Week-end Beach Klunk

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It is that time of year between crust and summer where the trails are too wet to ride, the roads and sidewalks have only recently become clear and dry, and the days are becoming extremely long.  The bike shop is busy, and working six long days a week has a way of taking some energy out of the riding coffers.  It is a good time of year to catch a little rest from riding and make plans.  Daily, I open my computer to find open tabs in my internet browser describing far-off places.  I inquire, “were you up late reading a Wikipedia article about Romania?”  Sheepishly, and with a smile; you know the answer.

Lael has also discovered road biking, the result of a strained Achilles that shouldn’t be running for a while, and a nice carbon road bike in her size that resides in the basement, belonging to her mother.

I have been exploring and discovering the many conceptual permutations of bikes, rims, tires, and suspension forks resulting in a range of purebred adventure machines, from a standard hardtail 29er to a full-fat fatbike.  Of course, the new Rock Shox Bluto is intriguing, promising a quality fork like the Reba, with the clearance for every fatbike tire on the market.  The new Salsa Bucksaw is also fascinating, for some kinds of riding.

But, I’d like to use a dynamo hub to run lights and a USB-power outlet.  And I don’t expect to need a true fatbike anytime soon–with the exception of a local beach ride, possibly– so there is no reason to pedal a 100mm BB around if I don’t have to.  Not that it is a big problem to pedal a fatbike, but it does feel a little different on the body, and platform pedals on wide cranks don’t like to thread through tight places quite as well.  This is not a problem 99% of the time, but I’m shooting for perfect, or as near as possible.  After some years of evolving touring tastes, I finally feel like I’m coming close to the ultimate adventure bike.  This is a very personal definition– as some days I’d rather have the Mukluk, and other days I’d prefer a Horsethief or a Stumpjumper.

Now, a 120mm suspension fork on a purpose-specific hardtail 29+ frame might be the ticket for long-term reliability, efficiency in a variety of terrain, and fun.  If I need a fatbike next year, I’ll figure that out next year.  Until then, I hope to ride a lot on a bike that feels just right.  If I was to remain in Anchorage for the next year, or for several years, I think the Mukluk as pictured above would be my summer bike.

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We meet near Earthquake Park at about 7PM.  Ride out the paved Coastal Trail, whooping and hollering in the last four hours of sunlight, which is essentially a four hour long sunset.  Blast down to the beach and a quick ride to the point to burn some driftwood and cook sausages, avoiding the first few mosquitoes of the year.

Hobbes arrives on his Transition Klunker, a genuine coaster brake klunker with BMX grit– a modern offering from the Transition Bicycle Co, better known for big squish all-mountain bikes.  His riding reminds us that bike skills are more important than fancy bikes.  Although, he’s got one of those too.

After shooting indoors at high ISO the day before, I forget to adjust the camera settings.  The result is an off-putting digital grain, partly reduced during editing.  Aside, I’ve recently acquired a proper film camera, an Olympus OM-2S.  I finished my first roll of film today.  Looking through a real optical viewfinder is inspiring.  A simple light meter is nice.  The DOF preview is useful.  What amazing features.

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I also broke my Olympus E-P3 digital camera in an incident involving a Mukluk, some ice, a brief section of urban singletrack, and a tree.  Currently, I am using my older E-PM1, which is now Lael’s camera.  I am on the hunt for a new body, most likely an Olympus OM-D E-M5.  Anyone looking to get rid of one before I place an order?  How about a super cheap used E-P3?

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At the bottom of this sandy descent (coster brake!) Hobbes remarks that optimal pavement skidding tire pressure and beach pressure are quite different.

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Collecting firewood.  Summer in AK equals less sleep, and more playtime.

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Abe and I have made similar customizations to our Mukluks.  A Fox Float fork, Stan’s Flow EX rims, and 29×2.3″ Specialized Purgatory tires are the key ingredients in his build.  A wide carbon Answer DH bar, short stem, and hydraulic brakes turn a Mukluk into a trail bike.  Eventually, he expects to compile a 1×10 drivetrain with an aftermarket 42T ring for an inexpensive 1x set-up.  Note, he’s using a concoction of wood glue and water as a tubeless tire sealant.  It works.

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Fork clearance is huge, even with wider rims and 2.3″ tires.

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Not so much room with a Knard on a Velocity Dually rim, but enough for experimental purposes.  I don’t expect to rely on 3.0″ Knard tires, anyway.  They ride nicely, but the tread wears quickly as a result of low-profile knobs.  I also prefer more aggressive tires for unexpected trail conditions, and especially, for steep climbs.  I am thinking a 35mm rim and a 2.35, 2.4, 2.5 or even 2.75″ tire would be ideal.  Still hoping to try some Surly Dirt Wizard tires if they even make it to market.  I am thinking a Krampus frame would be the perfect host for this mix of parts, leaving some room to spare for mud.  Somehow, I’ve known the Krampus might be the best choice for me for years.  It has been a long road getting here via the Schwinn High Sierra, Surly Pugsley, Raleigh XXIX, Surly ECR, and the Salsa Mukluk.

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The Salsa Alternator swinging dropouts allow for simple and secure chain tensioning.  To clear the 29+ tire they must be rotated back several mm.

