Showing posts with label Surly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Surly. Show all posts

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Riding In The Broomwagon For Now

Ti Muk wheels
This has been a tough week. I think my friend Mike Johnson said it best when he put it this way: "Stress to the body comes in many forms and is often delayed." He's right on in my case. 

Monday I got right back on the bike after resting hard all day Sunday. Sure- I had aches and pains, but it ain't no thing with me. I always have aches and pains. I was cooked by the end of the day though. Tuesday I rode back and forth to work again. Feeling "okay", but still worked, still achy. Then Tuesday night I knew something was really wrong. I got a feeling that I was sick. By Wednesday morning I was really hurting. It was flu. I had a temperature of 102°F most of the day. Sweating, pain, aches. It was awful. Thursday saw my wife put me on a regimen of Ibuprofen and Tylenol, with plenty of fluids and rest. No bicycles, no alcohol. 

Thursday night I decided to not take the Ibuprofen before I went to bed. I was feeling really good, and I wanted to know if I was over it, or was it just being managed by drugs. I found out Friday morning it was "managed by drugs". I hurt all over and had a slight fever again. Not to mention a stuffy head and cold now. So the "No bikes-No alcohol" rule is still in effect. Mrs Guitar Ted says until Monday at the earliest. Boo. 

The Slender Fungus sent me a Get Well Package.

Oh well. I suppose this getting bounced off a Silverado thing will take time to get around. I better just be patient. In the meantime I got a nice "get well" package from the Slender Fungus Friday. (Thanks Crew!) I'll have to wait to use the koozie though. Under orders and all.....

Then there are the new wheels for the titanium Mukluk/ I got some purple anodized Salsa Conversion hubs some time ago now, and finally had Velocity lace those up to some Dually rims with purple nips. These are the 29"er Duallys, so they will be getting some Knard 29 X 3" tires soon, and yes- tubeless. That will be a set up then that will get these special Alternator style drop outs that will push the wheel back as it relates to the frame, so the rear 29+ will clear the brace across the seat stays better. (Thank you MJ & DG!) I now will have to get a fork that fits the 135 front disc standard so I can have a brake and I also need the tires yet. Baby steps. I'll get this done soon! I definitely have the time to do that now!

The Odin's dirt still needs cleaning away.....
I also need to attend to the Fargo Gen I rig. It hasn't gotten a proper clean up post Odin's Revenge, (I know! It's been too long) Then I need to pick up a proper granny ring for this rig as well. The 22T that is on there now chain sucks and I don't need anything that low. I have seen where I can get a 24 or possibly a 26T granny, which would be ideal and less likely to chin suck, if it fits. Maybe the 24T then! 

The tires need a sealant recharge as well. Then I think everything will be good to go, despite it having gotten thrashed in the dirt and mud to the point I figured the entire drive train would need to be replaced when I was riding Odin's. Beyond the obvious maintenance, I would really like to get a hold of a nicer seat post for that bike. The test post from Cirrus Cycles was sweet. I may have to save up for one of those. It really made the Fargo Gen I a better bike. 

I've professed my love for the Fargo Gen I here before, and I am hoping that some tweaks to the Ti Muk will come to fruition that will make it as much a "go-to" bike as the Fargo is now. If it all works out, I think a Luxy Bar of mine may find its way over to that Ti Muk and with its titanium seat post, bigger 29+ rubber, and new drop outs, it will be that sort of a bike for me. We will see.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Randomonium

Another disjointed blog post with the only real thread  holding this together being cycling.......

Not now.....but soon.
 Surly 650B Straggler:

Smaller statured folk rejoice! (Well.....if you've always wanted a steel bike for bombing around on that looks like this) Surly has let it be known that a smaller wheeled version of the Straggler is on the way. This may be good news to you or someone you know.

It will also be good news to tinkerers and those who want more 650B tires that aren't all "frenchy". It looks as though this bike will have 650B Knard 41's. I don't think "knard" is a French word, so this is why I find that it is different from most of the fare for this wheel size which seem to try to evoke some sort of higher brow, continental flair with their monikers. I don't think anyone will accuse Surly of being "refined" in that manner!

Lions, Tigers, and.......Bears? 

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational may be traveling through  black bear territory. A recent news story circulated around this week indicates that near one of the pass through towns on the route a black bear and possibly two cubs are roaming freely around the countryside.

While I think the likelihood of our small band of riders coming across such critters is small, it is a possibility since we will be riding in some of the more remote areas in Clayton County. I find this development incredible since during my time living here in Iowa we have gone from almost no wildlife beyond rabbits, racoons, birds, and muskrats to having abundant amounts of critters that were the furthest thing from my mind when I was a child. Bobcats, mountain lions, turkeys, and Bald Eagles are just a few of these that simply didn't exist, or were so rare as to be legendary when I was a younginz. Now we're talking about black bears? The DNR says that if this bear does have cubs it would be the first such instance on record in 140 years. Amazing!

Mumbo Jumbo- Fat bikes are mainstream now.
Fat Avalanche Of Rubber:

Back in late 2010 the fat bike riders were stoked to the gills because there was going to be one other fat bike tire available. There was the recently discontinued Endomorph, (a moment of silence, please), and the new "Larry". It was party time for fat biking as we knew it then. 

Now, not five years down the trail, there are so many tire announcements and models coming online to purchase that it is almost easier to say which companies don't make a fat bike tire than to name those who do. It used to be something of an inside joke to talk about when Schwalbe might make a fat bike tire. You know, if they did, fat biking would be done and gone mainstream. That would never happen, right?

Right. Well........apparently fat biking is "over" then. It looks as though Schwalbe is actually going to be producing a fat bike tire, or at least have one branded. In typical Schwalbe fashion, it bears a ridiculous name.

All this seems so much like "cashing in" and manufacturers basically admitted to as much when the 27.5" bandwagon was cranked up a couple of years ago. No one wanted to "miss the party" like many did due to dragging their feet on entering the 29 inch mountain bike game in the late 00's. Certainly, by the looks of it, no one could be blamed for doing such with regard to tires for fat bikes! All I know is that in my simple mind the power of economics should sway prices to the lower end of the spectrum. I just do not see how the fat bike market can sustain the growth and with so much new product coming online, it would seem that supply will be bigger than demand. Good for fat bikers, hopefully, that want new treads.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday News And Views

TIMP Update: No word on the two intrepid travelers that started the 9th. I would assume that they are done by now, but I haven't heard a peep. Today we have two other fellows attempting and for their attempt they do have a SPOT tracker page set up so we can all follow along if we want to. So, do you? Go here if so.

Looks like it could be a rainy start, but who knows? Maybe they will miss the rains and get through the B Roads unscathed, or.....maybe Don will relive his Odin's experience a bit! 

Okay, I have a few rumblings of future attempts, but the time is running out. The original plan was to go till August 31st.  Now I have had a request to extend the TIMP until September 30th. What say ye? If I have more than the singular request I have gotten already, I will seriously consider a 30 day extension. Hit the comments if you have an opinion!

Fat tires: Make the world go 'round.....
Plus Sizes:

Now that I have experienced a good dose of the "plus sized" rubber, (or "mid-fat", if you will), I am pretty convinced this is where mountain biking for the masses should be going. It all makes perfect sense too.

