Lael’s globe: Corse


Here are a few pictures from a hiking trip I went on last week. The bottom pictures are of the farm where I’m staying and working.  This place is spectacular!


DSC 0304


DSC 0197


DSC 0289


DSC 0042


Hiking around Corsica, riding her Hooligan to the beach and swimming in the blue waters of the Mediterranean are some of what Lael does when she’s not riding her bike through the snow or over mountains with me.  Only twenty-three days until our big reunion in Colorado for some spectacular riding.  I’m already dreaming up fantastic bikes for her, crafted from used bikes sourced from Craigslist or elsewhere.  She will need a capable, comfortable bike with clearance for standard fat tires (or larger!).  WIth only basic camping kit, she’ll have no more that twenty pounds of gear in a few lightweight bags– in many ways she’s better at packing than I am.  On the Cannondale Hooligan she’s been using a Revelate Vischasa seatbag, a small Inertia Designs framebag, a Revelate Gas Tank, and a drybag that will attach to the handlebars.  I’m already carrying a tent and cooking equipment for two, so once the bike is finalized and the bags swapped to the new bike, we’ll be ready to roll.

Where’s Lael?  Take a close look at the silhouette of the rock outcropping below.


Photo credits: Tamra Kornfield, Lael WIlcox, et al.

FreeSpoke; Surly Marge Lite to Shimano FH-M475, for Pugsley


Edit: Spoke hole offset is +/- 12.5mm on Surly Marge Lite rims.

The rim and tires came in the mail from Surly and the hub was sourced from The Garage in Helena, MT; the spokes were cut at the Summit Bike Shop in Bozeman and a truing stand was arranged via Craigslist.  FreeSpoke provides the spoke length calculation and the graphic assurance that I have put all my pluses and minuses in the right place.

Rim: Surly Marge Lite

ERD: 543.5mm

Spoke bed offset: -6mm, +6mm

Hub: Shimano FH-M475

Center-to-flange: L 33.5mm, R 20.5mm

Flange circle diameter: 61mm, both sides

Spoke hole diameter: 2.5mm

Hub offset: 17.5mm

Spokes: 32

Lacing pattern: 3 cross

Left Right
Spoke length 261.3mm 262.3mm
Bracing angle 4.8°
Tension distribution 100% 69%
Spoke head clearance 2.61 mm 2.61 mm

FreeSpoke is my preferred spoke calculator.  The graphic description helps ensure you’ve input all the proper dimensions, especially when offset hubs and rims are involved such as with the Pugsley.  The above calculation is for a Surly Marge Lite rim built to a Shimano FH-M475 rear hub, for Surly Pugsley.  The dimensions of the Deore and XT high-flange models appear to be the same as the M475.

For this build I used 262mm spokes all around.  Some Rock-n-Roll Nipple Cream was applied to the threads, while the spoke holes and nipples were generously greased to prevent corrosion in use and to reduce friction during tensioning.  This is the first time I’ve used a commercial spoke prep. Linseed oil is messy, and does too little to minimize friction and wind-up during tensioning in my experience.  The Rock-N-Roll prep is less messy than linseed oil and was easier to work with during the build.  I’ve had success building wheels with standard bearing grease, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  With proper spoke tension, I’ve never had any spokes loosen in use.

In a day, I sourced all the necessary parts, laced the spokes, tensioned and dished the wheel, and installed a new pair of lightweight Surly Larry 120tpi tires.  In a day, the metamorphosis is complete– my wheels are lighter, yet more voluminous than they were yesterday.












My rear Schwalbe Big Apple developed a slow leak in the last two days of use, and a shred of steel was found when the tire change took place.  Technically, I managed to ride from Anchorage, AK to Bozeman, MT without a flat, a distance of over 3200 miles.  To dish the new wheel properly, I installed it in the frame several times and used my fingers to estimate the distance from the chain stays.  About 2000 miles since Whitehorse, my second chain on this cassette is worn.  The time has come to return to 8 speed equipment, easier shifting and cheaper parts.  Check the manufacture date on the Marge Lite rim– it’s Cinqo de Mayo.

Image, calculated figures and format courtesy of FreeSpoke.

Hitchin’ to Helena


Our fortune is that we are young and able, riding bicycles through the mountains.  Peeling ourselves from Missoula’s caring grasp and an incidental free lunch at ACA, Sean and I finally pushed out of town.  Our first day was pleasant, our first night quietly spent by a river, and our first flat only a small misfortune.  Ironically, I’ve made it this far and have only used my pump twice, but Sean’s voluminous fresh rubber must have been a magnet for roadside shrapnel.




