Alison OPENs UP About Her OPENs
Ryan and I have the privilege of riding a lot of nice bikes. So it is not a surprise that our personal fleet has a high turnover rate. As we are just about the same height (actually I dwarf Ryan by at least an inch), we can share just about any bike in the stable with the exception of a proper road bike where a precise fit seems to be most important. It is rare to see bikes stay in the fleet for very long. We certainly like to move on to the next bike and test what is out in the market. However, recently I realized there was one exception.
Recently while in our garage, I noticed my personal collection of bikes shared one commonality. They were all OPENs (besides my eMTB from Orbea and our Yuba cargo bike). As I never had some conscious thought of “I’m only riding OPENs”, I think I ended up here as OPENs almost exclusively come as frames and allow the rider to really custom tune it for their needs. Plus, they have fun colors and the offering of “something different” never hurts. Additionally, the performance of each of the bikes for what I need and enjoy simply hasn't been surpassed by other bikes. This journal is a response to one of my favorite cyclists, David Byrne's questions of “And you may ask yourself, 'Well, how did I get here?'”.
As my OPEN addiction began back in 2017, I can remember where this all started. I wanted a bike that I could ride up the local road climb and then ride some of the mountain bike trails. After some back and forth, I went for a flat bar bike. So we started with OPEN’s original 0-1.1 hardtail frame as it was really light and the value was great as OPEN had just launched the ONE+. With a nice carbon, suspension-corrected fork, the bike handles the rougher terrain well. For the drivetrain, I wanted electronic shifting and the only option that would work well with the frame’s chainline was Shimano’s Di2 2x11 XT/XTR groupset. Several years and a whole lot of time spent on 1x mountain bikes later, this dated drivetrain still works really well. The benefits of two chainrings in this instance is that I have the wide range of a mountain bike drivetrain but still have some tighter gear increments when riding on the road. The Di2’s front shifting is perfect and the bike just does not get ridden in rough enough conditions to worry about the chain bouncing off. I’ve also added some SQ Lab Innerbarends which are great for standing on the climbs and “tucking-in” when at speed. While I’ve primarily ridden this bike with 700x40 to 43mm tires, clearance for tires up to 55mm definitely could definitely gain this bike entry into the monster gravel category.
Despite being six years old, this bike definitely still gets ridden a lot. It’s perfect for a mixed surface ride from our front door where the dirt is more likely to be tame mountain biking rather than smooth gravel roads. The bike is light (approximately 18 pounds) and still goes well up the road climbs. With the flat bar and the slightly more mountain-focused geometry, I feel like I can still push the bike on the downhill trails with the tire size and volume being the limiter. I know when Ryan has snuck out on it as the tape marking the saddle height has been taken off so he can lower the seat. As the oldest bike in our garage, it just might have hall-of-fame status.
While most people got their first fix of OPEN with the UP (Unbeaten Path) gravel bike, my second OPEN was a bit off the beaten path as well. After building up a super-tricked-out, black and gold ONE+ for Open’s Andy Kessler to show off at Sea Otter, Ryan and I both rushed to follow. The ONE+ was the ideal choice as a lot of my mountain bike rides are short, favoring the light and punchy feel of this bike. I went a bit more traditional with the spec of this bike with a standard 1x12 mountain bike drivetrain and a Rock Shox Sid fork. This bike has also had some changes in the time that I’ve owned it. Probably the biggest alteration I’ve made to it is the recent swap to a mullet wheel configuration with some Reynolds TR carbon wheels. Originally I loved this bike with 27 x 2.8 tires. Running these tires in the 13-14 psi range, the bike had an amazing grip on the trail and a ride quality that you would never find in a standard hardtail. After spending some time on a XC full suspension bike, I found myself missing the 29-inch wheels. Ryan spent some time trying to find the ultimate wheel-tire setup on his ONE+ with both a 29r approach (29x2.3 tires F/R) and a mullet set up (29x2.6 F and 27x2.8R). We both found the big front wheel gives us the “at speed” confidence and stability along with the capability to just run over items such as embedded rocks. At just over 21lbs, I find it the perfect bike for a couple of hours of riding in the Wasatch. As a bunch of the trails close to home are machine built and fairly smooth, the benefits from this bike’s lighter weight are worth the trade-off of no rear suspension.
I had originally mentioned to Ryan that I wanted to get a gravel bike that I could also use as a proper road bike. AKA The Corgi Bike, this frame was a gift from Ryan and features custom paint with our dogs Ernie and Penny….front, center and rear. The UPPER’s pedigree speaks for itself and it still might be one of the most versatile bikes out there. Ride it with a high-end carbon wheelset and 25mm tires and you have an amazing road bike. Ride it with 650x50 wheels and tires and it is one of the smoothest and most comfortable gravel bikes. Or if you need to, throw-in on your local cyclocross events with some 700x32s. The UPPER, basically a lighter weight UP, appeals to me with its simple lines and well-rounded ride quality. This bike currently has a Shimano 1x Di2 drivetrain and 650 wheels. As I started doing some more traditional gravel routes, it has been nice to have a drop bar. It can sometimes be hard to pick between this bike and the 0-1.1 mentioned above. The more the ride features road and smoother dirt, the more likely this OPEN makes it out of the garage.
As all things go in cycles, I found myself finally wanting to get a proper road bike again. When I rode the UPPER with road wheels, it was great. Figuring the MIND would be a step (or a few steps) in the right direction, I thought this would be a great option. We built this bike with a Shimano Di2 groupset and some light carbon, non-aero wheels that I have as a second pair of wheels for the UPPER. As my road riding is focused on the local canyon climbs, this has proven to be a great setup.
Some of this frame’s stand-out features are the pencil diameter seatstays, the built-in seatmast and the super light disc brake ready road fork. It’s like Gerard Vroomen did a mashup of his OPEN UPPER and his Cervelo R5 frame that Team CSC rode in the Pro-Tour a few years back, then added disc brakes. Combining these frame attributes with tires that are 5mm wider than I would have ridden years ago, the ride quality of this bike is definitely in the “ride-all-day” category. Now I just need to find the time to utilize that attribute!
The Littlefield's certainly have a soft spot for OPEN. We feel like we are part of the OPEN family which fits with the ethos of the company and we hope folks coming into the shops feel like a part of the Contender family. OPEN says "we design bikes for ourselves, sell them to like-minded people, take care of our customers and that's it." We share in this and hope to be like-minded with Andy Kessler and Gerard Vroomen the founders and owners of OPEN.