Fatter tires for off road are not an alien idea to motorsports folk. The vehicles used for most recreational off road vehicles all feature fat, bulbous tires run at very low pressures. Of course, when you start talking about bicycles, weight is an issue, so I suppose that kept bicycle designers from getting too crazy with the width of rubber for years, not to mention the drive train obstacles presented by triple crank sets and parameters set by the geometry-du jour.

But thanks to some visionary folks in New Mexico and Alaska, and the observations of folks like Dave Gray of Surly and others there, this whole deal with fat bikes came to be and proved that flotation is a good deal for all terrain fun. Surly then instigated the "plus sized" genre with the Krampus, and I've been intrigued with the idea ever since the first ride on one of those bikes back at Interbike a few years ago now. Wider rims are back in vogue again, and this entire deal is going to evolve into something I feel we got off track with back in the 80's when there were wide rims and big, bulbous fat tires like the Fisher Fat Trax.

That is capable, tractable tires that sit on wide rims that we can roll at low pressures. Now that tubeless set ups are an option, the package can be complete. I feel that 3.8+ sized tires will become less desirable and the 3 inch to maybe 3.5" range will become very popular. In fact, I feel 2,8" to 3.25" is the sweet spot. Enough float to be "fat bike-like" but without the weight and without the ridiculously wide bottom brackets and chain/seat stay set ups. With modern materials technology, these wheels can be lighter than ever before, making off roading more fun and capable of being done on more surfaces with less impact to those surfaces.

Gone To The Races:

This weekend I'll be gone to the races at Iowa Speedway again. (If it doesn't get rained out) After work my son and I will be getting away and hopefully camping out as well. Whatever happens with the weather, I hope we have a fun adventure and of course, some great father-son time alone. The racing will be awesome if it is allowed to go on, but really, it's an excuse to be doing something with my son, and that's good enough for me. 

Hope ya'all have an awesome weekend and get to ride your bicycles!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday News And Views

Note: The following screed was originally published on Twenty Nine Inches just yesterday. It contains serious doses of my opinion, so be forewarned! 

 What Is "Fat"?- With Winter in the Mid-West comes a renewed focus on my bikes with the cartoonish tires. Fat bikes are not necessarily just for Winter anymore, true- However; when the snows fly, the Mercury dips below the point on the thermometer where water freezes, and the local trails are inundated in a white, crusty substance, the fat bikes really shine. I would otherwise be left to whatever roads are clear, and that is not very interesting, now is it?

Since early 2011, I have been riding fat bikes and I have had nothing but fun, questions, and stares from onlookers. Curiosity for these bikes is still at a high level, but with so many options coming on the scene now, I figure we’re at the heights of the “newness” in terms of the fat bike timeline. Now we’re moving on to figuring out the details. What are these bikes? Are they purely a fad, are they a “real mountain bike alternative”, and when do we get a suspension fork already?!! As if that were not enough, now we have an “interloper” wheel size- 29+. Just how and where does that fit into the scheme of things? (And this doesn’t even account for Surly’s other “pot stirring wheel size”, the 26 X 3″ tire Surly says is 27.5″ in diameter. Those clever Surly guys! Always keeping us on our toes!)

 Does any of this really matter? A fair question. However; it appears that it isn’t just as simple as “just go ride a bike- any bike”. Nope. Rules in races, and rules for trail usage are demanding definitions. Trails users are fearful of “damage” to groomed surfaces if 29 X 3″ tires, (or really wide 26″ tire, but less than 3.8″), are allowed on these snowy tracks. Race rules are being sorted at this very moment. Terribly described in tiny paragraphs, so they will not conflict with USA Cycling, which itself is being modified to accommodate the FUTURE!

 Seriously- racing is probably the single most defining criteria of “what is fat” going forward. Manufacturers are waiting on the racing statutes and rules to be drawn up so that they will know where to inject their R&D for new product. This also will affect the “obese” side of the equation- the 5″ wide, 190mm rear spaced behemoths of the night that ponderously steamroll heretofore unrideable terrain into submission. If the racing rules and regulations settle on fat bikes having at least a 3.8″ tire and a frame with 170mm rear spacing/ 135mm front spacing, then manufacturing concerns will be poised to jump into that pool to push the fat bike into areas that will boggle our frozen medullas.

 Interesting times for fans of fat, to be sure. Just where the chips will fall is anybody’s guess right now, but it is not going to be very long at all before “what is a fat bike” is defined without question. Now, I don’t think for a moment that 4.8″ tires, 190mm rear spaced frames, or 29+ will be legislated out of existence. Not at all, but what I am saying is that in terms of land access, new components, and new innovations, the “what is fat” question needs answering, and soon, before much forward progress is going to be made.

 Have a great weekend folks!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surly & Tired

What a small example of a Knard looks like.
Surly Bikes have many tires to sell you. One of their models is called the "Knard". Yeah.........okay, it's a name of a tire, that's all. I wouldn't go reading too much into that name.

Anyway, there is a 26" X 3.8" model for fat bikes, a 700c X 3" model that Surly calls "29 +", and now this- a skinny Knard. Underfed probably. Stunted possibly. Well, anyway.....

They call this one a 700c X 41mm. I got to ride on a pair of these at Interbike which were mounted on one of those sparkly, light purple Straggler bicycles. I rode the skinny Knards on the gravel and loose surfaces up into Bootleg Canyon a bit and was duly impressed with these tires. So, I figured I would look into buying a pair when they came out with a proposed 120TPI version with a folding bead.

Well, that happened recently, the tires became available. I put my name in to order up and buy a pair, and well.....here they are! So I have them at home and mounted up on the HED Ardennes+ wheels. Here's the numbers on them for those who care....

Mounted.......
The pair of Knards I have weigh 490gms and 470gms each. The tires mounted to the HED rims, which are 21mm wide inside, at 40 psi measured out at 39.6mm.

Okay, so not 41mm, but these are new tires just mounted. I'll reserve judgment on width until they have had time to stretch a bit, if they do stretch at all. They probably will.

Compare and contrast: Clement MSO's are about 39.2mm wide, and Kenda Happy Mediums, marked as 40's, are measuring out at 42.2mm on the Viaje I am testing.

38mm to 42mm is a pretty good range for size for any road/all road/mixed terrain riding. Yeah.....you can ride skinnier stuff, but I think this range is a good one for everything from dirt, rocks, roots, and busted up pavement. I was having a blast the other day, as an example, when I was launching off curbs and bashing through some branches on the aforementioned Happy Mediums. Skinnier tires would probably get pinched, or damaged. But more importantly, the bigger volume tires absorb more energy, and roll over things better, than skinnier treads. That's a big deal on some roads and trails. Bigger tires are waaaay smoother too. Far more comfortable than any skinny road tire I've ever test ridden or owned.

So the Surly tires fit the bill in that regard and should be decent, at least they seem to be well made from my view. I'll be riding them and I'll find out soon enough.......

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Withered

Fatback Carbon
The crazy Sunday that turned into an overnighter at the airport in Minneapolis turned into a fry pan hot day at Bootleg Canyon and then a wilted Guitar Ted wobbled off to a seedy dive in Las Vegas with visions of food and bed in his addled brain.

Yeah.......so what's cool at the show? Fat bikes, 27.5"ers, and .....and...blah! It's funny this year, but there seems to be a distinct lack of enthusiasm for much of anything. Maybe it was the seeming lower attendance. (I wasn't the only one mentioning this, by the way.) Maybe it was the fact, as I have said on many previous occasions, that we've already seen all this stuff, (for the most part), already.

