Rick Hunter Longtail Fatbike, for Scott Felter

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Rick Hunter is the genius behind this custom concoction, as well as the camouflaged Super Scrambler featured a few weeks ago.

It’s hard to call a longtail fatbike ‘understated’, especially with the accoutrements of stark white framebags, but many attendees at NAHBS simple walked past thinking this was another funky show bike to explore the limits of tire size, wheelbase and custom luggage.  In fact, this bike is an exercise in real world problem solving.  Scott Felter, best known by his super-stitching Porcelain Rocket alter-ego, will embark upon an epic cross-continental desert adventure this summer.  Joined by Tom Walwyn, they intend to ride Australia’s Canning Stock Route, a 1150mi abandoned stock route through the arid outback, made possible by several remnant wells along the historic cattle route.  The route is classically epic, first traversed by 4WD motor vehicle in 1968; in 2005, Jakub Postrzygacz was the first to travel the route by bicycle, self-supported on his first-generation purple Surly Pugsley with custom fat-tire Extrawheel trailer.  In adventure cycling circles, Jacob’s crossing was the equivalent of a first-ascent.  One other rider has completed the route since, also with a trailer.  Tom Walwyn has recently received a custom Twenty2 titanium fatbike, and is expecting a custom trailer.  Between Rick Hunter‘s metal wizardry, and his own stitching solutions, Scott plans to ride the route without a trailer, carrying food for the month-long crossing and water for several days at a time, all on two wheels.

Notable features include a custom longtail assembly with a stout removable rear rack; custom chainstay yoke and fork crown to accommodate a maximum 100mm rim and 4.8″ tire (shown with 82mm Rolling Darryl and 4.7″ Big Fat Larry tires); and custom framebags installed directly to the frame via threaded braze-ons and standard M5 bolts.  Rick has detailed the frame with stunning curves at the back end, and a squared-off bluntness at the front, a juxtaposition not unlike his own style.  The bike manages an immense luggage capacity by way of Scott’s integrated systems, including two capacious panniers– each more than double the size of the standard Ortlieb Backroller– and several frambags which make the most of underutilized space within the frame.  A front rack may be added for additional capacity.  Arkel attachments were used to complete the panniers.

A few words from Scott Felter:

The idea was to have space for about 150L of capacity on the bike.  So the rear panniers are about 40L each, and there will be 20L panniers on the front + the framebags and the rack-top bag (whatever that ends up looking like).  The rear panniers will likely be full of food.  The framebags and front panniers will be kit storage.  There are bladder sleeves in the sides of the rear panniers, in order to keep the weight close to the rack and low-ish.  There is a 4-day stretch on the route without access to water.  So, at 10L a day, that’s 40L of water to carry.

The challenges are basically the terrain, which is sandy.  So, sometimes hardpacked, but more than likely soft in most places.  Hence the fatbike.  There are no resupply spots on route, so we will mostly be eating dehydrated food.  There are, if I’m not mistaken, 50-ish wells along the route, so that is the water source.  Some of the wells are no longer flowing, and some have been tainted by animals falling into them and dying.

We are going in winter, so the temps will be in the mid-80’s during the day and about freezing at night.  We are planning to share a tent, and only carry a tarp in case of precipitation, which is unlikely.  For me, the landscape is a bit daunting, mentally.  While I’ve lived in the desert of NM, this is a whole different sort of world.  Like being on Mars.  I’m looking forward to it, for sure.

This bike did not go entirely unnoticed by the bicycling community.  Below, Rick is interviewed by Josh Patterson of BikeRadar.com.WPBlog001 293

Custom fork crown.

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And a matching custom chainstay yoke.

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Custom panel-loading framebag.

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Big Fat Larry tires on 82mm Rolling Darryls.  Rims without cutouts were selected for durability.

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170mm Fatback hubs front and rear allow wheels to be swapped in the event of a freehub failure.  These hubs are manufactured by Hadley.

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Seriously, no shortage of attention, although the casual attendees still don’t know what to make of these monster bikes.  Cass Gilbert photographs the Hunter.

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Receiving a bike at NAHBS is a real honor.

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Getting your feet wet a few moments later is a privilege.

