Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

It's Labor Day in the States, so this marks our traditional "end of Summer" ritual here.

I hope everyone is having a safe, fun, and exciting last day of a three day weekend. Tomorrow it is back to the grind and the long slide into Fall and Winter begins for us. Now that may sound depressing, but actually, some of the best mountain biking times I've had were in fall, and Winter? Well, that used to be a bummer, but now there are fat bikes!

Speaking of those, I will be looking forward to getting on that Blackborow DS this late Fall or early Winter and making some big, fat tracks across the Cedar Valley. Until then, I will be tweaking out some things on the Snow Dog and riding the MukTruk, of course!

And in semi-fat news, wait till you see what I was busy working on this weekend......

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mud, Snakes, And Sand

The longest mud/water hole, but certainly not the only one on my ride.
It rained quite a bit here on Friday, so I knew that any off roading would be done on the fat bike and that in the Green Belt, since I didn't want to tear up anybody's trail work. The Green Belt doesn't care, and the trail work, (if you can call what the Parks Department does in there "trail work") is basically trail work by barbarism. They essentially run an end loader through the woods and scrape and push anything that gets in the way out of the path. It's ruined what once was a winding single track path through there. Most folks that have been riding the Green Belt for only the past five years wouldn't know any better, but 20 years ago it was a much different ride through the woods on true single track. No more.......

I guess I should be happy I can ride through it at all, but I also feel that this could be a much more inviting trail than what it has been made into now. Obviously, it is much easier and cheaper to just run the end loader through, and anything else would cost more labor and expense in equipment for a city already strapped for cash. It is what it is.

Anyway, the ride..... I used the Snow Dog for mud duty. Does that make it the Mud Dog? I probably could have made an excellent case for the name change yesterday. Mud was slinging up into the air like cow dung off a manure spreader. (Non-farming types won't get that one, will they?) So much sticky black earth and sand. Good thing the drive train parts on the Snow dog are mostly worn out! If they had been newish I wouldn't have been too stoked about what they went through yesterday. It was particularly nasty there for much of the mid-section of my ride.

We got yer sand right here!

One of two snakes seen on the ride.
A bewildered fawn. It didn't quite know what to make of me after I stared down its mother. 
Winding path through a young woodland area. 
A border between some older woods and a mature prairie that could stand a burn. 
Checking out a bandit trail. It dead ended right before the lake.
The plan was to hit up most every trail on the Green Belt. The main trail hugs the Black Hawk Creek, but if you know where to turn off, there are a few diversions that the City has deigned to plow through with its big implement so we can all get through there. I wasn't on a quest to ride absolutely everything, although I probably rode 80% of it all, but as it was, it took about 2.5 hours. Granted, on a fat bike and going at a slower, measured pace due to much sand and mud, so on a good day with a 29"er, I probably could have ridden everything in 2.5 hours.

Going off on a rabbit chase down a dead end bandit trail didn't help, but a little bushwhacking is never a bad idea. In fact, I ran across three deer- two does and a fawn- that I had one of my "stare down" contests with. I'll explain.....

Many times when I see a deer I will stop and freeze. I won't move a muscle. Deer have a hard time actually seeing you if you do not move at all. They can still smell you, and they can see something, I think, but they cannot figure you out if you do not move. It kind of drives them nuts after a few minutes. One of the does today, for instance, started stamping, and then snorting. The other one, which seemed less agitated and was moving a bit more calmly, snorted and made an awful noise at one point. A vocalization of some sort. Finally, after at least 10 minutes, (and this whole time I am standing dead still), the two does figure that they cannot stick around anymore and the bolt off. Meanwhile, as the stare down was in progress, a fawn emerged. Being a young one, it wasn't versed in the deer ways, I suppose, since it stood there and watched me from a distance. When the two does left, it stood there blinking at me. I started moving and reached for my camera, but the fawn didn't scare off, and in fact, I had to wait a good five minutes more for it to finally saunter off in search of its mother.

