Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My [Bike's] Name Is Earl

You've heard the song by The Dixie Dicks. You've seen the TV show. Now meet the bike.

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
A Good Value

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?
Things I Don't Like About Earl
  • 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?
A Winter Commuter's Dream?

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.


The chain guard makes riding in pants a little safer and more comfortable.

The head badge

The aftermarket add-on quick-release fender guide under the brake bridge.

The quick release fender stay ball-and-socket joint

This cam lever binds the fender to the quick release mount

The custom Earl saddle

Two views of the double top tube design

How to carry a U-lock

Single speed freewheel or track cog... take your pick

The custom logo and on the chainring is a nice touch

Two sets of bottle cage bosses

Open beer here

Retro "TREK" design

Earl sports a trucker cap and carries a wrench

The Earl design also hides in places not normally seen

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.


munsoned said...

Heya Scott. I think I built up that Earl. It's the only one I've seen around, so it must be yours.

I had a hard time with that chain guard, and you might be able to adjust it away from making noise when hitting bumps. My solution, if I owned it, would be to hack off that lower part since nothing's holding it on and it may or may not actually guard your pants from the chain at that point. Just a thought.

It looked like a pretty fun bike. Glad to see you're enjoying it. Keep posting if you plan on doing longer gravel rides as I'd like to join. My longer group rides have been very sporadic this summer, but I need to keep in some semblance of fitness.

Scott Redd said...

Mike, you did, indeed, build my Earl. I saw your name on the build checklist that was attached to the bike. Thanks for making it safe for me.

I may consider modifying, replacing, or removing the chain guard. I was able to bend it a little for a slight improvement.

There's been some talk of a crank-and-camp sometime this fall. I'll let you know if anything happens.

Jeff said...

Love the blog on the Trek Earl.
I am an avid cyclist mixing my two-wheeled time with mountain biking on a Giant and road riding on a Specialized, but I have always admired the Trek brand, so I asked for and got the Earl for Christmas. Thanks wife!
But, mine came stripped down w/o fenders and chain guard.
Did you purchase them separately?
I'd like to upgrade.

Townsend said...

What fenders did you install? And is there a possibility of adding a rack on the back (if you know)?

Scott Redd said...

Hey Townsend:

Yes, the Earl can take a rack. In fact, I have put one on it. If you look at the photo with the U-lock in it, you can see the rack mounts.

The fenders are Bontrager quick release fenders that I got at my local Trek store.

I finally found some 32mm studded commuter tires and have been riding this bike every day this winter. So far, it's been making a solid, bulletproof winter commuter here in cold and snowy Omaha.

Scott Redd said...


The chainguard should have been included with the stock build. If you didn't get it, I'd go back to the Trek store and ask for it.

The fenders are aftermarket, but well worth it if you plan to ride the bike in foul weather.

Bruce said...

I picked up an Earl after being introduced to one at the LBS. I actually like the black version better but I got the blue one because they had it in stock. I had them install a 37 tooth chainring to ease my transition from sedentary and fat to mobile and fit.

Thanks for your review. It gave me something to read while waiting for the LBS to open.

larry said...

How about the wheels? Wondering how the rims (double or single wall) are holding up. Need something to bang around town on.

straightouttacompton said...

Earl is AMAZING, I wonder if I can custom paint it so scottredd doesn't think I'm copying him. : P

joseba moreno said...

What are your thoughts about changing the handlebars? I've read that the geometry ot the bike does not take drop bars very well. Any recommendation?