But you know what? When it is cloudless, 100ºF outdoors, and the wind starts blowing, it is not fun to be out there at Bootleg Canyon. Not fun at all.

But yeah....the fat bike thing is getting ridiculous. Carbon rims, carbon frames, carbon forks. It's crazy expensive, and obviously lighter than metal. I did see the new Fatback tire, Industry 9 fat bike hubs, and a double walled, drilled carbon fat bike rim on a Felt fat bike with a Bosch electric motor. Wait......wouldn't that make it a fat-motorcycle? Yes it would- with pedals!

There was also the Giant Revolt gravel rig. I like it, but the down tube guard they put on wasn't very well thought out. Let's just call it a "mud collector" and leave it at that. The Surly Straggler is a lilac, sparkly beauty, (not really purple at all), and heavy. Maybe it should be renamed the "Tankler". 

Oh yes, there were a few good things floating about. 36"ers, and adult sized "big wheelers". And $370.00 Shimano mtb shoes you can mold to yer tootsies. I'll have more on the shoes here later. And I'll have more on other gizmos and bicycle shaped objects coming your way soon.......

Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday News And Views

Take that!
29+ Gets A Boost:

With Surly's introduction of the "29+ platform, there was only one way to do things: Rabbit Hole Rims, Knard 29 X 3" tires, and a frame, (likely a Krampus), to stuff that in. While the Krampus is an awesome bike, it doesn't fit a lot of folk's needs/desires. So experimentations began and custom designs ensued.

All great stuff as well, but there was still only one game in town for wheels- the Rabbit Hole and Knard tires. Now all that is starting to change. Surly has teased a Dirt Wizzard tire, and now we have Velocity's "Dually" rims, which are just now starting to become available.

The Dually is an interesting rim in that it is a 45mm wide dual wall extrusion, unlike Surly's "sorta dual wall rim" which has chambers on the edges and is a single wall extrusion in the middle. The Velocity rim maybe sounds heavy?  Well, Velocity seems to be finding out that the 700c Dually is under 700 grams, which would be really amazing for a rim that wide.

Images used courtesy of Velocity USA
The Dually is also said to have a similar design to the Blunt rims, which work tubeless. Velocity is suggesting that their current blue rim tape will do the trick on these new Dually rims. You might notice that there is no "rim bead channel" extruded into the Dually, (judging from the rendering shown at right), but Velocity has been using a "shelf" design instead. It doesn't work with every tire, but I have had decent luck with the versions I have used. (P-35, Blunt SL)

The Dually will also be compatible with your 2.35-2.4"er 29"er tires as well. It should be fun to see what the 45mm width does to tires. I am betting some snow conditions will be perfect for a 2.4 Ardent, (as an example), on these rims. I used Ardents on P-35's with some limited success on snow. A bit wider rim should do even better and be very good at it. (Oh yeah......I'll be finding out for myself. Stay tuned.....)

T.I.V10:

With the turn of the calendar to Fall, things regarding T.I.V10 will start ramping up. I have been researching new course ideas and making preliminary route choices. Once I have something drafted up I will start recon, but that probably won't happen until next month.

There will also be some thought put into just how I am going to do Registration this time. I have already been getting asked about it, and I reckon it will go live in November at some point. (Clue: 10 years ago this coming November at a certain point in the month an idea was hatched. ) Anyway, look for updates on all that coming soon.

Finally, I am going to start a Trans Iowa related series that will post on Saturdays leading up to the registration for T.I.V10. I will pick out memories from each of the previous nine events and tell tales. Maybe there will be some things revealed that you never knew about, or interesting bits that will reveal how the event has evolved over the years. Look for the first installment tomorrow.

3GR: Let's do this again at the same time and place. Gates Swimming Pool lot @ 8:30am. We've been stopping at Cottonwood Canyon in Downtown W'loo afterward for a treat and a cuppa joe, just in case you want to join in for that as well. We've been getting around the course by either side of  11:00am most of the Summer, so you have an idea on time. Anyone is welcome on any bike, but keep in mind that a wider tire is better, and a road bike will certainly be trouble. See ya tomorrow!

With that I will sign off for today. Get out and enjoy the end of Summer and keep the rubber side down!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fat Bikes: Two Kinds

Adventure by bike or....
I like fat bikes a lot. I thought they were "just for snow", like a lot of cyclists who knew about them did back ten years ago or more. When you stop to think about it, that's pretty much all they were being used for, so why wouldn't we think that? Turns out, the durned things are more fun than we all thought they might be, and so we're seeing a splitting of the genre.

Ten years ago, the whole idea was how to make a bicycle that would traverse the trails of Alaska in winter time with relative ease. How do you keep the wheels from "punching through", and how do you keep the bike from swapping ends, or wallowing to a standstill? Essentially, every innovation in fat bikes up to about a year or two ago was all about how to make a better bike for snow going travel. Fatter tires, wider rims, and the frames and components to fit that were all developed and resulted in a capable machine that could lumber along at a reasonable pace laden with gear in a Winter setting.

But the purveyors of Fat found out that there were more folks itching to ride these beasts and they maybe don't even have snow to ride on, nor mud, nor much sand. In fact, they are basically looking at the fat tires for their "mahoosive amounts" of grip and simple suspension attributes which make riding a mountain bike like this on a mountain a lot of fun. Trouble was, the bikes were designed for loaded touring in softer terrain conditions, not for blazing down some single track in the summer, dodging rocks and trees at warp speed. The big tires bounce, and with no suspension damping, that's an issue. Plus the handling wasn't playful enough. Fat bikes were too lazy, lumbering, and hard to maneuver in the manner trail bikers seemed to prefer.

.....shredding some trail?
Now Salsa has tweaked out their geometry for a bit more "trail bike" handling, and introduced a Beargrease carbon bike that is said to be essentially a hard tail mtb type feeling rig, it just so happens to have these massive tires. Added to that, you see that the fork specs say "suspension corrected". Hmm.....yes, there will be a Rock Shox fat bike fork coming soon.

Then you have Surly and maybe you can throw Specialized and the Alaskan bikes into the "expeditionary" category where big tires, wide rims, and back country features figure in more than suspension and going ripping fast on some crazy single track in Colorado. Two schools of thought, and alraedy you will see that fat bikes are on divergent paths.

Add in On  One, the Trek Farley, and the soon to be released Singular Puffin which all take a much more "trail bike" approach to fat tires, and it becomes apparent that there are two different kinds of fat bikes now for different purposes. It's only going to become a sharper line as time goes by and suspension will hasten this change greatly.

Personally, I am more of an "adventure" type and I like going where I can't go on a 29"er or my gravel rigs. To my mind, it makes sense to tackle the worst situations on fat bikes, and leave the rest to capable machines that do the job faster, or better, or both. (Not that I don't do all season rides on a fat bike, 'cause I do.) Hitting the mud holes, the sandy edges of lakes and streams, or busting a new trail in 6 inches of fresh snow, that's fat biking's real allure for me. But I can totally see there being a reason to ride these anywhere. It is apparent others do as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

News Season: Part 9- 29+

Surly will make this 29+ too.
29+, the moniker for the 700c X 3inch wide tire format that Surly came up with, has been a very intriguing format. The thing, (like anything related to bicycle wheels), is that choice has held back the idea from going much farther than the Krampus and a few conversions and custom bike ideas. Well, that should begin to change.