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The Velocity Dually rims are beautiful, and built up as well as any wheel I have built.  I think a 45mm rim is a great pairing for 3.0″ tires, and is slightly lighter than Rabbit Hole rims.  As always, Velocity rims are Made in the USA.  I’ll be experimenting with the claimed tubeless features of this rim, although from my initial experiments, there may be something missing in contrast to more advanced tubeless designs.  I’ve been spoiled by Stan’s rims, I think.

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Chain to tire clearance is very good, as expected.  In many ways, a fatbike frame with 29+ wheels is an ideal adventure set-up.  Full double or triple drivetrain clearance is a breeze, and for certain trips, a quick wheel swap at home turns it back into a fatbike.  This is a perfect four-season Alaska adventure bike.

My concern for BB width is largely the result of many months of riding ahead of us.  We don’t know where, or when, or how long, but I want something that pedals really comfortably.  I think my legs prefer a 73mm BB for long days, higher cadences, and steep climbs.  So far, the 29+ Mukluk has been a joy, and a proof of concept.

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Lots of plotting and planning.  Anyone in AK want to buy a Mukluk or an ECR?  Details to follow.

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Unusual Fruit

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Frost has claimed much of the remaining outdoor harvest on the farm, while spicy arugula and mild white turnips persist in the greenhouse.  The root cellar is full and the freezer is packed for the short, mild winter in the southwest.  Aside, some unusual fruits have come up recently: With Jeremy’s help, Lael has finished fermenting some delicious kimchi of Chinese cabbage, turnips, daikon, and kohlrabi, made with a salty brine and some time.  I’ve got some new shoes for the Pugsley in the form of folding 120 tpi 26×3.8″ Surly Knard tires, soon to be mounted tubeless.  And, Cass and I are building wheels for his new Surly Krampus frame with Surly Rabbit Hole rims.  These rims are 50mm wide and constructed like the lightweight Marge Lite rims I have been riding all summer.

In the basket: Surly Ultra New Front Disc hub, Phil Wood Mountain Disc hub, DT Competition butted black spokes and black brass nipples, and two Surly Rabbit Hole rims.  A good winter harvest.

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The Phil Wood cassette hub was sourced locally at Fat Tire Bike Shop in Albuquerque, NM.  It had been sitting around for several years, as it seems nobody wants a boat anchor for a rear hub.  Cass has experienced numerous issues with modern Deore and Deore XT hubs, and the Phil promises to solve all of his (rear hub related) problems.  Shimano disc hubs have a habit of loosening.  The hub design seems to be largely unchanged from their non-disc offerings, except that the loads associated with disc braking are able to loosen the locknut and cone.  As well, Cass had issues with his XT freehub while in South America.  The freewheel action became gritty and tight.  Technically, replacing a freehub body is not rocket science except that newer XT hubs with oversized axles (reduced at the ends) require a specific freehub body that is almost equal in cost to the hub itself.  The body is also affixed with a 14mm hex wrench, which isn’t a common tool even in some big-city bike shops.  Unfortunately, the leap in price from an XT hub is great and the options quickly become expensive, including the likes of Chris King, DT Swiss, and Hope.  Luckily, this unwanted Phil Wood was a relative bargain at $200.

Phil Wood has been overbuilding hubs since 1971, and pioneered the use of sealed cartridge bearings in bicycle equipment in a small machine shop in California.  The Field Serviceable Design was introduced in 1991 and can be done with only two 5mm hex wrenches.   Three grease ports are also located on the freehub splines.  This hub should prove to be worth its weight in reliability, and it is notably heavy.  It is not uncommon to see Phil hubs from the 70′s in daily service.  The value of cartridge bearings is that the integral parts of the hub are undamaged by heavy use and neglect.

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The non-drive side flange is taller to effectively transmit disc-brake loads.  The 6-bolt ISO disc mount is seriously overbuilt.

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Surly Rabbit Hole rims are a singlewall-type rim with a doublewall box section in the corners, much like the Surly Marge Lite.  They are 622x50mm, but weight only 699g.

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Singlewall spoke bed with cutouts to save weight.  Doublewall sections in the corners are built for rigidity.  These rims build up nice and round.  They are drilled with 64 holes, offset 5mm from center.  For symmetrical builds, lace the wheel to alternating sides of each pair of holes.  For asymmetrical wheels such as on the Pugsley, lace entirely to one side.

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29×3.0″ Knard tires on freshly built wheels, inflated to 40 psi to properly seat the bead.  Previously mounted on a narrow Salsa Delgado Cross rim, the tire now measures 10mm wider on the Rabbit Hole rim and the side knobs are oriented in a more useful direction.  The tire and the rim were designed in unison, and it shows.

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These tasty root vegetables are Surly’s new lightweight folding fatbike tire, also called the Knard.  They borrow the same tread as the 29×3.0″ Knard on Cass’ Krampus, but are built on the lightweight casing of the folding Larry and Nate models.  These will eventually find their way onto the Pugsley, tubeless.

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Finally, this Panaracer Fire Cross tire comes all the way from Fairbanks, AK.  Josh is probably spending more time on his new Mukluk than on this skinny 700x45mm tire, so he offered to send it for my experiments on the VO Campeur.  It has more aggressive knobs and a lighter casing than the Mondial.

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Words from the wise: Cass says, “mismatched hubs are like mismatched socks”.  Around here, the practice is heartily encouraged.

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