45NRTH Wolvhammers Review Update

I wrote a pretty detailed review of the 45NRTH boots last year, along with an update after doing a frozen century.  Here’s an update from this year.

Last saturday, I busted out my Wolfies for the first time this season.  Temps were around 20, winds were around 20mph, and it was chilly.  That sounded like a perfect time to ride a fatbike in a river.

No, really.

You see, the Kish looked pretty low.  It looked totally rideable.  And it was rideable, until it got waaaaaayyyyy deeper than I anticipated.  And when you’re clipped in on a bike, you can’t exactly throw it into reverse and back out of a bad situation.  Accordingly, I had to stop and put a foot down.  And then 2 feet down.

What these cellphone pics show is me working my way to the bank to get out.

Sooo….how waterproof are the Wolfies?

Totally.  I was in water that was almost all the way up to the top of the Wolfies, and they were completely waterproof.  They performed far better than I had any right to expect.

 

 

 

And then I stepped in deep water, over the top of the boots.  Rather unsurprisingly, when you step in water deeper than the boots, your feet get wet.  And the boots are waterproof.  So when water gets in your boot, it doesn’t come out.

The good news is that the boots are super warm, even when wet, so my feet stayed relatively warm even though my boots were full of cold water.

Because of the way the boots close up, with a cinch-cord, they never get exactly tight on your foot.  They don’t fit like a cycling shoe.  That’s ok, though…the looser fit helps keep your foot warm, and helps keep good foot circulation going in cold temps.

With a cleat cover under the cleats, I have no issues riding with my Crank Brothers eggbeaters, or with Candys.  Clipping in and out is positive and secure.  When you install your cleats, make sure you put a healthy coating of grease on the screws, if you ever want to be able to get the cleats out.  I learned that one the hard way.

45NRTH released some information on how to use the zippers on the boots–apparently, some are having issues with zipper breakage.  I haven’t had that problem, but then again, I treat my gear with great care.  I’m looking forward to another season of use with these boots, and even with my cold hands/feet, they make it comfortable to ride in just about any weather you can imagine.  I wouldn’t wear them on a road bike, but they’re good for just about anything else, in just about any weather.

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Ritchey Swiss Cross For Sale

I don’t normally hock other people’s stuff on here, but the owner of this particular bike happens to be a very good friend of mine, blah blah blah (insert a number of personal reasons why I’m posting this).

Anywho, he’s got a beautiful Ritchey Swiss Cross, and here’s his description:

You are looking at my Ritchey Swiss Cross.
It is for sale.
Size 59 (fits more like a 58)
Ritchey Logic Tubing in stunning wet red
Ricthey Crabon Fibrous spork in stunning wet red
Thomson Elite post
Thomson X4 stem 110mm 0 degree
Fizik Arione saddle
FSA Wing Pro bars 44 width
Shimano Ultegra 6700 with CX crank
Shimano Ultegra canti brakes with salmon pads (made from real salmon)
Sycnros wheels with DT star ratchet internal hubs
Zipp skewers
Clement LAS tires (or tyres if you fancy now)

Bike is in excellent shape. Ridden lovingly by me. Nurtured and cared for by me. Built and owned only by me.

$2200 cash money. Bike is in Geneva, IL. I frequently travel to the far reaches of the Midwest and Lower Middle Earth. I can deliver within reason if it fits my schedule. Otherwise, you likey, you come pickey up.

It’s a sweet bike that I hate to see go, but the dude’s got priorities, and they’re in order.  If you’re interested, either drop me a comment, or drop him an email.  Real salmon pads.  You can’t get that in the store.

Gore Xenon Windstopper Tights Review.

Yesterday, I posted the review of the corresponding Xenon jacket.  Here’s the matching tights.

Note the stirrups and reflective strips.

I know how much y’all like the garage selfies…

With the stirrups, the tights stay perfectly in place, and work great with my winter shoes.

The tights go up relatively high on the chest, with a zipper.  That keeps wind off of your midsection in a comfortable fashion.

Super-breathable and comfy bib straps.

