Another year, another Global Fat Bike Day. This one was special for me as it was my first ride back on the mountain bike (expect for a couple of very painful rides I gave up on in the summer) since my accident. It was also the first ride out on my resurrected fat bike.
The bike was everything that I hoped it would be when done. Fully rigid on 4" rubber, 1 x 10 driveline, loaded with simple and reliable components. It doesn't get much simpler than this when it comes to mountain biking, and its just what I needed. A reliable machine to get me back on the trails. Full spec below...
Feast your eyes.....
My good riding partner, Wide Open Willie, and I set out to do our own little ride at Turkey Point. We kept to the trails within the Provincial Park and did a nice loop that reversed back on a few trails. A great day to get out there. The resurrected fat bike did well, very well. It took everything in stride and kept me grinning ear to ear. I think its safe to say that I'm back in the saddle again and I can't wait to put more miles on.
Its been far too long and I've missed the sound of my huge tires humming along in the dirt, with the occasional click of the shifter or squeak from the brakes. Carving up the winding trails and attacking the short climbs put me back into my Happy Place that I've missed for months.
See you on the trails...
Its been an exciting few weeks getting the fatty frame put back together. The paint is done and the bike is built. Lots of work has gone into the fat bike rebuild and now its time to ride. Can't wait to get it out and return to mountain biking on Global Fat Bike Day. Its going to be great. I'll take some photos and do a big reveal then.
Working on the project has added fuel to the dwindling fire that is my passion for cycling. After my accident in April I had little to no interest in riding, until now. My body is healing and the fatty is fixed, its going to be great.
The frame turned out great. The metallic black is stunning in person. The build went perfect with a few much needed new parts to get it ready to rock for another few years. GFBD'17 here I come...
Got some more work done recently on my fatbike rebuild. After the flux was cleaned off and the frame was given a good working with steel wool to remove any surface rust, I gave it a rub down with Acetone and got to work with priming.
A good paint job is all in the prep and doing light coats. I sprayed the self-etching primer and let it cure for a few days. A soft rub with a scouring pad and another Acetone wipe down, then a coating of primer sealer. Not many people bother with a primer sealer but I find it makes the paint job tougher and improves the look of the finished project. Self-etching primer is also a great option for extra hold on your base coat.
Its looking good so far. After the primer sealer cures over the next couple of days I need to start thinking about a colour. Lots of options in the automotive isle, and am thinking I'll spray it with an Acrylic Laquer. It will be my first time with laquer, I've done a few with enamel but it does not seem to cure very well and won't polish up nice with wax.
Once its shot with colour and clear coat, the fun beings and I get to hang parts back on it. So far I'm going to need a new bottom bracket, cables, and a chain. Everything else looks good. This old friend is going to be back and badass when she's done. Can't wait.
As my recovery comes along and I get closer to getting life back to normal, I've felt the urge to mountain bike again. I've been out on some easy going rides this year while out camping and with the kids around town, but have not had a good hard ride since the TPMBC Spring Kicker (and the Tillsonburn4 a week prior). I sold my awesome RSD Sergeant to help pay some bills while injured and am left without a mountain bike.
As my body has been healing I've realized that maybe I gave up on the old fatbike too soon. I was empathetic to it. I felt as if I should have helped it recover from its own broken frame just as all the doctors and physiotherapists have been helping me recover from my fractured spine. I spent a good evening out in the shop staring at the dust and cobweb covered frame, reminiscing of all the good times we shared, before finally arriving at the conclusion that I should give it another chance.
I got to work stripping the pain from the frame and fork and fashioned a gusset from some plate steel. It wasn't long after that I fired up the torches and got to work brazing the frame. I felt right at home with the brazing torch in my hand while carefully doing the dance of heat and bronze. The smell of sizzling flux filled the shop while the gentle hiss of the torch played its melody in my ears. Fillet brazing is a bit of a lost art that I got good with years ago, but its just like riding a bike.... you never forget.
I added brass as I needed, carefully wetting out the puddle for maximum penetration. I didn't want to have this joint crack again and the plate I made is very heavy duty.
Brazing is a gentle process. You have to run the torch at low pressure to avoid blowing out the base material from too fast of a flame. The slow flame and quick wrist are what makes a good welder here. You need to be able to adjust on the fly and use your gut to know when to wick the torch away and prevent cooking the joint, and when to pour on the heat and lay in the brass. Experience is the greatest teacher when it comes to this type of welding, and you need to think one step ahead of where you are. There is nothing quite like it and it brings me a slice of inner peace during my rough injury recovery.
I finished off my joint rebuild and shut down the torches. I let the joint cool for 10 minutes before putting the joint into the dunk tank. The dunk tank is just warm water and will dissolve the glassy flux off of the steel. Without the dunk tank, the hardened flux is nearly impossible to chip off but will disappear overnight in water. Science Bitch!
Check back for Part 2 soon. This baby is going to need some paint and lots of parts!
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.
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.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.