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.
First order of business, if you havn't signed up for the newsletter do it now. The icon is over there on the right sidebar >>>>>>>>>>
Secondly, I have a ton of new material written and waiting to be published. I'm confident in saying that I'll have an interesting article published each month, in addition to my usual ride blogs and ranting. The website has also seen a bit of an update and more features are coming as well so check back often.
Thirdly, here are some random photos from during my time away from The Bric and the awesome winter riding I've had.
I also committed myself to doing some bikepacking this year (likely just a few overnighters at this point) and bought myself some gear. I've outfitted myself with a seat bag, handlebar roll, and top tube bag. The bags are all Blackburn Outpost series that I picked up from Outspokin Cycles. Watch for a full on review of the bags after I've had them out a few times. I'm still debating right now if I should grab the matching frame bag to use in conjunction with my Wingnut Hyper 3.0 pack, or just go with the Wingnut Adventure pack and forgo the frame bag all together.
In other news, my fatbike frame has cracked and left me fat-less the last few weeks. I've been doing alot of riding on the CX bike. The crack doesn't look big but it goes 3/4 of the way around the seatstay, bummer. I've been trying to sort out my issue but can't afford a new fat bike so watch for some brazing / bracing action from the Bric soon.
I've been contemplating selling my Norco Torrent to free up some funds for a newer fat bike, as I am sure that the fatty will crack again even after being repaired. I can't complain much though, this fat bike has seen a ton of miles and been through hell and back many times over.
I've also got some updates coming from the projects department, mostly that I've finally finished one. More on that one in a bit.
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I'm also posting to let everyone know I'm going to be taking a little break from Bikin' Bric's Bike Blog. Its only temporary and I'll be back sometime in the end of January / beginning of February. I'm still writing and even have a few stories on deck but have decided to take some down time before making some big changes when I'm back. Watch for some new features and there might even be a contest coming up so keep an eye out.
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
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.
Its no secret that I love the Specialized Power saddle on my CX bike, so when it was time to shop for a mountain saddle to replace the OEM anvil that Norco supplied on my Torrent 7.2 I went directly to my local Specialized dealer - The Brantford Cyclepath. Another go on the Specialized Ass Ruler and I was out the door with a blacked out Phenom in 155mm width. I briefly thought about buying the Henge (which I really liked on my old Fatboy) but was talked into the Phenom as it shares the same rear section as the Power saddle, just with a longer nose more suited to mountain biking.
Once installed it felt at home right off the get go. Comfort and fit are exactly what I expected after my experience with the Power saddle. I did have to do a bit more position tweaking than the Power and ended up with the nose slightly higher on this setup.
I've put alot of miles on this saddle now and it has been great. Lots of epic rides spending between 4 and 6 hours riding and it was still comfortable. Moving around and getting on the nose for climbing is quick and comfortable. The saddle has a waterproof grippy material covering it to keep you from sliding off unintentionally.
I do have two small gripes with the seat though. Firstly, the nose of the saddle has developed a bit of wear, which isn't too uncommon but I'd expect it to hold up better after only 6 months of riding and spending 130ish bucks.
My second concern is that the rear of the saddle where the rails go into the plastic base has developed some movement. While this does not affect performance, it does cause some creaking at times and again, I'd expect more from a saddle like this. Time will tell how much of an issue this may or may not become. I'll have to post an update after some more long term riding.
In the end, its one of the only mountain saddles I've been able to spend half a day on and not feel like I've had a vasectomy, only held back by two little concerns. I rate it 4/5 stars.
“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
― Tahereh Mafi
Crisp cool mornings, warm sunny afternoons, glowing orange landscapes, and the sound of leaves crunching under your tires... that's autumn riding at it best. If I had to pick, I'd say autumn is my favourite season to ride. To me, its everything from cold night rides where your foggy breath puffs out like a locomotive's steam, to sweaty afternoons shedding layers to stay cool.
I've been very fortunate this fall so far, I've had the chance to spend some amazing days in the backcountry of Turkey Point, as well as some riding in places like Muskoka and the Ontario Escarpment. I keep thinking to myself "this must be the last day of the warm weather" but this November keeps on delivering. I was able to spend a few fall hours out in Turkey Point recently and the views are just stunning, the forest has a vibrant almost-neon glow to it and the gentle breeze brings down the brightly coloured leaves at a steady pace. Being in the woods right now makes you realize that just like the squirrels foraging for a winter's worth of food, the forest is also going into hibernation.
Moving further along into the pine forest and the leaves are replaced with a blanket of pine needles covering the sandy soil. Every once in a while you can catch a wiff of the fresh pine needles baking on the warm sunny sand, the best smell in the world (followed closely by fresh cut lumber and weathered leather).
With each passing day of awesomeness, the cold of winter lurches closer and soon enough we will be covered in snow and the fat bike will be pulling extra duty. This is the time that my riding addiction goes into overdrive and I have to ride every drop out of this autumn weather. Be it on singletrack or a rail trail, I'm riding out this fall to all its potential and embracing the change of the seasons.
Ride on! See you out there!
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.