The new Surly catalog is available for download and in it you will see that a 700c X 3" Dirt Wizard tire is coming at some point. This is the tire that should be on the Krampus, (in my opinion), and it also should pop open the dam a bit with regard to 29+ ideas from custom bike makers and maybe another brand or two. Well, I should say that this has already happened a bit. Check the following out...

Sam over at Singular Cycles has been toying with the 29+ idea by testing the tires and rims on a couple of his models.  It sure looks as if he's headed down the path of making something work with 29+ wheels and tires. My bet is that the news of a 29+ Dirt Wizard tire will push him off the edge and that it will happen. Stay tuned on that front....

You'll also note that Singular is getting closer to releasing the fat bike Puffin model. I've seen the prototype and it is amazing. The 100mm eccentric bottom bracket is cool, and the steel construction Singular is noted for should make this bike a nice ride for trails. Yes....the Puffin is optimized for fat tired single tracking. Much like On One's take on fat biking, Singular focused more on trail riding feel and performance instead of snow, sand, and mud, but it isn't like the Puffin won't be able to do that as well. It just means that the Puffin will be a four season fat bike, good at everything, and it should prove to be capable when the weather goes sour. Stay tuned on that front as well.....


Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday News And Views

One Hub To Rule Them All....
Velocity USA Introduces New "Lightweight Convertible Disc Hub":

Here's a good idea. One hub. (As long as it is for a disc brake wheel) Done. All axle standards, (that matter), and all free hub styles. XX-1? Yes. Campy? Same hub, just swap freehub bodies.

Cool! Now if I could only telescope the hub shell to accommodate 170mm and 190mm rear hubs on fat bikes, and we'd really only need one hub!  Pipe dreamin', I know.... Well, here are some particulars straight from the Velocity horse:

  • 265g weight
  • SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo 11-speed ready
  • 135mm quick-release or 142x12mm thru-axle options
  • 6-bolt ISO disc compatible 
  • high-quality double-sealed Japanese sealed cartridge bearings
  • 6 pawl engagement
Velocity will sell you a single set up, and additional pieces would be sold separately. See Velocity for the deets.

I like this kind of talk from hub providers. With wheels getting really expensive, and frame/fork standards changing and drive train innovations happening, this can make a new wheel purchase les of a head ache and give you options.

Surly's new "ECR" 29+ machsheen
 In The "Whadda Ya Think Of That Department?": Surly's New ECR

I've been asked about what I think of Surly's new ECR a few times lately to the point that I wonder "Hmm.....what's going on here with this?" Well, here's my opinion on it....

This is the bike that will make or break the 29+ thing. The Krampus is kind of a one trick pony. A play bike, and only so many will ever really want one. Now the ECR is a totally different animal, and to my mind, it fits the Surly "MO" in a much better way.

Surly, if nothing else, is a company that makes bikes that are a "blank canvass" sort of deal. What I mean by that is folks buy a Surly, then they personalize it, and bend it to their will, which Surly accommodates with their forward thinking designs which feature versatility.  Take the Cross Check, as an example. How many ways have those been built up, and does anybody ever really cross race them? Think about that.... Or how folks dress up the Ogre, or how folks use the Pugsley, or, well.........you get the idea. 

I see the ECR as one of those "blank canvass" type of bikes that folks will be doing all sorts of different takes on. If I am right, and they take off that way, I bet Surly will unleash another tire or two, and if that happens....... Well, it could take off elsewhere. We'll see. 

Personally, I saw the Krampus and thought "bike packing bike" immediately. Well, the ECR is "that bike" more so than the Krampus, but it could be a lot of things, really. The basis here is the 29+ deal, and if it catches on with riders, lookout. If not........ sayonara 29+.

Gravel Mutt V2
Some Details On The Gravel Mutt V2:

As mentioned in my previous post on this bike, the V2 Mutt has a couple of significant differences from the V1 Mutt. First off, I was wrong about the year on this one. According to my research, the serial number for the bike decodes to an October of 1977 build date. while Trek did not put model designations on bikes until the early 80's, the brochures scanned online I checked out indicate this as a TX502 complete bike, (judging from the spec list and what I recall taking off this rig), so not the top-o-the line bike, but a nice mid-range sport touring rig. It sold for the ridiculous price of $250.00 back then! The frame is Ishiwata 022 double butted Chrome Molybdenum that is silver brazed to investment cast lugs and has a Chrome Molybdenum forged fork crown.

The geometry  has road bike leanings, but that only makes sense. A 73° head tube angle is listed, (although I measured multiple times and got 72°), while the bottom bracket drop is listed as 60mm, which is right in line with my BMC, and definitely lower than the V1 Mutt. The fork offset was listed at 55mm! The chainstays are longer, but this was a good thing for gravel on this particular bike, since it offset the nervous front end a bit. So, better than V1? Yes. The lower bottom bracket is a big deal. The front end is a bit "chattery" on rougher gravel, but the bike is flexible enough that at moderate speeds it isn't a handful. Really fast down hills would be a bit hairy on gravel with this one. Overall, it is a really smooth rig, and on pavement, it is an absolute dreamy ride.

This is going to end up doing city duty and I am getting fenders and some nicer bits for it at some point. I'll have to touch it up some, but that will be an ongoing project. In the mean time, it's a keeper. Just not ideal for gravel, but not bad either. If it was my only bike, it would do.

3GR: Yes. Gates Park Swimming Pool lot. 8:30 am. I'll be planning on being there riding the BMC.

Monday, July 22, 2013

News Season: Part 5- More Saddledrive

Salsa's Beargrease XX1
Bonus! Update from Saddledrive....

As told in the last post, there would be more from Saddledrive, and here is some of it, albeit not all of it. (Yes- there is more to come.)

First up we have the Beargrease, which is all carbon these days. Through axles on each end mean special hubs, and the headset is an inset one as well. This is meant as an all-out, no holds barred racing bike with really fat tires.

The matte finish is highlighted with green striping and grips but otherwise is very subtle in appearance. With the XX1 spec, this bike is a claimed 23lbs or so, depending on the size. Oh- the sizing! Sm, M, L, XL.

The bike is spec'ed with no strange, weird weight weenie stuff too, which makes all this all the more remarkable when you look at the complete weight. The weight could go down even further with some tricky parts swapping. With all this "raciness" and ultra-low fat bike weight-weenie delight going on, you just know it ain't gonna be cheap.

And it isn't. Expect a well north of 5G retail price on this fantastic fat bike. There will be a second tier model as well as a frame set, but even the frame set won't be cheap. In fact, it is more than just a frame set. Seeing as how the frame requires through axles, the frame set price, (about what a Muk 2 complete retailed for last year), comes with through axles, hubs, head set, and seat collar, along with the immense carbon fork and frame.

I don't see spec or listings for a Beargrease aluminum frame, so this looks like it is it if you want to get into a lightweight, fast fat bike.

Beargrease Carbon, 2X10 (Image from QBP's feed)
There will be more Salsa Cycles news, but now we move on to Surly Bikes, which not only popped out a new disc "Cross Check" type bike dubbed the Straggler, but also has the following things coming your way soon.....

