When that day comes

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As Jeremy would say, “you’ll take the bike you’re riding the day before you leave”.  A friend from our time in New Mexico, Jeremy has gained the wisdom of an old man from years in railcars, on the road, and on a bicycle.  He’s barely thirty years old, but he’s right.

This spring, I’ve enjoyed a greater period of bike building and planning than ever before.  My Raleigh XXIX was purchased used in Santa Fe less than a week before leaving for Amsterdam last summer.  My Surly Pugsley was fit with a variety of wheel, tire, and handlebar combinations in the days leading to my departure from Anchorage in 2012. In 2011, I developed my first Carradice-based rack-lite touring system for my Schwinn High Sierra in the final week before departure from Annapolis, MD.  In late 2009, I built our first dynamo wheels and lighting systems the week before leaving Tacoma, WA to ride south to Mexico for the winter.  Back in 2008, I had built my dream bike from a vintage Miyata One Thousand frame.  The frame broke with a few weeks to go and I swapped parts to a mid-nineties Trek 520.  I remember the first ride with empty Ortlieb panniers attached to touring-grade Jandd racks.  It was awkward and exciting.  I now think that riding a bike with racks and panniers is awkward, but not exciting. All of these bikes are documented on my webpage entitled “Touring Bikes”.  

When the day comes, we’ll leave on whichever bikes we are riding.

Over the past month, I’ve experimented with wheels and tires on the Salsa Mukluk.  A suspension fork and a trail-oriented parts ensemble including 45mm Velocity Dually rims graced my red fatbike, before opting for a purpose built machine.  Enter the Surly Krampus, which makes all the improvements I was searching for last summer, without compromise.  I really enjoyed the Raleigh last year, but often asked for a few more things, including greater tire clearance and longer fork travel.  While the 29.1mm Stan’s FlowEX rims served me well, I also thought a slightly wider rim would be more appropriate for the 2.3-2.4″ tires I prefer.  To do all of this without adding significant heft to the machine is the trick.  Over the years, the goal has been to create a more capable bike, without gaining weight.  Oh, and the rims must be genuinely tubeless ready.    

Why not the Mukluk?  Well, it works fine, but considering the amount of pedaling I expect to do before I need a fabike again, a standard width bottom bracket will be nice for my knees.  I’d not had any issues riding a Pugsley for over a year in the past, but this winter, I gained a few creaks in my knees which I was unable to explain.  In retrospect, I attribute my discomfort to excessive riding and challenging conditions (snow).  Some more stretching may have helped.  Mostly, my legs felt great once the snow melted, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.  

In all, the Krampus and the Mukluk are more alike than they are different.  The frame dimensions and angles are nearly identical, although on paper the Krampus features a slightly longer top tube.  Thus, I moved into the Krampus frame knowing that it was almost exactly what I wanted.  If you own a newer Mukluk, know that it also makes a capable 29er mountain bike.

As the day nears, these are the bikes we will ride, mostly.  Lael seriously considered buying a full-suspension bike, as a nod towards our trail oriented aspirations.  Instead– convincing herself she didn’t need that, not yet– we’ve made some improvements to her bike.  Come late July, I will be leaving town on a completely new bike for the first time, ever.  

Oh yeah, we’ve got plane tickets to Vienna on July 22nd.  Vienna, like Amsterdam, seems like a fantastic place to begin a bikepacking trip.  We hope to be gone for close to a year.   

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Surly Krampus

Fox Talas 32 factory fork (120mm-90mm adjustable travel)

Race Face Sixc 780mm carbon handlebar/ Specialized 75mm stem/ Cane Creek 40 headset/ Ergon GP-1 grips

Salsa Regulator titanium seatpost/ Brooks B17 saddle/ Surly seatpost clamp

Shimano Deore 38/26 cranks/ Shimano XTR 9sp GS-cage rear derailleur/ Shimano Alivio 11-34T cassette/ SRAM PC-951 chain/ SRAM X5 double front derailleur/ Problem Solvers FD clamp/ Redline Monster pedals