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Scott’s first ride aboard the fattie in five inches of fresh snow.  This is much more than a show bike, and much more than a snow bike.

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More features from NAHBS coming soon!

Go!– Fatbikes in New Mexico

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Published in the Albuquerque Journal this morning, in the business section on the Go! page.  Article by Mark Smith.  Images by Jim Thompson and Nicholas Carman.

Update: The ABQ Journal now has the full article online, with a web video feature.

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Click to enlarge.

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I got the local paper to say “fatbike touring“.  This is a small victory.

Charlie Ervin, owner of Two Wheel Drive had the pleasure of saying “fatbike” on TV yesterday.  Check out the full video on the morning program NM Style.

Real touring bikes: Montana

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These are real touring bikes.  These are real people.  These are real places.  If you have missed the “Real touring bikes” series, check out the Yukon, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies.

July in Montana is high time for bicycle touring.  Adventure Cycling maps draw cyclists into the state on several routes including, the Great Divide, Northern TIer, Lewis and Clark, Great Parks, and the landmark TransAmerica Trail.  Glacier National Park and heavily forested mountains offer the next best thing to Alaska, and the sight of a bear is a regular possibility in the western part of the state.  Montana is expansive and wild, but charming towns and small cosmopolitan cities create a diverse experience.  Whitefish is a friendly tourist town, aware of its growth and committed to maintaining its allure.  Missoula is ever one of my favorite places, and every time I visit, I resist leaving.  A trip to Missoula is incomplete without visiting ACA headquarters, FreeCycles, and the refreshing Clark Fork River.

In Eureka, MT: This Swedish rider has come from Boston, and selected to hop the train through the Dakotas and eastern Montana.  He rides an older Cannondale touring frame with Vaude panniers, neatly pasted with reflective tape.

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Also in Eureka, this rider has come from Seattle.  His newer Novara Randonee has a replacement fork; the original fork was damaged in an accident and this hybrid fork was sourced from a local bike shop out of a pile of homeless parts.  The duct tape is integral to the system– it attaches the fender and keeps the spring from coming loose from the brake arm.

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Whitefish, MT:  This town is full of touring cyclists in the summer.  Three routes pass through town– the Great Divide, Northern Tier, and Great Parks.  Outside Glacier Cyclery, nearly a dozen touring cyclists convene one morning.  Ryan‘s mid-nineties Trek 520 reminds me of my first touring bike.  He carries a simple kit in a pair of panniers and a handlebar bag.  Only a month into his first tour, he has already unloaded a pair of front panniers, and developed a relaxed approach.  A steel mug is a solid companion on the road.

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Down-tube shifters, a stem mounted bell, and a tidy bike.

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The train also passes through Whitefish, and is a popular way for people to come and go.  He scheduled to take the train to Portland to take a rest from touring and to visit with friends.

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I still don’t understand why this bike looks like a spaceship, but it is actually much more normal that it appears.  The frame is aluminum, and features internal cable routing and some non-functional black plastic venting on the headtube.  The rider is from northern Europe, and is equipped as one would expect: lighting, fenders, panniers, low-rider rack, kickstand and an upright position.  The bike is a Batavus Venturo Extreme, a touring model that is sold ready-to-roll with racks, fenders and lights.  That is not a suspension fork, although the lengthened steerer suggests that the design is suspension corrected for a short travel fork.

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This rider had just completed an unsupported group trip, operated by the Adventure Cycling association.  We has headed back home, but was keen to share his new Surly Long Haul Trucker.  It is mostly a stock build, with an aluminum rear rack and a Surly Nice Rack up front, made of tubular cromoly steel.  The rider has also installed fenders and a double-legged kickstand.

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The Surly rack is indestructible, but heavy.  When carrying a lot of weight, it is an excellent choice.

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This young rider had begun his trip on an older Bianchi mountain bike that has served him through many commuting seasons in Pennsylvania.  Along the way, a crack developed near the rear dropout.  He considered repairing the bike, but several components also needed replacement.  Instead, he purchased this new Specialized Tricross Sport Disc, one of the growing class of 28ers on the market.  Including the Salsa Vaya, Raleigh Roper, Kona Rove and others, these bikes fit tires up to 40-45mm.  Many newer models blend both drop bars and disc brakes, while less expensive models are sold with upright handlebars and rim brakes.