The "ECR", a 29+ "enduro-camping-race" bike (Image from QBP's feed)
Dirt Wizard 2.75"er
Okay- sometimes I think Surly thinks up these odd ball tires and then has to create a bike around them. (They as much as copped to this with regard to the 29+ and 700 X 41mm Knards)

Now they have not had an Instigator in the line up for a few years. Well- it is back. I am not so much interested in the Instigator as I am the tires they made for it. (Or was the frame made for the tire? Hmm....) Anyway, here you have the perfect "fat-lite" tire. This is the sort of thing, ( I hope), that will fit on my "Ultimate Big Dummy" bike build. (Someday, don't ask just now.) I'm sure Surly has other ideas for this tire, especially since it is called the "Dirt Wizard".

I know a lot of folks will be wondering why the Instigator wasn't a 27.5"er, or a 29"er. The Krampus is pretty much the big wheeled version of this anyway, and.....well, did you notice the irony in the Dirt Wizard's width on the hot patch on the tire's sidewall? My guess is that 27.5"ers will shoe into that frame just peachy, if that's what ya want to do.

The "ECR", above, is an interesting take on 29+. I said it when we first learned of the Krampus: 29+ is a great size for bike packing.  Well, obviously Surly was way ahead of me in that thought, because here they already have the ECR. Notice the Troll/Ogre dropouts? Notice that this bike has a front derailluer?  Notice the Anything Cage mounts on the front fork? Notice the Jones Loop Bar, (which will come stock on this rig)? Yep! I think this would be a great, durable, versatile bike packing rig, sans suspension, if you can live without that.

41mm Knards
I think a Rohloff equipped ECR would be a stellar touring-at-a-comfortable-pace off road rig.

Now for the other tire I am excited to see coming down the pike. (Well, depending upon some details, that is), and that is the Knard 700c X 41mm tire.

This tire will be spec'ed on the new Straggler bike from Surly, which appeared here yesterday. The 700c X 40-ish tire size is great for gravel grinding. (One of my favorite tires, the Clement MSO, comes in this size range) If the Knard 700 X 41 comes in a 120TPI version at some point, I think it may become a great gravel tire for events like Dirty Kanza, Odin's Revenge, or any other event that big, floaty tires would be an advantage for.

Surly may not have a 120TPI tire now, but I think that a 27 or 60TPI tire may be too stiff and heavy for many gravel grinders. So, I'll wait to see what Surly offers here, but a 700 X 41mm tire sounds just lovely to my ears right now. Obviusly, Surly doesn't go in for tubelessness, but I would sure like to see a tire in this size class be tubeless.

Whatever- at least there is progress in the tire choices for creative minds to put to use these days. Surly may not have the technology in their tires, (tubeless, dual compounds, higher quality), that others do, but they seem to hit on all cylinders when it comes to sparking imagination and adventure in riders out here. I like that, and I support that effort.

More to come. Stay tuned.

News Season: Part 4- Saddledrive

Image via "The Bicycle Hub" from Saddledrive
Saddledrive: The dealer only event that Quality Bicycle Products puts on at their Ogden, Utah facility, is kicking off today. No doubt all the big news fro Salsa, Surly, and the other sundry QBP brands will be spreading wide and far across the web today.

Much of the Salsa doings I have known about for months, and it will be a relief to be able to talk about it all openly here soon. But for now, here is a tidbit from Surly that I find quite interesting.

There have been very well planted "spy photos" leaked over the past two months of this bike dubbed the "Straggler". No doubt, Surly will have some crazy story behind the name.    What for Surly has to be a "no brainer" bike to finally put out, the name is maybe the biggest news after all here.

Obviously, the profile of this bike calls out Surly's long running and very popular model, the Cross Check. The obvious name for this bike in people's minds will be "Disc Cross Check", but less obviously, Surly doesn't quite see it that way. Or maybe it is obvious that Surly wouldn't see things the way "we do"? Hmm........well anyway.

I'm also sure there will be a Surly blog post explaining this in the typical Surly manner. Stay tuned for that, or not....... For me, none of that matters as much as what Surly shod the Straggler with. I've seen an earlier image that looks like the tires are a form of Knard, only skinnier yet. If so, this might be a pretty cool tire. I'm sure later today this will be confirmed or we'll find out it is something else.

 Stay tuned for more commentary from me here on the Saddledrive news......

Thursday, July 18, 2013

News Season Part 3: Fat Bikes & 27.5"ers

Big & Fat
Your Fat Bike Is No Longer Weird:

This week was a "time stamp" week in the world of fat bikes, (which admittedly is a tiny world at this point), due to the announcement of two new models by two of the "big three" companies in the cycling industry in North America. Those companies are Trek and Specialized. (Could Giant be far behind?)

First up- the Specialized Fatboy.  This is an aluminum and carbon fiber forked rig that will come in at two spec levels. The deal here is that Specialized says it is for "snow racing", and so it has the more radical hub spacing of 190mm rear/135mm front. Kind of a surprise to me there, but it will easily clear the biggest tires out there now and Specialized claims it will clear a 5"er. (Do they know something we do not?) At any rate, what you see for tires here are not what the bike will come with. Specialized is doing their own tire. That's really the biggest news to my mind here.

Specialized says it will be a tire based upon the Ground Control, (a great tread pattern for all-around dirt riding, by the way), and will come as a 120TPI tire in a 4.8"er width. That's as big as it gets now. Specialized also developed their own branded hubs and rims for this bike. They are going with a 90mm rim that has no bead hook, just like their upper end Roval mountain bike wheels. If the bead seat is a big enough diameter, this should make their tire spread out even that tiny bit more which should get that Ground Control Fatty just about as wide as a Bud & Lou on a Clownshoe 100mm rim. Bonus: The rim weighs 795 grams too, which is significantly lighter than a Clownshoe rim.

Trek returns fire....
Well, I knew for a few months that Trek was prototyping fatbikes up in Wisconsin, as an eyewitness who was there on other business noted them being scurried in and out of doors there during his visit. When would the leakage occur, was the only question. Well, over in Europe Trek is doing its first Trek World showings to dealers and one of the U.K. lot took a pic and posted it online. Leak detected!

Here's the "Farley", what appears to be an aluminum bike with an aluminum fork reminiscent of the steel Sawyer 29"er fork. (Little curved brace inside the legs just above the tire there.) Looking like a Stache on steroids, the Farley doesn't otherwise inspire any "gee-whiz" commentary here. It is noted here that the tires and rims are Surly fare, which if this is stock spec, is curious. There may be a connection here though.....

There is a rumor floating out there: (Note: I said "RUMOR"- the following is not at all verified by Trek or Salsa officially): The rumor states that Salsa's Beargrease carbon bike is built by Trek. IF that is so, then a connection to Surly componentry makes sense on the Farley. (NOTE: I have been informed this rumor may have started with an errant April Fools prank. So there is that.) Otherwise, I would think that Trek would use a Bontrager branded rim and tire, and perhaps like Specialized, their components are not yet ready. Either way, this looks like an entry level fat bike offering from Trek which will give Salsa fits as far as trying to find room on dealer showrooms.

It must be stated again that little yet is known about this Trek, so other than the fact that it is a fatbike, everything else here is still in the shadows. I expect we'll all know the truth in a few days though.

