Sunday, 4 December 2016

Point Rosie | Fall Fatbike Bikepacking


The last time I visited Point Rosie was September 1999 on an ATV and I have always wanted to get back 
to the resettled fishing community on the south coast of Newfoundland.  I have always wanted to go bikepacking and the stars finally aligned in mid-October . . . not the best time to head out fatbike bikepacking along the shores of the cold North Atlantic. 

The residents of Point Rosie (also known as Point Enragee) were resettled in the 1960s to a number of larger communities in the area.  There were no roads to the community and it was only accessible by boat.   Before the resettlement the community was prosperous relying on the inshore fishery (cod) and in later years lobster.   It now thrives as a cabin community located at the end of the Garnish - Point Rosie ATV Trail. 




Throughout the year I had collected gear for my first bikepacking trip, watching the classifieds and checking out sales at the big box stores.   I did not particularly want to cough up a large chunk cash for high end gear on something that I may not thoroughly enjoy.  After doing a significant amount of reading about bikepacking the number one thing that I discovered was to keep the gear light and compact.  When I combined light, compact and cheap I questioned if my tent and sleeping bag purchase was the best choice for October.



I scanned the weather several times a day for two weeks watching for the opportune time to pack up the bike.   When I saw a window of two days without rain and above freezing temperatures, I pulled the trigger and started to assemble my gear: shelter, food and clothing.

My shelter consisted of a 6 x 4 two man tent that I had to lie corner to corner in order to stretch out.   I rustled up a piece bubble foil insulation as a sleeping pad.   The sleeping bag was rated for 5 C, but as projected temps for the night was 5 C I picked up a space blanket at the dollar store.   While at the dollar store I scored a couple of 10L dry-bags, a LED flashlight, enamel bowl, metal utensil kit and a small strainer for less that $20.


Food for the trip was actually relatively easy to pull together.  As it was an overnight trip I need two main meals (supper and breakfast) and snacks.  Supper consisted of Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese with added freeze dried peas, corn and peppers, and breakfast was organic oatmeal with added nuts and seeds.  Snacks were mostly Cliff Bars, applesauce and banana chips.  Both meals could be prepared by boiling water in my tomato can kettle.  Although there is no shortage of fresh water in the area I did decide on carrying 2L.


Socks, underwear, merino wool sweater, splash pants, gloves, toque and jogging pants consisted of the extra clothing.  Its surprising how much space clothing can actually occupy, however a compression bag would condense it.  I didn't have one so off to Walmart I went to track down a pair of ladies compression stockings.  That was an adventure in itself ending with a little old lady giving me the stink eye.

I packed the food, clothing and most of the utensils in an Arkel Seatpacker 9.   It was jammed completely full to the point where I could not roll the end. 3.98 kg (8.75 lbs) of gear hanging off the seat of my Sasquatch. 

I wrapped the bars with gray pipe insulation and bungeed the tent to the bars.  Then came the sleeping bag and remaining utensils stuffed in a dry bag and bungeed over the tent.  Water, matches, saw and other bits n' pieces were jammed in my backpack.  There was 8.33 kg (18.5 lbs) of gear strapped to the bike. Ouch.

I left the house at 6:30 AM for the 4 hour drive to Garnish and I was at the trail head by noon.  One thing I failed to check before I left was how the Wren Inverted Fatbike Fork would work with the extra 4.35 kg (9.5 lbs) of gear strapped to the bars and I did not bring a shock pump.  So I cranked up the rebound a tad knowing that I could lock it out if needed.  Another unknown was the unridden Schwalbe Jumbo Jims that I had just mounted up, swapping out the Vee PSC Bulldozers.  With bike loaded up I headed out on the 24 km trek to Point Rosie.

The trail starts with crossing the Felix Scott Memorial Bridge.  If by that time you had not picked up your day pass, there is a donation box just as you cross.  The trail itself  meanders from sheltered inland double track (ATV trail) to beaches that kiss the Atlantic Ocean.  You will overlook the ocean and cut through areas of barren  tundra.  Depending on the tide you will encounter fast rolling compacted sand, or energy sapping beach rock beaches.  And the bridges may seem a little sketchy, but they are quite solidly built.  It was an enjoyable four hour ride to Point Rosie.