And yes, that’s a Gore Windstopper Singlet underneath.

Last year, I was wearing a pair of Gore windstopper bibs that didn’t have a chamois–so you’d wear bibs underneath.  The Xenon have an integrated–and very comfortable–chamois.  I’m finding that I like this one-piece setup better.  At the end of a ride, I’m drier, even if it was a hard ride.

The Xenon tights have an interesting mix of stretchy and non-stretchy fabrics….they stretch where you need it, allowing a free range of motion, but are stiffer in other areas…presumably to provide a better windstopping effect.  They are a smidge tight when you’re pulling the stirrups on over your feet, and a bit tight in the hips/junk region when pulling them up and on…but once on, they’re super-comfortable.  They do not have vent zippers, nor do I think they need it.  I’ve worn them in temps from 50 down to 25 thus far, and they’ve been great in those conditions.  Typically, if the temps will be 45 or higher, I’ll wear 3/4 bibs.  But on those days where it’s started cold and gotten warmer, I’ve had the Xenons on and been comfortable.

Even when the temp dropped to 25, I stayed warm on the bike.  I’ve encountered some light rain in these tights, and had no issues with waterproofness.  In a heavy downpour, there might be a different result, but thus far, I’ve not encountered those conditions on a ride, in these tights.

The fabric on these is a fabric that will catch burrs and such.  While I like wearing form-fitting clothes for just about all riding, I don’t think these will be seeing much fatbike bushwhacking…I’ll save that for my Magic Pants.  But for road, gravel, touring, etc., these are fantastic.  They make a great combination with the Xenon 2.0 jacket reviewed yesterday (link above) and a great addition to winter kit.  Again, I highly recommend going to a winter bib with integrated chamois like this–its more comfortable than a 2 piece setup.

The only change I’d contemplate to these tights would be the possible addition of a zipper at the rear (heel) on the leg.  That would make it easier to put the tights on, without compromising windproofness.  I don’t know if it would be possible to do that without creating an uncomfortable zipper spot somewhere in your shoe, so that may or may not be a good idea.  Perhaps just a bit more stretchiness in the stirrup area would help.

Otherwise, they’re perfect.  The only bad news: you no longer have an excuse to stay inside on those cold, windy winter days.

Gore Xenon 2.0 Windstopper Jacket Review

I’ve done a few reviews of Gore products on here, and I’ve also looked at other brands to try to find something that performs as well.  I keep coming back to Gore because I can’t find anything else that fits, and works, as effectively.  I come from a skiing background and love Arc’teryx, The North Face (when they used to have good QC), Patagonia, etc; I’m used to high-quality stuff.  But the effectiveness of Gore wears for biking–it’s hard to dispute.

Today, I’m writing about the Gore Xenon 2.0 Windstopper Softshell Jacket.  I picked this up a couple months ago and it has been my go-to jacket for this fall, for a myriad of conditions.  I picked mine up at the best Gore shop in the midwest: North Central Cyclery. One of the biggest advantages of having a local shop: you can try stuff on and confirm the fit.  There are variances between Gore’s different product lines.  Trying stuff on is invaluable.  The Xenon is advertised as a slim fit…and it is a slim fit.

I picked up mine in the black/black scheme.  With the massive reflective patches, it’s very visible at night when headlights are around.

It’s the jacket that I have on in this picture…and even with a cell-phone flash, you can see the reflectivity.

The back features 3 large pockets–each big enough to easily swallow a bottle.  The central pocket also has an integrated zip-pocket–great for a cellphone, wallet, keys, etc.

The collar is narrowly tailored and has a nice, soft-fabric on it.  When you zip the collar all the way up, it’s nice and snug on the neck, and the soft fabric feels cushy on cold skin.

Good zippers mean that it stays at whatever level of zipped or unzipped that you set it to.

Here’s a super-blurry, near-useless selfie.

