Carbon Lust

Guru Carbon frame being built:

Or if you’re a Trek fan:

[Road Bike Review Cynic]“Look at that.  A whole Trek video and nothing asploded.”  [/Road Bike Review Cynic]

I love my carbon Ridley Noah.  Love it.  Love the way it rides.  But I think I’d have a hard time being comfortable on a full carbon mountain bike…although that’s what I used to say about carbon bars and seatpost before the School of Spearfish escapade.

Either way…pretty cool to watch how they’re built.

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Sickness, Illness, Disease. (Bike Fever)

I know some can relate to this tale.

Sickness:  “Man, I haven’t been to this bike shop in ages.  I’m driving past and have a minute, I should just walk through.”

Illness:  “Is that a Thomson Masterpiece seatpost in the bargain bin?”

Disease:  “27.2 x 350.  That’d be perfect for my Big Dummy.”

When you start rationalizing superior design and weight savings for the seatpost on a heavy, steel cargo bike, you know it’s a disease.  (No, honey.  I didn’t buy it.)

Little less talk. Lot more action.

This will be a ‘man of few words’ post, today.

Mukluk.  Forest Preserve + farm fields + creek bed.  A couple inches of hard, crusty snow, hiding under 2″ of fresh powder.

Obligatory poser shot:

Big Fat Larrys, at about 5psi, mush through the powder, down to the packed base.

Today was a day that a more aggressive tire would have likely shredded the solid base.

The Porcelain Rocket booster rocket seat pack put to good use (food + jacket + spare tube + pump + tools + extra hand warmers)

Show was a bit thinner in forested areas.

Sun broke through, for some warming rays…

Does this count as a scenic vista?  In Illinois, yes.

A dirty Mukluk is a happy Mukluk.

Actually rolling on about 6″ of packed drift snow here.

Waaaaaay off in the distance is Hand of Midas, who discovered that 6″ of drift snow will not support an adult male on 2.25″ tires.

2.25″ tires are also not so great for climbing snowy hills.

But BFLs work just fine.

Shimano MW-81 Winter Cycling Shoe Update

The original review of the MW81s is here.

This is an update.  Since the original review, I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the MW81s, in varied conditions, and I’ve continued to be very pleased with them.  Today, conditions stated out in the mid 20s, windy and damp, and I went out for a Mukluk ride.  The shoes performed admirably.  They were dunked in ankle deep water a couple times (the risk of riding along a creek), trudged through numerous snowbanks, across a few squishy marshes, and bushwhacked through some muddy and clay-ey forested areas.  With a pair of Smartwool socks, my feet were toasty warm, despite the 20-30mph winds.

The shoes continue to age well, and show no signs of wear, anywhere on them.  I’m impressed by how well they hold out the cold and water, and by how comfortable they are.  They strike a nice balance between a rigid base to pedal with, and a comfortable fit for all-day biking.  I do have a set of toe cleats screwed in, and find those are very helpful in winter conditions (although not very comfortable for hard surface walking).

With toe warmers, I haven’t found the ‘bottom end’ comfortable temperature with these shoes yet…because we haven’t had any really cold weather.  They’ve performed well in all conditions I’ve thrown at them.  Without toe warmers, my original conclusion (mid-high 20s) is still consistent for me: at or below that range, my feet get cold.

I’ve used these with Eggbeaters and Candy Cs; they’ve worked flawlessly with both sets of pedals.  I will note that putting a Crank Brothers shim under the cleats made engagement/disengagement of the pedals more consistent.

I still give these a solid A.

All Ti’d Up Part Deux: Ti v. Aluminum

Just a brief update on yesterday’s post.

After an interesting discussion on the Fatbookers on Facebike page today, I was pointed towards Guitar Ted’s recent musings on Ti versus Aluminum.  Here are his thoughts on the comparison in frame materials:

Muk v. Muk

and

Randomonium

Randomonium has some very interesting comparisons of the ride quality of a Ti Mukluk versus an Aluminum Mukluk, under similar riding conditions.  The conclusion of people who have ridden both frames: Ti has a better ride quality.  Even with 4″ wide tires running at low pressure.  So there goes that “I don’t need a Ti bike” excuse.