Flowers on Black Hawk Creek
Bushwhacking near the end of the Green Belt just North of Hudson, Iowa.
A perfect day for a bicycle ride.
After the deer encounter I saw another red fox scampering into a fence row, (I had seen one straight away at the beginning of my ride as well), and I saw another young doe. Two grass snakes as well, sunning themselves out on the trail in two different locations. A banner day for wildlife in the Green Belt. Usually I don't see much of anything but an occasional deer in this area. That was fun to have experienced. I suppose the fact that there had been no other human traffic out before myself after the rains didn't hurt that from happening at all!

The Snow Dog's poor drive train bits were getting hammered, and by mid-ride I had to be careful not to put too much pressure on the pedals or I could get the chain ring to skip. So it was "spin-spin-spin" and keep the momentum up as much as possible. Fortunately the back third of the ride was not so sticky-gooey and the drive train behaved itself for the most part. That said, I have to switch out parts now. It will make cleaning the bike up easier with all the bits pulled off it. I have need to look at the bright side!

It was an excellent day out and I got in some great, steady miles on the fat bike. This will be good for getting me back up to speed on fitness and working up to being back on the game for Triple D in January. Yes......I believe I'll be pulling the trigger on that again. More on that in the coming months. But until then, I have some work to do if I am going to get back in shape again. Plus I have the Geezer Ride and Trans Iowa V11 to get figured out. Much to be done, and the year is running out. But all that aside, I had a great day on my first fat bike. I still really like that thing even though it isn't all the "latest and greatest" stuff, or some whiz-bang frame design in carbon fiber.  I'll just upgrade that thing and keep on truckin'.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

MRP Fat Fork vs On One Fatty Fork- Part 2

Part 1 can be seen HERE

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned..... And: Both forks mentioned were purchased with my own money. I am not being bribed, nor paid for this post. 

On One Fatty Fork on The Snow Dog
Okay, so as promised, here are my riding impressions on these fat bike forks suitable for 1 1/8th steer tube fat bikes with 470-ish millimeter axle to crown lengths.

On One Fatty Fork: 

This fork not only transferred over to the Mukluk with ease, it feels much like the Enabler fork it replaced in terms of handling. If you love your Muk's handling, this fork is the one to get.

It feels maybe a bit less harsh than the Enabler. I sometimes think it is smoother, then other times I think it is very similar. I can see the lower third of the fork legs really working over small chatter, so it is doing something. In terms of being "wowed" by carbon fiber? I don't see that here in terms of feel.

Obviously in the weight department this fork has a bigger impact, (no pun intended), on the overall feel of the Snow Dog. At approximately half the weight of an Enabler, the inertia in steering, making quick maneuvers, and in lofting the front end are all different feeling now. I don't know how that will also affect soft conditions handling because we haven't had much opportunity for that this Summer. The jury is still out there.

Tire clearance is obviously copious with 3.8" - 4.0" tires. I have stuck a 4.7" tire in here and if it had significant side knobs, I would be pushing the limits. This is with a Rolling Darryl, by the way, which is not pictured here. 100mm rims and Bud tires? A tight squeeze, most likely.

The MRP Fat Fork on the MukTruk
MRP Fat Fork:

So an aluminum fork? You've all heard the byline on aluminum a million times: Harsh, rigid, stiff, and unforgiving, right? Well, the MRP fork acts like aluminum really is, and that is flexible and not super rigid. It is a surprisingly smooth fork.

The Fat Fork hasn't been ridden with fat tires, just the 29+ wheels I have, so far. At some point I will be getting something built up that supports proper fat bike tires and rims, but till then, keep in mind this impression is with the 29+ set up.

That said, I feel that the higher pressures I have used with the 29+ Knards and the lower volume overall of those tires versus fat bike tires should ride slightly harsher than a full on fat biking set up. I can only guess now- but my opinion is that on a fat bike, this MRP Fat Fork would feel awesome.