What Does It All Mean?: There is much dusting up on the forums, as you might imagine, about what all of this means. Some say this is good, some that it is bad, some say fatbikes have "jumped the shark", and others say they are only getting cooler. Many folks lament the "big guys" getting into their deal, but on the other hand welcome the proliferation of parts that more models in the marketplace bring to the table. It's also hoped that this will help drive prices downward on bikes and components.

My Take: I really do not care about what is "cool" or what has "jumped the shark", because if that mattered, no one would even think to ride a bicycle these days. So I leave that for the punters to dissect. As for the "big companies" getting into this- Obviously dealers of these companies have been exerting some influence as they see QBP brands Salsa Cycles and Surly increasing productions and choices every year and still running out of product. This all during the "off season", when Trek and Specialized dealers would be killing for a bunch of $1800.00 sales in November. To my mind, this is the "real reason" these bikes are seeing the light of day.

But the bikes- what about those? Well, I do not know much about the Trek, so I will withhold my opinion only to say this: It doesn't look all that special. It's merely "okay". But then again, I could be easily missing fine details that would change my mind on this. The Specialized is very interesting if only because they have actually expanded choices in fat components. The tires should be amazing. Specialized does a pretty good job with  their tire line, and I have high expectations for this 4.8"er. The rims are also intriguing, and if Specialized is smart, they will offer those rims and tires in the aftermarket as well. My hope is that Trek is not just recycling more of the same ol' Surly stuff on their bikes. Nothing wrong with Surly, but Trek is missing an opportunity to advance fat biking choices and make their product more than a "me too" bike if they do not pursue their own tires and rims.

And what about the other company in the "big three"?  I wouldn't be surprised to find out they already are making a fatbike for someone......

Trek Slash 27.5"er
What is that you are hearing?

That's the death rattle of the 26" wheel for performance mountain biking, that's what. Manufacturers continue to scramble to "not miss out" on the "next big trend"- 27.5 inch wheeled mountain bikes.

The latest brand to push 26"ers to the curb is Trek, who just announced six new 27.5"ers to their 2014 mountain bike line up. These bikes are all longer than 150mm in travel, and make perfect sense for a smaller wheel, which keeps the front end height in check, for one thing. It doesn't really matter that these have slightly bigger wheels, what matters is that 26 inch wheels will probably be gone from performance mountain bikes by 2015, definitely by 2016. Every company will move to 27.5"ers in long travel bikes, and many will have XC hard tails in this size as well. It's not "if" it is going to happen. It's a matter of time now.

This year Rock Shox and Fox offered all 2014 product across three wheel sizes, but I bet for 2015 many 26 inch options will disappear. When that happens, it is a defacto death strike to 26" wheels on high end, long travel mountain bikes. The rest of the market will follow suit. It is odd to think that the once "only wheel size" and predominate performance choice in mountain biking for almost 35 years is going to disappear, but I believe that is what we are witnessing here.

Just wait till all the mart bikes start showing up with 27.5"er wheels!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Monkey Decade: Part 3

Intro: This year marks the tenth year I have been riding 29"ers. It also is my ten year anniversary of owning my Campstove Green Karate Monkey. There will be several posts throughout the coming months about my story with my KM and what is going to be happening to it now. Here's the third post....(see the first installment here The second installment is here.)

The Best It Ever Got: Circa 2006
 The Rides:

From 2003 till probably 2008 I rode the Karate Monkey on a pretty regular basis. In that time the bike was tweaked and tweaked until I was ordering custom bikes to imitate it "with improvements". Still- this bike, especially the 2006-2008 version, was probably the coolest, most fun single speed I've had going with the possible exception of my first Inbred or my Blackbuck. Definitely the best rides I ever had were on the Karate Monkey though.

Take for instance the time I decided to ride the aborted last 40 miles of Trans Iowa V2 from Cresco to Decorah. I only made it about a mile before my chain jumped ship and sawed off all the head in spokes on the drive side of my rear wheel before I came to an out of control stop on a downhill. Well......at the time it sucked. But it was a memorable day!

Or all the times I did recon for GTDRI rides on this bike and the hills I had to walk up. Many of those rides were in the 60-80 mile range. The Winter of '05/'06 was another especially good memory on the KM. I did a ride to my Mom's place all on gravel which was another memorable ride in that I rode into the evening and arrived after dark. The training rides for my first Dirty Kanza 200 attempt were all done on the Karate Monkey. I once did an 80 miler to Nashua, Iowa and back on this bike alone on a day off. That one was memorable for the dog that about bit me and the farm girl I saw mowing the lawn....... oh! s'cuse me!

Anyway, the biggest memory by far, and the biggest single day ride I ever did, was the very first Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational back in 2006. The route was 152 miles in itself, but I also rode the approximately 16 miles to and from the start point for a total of 178 miles in a single day, all on a single speed.

You learn to love a bike when you spend that much time and mileage on it. That or you hate it forever, I suppose. But either way that goes for you, all these big rides and small ones forged a love for the Karate Monkey and despite my not getting to ride it much anymore, I won't ever get rid of it.

Next Time: The Decline

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Fat Bike Trend Is Over: (April Fools!)

Image pilfered from this thread on MTBR.com
What a week for fat bike aficionados. Last week it was all about the Mongoose Beast department store fat bike. (I wrote about that one here.) This past weekend someone posted the image you see here on mtbr.com's "Fat Bike" forum . The image shows a fat bike that is claimed to be a Specialized aluminum framed prototype. I assumed the image is real, since the man holding it is none other than Ned Overend, and I've heard solid rumors, (which were substantiated over the weekend), that Specialized is doing a fat bike, (and possibly three models), for months now.

I've written about how I feel Trek and Specialized will approach fat bikes before. They are going after where QBP is positioned with their bikes because they see that is what sells. QBP brands have sporadic supply due to being outstripped by demand, (apparently).  Dealers watching this from the sidelines every Winter now since 2010, (when they have very poor sales, by the way), are clamoring for something to sell in Winter like this. Trek and Specialized have a great dealer coverage and the horsepower to get as many fat bikes as they think dealers can sell. My opinion, but I think this is close to the mark.

I also feel that Specialized and Trek are not going to market Surly tires and rims. There will be some Trek or Specialized branded rims and tires, (in my opinion), or another outside vendor we haven't heard from yet is jumping in with a fat bike tire, (I've heard WTB's name bandied about here), so there is that facet to all this as well. 

On One's "Fatty" sold very strongly.
Now the reaction to this Specialized bike, (and you can add what the reaction to Trek's upcoming fatty will be here as well), is something which, again, I find quite nonsensical. Folks are saying things like, "That's it! Fat bikes are done now.", or things like "They're just jumping on the bandwagon."

Bulldookey.

How is it that, by the very nature of having these companies develop more components specific to fat bikes, the fat biking trend is over? Really? Just because it is Specialized?

I suppose then that folks that feel this way will not be caught dead riding any bicycle type which Specialized retails under its brand name, correct? Yeah.........right! Dang trend jumpers are pointing fingers at companies because they are "trend jumpers"? Or they are afraid of these new fat bikes with the big red "S" will somehow dilute their fat biking experiences? I don't get it. This logic is weird to me. It just doesn't make any good sense.