And to keep things interesting, here’s GT’s By-Tor Ti Mukluk (linked from his great blog).  If you look at his blog, you’ll see the spec.  1×10, Larry’s, Salsa enabler fork, Chris King bling, blah blah blah…

All Ti’d Up In Knots…

Lately, I’ve had Ti on the brain.

Sometime soon, I’ll do a full writeup and review on the Vaytanium.

For now, I’ll repeat an old comment and add a new one.  Old comment: if I could only have one bike, it’d be the Vaya.  New comment: the ride quality of the Vaya reminds me of a tuned and dampened cable.  Not vibration like a guitar string…but when you hit a serious bump or even some gravel chatter, the frame sucks it up.  Ping.  No harshness…but no noodling, either.  The frame is taut.  Responsive.  Dreamy.

When I got my Mukluk 2, I was aware of the Ti frames for Mukluks.  And don’t get me wrong–they’re sexy.  Really, really sexy.  But do they make sense?  With 4+ inch wide tires at low pressure, I’ve never been in a situation on my Aluminum Mukluk where I’ve been critical of the frame’s ride quality.  Even at higher pressure, on gravel expeditions, I can’t complain.  Because of the bike’s configuration, wheels and tires, I can’t say that a Ti frame would improve the riding experience.  Sure–it would be lighter, even more corrosion resistant, and more aesthetically pleasing…but I can’t say it would function any better (other than the lighter weight).  I’m not sure, in my own mind, whether the Ti Mukluk is worth the upgrade price–or whether it makes sense for a fat bike.  I guess, since I have a Muk 2 and not a Ti Muk, I have made up my mind.

That said, lately, I’ve had Ti on the brain.  It might be the two Ti El Mariachis that are being built up at North Central Cyclery right now.

(Above image shameless cribbed from Transit Interface’s new Tumblr blog).

It might be remnants of Sedona leftover in my mind that are causing me to think about hardtail 29ers and singlespeeds.  It might just be the beauteous look of a Ti frame.

(Note–Link above is from Salsa’s website.  Click for link).

A nice El Mar or Selma.  Singlespeed.  Tubeless Stan’s Crests with a lightweight, hand build by my holmes Hand of Midas.  (Maybe even with Ti spokes, as on this very, very pretty Eriksen.  Some blingy parts (Ti Skewers, Ti King Cages, Ti Hardware, Ti Homebrewed drivetrain?)  Some anti-blingy blingy parts (Whisky matte finish bars and seatpost).  A suspension fork or rigid?  (I think suspension fork, although I’ve been told to HTFU).

It’s just a dream right now…floating along in the back of my mind.  I still have visions of Spearfish, and the cushhhhhhhhhh of full suspension that cloud my judgment from time to time.

Lusty bikes to think about.  First world problems, eh?

WE NEED MORE FAT! (Tires)

I’ve been reflecting on the past couple weeks of snow riding on the Mukluk, and have come to the following conclusion: we need more fat.

The Big Fat Larrys that I run on the Muk are nice.  Volume is great.  Floatation is great.  Appearance is great.  Traction is great good.

It is completely and totally clear that the BFL is an improvement in traction over Endomorphs and regular Larrys.  It is also clear that the BFL is lacking in the traction department compared to Nates and Husker Dus.

As detailed in my review of the Mukluk 2, the upright riding position I have set up on the bike puts a significant majority of my weight over the rear tire–the tire I use for traction.  Since that tire is carrying a significant majority of the weight, I’m really not inclined to go to a narrower tire (even if the narrower tire is 3.7 or 4 inches).  What I really want/need is a Big Fat tire that has aggressive tread, for use on the rear.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the BFL in the front.  The tire is perfect.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the BFL in the rear for gravel, touring, or the various and sundry other non-traditional fat bike tasks that my Muk gets pressed into.

But for off-road use, mud use, and deep/slushy/cruddy/icey/otherwise inhospitable snow use, the world needs a Big Fat Nate.  Or a Big Fat Husker Du.  And if you’re listening, QBP/Surly/45NRTH, mock up a BFN or BFHD and show the Fatbike world.  We will respond…enthusiastically.  (And while you’re doing it, please confirm that the profile of a BFN or BFHD works well on a 82mm Rolling Darryl, so I don’t have corner/side tread knobs trying to gnaw through my chainstays).  We need a tire that mixes the floatation of the Big Fat with the aggression of the Nate/Husker Du.  That will be a tire that sells.  I’ll take one…in 120tpi, please.