When Sean awoke with digestive disagreements the next morning, it concerned me how similar his symptoms were to my own up on the Cassiar.  It was not quite a cold or the flu, but a sort of anxious, dehydrated nausea that likes to ruin every meal.  We pushed on after a swim and some coffee, finally turning off pavement onto the Divide.  Approaching the top of our first pass, it became apparent we weren’t riding any further.  At best, we could roll back downhill and camp by a creek before deciding upon our next recuperative movements.





Early morning brought a fiery sky, but wildfire digestion was going to keep us from riding for a few days.  In time, we staggered back to the main highway and stuck out a thumb– at least in Helena they’d have orange juice and air conditioning, and chicken noodle soup.  Against Montana’s bluebird backdrop, a rich mustard mirage arrived to whisk us to Helena.  A deep waxy shine preserves the exterior, but the interior shares it’s history with rusted floorboards and old-time country chirping from dusty cones.  A 1978 Ford F-250 is living history in this land– there is no better ride in all of Montana than this yellow truck.

4035WP 2






4014WP 2


4010WP 2

From here we’re hopscotching to Bozeman to receive my fat tires and Marge Lite rim; by the end of the day I’ll be rolling on fat tires again.  WIth several days of rest, we’ll shoot back towards Helena or Butte to intersect the Divide.  A pile of maps await me in Butte, sent priority from Alaska.  Thanks Dawn!

Need use of truing stand…


My Surly Marge Lite rim and ultralight Larry tires have arrived in Bozeman, according to the recipient.  That part was easy.  Tracking down a rear 32h disc hub, of any kind, is a lot more complicated.  Bozeman has a half-dozen bike (and ski) shops, and none of them definitively have what I’m looking for.  I’d expected this hub to be easy to find, even common, as it’s the bread and butter of the mountain bike world.  One shop has two used Deore hubs with “loose axles”, which means I may or may not have a serviceable hub once the bearings are adjusted.  I’ve found a shop with a spoke cutter, so that part is solved.  Finally, I’m hoping to track down a truing stand for the finish work.  I can lace the wheel in the park while sipping a cold beverage, but I’d like to bring this thing into the world in front of a proper truing stand considering what I’ve got planned for it.  And as a small detail, the Surly 35mm axle spacer would be helpful for dialing in the dish of the wheel, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

These things are complicated while traveling, and ironically the weird snow bike with the offset frame and wheels has nothing to do with it.  The most common part, a 32h hub, is the hardest to find.  I’d hoped to spend my money locally and I’ve come across this problem before, but this is what happens sometimes when you rely on the LBS.  I don’t want to hear “we can order it”.  What’s the point of a physical shop that doesn’t stock bicycle parts?  There is a strong argument for the sale of bicycle parts on the internet to able home mechanics.

Note: All the bike shops claim to sell “wheels”, but none stock hubs.

I’ve called a lot of shops today, but from my experience this is what you do sometimes:

Need use of truing stand… – $1 (Bozeman)

Date: 2012-07-27, 6:41PM MDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

I’m touring through town and am building a wheel this weekend. I’ve got everything figured out, except the use of a truing stand for the finish work on Sat or Sun. Any help is appreciated. I’m offering a donation of some kind.
The long story:
I’ve ridden from Anchorage, AK on a Surly Pugsley that was my transportation through the winter. Thus far I’ve mostly been riding paved and dirt roads and have used a medium-volume Schwalbe Big Apple tire. I’m passing through Bozeman this weekend and will be putting the big fat tires back on the bike as the rest of the summer will be on dirt roads and trails through WY, CO, UT and AZ. I’m also building a new rear wheel with a Surly Marge Lite rim, which is over a pound lighter than the current Large Marge and should add to the fun. As such, I need use of a truing stand for about an hour on Sat PM or anytime on Sunday. Anyone have a personal stand they’d be willing to share for a donation of beer or cash or fresh food? I’m aware of the Bike Kitchen, but their hours are limited. Thanks.

  • Location: Bozeman
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I’m in Helena, MT and will check with local bike shops in the morning for a new 32h disc hub.  Between the resources of ten shops in two cities and a persistent cyclist, a wheel will be built.  Full fat, coming soon!