The weight isn't terrible, but it doesn't approach the feathery weights that many of the carbon forks are coming out at. Still, it is metal, rides super smoothly, and should be an easy fork to live with in the rough stuff. Tire clearances look on par with Salsa Cycles Bearpaw Aluminum fork, so this should swallow a Bud on a Clownshoe easily. The trail figure that this fork will make your fat bike have will mean slower, more sluggish handling in drier conditions, but slow speed stability should be tops.

Conclusions: If you want to simply make a swap, ditch a lot of weight, don't mind futzing with carbon steer tube plugs, and won't miss triple boss mounts on your fork, get the Fatty fork from One One. It is cheap, but light, and seems durable. Yes....it would seem to break Keith Bontrager's Law. However; if you have an aversion to anything structural on your bike being anything but metal, love stability, and don't mind not being the cool kid at the trail head, get the MRP Fat Fork.

Obviously both of these forks don't support the all out adventure ethos that the Enabler fork espoused, so maybe you'd better hang on to that chunk of steel, just in case. But both of these forks will improve any early model Mukluk and provide you with certain benefits that an Enabler fork doesn't have. I can recommend both for different reasons.

Hope this was useful.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday News And Views

So....When Does Registration Happen? 

Okay folks......remember when I said I didn't want to get a bunch of you pinging me about registration Have you bothered to actually read the Trans Iowa site's "Details & Registration" page?

Many of you have, but guess what? Some of you have not. Some say that getting in to Trans Iowa is as hard as the event itself.......really? Try reading and following directions folks. It isn't all that hard. Maybe I expect too much........

Sorry about the mini-rant. Now on to a bit of TIMP news, and the very last attempt which will be starting this Saturday at 9:00am. For all the SPOT tracking fun you can stand, go HERE. Greg Gleason, the T.I.V10 champ, is gunning for a sub-24 finish of the 380 mile course. Can he do it? Will the weather allow for it? Keep clicking the link to see!

Yep! I got a B+.
Plus Sized Madness:

 The B+ thing I've been talking about? I will be testing it out to see if there really is anything to it here soon. I have some ideas that I think would be great for such a concept, but the B+ thing needs to "measure up" to expectations first.

The components to make the experiment happen showed up this week. I'll be using some of my own hubs, Chris Kings, and lacing them up to these Velocity Blunt 35's and there will also be another wheel set in the makings to try these out on as well.

The idea of B+ is that you could have a voluminous tire, (2.8"er), that would fit into a 29"er frame to allow for a "mid-fat" experience without having to buy anything but wheels and tires. My take on it is that this might be a great idea for a fully rigid chassis that might work well comfort-wise as a bikepacking platform, or as a rigid single speed bike with give. We'll see soon enough.....

The "madness" is all this wheel size nonsense. It's confusing and isn't really well understood. I was chatting with my boss yesterday and we thought it would make more sense if rim size and tire sizes were kept totally separated. For instance, if this were the case, all mention of "29"er", 27.5, B+, 650B, 29+, or "fat bike" would all go away. Here's how we see it.....

You take the ISO rim size- for instance, 584. This describes the diameter, then you add rim width, say inner rim width, since that's all that really matters with disc wheels and tubeless set ups. That gets you everything you need to know for dimensions on a rim. You'd have a 584/25mm, let's say. Then take the tire and use the ISO diameter again- (584 in our example)- so you simply matchy-match those tire numbers with rim numbers. Then you add in the overall width of the casing, (which most of the time is an approximation anyway), and then you know if said tire is a match for said rim. So 584 X 52mm, let's say. Manufacturers could simply say a bike is set up with 584's, or 622's. It'd be pretty obvious if it were a mountain bike or road bike, I think. And make everything be measured in millimeters!

I know......it's a pipe dream.

Rather Tamland-like
Another Gravel Bike:

Many long time readers know about the Tamland by Raleigh from my posts here about that bike. (If you don't, this post explains it all) The ideas behind the Tamland were also put to work on a U.K. Raleigh offering, and will appear in aluminum for 2015 as the Raleigh "Willard" model. Raleigh is owned by Accell Group, and they have several brands. So it wasn't that big of a surprise when I came across another rig that seemingly is in the Tamland's genetic pool, if you will.

