Recently someone asked why the PBJ doesn't have a basket, and my answer was that the basket is metaphorical. The design of the PBJ has an interesting and somewhat surprising story that I think says a lot about this bike and why it is the way it is. 

One thing that has been driving me crazy on the bike internet is people declaring that "gravel bikes are just 90's mountain bikes". Claiming to get the same experience from a 30 year old bike built with far less technology than we have readily available today. I applaud these people. Fixing up and modifying old bikes to be more fun and modern is how I got in to bikes in the first place. The "Performance Basket Jammer" name is meant to evoke those feelings you've had on your old beater basket bike. A new cutty trail you found on your commute. A long unplanned hill climb to a sunset vista because what the heck you're already out on your bike. Those moments are what it is all about. Even I until a few weeks ago was commuting on a 1994 Panasonic MTB with 26" wheels and canti brakes (recently replaced with a SuperSomething). I loved that thing and it took me great places but every time I hopped back on one of my modern bikes I was blown away by how much better they felt. Disc brakes rule. Bigger wheels are faster and more comfortable. Modern tubing is lighter and rides better. These two eras of bikes, steel bikes, are on totally different planets.

When friends ask me for advice on getting in to riding I usually recommend that between buying the best MTB that was made in 1997 for $200 or the cheapest gravel bike made today for $1200 they go for the old MTB with a new handlebar and fresh tires because they are great bikes. But they are not the same.

There are a lot of ways to design something. Engineers might look at the numbers around how a frame would flex, the geometry that would make it the fastest or the most efficient. I see myself as more of a designer when it comes to these things, where for example, with this bike I wanted something that was fun to ride anywhere and everywhere, that evoked feelings of the old junky bikes that got a lot of us into riding, but was down to be pushed when you actually needed it. A little bit of the super fancy modern mountain bikes that we rode later.

The PBJ really came into focus around 2019. The bike touring bug had bit and I had built myself a handful of touring bikes at this point. One was a hardtail that I rode on singletrack but I found that kind of touring to be so demanding and I was heading towards more gravel/less bumpy stuff. So I made a fat tired drop bar bike with 27.5" wheels, but I didn't like those too much on pedaly long days. From there I made a Titanium "hybrid" with 29x2.1" tires and a sweepy bullmoose bar. That one was close but I found Titanium too flexy for loaded touring and I built it a little too aggressive. Still a fun bike though. Then it came time for what would be the first PBJ. I was planning on a big bike tour across Western Montana with lots of rough dirt roads and a healthy dose of singletrack, so I started with the geometry from the hybrid and gave it 2.6" tires with room for 2.8"s. Made it more upright for all day comfort. It has a lower bottom bracket which gives it stability for those big gravel days and ended up making it so fun to push through corners. It is designed for a shorter stem like all good MTB's but it isn't too long or slack because this is still kind of a road bike.

That tour never did happen but the bike did end up becoming my favorite bike I have ever built myself. It has been on lots of tours since then, served as my year-round commuter in Bozeman, been on lots of longer MTB rides because rigid riding is still fun. The big lesson it taught me was to reel in a bit from the super-agro, super-progressive mountain bike geometry big bike is continuing to push on us. Those bikes have their place but riding on something fast and zippy and flexy in all the right ways is so fun. It feels like riding a bike in the good ways you remember from your old basket bike while I've snuck in enough design from modern tech to make it super capable and fast and light and fun and a bike you will want to ride every day forever.

OK enough with the waxing. Here are some photos of Brian's new PBJ. This was from a batch of 4 I built this winter in my shop in Oakland. They got some special details that I am really excited about. The forks feature my own dropouts and brake mounts that I had machined just for this run as well as a bent-tube crown that is going to provide such a nice balance of flex and strength. The frames are made with all of the very nicest tubing. A special blend of Velospec, reynolds, Colombus and Plymouth. I am currently working on the production version of this bike and hope to have those on their way by the end of 2024. 

Happy trails,
sklar pbj atb rigid 29er
sklar pbj atb rigid 29er
sklar pbj atb rigid 29er
sklar pbj atb rigid 29er


Brian Scott said:

What a wonderful origin story. I can’t wait to go off limits with this sublime shredder. Thank you, Adam, I’m honored to be in the PBJ array.

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