant this year, which I’m assuming (only assuming) means 2012 for an 11-speed. I almost held out, but got antsy and decided to move forward this year. I’d love to hear about it if you end up with an 11-speed Bryant either from Civia or built from a frame.


  • John Lascurettes says:


    You might look into the Shimano A530 hybrid SPD pedals. Flat on one side and SPD on the other. They’ve been pretty versatile for my needs. My biggest knock on them is that the flats side is not the best for traction, it could use some sharper teeth, so they do not do great with smoother-bottomed shoes.

  • John Lascurettes says:

    Alan, regarding the wait. Yeah, I’m not so sure I can wait either. I’d really like the Alfine 11, but my old Nexus 8 (gray hub) is really starting to slip and show its wear. I’m not sure it’s going to hold out for another whole year. Thanks for the info from Civia on timing.

  • Alan says:


    I can relate to having a bike that is just how you want it and leaving it be – my Riv is that way.

    On the other hand, I see my commute as an excellent opportunity to test parts and components. Because it’s such a regular route and daily routine, anything that needs adjustment or doesn’t work well jumps right out.


  • Alan says:

    Thanks for the suggestion on the SPDs, John. I need to dig around – I may actually have some in my parts closet.

    Let me know if you end up with a Bryant (or some other bike with an Alfine 11).


  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Hi Alan,

    I used to run the A-530s that John Lascurettes suggested (we actually work about 10 feet from eachother, fwiw), and they’re great pedals, but I found myself riding more often than not in regular shoes (or boots), so I’ve settled on flats with mini toe clips. Currently I’m using the Velo Orange shiny stainless steel ones, with some elecrical tape around the ends so my shoes don’t get too scuffed. For me they’re the best compromise between not needing cycling-specific shoes, yet having most of the efficiency of true clips and straps or clipless. That said, I’ve heard power grips are awesome too.

    House slippers? LOL… i’ve only have ever done that by accident :)

  • Tucker Burroughs says:

    Are you going to run the porteur rack on the front of the Bryant? I’ll be interested to see how that works. I have a Pletscher (sp?) rack on the front of my commuter, but I’ve often thought that something wider would be handy.

  • Joseph Eisenberg says:

    @ John Lascurettes re: Shimano Nexus 8-speed. How many miles do you have on yours? I’ve heard they tend to wear out around 10,000 miles under regular commuting use.

  • Garret says:

    Looks like a nice bike Alan. I would be concerned that there is no rake to the fork. I like a little rake. Regardless, I can’t wait to hear about your tweeks and mods. Also how it rides and what you find out about the drive-train.

  • DavidJ says:

    Hi all, I am curious to find out how to set up a 55tooth front sprocket on the Bryant and still have frame clearance. I’ve been told its possible, bike mechanics here have not dealt with belt drives… so its a slow process of trial and error. Any info would be gratefully received.

  • Robin Hillier says:

    Alan, re the Alfine hub, I thought it’s worth relating as you begin to judge the drive train that they seem to gain a lot in smoothness as they wear in. I rode mine today and realised just how much better it has got, particularly in 4th gear, in the last two months since I bought it. I was told that about 500k was necessary, but I found improvements continued for twice that distance in my hub’s case.
    Enjoy yhe bike,

  • John Lascurettes says:


    Unfortunately, that Nexus 8 has only about 5k miles on it. Gear 5 slips quite a bit I had it pulled apart and it’s indeed wearing out. I talked it over with my LBS and it’s just not worth saving.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Dolan. I’ll have a look at the V/O mini clips.


  • Alan says:

    Hi Tucker,

    My Pass & Stow rack won’t work on this bike due to interference with the disc brake. I tried a Civia Pizzeria rack, but felt it was a little large on this bike (for me). I may end up with a small Nitto rack plus a small Wald basket ala Rivendell.


  • Alan says:


    You might contact Civia – they probably have the information you need to fit the 55T sprocket.


  • Alan says:

    Hi Robin,

    That’s good to know about breaking-in an Alfine 8.


  • Alan says:


    I wonder if your hub is covered under warranty?

  • Rider says:

    A question about belt drives — are they working on belts that can be retrofitted to regular frames?

    The chain on my bike has a quick link — why can’t belt drives have the same?

  • Graham says:

    I’m glad to see that our reverse psychology worked like a charm! When you get tired of that bicycle, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give it a home. See how nice I am?

    I am jealous. That is one heck of a ride.

  • Alan says:


    I haven’t heard any talk of a belt drive that can be split like a chain. This is certainly a major drawback for retrofitting. If a person really wants to install a belt on a non-belt frame, it’s possible to have an S&S coupler installed in the right hand seat stay (there’s a bike here in our Gallery that was modified in this way), but that’s a major undertaking.


  • Alan says:


    I’ll be sure to call you… :-)


  • James says:

    Fenders? What kind of fenders are those? I am looking at this very same bike and I like the color combo you have going.

