What is the Earl?
The Earl is a new offering from Trek. Without a doubt, the Earl is designed for city riding.
Here's why, in my opinion:
- single speed or fixed gear for ultimate simplicity (stock configuration: 44T chainring, 17T freewheel)
- chromoly steel construction, while heavy, soaks up the bumps on the road
- double top tube that is designed to hold a U-lock while biking to work or running errands
- 28mm tire with a good tread pattern can handle wet or sandy spots or the occasional gravel road
- tall stem with riser bar to sit up high in traffic
- flat handlebars make for lots of leverage when navigating city streets, sidewalks, and curbs
- long wheel base means no toe clipping when track standing (or trying to) at stop lights
- chain guard to keep pant legs from getting dirty or ripped, or having to wear a pant leg strap
- bosses and eyelets for mounting a rack and fenders, plus two sets of bosses for bottle cages or other accessories
At $439, the Earl is a fairly inexpensive bike. The simplicity of the bike with its lack of shifters, cabling, and derailleurs probably keeps the cost down. The brakes, levers and tires, while adequate, aren't anything special.
Things I Really Like About Earl
- the blue paint job, called "Earl Blue". Sure there's a "Gloss Black" version, but everyone sells a black city bike. The mix of blue with black accents makes for one pretty bike. Nice job, Trek.
- frame graphics are a nice touch. The Earl has its own head badge, and a very regal Earl himself, with trucker hat and scruffy beard, makes an appearance on the down tube design. There are also also a few graphics placed here and there that you'll never see unless you're working on or cleaning the bike.
- saddle designed just for the Earl features a custom logo impressed into the seat
- relatively narrow handlebars go easily up and down my old apartment building's stairwell
- cool bend in the frame where the double top tubes become the seat stays. Very interesting looking
- fun to ride! The 44x17 makes for pretty quick starts from stop lights. The balance is solid, and the saddle is quite comfortable.
- I can open beer bottles on the frame. How cool is that?
- scuffed up the top tubes after carrying a lock just two miles. I've since wrapped several layers of tape around the each end of the barrel of my U-lock, and I secure it tightly with a Velcro strap to keep it from bouncing around
- the chain guard clangs against the crank arm when I hit bumps
- ugh, it's heavy, but it's a real steel bike... what do I expect?
What has me most excited about this bike is the generous clearance between the seat stays and the fork blades. My plan is to use fenders and 35mm studded snow tires to make this one mean winter commuter. No more frozen derailleurs or stiff shifter cables.
Jake at the Trek Omaha store put on some really useful Bontrager quick release fenders. Unlike strap on fenders, these have nifty ball mounts that go into the frame eyelets on the rear dropouts and fork blades. The fender stays have a socket that snaps sturdily on to the balls. Also a clip/guide mounts to the rear brake bridge to hold the top of the rear fender, and a cam lever goes at the top of the fork to secure the top of the fender. Basically, these behave like permanently mounted fenders when they are on, but come off in about 30 seconds, leaving behind very minimal attaching hardware.
I'm pretty sure that the 44x17 gearing is too steep for me in the snow. Riding the bike up and down Leavenworth a couple of times this week actually has me wondering if it's too steep for me in general, but that's another story. I'm thinking that for pedaling through snow and fighting harsh winter winds, an 18, 20, or even 22 tooth cog might fit the bill.
How to open a bottle on the Earl's frame.
So far, I think I've got the only Earl in town. Does that make me the "Duke of Earl?" I hope to see more of these on the road soon.