Pugsmorphology

4177WP 2

The bike has been through a series of changes since it was purchased from a Craigslist seller in Seattle last December. It came with a narrow upright handlebar, heavy Large Marge rims, and a worn Endomorph tire. It had been ridden without regular maintenance. As a result of neglect and preference, I have replaced almost everything on the bike at least once. The Pugsmorphology includes no fewer than:

8 different tire models; Endomorph, Larry, Nate, WTB Nano (29×2.1″), Schwalbe Big Apple (29×2.35″), Maxxis Holy Roller (26×2.4″), Schwalbe Big Apple (26×2.35″) and Surly Larry 120tpi ultralight

4 handlebars; narrow steel bar, Salsa Bend 2, Salsa Cowbell 3, Surly 1×1 Torsion bar

3 rim models; from Large Marge to Marge Lite, and one Salsa Semi-Disc 29er

2 forks; standard Pugsley 135mm offset and 100mm symmetrical for a dynamo hub

all on 1 purple frame.

December, 2011: Ride the 594 bus to Seattle, walk up Capitol Hill and hand over $1150, cash. I have just closed the riding season in New Mexico and am on my way to Alaska for the winter. I am carrying all of my camping gear and install it on the bike before heading out into the rain. Some bags and a Brooks saddle make the unfamiliar bike, mine.

(Many images link to related articles.)

Pugs Tacoma

Winter in Alaska. This is not my daily commute, but riding around Anchorage is never less than spectacular. Riding to the Knik Glacier is the highlight of my life on a bike, thus far.

20120327 090754

Following a winter of record snowfall and wrenching on Mukluks at The Bicycle Shop, I begin to plot my exit strategy. For the immediate road ahead, 29″ wheels are calling. I begin by building a SRAM 506 hub to a Salsa Semi-Disc 29er rim. I first mounted a WTB Nano, and later, a 29×2.35″ Big Apple.

11807WP

11810WP

Lael’s Revelate Vischasa leads me toward a full complement of modern bikepacking bags, while I explore the Pugsley as a 29er, partly.

11812WP

11814WP

29×2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple.

20110101 000000 0080

I call the Carradice Camper into service. For the first time on a longer trip I plan to carry a camera and a laptop computer, along with the necessary bundle of chargers. The saddlebag eases the strain and creates a safe harbor for the netbook.

20110101 000000 0153

Half-fat is a half-finished experiment. I intend to build a 29″ front wheel to turn my Pugsley into the Salsa Fargo that I have avoided buying all winter. The Fargo would be a great bike, and like my Stumpjumper and my High Sierra, it is a sensible option. Senseless– the Pugsley promises unknown opportunity and fun, although I cannot imagine riding several thousand miles of pavement on fat tires. The most important factor in selecting the Pugsley for travel is that I already own it.

If I am to ride 29″ wheels out of town, I expect to send 26″ wheels and fat tires to myself later in the summer. The complication and expense of the idea keeps me awake at night. There must be a better way. How can I enjoy paved roads, dirt roads and dirt trails all on the same set of wheels? Surely, pedaling the first 3000 miles on 4″ tires is a waste of rubber, and money; and building two sets of wheels and tires is wasteful and complicated.

The solution is closer than I expect. 26″ mountain bike tires in the 2.3-2.5″ range fit nicely onto 65mm rims. Voila! It’s that easy. I have been working on fatbikes all winter and this concept has never arisen– it’s always considered that a 700c/29″ wheel is required for alternative uses. I reach for the biggest 26″ tires available– 2.4″ Maxxis Holy Rollers– which bridge the gap between my needs on dirt roads and on pavement, for much less weight and expense than a true fatbike tire. When the time comes, I can simply refit fat tires to the bike. One set of wheels, two pair of tires– easy.