The rack extension is designed to carry a mandolin, which he had only begun to play on this trip.  Rear panniers, not pictured, are also in play.  The extra leverage of the rack extension and the weight of the panniers resulted in broken rack bolts at the dropouts.  Also to blame is the “disc-specific” rear rack, which puts considerable leverage on the rack bolts due to a widened position.  This rider left most of his gear in Columbia Falls,  ten miles away, and rode into Whitefish seeking repairs.

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The sheared bolt can be seen in the frame.  Note the black barrel on the backside of the rack strut.  It spaces the rack away from the frame to avoid disrupting the action of the disc brake, but it puts a lot of stress on the long bolt that is required.  Other disc-specific racks use a similar design, but a short bolt is installed inside the extension barrel, which puts the stress on the rack itself, and not on the bolt.  The Topeak Explorer Disc works well with disc brakes and is affordable.  It does not suffer from this design flaw.

Propery tightened bolts are also less likely to shear.  In this case it appears that a disc-specific rack was not even required, as is becoming more common on utility bikes with disc brakes.  Disc brake touring bikes from Surly and Salsa do well to make rack installation easy as the caliper is attached inside of the rear triangle, rather than on top of the dropout.

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A family of Salsa Fargos is headed north, only a few days from the end of the Great Divide Route.  They began in New Mexico.  On the right, daddy Fargo; center, mommy Fargo; and the left, baby Fargo.  The younger rider is only twelve years old.  He began the trip carrying only a portion of his load, but now carries all of his own gear.

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Daddy Fargo.

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The stick and the red bandana signal a child’s dream to hit the road.  What kid didn’t stuff a sandwich and some marbles into a bandana, tied it to a stick, and threw it over his shoulder?  Let your kids run away from home.  Go with them.

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His first bike trip traveled cross-country, when he was only eight or nine years old.

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Pedalin’ Pete is now an old friend in Whitefish.  We met last year, and I was happy to see he is still in town.  He rode this Tout-Terrain Silkroad up to Alaska, where he spent several weeks climbing Denali.

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Jason is a friend of Pete, and joined me for two days of riding to Missoula.  His touring kit includes a Specialized Crux, a cross racing model, and a vintage Burley trailer.  Read more about our trip in my post, The Flathead.

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Sean joined me in Missoula for a week of riding.  His bike is a repurposed Novara Aspen from the late 80’s, with drop bars and 26×2.3″ Kenda K-Rad tires.  A Bridgestone XO-1 rests in the foreground at the Orange Street Food Farm.

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On the Great Divide.

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Brent is an active warm showers host in Missoula who welcomes dozens of cyclists throughout the warmer months.  He spent several years upon a bike, but is now a student of computer science and jazz music.  While staying at his house I crossed paths with several other cyclists.  This Pake C’Mute frame is nicely built with an Origin 8 SpaceBar, much like the On-One Mary, and had come from Virginia en route to Oregon.

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Ian Hibell’s Norway to South Africa bike is now prominently displayed at ACA headquarters.  The bike is nearly complete with original equipment.  The Carradice handlebar bag is a replacement for display purposes, but only the color is different from the original.

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This Centurion is one of the older models I have seen.  Repurposed with some new parts, it now serves as a tourer and commuter.  The early history of Centurion and the WSI corporation is well-documented on Sheldon Brown’s site.  Originating in Oakland, these riders are headed east.

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Her riding partner is on a late 80’s Trek 520, after both the 620 and 720 had been retired.  This appears to be a 1988 or 1989 model.  The wheels are original to the bike, but have been refit with 27″ Schwalbe Marathon tires.

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My friend Doug welcomed me in Bozeman, where I  built a new wheel on a Surly Marge Lite rim.  Doug enjoyed his first bike trip this summer from Bozeman to the Oregon Coast.  I consulted him during the planning process.  He is keen enough to see value in a Kona Dew, priced at less than $500 dollars.  I recommended that a rear rack and some panniers would carry all of his gear, if he avoided packing for the Bikapocalypse.  A handlebar bag and Jandd Framepac balance the load and offer some convenient storage for snacks, and probably more snacks.  Doug is a hungry guy.

