Interbike Outdoor Demo: Big Rubber

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With temperatures in excess of one hundred degrees, riders were dying to try Moonlanders and Krampi.  I have been accused of a simpleminded approach to bicycle tires that “bigger is better”, but the Outdoor Demo at Interbike is proof that others are interested in big rubber.  It proves that others have the capacity to dream big and find use for fat tires.

Surly Bicycles are the center of the fat tire universe.  Designed to fit the Moonlander and other fatbikes, the new 4.8″ Bud and Lou tires are front and rear specific and join the Big Fat Larry as the largest tires available for maximum flotation, suspension and traction.  These tires also fit other fatbikes such as the 9zero7, Fatback, Salsa Mukluk and even the Pugsley, although drivetrain modifications may sometimes be necessary so that the chain clears the tire.  Several new tires from other manufacturers are filling the gap between 2.5-4.0″.

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The Fatback crew from Speedway Cycles in Anchorage weren’t showing their bikes at a booth, but brought several premium offerings for casual display.  This stainless steel singlespeed model is particularly nice, with 90mm UMA rims and Big Fat Larry tires.

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Greg Matyas’ personal bike featured a belt-driven Alfine hub and a Fatback branded (or just stickered?) suspension fork, apparently from a German manufacturer.

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Vee Rubber featured an inspiring breadth of tires in incremental sizes and tread patterns.  Notably, the Vee Mission is available in a 26×4.0″ format, at almost 1800g (60tpi).  In the future, lighter models may be available.  Vee is the only other company making a tire in this size, as they also make the 26×4.0″ Origin8 Devist-8er.  The Surly and 45North tires are all made by Innova.

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A 26×3.5″ folding tire called the Speedster comes in at a scant 1100g (60tpi), with a super grippy fast rolling compound.  This tire would stick itself to hardpack and slickrock, as well as urban terrain.

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As promised, 45North has released a studded fatbike tire as I had desired all winter.  As fatbikes find their way out of the backcountry and onto icy city streets, a studded fat tire is a necessity.  An average winter commute in Anchorage might include six inches of fresh snow, icy rutted lanes, and crusty sidewalk singletrack.  The Husker Du Dillinger (1275g, 120tpi; 27tpi also avail.) does it all with 240 aluminum-carbide studs.  The Escalator (180tpi) will come pre-drilled for studs with the same tread as the Dillinger, and will allow a custom pattern of studs to be installed.  Finally, a winter tire that will do it all!

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Spotted on a 9zero7 frame, also from Anchorage, Alaska: the new RaceFace Atlas 2-piece crank for 100mm bottom brackets and the 45North Helva pedal, designed with large pins for grip with chunky winter boots and an open snow-shedding design.

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9zero7 released a new 186mm rear dropout spacing to fit 100mm rims, 4.8″ tires and a full mountain bike drivetrain all at once.  With 170mm systems, some drivetrain modifications are required to fit the maximum tires and rim combinations available.  ChainReaction Cycles (9zero7) no longer manufacture their FlatTop series of 80 and 100mm rims, citing the challenges of manufacturing and custom drilling.  “The Surly rims are stronger and lighter” they say.

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The Sun Spider fatbike cruiser from J&B Importers features a new mustard yellow color, which is incidentally similar to the new Pugsley paint.  This bike is the cheapest off-the-shelf fatbike at just under $800, and sports a Sturmey-Archer 2-speed kickback hub on an aluminum frame with spider pattern tires.

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BionX was showing a multitude of popular frames with their electric hubs, including a Surly Troll, Civia Halsted and the Surly Pugsley pictured below.

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Cass takes the new Salsa Mukluk 2 for a spin, shod with aggressive Surly Nate tires.  Reduce the pressure and ride; take some more out.  Ride.  A little lower…just right.  All Mukluk models for 2013 will come with Nate tires front and rear, which deliver maximum traction in the “standard” 3.8″ fat tire size.

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Of course, the Krampus has created a cloudburst of excitement.  Test riders were lined up to ride the fleet of Krampi, with 1×10 drivetrains and the new 29×3.0″ Knard tires on 50mm Rabbit Hole rims.  The bike looks fun and has a levity both in spirit and ride quality, which I appreciate coming from 10 months of riding and touring on a Pugsley.   Cass noted the improved traction and the softened ride in comparison to his Ogre.  The Krampus claims relatively high trail numbers and short chainstays, paired with a short stem and a wide handlebar for a stable ride with tons of control.  Sit back and carve it like a waterski or shift your weight forward and dig the front tire into turns, like an ice skate.  It’s fun and rides like a bike, exactly as it was designed.

Coming off a Salsa Spearfish test ride, Lael preferred the intuitive ride of the Krampus.  The large tires felt more stable and the ride, predictable.  Perhaps the Spearfish suspension could have been dialed more expertly for her weight; the narrower 2.2″ tires felt skittish on dry desert trails.  The Krampus has a sure footing, without a lead foot.

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Chain clearance is good, with room for a double up front.

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The Knard tires, made by Innova, have an all-purpose fast rolling tread.  Coming from standard width tires they offer tons of grip on the trail, but it took me a moment to get used to “skinnies”.  I may have a hard time leaving fat tires behind as my “fat year” comes to a close.

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A non-endorsable suspension fork and Knard combination of an employee-owned Krampus.  Non-endorsable means some sandpaper was involved and you can do it at your own risk. Don’t contact them for the details.

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WTB shows a redesigned Weirwolf for 29″ tires.  This 2.3″ model is voluminous and grips all the way through turns in a variety of conditions.  This is an awesome looking tire with some purposeful design features.  Note the terraced side knobs.