Paul Thumbies shifter mounts/ Shimano 9sp bar-end shifters

Avid BB7 brakes and rotors/ Avid FR-5 brake levers

SP 15mm thru-axle dynamo hub/ Light Bicycle 35mm tubeless carbon rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ skinwall tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

SRAM X7 rear hub/ Stan’s FlowEX rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ skinwall tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

Wanderlust Beargrass top tube bag/ Randi Jo Bartender bag/ Revelate Viscacha seatpack

Notes: A 35mm wide carbon Derby rim has arrived, which will be laced to a Hope hub in the rear.  Tires, pedals, and luggage may change.  Lighting and charging devices, yet to be determined.

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35mm Light Bicycle rims, light and strong.  Tubeless set-up is a breeze.  Pop, pop– the sound of a tight fitting bead.

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29×2.4″ tires, the heart of the system.  In place of Maxxis EXO casings, which are unavailable from most distributors at the moment, I’ve chosen the skinwall Ardents.  They’re not quite as tough, but are a little lighter.  And, they’re gorgeous.

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Carbon AM/DH bars, Ergon grips, mechanical disc brakes, and thumb shifters are not the usual mix of parts.

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The Brooks B17 rides high, after more than 40,000mi.  The Salsa Ti post isn’t as plush as expected, but the build quality is very good.  And, it is gorgeous.

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Tire clearance is good all around.

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Room for mud, and when the time is right, 29×3.0″ tires.  Dirt Wizards?

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Finally, this fork is a dream.  It feels great.  I can adjust the travel from 120mm to 90mm on the fly.  The C-T-D compression settings are useful when alternating between climbing and descending, and for a controlled trail setting.  The fork technically clears a 29×3.0″ Knard, barely.  

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Raleigh XXIX

RockShox Reba SL, recently converted from 80mm to 120mm

Answer 20/20 720mm carbon handlebar (20mm rise/20deg sweep)/ Specialized 50mm stem/ Velo Orange headset/ Ergon GP-1 grips/ King Cage top-cap bottle cage mount/ Specialized bottle cage

Syntace P6 Hi-Flex carbon seatpost (not pictured)/ Cannondale Hooligan saddle/ Salsa seatpost clamp

Race Face Ride 32/22 cranks with bash guard/ XT 8sp GS-cage rear derailleur/ 11-32T cassette/ Shimano XT front derailleur/ SRAM PC-830 chain/ VP-001 pedals

Suntour XC Pro shifters

Avid BB-7 brakes/ Avid FR-5 brake levers

Hope Pro 2 Evo hub/ Light Bicycle 35mm carbon rim, DT butted spokes and alloy nipples/ Specilaized S-Works 29×2.3″ Renegade tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

SRAM X7 rear hub/ Stan’s FlowEX rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Specialized S-Works 29×2.3″ Renegade tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

Revelate Viscacha seatpack/ Revelate framebag

Notes:  Tires, worn drivetrain parts, and broken saddle will change.  Luggage yet to be determined.  Rides good; she won a race the other day.  Not bad for a touring bike.

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61 thoughts on “When that day comes

    • Thanks Chris. I’m still not sure what will come of our travels this year. Most likely, a few months in E. Europe and the Balkans, then a possible flight from Istanbul to somewhere else, or a ferry ride across the sea, or some trains. I figured if I published it on the blog, it may challenge us to make big plans and keep going. It’s called “putting the cart before the horse”.

    • Really, the Krampus is just a 29er. Compared to others out there, it features slightly longer chainstays, but with a similar BB drop to something like the Salsa El Mariachi (60mm). It chooses a modern trail geometry up front with a longer TT and slack HT angle. Really, just a good 29er, best served with bigger tires, because it can. Three inch tires not necessary.

  1. We’ve been wondering why you haven’t left yet. Now we know.

    Hopefully you have better luck with the non- EXO Maaxis than we have. I’ve not been able to wear one out (tubeless) without having sidewall cuts.

    I owe you an email. Soon.