The live CL ad is here, and my listing for a new or lightly used 32h hub is here.

Missoula’s many hands


FreeCycles is a Missoula institution, a community bike shop offering tools, parts and bikes, for free.  The operation runs on volunteers and donations and Bob Giordano has been the ringleader for about 15 years, extending a helping hand to the community even when his own are deep in another project.  When the Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) needed to transport their tool library to the Missoula Home ReSource project (building materials reuse center), a lightbulb flickered in Bob’s mind.  With a repurposed John Deer haywagon, a homemade three wheeled tandem “tractor”, and a couple of able bodies pushing from behind, several tons of tools could be transported across town entirely by human power.  The result was a jalopy of well-loved tools and sweaty bodies ambling and rambling through Missoula’s urban center at rush hour.  In a friendly mid-sized cycling city like Missoula, rush hour isn’t much to speak of, but pedestrians and motorists offer hurrahs and cyclists lay down their bikes to assist the effort, pushing for a block or two.  Actually, many skeptics turned down the offer to assist but several touring cyclists and locals jumped on the proverbial haywagon.













Our route took us around the railroad tracks to avoid any topographic challenges.  With enough hands, anything is possible.

3848WP 2


3851WP 2








This is Sean’s first day in town and I’ve signed him up for 5 miles of strenuous wagon-pushing.  He’s been following the blog for almost a year and when I put a call out for cyclists to join me this summer, he responded and bought a plane ticket.  He has optimized his 90’s Novara Aspen ATB with drop bars and 2.3″ Kenda K-Rad tires, which you’ll be seeing more of over the next few weeks.  A wide range of gears, platform pedals, homemade fenders, a Brooks saddle and some Swift Short Stack panniers round out the ride.  Leaving Missoula, we’re headed for the Divide.

I visited FreeCycles for the first time last fall, and was inspired by the experience.

Night and day, on the Divide

3481WP 4

The expanses of road up north are a memory.  The rest of the summer will have a distinctly different flavor than the previous months, dominated in the next few weeks by the Great Divide Route and the web of forest service access roads of southern Canada and the lower 48.  Cross the Bow River, turn off Main St. Banff toward the historic Banff Springs Hotel, continue past the statue of a long-ago baron and roll onto dirt.  Your summer is ahead of you and it looks like this.  Leaving Banff behind; leave RV’s and national park concessionaires and ants crawling north and south along paved routes; I’m a spider on a web and for as much as I leave behind, there’s more to gain than to lose.  Leaving Banff at sunset, I pierce darkness and camp along Goat Creek.  By day, I awake to a sniffing, sniffling creature.  A black bear is inches away trying to decide if a snoring green cocoon is worth further investigation.  As I’ve prepared for this, I turn to meet his eyes with my own and speak sternly, reach for my camera and then my bear spray.  Nothing but a scared black bear and my calm fifty-five beats per minute.  Six miles from Banff, this is what day brings.  This is a 7AM wake-up call on the Divide.

3495WP 2

3492WP 2

3505WP 2


Spray Lakes is exactly how I left it eleven months ago and I am at home.  I meet riders on their first and second day, and smile at the enthusiasm and the coming weeks in their lives.  I depart, knowingly wishing them luck that they don’t need and fun that is already in the cards.  This is likely to be the best part of the year for these riders– it is for me.  Evening is again falling as I encounter a self-contained ACA trip with a dozen riders.  We talk bikes, share experiences and e-mail, and a giant pot of cheesy rice.  The are camped for the night but a full belly and a setting sun beckon me over Elk Pass to the Tobermory Cabin on the other side, and I wish to spend the night.







If you insert Anchorage, AK to Missoula, MT into Google Maps, it routes you through Jasper and south along the Icefields Parkway.  It then follows main highways west of Banff and south to Montana, but I knew a better way.  The Divide route travels directly south from Banff on the Goat Creek Trail, along the Smith-Dorrien Road (Spray Lakes Trail), and over Elk Pass into Elkford, B.C.  From there it’s a straight shot to Fernie, the US border, Whitefish and Missoula.  The Divide is more than just a fun bike ride, it’s real transport!  Welcome home.




The Edward Abbey way

3733WP 2

A reader and I have spent some time dissecting management practices for our cherished, although heavily trafficked national parklands.  These are a few of my favor quotations from Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.  He spent several years as a park ranger in Canyonlands National Park, and has hiked and rafted in Glen Canyon which is now submerged by several hundred feet of water.  These excerpts are from the chapter entitled “Industrial Tourism and the National Parks”.

