Bunyan Velo

Bunyan Cass Gilbert

For restless vagabonds on two wheels who explore endlessly;

for racers who race without promise of prizes or money, assured only adventure and challenge;

for advocates of bicycles and community who ride every day, and live and breath by bike;

and for everyone else who dreams about riding new places– meet Bunyan Velo, a new quarterly digital magazine to stoke the passion for riding and life.

Bunyan Velo is free, for you.

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Bunyan Velo is the project of Lucas Winzenburg, a Minnesotan rider with the ability to wrestle words and images from riders such as Cass Gilbert, Kurt Refsnider, Chris Skogen, Isaiah Berg, Alex Dunn, Jacqueline Kutvirt and many more.

Bunyan Nicholas Carman

Top image: Cass Gilbert, center image: Alex Dunn

Please share this link: www.bunyanvelo.com

Jetsam and flotsam

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The list of items that populate my bags and my bike is exhausting.  My Kit List accounts from this past month are almost completely inclusive.  However, if I was to upturn my bicycle and shake all the contents from the bags, a few items would fall to the ground to my surprise.  Some are useful, just in case; some are useless, mostly; and at least one item is an unexpected stowaway.  Item origins are indicated in parentheses, when known.  Less than half of these things are even remotely essential.  If you are looking for a way to trim down your touring load, start with the small stuff.

nail clippers, the worst I have ever used, $1.99 CDN in a small gas station (northern B.C.)

insulated electrical housing, 3 inches (came with Supernova headlight, Alaska)

extra Surly rimstrip for Marge Lite rim, black (Bozeman, MT)

1ft. yellow ribbon with reflective strip (Alaska)

3 spokes, length unknown but hopefully useful somewhere on the bike (Alaska and Montana)

tube of Nivea SPF lip product (Ontario, since June 2011)

spare tube, 26×2.3″ with unthreaded Presta valve  (from REI, Bozeman, MT)

tent stakes, began with 13 in AK, 9 remaining

homemade postcards, a dwindling supply of 100 (Ft. Collins, CO)

wallet

assorted business cards and grocery rewards cards

lens filters for camera (Fort Collins, CO)

6 links SRAM 9sp chain (Fort Collins, CO)

Origin-8 plastic chain retention, did not fit Lael’s drivetrain properly (Fort Collins, CO)

small Ziploc bag of 50 ibuprofen, dwindling (Anchorage, Alaska)

4 standard matchbooks with logo (Fort Collins, CO)

1 page from Dirt Rag magazine, Surly Krampus advertisement, to protect MacBook screen from keyboard when packed (Bozeman, MT)

postage stamps (Antonito, CO)

embroidered patch on Carradice Camper saddlebag, Great Allegheny Passage (March 2011)

3 plastic zip-ties (Alaska and Colorado)

1 small rubber band marked “Organic Broccoli” (origin unknown)

On our recent travels near Santa Fe, Joe Cruz exhumed a similarly well-used orange tube of the exact same Nivea SPF lip product from his bag.  His was purchased in South America, mine in Ontario, Canada.  There must be something about men with fatbikes and soft lips.

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Timeless

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Headwind weary and Montana bound, I’ve been pushing the pedals.  When the wind blows the wrong way, there can’t possibly be anything right with the bike– the rear rim too heavy, the chain is not properly lubed, the tires too wide-not enough pressure-not supple enough.  When the wind stops, life resumes.  Minimally damaging whatever parts of my knees can’t handle my overexertions, I insist that I hit my Montana-bound mark of eighty-two miles a day.  Better, Dease Lake is 86 miles away and there’s a proper grocery store that some precede with super-.  Aside from headwinds I’ve met great fortune and kindness on the road, especially along the busier Alaska Highway.  I was given two cartons of Powerbars by a Argentina-to-Alaska time trialist with an RV support vehicle;  an amateur videographer donated two oranges, a fruit cup and a strawberry Boost beverage in exchange for an interview; and I found an unopened bag of trail mix on the roadside.