Felix Scott Memorial Bridge

Bike on Bridge

Indeed

Along the way I chatted with many ATVers who were quite curious about what I was riding and why I was doing it.  A friendly bunch of folks.  A few of them actually mentioned that there were two other guys on bikes like mine ahead of me.  That explained why I thought I saw glimpses of fatbike tracks every few kms.


Some sort of old machinery

The long beach

Energy sapping rocks

Typical trail

One of many bridges

Lost bouy

I landed at Point Rosie around 4:00 and immediately started surveying the area for a sheltered spot for a campsite.  I was getting ready to pitch the tent when a cabin owner showed up and and said that I could set up my tent between his two sheds out of the wind.  I got to chatting with him and his wife and discovered that he was actually born in Point Rosie and lived there until resettlement.


Entering Point Rosie

On the beach in Point Rosie

I started to unpack the Sasquatch when I heard tires rolling behind me.  I turned around and there were those two mysterious fatbikers that alluded me the entire trip.  And better yet . . . they were riding buddies.  It was a super coincidence that we planned the Point Rosie trip for the exact same day.  They had already pitched their tents about 2km back the trail.  I repacked my bike, thanked my temporary landlord for offering me shelter and headed back the trail.


Campsite

The guys did have a very sweet camping spot that was sheltered, had a fire pit and amply drift wood on the beach.  I pitched my tent, gathered up my food and headed to the beach to collect more driftwood for the fire.  It wasn't long before we had water boiling and I had noodles cooking in the pot.  Mac & cheese never tasted so good, especially when washing it down with a Mill Street Organic Beer.  We stayed up well into the darkness swapping fatbike stories, telling lies and looking at the lights of Garnish way off in the distance.


A great fire to boil water

Mac & Cheese + beer = Yum

When I crawled into the tent I warmed up pretty quickly as it was rather cold outside.  I thought "hey this bag is going to keep me warm after all".  That changed when I woke up at 3 AM with frost hanging off my eyelashes.  I quickly found the space blanket and wrapped myself up like a burrito and tried to get another hour or two of sleep.

About 7 AM I head the zipper of another tent and decided it was time to get up.  The condensation that formed on the inside of the space blanket had turned a little frosty . . . but I survived.  Shaking off the frozen cobwebs I pulled myself out of the tent to face an overcast morning.


The morning

A breakfast of oatmeal amped up with nuts and seeds, and a cup of tea got the morning going.  Packing up our gear and loading it on the bikes we were ready to roll around 9:00.


Getting ready
Packing up

The ride out was a little nicer having the wind off the land and not off the water.  A beach bypass, that I missed on the way in, was a welcome way to avoid a portion of the rollie rock beach.  It added a couple of km, but was hardpacked and quick. 


Heading back

The long beach - low tide

Riding along

Garnish up ahead

Back to the bridge

With the tide out were were able to ride the compacted sand on the big beach.  We rode it in about 1/3 the time burning much less calories.  A couple of km past the beach we were crossing the Felix Scott Memorial Bridge and rolling back into Garnish.  When we parted ways we all agreed that it was a great ride and that we would hook up again for another spin a little closer to home next time.



Did I enjoy my first fatbikepacking trip?  I certainly did.  Will I do it again?  I certainly will, but I'll probably wait for summer.  What did I learn?  I could probably pack less, water is heavy, and only believe half of what is said around a campfire.

Check back for video !!

Ride on! 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Wren Sports | Inverted Fatbike Fork


Fatbikers who have a couple of seasons under their belt would agree that front suspension is not a necessity on a fatbike during the winter months. During the other three seasons it is definitely a welcome addition.

Wren Sports decided to do something a little different with their fat suspension option by inverting the fork . . . putting the smaller stanchions on the bottom and larger sliders on top.  This approach to suspension, although unconventional, is not new as Halson offered an inverted fork way back in 1995 with 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) of elastomer travel with air damping.


Some folks refer to the Wren Inverted Fork as the "fork of many names" as earlier versions were branded and sold under different labels such as 11Nine, Carver, LuLu and Borealis.  There were even some European suppliers selling the fork in North America.

WREN SPORTS

Fatbike Republic reached out to Wren Sports and spoke to Kevin and Russ to find out a little more about the company and their inverted fork.  Wren Sports came to life in 2014 when Kevin had an idea and started chatting with manufacturers that he worked with during his bike sourcing and product development days.  He began examining house molds and tooling that could be tweaked or modified to provide riders with solid value products for their hard earned money.  Between Kevin and Russ they have about 50 years of bike industry experience so they know their way around.




