Unusual Fruit

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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.

In the basket: Surly Ultra New Front Disc hub, Phil Wood Mountain Disc hub, DT Competition butted black spokes and black brass nipples, and two Surly Rabbit Hole rims.  A good winter harvest.

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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.

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The non-drive side flange is taller to effectively transmit disc-brake loads.  The 6-bolt ISO disc mount is seriously overbuilt.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Words from the wise: Cass says, “mismatched hubs are like mismatched socks”.  Around here, the practice is heartily encouraged.

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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″.


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.



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.




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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.






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


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.


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.


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.


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.




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


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?