With my bike still set up half-fat, Lael tests the “baby-fat” concept of a smaller tire on a 65mm rim. She is a wearing a Surly Marge Lite rim over her shoulder, yet to be laced into my dynamo hub. A 2.3-2.5″ tire would not work on a larger rim such as the Surly Rolling Darryl, which is 82mm. As well, other fatbikes such as the current (2011) Salsa Mukluk feature a lower bottom bracket than the Pugsley, and would be compromised by this rim/tire combination. The Pugsley is lowered by over an inch, although the effective bottom bracket height is about the same as on Lael’s Surly LHT.

20110101 000000 0137

20110101 000000 0009

I like riding drops. The Salsa Bend 2 bar served me well all winter, but I decide to leave town on a 44cm Salsa Cowbell 3 handlebar with Ergon grips. The drops are minimally flared, much like the randonneur-style bars that I’ve ridden in the past.

11815WP 2

11824WP

The recycled pink tape cushions the hands. I finish the bars with a durable black, cotton tape. The Ergon grips require cutting and filing, shortening and enlarging the inner diameter from 22.2mm to 23.8mm. Other modifications include three rivnuts to the underside of the downtube to fit a Salsa Anything Cage, which cradles a 64 oz. Klean Kanteen.

11816WP

With drops and 2.4″ tires the bike rides well and is proof of concept. I think I will ride this: a hybridized purple fatbike with dirt jumping tires. This is a touring bike.

Pugs dropsholyroller

Considering the amount of pavement I expect, this is even better. Several days after purchasing the Holy Rollers, I seek trade for a Schwalbe Fat Frank or Big Apple. Nate, a local rider with a garage full of hyperpractical bikes, comes through with some lightly used 26×2.35″ Big Apples. He is happy to have some brand new Holy Rollers for one of his own FrankenSurlys. How did I meet Nate? He responded to my Craigslist ad for a Surly Nate tire. One fender installed, one more to go…

20110101 000000 0025

Fenders, generator lighting, 2.35″ slicks, drop bars with Ergon grips, and a peanut butter jar mounted to the fork– this is an Alaskan road bike. On my third day out I encounter snow at less than 2000ft, in June. Smooth tires– briefly– are regrettable.

121WP

The Big Apples cushion the ride on dirt roads at lower pressures, but cornering at speed on loose gravel is scary. Traction is excellent on sealed surfaces. Compromises are the nature of such a bike.

1205WP

From Alaska to Banff, the route covers nearly 75% pavement, even though I seek off-pavement routes when possible. Despite additional wheel weight (in comparison to a typical touring bike), the Pugsley passes road miles with ease, including a handful of hundred mile days through Canada. With endless sun and mosquitoes, riding is an ideal means to multiple ends, including the lower States and the mosquito-free mountains. Comfortably perched, I ride south at a rapid rate and reconnect with the Divide in Banff. Several weeks later in Bozeman, Montana, I rebuild my rear wheel with a Marge Light rim, losing a pound of aluminum in the process. Refit fat tires.

4082WP

4142WP

4158WP

For a period, drop bars and fat tires coexist. This is a fine combination when riding open roads, such as on the Divide. The big tires (re-)extend the abilities of the bike, while the drop bars allow me to efficiently and comfortably ride longer distances. Lael and I plan to ride some of the Colorado Trail when we reunite in August, and I begin to (re-)consider an upright bar. I enjoyed the Salsa Bend 2 bar all winter. Something similar will do just fine.

Fleecer

A Surly 1×1 Torsion bar arrives, taken off the used bike that Lael will soon be riding. Her Raleigh XXIX is sourced from Craigslist and comes with the Surly bar, although an On-One Mary is quickly on order. She may never ride a bike with another handlebar– to her, the Mary is perfect. I am happy to gain the added control of a wide bar and an upright position, especially with the monster traction provided by fat tires at low pressure. A week or two of singletrack in Colorado assure me that the new bar is the right choice.