Kevin and Russ quickly realized the potential of the inverted fork and immediately put it through some serious testing.  They compiled a list of improvements that included: keyed and larger stanchions, beefed up crown, stronger bushings, new axle, carbon fiber stanchion guards, cable guides and a TwinAir system.  After discussions with the manufacturer, Wren Sports became the exclusive distributor in North America for the new and improved Inverted Fork.  When Wren Sports introduced their line of products at Interbike 2014 the Inverted Fork was an instant hit.




Since that time they have establishing authorized service centers across the US, Canada and select international locations and have expanded their product to include: the lightest production aluminum stems with ISO certifications; carbon bars and seatposts, an adjustable cargo rack, and a line of hand and floor pumps.  Wren Sports is committed to great product, great service and great value.

Fatbike Republic has collaborated with Wren Sports to review their new and improved Inverted Fatbike Fork as well as some other bits and pieces from the Wren Sports product line.


THE FORK

When the package arrived at the door there was no mistaking what was inside. Opening the brown cardboard box the Wren Inverted Fork came well packaged in bubble wrap and plastic bags.  No worries about it getting dinged during shipment. 



So what makes this fork so different?  The most obvious feature is that it is upside down with the stanchions sliding up into the sliders instead of down. By placing the lighter part of the fork (stanchion) on the bottom, it theoretically will react more quickly.  In addition, with the seals pointing downward you will not have to worry as much about dirt and stuff making its way into the fork.



In addition to the fork there are a pair of carbon fiber stanchion protectors and corresponding carbon fiber clamps.  These thing may look flimsy, but they are tough.


Carbon Bash Guards

There were also two small black pieces (travel clips) that are used to adjust the travel and axle crown (AC) measurement.  More on the clips later.


Travel Clips

Finally, you will find a detailed owner’s manual and an information sheet on setting up the TwinAir system.  If you are looking for electronic versions of the documents pop over to the Service Section of the Wren Sports site.


Other notable features of the Wren Inverted Fatbike Fork include:

- Beefy 36 mm stanchions that sit below 43 mm sliders (Bluto has 32 mm)
- Keyed stanchions to prevent tubes from twisting
- TwinAir System in the left tube that allows for fine tuning of ride
- Hydraulic Damping with adjustable compression & rebound in right tube
- 110 mm travel (easily adjustable to 100, 90 & 80)
- AC 530 mm (easily adjustable to 520, 510 & 500)
- 150 mm hub spacing
- 26” and 29” wheel compatible
- Can fit up to a 5” tire
- Also included: QR15 axle, Carbon Bash Guards & Cable Guides



Cable Guides
The TwinAir system is actually quite interesting.  The fork has one air chamber that is divided into two sections using a floating piston.   Air valves on top and on bottom allow the volume of air in each section to be individually adjusted.  More volume in the top section will give a smoother ride while more volume in the lower section will give a stiffer ride.






The air side of the fork may be disassembled in order to modify the fork’s travel or travel and AC length in 10 mm increments.  This is done using the supplied travel clips. 

The travel can be adjusted independently of the AC, but reducing the AC will automatically reduce the fork’s travel.  Details on this procedure can be found in the owner’s manual.




The bottom of the right tube houses the damping adjustment for the fork. Turn the knob clockwise for a higher damping giving a slower response time, and counter-clockwise for a lower damping and quicker response time.  There is also a convenient lockout lever on the top.  At this time there is no remote.



I was a little concerned with the weight of the Wren fork as it looked rather beefy.  Dropping it on the scales it weighed in at 2.14 kg (4 lbs 11.5 oz) with an uncut tube.  Surprisingly the Bluto 100 weighed in at 1.84 kg (4 lbs 1 oz) with a cut tube.  While not exactly comparing apples to apples you can say that the Wren weighs no more that 300g (10.5 oz) heavier than a Bluto.  For the super weight conscious fatbiker this may be an issue, however you do have to consider that you are getting a fork that has pretty interesting technology and is super tunable.




As this fork is assembled and designed in a modular format all parts can be exchanged for new parts when needed.  These parts can be ordered from your local dealer or service center.

Another interesting feature of this fork is that many of the improvements can be retrofitted on older forks.  So if you currently are running an older Wren or “fork of another name” you should reach out to Wren Sports to confirm if your fork is indeed upgradable.