He selected a riser bar for a more upright position, and 38mm Schwalbe Marathon tires for increased comfort and reliability.

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I often recommend this class of bicycle when asked about a cheap (new) bike for touring or commuting.  Some that come to mind with wide-range gearing and reasonable tire clearances: the Kona Dew, Novara Buzz, Jamis Coda, and KHS Urban XPress.

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I met this Korean rider on one of many short sections of pavement on the Great Divide Route.  He was riding cross-country on pavement on a new Surly Long Haul Trucker with butterfly bars, and didn’t speak a lick of English.  Instead, we laughed for five minutes and took pictures of one another.  This was a great exchange, and the last touring cyclist I would see in the state before reaching Idaho.  Coming soon, Real touring bikes: Idaho and Wyoming.

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My bike evolved all summer.  I entered the state on 26×2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple tires, and left the state on 26×3.8″ Surly Larrys.  For a time, drop bars and fat tires coexist.

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The Flathead

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The right bike for the job is the one you are riding.  I fly into Whitefish under darkness.  Over a hundred paved miles from Fernie, B.C. to Whitefish, MT, I had not envisioned making it to town that night but I need to reach Missoula in several days.  The light and the night is right, and the road is wide open.  When I made the decision to reach Whitetfish, the sun was low and fifty miles lay ahead.  As I arrive, twilight had just turned to dark.  Pushing eighteen, twenty, twenty-one miles per hour in my aero position, I remain on the bike as the sky turns to fire.  In town, cheap cold beer and live American music are right where I left them last year.

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Taking the day to swim and visit friends, I meet Jason.  He intends to see a concert in Missoula, and suggests that he could ride there.  I sense bravado and his bluff, ordering that we arrange to meet the next morning.  Agreed.

Of his three race bikes– a Specialized Stumpjumper, Crux, and Tarmac– he selects the Crux,  a true cyclocross racer.  His previous experience with multi-day bike travel includes a trip around northwest Montana with his dog Cody, towed in an old Burley trailer.  The marriage of the race bike and the vintage trailer is inevitable, and ironic.  I suggest that he simply strap a sleeping bag to his handlebars, but the trailer is his “system”.  This is fine by me.  I am riding a purple snow bike, so I don’t have much to say.

We are up early, only to waste the morning with coffee and internet and bike preparations– none of which is really wasteful.  Leaving at two, we pedal a brisk ten miles and stop for ice cream and bananas.  Leaving late and eating ice cream is my M.O., but Jason is skeptical of our progress.  Back on the bikes, we wind along perpendicular valley farm roads to the shores of Flathead Lake.  He establishes a pace, I follow; I lead, he follows, and within the hour we are twenty miles down the road.  We stop for groceries and local Flathead cherries, spitting pits and pretending like the miles ahead of us will ride themselves and the day will last forever.  Finding a riding pace with a new partner is a challenge, but to find a rhythm and a rapport off the bike is harder.  With words, we dance towards a solution.

Should we ride?

If you want.

We can wait.

Well, we could go.

Ok, let’s ride.

A Pugsley with touring tires and a race bike and an old kids trailer is a whole lot of bike.  We could win road races and ride through a winter and carry around a family and shoot off for a quick two-day ride to Missoula.  These are real touring bikes.  Ten, fifteen miles later we stop for a swim.

Pacing along the shoreline fifteen more miles or more and we swim again, spitting cherry pits into the grass.  From here, we can see the topography that suggests the city of Polson, although the structures and the golf course are out of view.  Must be another fifteen miles or so, yeah?  “Probably.”  It doesn’t really matter, but neither does the weather or politics or anything.  These are things people talk about.  We roll into town by seven.  The cherry festival is wrapping up for the night.  We ride up the hill past houses and empty grassy lots.  We come upon an old cemetery.  This is the kind of town that doesn’t really care if you sleep in the grass; there is plenty of space and not enough people to fill it.  This might be the America that people are looking for, but this is the Res– the Flathead.  Tomorrow we ride to Missoula.

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Pugsmorphology

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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.

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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.

