Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sub-Zero Commuting Fun

Breaking trail
It looked like about 4 inches when I was shoveling it, but the weatherman says we got about 4.8" of fresh, fluffy snow on Monday evening. Time to bust out the snow Dog v2 and try out those Lou tires on 100mm rims. I had shoveled late Monday evening so I wouldn't be all tuckered out from doing that Tuesday morning. That worked out well, and everything was a go, although it was about -11°F when I left the house. That called for pogies, layers, the goggles, and patience when it came to being a bit restricted in movement.

I started out with the Blackborow DS in "high" range, which was okay at first. However; when I had to break my own trail. I was shown that the low range would probably save my heart rate from going sky high. I figured it was about time to practice my "sub-zero gear change" anyway. What better time than the present? I dismounted and all went rather well until my rear brake caliper kept fouling on the rotor. An extra minute or so there sorting that out, but otherwise a successful change and even with heavy mittens on! Now on to a long stretch of snow covered bike trail.

The Blackborow DS with the big, wide tires and rims is a completely different experience than the Mukluks I have had are. Where the Mukluks seemed to be a chore to keep the front wheel underneath you and tracking straight, the Blackie just meanders a bit maybe, but mostly tracks true and the front tire sticks better as well. I have to really foul up in a turn or with body "english" to have the front tire wash out.

Big ATV pogies look like floppy elephant ears!
Another area that showed me something new and pleasing was on the climb through deeper snow by the water tower on University Avenue. The rear tire was just digging! That Lou has an amazing amount of traction. Coupled with the very stable front end, you are only limited by what your legs and lungs can do. And let me tell you what! My "max heart rate" was achieved there. I had to stop just to get it back together at the top of the hill. So even though I cleaned the tough part, my motor was tapped out at the end of that section!

The final thing that impressed me was the way the Blackborow DS went up, over, and through snow piles. Urban snow hi-jinx will be much more fun on the Blackborow. That short wheel base allows for an easily popped up front, and it also lets you make subtle weight shifts which needed to be much more dramatic on the Mukluks. The end result is that along with the front end, traction, and stability, this bike is a big advancement on what I was running before. I will say that I haven't been beaten yet by the limited gearing, unless you count the water tower hill climb, but that could rear its ugly head at some point. Maybe the big tires with their flotation and the Lou's massive traction will get me out of trouble that way. Hard to tell at this point. I do know that if things tilt upward for too long I'm going to feel the limitations of the stock "low range" gear set up. Then again- maybe I should just "sack up" and get stronger! There is that to consider as well.

Another plus on the sheet for the Blackborow DS. I'll be putting this through more snow rides, hopefully, and after that I will write up my final verdict on this bike.


Bob said...

Looks like you're having fun with Snow Dog v2!

Do any of its components need "winterizing" to work properly in sub-zero temperatures?

Guitar Ted said...

@Robert Jones: I was actually paying attention to this as I rode it that day. My answer would be that, no- you won't need to do anything outside of normal maintenance on the bike to ride at sub-zero temperatures. The geared bike may be different, I speak only to the DS model here.

Everything spun freely, worked as advertised, and seemed normal as though it were warmer.

Bob said...

Thanks, GT, for the feedback. I have the geared Blackborow 1 and am in the process of tailoring it for my needs.

Coming from a 2011 Mukluk the first thing I noticed about the new bike - after getting over the sight of the twin Lou's on 100mm rims - was its incredible combination of nimbleness and traction, quite a step up from the Muk. I'm starting to believe it truly is a go anywhere bike.

So far I've replaced the handlebar with a Jones 710mm Bend H-Bar and the Bearpaw fork with a Bluto. I've also studded both Lous with Grip Studs since we get a lot of ice here on the coast.

I may replace the Lou up front with a Bud, but before making that decision will compete in a few races and see how well my heart, lungs, and legs hold up!

Hook said...

I'm glad the Blackborow DS seems to be working great so far. I have a couple questions: First, do the pogies make signalling turns more bothersome (like, do they flop around when you pull a hand out, making re-entry tricky, etc)? Second, what are your thoughts on Salsa's decision to run Lous front and rear, when the Bud exists as a purpose built front tire? They seem to be working for you... maybe the answer is as simple as that?
Any answers would be great. Keep up the good work, and happy 2015!

Guitar Ted said...

@Hook: The pogies I am using are a kludge, (but that said- they were a birthday gift from my kids, so- ya know.....gotta use those!), and "real" pogies, like the Bar mitts or 45NRTH are no issues to get into and out of. mine not so much, but they were meant for ATV's, so there ya go.

The Lou/Lou combo was a big head scratcher when I saw the spec as well, but so far, I( don't have any inclination to move a Bud up front, and I even traded for one in anticipation of wanting to do that.