Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fat Revolution...

It seems the "next big thing" has arrived in MG's bike room. Yep, I got a fatbike. And to say that I'm stoked is probably the understatement of the year. This is the bike I've been waiting my entire cycling life to own!

Back in the late-winter/early spring of 1990, when I was still a senior in high school, I first met Cycle Works owner, Kris Sonderup while working as a salesman at The Athlete's Foot. I sold Kris a pair of running shoes, and, in the course of our conversation that day, Kris invited me into his shop to test ride a couple of his mountain bikes, as I was interested in trading in my '87 Schwinn LeTour for something with a little fatter tires.

It wasn't more than two weeks later, and I was test riding Trek mountain bikes with Kris at the corner of 27th and Vine, in the waning days of the original Cycle Works location, in a converted car wash building on a corner across from its current location. Since I was still a senior in high school, I couldn't afford to pay the entire $400 + tax price of the Trek 850 I bought up-front, so I put it on layaway and began dreaming of the adventures I'd have with it. I imagined riding up and down steep hills, piles of snow, and just going out and seeing what's out there... regardless of whether there's a trail or not.

What I didn't understand at the time were the true capabilities of the mountain bike as a vehicle with which to travel vast distances. When I finally got my new Trek out of layaway and began riding in earnest, I soon realized I was no longer confined to a 'local' riding setting. The world was truly mine to conquor. And once Niterider began pumping out awesome lights, I was no longer constrained by the light of day either, making it possible to travel just about anywhere I wanted on my bike, anytime I wanted to go.

And in the nearly 22 years since I bought that first Trek 850, I've been fortunate to have traveled to incredible places -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and more -- simply to ride and/or race my bicycle. I've spent the night on my bike (multiple times), acquired 34 screws and four plates in my body courtesy of lunacy on my bike, and wouldn't trade a single thing for the experience.

So what's that have to do with fatbikes?
The next chapter of fat-tire adventure has arrived...
Well, back up to the time while my Trek 850 was on layaway... when I thought "adventure" was akin to bouncing over big snow piles downtown and going out to "see what there is to see" in parts of parks I'd never seen. Once I actually got onto my Trek and started riding, I realized that type of riding wasn't really the best use of a mountain bike. But on a fatbike like my new Salsa Mukluk, it's a whole lot more fun! I was describing the experience to my lovely wife, Laura, the other day, and after stammering around trying to come up with adjectives that related my Mukluk back to traditional bikes, I finally told her that it's almost like a new sport altogether... Like back in the '80s when all we had were road bikes and mountain bikes rolled onto the scene. It's like that... only doing it to mountain bikes! That's what I'm sayin'!! It's BIG!

To wit, yesterday, just messing around over on the Nebraska Wesleyan campus, I rode up to a set of five concrete steps at about 12mph and simply pedaled up them without slowing down. Whoa... That was cool. Other than barely clipping a crankarm on the top step, it was silent and smooth. I'd never try that on a 26" or 29" mountain bike.

Even without a tapered steerer, that's still a beefy front end!

When I built the bike, I set the rims/tires up tubeless right away. I pulled the tubes out when I trued the wheels and used Gorilla Tape to seal the rims up. I'm running my signature "getto blend" sealant, which has been perfect for cold weather running because it's specifically blended to stay liquid at sub-freezing temperatures. The tires sealed up without unusual drama and have been holding air reliably despite my shenanigans. I've been running between five and 12psi, depending on what I'm riding. Fatbikes like low pressure. 12psi is a LOT...
The layout is just like a mountain bike, only bigger. Hub spacing is 135mm front, 170mm rear -- appropriate for the job.
You can see the 10mm shorter-than-stock, 100mm stem, the trimmed-for-GripShift WTB Trail grips, and the upgraded Avid BB7 brakeset I'm running, as well as the Jandd frame bag -- a relatively standard item for me.
I didn't change too many other things on the bike compared to a box-stock Mukluk 3. I swapped the stem out for a 10mm shorter model, as the 110mm stock model felt slightly long to me. Perhaps it was the combination of the stem and the Salsa Bend 3 handlebar, which uses a forward sweep to offset its generous 17-degree bend. Regardless, I had an appropriate stem in my toolbox, and if you were buying a Mukluk, your Salsa dealer would work with you to swap out stems, if necessary. That's one of the values of buying local.
The Salsa Bend 3 handlebar features a wrist friendly 17-degree sweep. SRAM GripShift shifters work well with Bar Mitts or other "pogie" style handlebar-mounted hand covers.
 One small change I also made was to the braking system. I pretty much shelved the entire stock braking system, which consisted of Tektro levers and Avid BB5 disc calipers (160mm rotors), replacing them with a set of Avid BB7 calipers with Avid levers from my parts bin. I changed the calipers to gain larger pads and increased ease of adjustment, while I replaced the levers to enhance every aspect of the braking performance, from power and modulation, to the very important tactile "feel" at the lever. It's all better with the new, revised setup. I also changed the stock grips, which were very crappy Velo silicone, to a set of trimmed WTB Trail grips, which work very well with the stock SRAM X-7 Grip Shift. I used spray paint to install the grips to keep them from slipping on the bars in the cold, frosty and often condensate-heavy conditions the bike will frequent.