I wake early and start cycling late as grey skies and headwinds keep me sipping coffee and typing in my tent until almost noon.  I finally emerge.  Fifteen miles later I take refuge at a tourist shop selling locally mined jade, but offering free coffee and tea as an attraction.  Cup after cup of Folgers keeps me from braving the reality of my self-imposing situation– that I am to ride 86 miles.  I emerge again, finally, at two in the afternoon.  Sure, the road is beautiful and the riding is swell– at least this is what I tell oncoming cyclists enjoying the tailwinds, oblivious to their fortune.

Thirty miles down the road I gain a fluidity which draws power from all over.  No more am I simply pushing the pedals with the appropriate muscles.  Now, I am pedaling.  Standing to climb to maintain twelve or fourteen miles per hour uphill, and pedal pedal tuck——-downhill.  Quick stop for river water, boiled hot for instant coffee.  The last grocery didn’t have anything but Maxwell House in a really big can and instant coffee crystals require less fuel and less mess.  Pasta and black pepper and an unripe avocado make a bunch of calories that taste like a  meal.  I bought five green avocados in Whitehorse four hundred miles ago, and they’re still mostly green.  I’ve been out of salt for two days, and that’s a damn shame.  Instant coffee, and bland avocado pepper pasta with no salt.  Actually, I like it.  Ride more.

My legs warm around dinnertime after the usual forty five miles into the day, and the winds settle for the eve.  Forty-five more miles to Dease Lake could be five hours of normal cycletouring, or I can ride my bike and be there in just over three.  Ride.

Medium warm-cool summer night with enough cloud cover to conceal the actual time of day, but real trees taller than twenty feet and lakes are finally familiar and might as well be Pennsylvania.  Climbing-descending 800 feet at a time over the lakeside topography, the road is rewardingly rolling.  Climb fast, descend faster.  For the first time in days I stop staring at a slow moving odometer on the Cateye cyclocomputer, and ride.  Three at a time the miles pass, as each 5 km road marker reminds.  Descend tuck– 44mph.  Eighteen miles to Dease.  Refill the bottle from a small-thunderfall of water from the mountain.  Always drink half, then refill.  Carry less when possible.  Nine miles and chat with three Spanish cyclists, one on an early Kona Explosif designed by Joe Murray, with a purple fork and a U-brake in the rear.  Yes, it’s a snow bike.  We all take pictures and laugh and carry on in separate directions.  Food and coffee and cold clean water are fuel, and companion cyclists are dessert.  Eight, seven, six at sixteen miles an hour and when I get there, to Dease Lake, the store is closed and the town is asleep in broad daylight at nine PM.  I’ll buy salt, oats and apples in the morning.

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Timeless” is the title-track from John Abercrombie’s 1974 ECM release, featuring Jan Hammer on keys and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

 

One bike for all seasons

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Twenty years ago, modern fatbikes were a vision manifest as a few crude bikes in a few faraway garages. As I understand, at least one was in the valley at Wildfire Designs, in Mark Gronewald’s workshop in Palmer, AK; while the other was in rural New Mexico, in the garage of Ray “El Remolino” Molina. One design was born from snow and Iditasport racing, while the other from sand-crawling and desert riding. For the most complete “recollections” of fatbike history, this thread describes a lot of failed attempts and semi-successes on the path to the modern fatbike standard. Other fatbikes were being developed simultaneously in Alaska and the sand dunes of the Oregon Coast.

I met Ray Molina in the Copper Canyon last spring at the 7th Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. He was excited to meet us and talk about bikes, and was the only person in town unsurprised that we had actually ridden there. The conversation quickly diverged to his distaste for Surly bicycles, for they had “ripped off his design” (paraphrase). Lael’s Long Haul Trucker prompted the discussion, although he didn’t recognize the bike in it’s refinements and without it’s decals. I was hearing about the difficulties of manufacturing wide rims in Mexico in the 80′s and the joys of riding sand dunes on a homemade bike in Chihuahua– most of what I and was hearing was too far off to comprehend, or to believe. Not until six months later when I was inspecting the wide rims on Mike Curiak’s Iditasport snowbike displayed at Absolute Bikes in Salida, CO, did I realize that Ray was not entirely crazy– they were labeled “Remolino”. Indeed, some of his history was accurate and in fact, his 80mm rim was an essential step in offering a lightweight flotation bicycle. The tires displayed on Curiak’s bike appeared to be 3″ DH style tires, splayed by the wide rims to a respectable footprint capable of riding over loose surfaces.