Less than an inch more girth.  I have to end this post on that note, because I can’t come up with anything PG to follow that comment with.

Salsa Mukluk 2 Review–The Schweet Mukluk

It’s time for a review of my Salsa Mukluk 2, built up by the peeps at North Central Cyclery.

First, glamour shots from when I brought it home:

Details…

Vault Pedals:

E-13 Cranks and Chainrings (Triple Chainring):

Jones Loop Bars with Thomson stem and dress-up kit:

Holy Rolling Darryls with Salsa hubs (stock build–82mm):

Big Fat Larry’s:

Salsa badge:

Other pertinent details:  Bontrager Backrack II.  Currently sporting a Thomson Masterpiece seatpost and Avid SD-7 Speedlevers (shown in the snow pictures below).  Stock X7/X9 derailleurs.  The second highest (smallest) gear in the cassette was removed, and the remaining gears were spaced outboard one notch, for chainring clearance with the BFLs–it will clear a stock Larry without any issues, with a full cassette–but running BFLs requires dropping a gear.  The wheels do not need to be redished; they’re centered.  Again, North Central Cyclery figured out that issue for me.  I run a Salsa Fliplock seatpost clamp instead of the stock Liplock.  Ergon grips.  Anything cages.

I run a varied set of accessories.  I have a great, custom frame bag:

Which was made for me by Errin Vasquez of Frontage Roads.  I also have a full set of accessory bags made by Scott Felter, The Porcelain Rocket.  I’ll post a review of them at some point.

For the snow riding I’ve been doing, I’ve been running in this configuration:

That’s Bar Mitts, a single bottle cage, and The Porcelain Rocket booster rocket seat pack. In the booster rocket, I keep a Topeak Mountain Morph pump, a spare tube, a toolkit and a spare jacket.  There’s plenty of room for more gear on extended rides (food, lights, batteries, warmer packs, extra gloves/hats, etc.)

The Porcelain Rocket’s gear is all very stout, well made, and easy to use…it’s among the highest quality bike gear on the market.

I’ve had a few people as how the Bar Mitts work with the Loop bars.

Answer: just fine.  Instead of wearing heavy gloves in the cold, I prefer to wear lighter gloves and use the Bar Mitts.  I have notoriously cold-blooded hands, and the Bar Mitts keep me nice and toasty.  I also sport Ergon grips, and the Bar Mitts fit over them just fine.

There are absolutely no clearance issues with the BFLs in snow:

However, riding in sticky mud, the BFLs don’t leave quite enough clearance.

You can see that the Anything Cages served as big mudguards that packed up with mud (and cornstalks).  The bottom bracket was also fully loaded, as were the chain and seat stays.  Eventually, the front wheel stopped turning and I had to dig it out.

A quick note on tires:  For mud (like the pictures above), BFLs are not ideal.  The best tire for those conditions, right now, would be a set of Nates.  In a perfect world, there would be a Big Fat Nate, that didn’t have knobs at the extreme edges of the tread, so it would offer more width and flotation with an aggressive tread…but wouldn’t pack mud into the seat stay.

In powdery snow, the BFLs are ideal.  They work great.  There are times when a more aggressive rear tire would be nice (maybe BFL in the front, Nate in the rear…or Husker Du in the rear), but I’m generally pleased.  I do run the rear BFL ‘backwards’, which I believe is more aggressive for traction than running it ‘forwards’.  In sloppy snow, same answer.  In goopy conditions and not-sticky mud, same answer.  On gravel, same answer.  On sand, the BFLs will blow your mind.

When are the BFLs not ideal?  Well, as noted above, when riding in sticky mud, they pack up the Mukluk until they stop spinning.  For some snow conditions (particularly climbing hills) a more aggressive rear tire would be nice.