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

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29×2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Kit List: The Surly Pugsley

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Frame: Surly Pugsley; 1st generation purple, 18″

Fork: Surly, symmetrical 100mm spacing for generator hub, with bottle mounts

Handlebar: Surly 1×1 Torsion; 4130 Cro-Mo made by Nitto, 15deg sweep, 666mm wide

Stem: RaceFace Deus XC

Headset: Chris King NoThreadset

Brake Levers: Avid FR-5

Brakes: Avid BB7 with metallic pads; 203mm rotor (front), 160m rotor (rear)

Shifters: Shimano Ultegra bar-end levers to Velo Orange thumb-shifter mount

Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT, e-type mount

Crank: FSA Alpha Drive; 44x32x22, 175mm

Bottom bracket: FSA Platinum, 100x148mm ISIS

Chainring: Surly 32T stainless steel

Pedals: Suntour XC-II platform

Rear derailleur:  Shimano Deore, SGS

Cassette: 8 speed 11-32, various

Chain: 8sp, usually SRAM

Front wheel: Shimano 3D72 generator hub for centerlock disc, to Surly Marge Lite rim with DT spokes

Rear wheel:  Shimano M475 hub to Surly Marge Lite rim with DT spokes

Tires: Surly Larry 26×3.8″, 120 tpi ultralight model

Tubes: 26×2.5-3.0″, for downhill with presta valve

Rim strips: Surly, for 65mm rim

Cables and housing: generic stainless, with Avid Rollamajig to rear derailleur

Sealant: TrueGoo, Stan’s

Grips: Velo Orange cork/foam blend

Water bottle cages: Profile Design Kage (2), Salsa Anything Cage, and generic cage on King Cage top cap mount

Pump: Lezyne Pressure Drive

Cyclecoputer (removed): Cateye Enduro

Lights: Supernova E3, front; B&M Toplight Line Plus, rear

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Rack and fenders, modified: see here

Luggage: see here

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Kit List: Luggage

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Bike bags:

Carradice Camper, leather attachment straps replaced with REI gear straps

Revelate framebag; medium, misfit to older Pugsley frame

Revelate Pocket, front handlebar bag

Revelate Gas Tank, top tube bag

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Drybags and gear sacks:

Sea-to-Summit e-Vent compression sack: contains sleeping bag, down jacket and VBL attached with REI gear straps

Sea-to-Summit, durable welded drybag: contains tent, excluding poles and stakes

Outdoor Research, silnylon stuffsack; contains clothing, stored in saddlebag

Outdoor Research, silnylon drybag; contains camera

assorted silnylon and uncoated nylon bags for organization and moisture resistance

Big Agnes silnylon gear bags, assorted; for tent poles and stakes

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Assorted bags:

Ziploc style bags for dry foods, electronic chargers, passports and papers

plastic bread bags for external hard drive and MacBook charger, books, postcards, etc.

small clutch (hand purse) for tools

Straps:

REI nylon gear straps (preferred)

Sea-to-Summit straps

generic reflective Velcro straps to attach raingear to D-loops on saddlebag

Velco strap to contain tightly rolled sleeping pad, stored in drybag

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The Revelate equipment utilizes lightweight, abrasion resistant Dimension Polyant VX-series fabrics and water-resistant zippers.  The VX sailcloth fabric, also called X-Pac, is extremely durable and is technically waterproof although it is common to find moisture inside the bags as with waterproof panniers, like Ortliebs.  Even a waterproof bag is susceptible to atmospheric moisture.  The stitching and construction of the Revelate bags is superb and the large zipper on the framebag has been trouble-free, despite much hard use.  Handmade in Anchorage, AK.

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The Carradice Camper saddlebag is made from a durable waxed cotton fabric, with leather straps.  A wooden dowel is screwed to the bag as a stiffener.  The bags are handmade in Nelson, England.

I have repaired several leather straps as the stitching has pulled away from hard use.  I also broke the original wooden dowel.  My replacement is of a larger diameter and is assembled with a nut and bolt, through a hole drilled into the dowel.  Eventually, the straps that attach to the saddle loops wear due to abrasion, whether leather or nylon.  The main cause is that a thin steel stock is used to make the loops.  I carry spare nylon straps and hope to make a rubber shim to prevent abrasion in the future.  Occasionally, I apply a fresh coat of wax to the bag, either Filson’s, Martinex, or Sno-Seal.  In place of flimsy saddlebag supports, I prefer a more rugged mini-rack such as the the VO Pass Hunter, which mounts to the cantilever posts and only weighs 250g.  A Nitto M-18 is more adaptable, and fits nicely on the Pugsley.  Carradice bags are as waterproof as any other bag I have used, including welded plastic panniers.  A breathable fabric, even as simple as cotton duck canvas, begins to breathe as soon as the rain lets up.