Ray has been mountain biking in the Copper Canyon region for decades, and was crafting huaraches on the sidewalk in town with the Tarahumara in the days leading up to the ultramarathon. A few dozen Americans and an assortment of international runners had descended– over 5000 ft– to Urique. Ray had brought a load of premium materials to the Raramuri (Tarahumara) for the soles of their sandals from the States– worn out automobile tires. The following day Ray participated in the race wearing his custom cushioned huarache sandals, despite claiming to be “not much of a runner”. It’s a good thing it’s not much of a run, but a 50 mile hike through the desert heat and canyon terrain, with over 9000ft of climbing. Apparently, Ray thinks he can do anything, and whether it is riding a bike in sand or running 50 miles on dirt, he’ll make his own “shoes” for the task.

The viability of the modern fatbike as an all-season adventurer is becoming well known partly due to the dearth of snow in the lower 48 this winter, and through the remaining three seasons. Mostly, many fatbike owners are finding the bike too fun to let alone the rest of the year. The availability of wide doublewall rims and even wider singlewall rims– Ray’s quest– is also supporting the growing market. Production frames and complete bicycles are available from Surly, Salsa, Fatback, 9zero7, with more from Origin8 and On-One in the near future. Custom and semi-custom fatbikes are avaialble from Vicious, Moots and others, as new fat tires are rolling out from a new QBP brand 45North, with another tire due from J&B Importers. This new rubber joins the five Innova tires from Surly and the Spider from J&B, also manufactured by Innova. Beaches, abandoned railroad trails, loose-dirt ATV trails and barely-there cobbled Incan roads are some of the places fatbikes go when it’s not snowing. In my dreams a fatbike with the new smooth Black Floyd tire makes the best casual summer town and trail bike; more comfort than a Schwinn balloon tire bike and the capability to go more places than many mountain bikes. It’ll roll 15 mph on pavement as well.

But what if you don’t have time for Hope to Homer and bashing your chainring on beach boulders or grinding up and over the Andes with half-a-dozen water bottles sounds like hell? The non-offset frames available with 170mm spacing from Salsa, Fatback and 9zero7 lend themselves well to strong symmetrical wheels, and a 29er wheelset could transform a snowbike into a summer bike of a more typical breed, one that could be fit with suspension and knobby tires for trail riding, or a rigid fork and fast rolling Nanos for dirt road touring, or Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires for mixed terrain touring with plenty of pavement, or studded tires for winter hardpack. Consider the Salsa Mukluk, designed for 4″ tires: transformations could be made to replace the need for three other Salsa models, with some mild compromises– the Fargo, the Vaya, and the El Mariachi. It’s not likely that a single owner would need to replicate all possible permutations in the span of four seasons, but a fatbike in the winter and a rigid dirt road tourer, a la Fargo, would satisfy me. Others may wish to be riding a Mariachi-like suspension 29er through the sunny season, and still others may prefer a faster riding Vaya-type commuter or tourer with medium width tires and racks. A bike with tires to fit exact clearances has a smart appearance, but a fatbike frame with seasonal personality is brilliant. Imagine, lessening the number of bikes in the house allows you to splurge on the titanium model. Now, you have a titanium snowbike, tourer, and mountain bike.

Below, a Salsa Mukluk 2 with Nokian Extreme 294 studded tires on a Salsa Gordo 29er rim, and red Salsa hubs. The fork is suspension corrected, and exhibits greater vertical clearance

