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"
I'm going to start off being totally honest and say that rides in February and March have been nearly non-existent for me this year. I just haven't been feeling the urge to ride lately and a busy family life combined with a roller coaster of weather that we've been having this winter made it easy finding excuses to keep myself from riding. A nice sunny day and an unexpected early departure from work meant that I had no excuse to keep me off the bike this time.
I grabbed my trusty fat bike (wasn't sure what the conditions would bring) and headed to Turkey Point. The combination of me being off my game after neglecting the bike, and the slow rolling Surly Nate's, made the first few kilometers creep by at a snails pace. Once I got warmed up and my head into the right space, things started coming together nicely. The miles rolled by and I could feel the cobwebs leaving my mind, the dust blown off my tires, and my urge to ride coming back.
I've had times like this before where I just need to take some time away from cycling and focus on other things. It was a nice break but I realized that I really did miss the bike more than I thought I did. There is something about twisting through the trees and hearing the dirt under your tires that gets me in my "Zen" place and keeps my mountain-bike-mojo going. As my mother once told me "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and I realize that taking a break makes you realize how much you can miss triggering through gears, feathering the rear brake in a corner, and popping your front wheel up and over small obstacles in the trail.
Now that my bike mojo is starting to come back, I need to get serious miles in before the TillsonBurn on Good Friday. I'm no where near ready for it, and in much worse off shape that I was last year at this time. I can't help but think of it as a death march at this point. I need to grind out some 50km+ mixed surface rides over the next few weeks leading up to the Burn.
Now.... for the goodbye part. At the end of my ride I had a good look and noticed that my repaired and braced chainstay on the Nashbar Fat Bike was cracking again. I figured this would happen but tried to be hopeful. The chainstay just has too many little cracks in it and has fatigued. Looks like this might be the end of the line for my trusty old Nash-Fat. I might get a couple more rides in on it before it breaks completely, but should probably play it safe and use it as a paper weight at this point. The new RSD is itching to go, but it hurts to lose such a good old friend. Watch for the Nash-Fat eulogy in the near future.
Its no secret by now that my fatbike frame is cracked and I sold my trusty Norco. I enjoyed my time on the Norco Torrent (review here) but needed less of a "go fast" bike and something more along the lines of a quiver killer. I set my sights on the RSD Sergeant from a relatively new company based right here in Ontario. These guys are big into the fat and plus bike scene and have incredible value for the dollar, not to mention well spec'd bikes with no corners cut. Customer service at Rubber Side Down is top notch. I placed my order late on a Sunday night and I had an email Monday morning from Alex, the head honcho at RSD, thanking me and providing my tracking number. Wow.
So, here it is, the RSD Sergeant.
The bike has what I'm calling a "super spec". I can only find one part I don't like, but more on that later. It comes with 27.5" x 3" tires, but do some nosing around the interwebs and you'll find that it can swallow 27.5" x 3.8" tires from Maxxis and Bontrager. A true two bikes in one, or a fatty with a narrow Q factor (73mm bb shell). I'll be rocking the 3" tires for everything but snow, whereas I'll toss on some 3.8" tires. I can't wait to put some miles on this bike and will do a full review after putting it through its paces.
The only part I don't like right off the hop is the cassette. Nothing wrong with the cassette but its a cheaper Sram model with no carrier body and mounted to an aluminum freehub. Tisk Tisk! This is a recipe for a completely fucked freehub body and I'm changing out the cassette before I even ride it. Would have been a non-issue with a steel freehub body.
The rest of the build is tough looking with a 34mm stanchion fork, 4 piston Avid brakes, and Race Face Turbine cranks. There are a few nice touches too, like Race Face grips, Avid matchmaker clamps, and genuine brand name handlebars / stem / post that you don't see alot of for OEM. My completely stock large weighs in at 31 lbs.
I was recently given the opportunity to take out a Rocky Mountain Blizzard fat bike for a real ride around my home trails of Turkey Point. The bike was one of the rental fleet owned by Elevation Mountain Bike Camps and Coaching who operates a mountain bike coaching / guides / rental business based in Turkey Point and were kind enough to lend me the bike for a morning of riding and testing while my personal fat bike is down. They are also the local Rocky Mountain dealer.
The bike is a 2016 model Blizzard 30. It features a Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain with Shimano m396 brakes. The wheels are Sun Ringle hubs and rims shod with Vee Rubber Bulldozer 4.7" tires. The Race Face Affect crank is a quality touch and the build is rounded out with Rocky Mountain branded post, bar, and stem.
The first snowfall of the winter is always a little bittersweet for me. It makes me happy because, just like and other kid trapped in a man's body, I get to bundle up and go play in it for hours on end with my bike. I get a little sad because it drives the last nail in the coffin and reminds me that I won't be riding in shorts for a few more months. I gave into my happy side and loaded up my bike and layered on the winter gear, then drove down to the familiar trails of good old Turkey Point. The sun was shining brightly and the trails were in excellent shape.
The light dusting of snow really highlighted the deer paths that criss crossed the singletrack out in the bush. I also came across some fox and coyote tracks.
I got out early enough that, save for one other rider and a group of trail runners, I was the first one out there. I followed the tracks of the other rider for a while before venturing off and hitting some undisturbed powder. There is something special about putting the first tracks into fresh snow, even if only a dusting like this.
