Margins.

26 01 2019

The margins of the year just ended and the new year begun. It’s been strangely mild, a wee bit of snow but not much. Snow Job – my fat bike – has been deployed and has gained a Fox Transfer dropper – a huge boon as I have been fully assimilated to ride with the ability to drop my C.o.G. I find bikes where I cannot drop the saddle nerve wracking nowadays.

I had hoped to get out on a bike packing or maybe a bike/raftpacking mission at some point, but time seems to have evaporated. Instead, I have explored the local trails with a closer eye and even foraged for trail-side food at times.

The dRj0n bagworks project has been fun – I just put an order in for more of the stem/feed bag adaptors for the original DeWidget and along with more DeWidgets, 2 sizes of the Strap Deck. Logan at Bikepacking.com has a full ensemble on test and I hope to get access a wider market as a result of his (hopefully positive!) review. There has also been some work on a Garmin or Wahoo 1/4 turn top hat adaptor for the DeWidget. We will see where that goes…

Next up is a handlebar harness designed to utilise the Bar Yak Ultra…more soon.

Metal work has not happened, but I have been researching how it is best to machine titanium because I want to make some Ti thumbscrews. We’ll see ti is sticky and the swarf is a real fire danger.

Onwards.

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Treading lightly.

13 09 2015

The irony wasn’t lost on me. I had literally just finished writing a piece for The Ride Journal, which – in part – touches on how seldom the weather is ideal for big rides in Scotland, when BAM! the weather was ideal for a big ride.

Often, when I run to the hills, I run to the Cairngorm and it was thus as I rolled the pedals, early in the morning, up the ski road towards Cairn Lochain and the edge of the Northern Corries. I had never ridden this section and I wanted to do so, go over Cairngorm itself and look at the various ridge line descents, as well as the new trail that has been dropped to Loch Avon.

The climb was particularly interesting because I was on the fat bike. The low pressure and large foot print allowed me to make many of the steppy-rock sections I had never cleared before and as I rolled towards the March Burn, I was nowhere near as fatigued as I have been previously.

I decided to avoid the climb to Cairn Lochain. I wanted to take the trail from Lochan Buidhe around Coire Domhain and then make my way up Stob Coire an t’Sneachda, the first Munro of the day.

The views opened up as I climbed the loose trail and there were many walkers who were basking in the sunshine. I had replenished my water at one of the wee streams that drains in to Coire Domhain but I had misjudged the strength of the sun for the day and forgotten to apply sun screen. I knew I needed to keep moving rather than soak up the UV.

The descent from Stob Coire an t’Sneachda was tremendous: slow, steppy, technical and at times risky. The adrenalin flowed as I came around the top of Aladdin’s Couloir. There is a descent directly down from here, but it was rough and very loose and also a bit early in the day to be heading down. Another time.

Instead, I took a look down Coire Raibeirt at the (improved?) new trail that eventually drops to the north side of Loch Avon. Part of a future project, there can only be a couple of hundred meters of tough elevation gain and this opens up the Etchachan descent to a smaller loop – missing Lairig an Laoigh, the sometimes boggy Feshie, or (shudder) the Lairig Ghru. More on this later. You can just see, in the photo above, the trail as it drops, steeply, to the Loch Edge.

After regaining the corries’ edge, I climbed up Cairngorm itself – the second of the days Munros and broke out the map, looking for a way to descend into Coire na Ciste. In the end I wasn’t confident that I would find a worthwhile way down so I took the slabby, rock armoured trail for walkers which was … interesting, then dropped off the far end of the Bathaich Fionndag car park into the bottom of Coire na Ciste and made it down to Glenmore Lodge purely on account of the wide tyres – it is a boggy route in places!

It was a great day.





Nearby.

31 08 2015

Today, despite having a bit of a bug which has been lowering the energy levels, the dry weather encouraged me out on a bit of a recce. I have never ridden much in the Kilpatrick Hills, but after ascending to the Whangie, I decided that – as I was on the fatty – I *would* take the vague, boggy trail south and around the reservoir I could see in the distance. After circumnavigating this body of water, on a newly built/stone surfaced trail I might add, I decided to cut over towards the mighty River Clyde and see if I could join the ‘classic’ Kilpatrick route covered in guides over the years. Well, suffice to say that after climbing to a dead end on a forest road, the ‘trail’ (really more of an impression of a track) led to a heck of a lot of sphagnum moss bog to cover.

