Back in the spring of 2011 I was getting bored with my tried and true 26er and needed something different. It was right at the cusp of the 29er explosion so I decided to buy a Cannondale Trail SL4, my first 29er. This was back in the days before I had children and could afford to buy a bike then upgrade it to my liking. Upgrades included things like a DT Swiss wheelset, Thomson post and stem, Rock Shox Reba fork, Avid Elixir brakes, and the cutting edge (at that time) Shimano 3x10 driveline. I sure do miss all that reckless spending I did back then, upgrading parts that didn't really need to be upgraded, owning a stack of brand new tires because I wanted to "try out" various makes and models. These days I'd rather buy a well spec'd mid level bike and leave it nearly stock.
I had this bike for 3 (semi-abusive) years before the frame cracked and she went to the scrap yard. The nice parts went on my fat bike and I started riding fat 100% of the time after that. I did eventually get a warranty frame after a few months and having Cannondale send me a 26er frame by mistake (way to go C-Dale, lost a customer there) that I sold to buy some replacement bits for the fat bike (Kids in the picture at this point). The C'Dale was fun, but fat tires are better. No more pizza cutters for this guy.
A Photo Eulogy to my tried and true Nashbar Big 'Ol Fatbike. Her cracked frame is terminal. Rest easy my dear friend.
Nashbar Big 'Ol Fatbike, Feb 2014 - March 2017
"May she dream of sweet ribbons of singletrack during her eternal rust"
Five years ago I strolled into Ancaster Cycle just to nose around and day dream of owning more bikes. I wandered the shop and inspected each mountain bike they had then move towards the roadie side of the rack where I noticed a black and white bike with disc brakes. Upon closer inspection I found myself drooling over the Norco CCX3, a do-it-all style of CX bike that I would categorize as a gravel-cross-commuter. I was strangely drawn to this bike, never having the urge to own a CX bike before. I returned home and did some humming and hawing before digging up some cash and heading back to Ancaster to make the Norco mine. I remember my wife's puzzled look when I wheeled it in the door, as it looked like a road bike at first glance and I'm not a road going kind of guy.
After adding some bottle cages and clipless pedals I was off to see what this rig could do. My first ride was down the Lynn Valley Trail to Dover, then across Radical Road to Hay Creek for some light trail riding before riding pavement back to Simcoe.
I did some awesome rides in its first year. A few trips to Brantford and back via the rail trail, a tour of the area surrounding Port Burwell including a closed section of Lakeshore Road.
On year two, the bike became mostly a kiddie hauler. I had the Chariot trailer hooked up almost permenantly and cover alot of miles pulling my son while he slept most of the way.
Year three was alot of the same as year two, pulling a trailer. Although now my son would stay awake and watch the interesting things go by. One of the kid's first words was "bike".
Year four started out with a major overhaul. Complete disassembly and clean / lube job. I finally washed away the years of road grime it had worn like a badge of honour. I spent alot of time again pulling a trailer, now with the added weight of my daughter along for the ride. Lots of funs times had with the three of us, stopping at each park to play wherever we would go. The trailer saw so much use it needed an overhaul too including new tires and some minor repairs.
Year five (2016) and shit got real. I decided to push the bike hard and see when it would push back. I made a few more modifications to the bike and off I went, logging the most miles of any year I had it. I did some mixed surface rides, doing pavement out to Turkey Point then riding the singletrack for a little cyclocross action. I also did the TillsonBurn ride this year, pushing outside of my comfort zone. I rode it in the ice and snow, the rain, the mud, and the burning hot sun.
After this year of hard riding, it needs some attention again. Nothing a little elbow grease and spit shine can't fix. The crap conditions are here and the fatbike will get all the glory for the next couple months, which gives me lots of time to refurb the CCX and do some more tweaking of my setup. Its been an excellent companion and proven to be very tough, never leaving me stranded. Funny how I had never given the thought of a CX bike as a serious do-it-all machine, and after buying it on a whim it became one of my all time favourite bikes. Here's to many more years on this awesome bike.