The little red zipper to the right of the picture is a vent.  When closed, it’s invisible–you don’t see it, and there’s absolutely no wind leakage.  But when you warm up, you can unzip the two vents, and get some good airflow.  That’s a huge advantage.  When riding in a stiff wind, unzipping the main zipper on a jacket can cause your jacket to billow or flap in the wind in a most annoying fashion.  Using the chest zips allows you to have good ventilation, without jacket billow.  The snug, athletic fit means that this jacket doesn’t flap around in the wind.

Here’s a vent closeup.  Small, but surprisingly effective.

The sleeves also have very-effective zippers on them.

Why sleeve zippers?  Well, when it’s really cold, I tend to wear a pair of glove liners.  I’ll put on the glove liners, then the Xenon, zip down the sleeves closed, and have a nice, tight seal at the cuff.  Then, I put my outer-gloves on over the jacket, and I’m completely weathertight.

The Xenon is a thin windstopper.  It is not super-insulated, like some of the thicker products are.  But it is COMPLETELY windproof.  It’s also surprisingly good at dealing with moisture.  I tried a different brand winter jacket/jersey setup, and was disappointed to see how much moisture was trapped on my body, behind their brand of windproof fabric.  No such issues with the Xenon.  Particularly because you can control ventilation so well, it works fantastically to deal with moisture.

In winter, you dress to start your rides cold.  For the first few miles, you’re chilly.  Once you warm up from riding, you’re then comfortably dressed.  That’s the key to winter riding–starting a bit chilly.  The Xenon is great for this, because when you zip everything up, it’s warm enough to keep you comfortable at the start…and when you start to warm up while riding, you can adjust vents and keep comfortable all-ride long.

I’ve worn this in the low 50s with just a short-sleeve jersey underneath, all the way down to 25 degrees with a windstopper singlet and long-sleeve jersey underneath.  It’s useful in a wide array of temps.  I’ve worn it in mist and very light precipitation, but not any heavy rains.  It’s windstopper, so it’s waterproofish, but the seams are not taped, so it isn’t really designed for rain protection.  It’s a soft-shell, not a hard-shell.

In comparison to a jacket like the Phantom, the Xenon gives a much trimmer fit (which I like), more venting flexibility (although no removable sleeves), and pockets that seem a bit deeper and more useful.  As an outer layer, it’s incredibly versatile for a wide array of conditions…and adding or removing layers underneath can make it suitable for many different types of riding.  I’m finding more and more that I like the trim fit for all types of biking, not just road riding.

I recently saw someone posting that you don’t need the expensive gear to ride in the winter.  That’s true–get out and ride with whatever you have.  But if you’re looking at getting a jacket, don’t limit yourself to just the purchase price analysis.  I’m an analytical guy.  I like to consider things over a longer term.  Gore products have a lifetime warranty–and the stuff I started with years ago is still looking like new.  I’d rather make an investment in a good jacket that I can use in all conditions and keep using it for a long period of time than buy something cheap and either not be able to trust it, or have to replace it every year.

The Xenon 2.0 is a great piece of kit, and comes with my highest recommendation.  It’s rare that I’d say this, but there are no changes that I’d be able to suggest for this one.  It doesn’t need a hood, it doesn’t need more vents, it doesn’t need more pockets.  I love the cut/fit, and I love its functionality.

Salsa Carbon Beargrease XX1: The Pictures

It’s started gently snowing here today.  The mix of a wintry blend of snrain and the leaves on the ground meant that it was perfect conditions for some Beargrease.  She’s a bit dirty from her last ride, but she looks good a little dirty…so I didn’t clean her up for the camera.  She still has some dirt on her from the first ride out the door of North Central Cyclery.

Front DT Swiss RWS Thru-Axle.

Salsa by Formula hub and Avid XX Brakes.

This bike is all-ate-up with tire.

And generous tire clearance at the fork.

What a cassette!

Mondo clearance at the seatstays, too.

Chainstays…

Eggbeater 11s.

I haven’t removed the protective film from the frame guard yet.

28T chainring fits fine.  Room for a 32?

Bontrager RXL cages.

ENVE.

Ergon SM3 Pro Carbon.  (Howzabout that matching little green label, eh?)

Thomson Stem.

Adventure by Bike.

Ride Axletree.