    • Gary,

      Both QBP and BTI are out of stock of the EXO Ardents right now. The only tire I could get was the skinwall 29×2.4, and I’ve been looking for a reason to run skinwall MTB tires that was unrelated to my vanity. Actually, these tires ride nicely and are about 60g lighter than the EXO casings. It is not dry and rocky around here, and they would probably hold up just fine. I do notice the difference in tire casing in reference to rim width. These tire have a tendency to fold in corners, as a result of a large, lightweight casing on 29mm rims. When I finally choose a durable tubeless casing for travel, on a 35mm rim, I think I will be very happy with the performance while cornering. I am thinking about Schwalbe Hans Dampf Snakeskin or Maxxis Ardent EXO, mostly. Any other suggestions in a 2.3-2.5″ tire?

      • Andy told me QBP (and everyone else) was out of EXO Maxxis 29er tires. Last week they got some in, at least the Ikon 2.35. I got two of them. I tried the smaller Ikon sometime back and was fairly happy with it. Andy and I are both excited about the 2.35. I’ve got an Ardent on the front and the new Ikon on the back. I can’t say how you’d like it, but for a lighter person it’s worth trying. It might be just the ticket for Lael? Hopefully she has room to fit one in the rear? Many bikes don’t have enough chainstay clearance. Mike L. really likes the 2.3 Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin, really pricey though. Andy likes the Hans Dampf but it’s a bit slow rolling. Scott and EZ are using Rampages. At my weight I wasn’t thrilled with them, they are cheap and tough though. As far as the non-EXO folding and flexing- try more air pressure, you probably new that though. 🙂

        • I’m loving the Ardents for now, but I think I’ll go with the Hans Dampf. When the time comes and the trail turns up, I love the traction.

          More air! Never. At least in the extreme (say, a 2.4″ tire on 19mm rim), the feeling of lateral tire deflection exemplifies the failing of wide tires on narrow rims. Paired to a wider rim, the sidewall is supported much better, and resists burping (all things being equal).

  2. Simply an awesome tale of your steeds. Thanks! Is there a reason for the Derby rim in the rear and not a Light Bicycle rim? Wondering if one is better for some reason…

    • The Derby rim is explicitly designed for AM/DH use, in addition to XC and Trail applications. I know these labels can be confusing, and sometimes useless, but if something is designed for AM/DH, I don’t expect I will have any issue with it, such as my Race Face Sixc handlebars.

      The Derby HD (heavy duty version) weighs 475g (claimed). The LB rim weighs 415-420 (actual). The Derby has thicker rims sidewalls in the exposed area that may be affected by rock strikes (3mm per side, I think). The LB rim uses a slightly narrowed section in this area (2.5mm, taken from tech docs supplied by LB)

      I would get the LB rim for the Fargo, if you are asking. Build it with alloy nipples, butted spokes or better, and quality hubs. Your Ti Fargo deserves it. Depending upon what you plan to do on the Fargo, consider the 30mm wide rims from LB as well, for a prime dirt road set-up. To include some trails, the 35mm rims might be better. If you are going to lose sleep over riding carbon rims, get the Derbys and stop losing sleep. Everything I have seen and heard suggests they are bulletproof for guys like us. Kevin Murphy has been riding his on his Giant Trance for over a year, with 35mm Hans Dampf tires.

  3. I would be weary of doing very long distance tours with a hope rear hub. Mine developed some pretty deep notches in the freehub after only 6 months of my typical riding (155lb rider ). I can imagine 4 months of nonstop touring can easily cause the cassette to seize on there or perhaps crack it. Unfortunately their steel replacement apparently isn’t much stronger if you look up reviews. I swapped hubs with one with a steel freehub bc I didn’t trust my hope freehub to last my Great divide thru ride coming up next week. Just some food for thought. Otherwise though they appear to be excellent hubs. Great design, bearings, and beautiful machining. . If you pack the pawls with park tool green grease it helps reduce the obscene freewheel clack, FYI.