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Aside from the financial benefit of owning a single versatile bike over a stable of specialized breeds and the satisfying minimalism of making a lot out of a little, riding a single bicycle with two sets of wheels through the year may benefit that which is most important, the rider. A rider accustomed to a single bicycle may develop a familiarity with the machine and develop skills specific to riding that bicycle– it’s fit, its geometry and steering– in all conditions. The feeling of being on a new bicycle is exciting to most people with new features whose powers can be harnessed, but riding a new bike most often reminds me of my High Sierra, whose level of familiarity is unparalleled in anything I have ridden. Rather, I have never spent as much time with anything. As a result, I feel that I can do anything on it, short of floating over loose sand and snow. I’ll match paces with roadies and mountain bikers in the same day on my High Sierra, but with a “fatbike for all seasons”, I could add the Susitna or White Mountains 100 to that list. On the same bike, one could ride snowmobile trails in Alaska, tour the paved AlCan Highway south, the dirt tracks of the 2700 mile Great Divide Route, and continue west along the ACA’s paved Southern Tier Route to Florida as fall approaches. With fat tires once again, one could ride the beaches of Daytona or St. Augustine, scoping the surf or the hotel swimming pools.

A few caveats of riding a fatbike all year:

The 100mm bottom bracket width spaces the cranks further apart than on typical road and mountain bikes. I haven’t noticed any discomforts as a result, and am questioning the wisdom that insist narrow cranks are kinematically more kind to one’s body and more efficient to pedal. It may just be another antiquated French obsession.

The 170mm rear hub is not widely stocked by bicycle shops.. The current offerings are mostly high quaility hubs with common sealed cartridge bearing sizes and standard freehub bodies. As a result, short of hub body failure, parts are all standard. At the moment, most 170mm hubs are more expensive than even an XT quality hub, which is laughably cheap in a work of two thousand dollar wheelsets. Internal gear hubs are suited to offset frame designs if desired, as they maintain 135mm spacing. Salsa makes a spacer for the rear end of the Mukluk to accommodate internal gear hubs or owners with existing offset wheels (from a Pugsley, for example).

A 26″ (559mm) fatbike tire almost exactly shares an outside tire diameter with common 29er tires, preserving most handling characteristics in the wheel swap. Theoretically, a smaller tires would lower the bottom bracket height, and quicken the steering as geometric trail decreases, assuming a smaller outside wheel diameter. Twenty-niner tires (622mm)– smaller in volume (as opposed to 4″ fat tires)– would also lessen the experience of pneumatic trail, in which a tire operating at lower pressures resists a change in course, mimicking the experience of geometric trail and thus similarly named. I have ridden 40mm-622 Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires on a Mukluk and was pleased with the result. Tires less than 40 may begin to negatively affect the steering of the bike, although pedal clearance still may not be an issue due to the higher bottom bracket on most fatbikes. Get in on the ground floor as next year’s bike craze is certain to be some combination of low-trail steering geometry, rigid 29ers, and fatbikes.

Finally, with a variety of rigid and suspension forks available, steering geometry could even be honed to specific needs.

Other notable links:

Not my first wheel size experiment, check this 26″ to 650b conversion on the Velo Orange Blog.

The now-famous beach ride from Hope to Homer on a first generation purple Pugsley and Lil Ray, the only bike built by Ray Molina on the internet.

John Evingson of Anchorage has built one of the nicest fatbikes I’ve seen, before 4″ tires were available. Nice racks.

An interesting history of Snowcat rims, the original 44mm wide, lightweight singlewall snow rim, which can extend the range of any mountain bike.

The Salsa Enabler fork features the appropriate dimensions to run a fat tire on the front of a suspension corrected 29er, which is gaining strength, and the moniker “half-fat”. This steel fork would also be a worthy 29er fork for touring with it’s multiplicitous mounting locations.

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A custom flat black powdercoated Mukluk, showing parts compatability from a Specialized Hard Rock commuter with rigid Surly 1×1 fork. A new rear wheel, bottom bracket and seatpost were required. With Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires, this bike will complete this season as pictured, and will get a new pair of shoes next fall– Surly Clownshoe rims. Note: kickstand, rack, dynamo and upright bars– a solid winter commuter.

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For further discussion of alternative fatbike setups, continue to “A bike for all seasons, Part   2″.

Legion of the lost

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Larry caught my eye from a mile away. Something about his sillhouette spoke to my touring sensibilities. Smallish panniers in the rear; a tidy bundle up front simultaneously suspended from the handlebars and atop a Nitto mini-rack, “from those guys with the nice catalog”, he says. I know what he means.

