Monday, 13 November 2017

Swagman Sitkka 2 | Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review

Wouldn't it be great to hop on your fattie and head out on a network of trails from your backyard?  This may be a reality for some, but for the majority of us heading out on the trails means transporting our bike to the trail head.


There are many ways to get your fat tired steed to the fun stuff
.
  • Inside your vehicle (in various states of disassembly)
  • In the back of a pickup
  • On the roof of your car
  • Hanging from the trunk/hatch mounted rack
  • Strapped into a hitch mounted rack
Swagman, located in Penticton BC, have been designing and manufacturing bicycle carrying gear since the early 1990's and have a solution for most of the situations above.

Fatbike Republic reached out to the folks at Swagman when it was discovered that their new fat compliant, hitch mounted rack had zero frame contact.  Within a week a Sitkka 2 arrived at FBR headquarters for a closer look.

Be sure to check out the detailed video at the end of the review.

THE RACK - SITKKA 2

A considerable amount of thought went into the design of the Sitkka 2 and as a result it boasts the following features:
  • Zero frame contact (straps and arms touch only rim & tire)
  • Fits bikes from 20" to  29"+ wheels & fatbikes up to 5" wide
  • Sliding straps accommodate bikes of various lengths
  • Wheel ratchet straps and pressure chocks firmly hold bikes and secure wheels
  • Locking ratcheting arms with replaceable keys help to prevent bike theft
  • Rack folds up against the back of the vehicle when not in use
  • Tilts down to allow access to the rear of vehicle even while bikes are loaded
  • Fits 1 1/4" and 2" hitch receiver
  • Comes with threaded locking hitch pin
  • Weight: 45 lbs


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Box



ASSEMBLY

The Sittka 2 arrived with the box having only a couple of minor superficial scuffs.  The handholds and straps made moving the 40 x 24 x 10 box relatively easy.  After opening the box it was easy to see that the strategically placed packaging kept all the parts unharmed.



Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Open Box


When assembling any product its a good idea to first read through the instructions. The three pages that came with the Sitkka 2 were pretty thorough and included information on installing it on your vehicle and loading the bikes.  The actual assembly is pretty straight forward and is actually detailed on the first page and includes four infographics.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Instructions

I emptied the box, laying all the parts and galvanized fasteners on a 6x8 moving blanket, including two allen keys for the assembly (4 & 6mm).



Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Parts

You will also need a 1/2" and 3/4" wrench and/or sockets.  I also grabbed a rubber mallet in case something needed a little tap.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tools

Following the instructions and the diagrams I had the rack assembled in about 30 minutes.  
Be sure to check out the video for more detailed assembly.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Assemble

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review

The rack comes ready to fit a 2" hitch receiver, but by removing the "sleeve" it will fit a 1 1/4 receiver.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hitch

The assembled rack easily slid into the 1 1/4 hitch on my Jeep Patriot.  I chose to use the chrome locking hitch pin for the extra level of security.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Installed

CLOSER LOOK

There are a few features that really caught my attention.  Firstly, a well padded hook holds down on the front tire and not the frame.  This makes the Sitkka 2 carbon frame friendly as it's generally not recommended to use frame grabbing hooks on carbon framed bikes.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hook

The extra wide "bumpers" on the tire straps is a smart idea when considering the large number of cut-outs in fatbike rims.  The hold-down force is spread out over a larger area.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tire Strap

I did not initially understand the combination of upturned and downturned tire trays until it was actually mounted to the vehicle.  When placing the front tire in the upturned tray, the rear tire will sit ON the down-turned tray.  The length of the bike will dictate where the rear tire lands.  Aligning the sliding strap mounts with the tire will give the bike a custom fit.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tire STrap

The Sitkka 2 practically hugs the vehicle when folded and did not impede driving and parking in any significant way.  And the pop of neon green/yellow will make you a little more visible.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Folded

IN USE

The Sitkka 2 is very easy to use.  First you lower the rack from the folded position and fold out the arms - to approximately 135 degrees.  If carrying one fattie its recommended to mount it closest to the vehicle.  Then slide the ratcheting hook to their full extension and release the straps (on both trays) from the buckle.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Open

Load your fattie with the front tire tire in the upturned tray, fold in the arm and slide down the ratcheting hook until it touches the tire near the crown.  The push down until you hear the click. 


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hook on tire

Finally, align the sliding straps to the center of the tires, slide through the buckle and pull down tight.  It took me approximately two minutes to load two fatbikes . . . that is pretty quick.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review strap on tire

When driving down side roads and on the highway the bikes did not move, nor did ratcheting hook or wheel straps loosen.  While not made for off-roading, I did take my Patriot on some dirt roads and the Sitkka 2 performed well.  For heavy off-roading I would recommend riding the fatties instead.


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review in use

The Sitkka 2 can also easily tilt away from your vehicle by pulling up on the cam lever and lowering the rack.  There is no need to remove the bikes from the rack and there was plenty of room to clear the rear hatch on my Patriot.


Tilting fatbike rack

The lock in the ratcheting hook is quite useful when needing to leave your fattie unattended for a short period of time.  After hearing the "click" when pulling down on the ratcheting hook, insert the key into the button and turn. 


Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Lock

This lock will not prevent bike theft, but it will definitely deter any would be thieves.

Check out the video . . .





FINAL THOUGHTS

Having traveled several hundred kilometers carrying fatbikes hither and yon, I
have to say that the Sitkka 2 is a super quick loading and unloading fatbike carrier.  The ratcheting arm (that holds the tire and not the frame) did not need retightening during any trip and the tire straps held the tires confidently.

The lock did come in handy when making a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home from a ride.