Another odd time when BFLs are not ideal is when riding with a group on ‘regular’ 3.7″ fat tires.  I was riding today in 8-ish inches of snow (deep enough that the pedals were hitting snow on the bottom of every stroke), with 2 other fat bikes.  If I was riding fresh snow, it did great.  However, if I tried to run in their narrower tracks, the edges of my front BFL would catch the sides of the track they left, and dig in a bit, pulling the bars to the side and making me turn (and sometimes washout).  For running in their tracks, I think a regular Larry would have worked better.  Running BFLs on an 82mm rim gives them a rounder profile.  That can take some getting used to when running higher pressures and diving into gravel corners.  Having the big Loop bars on there to give me leverage is greatly appreciated–and keeps the bike from steering itself.

I’m signed up for a fat bike gravel race this spring, and while the BFLs ride great on gravel, I’m wondering if I want to go to regular Larrys for lighter weight.  We’ll see.

As far as pressure goes, on-road, I typically run around 20-25psi.  Offroad, I run ‘hand-soft’ pressure.  I will reduce pressure until I get distortion in the sidewalls (you can see the threads), and then bump the pressure up a bit.  I never have a problem with front tire pressure, but the way I have my Muk setup, it is possible to get the rear pressure too low.  However, checking tire pressures today, I found out that I was actually running 4psi in the front, and 5.5 in the rear.  That was about perfect for the snow.  I get away with that low of pressure up front because of the way the bike is set up.  More on that later.

A note on me and the bike: I weigh around 155#.  The Mukluk has a relaxed geometry, and I coupled that with a Thomson setback Masterpiece seatpost…that shifts a lot of my weight to the rear.  My Mukluk is a 17″ frame.  Even without the setback seatpost, it’s very comfortable for me (and the Loop bars give a ton of control over the big front end).  With the setback seatpost, my riding position is about perfect for me, and very comfortable.

I’ve put in a lot of miles on my Mukluk in the past few months.  That has included single track, mountain biking, 50+ mile gravel expeditions, paved roads, snow biking, and a lot of other conditions.  It has included sand, mud, ice, snow, asphalt and everything in between.   I feel very confident that I can give an informed opinion.

The equipment spec is mostly dead-on.  I’m very pleased with the derailleurs and shifters. Even though I customarily don’t like gripshifters, they work well here, and work great with winter gloves and/or Bar Mitts.  The derailleurs also work very well–they’re completely unobtrusive.  For some reason, I find myself cross-chaining from time to time–so I appreciate that the gripshifters permit me to trim the front derailleur when I’m cross-chained, to avoid chain rubbing.

I wasn’t fond of the Tektro brake levers that came stock.  That was a $20 fix to upgrade to Avid SD-7s, which I love.  I have them on my Big Dummy, and knew they’d do the trick.  The BB7 brakes have functioned flawlessly, and required minimal adjustment.

I never rode mine with the stock Bend bars, but I’ve ridden them on other bikes and liked them.  I do happen to like the Loop bars just a little bit more–I’m very pleased with their riding position and the space to mount lights, GPS, bags and other gear.

As far as the overall riding position goes, I love my Muk.  A lot of other fat bikes (e.g. Pugsley) provide a more aggressive, more traditional riding position.  The Mukluk, as I have it configured, has a more relaxed, upright position.  Again–it puts a lot of weight on the rear tire, which helps a great deal with traction in many conditions.  I don’t have to do rear weight shifting to surmount most obstacles…it just climbs over.  The setback position also gives me a lot of room to bend down when needed to weight the front end (for climbing steep hills, etc.)  Climbing hills is perhaps one of the funniest parts of riding a fat bike.  If you have the nerve to ride it, the bike will climb or descend it.  I’ve never run out of traction climbing a hill (unless the hill is covered in snow and ice).  The traction is just unreal.  Obstacles that you would need to hit with speed and momentum to clear on a standard mountain bike can be ridden over with finesse, just cranking along at whatever speed you want.  Gear down and crawl over?  No problem.

I also find this riding position to be more comfortable for the varied purposes that I use the Mukluk for.  For gravel road exploration, I can ride all day.  The Mukluk is also designed with a ton of braze-ons that provide great flexibility.  Want to run front and rear panniers?  No problem.  Fenders?  Sure.  A full kit of frame and soft bags?  Absolutely.  Half a dozen bottle cages?  Well–at least 5.