Everybody can see that fat bikes seem to be selling quite well. On One's new entry has surprised them with robust sales. QBP keeps increasing their output of fat bikes and can not seemingly get enough out there every year. Tire and rim choices are limited to.....Surly? 45NRTH? A few, heavyish Vee Rubber offerings? How could having more decent choices be a bad thing? Especially if Specialized, Kona, (who are offering a fat bike), and Trek, (who we all know are not far behind in announcing something here), bring some different, cool options to the table. Oh, and by the way, you can thank Specialized, Trek, and to a smaller degree, the other brands, for SRAM's commitment to fat bikes in crank sets and more.... (Can Shimano be far behind? My feeling is "no".)

So, you can think that fat bikes are passe' all you want to. I'll just keep on ridin' and smilin'

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Monkey Decade

The KM in it's original form
Intro: This year marks the tenth year I have been riding 29"ers. It also is my ten year anniversary of owning my Campstove Green Karate Monkey. There will be several posts throughout the coming months about my story with my KM and what is going to be happening to it now. Here's the first post....
 
March 2003: After reading about "29"ers" for the past three years I had decided that I was going to dive in head first. I needed to fund my little project I had conjured up though, and to do that, I decided to sell the only working mountain bike I owned at the time: A 1996 Bontrager Race with original Bontrager offset crown Rock Shox Judy fork.

It was a hard decision. I loved the Bontrager. It was a dream bike build with the exception of the wheels, but the wheels were kind of cool. The frame was dark, rich purple, and it came with yellow panels with red lettering. It had a genuine Bontrager stem. I had a purple American Classic seat post on it, purple Paul Motolite brakes, a black Race Face 180mm crank set, and those wheels were Cane Creek Chrono wheels with the wild looking hubs. At the time I decided to sell the bike, I had Michelin Wild Gripper tires on it- the green ones!

I was selling it down the road for an unknown. A 29"er, of which I had not actually seen, nor ridden any examples of ever. I had read enough to be convinced of it though, so with not just a little trepidation, I grabbed the $500.00 in cash and watched a fellow load up my prized bike in his truck and drive away. That was in February of 2003. Sadly, only months later the bike was stolen from its new owner and never seen again.

Prototype Karate Monkey from 2002
But I was scheming up a new rig. I first heard about the Karate Monkey when after the 2002 Interbike trade show, the news spilled out on the nascent 29"er scene online that Surly was going to put out a steel hard tail version of the 1 X 1 with big wheels. Then the name came out: Karate Monkey! Are you kidding me? It is still probably the coolest name for a mountain bike ever.  I had to have it based on the name alone.

Fortunately I had worked at my new bike shop position long enough that I was afforded the "employee discount" on the frame and fork purchase, plus the bits and pieces needed to get the thing up and rideable. There was much sweating of details concerning which parts to get, and not only that, but much to think about in terms of which size frame to order. This just about caused me not to get a frame and fork, but I finally made a decision.

The thing was, the way mountain bikes were sized was evolving from when I had gotten my last bike, back in 1996, as you might recall. In 2002, things were shifting to longer top tubes and shorter stems, ala Gary Fisher's "Genesis" geometry, which many companies were adopting. I was kind of torn between an 18" with a slightly longer stem, or the 20" with the then "new school" shorter stem. Keep in mind that to me circa 2002, a "short" stem was anything less than 135mm!

Next Up: The Karate Monkey gets built: The Original Build.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday News And Views

Kona "Wo" fat bike due in August, $1699.00 USD
More Fat:

So I see on Facebook that a Kona dealer is taking pre-orders on a fat bike. A 2014 model they say is going to come out in August dubbed the "Wo". (Apparently a Hawaii 5-0 reference)

The bike will be an aluminum framed rig with "Kona P2 Fat Disc fork, which I would assume is steel. This bike will feature a mid to lower end spec of FSA/Shimano/Tektro and will be a 2X9 set up.

The interesting bit, of course, is who Kona is using for rims and tires. The tire is listed as a "Vee Rubber" 26" X 4.0. The rims are listed as a "Jetset" model. Hubs are JoyTech. It will be a 170mm symmetrical layout. Obviously, this is an entry level, price buster build meant to tap into the first time fat bike riders out there.

So, this just got real. Fat bikes are coming out from mid-level companies, while in the meantime rumors fly left and right concerning Specialized, Trek, and now Raleigh is being mentioned as a possible player in the fat bike market. In fact, the latest rumor is that Specialized is coming out with a three bike line up sporting fatties. Sea Otter, Trek World, and other summer dealer camps will be closely watched. I'm betting the fat bike market place is about to get real, real interesting.

Ladies are welcomed too...
It's Official:

Year three of the Renegade Gents Race 3.0 will see the third appearance of the Team Careless Whispers attacking the gravel in and around the Ankeny-Ames countryside. April 6th is the official date for this rural pillaging. 

I will be joining the same com-padres as I have the previous two years on this metric century, team time trial style gravel adventure. This event can be a good test of a group working together, or you can take it as a fun ride, or anywhere in between.

Cut off date for registering a five person team is April 1st, so if you are thinking about this, get on the stick. I was about the only non-Des Moines rider the first year, but I hear rumors that a couple of teams might be making the trek down from around here. If so, see ya on the roads.If not- you will just be missing out on fun. You probably wouldn't like fun, so there ya go. (<===HA!)

At any rate, Team Careless Whisper is going to be having FUN. We'll ride hard as well. It's always an adventure, and The Renegade Gents Race is one good adventure to go on.

If a Mukluk and a Pugs had a baby...
Moar Fat Bike Stuff!

Genesis, a U.K. based brand,  also introduced a new fat bike recently. It is called a Caribou, and is steel, of course. U.K. and all.

The Caribou is a classy looking steed, I must say. Based on the ethos of the Salsa Mukluk, with braze ons all over, and utilizing the 170mm symmetrical standard spacing on the rear hub, but using the steel tubing. It looks like the crossing of a Mukluk and a Pugsley, and I must say, I like this hybrid's looks.

In the U.K., you'll be able to get this all built up as a 1X drive train set up, or you'll be able to get just the frame and fork. Interestingly, the bike makes use of Surly rims and tires. That's unusual, and probably won't be the case should other brands jump in.

To that end, this post on Fat-Bike.com details the latest Vee Rubber fat bike tire. It is similar to the Surly Knard 26 X 3.8"er in that it features lots of small-ish blocks. The big deal with this new tread is the price, ($85.00 MSRP), and that it is sealant compatible. Yep- a tubeless ready fat bike tire. You knew it would happen!

Okay, that's a wrap. Spring is springing this weekend, even if it is still very snowy out there! Get outside, ride, enjoy!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Four Seasons Of Fat

See any snow here?
Fat bikes are stirring the pot once again. last week it was a piece on the "Wired" site on fat bikes that was.....well, oddly written. I took that one as just the odd write up. No harm, no foul, but you wouldn't know it from the comments section!

However; things like this poll on "adventure journal" are just a bit on the ignorant side. I could maybe forgive the uninformed individual. I have a harder time with a media outlet that should know better. "Snow bike" is just the sort of term that many use to dismiss the fat bike as being anything one could use for anything but winter conditions. It is a misconception, and shows a lack of understanding the history behind over-sized rubber on off road bikes.

Fat bikes grew from the desert and from the Alaskan hinterlands. The earliest fat 26" tires- something similar to the Surly Endomorph- were developed not for snow, but for riding on sand and loose rock in the desert. Alaskans grabbed this idea for use and continued to refine the bicycle that was built around such enormous tires. This all happened in a vacuum- in a manner of speaking- when one considers this was going on before the internet was widely available. The information was not really going beyond those that were pushing the envelope in this tiny niche of cycling.