    • Armand, I am in possession of both the steel and aluminum freehub bodies. I’ve seen damage to aluminum freehubs before, and I’ve seen photos of the Hop steel freehub. I am a bit confused about how the steel body can be so prone to damage, unless the splines are not truly tall enough to support the cassettes. Anyhow, I am happy to try the Hope hub, at last. They are very popular here in Alaska for fatbikes, as Hope has been quick to keep up with changing standards, and the price is competitive with other high-end hubs.

      I don’t expect any issues, but I sure will feel like a boob if my freehub cracks and breaks. Hopefully not, but you can be the first to “tell me so”. I’ve had such good luck with most of my equipment. The SRAM X7 hub is still my current favorite for price and quality. It just seemed that a nice carbon rim deserves a quality hub.

    • I have to admit I don’t know the exact Freehub type, but I’ve done 30,000km on a Hope Pro2 (don’t think Evo -bought 2010) and it’s still fantastic – no bearings replaced. Ridden with no regard to it’s well-being on a Surly Big Dummy. This one’s not too loud. My Hope Pro2 Evo SS/Trials one however will get some grease packed into it soon(ish) 🙂

      • My experience mirrors Tom’s I don’t have as many km on the geared hub as he does but my hubs have been flawless. I always use cassettes with a carrier for the larger cogs. The SS/Trials hub has a zillion miles on it. My only real complaint is the noise. The geared hub is slightly quieter that the SS/Trials hub though. I also like that you can field service the freehub.

  4. Wow, have a great time. Will enjoy travels vicariously through your blog. You two disprove that old saw claiming that “Youth is wasted on the young”.

    • I needed a reason to order the skinwall Ardents. When I saw EXO tires out of stock, I knew I had my chance. Otherwise, stick with the EXO casing, especially for tubeless use. Note, these mounted tubeless without issue, but the casing is pretty thin for NM.

  5. As an old gear head, it always entertains me to see how your equipment continues to evolve. You’ve honed some seriously great looking, capable machines where form follows function. I, for one, relish the mix of steel and leather with titanium and carbon. The carbon rims in particular give me a flashback to the nylon Z-rims that I coveted for my BMX back in the early ’80s. In bikes, so often what’s old is new again.

  6. Love the Krampus with the Talas. No Carradice saddlebag this time? Also, just curious, do you carry a standard Fox shock pump when traveling with suspension?

    • Logan, I’ve got a plan to carry the MacBook without the Carradice. I haven’t completed the system yet, and haven’t packed everything onto the bike to know how well it will work. I expect to make a few small equipment cuts to match the new bike and our touring style, both of which are constantly changing. If needed, I would happily rely upon the Carradice Camper for another season.

      I’ve never carried a shock pump. Last summer I borrowed a shock pump from a couple shops throughout the summer, mostly to adjust for terrain or preference. Assuming the fork is holding air, I can wait to reach a shop to change pressures. If the fork began losing air for any reason, I think I can put up to about 100psi in there with my Lezyne HP road pump. I’ve done it once before. I could limp along like this if needed. There are some hybrid pumps out there that are designed for both suspension and tires, but I don’t have any recommendations.

  7. Great article on the Krampus, I was wondering with the extra chain ring Shimano Deore 38/26 cranks. Do you find when bike is loaded that there is enough gearing for climbs etc. I’ve got and Krampus was going to convert it for multi day overnighters. The current gearing is a bit tough.
    Thanks again
    Gary T

    • Gary, I think that Shimano MTB double gearing to too high for the type of riding I do too. I like 36/22, or 32/22 for loaded mountain touring. I don’t miss the top end and can still pedal at 15-20mph on pavement, but the 32T is low enough that I can effectively use it as a 1x system, until the really steep stuff.

      I chose the Deore crank as it was the best choice on hand at the LBS, and is a very good price. I prefer Shimano cranks for this application as bearing will be easier to find when the time comes, not that it is a big issue, but GXP bearings are a little less common, esp. outside the USA.

      I will lower the gearing to 32/22 or 34/22 before I leave.

  8. Great looking set-up. Am (slightly) jealous of the Fox fork – I wasn’t thinking 29+ when I bought Rockshox. Make sure you don’t end up in a war-zone in the Ukraine (I’m sure you have better intel than I do), and please work on touring nearer where we live so we can put you up 🙂

    • Tom. I’ve already considered the possibility of a cheap flight from Istanbul to South Africa, SE Asia, or Australia. Any good riding on that big island you call home?

