Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blackborow DS: How To Change Gears & More

My new Blackborow DS size Large.
Today I wanted to answer a question I received yesterday concerning how one changes gears on a Blackborow DS. Obviously, there are no shifters and it must be done manually. I will show how it's done in some images and with words. Then I'll have a bit more to say about my impressions concerning the bike.

The Blackborow DS was ridden in the "high" ratio set of gears today, so I will demonstrate here a switch to "low range". It takes all of about three to four minutes to accomplish a gear change. You do not need any special tools and I would recommend a rag to clean your hands since the chain will likely be greasy when you do this, although mine is pretty good looking yet since it is so new!

By the way, you shouldn't, (and cannot), cross chain the bike. I also will add that the rear hub has a full range free hub body, so if you should decide after getting a DS that you have to have gears, all you need are the parts plus a through axle, driveside, derailleur compatible Alternator plate. The cable stops are all there to run the cable to the rear derailleur should you decide to add that dangly bit. Okay, enough about all of that. Now I will get into how to change the gears here.

A closer look at the cogs and drop out. This is the side the axle screws in to. 
Here's the Maxle lever which you flip open like a normal QR, but then you use it like a wing nut and unscrew it.....

....until you can start to pull the axle clear of the wheel/hub. Leave the bike on the ground at this point. 
Then lift the rear of the bike straight up. This allows for some chain slack. See below for further instructions.
  • Once the rear of the bike is up and you have created some chain slack, reach down with your hand and starting with the rear cog, grab the chain at the top of the cog, lift and move it over to the next cog. In my case, the inner one.
  • This next step is crucial to an easy, smooth gear change. Reach down to the bottom run of the chain near the crank set and guide the chain onto the chain ring of choice, (in my case, the inner one), and push the chain "backwards", as if back pedaling, since the crank and cogs will free wheel backward while the wheels remain static. Make sure the pedals are free to rotate! Guide the chain carefully from the bottom up around to the top until it is on the chain ring.'re still holding the bike up, by the way. 
  • Once the chain is on the set of gears you want, gently lower the rear of the bike, making sure the rotor passes between the pads in the caliper. Line up the hub and the inner drop out "hoods" and then set the weight of the bike on the hub end caps. Replace the Maxle, screwing it into the drive side drop out snugly, but don't reef on it! Then close the lever. That's it!

The gears swapped and the wheel sitting on the hub end caps before reinstalling the Maxle. 
More Impressions: 

The Blackborow DS was ridden to work in "high" range and that makes a speed sufficient for brisk travel. It can be a chore in fluffy, slushy snow though, and going up longer inclines can get a bit wearisome. I'd say anyone used to a stout gear for mtb should be okay with it. My commute, about 4 miles or so, is mostly uphill and if there is any amount of fresh snow or a stiff wind, I'll probably be dumping it back into the low range. The high range was a chore yesterday, but it should make me stronger if I can get used to it. 

The wheel base feels shorter, but I'll have to confirm that. I feel that it is the reason it is really easy to pop a wheelie or loft the front end of this bike. Stand over is definitely what Salsa says, "the best of any" of their fat bikes. That's by at least an inch over the Beargrease and Mukluk. (Large vs Large sizes)

This is my first time on Clown Shoe rims with any of the bigger tires. I noted that this combination is "flatter" crowned than what I have seen with Surly tires. My titanium Mukluk has a Bud on a Rolling Darryl and is noticeably rounder in profile. This flatter profile manifests itself in a bit of self-steer at lower pressures and at similar pressures to the Bud/RD combo, the Clown Shoe/Lou combo is always a bit more prone to the self-steering feel. I'm okay with that with this bike since I got it for the maximum flotation of its tires and rims. It is also worth noting that the barely 4 inch wide Sterlings (made by Vee Tire) have far worse self-steer feelings at these same pressures than do the Clown Shoe/Lou combo. So, it isn't bad with the Blackborow DS, but it is there.

More on this bike later.....


Iowagriz said...

Thanks Mark.

Have a great Turkey day!


adin said...

Thanks for the write. I'm looking to get a Blackborow (first fattie). As a SS only mtb rider, the DS is tempting. However the geared option seems to give so much more flexibility as to how and where this bike can be ridden. I'll be doing some longer snowmobile trail rides that will take me through varying conditions through elevation changes- just seems that traction and efficiency will benefit from gears. You think you'll put gears on, or keep it dingle ?

Guitar Ted said...

@adin: For my riding here, I think it will remain a dingle. I won't know for sure until or if we get some deeper snow to check out how the bike does in deeper, loose conditions.