Saturday, July 29, 2023

Fat Tires On Gravel: From Krampus To Gryphon

 The Experimental Phase - Part 2

 Continuing on with this series concerning my thoughts and experiences with 29+ tires and gravel, today I am going to tell the story behind the other one of two ideas I had to mimic the Mukluk/29+ idea I had seen work so well at Odin's Revenge in 2014. You can go back to read the previous post here

While "B+" was appearing on the scene, and while I was messing with that, I still had this burning idea for the 29+ Mukluk idea I had seen at Odin's Revenge as it was ridden by Mike Johnson. One of the things I learned about Mike's set up was that he had to have a part made to accommodate the larger diameter of the 29+ wheel since that was larger than a 26" X 4.0" tire, which is what the Ti Mukluk was designed for. 

Stuffing the 29+ tires mounted on Velocity Dually's into a first generation Ti Mukluk would not work. The rear tire interfered with the "brake brace" across the seat stays above the tire. So, Mike contacted a friend of his, a fellow Trans Iowa rider and winner of T.I.v7, Dennis Grelk, to machine him some new swinging drop out plates. Dennis obliged him, but figured that if he was going to do one set, he may as well do three. 

By the time I came around two sets had been spoken for and I got my mitts on the third set. As far as I am aware, those were the only "DG Dropouts" ever produced for the Ti Mukluks. While it would have been awesome to have had these be through axle, that wasn't yet a thing when Dennis made these, so they all were quick release style. Dennis essentially had to engineer these bits to be longer and allow the proper clearance at that pesky frame brace to make it all be safe to ride. This raised the bottom bracket just a touch, but not much. That comes into play into the story later.

The 29+ wheel in stock Alternator drop outs set all the way back.

The arrow pointing to the DG Dropout which allowed the 29" wheel to have about an 1 1/2" of clearance at the brake bridge.

That was a critical piece which I needed to have to make this 29+/Muluk idea work. I ended up calling this by Mike's name for his set up: The Muktruk. This was perfect since the idea was really manifested as being worthwhile at a mucky, wet gravel event. 

By the time I got around to doing this idea in 2014, Salsa Cycles had produced a new hubset for fat bikes which required a 150mm, front brake standard fork. Previously the Mukluks had held on to the vestiges of the Pugsley's design for the front fork which utilized a 135mm spaced rear brake standard caliper. So, I had to buy a new fork to use with my new hubs which were purple, of course! 

A set of black anodized Velocity Dually rims were sourced and I built up the wheels, set the Knard tires up on there, and along with the drop outs I had from Dennis, I was able to finally put the MukTruk together in August of 2014.

The MukTruk in all its glory.

I wanted to like this set up. I really, really wanted to. But in the end, that jacked up bottom bracket height was just too much for me to deal with, and the bike just didn't feel right to me anymore. So, one thing led to another, and by October of 2014 I had sold the wheel set I built, sold the tires, and converted the bike back to a fat bike while retaining the DG Drop outs to allow for fatter rubber than I could have put in this bike before. 

So I ended up here. This is how I kept the bike until I sold it several years ago.

29+ was still on my radar. I still had the itch to get a bike with drop bars and a proper geometry for gravel that could be a bikepacking bike or a severe conditions bike. But back in 2014, that didn't exist yet. There were bikes that stoked my fires though. Two of which I actually got the chance to ride in 2014 and both used 29 X 3.0" tires. 

A Borealis fat bike conversion with 29+
MG's 29+ super-rare Singular Rooster with 29+ wheels.

The Borealis fat bike conversion I rode in the Fall of 2014 was revelatory. The geometry was 100% better than the MukTruk's. The bike was a fantastic MTB rig and I got to ride it pretty solidly for over a month before I had to send it back. This was a review bike for the now defunct "Twentynine Inches" site. 

Then I got to test ride Matt Gersib's rare Singular Rooster 29+ bike. I doubt that there are more than a few of these Singular models out there, and it was a blast to get to ride Matt's. (He still has it, by the way) This was another great example to me that a proper 29+ bike could happen. 

And you might be thinking "What about the Deadwood/Fargo with 29+?"

Close, but not quite. The 2016 Salsa Cycles Deadwood.

Salsa Cycles took some inspirations from.....somewhere. I wouldn't claim that I, or Mike Johnson, or maybe some others, had anything to do with what Salsa Cycles came up with, but they were certainly watching what was going on with us gravel/MTB/bikepacker/fat bikers out there. At any rate, in the Summer of 2015, Salsa dropped a bombshell in their Deadwood, a bike that clearly came from the Fargo and which was stuffed with 29+ wheels and covered in a fantastic copper-colored paint scheme. 

I got to see one close up, and well..... There wasn't a whole lot of tire clearance. The geometry of the bike was pointing toward a pretty tall bottom bracket, and after having seen what some folks did with Deadwoods, namely put on much smaller diameter wheels with much skinnier tires, I was validated in those suspicions. The Fargo with the claim of multiple sized wheel capabilities came out next, but stories of minimal clearances with 29+ and high bottom brackets kept me at bay. This was not "that bike" that I was looking for either. Close, but not quite. 

Meanwhile, in 2015, I struck upon a pretty good set up. Driven by injury and a desire to try the fat tires on gravel, a bike emerged from my stable and made 2015 one of my best gravel riding seasons ever. 

Next: A Brief Look At The Fat Fargo 


Derek said...

Reading about your Borealis conversion to 29×3.0 inspired me to do the same. It rides really great on singletrack, but on rough gravel there is no equal. Just rolls and rolls. The 190mm rear end and wide bb aren't ideal for gravel, but you don't notice it after awhile. I'm surprised more people don't ride 29+.

MG said...

That Singular Rooster just might be the best flat bar singlespeed ever, in my book at least.

Cheers, Brother!!

Guitar Ted said...

@Derek - I was so impressed by that Borealis as a mountain bike that I almost bought it. It was one of those rare occasions where the conversion was better than the intended design, in my opinion.

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - I am really glad that you still have that one. It was a bike I was very envious of then and I still probably am now, to be honest!

Derek said...

Hmmm I would have to think about that, as a Yampa with Bud and Lou tubeless is also pretty eye-opening on singletrack.