Why would you ever need such big tires? New Mexico, perhaps.
Why would you ever need such big tires? New Mexico, perhaps.
Frost has claimed much of the remaining outdoor harvest on the farm, while spicy arugula and mild white turnips persist in the greenhouse. The root cellar is full and the freezer is packed for the short, mild winter in the southwest. Aside, some unusual fruits have come up recently: With Jeremy’s help, Lael has finished fermenting some delicious kimchi of Chinese cabbage, turnips, daikon, and kohlrabi, made with a salty brine and some time. I’ve got some new shoes for the Pugsley in the form of folding 120 tpi 26×3.8″ Surly Knard tires, soon to be mounted tubeless. And, Cass and I are building wheels for his new Surly Krampus frame with Surly Rabbit Hole rims. These rims are 50mm wide and constructed like the lightweight Marge Lite rims I have been riding all summer.
The Phil Wood cassette hub was sourced locally at Fat Tire Bike Shop in Albuquerque, NM. It had been sitting around for several years, as it seems nobody wants a boat anchor for a rear hub. Cass has experienced numerous issues with modern Deore and Deore XT hubs, and the Phil promises to solve all of his (rear hub related) problems. Shimano disc hubs have a habit of loosening. The hub design seems to be largely unchanged from their non-disc offerings, except that the loads associated with disc braking are able to loosen the locknut and cone. As well, Cass had issues with his XT freehub while in South America. The freewheel action became gritty and tight. Technically, replacing a freehub body is not rocket science except that newer XT hubs with oversized axles (reduced at the ends) require a specific freehub body that is almost equal in cost to the hub itself. The body is also affixed with a 14mm hex wrench, which isn’t a common tool even in some big-city bike shops. Unfortunately, the leap in price from an XT hub is great and the options quickly become expensive, including the likes of Chris King, DT Swiss, and Hope. Luckily, this unwanted Phil Wood was a relative bargain at $200.
Phil Wood has been overbuilding hubs since 1971, and pioneered the use of sealed cartridge bearings in bicycle equipment in a small machine shop in California. The Field Serviceable Design was introduced in 1991 and can be done with only two 5mm hex wrenches. Three grease ports are also located on the freehub splines. This hub should prove to be worth its weight in reliability, and it is notably heavy. It is not uncommon to see Phil hubs from the 70’s in daily service. The value of cartridge bearings is that the integral parts of the hub are undamaged by heavy use and neglect.
The non-drive side flange is taller to effectively transmit disc-brake loads. The 6-bolt ISO disc mount is seriously overbuilt.
Surly Rabbit Hole rims are a singlewall-type rim with a doublewall box section in the corners, much like the Surly Marge Lite. They are 622x50mm, but weight only 699g.
Singlewall spoke bed with cutouts to save weight. Doublewall sections in the corners are built for rigidity. These rims build up nice and round. They are drilled with 64 holes, offset 5mm from center. For symmetrical builds, lace the wheel to alternating sides of each pair of holes. For asymmetrical wheels such as on the Pugsley, lace entirely to one side.
29×3.0″ Knard tires on freshly built wheels, inflated to 40 psi to properly seat the bead. Previously mounted on a narrow Salsa Delgado Cross rim, the tire now measures 10mm wider on the Rabbit Hole rim and the side knobs are oriented in a more useful direction. The tire and the rim were designed in unison, and it shows.
These tasty root vegetables are Surly’s new lightweight folding fatbike tire, also called the Knard. They borrow the same tread as the 29×3.0″ Knard on Cass’ Krampus, but are built on the lightweight casing of the folding Larry and Nate models. These will eventually find their way onto the Pugsley, tubeless.
Finally, this Panaracer Fire Cross tire comes all the way from Fairbanks, AK. Josh is probably spending more time on his new Mukluk than on this skinny 700x45mm tire, so he offered to send it for my experiments on the VO Campeur. It has more aggressive knobs and a lighter casing than the Mondial.
Words from the wise: Cass says, “mismatched hubs are like mismatched socks”. Around here, the practice is heartily encouraged.
The 31 Mile Road, also named FR 144, climbs from Espanola, NM into the Jemez Mountains. We are men upon iron horses. This is the old west.
A loop around the Valles Caldera on dirt roads is a suitable test for the new bike. Leaving Santa Fe, Jeremy and I ride north for an hour on pavement to Espanola. The feeling of being on a road bike again is exhilarating. Just west of town, the unpaved 31-Mile Road (FR 144) climbs 5000 ft over a ridge connecting Chicoma Mountain and Polvadera Peak, linking with the Great Divide Route for a bit. Chicoma is the second tallest peak in New Mexico at 11,561 ft– the road passes a thousand feet below the summit. We find cold nights and sunny t-shirt days as November becomes December, miles and miles of dirt roads and hardpacked snow in the shadows; deserts and pines from 5500 to 10,500 ft; and a back door entrance to the popular San Antonio Hot Springs.
Reverting to my roots, the VO Campeur is the most road oriented bike I have ridden since I sold my well-used 1995 Trek 520 three years ago. It is thrilling to be able to connect the dots on paved roads so easily, to transport myself well out of town in only a few hours. It is satisfying to “do more with less”, and to explore sandy, rocky, but mostly well-graded dirt roads. It is frustrating to not be able to go absolutely everywhere, as I have come to expect on the Pugsley. Compromises are the nature of any bicycle expected to serve varied functions. A more complete discussion of the Campeur will follow in the coming days.
On the last day of our trip, my workhorse MacBook Air was stolen from aside my bike. Jeremy and I are picnicked only a few feet away, deep in conversation, and as we begin packing to leave I sense an absence. Fuck. Dig deeper in the saddlebag, but of course it has nowhere to hide. My external hard drive is also missing, and as many as twenty thousand photos are gone. I select a direct route toward Albuquerque, and coast downhill in awe. The road flattens, pedaling eighteen, twenty miles an hour into the sun, knowing that lactic acid and tears serve some of the same function. The new bike rides; it really, really rides. I ride for fun, for transportation, and now for release. A missing hard drive is not the same as the loss of memory. It does not impede the future. Rolling into Albuquerque at sunset, barely, I am happy about our trip and committed to forward motion– these are the roots of my cycling life. Be happy, roll on.
I still have a bike and a camera. The blog will be rolling again soon.
Lovely Bicycle considers the difference between a camping bike and a touring bike. I have an ideal camping bike in mind, capable of roads and trails and moderate loads. What is your ideal camping bike?