31 12 2015

So, the Bontrager Hodag. B plus plus? 27.5×3.8″ or about 93mm wide on a 50mm rim it seems. Diameter around 750mm or so (I *think* these are Walt Works measurements, but cannot be 100% certain, as I committed the numbers to memory, then promptly forgot the source).

I received the tyre the other day and decided that I would use a Nextie rim to build up the wheel: in this case a ‘new’ Jungle Fox II. I used a Jungle Fox previously, but the new one is 2mm wider at 52mm wide external, 45mm internal. This suggests a couple of extra layers of carbon sheet, as the bead edge is thicker. Probably a good thing, but they are still light for such a big rim. My previous experience with Nextie was slightly marred by the nipple drilling being off in several cases. Not enough to make the wheel impossible to build, but the longevity will definitely be affected. In saying that, the rims have seemed durable in use over the last 10 months – see my previous post for the first build with Nextie rims. Also, there are rumours they are using a different manufacturer and the drilling has been much more consistent recently.

Nevertheless, due to my prior experience, I am going to use a DT Squorx pro head nipple, that has a spherical interface with the rim hole edge, hopefully allowing a better alignment with the hub if any of the drilling is off. In addition, the Squorx head will allow for a safety net to let me tension the spokes if needed (poor drilling angle adds significant resistance to tightening the nipples during the build).

I am using Sapim D light spokes, 2 cross in this case. The hub is a Paul wHub, which is symmetrical with relatively high flanges and wide spacing; there is just no need for 3 cross here.

I used Freespoke for the lengths after measuring the ERD (as slightly larger than the 533 quoted on the website, which I suspect is the actual rim inner surface diameter). Freespoke has proven very accurate over the years: highly recommended.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 15.21.21

More as the rest of the wheel parts arrive.


Bontrager Chupacabra.

14 12 2015

Mounting a new tubeless tyre on a wheel that has a well sealed tyre already in place is an exercise in overcoming inertia. How much better will the tread *really* be? Will it seal again? How much of a pain is it going to be to remove the old sealant and, maybe, tape? Will you need a compressor?

I finally got over the hump and removed the Maxxis Chronicle from my Nextie Junglefox front rim and got to work removing the old Gorilla tape and recalcitrant adhesive. For this I use isopropyl alcohol and a Good Grips ‘deep clean’ brush set. This brush is stiff enough to remove the old adhesive and the hard rubbery ‘poker’ can be useful at lifting really obstinate sticky stuff.

Next, I apply a new layer of 3M 764 vinyl tape. I spent a bit of time recently researching tape characteristics and this stuff is stretchy, sticky and it comes off cleanly should this be required. It is also damn near airtight itself. I get it from Viking Tapes and although the order minimum is 6 rolls, you soon start to use it up.

Previously I used Gorilla tape, as mentioned, which has two drawbacks. Well, three. It doesn’t come off easily – leaving a lot of residue. It also seems to become boggy with sealant in time, and is quite porous, so I tend to need to keep topping up my sealant. Okay then, four drawbacks: it is also h e a v y. The difference between these 2 tapes (one layer) is ~40g. Admittedly, the Gorilla tape weighs only ~60g, but functionally the 3M is better *and* lighter, so it is a win-win.

Talking of weight, the Chupacabra is 860g or so and the Chronicle was just over 1000g (for the non-exo version, in this case). So all in all I lose 200g from the front wheel.

A blast with the Airshot and BAM! up it went.

It has been far from ideal conditions to ride recently and I am only slowly feelign my way back to any sort of regularity on the bike, but I am looking forward to seeing how the 2 compare. Volume wise, there is very little in it.


10 12 2015

When I go for a short ride, I endeavour to take as little stuff with me as possible. The rucksack full of spare clothes, food and multiple tools is nothing short of an anchor – physically and psychologically. The urge to bring this or that, just in case, must be resisted.

There are, however, a few essentials. Tube, pump and a mini-tool. Water? not always. Clothes? waterproof layer? only if the forecast requires it. Food? if I will be out for 4 hours or more.