      I am surely happy to have all the extra tires clearance, and when the time comes, I can run 29+ tires. Too bad it won’t clear a fat tire as well.

      • Nick
        Plenty of good riding in Oz – though the distances between places are not small, with less variation in landscape than you’re likely used to from Europe etc. Have a look at GJ Coops’s http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/ for ideas. In lots of places there are multiple, multiple dirt-roads that can be connected up to make A toB work. We’re in Fremantle, WA. You’re always welcome 🙂

        • Thanks Tom, I’m not entirely unaccustomed to greater distances, although I really enjoying discovering towns every day in Europe. We thought about a cheap flight from Istanbul last year, which may actually happen this year. And, we can still apply for a work visa down there.

  9. Oh no. Now I have some serious bike envy. The more I cut luggage weight, and aim for singletrack, the more I start to think that a Krampus with front suspension will be in my future. I want yours, with my rohloff, and some 3″ tires.

  10. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at my bike, which is currently hanging sans parts in the stand. But soon…all the parts are in…paint…

    Nicholas, that Krampus is beautiful. Nice work.


    • Thanks Carp, I’m loving the ride on the new rims and 2.4″ tires. The skinwall tires are temporary, as I’ll be leaving town on something with a little more durable casing.

  11. Fun indeed.
    Just wondering, if a Hugo rim found it’s way to you for free would you be tempted to switch the LB one out?
    I do wish Stans had brought out a 35mm rim at the same time. Hopefully that emerge before long though.

    • There are some very interesting features packed into the new Stan’s Hugo (http://www.notubes.com/Hugo-52-P1458.aspx). Every time a new rim arrives, my perception of the whole spectrum changes. The Rabbit Hole was incredibly exciting at one point, and now I’m hardly interested, although it is a very nice rim. The carbon rims I’ve chosen are momentarily fascinating, but if there had been a Stan’s 35mm rim under 600g and for about $100, I might have chosen that. Considering that I own a Krampus, there may be more 29+ in my future. As such, I’ll keep my eye on these rims for future use, especially if that Maxxis Chronicle 29×3.0″ ever arrives. The is the best thing to have happened to 26/27.5/29+ since the Rabbit Hole.

      The Hugo is a nice looking rim, with a limited market. I am not sure why it precedes a wider 30-35mm rim and a proper fatbike rim. For now, I am very happy with the tire profile on 35mm rims. The quality of both the Derby rim and the LB is superb. The LB rim is 207g lighter than the Hugo, which is a lot.

      Note, Hugo rim weights almost exactly match the rim diameter at 560g/585g/622g.

  12. The bikes look great! As always, looking forward to hearing of your travels.

    Glad you found a reason to pull the trigger on the skin wall ardents, I’ve mulled it over a few times. I’m curious though, did you happen to pop a Knard onto the LB rim, just to see? I’m wanting to go 29+ on the front of my Ogre and I’m considering the LB. Not that I’ll necessarily end up with a Knard. I’m hoping for that Maxxis tire too..

    • Thanks James! I have not mounted a Knard yet, although a friend has a pair mounted to Derby rims on a 29+ Borealis Echo. They look great, he likes the tire profile, and the tubeless interface is very good on both the Derby and the LB rims. He has recently built the bike and has ridden in a couple local XC races for fun. Considering available 35mm rims, it is a great option.

      I’m hoping for the Maxxis tire, a 35mm Stan’s rim, and whole lot of other things. For now, I’m real happy with the Krampus, although as I’ve said before, the skinwall Ardents are not the long-term solution for me. I prefer a more durable casing, as least to feel confident that I don’t need to carry a spare on a longer trip. The bead on a proper tubeless tire would also be more inspiring, not that I had any issue seating these tires on Stan’s/Derby/LB rims.

