Readers’ Rides: Thomas’ Trek Sawyer Drop-Bar MTB


Readers’ Rides: Thomas’ Trek Sawyer Drop-Bar MTB

There are some bikes that are forever bikes. For Thomas from The Bike Hub, that bike is his trusty Trek Sawyer that he converted to a Drop-Bar MTB. Let’s check it out below!

The year was 2013 when I was invited on a 40-mile mixed-surface ride near the Canadian border. The crew consisted of some folks I’d never met, one of whom is named Jon. He’s an eclectic fellow with a unique style and a wicked mustache, but what really caught my attention was the bike he was riding. It looked like some sort of klunker beach cruiser thing with twin top tubes and knobby tires, a sharp contrast to the typical “double diamond” frame I was riding and had grown accustomed to seeing.

“Nice to meet you. WHAT IS THAT?!”
“It’s a Trek Sawyer.”
“Do you want to sell it?”
“I will never sell this bike.”

Moving forward to current times, Jon and I are both working at The Bike Hub in Spokane, Washington, and after nearly a decade of offers and first right-of-refusal requests, in January he finally broke and I became the next caretaker of the Sawyer.

I took delivery of the frame with an MRP Rock Solid carbon fork (the original fork had bent beyond repair at some point), a period-correct Deore XT wheelset, and a set of SLX brakes. I set the bike up with a cruiser bar and Deore 12-speed but after the honeymoon phase, I eventually never rode it that often and wasn’t sure how it fit into the stable.

I’ve found that I most enjoy things that have been used and have stories to tell: an old pickup truck, a favorite weathered and faded hat, a film camera, old tools, ghost towns. The Sawyer fits this aesthetic perfectly with its raw and slightly rusted patina, quick-release dropouts, and throwback frame design made with Trek’s “Platinum Series Chromoly” (whatever that means), so it looks pretty but should handle a party.

I’d been doing most of my gravel/adventure/getting-weird riding on a bike with more traditional road geometry. I was looking for something more comfortable for those longer “full spectrum” days when more tire clearance, a longer top tube, a shorter stem and no damn toe overlap would be beneficial. A few hours of late-night curiosity research hinted that the Sawyer’s geometry from 2011 is, in some ways, remarkably close to current trends in the gravel/adventure/getting-weird category.

I’ve wanted to build a bike around TRP’s RRL SL levers for years (that drillium, OMG), and I was considering the Sawyer as a strong candidate for a drop-bar conversion but never got around to pulling the trigger.

In August, I attended the inaugural MADE show in Portland, Oregon, and saw numerous examples of how beautiful those levers look on nearly anything. The whole show was a ridiculous mental and sensory overload, but going into it the booth I was most excited to visit was BTCHN’ Bikes out of Chico, California.

Tyler not only has an unbridled and contagious enthusiasm, he also builds what I consider some of the sexiest bikes I’ve ever seen. As soon as I saw the two bikes he had on display in person, I instantly knew I was going to be ordering parts for the Sawyer as soon as I got to the hotel room that night.

The TRP brake levers left the shifter options open, and I liked the idea of a 12-speed bar-end “suicide shifter” mounted on the left side so I could operate the rear brake and the shifter simultaneously. Nic Morales recently penned a great article on the subject of friction shifters that I recommend checking out.

I rolled the dice on the Ritchey Beacon XL drop bars in a 52cm width with 36º flare and shallow drops. It was a huge win; descending dirt with this bar is fantastic. The one-off stem was donated to the project by my friend Mark, and it was custom machined by his buddy at a time in history when 35mm x 31.8 stems didn’t exist. The cargo cage was machined by Mr. Dirt’s Speed Shop in Spokane, WA.

I’m known by my coworkers as a “tire whore” because I tend to change my tires entirely more often than necessary. I’m currently running a Teravail Sparwood/Rutland combo in 29×2.2″. I’ve loved the Cannonball/Rutland combo in smaller widths for years, so this was the natural choice to start us off. Ultradynamico and Rene Herse are probably next on the list.

The SEEK MTB carbon wheels were built by hand here in Spokane by my good friend Josh, and this is the second set I’ve bought from him. Second only to tires and contact points, I speculate that wheels may be the most noticeable upgrade one can make to a bicycle. Going from 19 mm internal to 25 mm increased air volume and gave the tires a rounder profile; they are lighter, more efficient, and I find it easier to keep the wheels spinning on longer days.

This reiteration has elevated the Sawyer from its dusty corner in my shop to being my daily driver, mainly being ridden to/from work with bigger stuff on the weekends. We recently completed a 135-mile “full spectrum” ride and it passed with flying colors so I’m excited to see what other shenanigans we get into together.

It’s my opinion that if you don’t park your bike, get like 10 feet away, and instinctively turn back around to look at it, you’re riding the wrong bike.

I’m not racing nor do I have any real interest in doing it, so I mostly try to avoid getting caught up in the tornado of performance and efficiency, electronic bits that make cool noises, and whatever else the industry thinks I need. I’m a simple guy who likes simple things, and I feel the most important part of any bicycle is that it makes its owner smile, not necessarily anyone else.

That being said, one thing I’ve noticed is that this bike gets A LOT of attention wherever I go. Some people know what it is, some don’t. At the coffee shop, parked at a gas station, on the paved bike path, and in the woods, it’s always a similar conversation.

“Nice to meet you. WHAT IS THAT?!”
“It’s a Trek Sawyer.”
“Do you want to sell it?”
“I will never sell this bike.”

Build Spec:

Frame: 2011 Trek Sawyer
Fork: MRP Rock Solid 490 mm ATC
Rims: SEEK Summit 25i
Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Skewers: Roval Titanium (Thanks Mark!)
Tires: Teravail Rutland/Sparwood 29×2.2″ Light and Supple casing
Handlebar: Ritchey Beacon XL Comp 52 cm
Stem: One-off 35 mm x 31.8 machined by a friend of a friend in Rathdrum, ID
Headset: Cane Creek 110
Brake Levers: TRP RRL SL (“Droolium” you saw it here first!)
Brake Calipers: TRP Spyre with Jagwire Pro compressionless housing
Shifter: Microshift 12 Speed – Shimano MTB
Crankset: Shimano Deore M6100 with 34t chainring
Derailleur: Shimano Deore M6100
Cassette: Shimano Deore M6100 11-51t
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 27.2
Saddle: Brooks C15 Carved
Cargo Cage: Part of a set machined in Spokane, WA by Mr. Dirt’s Speed Shop



We’d like to thank all of you who submitted Readers Rides builds to be shared here at The Radavist. The response has been incredible and we have so many to share over the next few months. Feel free to submit your bike, listing details, components, and other information. You can also include a portrait of yourself with your bike and your Instagram account! Please, shoot landscape-orientation photos, not portrait. Thanks!