8098wp

It’s not an aggressive position, which suits much of our riding. The bike rides like a Cleland– slowly and assuredly, it travels onward overland. As such, it is not a dedicated trail bike, but a “trail tourer”. Much like a fine automobile, it offers comfort and safety along with performance.

7589wp

Short of a climate control system and a stereo, it is fully-equipped. The stereo is on the to-do list (wouldn’t that be great!), while the lights are always on.

8222wp

As my fat-year closes, I’ll share more personal thoughts regarding life on a fatbike, including explicit disclosures and dissatisfactions. Mostly, it’s sweet remembrance through rose-colored glasses.

Moonrise on the Colorado Trail.

6550WP 2

DIY fatbike fenders

11030WP

In an afternoon, some donated corruplast signage from Bike wRider, fender hardware spanning several decades from Off The Chain bike co-op in Anchorage, and several dollars of aluminum door threshold sourced from the hardware store become a fatbike fender.  The whole thing was assembled with a Crank Brothers multitool, some standard M5 nuts and bolts, and the leather punch on a Swiss-Army knife.  The aluminum threshold material is extremely lightweight and bends easily, while retaining enough rigidity in use.  The corruplast has proven its durability all summer, despite a variety of abuse.  It is best to align the corruplast “with the grain”, as it will bend and crimp in the opposite direction.  The modified Nitto M18 rack is integrated into the design, and the steel tang shown below was eventually removed as the aluminum fender rib served the same purpose.  I did not expect the fenders to last through the entire summer, but they show no signs of letting up.  Eventually, I made a front mudflap from duct tape and reflective ribbon, and the rear mudflap was sourced from a broken Planet Bike fender.  DIY fatbike fenders– Take America Back!

First, bend the aluminum and locate the holes.  Drill, and install to the frame.  It is nice that the Surly Pugsley has proper threaded fender mounts on the inside of the seatstay and chainstay bridges, despite few commercially available fenders in this size.

10964WP

10965WP

10968WP

10970WP

10972WP

At first, the flat steel rack mount was used, but was later removed as it was redundant.

10976WP

Locate the holes to bolt the rack to the frame of the fender.  The Nitto rack is made of tubular Cro-Mo, while the struts are solid aluminum with steel hardware.  I removed the backstop support of the rack, simply by bending and breaking it  The sharp fragments of brass filler are covered by the red electrical tape.  In the future I might do all of this differently, although with the knowledge that it has lasted all summer I cannot complain.  This was my final project before leaving Anchorage this spring.  While a but crude, I wasn’t going to let the planning phase encroach on the ride.

10974WP

Clearance is a little tight with the modern top-pull front derailleur.  A little bending will do.

10980WP

In addition to the Nitto Rack stays, a chromed steel fender stay from an old ballon-tire bike was used.  Made of low-grade steel, it was easy to widen and bend to shape.

10998WP

After installing the aluminum and mounting all the bolts, I removed all the parts and reinstalled with the corruplast.  There is excessive clearance for the 60mm tire, but the design is intended to fit a full-sized fat tire.

10991WP

A Carradice saddlebag typically mounts to the seatpost, but with a bag support I find I can fit several drybags between the the bag and the seatpost.  Aside from extra capacity, this method reduces swaying common with saddlebags, and provides some cushion to my MacBook which is stored vertically in the Carradice Camper.  A basic nylon gear strap holds thing in place.

10989WP

Ideally, the corruplast is used in the other direction, “with the grain”.  It does work in this orientation, but it tends to bend into a ridged shape like corrugated cardboard.

11001WP

This direction gives a clean bend and holds a nice shape.

