Cari’s Elephant National Forest Explorer Touring Bike

No bicycle is ever a completed work. At least in my opinion anyway, but sometimes a bike is at a place where you step back, look at it and smile. The other day I caught Cari doing just that. Smiling as she looked at her bike. She then said she’d like to photograph it in the forest. We were in Santa Cruz at the time and had just finished up a killer loop through the redwoods and down to the coast.

Let’s back track a bit. Around NAHBS last year, she mentioned that she’d like an upgrade from her current bike, an old Nishiki road bike that was a couple sizes too big for her. We looked at the market’s offerings and discussed what ideally she’d like in a bicycle.

Once she had a budget, it was easier to nail down exactly what her options were. I knew NAHBS was coming up, so I emailed a few builders, including Elephant to see if there would be any deals rolling around. Throughout this whole process, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the National Forest Explorer was a perfect “all-rounder” bike when I reviewed it. You could tour on it, ride trails and use it as a grocery getter. Since we have endless dirt, right from our front door, the idea of having a nice, plump tire for Cari was a plus. Anyway, John at Elephant told me he’d have a size small, complete, at NAHBS for sale after a customer backed out at the last minute.

NAHBS came and went, we picked up the bike and began riding all over Los Angeles. Fast forward a few months, a few part swaps and here it is.

Cari's Elephant National Forest Explorer Touring Bike

As for part swaps, we kept the Gevenalle shifters and the Shimano derailleurs, but changed out the wheels. We ordered a new wheelset from Golden Saddle: a White Industries rear hub and a SON front generator hub, laced to Velocity Blunt SS rims. While the Sugino cranks offer a great rear range, we added a Sun Race 11-42t 10spd cassette to make steep climbs a bit easier. The Supernova lights made a world of difference. No more “I forgot my lights!” as the sun was setting. A Thomson post holds her trusty Brooks B17S saddle and a Thomson Stem, with Brooks tape kept the cockpit comfy. A King headset, just ‘cuz and Soma Cazadero tires, set up tubeless (kinda, anyway) offer a bit of traction in the dirt. A Sim Works Potluck rack, trusty Wald basket and those nifty Monkeywrench Cycles Porcelain Rocket bags add a level of functionality to this bike for urban riding.

The biggest upgrade, in terms of confidence when riding off-road however were the Paul Klamper disc brakes and Yokozuna compressionless brake housing. It made a world of difference coming down a multi-mile descent.

Cari's Elephant National Forest Explorer Touring Bike-41

Who knows where this bike will go, or the sights it’ll see, the important part is she loves riding it and wants to take on a multi-day tour, which leaves me beyond stoked!