A modern day Pugsley with a retro look
Of course, the internet did come around, became widely available, and very popular. In conjunction with this, folks were finding all sorts of stuff they never knew about before, and may never have without the "www". One of those things was the fat bike, and Surly Bikes made that idea available on a wider scale when they introduced the Pugsley in the early 00's. But even then, while the idea of a "Pugs" was pretty cool, folks had no idea exactly where to go with that idea beyond Winter. "It came from the snow", and that's where most folks stopped with their imaginings about these "fat bikes". The fact that the tires were used for desert riding at all was so far under the radar no one really even was aware of that fact.

Then there was the price/building barrier. Pugsleys were a "project bike" when they first came about. You bought the frame and fork, a pair of rims, tire, and tubes, all separately. Then you, or someone else, had to assemble the wheels with a special tool, and then you had to piece together the rig with components. While Surly did everything they could to encourage you and make this easy- it wasn't easy. And it wasn't very wallet friendly either.

Meanwhile the folks standing on the sidelines were getting interested, but were not buying in. Obviously, that all changed when Salsa Cycles and Surly released complete bikes with fat tires in late 2010. The curiosity seekers scooped up every last one that these companies could get out, and then the lights started going off across the country in folks heads as many discovered snow wasn't all these bikes were good at.

Carbon, high tech, and lightweight.
 Of course, there were, and still are, naysayers that claim these bikes are too heavy, lack suspension forks, and don't belong on anything but snow. Of course, this is also being challenged by bikes coming out like the Beargrease, a 28.5lb aluminum bike, and next year's Carbon Beargrease, which will weigh an astounding 24.5lbs. Suspension forks are also imminent. Tinkerers already have modded forks and made full suspension rigs. Even the bigger companies are heavily rumored to be developing their own fat bikes.

Does this all sound like an effort to make a lot of bikes that will only be ridden where it snows? Don't these media folk research the market, (which would take all of 15 minutes to do), to see that folks ride these rigs the other three seasons of the year too?

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that a fat bike is "the best tool for the job" when it comes to going hell-bent for leather up a XC climb, and it isn't the rig you'd choose to do a shuttle run, necessarily, but the reason folks are riding these bikes all year, and for more reasons than to get across snow, is that they are fun.

Last time I checked, "fun" was pretty high on most folks lists of things to pursue. So, if a fat bike is fun to ride, why not ride it all year long? Yep. And people do just that. So, this whole idea of saying these are "snow bikes" is just not a smart thing to say. The fat bike can do lots of terrain other bikes struggle in, like loose rock, sand, mud, and powdery soil. They are getting "with the times" technology-wise, and they are most importantly a hoot to ride on. They are definitely not just for riding on snow.

But that said, it is really fun to do that with a fat bike as well!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 4

Skinwalls!
Sunday was the closing day for Frostbike and I awoke at Ben's home to get ready. We then peeled out to his folks place for poached eggs and toast with some fresh coffee on top and then we hit the road northward.

I didn't have a whole lot on the agenda. A few things that I needed to hit up, then I just needed to wait until 2pm for a meeting with a Salsa rep concerning the shop. The pre-order for 2014 was on the agenda. My boss from the shop was supposed to show up for it.

Interestingly, there was a good, long conversation in the Challenge Tire booth with their rep and a person very high up in the chain of command at QBP. The overall feeling I got was that gravel road and fat bike segments were very high in focus and priority with QBP. It doesn't take much to see that is true when you check out some of Q's brands and how they have refocused over the past few years.

Salsa Cycles threw out that Mukluk in late 2010 and when the bike sold out, they brought a three bike line up the following year. 2013 saw the addition of a full on race bike in the Beargrease, and I thought that was pushing the limits. Nope! Now for 2014 we're going to see a high technology, super-fat bike in the Carbon Beargrease. Amazing! Add in those Warbird gravel road racers, the Vaya, and you can see a focus on those categories quite easily.

The new All City Macho Man Disc gravel/cross rig.
Another brand, this one switched up to cover cross and gravel riders, is All City. I remember when that brand was just Jeff Frane and a bunch of fixie-hipster componentry.

All City then branched out to offer urban bashers and fixed gear frame sets. But then one day this single speed cross bike appeared called the Nature Boy. It was touted as a cross rig, which it is, but gravel riders were attracted to it in significant numbers.

Then came the Mr. Pink all-road bike, then the Spacehorse, which really hit the gravel riders as a good rig, and then the geared version of the Nature Boy, the Macho Man appeared. Now when you walk into an All City booth at a show, it's hard to find a fixed gear selection. Sure, they have one hanging on in the line, and a couple of frame sets, but this brand has gone completely in another direction. Gravel and cross. The all new Macho Man Disc will only further that feeling.

So gravel and fat bikes are certainly where the action is at with the Q brands. Foundry, the oddly named carbon bike brand, is all cyclo-cross, for the most part. There is a token 29"er there, but whoop-de-doo. It, (and the other Foundry bikes),  looks like an overpriced refugee from a Chinese manufacturers catalog. Surly? Well certainly they are, (pardon the pun), the odd man out, but with the seminal Cross Check, and two very popular fat bikes, they have their bases covered already. Add in the 29+ Krampus, and you just may have a whole nuther segment created right there. Surly may be "anti-establishment", but they can't be blamed for not being at the front end of most of these niche cycling categories. Cutting edge misfits, those fellers!

Gravel grinding: It's the new black...
Well, I had all those conversations at one point or another during the weekend that I can tell you about. However; there was more. A lot more that I can not speak of......yet. But mark my words here- fat bikes are being fast tracked and what you see now will be prehistoric in terms of tech and performance in three years tops. I know gravel grinding stuff may see the same treatment. Fat bikes will be first though. It's going to be super exciting to see how it all comes down.

After jawing all that time, a guy can work up quite an appetite. Fortunately Jeff Kerkove put a bug in my ear to go to lunch with  him. We caught up on things and had a great time.  For those who haven't been along here for the entire ride, Jeff used to work at the shop with me and was the co-founder of Trans Iowa. Now he's with Ergon, and riding bikes all over the place. We get to see each other very rarely, so it was good to sit down with him.

And that meeting I was supposed to have at 2pm? Well, my boss changed the timing but neglected to inform me of that small detail. So I found out at 2pm that Ben and I could have been gone already, and my wife could have seen all of the Academy Award ceremony, and....... Meh!.......

Communication........it is sort of important. 

So Frostbike came to an end for 2013. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I had a lot of fun. Seeing many people I don't get to see very often, and meeting new folks too was certainly the highlight of the time spent there. Bikes were the added icing on that cake.

Thanks! I wanted to give special shouts out to: Ben and Meg, the Witt family, Mike's Bikes: Mike, Stuart, and Jon- Salsa Cycles: Mike Riemer, Tim K, John Gaddo, Aaron Stehly- QBP: Jason Boucher, Mary, and all the staff- The Vendors: Jeff Kerkove, Morgan Nicol, Chris Clinton, Donn Kelogg, Matt Ruiter, and all the good folks there to show their wares. Friends old and new, and everyone that made the weekend what it was. Thanks!