It is in the Torker line for 2015 and the model is the "EM 50", which sounds like a farm implement model designation or something. Anyway....it is looking like a good budget entry into a bike that was designed for gravel riding and exploratory back road shenanigans. MSRP is $1250.00 and it is equipped with a Sora gruppo and disc brakes.

Another Gravel Tire:

The Panaracer "Gravel King 32" (courtesy of Panaracer's Facebook feed)
 Last year Panaracer introduced the pretentiously named "Gravel King" tires and rolled out a 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm size range.......for gravel? Really?!!

I am sure that almost all the guys and gals that ride gravel that I have met at Trans Iowa or elsewhere would not even consider a 28mm tire and certainly not a 23mm tire as being king of anything but pinch flats, but there ya go. A company jumping on a perceived trend and missing the bulk of the market altogether.

Well, now it seems that the "Gravel King" has crept on to the radar screen for gravel riders since Panaracer has announced a 32mm wide version of this tire which is minimum width, as far as I am concerned, for any reliable gravel going tire. It's got kind of an odd tread pattern, but who knows......it might just work. I've ridden Panaracer Pasela tires on gravel and Bruce Gordon Rock & Road tires, (made by Panaracer) before and they are decent enough tires, so I would expect similar results at minimum for wear and ride feel. I just wish Panaracer would have paid attention to the 32mm to 42mm range, which is where the king should have its realm, ya know?

Okay folks, it is the last weekend of Summer! Labor Day weekend here and most of us have a three day hootenanny to look forward to. Get yer bike on and keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Last Of The Summer Singletrack Rides

The tell-tale signs of Fall's arrival are evident.
Green. That's all you see in Summer on our single track here in the Mid-West. The single track being the only deviance from the otherwise monochrome cladding of the woods and forest floor during the high Summer months. The days are growing shorter though, and the rains aren't as frequent. The late Summer dry spell has come and went, and now the early signs of Fall's arrival are becoming evident in the woodlands.

Dead leaves. The yellow-brown hues of the leaves that have fallen are in stark contrast with the overarching greenness of the woods. That balance of color will be shifting now at a much more rapid pace. The singletrack will get increasingly harder to see at times. The crunch of leaves under tires will replace the rumble of rubber on dirt. The humid, thick air will be getting taken over by crisp, dry, cool air that will have me reaching for the wool stuff in the clothing pile again. I am ready.

But it isn't Fall yet, and the humidity still says it is Summer. Just not for much longer. I went up to Ingawanis Woodlands for a single track ride on the Singular Buzzard with the MRP Stage fork on the front of it. Although the Buzzard is probably thought of as more of a severe terrain, mountain going sled, I have found that it can scoot along just fine- thank you very much- around the twisty-turny single track and that it gets up the short, punchy climbs without any fuss as well. Recent rains had made the dirt tacky, and the wide, aggressive On One Chunky Monkey and Smorgasbord tires were digging right in. That's good and helped along by the Velocity Dually rims, no doubt. I love the wheels and tires on this bike. Yes.......they are tubeless. I've never run tubes with this set up and never would consider it.

The ride started out fast and furious with the near perfect traction and zippy handling of the Buzzard motivating me to keep pedaling. Then I ran into another sign of Fall- nettles! They are hanging out there waiting to snag you, your clothes, and anything those little ultra-Velcro-like seeds can get their tentacles into. Bah!

The Buzzard (and I) taking a break in the action.
The bees were busy gathering before Winter comes.
Kind of hard to see here, but there was a Bald Eagle flying up the river, which I tried to capture with my camera.
 After zipping along a bit post nettles extraction, I decided I needed to stop and see if the Eagles were out and about. I cruised on over to the bottoms, where the trail draws nearest to the Cedar River, dismounted, and walked about 30 yards to the shore where I found a nice bit of late Summer flowers and a great perch of dead wood from a fallen tree branch to sit on. Okay, why not? I stayed about 15-20 minutes, just watching Nature.