Look at all the little green bits that pop out.

Barely Perceptible…

Self-cleaning.

Yeah.

This post supplements the preliminary review and 130 mile report.

Salsa Carbon Beargrease: The First 130

I now have about 130 miles on the Beargrease, and wanted to provide an update to the preliminary thoughts.  The most recent mileage was with Mr. Gore-Cik on a night-burner on the path.

I’ve spent time on an aluminum Beargrease, time on a steel Pugsley, time on a steel Moonlander, and of course, mountains of time on my old aluminum Mukluk, much of that with a carbon fork.  Most of those rides came from North Central Cyclery.  The old Muk, like the Carbon Beargrease, was set up tubeless.

A note on tubeless setup: when I did the Mukluk, I put a layer of foam on the rim…so it was rim strip, foam, then a cut down 24″ tube.  On the Beargrease, I skipped the foam.  I did use a thin layer of Gorilla Tape to build up the bead just a bit (just 1 layer), and I am still using the split tube to seal up.  Thus far, it’s holding air perfectly and performing with aplomb.

What about the ride?  I’ll be the first to say it: the carbon is better at absorbing vibration than the aluminum Mukluk was.  Even with the big tires, if you’re pumped up to ‘road’ pressure, you get vibes from gravel and rough surfaces.  On the Mukluk, changing from a Thomson seat post to an ENVE seat post made a big difference.  On the Beargrease, it’s even better.  It dampens vibration amazingly well.

You also note the extra rigidity of the frame and fork.  Fatbike tires are big and heavy–even tubeless.  With the Muk, there were times when you could feel the frame or fork flexing a bit.  You’d turn hard on pavement and hear just a little rotor scrape as the fork flexed, for example.  The Beargrease has no palpable movement.  Slam on the brakes?  It stops.  Do a stoppie?  It stops.  No flex.  Crank on the pedals?  It goes.  No flex.  The DT Swiss RWS thru-axles are amazing–one of my favorite bike components of all time–and are incredibly rigid.  They are also incredibly easy to use.  Fantastic.

I like the stock Salsa bars a great deal.  I didn’t like the stock stem, and upgraded that to my much-loved Thomson standard.  I also didn’t like the stock seat post or saddle, and swapped them out.  The seat post was aesthetic, truth be told, and the saddle was a personal comfort thing.  But the stock bars are great–a nice width, a nice sweep, and very comfortable on rough surfaces.  I’m a bit torn about the stock grips–I like the way that they feel, but when I’m really pushing hard, I’m finding that my hands are going numb.  I may be squeezing the bars too hard, or perhaps I need to throw some Ergons on.  We’ll see.

What about the XX1?

It’s wonderful.  Not perfect, but wonderful.

It shifts magnificently.  Amazingly well.  I like the trigger shifter, notwithstanding my thought that I’d want grip shift for a 1x setup (like on the Superfish).  As it turns out, I haven’t had any issues shifting quickly with the trigger shifter.

It also has God’s own low gear.  28×42 is almost too low…I haven’t found a hill that: a) needs a gear that low; and, b) is still rideable.  On the flip side, 28×10 might be a bit low as well.  On the inaugural gravel ride, I ran out of gears around 23 mph.  23mph is probably around 105rpm with a 28×10 setup.  If I went to a 32T chainring, I’d pick up around 3-4mph before I ran out of gear.  On the bottom end, at 60rpm, going from a 28 chainring to a 32 chainring would be the difference between 3.3mph and 3.7mph.  I’ll probably get some snow under my belt and see how I like the gearing then.  For gravel, it’s under-geared.

The only other criticism that can be offered is simply a part of a 1x drivetrain: you have fewer gearing options.  For mountain or snow riding, a 1x drivetrain is perfect, because a small gap in gearing isn’t a big deal…you can spin up or gear up as needed.  For gravel riding, when you’re doing 110% in a group, there are times when it would be nice to have just a little more or little less gear.  Those are the times when a 2x setup would be nice.  I’ve had a couple times, riding with others, when I’ve wished I had just a smidge different gearing, to be more comfortable at the group pace.  Of course, you can always change the group’s pace!