The fatbike chugged along happily under me, almost as if it was excited to see snow again. Its running tip top after its big rebuild and the new rubber offers lots of grip that I had been missing with the old worn out tires. I can't wait to ride the shit out of this bike again all winter and leave it looking like a pile of broken parts picked out of a ditch.
By time my ride was finishing up there were lots of other riders out enjoying the day. As I finished on Saudwinder I noticed how many more tracks were cut into the white fluff compared to the one track on my way in. Early bird gets the worm as they say, or in this case the fresh snow.
My poor old fatbike had been hanging on the wall of the shop for months, having been decomissioned since the end of September due to worn out tires and drivetrain. The poor old girl had a ton of miles on her and needed some gentle love but bicycle-related cash flow (or lack of) was too low for a full bore refit. I tore it apart and slowly rebuilt with less-worn-out parts as I could get my hands on them.
I happened to have the used OneUP cassette adaptor and narrow-wide chainring that was on my Specialized Fatboy that I was smart enough to remove before I sold it a year ago, so I put those on with a good used cassette and chain to spruce up the drivetrain. I'm trying something a bit different with my driveline setup that I'm calling the "DingleX", its a 1x10 driveline with a 22T granny still installed on the crank. My main ratios are 30T ring X 11-42 cassette, but I can push the chain off the 30T narrow wide with my foot and run a 22T ring with the 11-42 cassette. Its not shifting on the fly but it will work for a 1X bike that will likely need some stump pulling gears come snow time. Let me illustrate below.
With the driveline sorted out I needed tires. After a bit of sticker shock from looking at a nice set of Schwallbe Jumbo Jim's, I went for a set of tried and true Surly Nates with an awesome retro looking skinwall carcass. The Nate's hook up alot better than the old Floaters that I had on the bike but also roll a bit slower and have a wee bit more self steer. I'm going to do some pressure tweaking in the near future to find the happy spot for these tires. The brown and green colour motif on this rig is a bit of a combination of the military and farm impliment look. I like it.
With my fat rig all fixed up I was ready to hit dirt, and with today being Global FatBike Day what better time. I headead out to Turkey Point for a ride and joined up with the TPMBC gang to ride out from Mole Rd. A group of (what I estimate was) 25 hit the trails and rolled over Big Mike and into the United Church property. I hung with the group for a while before heading off on my own to march to the beat of my own drum. Its not that I don't like group rides, I just prefer to be by myself sometimes and today was one of those days. I did some more riding out to the Lookout Bluff and back into some of the park trails. It was a good day, brought to an early end by some rain.
Now that the fatty is ready for a winter's worth of abuse, I can break down the Torrent for a disassemble / clean / lube / reassemble and keep it feeling brand new for spring. I've also had lucid thoughts of building a second wheelset for the fatty (650b+) and outfit it for bikepacking next year. We will see.
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.
Had a very nice Turkey Point ride Saturday morning. Trails were in great shape when I got out there as it was still just below freezing, as the day went on and things warmed up the snow was getting a little soft in spots. Some of the heavier used trails had patches of ice on them. Nothing that the fat bike couldn't handle with ease though.
I ended up riding quite a nice loop. I started from the West end of Mole Rd and did a route of Suadwinder, The Burn, Spinal Tap, Dizzy Lizzy, Earshot, Big Mike, Rum Runner, East Ridge, then up the road and over to Planet of the Apes. All the trails were packed in nicely and riding fast except for Planet of the Apes where I put in the first tracks since the snowfall. Hopefully a few other brave souls follow my tracks and pack it in a bit, but looking at the forecast it might not matter. Rain and warm temps are going to melt alot of whats down here in the next few days and turn it into a skating rink when it freezes up again.
I have to start out by admitting that due to work / family / weather I have not ridden in almost 2 weeks. I finally pushed myself out the door this morning into the cold crisp air. I thought about driving out to Northumberland Forest and doing the Substance Projects Snumbler today but decided against it. I headed out to my usual Turkey Point starting spot with the Nashbar in tow. I heard that some of the TP trails had been worked in quite well and are riding nice with the snow.
I was the first person out there, the dusting of snow we had overnight was untouched and I was lucky enough to make the first tracks in the virgin snowfall. The temperature was hovering around the -11 degree area, which is pretty damn close to my "fuck it, stay inside" limit. My poor dry and cracked hands can't take the cold and become extremely painful. I was cold right away but started warming up once I got a good rhythm going. I need to buy a nice wool layer for cold winter riding and some bar mitts would be nice on mornings like this too.
I was the only rider out there this morning, I thought I would have seen more out there on fatbikes but only stumbled upon a group of trail runners braving the cold. I managed to get in a nearly two hour ride before my cold toes had me pull the plug. Good timing as the remains of my water bottle had frozen into a chunk of wet ice. I drank what I could and headed back out the singletrack towards my truck. I snapped a few good photos along the way including a very rare Bric selfie. I've been trying to eat a little healthier this year and already feel better out on the bike, my wife says I've lost a bit of weight already too. I need to get riding more to see some real changes.
There is a lack of snow here on the South Coast of Ontario, but I won't complain. I'd rather not have the stuff. Got out for some fatbike action at Turkey Point this week, it was cold and I had the trails all to myself. The fair weather riders are really missing out on some great riding. I'm going to try to squeeze in a ride today to Delhi along the rail trail if the rain holds out for me in the afternoon.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.