The bees were busy. Different kinds of bees too. It is a good thing to see that. It reminded me that the season is getting on and gathering and storing that the creatures are doing now is for the coming cold. I looked out over the calm Cedar River as it flowed downstream, and suddenly a Bald Eagle was spotted, flying upstream, lower than the tree tops, and I tried to get a shot of it.

I sat there a while longer, admiring the flowers, and then I decided I'd better get a move on. I also decided that I was going to enjoy the rest of the ride more. Not going hell bent for leather. While that is fun, and I like to rip some single track, I also enjoy the times that I get to slow down and relax in Nature. There are all kinds of things vying for our attention these days, but there simply are not enough times to slow the heck down and take in some quiet time. I decided that yesterday's ride was "that time" to take it down a notch. It wasn't like I was lollygagging along, but I didn't bury my head down into the stem and gas it every inch of the way either.

It was a fine morning ride, and I couldn't have asked for a better day, trail conditions, or bike. Everything just clicked into place, and when it was all done, I packed up the bike stuff, threw on my street shoes, and started the drive home. I was satisfied with the ride for sure, but then I got a phone call that made me excited about the future.

Fall is coming and change is part of the cycle of life. There will be more things changing than just the seasons around here though, and as far as I am concerned, it is for the better. In fact, I bet there are things I don't even know about yet that will be adding themselves to the list of changes coming up. I can feel it. Like a cool, crisp breeze in the tail end of Summer.

I cannot say exactly what is coming yet, but as time goes on, more details will work themselves out, more ideas, more discussions, and more plans will be laid. I am stoked to move into this new thing, and also- I am stoked to see Fall coming on. It's the best time to be out in the woods on a bicycle, ya know?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MRP Fat Fork vs On One Fatty Fork

The One One Carbon Fatty Fork
If you own one of the "first wave" fat bikes that have only an 1 1/8th compatible head tube, like I do, your fork options besides the stock fork that came with your rig, are limited. If you were like me, it was hard to find any good information on such forks, because most folks are all buzzing about "the next shiny object" and not some antiquated 1 1/8th steer tube fat bike fork option. Hopefully this will help correct that for someone out there......

So, before I get any further, here's my standard disclaimer, with an addendum...

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned..... And: Both forks mentioned were purchased with my own money. I am not being bribed, nor paid for this post. 

(sigh!)...Okay then, with that outta the way, here's the way I see these choices for your fat bike. First up, the On One Carbon Fatty. This fork is, as the name implies, carbon fiber and surprisingly enough, so is the steer tube. It comes in black or white and has some ridiculous clear coated graphics. Price from On One direct is $248.46, give or take a bit depending upon currency exchange rates. 


Specs:
  • 470mm Axle To Crown length
  • 55mm offset
  • 590 grams cut to fit a Large Mukluk
  • Rear Standard Brake Mount
  • 10mm QR axle only
  • 135mm OD
Notes: The Fatty fork is pretty much a direct replacement for an Enabler fork. Similar axle to crown length, offset, and brake mounting standards mean you just install the fork, swap over the brake and stem, and you are ready to ride. Well, that is if you have a carbon steer tube plug to take the place of a star nut, which cannot be used "no how-no way" on a carbon steer tube. (Or at least, it shouldn't be.) The Carbon Fatty does have a bit of a protruding "shelf" at the crown race seat, but this is so it matches up with the larger bottom part of On One's fat bike head tube. Mukluk owners will have to just put up with the eyesore. Note: You could use this on a fat bike with a tapered steer tube fork by replacing the lower head set with an 1 1/8th compatible reducer. This means the fork will swap over to your next fat bike too.