3735WP 3

3734WP 2

My discussion with Adventure PDX about the parks, while incomplete, was challenging and provocative and can be seen in the comments to my post on the Icefields Parkway.

Evening awe at Elk Pass


Sometimes this is my life.  Elk Pass is the first crossing of the Continental Divide on the Great Divide Route, about 70 miles south of Banff.  I took my time to chat with lots of cyclists on this day, and dined with a dozen men and women on an ACA-led tour of the route from Banff to Whitefish.  Coincidentally, one of the trip leaders was from my hometown of Cortland, NY.  No one is from Cortland.

After dinner, the evening light beckoned me to strike out on my own and ride over the pass.  Five miles down the other side is a B.C. Forest Service cabin for public use, which I’d hoped to return to someday after visiting last fall.  The light was right and the air was nice– overwhelmingly, the skies were silky smoky grey.  I engaged the ride with vigor and blazed down the other side as night arrived.  This is a night on the Divide.









3608WP 2


More to gain than to lose; Krampus

20110101 000000 0009

On the eve of my return to fat tires, another beast enters the fray.  Non-winter fatbiking is on the tip of my tongue these days and my enthusiasm for bikes that can go places is tiring; I talked myself into a storm several times yesterday in conversation with other cyclists here in Whitefish, MT– there’s more to gain on bigger tires than there is to lose.  Most of the time 4″ tires aren’t the focus of these discussions, but putting a little more rubber and air between the rider and the earth can go a long way to improving traction, suspension and floatation, the three main functions of a tire.  Many cyclists I meet operate under the assumption that narrow tires are faster– it’s not faster when the asphalt is old and broken, it’s also the reason your rack or spokes have broken, or those pesky plastic pannier hooks; most of all it’s more comfortable and safer.  To optimize the quality of the ride, consider bags that don’t kick and scream over bumps with a flurrious rattle and shake.  Consider your frontal face and the resultant air resistance.  And then, consider the opportunity of an unknown road and an unpaved surface– that’s the promise of a bigger tire, and there’s more to gain than to lose.  The mantra: underpack and overbuild.

Cass and I have been discussing the finer points of fatbikes recently as he’s burning to dive into the deep end.  We’ve compared the offset and the symmetrical frame designs available; frame materials and weights and stiffness; and most of all, we’ve talked a lot about wheels.  The real ticket to a rideable fatbike is a tolerably light wheel.  Few people, for the sake of some additional traction and floatation and fun are willing to ride the heaviest wheels of the last 100 years.  Strong singlewall rims such as the Marge Lite or Rolling Darryl are the ticket to full-fat enjoyment.  Lael never complained when her stock Surly Pugsley carried her reliably to work through a full winter in Anchorage, but when the snow melted and the fatbike became a bike of theoretical utility rather than an absolute daily necessity it was hard for her to reach for a bike with 6 pound wheels.  Wheels built with DH Large Marge rims are beastly for light trail riding or commuting or touring.  Riding and climbing the Colorado Trail on those wheels wasn’t going to happen.  In preparation for a season of globe-trotting, she liquidated her assets and moved on to the Cannondale Hooligan.

Another topic when considering a fatbike is the cost, and Cass and I hold our greenbacks close.  A stock Pugsley or Mukluk achieves the basic utility of fat tires, but enticing, upgraded models with lighter wheels and wider rims jump in price, and then there is the Moonlander or the titanium Mukluk, Fatback or 9zero7.  We stepped back from the thought of spending our precious dinero, and sought alternatives.  Cass suggested a half-fat setup with the Salsa Enabler fork on the Surly Ogre, as a way to dip his toe into the shallow end.  I shared a link to discounted 29″ Snowcat rims, suggesting that a 44mm rim and 2.5″ tire might give him a lot of what he’s looking for.  Considering that floatation would not often be the most essential feature of his sorta-fatbike, the fat 29″ wheel might be an inexpensive compromise and a good fit for his riding.

And in just over a month, Lael and I will be setting out, up and over the Colorado Trail and on toward assorted dirt routes throughout the southwest.  What bike will carry her through the most demanding terrain we’ve ever toured?  Surely it will have fat tires of some kind, but will it be a 4″ tire like the Pugsley or is it the promise of a lightweight 29″ wheel that she deserves.  I’ve been losing sleep over this, not out of concern, but out of an intense interest, an obsession, with wheel and tire sizes.