As for mini-tools, you need to bring one that works. Crappy bits that round off, only a 2.5mm hex key when you *need* a 2mm, too big a body so you cannot access that hard to reach bolt head. All these things are learned the hard way, or if you are smart, by trying them out first.


For several years now, I have been using Genuine Innovations mini-tools. They have *just* enough on them, although the early version needed augmenting with an 8mm adaptor (the new ones have a clever 8mm ‘sleeve’ that fits over the 5mm hex bit).

I often added a Park tyre lever or two, sometimes a chain tool (the folding Park one works well) and stowed it in the back of my jersey.

Lately, as I have been sewing more bags, I have made small pouches that contain the right tool so that I can ‘grab and go’.


PB Swiss are a company that produce some fine tools. I use their bits, short and long, with my torque wrenches and their multi-coloured hex keys are not just a gimmick – the coloured shafts make it easy to grab the correct size when needed.


So when they released a bike mini-tool, I was intrigued. It consists of 25mm bits of the following type: Slotted screwdriver, 5.5mm; Phillips: PH2; Torx®: T25; Hex: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 6mm. There is a precision bit holder (female 5mm hexagon to female C6 1/4),  which is magnetic. The 5mm hex key acts as the driver and there are 2 tyre levers on the front an back of the plastic body. It weighs 100g or so.

All you need, nothing you don’t, once a chain tool or some spare quick-links are added. Nice.



Tyred out.

8 12 2015

Well, it’s been a while. There has been little typing, other than a recent article in The Ride Journal (the last one and a doozy at that, go buy it!) and next to no pedaling. In fact, I have spent the last 3 months battling several annoying maladies, the worst being a pretty troubling, bilateral, sciatica.

Anyway, the less said the better. Things are on the mend (if you discount my coughing and spluttering) and today an admittedly short ride was completed without the previous weakness and lack of power. Still, 3 months of vastly reduced physical activity is going to leave a footprint. Or perhaps a vacuum is a more appropriate descriptive term.

On the other hand, it has left me with plenty of time to ponder. I have been enjoying ‘plus’ and fat tyre bikes since their emergence. The improvement in tyre options has been fantastic, but it has also led to a little consternation.

Full-fat tyres have sprouted in so many different actual sizes (rather than the side wall estimate), it is well worth doing extensive research to ascertain if they will even fit your frame.

With the arrival of the Vee Snowshoe 2XL, we may be witness to the biggest tyre that will ever be produced for a bicycle. See here for astonishing comparisons.


On the 27.5+ side, you have several widths: 2.6″-ish (the WTB Trailblazer), 2.8″ (Surly Dirt Wizard, Schwalbe, Vee and soon Maxxis with the hotly anticipated Ikon and Rekon) and a full 3″ (Maxxis Chronicle, Schwalbe, Vittoria Bomboloni, several new WTB offerings and again, Vee). There is also a 3.25″ Trax Fatty from Vee that is currently the biggest offering in this relatively new size.

Except – no! it is not.

Bontrager have released the Hodag in a 27.5×4 size. Some measurements are beginning to turn up around the web and it would appear that 86mm or 3.5″ ish is the girth on a 50mm rim. Soon, I will measure it myself as I have pre-ordered one and it seems stock arrives in a few days.

Now, I need to work out how I am going to use it. With a Trailblazer rear? or a full 3″ b+ on the rear? or with a 29+? (they are a similar diameter) or a 26×4? the list and permutations go on. Once I decide that, I need to make ready a wheel to accept it. I am thinking the Bontrager 80mm wide rims on Trek’s Farley fat bike are perhaps unnecessary and will use either a Nextie 52mm wide/45mm internal rim or a DT Swiss XM551 (at 44mm wide/40mm internal) as a first port of call.

It is a brave new world.


As a matter of fact, I still need to decide how I am going to try the Bontrager Chupacabra I have just received. This 29×3″ is light and the siped, stud tread may be just the ticket for the sloppy crap the trails have become wit the last 2 months of rain.

More soon…including a new mini tool from PB Swiss.