Saturday, July 10, 2021

A Decade With The Snow Dog

From one of my first rides on The Snow Dog- 1/2011
I was going through some old images this past week and it suddenly dawned on me that I have had the Snow Dog for TEN years now! This is a significant time marker for a couple of reasons and I cannot believe it slipped my mind until July to think of it.

First and foremost, it has to be repeated again: THANK YOU to all who were involved in getting me the 2011 Mukluk I call the Snow Dog for my 50th birthday. That was too kind of you all and I will never forget it.

So, that was the major 'big deal' I forgot and I apologize for letting that slip folks. I shouldn't have done that, but at least it finally dawned upon me now! Many of you readers may not even know what I am talking about here, but for those that were around back then- you know. And to that point, at least in the broader sense, I will detail now why this time marker is a big deal for more folks than just me.

See, up until this particular model was released by Salsa Cycles in late 2010, you could not just buy a complete fat bike. No- you had to piece it together, which was a bit more frustrating pre-2011 than it may seem, because standards for fat bikes pretty much did not exist. There were custom fat bikes and the venerable Pugsley, (which was recently discontinued, by the way), and give Surly some credit- They managed to give the fat bike a base platform for what they have become today. 

Salsa engineers took what the Pugs was and made some advancements with the Mukluk. Probably Salsa's biggest contribution was pushing for the symmetrical rear end and breaking the mold with the offering of a complete bike, ready to go out of the box. These two advancements in fat bike offerings were wildly successful. Trying to get a 2011 Mukluk was tough. They couldn't make them fast enough. And that was the third thing the Salsa Mukluk did- It prompted even more fat bike advancements due to demand in the following three years. By that time fat bike tech was pretty much at its zenith with the additions of 190/197mm spaced rear ends and 150mm spaced front ends with real front brakes instead of the Rear/Rear set ups of old. Many more companies jumped in, and now the fat bike is pretty much a ubiquitous item in many areas of the country and world.

Up until recently this was how the Snow Dog was set up for many of the last several years.

For me, personally, this bike opened up the concept of 'all-year round cycling'. Sure- I had done Winter cycling with mountain bikes. I had the IRC Blizzard studded tires and mucked about trying to ride, but it was very difficult and not a lot of fun. I had been experimenting with wider rims and 2.4" 29"er tires just previous to getting the Mukluk, but was frustrated again by the 'almost' of it working. The Mukluk was the key to unlocking that door.

In fact, it was so fun I gave up my XC skiing habit in a hurry. I quickly found ways to push the Mukluk to its limits and I even did the Triple D Winter event on it in 2013, finishing in my first attempt. I realized very soon into it that I wanted more. Specifically, more flotation and trail breaking capabilities. Back in the early part of the teens of this century, no one around here was grooming trails. You either busted your own, rode snow machine tracks, or bounced through post-holed pedestrian trails. The 3.8" Larrys weren't quite up to the task, and the larger tires which followed did not fit in the limited clearances of the original Mukluk. 

Another image from January 2011. Note the rear hub and wheel.

That all led to my purchase of a 2012 Ti Mukluk, and eventually, a 2014 Blackborrow DS, which got me- finally- where I wanted to be with its 100mm Clownshoe rims and 4.8" tires. But I still hung on to that Mukluk through it all. 

Now I will briefly recap another episode which involves the Snow Dog that left a bad taste in my mouth for the Phil Wood company. As I was planning on purchasing a complete Mukluk, and as I had zero knowledge of the plans of some of my friends to buy me a frame and fork for my 50th, Ben Witt, then of Milltown Cycles, convinced me to buy a set of the then new Phil Wood fat bike hubs. So, I ponied up for those, had them laced to some Rolling Darryl rims, and when I got the surprise I mounted those to my brand spanking new Mukluk. 

Three days afterward the hub failed. Ben worked with me to keep me rolling by loaning me his personal Phil Wood hubbed Mukluk rear wheel. Disabling his own bike for my benefit! I had to ship the wheel, on my dime, to Phil Wood who took a bit over two months to get it back to me, which made me miss the rest of the good Winter riding, as I had to give the borrowed rear wheel back after a bit. Then the really bad part of the story....

The refurbished rear hub failed similarly as the first time within a week of commuting on dry pavement and dirt. I was pretty frustrated, and once again- on my dime- I had to send the wheel back to Phil Wood. I didn't get any word from them, and after a few frustrating emails, I fired off this post as my way of letting off some steam. That was in June of 2011. I didn't get the rear wheel back for another month, this time with a new rear hub. But within a week that hub was popping and snapping too. So, by this time Salsa had their own hubs, I got a pair, re-laced my wheels with the Salsa hubs, and Ben returned the Phil Wood hubs to the Phil Wood company at Interbike that year. That closed THAT chapter of the Snow Dog! And the kicker? Ten years later those Salsa hubs are still rolling......

 And the latest incarnation of the Snow Dog

So, that ol' fat bike and I will likely never be separated, even though I have an awesome Ti Mukluk and the super-capable Blackborrow DS fat bike as well. I just could not let a birthday present like that go, and besides, it is a good, decent bike that I use now for more MTB-like and gravel riding pursuits than I do for the snowy months of the year. So now that name- The Snow Dog- is kind of ironic, because when the snow is down I'm usually on my other fat bikes. 

The future of this bike? Well, by now getting a 135mm spaced front hub with rear brake standard mounting isn't an easy thing to find! So I'll likely try to keep the front and rear hubs going as long as I can. I always wanted a nicer wheel set for this bike, but other things kept getting in the way. Maybe someday I'll find a set of older fat bike hubs and get that done.

But for now, The Snow Dog lives, and I hope to keep it that way to honor friendships and to remember all the adventures of the past ten years. 


Nooge said...

I have one of those first gen Mukluks in white. It’s served me well, but I too decided that I want to be able to run 4.5” - 4.8” tires. Soon the Mukluk will become someone else’s steed.

FarleyBob said...

My first fatbike was the orange 2013 Mukluk. I loved that bike! I wish I still had it!