My setup as of now:
Frame - 2012 Norco CCX3 (bought the bike in 2011)
Fork - Norco cromoly CCX
Headset - Kore
Stem - stock Norco
Handlebar - Salsa Cowbell
Shifters - Shimano Sora 9 speed
Derailleurs - Shimano Sora front, Shimano SLX rear
Cassette - Shimano XT 32-11
Crankset - FSA
Wheels - Alex Black Dragon
Tires - Specialized Trigger 42c
Brakes - Avid BB7 road
Post - FSA
Saddle - Specialized Power
Pedals - Shimano PDM-520
Many years ago I remember venturing into a bike shop and checking out an all new 29" wheeled mountain bike. It was still a niche bike at the time and many people (including bike shop owners) said it was trash and would never take off. Little did we all know at the time, but it would be the start of the "wheel wars" that still rage on today. Once some people decided that 29" was too big and 26" was too small, 650b was thrust into the mountain bike spotlight as 27.5", the "tweener" size. As all this was happening the old 26" wheeled bikes slowly began to disappear. By the 2014 model year most brands had little to no offerings in the 26" size and it was declared dead. Wander into a bike shop today and find me a well spec'd 26" wheeled bike..... I bet you can't.
In recent years, during the time when all the fat and plus offerings were flying off the bike shop racks, Surly quietly introduced a new bike..... the Instigator 2.0. It came with 26" x 2.75" tires, or "26plus". As with most friggin-cool things from Surly it took a while for the idea to catch on (just like the Pugs fatbike, and the Krampus plus bike) and now people have noticed.
Over the last year there have been a handful of 26x2.8" tires come to market and wider 26" rims, all slipping in under the radar with me quietly watching things unfold. There were threads popping up on mountain bike forums with people stuffing these 26+ wheels into 27.5" bikes with enough clearance. It made sense after all, if you were on the short side for a 29er and liked 27.5 but wanted the traction and cushion of a plus bike you could build a 26+ (with about the same wheel diameter as a normal 27.5" bike) or if you just happened to prefer the smaller wheels it made sense too. Here is a nice graphic from Jamis breaking down the sizes.
Manufacturers have taken notice and now for 2017 you can buy a 26+ bike off the showroom floor. Norco has built a new line of Fluid hardtails with 26+ wheel options over three component levels. Haro is building entry level 26+ bikes. Jamis is building 26+ bikes in both steel (with the Dragon series) and aluminum (Komodo series). Just to name a few.
Its an exciting and confusing time to be buying a new bike, and it likely a nightmare for bike shops trying to stock all wheel platforms over a variety of component builds, let alone a decent tire selection. Some might not agree but I like the idea of a 26+ bike, it would be perfect for vertically challenged people (like my 5' tall wife) who want gobs of traction and cushion from a plus bike. I'm a holdout for my 27.5+ bike for trail riding and can see the advantages of 29+ for bikepacking / gravel grinding, but would love to try out a 26+ rig on some "Shred the Gnar" type trails. Horses for courses I guess, and with all the options... the choice is really yours.
This was a sweet head turner. A limited edition Rocky Mountain Slayer "Hotrod". Not many of these out there, it was a great trail bike. This made in Canada beauty sported a custom factory paint job with neat little features like a decal with the welder's signature, Easton RAD aluminum tubing, and 120mm travel via a Fox Float RL shock.
Can't remember the full spec, but it had lots of Race Face and Sram components. This bike lives on with a fellow rider whom I sold it to a number of years ago.
This bike was a Kijiji deal gone right. I spotted it on the local Kijiji listings late one evening for $40. Needless to say, I was in my truck burning rubber up to the sellers front door. I only rode it a few times, it was more of a cool vintage piece to keep in the garage than anything. I ended up trading it even for an old touring bike years later. I can't remember the full spec on this bike, it was 100% original though (except for the tires). It had the old Bio-Pace Shimano cranks and rear U-Brake, it even came with Club Roost bar ends!!!
Its hard to believe that I bought this bike 13 years ago, seems like just yesterday I was still riding the first few budding trails at Turkey Point on it. This bike was my go-to ride from 2003 until 2007 when it was put into semi-retirement with the arrival of my new 2008 Avalanche. In the years following it cracked and GT replaced the frame under warranty, even though it was well outside of the 5 year warranty period. It was a great bike, a friend on the trail. I still miss her some days.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.