  • Alan says:

    Hi James,

    Those are Civia’s new “Market” fenders in “Pewter”. They’re anodized aluminum and come with the mud guards attached. The photos don’t do them justice, but they’re very pretty in person.


    The fenders in the photos on the Civia website are the old version that were replaced with the version that you see on my bike.


  • Martin says:

    Any chance you can shed some more light on the mid-blade front light mount that this bike is sporting? I’m interested to know more.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Martin,

    The mount is a Gino Light Mount from Paul Components. The light is a Fenix L2D flashlight (the L2D has been replaced by the LD20). The light is attached to the mount with a TwoFish block.


  • Michael says:

    Just curious, did you pick up the Civia rear rack just to test it out? I’m surprised since you already had a Tubus on the LHT. Having said that, it does look like a nice (albeit aluminum) rack.

    It’s nice to be able to geek out about small parts and decisions for a new bike build. Once again, this is exciting.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Michael,

    I thought about moving the Tubus to the new bike, but figured I’d let it go to with the LHT – I hate to cannibalize such a nice bike. Hopefully the new owner will appreciate it.

    I’ll give the Civia rack a good workout and we’ll find out what it’s made of (it’s alu, but you know what I mean)… :-) It’ll either hold up or I’ll eventually end up with another steel rack.


    PS – I failed to mention that one of the reasons I went with the Civia rack is that it carries the pannier lower and further to the rear than the Tubus Cargo, providing more heel clearance with large panniers. This is an advantage on the Bryant with its shorter chainstays.

  • Joe says:

    It’s a pity that the cyclist’s world is such a consumist one (and I don’t want to skip my share on it). Despite being advised to keep your perfectly working bike, you have chosen to get a new one, and all readers are cheerful about it. All posts about new stuff, either on this blog or in other cycling websites, are always the most visited ones.

    This should make us think, as cyclists, if we are as green as we boast we are, or we’re just another type of mass-consumers, only that we buy bikes instead of videogames or designer bags… (and again, I’m including myself in this consumism dependency!)

  • Nico Forte says:

    Speaking just from the looks, this Civia has a cool clean look to it. A Frank Lloyd Wright influence? Perhaps post modern? :) I also like color and graphics, again very polished. Definitely a change from the Surly logo. Look forward to hearing about the guts of the bike down the road.

  • Michael says:


    I hear where you’re coming from, but if the purpose of the blog is to share experiences so that others of us can make more informed decisions – that hopefully will lead to long-lasting purchases rather than short-lived consumerism – then I don’t see any problems at all.

    I get the impression that the new bike was more for “us” than just the sake of buying a new bike. Some folks like myself also don’t have the financial means to go through multiple bike experiments, or may not be fortunate to have a transportation oriented bike shops nearby. I think the great thing about this blog is the comments that come from many of the “new stuff” posts. I’ve learned a lot by the 1×9 and handlebar conversion posts and comments, not to mention general articles like drivetrain comparison (all of which I’ve reviewed today considering my own options).

    You’re point is well taken though, and there’s always a risk of overconsumption – even if it’s of “green” products.

  • voyage says:

    Forgive me, but a test bed having a $1750 MSRP? To test what…a headlight? Pannier? Saddle? In a way I get it, in a way I don’t. In other words, I’m not seeing how this bike, fine though it is, is going to get people to commute by bike. Sorry, don’t mean to be a drag just raising a question as to whether $1750 centric reviews help the larger cause…

    We’ll see?

  • Christopher says:

    I felt your LHT was a great set up and look. But the Civia is equally dignified and purposeful looking.
    Can’t wait to hear how you like the internal hub versus standard on a daily basis as well as the whole package.
    Much thanks on a great site.
    Christopher Portland Me.

  • Alan says:


    This bike also replaces my car; it’s not just a test bed for parts. In other words, only because it will be ridden everyday as a car replacement will it end up also serving as a parts test bed. Plus, considering it replaced at least one car (we’re a family of 5 with one car, 4 being of driving age) it’s a small investment in the big scheme, and fairly green to boot (the LHT isn’t going to a landfill anytime soon).


  • Alan says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Thanks much for the kind words!


  • Alan says:

    Hey Nico,

    On the subject of Surly logos, have you seen the Pacer logo? Sort of “collegiate”. I like the look, though it’s a bit odd that the headbadge is still the old one. A bit of mix-and-match graphics…



  • Waqas says:

    Looks beautiful, Alan. Congrats!

    About the Civia fenders, do they interfere with the front disc brake caliper at all? I have Planet Bike 35mm fenders on my Bryant and I’ve had to bend the brake-side stay out and back to avoid the caliper. I might swap them out for the Civia model if they work better (and gain some more tire clearance in the process).

    – Waqas

  • Alan says:

    Hi Waqas,

    Thank you!