I ask where, when, why?… all the annoying questions. My queries slide off him as if he were coated in Teflon– a sure sign he knows what he’s doing.

He’s an engineer, as evidenced by his spreadsheets. Oh, his spreadsheets– they account for everything. But they are a help, not a hindrance. He’s got touring style; just not my style.

Here we are, two guys that probably know everything about riding bikes, and it takes a minute to find something to talk about. I don’t need to ask if his ride has been enjoyable, or if he likes his bike, or gets lots of flats. We talk about places we’ve lived and places we’ve been; bikes on Amtrack and Greyhound; drinking half-gallons of milk, eating loaves of bread, and thumbing rides.

This is exactly how I met George the Cyclist (Annapolis), and Cass Gilbert (Anchorage, Denali), and Chris Harne (Key West). None is the same as the other, but we are always moving, and we often hide our transience. At any time, you must be able to decide to stay, or to go– a trade secret.

In Whitefish, I stay.

I haven’t known a more contented, intelligent group of people than my fellow cycle-tourists. My comrades in transience, we are an army of moving philosophers. Being right isn’t important; spinning circles with our legs and thinking, is.

The Teton Cyclery Cyclo-Tourist’s Register takes account of over a decade of tales from the road; broken Campy axles, headwinds, hills, traffic and shoulders are common fare. I read it all, and I left my mark. The registry is resurrected after 19 years.

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Whitefish cares for me, full circle

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I pushed up and over two passes and eighty miles yesterday to reach Whitefish by afternoon. Sunny, smiling, and prosperous; Whitefish invites me to stay, for a while. Ski season is around the corner, as is Glacier National Park, Whitefish lake, and plentiful hiking and biking trails. Work seems plentiful, mostly in the service industry. Whitefish definitely makes the list.

Whitefish has two great bike shops; always a good reference in describing a town. And I saw two Pinarellos before 10AM, another telling reference.

The Great Northern Bike Shop is a transplant of Teton Cyclery of Jackson Hole, WY, the owner’s former shop and residence. Contained within the GNBS is a manicured boutique of high-end road and mountain bikes, and a real coffee bar, offering caffeinated fare with as many as 6 shots (did I read that right?). One overcaffeinated drink was called “The Mechanic”. Aside from a free Americano and cup of blueberries (thanks Zana, not the last time), the shop was postered with historical cycling memoribilia, and featured some choice, vintage gear including: a Paul Components CNC rear derailleur, Campagnolo Gran Turismo rear derailleur, and assorted vintage bar-end shifters. Finally, disguised as “just another book on a shelf” was a cyclist’s touring register from before I was born. Apparently today was the day for it to be reborn-
- after 19 years. See the post titled “Legion of the lost”.

The Great Northern Bar has music and burgers and beer. Works for me.

Murmurs of a Pedalin’ Pete aroused my curiosity– an area resident who rode up to Denali for a little climb in the park. After hearing about him the second time, I demanded to know how to find this “Pete”. I was given his phone number on the spot.

I hesitated. Then I called. Pete answered; he was nice from the first word. I mumbled something about his Tout-Terrain Silkroad that I had also heard about, twice. He invited me to dinner, offered a place to stay, and we were on-site friends within the hour. His friend expertly managed a pizza-making marathon; sun-dried tomato goat cheese, Kansas City style bacon, avocado, and herb-crusted blackened chicken all made the topside of our dough. His friend– Zana. I’ll be damned if the same woman fed me breakfast and dinner in the same day, and provided a roof for the night. Whitefish comes full circle.

Spotted in Whitefish:

A Raleigh Technium city bike featuring a six-speed Maillard freewheel hub with drum brake, and large wire basket. An unexpectedly slick bike with some RivAtlantis-like flair. Check the stem height.

A 1986 Schwinn High Sierra, spotted from 50 ft away. I shouted at the operator to come hither. He was delighted at our pair of old bicycles. I delighted at his svelte SR MT-150 stem, a cousin of my MT-100.

A modern hybrid– not my favorite interpretation– with a fishing pole lashed to the top tube. That’s how they roll in Whitefish. A gun rack for your bike, sort of.

Canis lupis: are these dogs or wolves?
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