MRP's Fat Fork
The next contender is MRP's Fat Fork which is quite a bit different than the On One fork and has more options available. The MRP fork is the evolution of the White Brother's SnoPack fork. With the change in name of the company, the fork was dubbed the "Fat Fork" going forward. This fork is available in aluminum or aluminum crown, steer tube, and drop outs with carbon fiber legs. Both versions have 34mm diameter legs. The fork is also offered in two axle to crown lengths, and one would work with Pugsleys at 450mm. MSRP is $449.00 for the carbon legged versions and $339.00 for the all-alloy ones. 

Specs:
  • 468mm Axle to Crown length
  • 43mm Offset
  • 990 grams cut with star nut (Carbon is 910gm uncut)
  • Front Standard, post style brake mount
  • QR axle only
  • 135mm OD
Notes: The Fat Fork transfers over well to a Mukluk, but the fly in this ointment will be the front brake standard that MRP uses. While I have seen a creative kludge to adapt a rear standard brake mount front hub to a front brake standard fork, it isn't easy, and it isn't commercially available. Most will be best served by swapping over to a more "modern" front standard hub. Yes.....a new wheel build. But look.....everything going forward is front brake standard, so why not? The other thing of note is the offset, which is shorter. This means more stability. Well......theoretically it does, and it probably will in practice. What does this mean for you? A "slower" handling bike. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not. I like it for softer conditions. Note: This fork would also be swappable to another fat bike regardless of headset/head tube sizing with the correct head set. Front brake standard hubs are plentiful now as well. 

Comparisons: The On One fork seems to win on paper with its direct swap-ability, lighter weight, and lesser price. However; that is tempered somewhat since your hub choices are limited going forward and you need to deal with a carbon compatible pre-load plug to adjust your head set. (These can be a bit frustrating depending on the style, plus they cost more than star nuts do.) The MRP fork doesn't have hose guides, which is unforgivable in 2014. Both forks do not have any provisions for bottle cages or Anything Cages, which may be a negative for you. The MRP's price is 100 bucks more, and that's hard to swallow, but it does get you into the modern world when it comes to hub/brake standards, and it isn't carbon, which for some folks is all they will need to know to choose it. 

Okay, so how do they ride?  See Part 2 HERE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MukTruk Update

Handles sand okay.
The MukTruk has been ridden pretty extensively since I got it together about two weeks ago now. Here's a bit of an impression of what it is like to swap fat bike wheels out for the "plus sized shoes" that I have on my Mukluk now.

It Is Not A Fat Bike:

While three inch wide tires can do a lot, they don't have quite the float of 3.8"ers or wider. Sand traps, while eminently more "doable" than on a 29"er, are still a chore on 29+ tires, while your fat bike would simply laugh and roll on. Still, your traction and roll over are tremendous with 29+. Definitely a "plus" over any 29"er set up and better in many ways than a fat bike set up.

You also have a lighter weight than a full on fat bike set up, and less rolling resistance with a better turn in than fat bikes have. If you can live without the flotation factor, this set up really rules.

Higher Bottom Bracket: Probably the biggest negative here is the higher bottom bracket, which makes dismounting and mounting a chore. If your fat bike has a dropper post, or can take one, get one if you go 29+. It will definitely enhance the ability to get going again off road, not to mention getting down steep stuff will be easier. I'd say the 29+ set up on the Ti Muk sent the BB height up at least by an inch, although I haven't actually measured the difference.

Smoove: The combination of a slightly bigger diameter wheel, tubeless, lower pressure tires, and the titanium frame, seat post, and aluminum MRP fork all add up to a much smoother ride than this bike ever had before. I sometimes forget to unweight the saddle when I hit sharper bumps since this set up simply erases small chatter. The fork has been particularly revealing in this manner.

So far I am really liking this set up. Of course, when Winter comes in, I will be swapping out wheels to fat bike wheels and tires again. The plan is to swap wheels with the boy's bike which has Rolling Darryls and to not use a front brake in Winter, since the fork and hub are not compatible. Until then, this bike will be getting the call a lot in the coming months for more adventures and for just cruising around.