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The longflap is invaluable for carrying large, unexpected loads.  Mine has swallowed a bear resistant canister in Denali National Park, cakes and pies, or a twelve pack of beer.  There are no guarantees that a cake will remain unharmed, however.

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It has worn some from use, but “This item handcrafted in Nelson, England by: Priscilla”.

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The 11″ MacBook Air fits perfectly in the vertical position at the back of the bag.  It is padded by a soft case and half of a state gazetteer.  The side pockets are huge on the Camper.

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Maintenance.  A fresh waterproofing coat.

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Repairs.  I love these inexpensive straps from REI, if I haven’t said it already.  They never break and the sliders don’t slip.

Joe Cruz calls my luggage system, and my entire bike, “hobo chic”.  It works, and that’s what matters.

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DIY fatbike fenders

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Santa Fe Lost and Found

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Charged with forest service maps, local hiking and biking trail maps, and an iPhone, our plan was for five days of riding dirt roads and singletrack.  Even before leaving town, we consult the iPhone.  Stop and go navigation was to become a pattern, and a series of forest fires and floods over the past decade would erase much of the valuable information from our maps.  More images from my trip with Lael, Cass and Joe, here is another installment of riding with friends.

Leaving town on a rail-trail is easy.  Eventually, we find our way onto dirt roads and BLM property and encounter a spectacular rocky descent from atop a mesa.  So far, so good.

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Navigation is easy when you can see where you are going.  This vantage offered a map view of the area.

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Several transport stages require riding on pavement.  Working together to reach the Jemez Mountains and USFS lands by dark, a brisk paceline forms.

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A map view of the Jemez area indicates concentric ridges and canyons around the Valles Caldera, at the center of the Jemez Mountains.  In the morning, we climb a ridge on FR 289 into the trees.  The views from atop this ridge are our first signs of the dramatic effect of forest fires over the past decade.  This fire burned last June, and was followed by a biblical flood event.  Fire followed by water is a toxic potion in arid climates.

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In search of water, we venture down a gated 4×4 track.  Followed by a fun descent, we hack our way through shoulder high vegetation.  The map indicates a trail, but we only find the obvious signs of erasure– fires and flood, and the thick regeneration of understory vegetation.  In five days, we encounter only five surface water sources.  Luckily, several opportunities to fill our bottles from municipal sources ease the strain.

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In lieu of a trail, a sandy creek bed will do.  It’s handy to be riding a Pugsley in times like these, although a lightweight bike and soft 29 x 2.4″ tires will also do the job.

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Our eventual escape from this isolated drainage requires some pushing  Technically, it was my suggestion to find water that led us to this point.  Later, it would be Cass’ enthusiasm for singletrack that would have us hauling our bikes over logs.  For now, push.  Joe says any day with more that 50% riding is a success.  This day was to be a success, as we are soon back on the road.

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In search of secondary forest roads, we dead-end at an abandoned gravel pit.  Return.

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Riding out, the boys consider this “road” rideable.

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Lael has a good head, and considers a mellow hike instead.

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We encounter a local resident and trail-builder who verifies that all local singletrack trails have been destroyed by fire and flood.  He suggests some alternate routes near Los Alamos, and offers a roof for the night, just as the sun takes a dive.

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We awake at the edge of Cochiti Canyon.  Torched and flooded, the canyon has seen the end of days, but is finding some footing after a year and a half.  A light frost has fallen on the mountain tops– beautiful.

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Joe is riding a custom, packable Rob English 29er travel bike.  The rear triangle can be removed for easy packing, but there are no delicate hinges and it is a fully functional mountain bike.  It is equipped with a White Brothers carbon fork and a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub.  Cass rides his road-worn Surly Ogre.

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In Canada, cattleguards are called Texas gates.

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The grassy plains of the Valles Caldera Preserve, at the center of the Jemez.  Hiding somewhere are a herd of elk.