Although not discussed in the supplied documentation, Kevin and Russ did say that the Wren Inverted Fork is not susceptible to the same winter freezing issues as the popular Bluto.  This will be a very interesting feature to confirm when it gets cold.

Over the next couple of months Fatbike Republic will be testing the Wren Inverted Fatbike Fork in all sorts of conditions and will report back on the results.  Next up . . . install and tune.


Ride on!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Confessions of a First Time Fatbiker | Is this you?


For those us who have been riding fatbikes for some time we tend forget what it was like when we first entered the sport. I can recall bouncing around wooded trails on skinny 2.35 Nevegals avoiding water crossing and muddy bits. Wet rocks and roots were really not my friends. I did give snow riding a whirl airing down the 2.35s to 12 lbs . . . we all know how that went.

When I first met this aspiring fatbiker I was showing some friends a few wooded trails in our neighborhood. He was riding a Norco Katmandu . . . and now he is a converted fatbiker. This is his fatbike experience.

It was last spring of 2016 when I returned to the world of cycling. About three years ago I was using my rigid mountain bike to commute around my hometown. I was not much of a bike enthusiast back then. I just need a bike to get me from Point A to Point B with very little if any off-roading.




It was spring time here in Newfoundland when I first tried trail riding. I had a XC bike sitting on my shed for the whole winter which was given to me by a friend. When I first started riding in the wet and muddy springtime conditions it was not that much fun. But I kept on riding and before I knew it I was back in the sport. Mountain biking was the best thing ever until I tried a fatbike.


At first, I thought they were heavy and too bulky, these notions did not last long though. While out testing the trails with Fatbike Republic I was given the opportunity to test ride a fatbike. A Sasquatch 6.1 with five inch tires, Bluto and Thudbuster LT, boy I felt like I was floating. 


I then started scouting my local bike shops and the local classifieds to get myself a fatbike. Soon enough I got one, a Specialized Fatboy Trail. and I was hooked. I just love the all-terrain capability of these bikes. I was shocked that my XC was even heavier than my fatbike. Traction is superb especially with front suspension. I then spied a gently used Cooker Max 1 and snapped that up as well.  N+1.


IMHO fatties are the do it all kind of bikes. They can tackle anything from frozen lakes to beach sand. I have not tried winter riding yet but I am certain its gonna be a blast. Cheers to riding all year long. It is one of my best investments, a good hobby and a healthier me.


I'm sure quite a few of us can relate.  And of course you need to have the right attitude to fatbike as well . . . as evident in the following clip.


Fatbiking is indeed a great sport, is super fun and can be enjoyed in all four seasons.


Ride on !


Sunday, 9 October 2016

ELEVEN | Get Your Custom Fatbike



So you are looking to upgrade your current ride, add another fattie to the stable or are you venturing into the world of fat for the first time.  You have visited all the manufacturers’ web sites, peppered your buddies with questions, visited your LBS and scoured every page of Fatbike Republic (shameless plug) and still can’t find the fattie of your dreams.

You know that you don’t want a carbon copy of every other bike. You are looking for something a little different, maybe some custom paint and an upgrade or two.  Can you find such a beast?  Sure you can . . . just head over to ELEVEN and build your custom dream machine.

Fatbike Republic connected with Tom German, the brains behind ELEVEN, a North Carolina based fatbike company, to have chat about fat.

FBR: Hey Tom. I know that ELEVEN opened its doors in 2015, but what inspired you to start a fatbike company in the first place?

ELEVEN (Tom German, Founder): Two years ago, I bought a new mountain bike.  Like many riders, I read some internet articles and talked to the local bike shops.  When I was ready to buy, the combination of color, components, and size I wanted was not available.  Some sellers had the right size and others offered components that were close, but no one had the exact build I was seeking.  This experience reinforced that there are riders who want
a custom solution to the biking needs.

The first time I rode a fatbike was on a North Carolina singletrack and I immediately noticed more traction over roots and rocks and better cornering grip. I clearly remember thinking, why isn’t everyone riding a fatbike?

When I started looking more closely at fatbikes I noticed the same restrictions as when I bought my mountain bike.  Why should fatbikers spend thousands of dollars on a new bike and immediately start replacing components?  That's where the idea came from and the rest is history.