      • I’m also waiting for the Dirt Wizard. I’d love to see a 60 or 120tpi tubeless ready tire from Surly. In fact, I’d love to see all of their large-volume tires come in a folding TR option. A tire manufactured with tighter tolerances, and a tighter-fitting TR bead by design might work very well on some of their existing rims.

        • That’s what I was wondering about, the interface between he two, being that the Knard isn’t a tubeless ready tire, even though many have had success with tubeless knard setups. Glad to hear that your friend has had success with the knard on a rim of the hookless carbon variety, definitely reassures me, at least a bit. Like you said, tighter tolerances, and more consistency would be ideal. It’s still a new game…

          Anyhow, appreciate the feedback. I’m stoked that someone is going to be putting this stuff to the touring test. Cheers

  13. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but keep those stanchions CLEAN! I’ve seen plenty of Fox forks, especially the newer Kashima ones, with seriously worn-down and grooved stanchions from dirty wipers and seals. Off bikes that just see weekend trail riding, too.

      • In my experience, yes. I’d say probably 10-15% of the Fox forks that came through the shop I worked at had some degree of stanchion wear that warranted replacement, and I can’t recall any Rockshox ones needing new stanchions. You should be fine if you wipe the stanchions with a clean cloth daily, but definitely keep an eye on it.

        • Will do. In the past, I’ve been pretty good about cleaning an lubing the bike, in between the normal abuse of daily riding on tour. The sticky mud results in the kind of rides that like to kill bike parts. I’ll try to avoid it At least this time, I’ve got healthy tire clearances all around.

  14. Nick,

    Now that the time has indeed come, and you and Lael are on the road and riding everyday I would be very interested on your thoughts of the SP hub. For the price, if it is as efficient as they claim it is a very appealing option for an impending dyno system for my Stumpjumper. Thanks for documenting your travels so well, it is hard work to capture the moment in words and photos and you guys do a great job.

    • Andrew, I must admit the post is underwhelming, although if I had a little more post exposed from the frame it may be more comfortable in the magical way I was expecting. In total, it doesn’t feel any different than the cheap aluminum posts I’ve used in the past, although not quite as jarring and stiff as some oversize aluminum posts (Thomson 30.9). It is about $250 more expensive than the XLC posts I’ve relied on for years, which is horrifying to think about.

      Further, the hardware in the head is quite heavy. While independent clamping (fore/aft) and angle adjustments are nice, I prefer a two pin system for security and light weight. This post uses a system of parts tapered to fit more tightly together inside the titanium cylinder at the top of the post as you tighten the bolt from the side. I’ve seen similar designs on Specialized posts, which were prone to slipping and have been redesigned. My saddle angle did change after some especially rough riding with a heavy seatpack. Eventually, I disassembled the parts, cleaned and greased them and reassembled at (likely) greater than recommended toque specs. It has not given me issue since that time, but it is not my favorite system. Also, if I want to change the saddle angle I loosen the bolt, but then I must break the tension in the system to the sound of a light crack. By then, the angle has changed dramatically, making minute adjustments impossible except by guess and check. Again, with a two bolt system I loosen one bolt and tighten the other for small angle adjustments.

      The quality of the post is very nice, and it surely is beautiful. I heard others say (JayP included), that it is a very comfortable post, but the amount of post exposed has very much to do with such things. Rider weight is also relevant, but even with my heavy setapack, I can claim to feel no magic. I might consider a Moots or Erickson post, if you are in the market for a $250+ solution.

      Lael is using a Syntace P6 carbon post. That thing is pure magic providing visible flex. It uses a two pin system, is light weight, and comes with a ten year warranty. Price is similar to the Salsa post. Just be sure to wrap the post in tape if you plan to use a seatpack, such as the Revelate Viscacha or Pika. Highly recommended.

      • Nick,

        Thank you for your detailed thoughts, suggestions, and considerations. A Ti seatpost is costly and one needs to consider lots of factors. I’m looking at Lynskey in addition to Erickson, Salsa, et al.

        Did your B17 (I’m also using a B17) interfere with the seatpost clamping bolts? It looks like most Ti seatposts us a similar clamping system, over the two bolts system.

        Thanks again!


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