Dream Build: The Blinged-Out Steel Commuter

Commuter bikes don't need to be drab utilitarian affairs. Bruce turns a Specialized Sequoia gravel frame into his ultimate commuter by adding high-tech parts and lots of carbon bling.

Dream Build: The Blinged-Out Steel Commuter

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Bikes

With weather warming and gas prices skyrocketing, I’ve made a concerted effort to use my bike for everyday tasks. I’ve been commuting by bike, riding to the grocery store, and towing my kid to and from school in our Burley trailer. Though it’s been fun, it’s made me realize that I desperately need another bike in my quiver. 

You see, my main bike right now is a Specialized Allez Sprint. This ultra-stiff crit machine is great for road racing, but as an errand-running workhorse, it leaves a lot to be desired. That’s why today’s dream build is the ultimate daily driver. This bike needs to be comfortable, practical, and reliable. But it also needs some modern tech and ample bling too. Here’s what I came up with. 

Steel commuter frame

Specialized Sequoia

[product-block handle="2018-specialized-sequoia-m-1"/]

If I’m going to ride a bike every day, it needs to be steel. It’s going to get locked to bike racks, knocked over, and left out in the rain. Steel will handle the abuse, and I won’t fret over scrapes and scratches. My frame of choice is this well-loved, mint green Specialized Sequoia. It’s a tough adventure/touring/commuter/do-everything bike. It’s not meant to be light or fast. (Yet…) Instead, it’s rugged, dependable, and, most importantly, comfortable. Plus, I’ve always loved the look of the Sequoia. It has clearance for big, cushy 45mm tires and the necessary mounts for fenders, racks, and other practical goodies. 

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Wheels & tires

ENVE G23 gravel wheels

[product-block handle="enve-g23-carbon-tubeless-700c-wheelset-3"/]

To offset some of the heft of the steel frame, I’m going with some of the lightest carbon gravel wheels on the market: the ENVE G23. At only 1,300 grams, they will make the Sequoia feel spry, even when it’s loaded up. And don’t worry about durability. The bell-shaped rim profile and wide hookless bead on the G23s easily absorb harsh impacts and prevent pinch flats, so the wheels can take a beating and keep on rolling. 

[product-block handle="vittoria-terreno-zero-tlr-g2-0-tire-700x38c-120-tpi-tubeless-tan"/]

To help them roll as fast as possible on the busted pavement and dirt roads I regularly ride, the wheels will be dressed in Vittoria’s speedy Terreno Zero tires. Of course, for maximum style points, they’ll have tan walls. 

[button]Shop wheels[/button] | [button]Shop tires[/button]

Drivetrain and brakes

Ultimate commuter bike SRAM AXS drivetrainSRAM Rival XPLR eTap AXS rear derailleur - $269.00
Cane Creek eeWings All Road Crankset - $1,099.99
SRAM X-Sync 36t chainring - $107.00
SRAM XPLR XG 1271 10-44t Cassette - $222.00
CeramicSpeed UFO KMC 12 Speed Chain - $139.99
SRAM eTap AXS Multiclics - $129.00
SRAM eTap AXS BlipBox - $324.76

To be my dream commuter, the Sequoia needs electronic shifting. Hang on, I hear you saying, “I thought you wanted this bike to be reliable.” Well after testing electronic drivetrains, I’m convinced that SRAM AXS and Shimano Di2 outperform mechanical drivetrains in reliability and ease of maintenance. In bad weather and harsh conditions (sensing a theme yet?) they’re unmatched. 

Since I want to run a 1x Rival XPLR eTap AXS set-up from SRAM, I’ll only have one battery to charge. Just for fun, I’ll combine that with some ultra-blingy, indestructible Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks. I’ll ride a 36t chainring to make it easy to haul extra luggage and children. Then I’ll use a low friction CeramicSpeed UFO chain since I’m a wax convert now too. Finally, there’s the eTap AXS Multiclics. Why Multiclics instead of shifters? Read on to find out…

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Cockpit & brakes

Ultimate commuter bike ENVE carbon cockpitENVE M5 MTN Handlebar - $169.99
ENVE Road Carbon Stem - $264.99
ENVE Seatpost - $299.99
Brooks B17 Standard Saddle - $60.00
Wolf Tooth Karv Grips - $21.95
SRAM G2 Ultimate Front Brake - $302.00
SRAM G2 Ultimate Rear Brake - $302.00
SRAM Paceline Brake Rotor 160mm - $54.00 (x2)
Race Face Chester Flat Pedals - $59.99

That’s right, I’m turning this Sequoia into a flat bar bike. Traditional drop bars are great for hunkering down to hammer on the pedals or cheat the wind, but that’s not what this bike is about. Flat bars provide more control, more comfort, and more attitude. Of course, to keep things exceptionally blingy, I’m going for the full ENVE carbon cockpit treatment. 

I picked eTap AXS Multiclics earlier because my plan is to make a little cut-out in the foam Wolf Tooth grips for the Multiclics to poke out the bottom. This will give me a sleek and unique cockpit set-up with no shifter dangling off the brake lever. Then, of course, to truly make this the ultimate commuter, I need a pre-owned (a.k.a. broken in) Brooks saddle and some flat pedals. 

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Total cost: $7,550.61

So this inexpensive steel Sequoia frame has blossomed into a shockingly expensive wireless electronic flat-bar commuter. But hey, it’s my dream commuter. I’ll admit it is a pretty goofy build since individual parts like the wheels and the crankset are more expensive than the frame. But the heart wants what the heart wants. I’ve had a crush on the Sequoia ever since it was released in 2016. Since it was tragically discontinued in 2020, I fear I may not have many more chances to own one. 

To make it more practical, I’ll need to add racks and fenders. Once I do, it will be ready to haul home a week’s worth of groceries rather than the meager backpack-full I can manage now. Then, when it’s time to relax, I can also use this bike to escape to the gravel trails outside of town. With the flat bars, flat pedals, and 1x drivetrain it’ll be a fun romp on chunky roads and flowy singletrack.

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