We don’t get enough snow in Illinois to justify a “snow bike.”  For a bike to fit in my garage, it needs to be versatile enough to be used in multiple conditions.  And it needs to be unique enough to keep me interested in riding it.  The Mukluk is all this and more.  It makes you smile every time you ride it.  I find myself jumping on it for all sorts of rides.  Have to take a letter to the neighbor down the block?  Mukluk.  Going for a haircut?  Mukluk–oh, and don’t forget to detour through that part of the road that’s under construction for a bit o’ urban exploration.  Rural ride with no particular place to go?  Mukluk.  If I need to get somewhere fast, there are other bikes to take.  But if you’re not in a hurry–there are few things that are more fun than riding a Mukluk.

For that matter, I’ve seen skilled riders on a Mukluk who have no problem keeping up with “standard” mountain bikes on singletrack.  She’s a heifer, but she’ll run if you ask her to.  For me, a standard mountain bike is faster on single track…but that’s an engine problem, not an equipment problem.  Let me put it this way: my Mukluk can do everything that my mountain bike can do–it’s just slower at some things.  The inverse isn’t true; my mountain bike cannot do everything that the Muk can.  It’s a bike for all seasons.  Literally.

The weight savings that the Mukluk 2 offers over a Mukluk 3 is totally worth the price differential, in my mind.  Sure–I like the matte black finish (and anodizing versus powder coating), but there are a couple pounds of weight between the two bikes that is a more significant factor.  What about a Ti Mukluk?  Well–don’t get me wrong, I’d take a Ti Mukluk if one was offered…but for a fat bike, I’m not sure that Ti would offer a significant enough difference in ride quality to merit the price difference.  I love my Vaytanium…but having 4.7″ of tire cush under you makes a world of difference.  While I realize that aluminum oxidizes, I do feel more comfortable with an aluminum frame when riding in snow, water, mud, etc…  The thought of having a steel frame for these conditions gives me the heebie-jeebies.  I know Pugs have been around for years, with great success…but I think aluminum just makes more sense.  (And I’m going to keep telling myself that Ti is unnecessary).

What would I change about the Mukluk?  When I got it, I thought I’d want hydraulic brakes.  After switching the brake levers, I haven’t given that a second thought.  From time to time I consider dropping the big chainring and throwing a bash guard on.  For off-road and snow riding, I never use the big chainring.  But on those gravel and paved expedition rides, I like having it available.  I think the BFLs are about the best compromise tire for all conditions–but for some conditions, other tires would be more specialized and better.  If I could only have one set of tires, it would be BFLs…but some time, I’d like to experiment with Nates and Husker Dus…at least in the rear.  Probably Nates–they just look too cool.

All in all, the Mukluk is a greatly appreciated addition to my stable.  It is more fun, and more versatile, than I had ever thought it could be.  It’s a great, great bike to ride, and another fine Salsa from North Central Cyclery.

Gore GT AS GoreTex Pants Update

I previously reviewed these pants and the matching jacket a few weeks ago, here.  This is a brief update.

I’ve put several hundred additional miles on the pants, in varied conditions.  I’ve ridden with them on all of my bikes, with both clipless and platform pedals.  They are now one of my absolute favorite pieces of gear.

I am perpetually amazed by how durable they are.  They’ve suffered some pretty significant falls, begin drug through brush and brambles, being rubbed against my very aggressively pinned platform pedals, and general riding use and abuse–and are none the worse for wear.  They are 100% windproof, but yet breathable.  Opening the thigh vents has a HUGE impact on how warm they are.  With those closed, they’re very warm.  Opening the thigh vents shows just how effective they are.  The thigh vents are optimally placed for air intake when riding.

The pants have also demonstrated themselves to be 100% waterproof.  I’ve subjected them to driving rains, heavy winds, deep snow, and a myriad of hostile conditions.  They continue to perform perfectly.  Again–no real pockets, but I wouldn’t want any on these.  There is absolutely nothing I would change.

One of my favorite features of the pants is the velcro closures at the bottom.  They are very effective at keeping the pants tight against your ankles, and away from your chainring.  The velcro has enough adjustability that it fits tightly over my skinny ankles and road shoes, while still opening widely enough to easily fit over the heavy snow boots shown in the picture above.  This morning, I went for a ride on the Mukluk, wearing the pants.  When I got home, my daughter wanted to play in the snow.  No gear change necessary–they are properly cut for athletic activities of all kinds and are very versatile.  These pants continue to earn a solid RATG A.