FBR: Cool. So tell me a little about ELEVEN and what its all about.  
I have played with your bike builder and and there are endless combinations of colors and components.  Its pretty neat.

ELEVEN:  At ELEVEN, riders can get the bike they want instead of compromising on the closest option a shop has in stock.  We offer a unique online platform that enables customers to select their frame size, then mix and match from a wide range of components and colors to design their ultimate fatbike.  

We spend significant time researching and testing components to ensure we offer quality, industry-leading choices, including components that are not available on standard production bikes.  At each step, Our bike builder provides detailed information about each option to help riders select what will work best for them, and they can play around in our online paint shop to customize the bike’s color scheme.  And if a rider doesn’t find exactly what they’re looking for on our platform, we’ll help them find it. 

FBR:  Interesting concept.  
If memory serves North Carolina is not known for vast amounts of the white stuff. How is the fatbike scene in North Carolina?

ELEVEN:  
Yes, not much snow but we have great trials and a lot of beaches. The fatbike scene in NC is growing. Two years ago, a couple of local shops had one demo bike. Today most shops offer fatbikes. We expect growth to continue but it will take time. Most riders don’t buy a new bike every year, and some are hesitant to step outside the traditional mountain bike box. Everyone who has ridden an ELEVEN fatbike has felt more grip and better ride over roots and rocks.

FBR: What has been the best part of starting a fatbike company?

ELEVEN: Interacting with first-time fatbike
rs has been great.  It is rewarding to hear a rider describe his or her first fatbike experience. They are always smiling and amazed by the responsive handling and significant grip.


FBR: Being the head honcho of a fatbike company I’m guessing you are rolling a pretty nice set of fat wheels?

ELEVEN: I think so.  I'm riding a bluto equipped ELEVEN that is running a 1 x 11 with Race Face Next crank and a Cane Creek headset.  The bike rolls on Hed rims with Industry Nine hubs and 4" Jumbo Jims.  Although the frame can run 5" tires with its 197mm rear, I prefer to run 4".


FBR:  So does it ride more like trail bike or does it feel more like a XC?

ELEVEN:  I designed the frame to handle well on technical trails. The 69.5 head angle is not as slack as some fatties and the weight distribution is rearward. So it is responsive, climbs well, and the abundant tire grip provides stability in the technical sections.

The bikes come in three sizes . . . S, M and L.  And to put the sizing in perspective, the Medium fits between a Trek 17.5 and 19.

FBR: It's a little unusual to find bikes that are built in the USA. What are the advantages of manufacturing in the USA?

ELEVEN: Our frames are manufactured in the US because it is extremely important to us to deliver the safest bike we can to our customers.  US manufacturing has delivered exceptional quality and consistency.  Our frame weight variation is minimal, and the quality of the welds is exceptional.  The welders take great pride in their work and it shows. 


FBR: So where do see the fatbike industry going? Bigger tires? Wider frames? Dominance of the 27.5 fat rim?

ELEVEN: 
Riders created fatbikes and I believe they will continue to drive the segment. There is no doubt that fatbikes dominate sand and snow, so it will be on the trails where you will see more diversity. Specifically the plus size tires (27.5+ and 29+), which is currently promoted by the industry. Of the two I see the 29+ segment phasing out and the 27.5+ segment growing and competing with the fatbikes. Its will be interesting to see what riders ultimately decide.

FBR: So what’s in store for ELEVEN as we move into the prime 2016/2017 fatbiking season?

ELEVEN: For starters we will be launching our webstore with new ELEVEN apparel and fat bike components.  There will also be new bike build options including: 1x12 drivetrain, Industry Nine Big Rig alloy wheels, Schwable lightweight tires, carbon rigid forks, etc.  And new colors and graphics will be released in October with new price points. There are also some top-secret things that I’m not at liberty to chat about right now.

FBR: Thanks Tom for sharing a little about ELEVEN and what it can offer the fatbike world.

ELEVEN:  Thank you, we appreciate your interest. To celebrate our new site we would like to offer a free upgrade from Race Face Turbine handlebar and seat post to Race Face Next handlebar and seat post to anyone purchasing an ELEVEN bike in 2016.

- 30 -


So if the mainstream fatbike offerings is a little vanilla for your tastes
, maybe the folks at ELEVEN can spice things up for you.  Give their bike builder a whirl to see if you can design the bike of your dreams.

Ride on!