As you might imagine, this is the bike I plan to be riding most this winter, and so far, that's borne out to be true. It's a fantastic partner for cold weather exploring and I feel like I may just be scratching the surface on a whole new type of riding that really appeals to me.

I'll keep you posted on how it's going...


ReV said...

your words are just about my exact journey I picked my muk up a couple of months ago and the adventures have carried since. I guess I need to make a trip up to my midwest brethren to get some deep cold and snow!


Guitar Ted said...

MG: That is a great analogy for the paradigm shift that comes with those bulbous, grin inducing rubber donuts on the Mukluk. Awesome! The best description I've ever read.

I can tell you are super-stoked, my friend. I gotta say, just reading this made me get a huge grin thinking about how stoked you must be to have this rig.

I'm happy for ya. I hope everything else is falling into place for you as well. Have a great Holiday Season!

Cracked Headtube said...

Yep...nice post. I just got a Surly Larry tire in as well as a Fat Sheba rim. Now I need a dedicated Fat frame. No snow in these parts, but PLENTY of sugar sand on the trails as well as beaches galore.

MG said...

ReV... Do it! We're getting a good crew with fatbikes here in Lincoln now... It'd be fun to show you around!

Thanks GT. You are too kind, but so right in that I'm absolutely stoked on this bike right now. And I heard last night from MW that you're getting a Ti Mukluk... Awesome! You lucky dog. :-) I gotta say though... It'll probably be the bike you ride most once it's built (and you ride a lot of bikes). You deserve it. Congratulations, and Merry Christmas to you, my Brother.

Cracked Headtube... Ironically, we lost all our snow the day before my Mukluk arrived, but that hasn't stopped me from totally loving it. I was keeping up, and even leading riders on "normal" 29"ers on our local singletrack last night, as it was just barely frozen and still somewhat soft from recent rains and snow melt. In those conditions, fatbikes rule the roost because they don't sink down into it, so they aren't as hard to pedal over time. Good stuff...

Beau & CeCe said...

Thank you for the fantastic post-riding write up. The tubeless idea sure does sound temping but I end up riding my Larry-shod Mukluk everywhere w/plenty of tarmac in between so I'm not sure it's right for me but I'm interested to try it.

Thank you for taking the time to sum up the fat bike experience so well for those that haven't had the chance to spin the pedals on one.

Pedal On ~ Allen

MG said...

Thanks Allen,

One of the benefits of the tubeless setup, especially on fat bikes, is that there is no chafing friction between the tire and tube at the contact patch, which I swear makes the bike feel like it rolls faster, especially at low pressure. That's a benefit that is especially apparent on pavement. Plus, the fact that the sealant is lighter in weight than tubes, despite providing the ability to seal up flats, is the magic combination of benefits.

For me, it's too good, and too easy, not to do.

Thanks again for checking in, and for your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Dude, finally a post. I almost got tired of checking in on your blog. Glad you like your new bike. You forgot how fun it is to ride in a figure eight in a living room. That was super rad.

paxtoncoyote said...

SWEET! I really have a hard-on for a fat bike as well, but nothing to sell to gain one & one kid in college & 2 more on their way, such is life, GREAT post though & can't wait to hear more fat bike stories & reviews to keep me inspired to get one someday. Meanwhile, more Fargo miles, which isn't a bad thing by no means!

Steve said...

Nice write up on the Muk-Lovin mine and it's getting me out the door all winter during this sow drought!