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Doubletrack above Los Alamos.  We connect with local singletrack recovered from devastation by local trail crews.

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Dressed in black, Joe is perfectly camouflaged amongst torched trees.

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Lost and found– Cass consults the map.

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Cass and Joe have been cycletouring for years, and have probably ridden enough to encircle the Earth several times.  There is no shortage of stories with these guys, such as that one time in Egypt, or riding a tandem in Kyrgyzstan, or the millions of delectable calories consumed.  Cass and Joe, talking and riding:

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Near Los Alamos, we break for some friendly competition.  Joe suggests a proper pull-up, while Cass advocates for the underarm method.

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The eerie, empty streets of Los Alamos are home to national laboratories responsible for developing weapons, including the historic Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb.  The town feels like the combination of a large public university and a Soviet facility.  Signs proclaim, “Take two minutes for safety!”.  Safety and solidarity, comrades!

The Bikini Atoll is an island chain in the Pacific which was the site of 23 atomic detonations in the 40’s and 50’s.  It continues to be unsafe for human habitation, and is the name of a street in Los Alamos.

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Loaded up with food and a carton of wine, we climb up past the ski area above Los Alamos in the final light of day.

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Los Alamos below.  The subject of tomorrow’s ride is seen in the distance on the other side of the valley.

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Camping in an alpine meadow, we commune around food and wine.  Cass and Joe commune inside a shared Megamid tarp, telling touring stories into the night.

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The next morning, we climb the Pipeline Trail to a huge singletrack descent.  The forest fires have reduced the organic content of the soil.  The resulting rocky “kitty litter” soil is hazardous on off-camber trails.  There are a few white-knuckle moments on the ride down, especially on well-worn Surly Larry tires.  It may be time for some new rubber.  Nearing the end of my “fat year”, it’s almost time for a new bike.

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Joe’s Revelate handlebar bag has recently been replaced after much use, and the new design features convenient mesh side pockets which he stuffs with fruit.  As advertised, those are Avid single-digit levers.  Joe is an expert lightweight bikepacker, and keeps his bike as tidy as a Japanese cycletourist.

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Resupply.  Despite the signage, this is actually a grocery store.  Four tired and dusty dirt touring bikes take respite from riding.  We are all effectively riding 29″ wheels, although mine are 26×4.0″.  On the right, Lael’s bike is the only one without a framebag.  With camping gear and clothing, her loaded bike weighs a mere 45 lbs.  The bike was sourced from parts on Craigslist in the Denver area and cost less than $700– not bad for a real mountain bike.  Although she arrived with lots of cycling experience this fall, she did not consider herself a mountain biker.  Commuting on a Surly Pugsley this winter developed sharp reactions on the bike, and previous dirt touring experience in the US, France and Mexico on her Surly LHT engrained a love for off-pavement travel.  After almost two months of riding singletrack, she can no longer hide the fact that she is a real mountain biker.

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These two never run out of things to talk about– Rohloff vs. derailleurs, remote Peruvian routes, popular superhero films, and home-made beer can stoves.  Ride up to the Nambe Reservoir for the night.  The next day, we expect to ride up the Rio Nambe Trail.  Expectations, like rules, are meant to be broken.

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After coffee, a breakfast of broken expectations.

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And unexpected encounters.  This little bear is limping, and quickly backs down from Joe’s stern demeanor.

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As we near town, evidence of trail use grows despite continued damage.  Still, very few people pass this way, especially on bikes.

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All at once, we are back on the road and on our way back to town.  By 5PM we have spent most of the day pushing our bikes, lost.  Descending on dirt at the day’s end, we include a little singletrack descent back to town.  Found.

As Lael and I begin looking for a place to hang our hats this winter, I look forward to more riding with friends.  Cass will be a short train ride away, and we’ve both got plans for some new go-fast allroad touring bikes.  As snow begins to fall in the mountains, we will escape to the south and to lower elevations.  With a lightweight load and some svelte new machines, Pie Town, NM will only be a day or two away.

Capable of both paved and unpaved surfaces, I’m designing my ideal “road” bike around a VO Campeur frame.  At the center of the build will be a versatile, voluminous tire and a large framebag.