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Vee has a full range of tires in 29, 26 and 20″ sizes.  Some lightweight 29×1.95-2.25″ tires with 120tpi casings would be optimal for fast dirt road riding.

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And Lael’s new top pick for the Hooligan– the 20×2.125″ Vee Velvet.

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Soaking up the sunshine and glitz for a few days in Vegas.  Wandering the halls of Interbike, I will have my eyes open for: big rubber, lightweight touring gear and luggage, dynamo lighting and accessories, comfortable handlebars, and oddities.  Should I look for anything in particular?

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10 thoughts on “Interbike Outdoor Demo: Big Rubber

      • Had a chat with the guys from german answer at eurobike after I saw it at those belgium sandman bikes and was wondering if there’ll be a aftermarket version, anybody could purchase. Yes, there will be – even in two version. First, the same as on the Sandman bikes which is a lower spec interieur version for less money and a simply wider version as their standard flame (wich is online apparently but not in their shop yet). At least thats what the friendly guy over there told me.

      • A ready-made fatbike suspension option would really bolster the fatbike trend. Of the multiple values of fat tires– traction, suspension and flotation– the suspension qualities of big rubber are the most crude. A lightweight fork would really allow the kind of riding that fatbikes encourage. Fatback, Salsa and Phil Wood were all showing some kind of suspension fatbike. As well, new Pugsleys come stock with Marge Lite rims, Mukluks come with Nate tires and 9zero7 sports a new 186mm rear end for tons of room. Fatbikes are more rideable than in years past. It’s 1984 all over again!

  1. I can’t thank you and Lael enough for this valuable public service. Wow! Such a cornucopia of nice, fat rubber and the equipment to support it. I can’t wait to seem more. No specific requests, as I don’t know what to expect, but whatever interests you is likely to interest me and a lot of other people. On second thought, a glimpse of what else is going on with Surly would be great.

    For what it’s worth, riding my Pugsley may have radically altered my perception of “normal” bikes. Just about all other bikes seem like the tires are confidence un-inspiringly skinny, even though I haven’t logged anywhere close to the time you have on fat tires. I’d be willing to make an exception for a Krampus though.

    • While some standard mtb tires feel “skinny” to me now, some feel nimble and capable. Lael’s 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent tire feels capable and confident, and a lot lighter than my “ultralight” Larry.

      I’ll do a complete preview of Surly bikes, with new features and colors. There is a new handlebar that you are sure to like as well

  2. I’m waiting for you to have a chance to digest all this before I start with my questions and comments. That the Krampus struck you as a “skinny tire bike” is both ironic, funny, and encouraging. I look forward to hashing it all out later. I gotta say, that Sun would look pretty good as a Wald-enhanced beach bunny, but I still like the Mukluk for my Forest dreams. Tell Cass I said hello and that I am glad he made it in spite of my efforts to help.

    tj

    • The Sun is actually a neat bike and a cheap way to get out on the soft stuff for cheap. We sold a few in AK this winter, one of which went out the door with a basket and some flower garlands. In the past, the frame has used a 118mm rear end spacing for the 2sp kickback hub, which limits the versatility of the frame.

      I’m still pondering the Krampus. Actually, I might prefer the 3.0″ tire on a slightly narrower rim for a different profile. I would consider the Knard on a Velocity P35 rim.

      I’m finally figuring out my tire pressures on the Pugs for rough, rocky trails. More and more, I’m starting to think of this a a seriously capable trail bike. At first the ride was too rough with too much pressure, and with too little pressure I am forced to ride delicately round obstacles. With some experimentation I’ve found the optimal pressure for rough stuff. Still, fat tires are crude suspension.

      While I always preach the value of a lightweight load, some recent day rides with less gear have convinced me that the suspension value of fat tires diminishes greatly with weight. Moreover, the bike rides better with less weight. One critical exception is that I gain monster traction while climbing on soft tires with a load.

      Within several months of my potential escape from fat tires (my fatbike calendar New Year is December 5th, the day I bought my Pugs), I might actually stick with it, although not full time. I have some other bicycle interests to pursue, including a rigid drop-bar 29er optimized for dirt roads.

      Thinking about some Florida fatbike times…

  3. Thanks so much for all the info and reporting – am new to fatbiking with a new ’12 Salsa Mukluk 3, all stock so far. Last years record, deep snows put a real damper on the commuting with a 26″ studded up mountain bike. It will be replaced by the Mukluk for the most part except for the slick icy days. I find the fat tire suspension qualities to be very friendly to 62 year old bones, especially at the more modest speeds I typically ride at. The 1X10 drive trains look to be very appealing and overdue in my estimation. On the upside they offer less cost, weight and as a bonus, simplicity. It is hoped that the 10 speed chain is robust enough and the shifting precision good enough at winter conditions.

    Keep up the good writing!

    • Hey Jeff, You jumped aboard at exactly the right time. Fatbike equipment has never been better, and studded fat tires are a boon to northern commuters if you decide you need them. For those of us that commute every day of the year, especially in places like AK, it’s a necessity. I worked at a shop in Anchorage last winter and laughed every time someone would realize that a $1500 fatbike could not take a studded tire– it simply didn’t exist. However, I had good experiences with Nate tires in more challenging conditions, such as on crusty, rutted roads. Depending on your commute, you will likely find something that works. Last winter, even with a studded tire bike in waiting, I rode the fatbike every day until break-up.

      1×10 would be great for most riding. With the same range, a 1×9 with a 11-36t cassette could provide similar function at less cost.

      Have you seen SRAM’s new 1×11 system? It’s a little out of my range, but it’s a cool solution (check out the video): http://www.sram.com/sram/mountain/family/xx1

      Best of luck with the Mukluk! Are you in AK?

      nicholas

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