The fatty was rideable on this tenuous surface, exactly how I had hoped it would be. The trail deteriorated even more, until I made it to Loch Humphry from the west. Ascending, northwards, the energy drained from my legs and I was feeling pretty tired as I passed Jaw Reservoir. From here, I descended to the woods near Cochno, before wending my way home, spent but happy.

Today was a salutary lesson in the capabilities of a fat tyre bike. I was able to cover ground that would have been impassable on a normal mtb and although I would stop short of saying it was enjoyable to do so, the fact I could ride over sphagnum moss and waterlogged ground with relative ease opens up some possibilities.





“The wide World is all about you…”

11 07 2015

Over the last few years, wide rims for bikes (road and mtb) have become more common. Back in the day, wide rims were the norm until a certain Mr Bontrager came along and re-rolled Mavic MA-2 rims from 700c to 26″ wheel size. Why? quality and weight: the aluminium rims were much lighter and easily as durable as the poor quality offerings available at the time specifically for mtbs. With wheels, there is always a balance point between tyre performance, weight and durability.

This re-rolled rim heralded a general move to sub 25mm external width rims. Tyres at the time were relatively narrow for the most part and with inner tubes, you were running 25psi+ in order to avoid (frequent) punctures.

Fast forward to Surly releasing the Pugsley with the ridiculous Endomorph tyre. Yes, DH bikes had arrived and wider rims and tyres were not unheard of, but they were too heavy for XC use for the most part. The Endomorph was designed for truly questionable terrain: snow and sand. Even with the 50-60mm trials or the Surly rims of the day, sub 10psi was a *maximum*.

My first experience of a Pugsley was riding hot laps on Shaggy‘s Pugsley at Bristol Bike Fest. The race course is baked dry, usually, in the summer and was very rooty with low amplitude rocks and rough trail in places. On the Pugsley, you could charge into the roots, overtake other racers in the rough next to the smooth line and bomb the descents with abandon.

There was definitely something to this.

In the proceeding years, I experimented with light tyres and lighter tubes as I moved to 29″ wheels. It was’t unusual for me to ride 600g tyres with 100g tubes. I flirted briefly with tubeless systems, but struggled to get my tyres of choice (Continental) to seal well. The sidewalls were very porous and the interface with the rim bead seat was loose.

In the end, I began to use a small amount of sealant inside very light tubes, but I’ll admit I was plagued with punctures.

Many years ago, I had procured a 50mm wide Uma ‘snow’ 29er rim. This was heavy, singlewall and of questionable strength, but it changed the tyre profile out of all recognition and if the interface had been better, I would have relished the low pressures I was able to run with minimal risk of pinching.

I stopped using this set up because the angle of the spokes combined with the relatively noodly rim made me suspicious it would fold in use. That, or the tyre would roll off the rim. Still, it was interesting.

Wider hubs, or at least flange spacing, make all the difference.

When Surly, again, led where others follow and produced the Krampus I knew I wanted to try the new, 29+ wheel size out. The raison d’etre for this frameset was fitting the, frankly, ridiculous Knard 29 ‘plus’ tyre. 700c but 3″ wide. Huge. Having messed around with Endomorphs and then Nate tyres on the front of my bikes for a few years and the brief spell with a wide rim and standard 29er tyre, the likelihood was that it would work well.

It was a game changer.

The full-on fat bike tyres of the time were heavy 1300-1800g. The Knard offered a lot of floatation, shock absorption and did so with a relatively small weight penalty over a normal 29er tyre: they weigh 1000g or so.

Yes, the sidewalls were thin and the tread pattern minimal, but in fairly short order there was reasonable choice on the market and with the Chronicle from Maxxis, EXO sidewall protection. 9psi and 35-50mm rims is a magic carpet ride for a rigid bike.

Syntace offered a simple exlpanation for the benefit of wide rims, which I would recommend reading, here. There is more discussion of value on the Open Cycles blog.