Losing sleep over 29er’s on the eve of my reversion to fat tires, I awake to an inbox full of Krampus.

Like the Ogre/Snowcat concoction, the Surly Krampus is a go anywhere demi-fat 29er, billed as “29+”.  It’s brand new and it’s a pedal stroke ahead of the curve.  It’s “not just a big wheeled version of a fatbike, but a logical progression of 29”.  The bike is a rigid steel 29er with huge clearances designed for a new lightweight singlewall 29 x 50mm rim and a fast-rolling 29 x 3.0″ tire.  It’s the promise of big tires and a big wheel, in one big ugly bike.  Krampus is a mythical goat-like creature that is the antithesis of Saint Nicholas and visits bad children during the Christmas season, punishing their wrongdoings.  Krampus is unrelenting and answers to no one.  Krampus selects the children of the most vile temperament, stuffs them in his sack, and eats them.  Krampus takes standard hubs and a 73mm bottom bracket.  It’ll ride on snowy city streets and sandy beaches, dirt roads and trails, and with a Schwalbe 29 x 2.35 Big Apple, it would eat some pavement.  I would likely put a drop-bar on it as a super-Fargo dirt tourer.  Can’t decide between a fatbike and a Fargo or an Ogre?  Krampus will do it all and doesn’t ask for offset wheels, wide cranks or “summer wheelsets”.  This bike looks hungry.


Below, a period of experimentation in which Lael’s bike wears a pair of 2.4″ Maxxis Holy Rollers; my bike is half-fat with a 29″ rear wheel with 29 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple and a fat Surly Larry tire up front.  The Krampus is the condensation of all these elements, built around a wide, lightweight singlewall rim and a new 3″ tire.  Holy mackerel!

20110101 000000 0143

20110101 000000 0015

Lael’s globe of adventure

Photo 11

She carries a globe of adventure and has taught me more than anyone how to let go, give up, and go!  She’s the one that gives away clothing and books like she never cared about them; and in a moment, they’re of so little importance that they never existed.  It’s smart not to clutter your mind with such trivialities.  She likes strong simple bikes that don’t fuss, and she rides them.  She rides more than you or any of your friends, and wore out both of the rims on her Surly Long Haul Trucker this past year.  She rebuilt her front wheel just as the old Rhyno Lite rim bulged outward with 45 psi.

She’s the same age as I, for a month.  Yesterday was her birthday and I remembered on the 17th, forgot on the 18th, and remembered in the middle of the night– technically, it was the 19th already and I was sleeping by a river without internet or a way to connect with Corsica.  I presume she’s cycling and hiking along Corsica’s mountainous spine, or lazing along it’s azure coastline and having a good time of it.

She will drink more water than any other human and will pee on every road shoulder– on top of Boreas Pass, on the Knik Glacier, or in a snowbank on the Coastal Trail.  When the weather gets bad, she burrows deeper in a sleeping bag leaving me to sweat the details that don’t need sweating.  She never gets tired or sore on the bike and she never rides beyond her limits.  If you don’t call it “mountain biking” she loves it, and riding to work through six inches of snow at 7 AM is just another day.  And then she rides home, and runs to yoga in six inches of snow, and runs home from there.  And with nothing to prove she will out-run, out-ride and outlive most of us.  That’s Lael.

Happy birthday!  See you in a month for the Colorado Trail.

Photo 37

Photo 16

Photo 34

Photo 32

Photo 24

Photo 23

Photo 38

Photo 14

Photo 30

Photo 36

Photo 35

Photo 33

Photo 39

Photo 3

Photo 1

Photo 4

Photo 19

Photo 27

Photo 25

Photo 15

Photo 18

Photo 26

Photo 22

Photo 10

Kick, kick, and the Colorado Trail.  Below is Lael’s second day of “mountain biking” on the Monarch Crest Trail, a diversion from the dirt roads of the Great Divide Route.

Photo 13

Photo 17


Consider this a virtual birthday party by leaving a comment celebrating Lael and wishing her a happy birthday, even if you don’t know her in person.  In a month, we’ll be lucky to see photos of Lael riding her bike above treeline on the Colorado Trail.  In a month, I’ll be lucky to be riding with her.  Here’s to another year of acting like kids and riding bikes.

Globes of adventure, like “globes of boredom” from John Steinbeck’s Log From the Sea of Cortez.