    The stays on the new Civia fenders are essentially the same as the Planet Bike and SKS stays, so you won’t gain anything by swapping the fenders.

    The old Civia fenders were essentially Honjo replicas. With that style of fender the stay clears the disc caliper because the fender is so long that the stay angles down and away. Unfortunately, that fender is no longer being produced.

    A possible solution might be a Honjo or V/O fender.


  • Alistair Williamson says:

    The test bed for me is not a light or saddle but the Internal Geared Hub and belt drive.

    With the Alfine 11 you can change gears with one hand (!) instead of two. You have a simple clean drive belt, instead of one that has 14 exposed cogs that can be combined in some ways but should not be in others.

    I’ve seen bike commuters sometimes encounter 30 years of bike heritage (about what a bike should be) that can create a barrier. The notion that commuter bikes should be cheaper that sport bikes is one of them. I enjoy babying a sport bike but I prefer my commuter to get me reliably, promptly, safely, and cleanly to work with the least aggravation or effort and the most enjoyment and grace as possible. That I’d pay for, so I’m looking forward to hearing what you discover Alan.

  • Waqas says:


    Excellent. I’ll look into those fenders then.


  • Jim says:

    Oh no, say it ain’t so! I LOVE those ‘old’ style Market fenders :(

  • Lawrence Chin says:

    The ONE commuter to rule them all! Pretty much the perfect all round bike, looks to have great touring potential as well. Congratulation Alan!

    I’m curious, how much does it weigh in the pictured setup?

  • Alan says:

    Hi Lawrence,

    I haven’t weighed it yet. I’ll try to do that tonight and post the weight back here in the comments.


  • Fergie says:

    Congrats Alan – She’s a beauty! The one thing I wish Civia would do is to leave off the cable stops on the top tubes of bikes that are built up as belt drive bikes. It would clean up the look and tie the whole bike together. I understand that they make one frame for several drivetrain options and sometimes need to be able to mount a front derailleur, but still..

    I’ll be interested to hear how all this works out for Alan – I may be looking at my 2012 commuter purchase, so Alan’s experiences with this bike over the next 9 months will certainly be taken into consideration.

  • David Coldiron says:

    Beautiful bike, Alan. Congratulations on the acquisition of your new steed.
    I have two quick technical questions…if you’ve addressed them already, please excuse the redundancy.

    1) Is that a Versa VRS-8 Shifter? I’m curious to know your impressions (ergonomics, shifter precision, etc.).

    2) Are the disc brakes on the bike compatible with short-pull levers, and what are your impressions on their stopping power and feel?

    Happy trails!

  • Alan says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    On the technical questions:

    1) Yes, that’s a Versa VRS-8. The ergonomics are super – I’m accustomed to old school aero brake levers, and though I prefer that look, these are remarkably more comfortable (don’t tell anyone I said that ;-)).

    As for shifting, the feel is precise and solid. The throw on the large lever is longer than I expected, but it hasn’t caused any issues. I think I was expecting a short throw like the RapidFire shifter.

    2) Yes, these are the Avid BB5 “Road” mechanical discs designed specifically for short pull road levers. I’ve had these brakes and the BB7 Road model on various bikes and I like them a lot. They’re powerful and absolutely a breeze to set-up. I prefer the BB7 because they’re easier to adjust as the pads wear, but they both perform equally well.


  • Cal Mukumoto says:

    Alan: that is a really nice commuter especially the gates / alfine combo. The LHT is a great bike but this is probably the future. I look forward to your review of the bike over time. BTW, I think the sks Longboars from Rivendell would look really nice on your new bike… They work well in the rain.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Cal. The Longboards look great. I thought I’d try these new fenders from Civia. They’re anodized aluminum – very light and stiff. The coverage isn’t as good as the longboards, but I like the look and they’re probably long enough for the limited amount of rain riding I do. The other concern I had is that the Longboards use a dual stay on the front which might be problematic with a disc brake.


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  • Richard Masoner says:

    mmmm, yum! Love that Chico Gino light mount too!

  • Andrew P. says:

    That is a nice looking bike. I have greatly appreciated this site as I have gotten into cycling and commuting. Thanks for helping to keep us encouraged. You might tire of these piddly questions, but if you don’t mind another: where did you get those headset spacers? They look like they might be 20 or 25mm, which seems surprisingly hard to find.

    Many thanks for what you do.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Those are 2/20mm and 2/15mm spacers. I picked them up at The Hub:



    PS – I’m always happy to answer questions. Thanks for visiting the site!

  • david says:

    if you dont mind me asking, what do you do with your older bikes when you get replacements? craigslist? donate? will shops buy used bikes and give you credit?

  • Alan says:


    Many of the bikes you see on the blog are on loan from the manufacturers for evaluation/review. Those that belong to us personally are typically sold to private parties.


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