Sunday, February 14, 2016

On fat

I've finally got the Pugsley dialed into a setup that works magically for me. I've set it up as the work horse explorer. Aside from the obvious rackage, the bomb change was the swap to the Space Bars. Buddy Alex introduced me to these bars years ago. I borrowed one of his weirdo Rohloff mountain bikes that had these bars and was sold. I'm not crazy for these bars as actual mountain biking bars, but for all other urban/trail/do-it-all setups, I love them.

Speaking of mountain bikes, I've tried that kind of riding on the Pugsley and I just cannot make the tight corners at speed on this bike. I think it's just got too steep a front end for that kind of railing and rolling. But as an all-day work-horse unimog, the Pugs is excellent.

The Pugs has been a slow burn for me. Initially, my thinking about the bike's utility was limited to snow and sand riding. Right away, though, Glen and I discovered how much fun these bikes were on trail riding -- while we couldn't rail as accurately on fast turns, the monster traction and volume of the tires often made up for shitty line picks and the subsequent corrections. At about the time we started riding fat, a bunch of XC-style fat bike  started emerging: slack angles and shocks (!).  Buddy Pat has switched completely to fat for all of his dirt riding. I've got a Soma Sandworm frame stowed away in Glen's garage. It's taking me some time to collect parts for it. Fat components, especially wheels and forks, are still fairly limited in selection and as a result pretty costly.

Relatedly, the standardization (such as it is in the bike industry) across the various fat segments is still being sorted out. It seems to me that a lot of the standardization is driven primarily by QBP via the Surly and Salsa teams. These are the folks that ought to be credited with taking the big, expensive initial risks in mass-productization (is that word?) of fat components. From where I sit, these are some smart folks in both engineering and understanding the market. They seem to be informed largely by a more utilitarian design culture than your average race-first bike company, which is only a good thing. But -- since many standards are still competing -- for example, I can think of at least 4 different rear OLD standards and I'm not a fat bike nerd --- prices are high. If you're reading this and you are interested in buying or building a fat bike, then here's some advice: buy complete.

Anyway, after slugging through a number of shitty snow rides, I discovered that the snow riding thing is not that interesting to me as a primary Puglsey scenario. I should qualify that a bit: if you're talking riding groomed trails in the mountains, I'm interested in that. But if your talking: "hey -- it's like 36 F and the snow is deep, wet, and sort of melting, let's grab our fat bikes and go for a ride." F that s. That's just not fun.

The thing the lit the Pugs up for me was riding it at our place on Kettle River. I ride through the meadows along the edge of the river, over fallen trees, along the rocky shore, through the sand. Since much of the Recreation Area by our property is closed to motor vehicles, the Pugs enables me to expand my fishing reach into otherwise hard-to-access spots.

This sort of exploratory riding requires rackage. For the last couple years, I've gotten along with a shitty alloy rear rack that rattled and didn't set the bucket panniers back far enough. I've been watching for a good cromo rear fat rack for a couple years. They're few and far between and for various reasons those that exist don't work for me. When I discovered that Tubus finally made a Fat rack, I knew that was the one. And it is. I love Tubus racks: steel, smart, simple, and can take loads of abuse.

For front racks, a Tubus Duo will work, but I've wanted a proper porteur style rack for years. Surly just released their 24-pack front rack that is cromo and works good enough. I don't like how it attaches, but I understand that if you are going to produce a zillion racks you need to make them fit a bunch of bikes to sell them, so I get it. At some point, I'm going to hook up with Pat and braze some fixed mounting stays to the otherwise perfect platform. But for now, this is working.

I just bought Glen's small Pugsley for Maddie and Liza to share. With a short stem, and a women's saddle this is a great bike for them. Before summer comes, I'll get another Tubus rear rack for it and put the Duo on the front. We'll be doing some overnighters and interesting exploring.