11007WP

60mm Schwalbe Big Apple tires on 65mm rims roll well on pavement, allowing a handful of hundred mile days.  On dirt and gravel roads, traction is a bit scant.  I might select something with a little more tread next time, even if only the Schwalbe Fat Frank tire.  For a more aggressive tread in this tire size, there is the Maxxis Holy Roller 2.4″, Kenda K-Rad 2.5″ and the Kenda Slant Six 2.5″.  There are other options with considerably more aggressive tread patterns for downhill use, but they also approach the weight of a proper 4″ fat tire.  The Big Apple is a little lighter than the smooth Black Floyd tires available from Surly, and as I expected, are quite durable and puncture-resistant.  I didn’t have a single flat from Anchorage all the way to Bozeman, Montana.  When I fit fat tires, I sent the Big Apples back to Anchorage where Bike wRider intends to finish them off.

11013WP

11009WP

I like a bike with fenders and powerful dynamo lighting.  The Pugsley has been my daily transportation for almost a year, and these features make it comfortable and safe in all conditions.  I have little time on the Pusgley without the fender, except in a frozen Alaskan winter when it is unnecessary, but one of Joe’s considerations after touring on the Pugsley in the summer of 2010 was that a fender would combat the “unusual amount of spray in the wet”.  I still experience some overspray onto my feet while riding fast in extremely wet conditions, such as on pavement.  Overall, I remain clean and dry.

11016WP

The Take America Back slogan was part of Joe Miller’s unsuccessful bid for Senate in 2010.  He was a vocal Tea Party candidate, but lost to Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, a write-in candidate in the race.

Half-fat and baby fat

I’m half-fat with a 26 x 3.7″ Surly Larry tire up front and a 29 x 2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple in the rear.  A 29 inch wheel is a great way to optimize a fatbike for summer singletrack, touring, or pavement.  Half-fat is my half-baked idea of a bike that can go anywhere, but doesn’t ride like a tank.  Half-fat: not half bad.

The simple and cheap option to refit a fatbike for general use is to select a high volume 26″ tire such as the Maxxis Hookworm 2.5 or Holy Roller 2.4; Schwalbe Big Apple or Fat Frank 2.35; and a host of other 2.3-2.4″ tires from WTB, Specialized, Kenda, and others.  These tires mount nicely to a 65mm rim such as the Large Marge, but may be unworkable on anything wider.  While the bottom bracket of the Pugsley is lowered over an inch, the height measures about the same as the Surly Long Haul Trucker and pedal strike is not a serious concern when cornering.  For less than a hundred bucks, the bike is transformed with a fast rolling, durable, all around tire.  The Maxxis Holy Roller 26 x 2.4 does the job on Lael’s Pugsley.  Baby fat.  Holy roller.

Bigger and bigger

The bike is moving in the right direction.  I’ve swapped the 8sp 11-32 cassette for a 9sp 12-36.  A Deore SGS derailleur wraps the extra chain.  The used 29×2.1 Nanoraptor tire has been replaced by a seriously voluminous and clean looking 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple.  This bike is becoming an exercise in extremes, but the first thing I plan to do with it is ride 2000 miles of pavement, which is more normal than extreme.

Three holes on the underside of the down tube and some Rivnuts secure a Salsa Anything Cage, which snugly fits between my cranks with the 100mm bottom bracket shell.

Dry pavement

One of our first casual rides of the year, in which we leave without a destination and find our way home at our leisure, because it’s not that cold out any more.  On the heels of a snowfall record is a sunny 50F degree day.  Dry pavement abounds, bordered by snowbanks and dotted with isolated puddles reflecting evening light.  We’re back to riding normal tires again; Lael’s got 26 x 2.0 Schwalbe Big Apples and I’m on a worn out Schwalbe Marathon and and old Continental Top Touring tire.  Tires, like sleeping bags are highly personal and infinitely fascinating to me.  I’ve used many sleeping bags and many more tires.  It’s nice to wear normal shoes again, and to ride on dry pavement without the chatter of studs.  As the snow melts, dirt and gravel are left as ashes in it’s place.  Sidewalks and shoulders are uninspiring moist dirt paths for now.

We use this ride as a planning session for the near future and and are satisfied that making plans while riding bikes in the amber light of the falling sun is appropriate inspiration for we have in store.