I started using carbon fiber rims a number of years ago as it is a fantastic material to make a light, strong, stiff rim from and this pays dividends particularly as the rims become wider. Indeed, it allows the whole ‘plus’ tyre thing to be fully realised. One of the main detriments of plus bikes is the added weight of the wheel at the outer edge. With the development of improved tyre-rim interfaces and tyre construction, tubeless is a snap. Light, wide rims paired with wide tyres make for a superb system for covering rough ground.

Lately, for 29ers, I have been looking seriously at Kappius’ offering, the 46mm external/40mm internal, cross country orientated KR-XCW-29, with a weight of 435g +/-15g and a good looking profile to facilitate tubeless set up. I have appended some links regarding the Kappius offering at the end of the post.

Things were turned round again with the arrival of the WTB Trailblazer, a 27.5+ tyre – in essence a 650b bead size, with a 2.8 to 3″ tyre, designed to retro-fit in 29er frames, but offer much of the benefit of the 29+ Knard. In the words of Bob Poor: “the idea was hatched in a seine skiff while catching 20,000 lbs of salmon every hour in the remote waters of SE AK”.

I am very glad Mark Slate at WTB took the idea on and had the tyre mould made. The 29+ is amazing, but in some instances the huge diameter is a slight hinderance. I’m going to come back to this; I have been having some interesting conversations with bike designers on the matter that do not feel concluded and I am also in the embryonic stages of working with Sean at Vertigo Cycles on a 27.5+ bike, perhaps like this one.

As much as you hear complaints that there are too many wheel sizes available at the moment, choice is a good thing to have.

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Kappius on facebook.

Kappius in Mountain Flyer.

Kappius on Fat-Bike.

Kappius on empty beer.

Kappius on Pinkbike.

Kappius on Vital mtb.

Kappius on Singletrack World.

Kappius on Cycling Dirt.

Kappius review on MarathonMTB.

Kappius on bikerumor.





Vertigo fat bike.

15 03 2014

For the most part, I’m going to hang fire on words about this project and just post some of Sean’s pictures. Suffice to say that this time, I asked a lot of Sean and it is beginning to come together. He is a ti-construction wizard, no doubt. These pictures detail the tooling he is making to construct a ti, fat truss fork (he is making a couple at the same time, in point of fact) for the fat bike. This is very involving, but I’m glad he agreed to do this for me – it will be über sweet!





Standards.

8 02 2014

Over the last wee while I have been pondering bikes. Not so unusual, but things have been a bit more focussed than typical. The Vertigo Cycles fat bike is taking shape and some decisions regarding parts were required. It is not until you sit and look at the current state of play that you realise just how many ‘standards’ there are. One of the main decisions has been dropouts (front and rear) for this bike.

As Sean recently pointed out: “so just in case anyone is curious, fat bikes are made with the following FRONT axle “standards” 9×135, 15×135, 15×142 and 10×135 rear. Do you know where you can buy an aftermarket 15 x anything skewer? Me neither. 12×142 woulda been a good idea y’all if only because it already exists.

And the rear “standard” is: 10×135 offset, 12×142 offset, 10×170, 12×177, 10×190 and 12×197.”

Then things get more complicated still. This bike will have Paragon sliders, and I would like it to run a shimano saint derailleur as a direct mount (ie, the b-link is removed, the derailleur hanger is angled back rather than down and the whole shebang is stiffer and further out of the way for wheel fitting). Then, if i have my druthers I would like a 177mm thru axle, probably DT swiss. This means the drops have wee pockets to aid wheel placement and the thru axles are just great. But wait! The Paragon sliders are available with Maxle 12mm- a 1.75mm pitch thread- Shimano 12mm- a 1.5mm pitch thread and Syntace & DT swiss- a 1mm pitch thread. Some of these are available direct mount some with traditional hanger.

My head hurts trying to work it all out.

Then again, I have a 29+ bike coming from Kris at 44 Bikes. This will replace the Krampus, which I have enjoyed very much. Why replace it after barely a year of use? Well, the trick with the Krampus is that it was made to fit 73mm bb/135mm rear hub standard kit. Very cool, but if you take away this restriction, instead using an 83mm bb and a 150mm rear hub, add in a skilled builder experienced with fitting drive chain and fat tyres past short stays, you can sneak that fat knard into a 16.5″ chainstay.

Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Truth be told, I don’t think I am going to fully realise the potential of 29+ bikes until better tyres become available. The Knard is fine until you hit wet roots, then it is an issue. It would be really nice to have a more aggressive tyre. The word is the Dirt Wizard will be around in spring – this new Surly tyre looks much more aggressive, but is likely to be a 2.75″ so we’ll see. If I had my druthers I’d have a 2.8″ Maxxis Minion DHF.

This bike will also have sliders. And a SON front hub, maybe 135mm, maybe 100mm.

So… here we go again….it is a *good* problem to have though!





M.Y.O.G

21 07 2013

Make your own gear. I don’t have any qualms about modifying components if I have the ability to do it well and I believe it will make the part better. The most successful modifications I have made were to my XTR M985 trail pedals and to combine several chainguides to allow for a wider chainline on the Maul. Rewarding, educational, absorbing.

Recently, I have been bikepacking a bit more and – as is my want – I have been messing around with my set up to get it as functional and light as possible. As important as ‘light and functional’ is, encumbrance must be considered if you are tackling rough trails. If you need to pick up/carry the bike, or drop a loose rocky descent, the balance of the bike needs to be as unaffected as possible by your kit, in addition to it being lashed solidly so it does not swing around or come loose at a critical moment.

There are many brands of bikepacking bags on the market now. My very first bikepacking bag came from Wildfire Designs, Alaska, in about 2005 if memory serves. A simple frame bag. I augmented this with some Epic Designs (as they were named at the time) custom Old Man Mountain rack top bags that Eric christened ‘trunk turtles’. Those bags served me well for a number of trips, but as I became both braver and more organised, I needed to pare everything down and the OMM racks in themselves are heavy.

By this time, Specialized had thrown their toys out of the pram about somebody using a word for their company name that they felt they had trademarked or some such rubbish, so Eric’s Epic Designs became Revelate Designs and his highly evolved products were again top of the shopping list.

If you need to carry a full bikepacking set up I strongly recommend checking out Revelate kit, now available at Backcountry Biking, or Scott Felter’s excellent Porcelain Rocket bags. Incidentally, Scott is on the Canning Stock Route in Australia – talk about product testing!

However, what I lack is slightly smaller bags that allow me to carry the kit needed for variable weather, 12-ish hour, backcountry riding. Keeping weight off my back is a priority.

As I looked around, assessed others’ set ups and tried to work out what I might want, it became clear that the bags would need to be highly personalised to the bike I ride and the kit I carry. The next step was a small one, but it felt like a light bulb had been lit – I needed to learn to make my own bags.

I did a *lot* of reading around. The internet gives easy access to a lot of information. Specifically the backpackinglight.com community are incredibly forthcoming with their experiences and advice.

My wife, Trina’s, sewing machine has been pressed into action and I have used various shops (I will do a supplementary post soon, with a list of links and resources I have used) for materials. I have made a total of 5 items so far. The first was an iPhone bag made of waterproof, ripstop, nylon. Then I made a camera bag from the same stuff. The iPhone bag was poorly made and I decided to re-make it with improved seams and more durable routing for the elastic closure.

The next bag was made from X-pac VX07 – the white sail cloth that is waterproof, light, abrasion resistant and has a slight stiffness that keeps a shape well. I had thought of making a smaller ‘sweet roll’ double-ended roll top bag which could fit tubes, extra clothing and perhaps some tools and or a mug/mini stove. Unfortunately, I made a bona fide school boy error and, when cutting the material, I didn’t let Pi get in the way of my calculations, thus the roll came out just a wee bit on the small side. Still, I learned a lot and the bag fits a tube, a waterproof, a midge net and a mini tool easily, so it will be used.

The latest bag is an UL feedbag. It was a struggle to think through the placement of the velcro and I am still not giving myself enough material overlap, but sewing the oval bottom panel in was less horrendous than I thought it might be and the 160D cordura baffle worked well. Overall, I am learning fast and I am really enjoying the process.

I have also had excellent guidance from my wife, my mother and mother in law and Kris at 44 Bikes. I have wholesale copied Eric at Revelate Designs bags where I have been able (if you are going to learn, copying a master craftsman is a pretty good start) and it has given me an entirely different perspective on just how cool his (and others) bags are.

More on this as it happens.