If I were choosing tomorrow, there’s no doubt that I’d stick with the XX1.  The incredibly small downside (fewer gears) is more than made up with by the lightweight, slick activation and simplicity.  Having a 1x in the snow and mud will be excellent–and I look forward to it.

The Avid brakes are fantastic–no complaints or qualms.  They broke in quickly, and work wonderfully.

The aesthetics of the frame are still amazing.  It’s one of the prettiest bikes I’ve ever seen–much less in my fleet.  It’s a stunner.

I used to run Husker Dus on my Mukluk, versus the Dillingers on this bike.  I think the Dillingers are lighter, and believe they will be more aggressive in snow and mud.  However, my sense is that they are slower rolling on hard surfaces and gravel.  The Huskers might be a better all-around tire.  The Dillingers are more specialized–and likely better in bad conditions and snow.  Time will tell.

I keep finding little easter eggs on the bike–little splashes of green on the drivetrain that I hadn’t noticed…or an area where the sculpting of the frame is amazingly complex and beautiful.  It’s a bike that is easy to look at.

More updates will be forthcoming.  I’ll be spending a lot of time on this bike, this coming year.  Expect amazing things.

Salsa Carbon Beargrease XX1 Review

It’s on.  It’s on like Donkey Kong.

Essential stats:  Medium Salsa Carbon Beargrease.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 11 (with Titanium spindles).

ENVE Carbon Seatpost.

Bontrager RXL Bottle Cages.

Thomson Stem.

Salsa Carbon Bars.

Ergon SM3 Pro Carbon Saddle (with Carbon rails).

Stock wheelset (Salsa hubs, Holy Rolling Darryls), set up ghetto tubeless.

SRAM XX1 drivetrain (28T chainring, 10-42 cassette) and Avid XX Brakes.

DT Swiss RWS skewers (my favorite!!) on thru-axles front and rear.

Full Carbon frame, fork, steerer, soul, spirit.

Lotsa tire clearance.

And what’s there for seat stays, chain stays, etc., is smooth…nothing to pack with mud.

I take great pride in the shots on here.  However, I’ve been a bit busy of late, and in order to get pictures of a new, clean, virgin bike, I had to take pics at night.  I couldn’t bring myself to do the normal ‘garage’ shots, so I used an alternate site.  I promise I’ll do daylight shots soon.  The carbon and graphics deserve it.

A note on aesthetics: when I first saw the bike, I was hoping that Salsa would do a black on black scheme.  I was hoping for all stealthy.  I am deeply, deeply satisfied.  Incredibly.  The bike looks amazing.  Black on black graphics, amazing matte finish.  The yellow fade to green graphics are awesome.  Frankly, if I was designing it, I wouldn’t have picked yellow fade to green.  This is one of those times that I’m glad I’m not responsible for designing things.  My design aesthetic is weak.  My appreciation of others’ design aesthetic is strong.  Yellow fade to green looks amazing.  Also, it’s the Axletree team colors.  And then there’s the little touches of green on the hubs, the seat clamp, the drivetrain…

So how does it ride?

It’s about 26 pounds as shown, with bottle cages, pedals, bottles, everything.  If you wanted to go lighter, there are places to go lighter.  First among them would be some nice carbon rims…if HED would ever get to market with them.

The ride quality is amazing.  It’s amazingly light.  The carbon has a fantastic feel–it dampens vibration better than my aluminum Mukluk did, but is incredibly responsive when you stand on it.  Moreover, the geometry changes from the Mukluk are spot-on.  It feels more like a mountain bike.  It’s more responsive.  It’s fantastic.

The XX1 is flawless and functions perfectly.  The ‘type 2′ feature works as designed, preventing any annoying chain noises.  It shifts perfectly, under all conditions that I’ve put it through thus far…and I look forward to putting it through more conditions this winter.  The XX brakes work excellently, with progressive feel and excellent modulation.

It’s too soon to talk about how the bike rides, frankly.  I don’t have enough miles on it yet.  But thus far, I’m smitten.