Note: Velo Orange has recently announced a significant drop in their frame price; the Campeur, Polyvalent, and Rando frames are now available for $500.  A healthy Campeur build kit is available for $650, and for the first time a complete bike is offered for $1600.

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Schofield Pass: Marble to Crested Butte

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From Carbondale, there are several ways to reach Crested Butte– none of them are paved the entire way.  Several routes from Aspen to CB are enticing, including the famed Pearl Pass route, but snow above 10,700 ft excludes them this time of year.  Pearl Pass is over 12,700 ft, and Star and Taylor passes are nearly as high, and include some singletrack.  McClure Pass is paved, but connecting Kebler Pass to Crested Butte is technically unpaved, although improved and in great condition.  The paved road from Carbondale to Marble connects to a dirt route through the town of Crystal and over Schofield Pass.  At 10,705 ft, Schofield was clear of snow.  On the other side of the pass awaits the famous Trailriders 401 trail down to the town of Gothic.  The ride over Schofield is the most direct, and holds the allure of the “401”.

The road from Marble begins with Daniel’s Climb, a lung-busting grade to Crystal.  Thereafter, the aspen are electric, and the road turns to a rough 4×4 track which is unrideable at times.  The Devil’s Punchbowl is a steep, narrow feature that is largely unrideable, but is a fun challenge on fat tires.  The Pugsley is a stellar slow speed rock crawler, but even a momentary loss of momentum is enough unseat me.  Cresting Schofield Pass, pockets of snow lurk in the shadows.

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The mill in Crystal is one of the most photographed sites in Colorado, drawing leaf-peepers from all over.

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Downtown Crystal.

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Turn left to complete the Lead King Loop back to Marble; stay right to Crested Butte.

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The road turns up, and degrades to a narrow 4×4 track.  Unimaginable, this was once a wagon route.  The other riders are friends of Joe Cruz.  In fact, Joe was Anna’s professor and they share a love of cycling.  She is now entrenched in a 6-year philosophy program, but has found time for some winter endurance racing including the Susitna 100 and the White Mountains 100.  That’s 100 miles, in the snow.  I’m working hard towards a PhD in bicycle touring.  Push.

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Wet feet.

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Rocky road.

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Finally.  Another world awaits on the other side.  From the top of the pass, turn up onto the 401 Trail to climb above 11,000 ft.  An epic descent awaits.

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The 401.  With a light cover of wet snow, the Pugsley has come full circle.  From snow to snow, this bike has been everywhere between an Anchorage winter and high mountain passes in Colorado.  The tread on my Larry tires is worn, and doesn’t hold well in soft terrain.  I’m dreaming of the Nate tire at times.  Lael’s Maxxis Ardent holds the trail well.

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Before cresting the ridge, an alpine park has views in all directions.  In the distance, the backside of the Maroon Bells.

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Going down.  Bundle up.  The soil on the other side is rich with organic matter, making for a lot of mud.  A gorgeous, but not so epic descent.

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Walking, to reduce our impact on this heavily trafficked trail.  A fine coagulation of cow shit and mud temporarily clogs our wheels.  Cass would be in heaven.  Raised on English mud, he loves this stuff.  Grateful to have a fender, I came out looking a lot like a human, rather than the mud-encrusted primates seen in cyclocross and gravel races.  Platform pedals always do their job, even clogged in mud.

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Rideable.  Coated in mud, the chains operate smoothly and silently.  Deore: +1.

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As promised (finally), a rideable descent and some memorable trail at the end of the day.

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No need to filter this water.  It comes directly from the heavens.  At least, it comes from a cow-free wilderness above.

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Camp.  Awake to clear skies, the frozen morning rapidly thaws into a t-shirt day.  The spoils of a frozen night are ideal lighting and a heavy layer of frost.  If only Lael had a camera, she could document me running around the frosty meadow in my long underwear with my camera.

Breaking the seal of our small frosty tent, I’m always excited to see how the world has changed.

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One of the nicest campsites of the entire summer.  Heat some water for tea, and ride into town.  Crested Butte is one historic home of mountain biking, and claims the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Gothic, seemingly named for the gothic arches encased in the mountainside.

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And a bike path into town.  Mt. Crested Butte looms overhead.

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