What is a Retro-Mod and Why Should I Build One? (+ 4th of July hours)

What is a Retro-Mod and Why Should I Build One? (+ 4th of July hours)
A bike can be beautiful, functional, and inexpensive. This article discusses some considerations as you build one... or have us build you one :)

This blog post in a nutshell:

  1. We are open on July 4th, 10-6. Normal hours.
  2. Building a retro-mod is an affordable way to solve the problem of "I'd bike more but my bike doesn't do _____ well enough."

10am-6pm open hours on Thursday July 4. There is a group leaving at 9am for Lake Jordan. It'll be about 50 miles round trip, 15-18mph. Bring your own swim gear if you'd like to swim. Rolling at 9, back by 4 for a cookout at the lake. Feel free to roll to Dix afterwards for the fireworks. It'll be mad chill, pinky promise.


Alright, here's the deal. Have you ever wanted to ride a bike to the bar with some friends, but didn't want to bring your $5,000 road bike? (Or deep-dish Tri bike, or slacked-out DH rig)?

Well, let me tell you something... the (very key) added functionality of being able to go on a casual ride with friends is attained not by increasing your bicycle's technological capabilities, but rather by decreasing them.

Enter: The Retro-Mod.

What is a retro-mod? Essentially, it's an old bike with new components. See, you wanna take an old steel bike from Facebook Marketplace, maybe like a Stumpjumper or a Mountain Track or similar, and upgrade the touch points, brakes, and drive train. Optionally, you can add accessories (referred to below as "Goodies,") but that's extra credit.

Pretty simple when you break it down:

  1. Touch points

You can go into this as deep as you want, but upgrading the bars, grips, and saddle is a good place to start. A fantastic option for grips would be the PNW Loam grips. Ideally, they will lock on with a screw so they're reusable, unlike ESI grips which are essentially single-use. Saddles can be fairly inexpensive, such as the WTB Volt or higher end like the Brooks B17. Brooks is the best example of "buy once, cry once" I can think of. Buy one. It's worth it. If you're a lady like my lovely wife Lauren, I recommend the B17S. She fell in love with hers the moment she first rode it.

  1. Brakes

Chances are, what's already on there works. You just want to double check it (at your local lakeside bike shop) and maybe throw some new brake pads on there.

  1. Drivetrain

Lately, I've been riding the Box Four 1x8 groupset and I am very impressed. I really recommend it for most applications besides racing. Pub cruiser? Excellent. Basket bike? Yep. Kid-hauler? It'll work. I am actually doing a build for a customer who wants to cart his kids around in a trailer... guess what drivetrain...

I'd keep the drivetrain 1x for simplicity. Whether 8, 9, 10, or 11 in the back, a front derailleur doesn't really need to be on a retro-mod. Make sure to get a dedicated 1x chainring. Yes, that is my official stance.

  1. Goodies

I've written other blog posts about gear and the like, but beyond what's already listed above, I'd say the two keys to a good retro-mod are:

  • There's always a lock mounted on the bike and ready to use, 'cause remember: a retro-mod exists to take you somewhere and when you get there, you need to lock it up.
  • There's a way to carry something on it. Basket or bag, doesn't matter. Keys, wallet, phone, drink. That's a minimum.

Enjoy a few photos of retro-mods from the past few months. Happy trails and happy Independence Day!

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