When unloaded and folded the Sitkka 2 practically huggs the vehicle.  And even when fully loaded, the rack easily folded down allowing full access to the rear of my Patriot from the fully opened hatch.

So if you are looking for a quick loading, hitch mounted, two bike carrier, that will not break the bank and is carbon frame friendly with it zero frame contact . . . be sure to check out the Sitkka 2 by Swagman.

Ride Fat !

Monday, 23 October 2017

How to Install a Dropper Post | TranzX

How to install a dropper post on a fatbike

Seatposts are probably one of the least flashy parts on your fatbike, yet they play such and important role.  I have ridden with stock alloy, aftermarket alloy (bling), suspension post (Thudbuster) and carbon (Wren).  All of which have certain advantages and characteristics.  The one seatpost that did not get under me was a dropper post.

Several of my buddies have dropper posts and swear by them especially when riding into technical downhill sections.  I would stop and manually drop my post as they flip a lever and keep on riding.  Putting the seat back up in riding position is actually more of a pain.

When the Norco Ithaqua 2S landed I had the opportunity to try a dropper post as it came stock on the blue carbon beast.  The dropper was a TranzX 125mm air actuated with a bar mounted cable remote . . . I just had to install it.  How hard could it be?

The 8.5 x 11 one fold instruction sheet appeared pretty complete as I quickly skimmed the words and glanced at the pictures (mistake number one - read everything twice).




The first step involved sliding the cable through the lever mechanism with the fixed barrel resting inside.  I then mounted the lever to the left side of the bar, just inside the grip.

TranzX on a Norco Ithaqua 2S

Secondly, the cable had to be fished through the housing.  In my case the housing was already run inside the frame using the GIZMO internal cable routing system and out through the seat tube.

TranzX dropper post install

After accomplishing that, I needed to trim the end of the cable to the specified length and install a removable barrel end.  Not having the proper cable cutter I improvised with a set of linesman pliers.  It wasn't the neatest job, but it worked.


The barrel end securely seated itself in the bottom of the dropper post and the post was secured in the frame.  Easy peazy . . . or so I though until I looked back up at the bar.


Now I'm no expert in installing dropper seat posts, but that large unnatural curve sorta looked wrong.



I then took the time to read the instructions (twice).  No real help there on explaining the steps to correctly measure and cut the cable.  Calling up some extra brain cells I figured out a way to address the issue.

Step One - Get the Correct Tools

I could have used the linesman pliers again to cut the housing and cable, but I wanted to ensure a clean cut so it was off to my LBS to secure a cable cutting tool.

Using a EVO cable cutter

Step Two - Remove Seatpost

This will allow the housing/cable to be pulled through the frame giving the perfect curve up at the bars.

Ithaqua 2

Step Three - Measure the Housing/Cable

With the perfect curve, mark the housing where it enters the frame.  I used a piece of green tape. 


Reinstall the seatpost and pull the housing/cable back towards the bar to make that large unnatural curve. 


Measure the distance between the green tape and the frame . . . and that is how much housing needs to be cut off.  In my case it was 9.25".


Step Four - Prepare for Cutting


Remove the green tape from the housing.  Take the seatpost out of the frame.  Remove the lever from the bar and pull housing/cable out through seat tube. 


This left a significant amount of housing/cable sticking out of the seat tube.  Remove the cable from the bottom of the seatpost, trim the cable flush with the housing and measure and mark 9.25".  I used green tape again.  


Step Five - Cut the Housing

You only get one shot at this.  Before cutting the housing be sure to pull the actual cable back through the housing so when you cut the housing you are not cutting the cable as well.  Then push the cable back through the housing.


Trim the cable as per the measurements in the instructions and reinstall the barrel.


Connect the barrel to the bottom of the seatpost, as per the instructions, and reinstall the seatpost, pulling the slack housing/cable out through the front of the frame.


Reinstall the lever on the bar and admire the perfect curve.


It was a little bit of a nail biter when making that final housing cut, but it all worked out. (whew)

If your dropper post cable runs outside the frame it will probably be a little easier to install as you will have full access to the cable.  The hidden internally run cable made the process a little more complicated . . . but its not impossible.

Ride Fat !

Monday, 9 October 2017

You can't ride THAT here ! | Fatbike on Mountain Bike Trail


I recently went to take a spin on a local mountain bike trail on the Ithaqua 2S.  As I was leaving the parking lot a loud car pulled in with two full-suspension mountain bikes [skinnies] strapped to a trunk rack.  I thought to myself "there are another couple of guys out to enjoy the trails".

A short time later, while stopping to take a few pics of the Ithaqua, I was passed by two "skinny" riders on the bikes I recognized from the loud car.  As they climbed past me I thought I saw one of them give me a "you're here on THAT look".

I caught up with them at the top of the climb and I got the look again.  And they followed up with a few words.

Biker One: You can't ride that here?

Me: Why not?

Biker One: Because its one of those fatbikes?

Biker Two: Yea, they are only good in snow?

Me: They are super in snow actually.  And they are quite capable as any hardtail in the dirt.  I have been up here many times

[I actually heard their eyes roll]

Biker Two: Yea well a buddy of mine borrowed one and rode it in Pippy [another local trail] and said it was a real dog.

Me: Have you guys ever rode a fatbike?

[Silence]

Me: Why don't you guys go ahead.  I'm going to grab a snack out of my backpack. I'll see you later.

[I lied.  I just didn't want them in my sight any longer]

They looked at each other, mounted their bikes and headed down the trail.  I gave them what I though was a sufficient head start and in no time at all I had caught up and passed them.  Was I riding kamikaze to prove a point . . . nope . . . just my normal non-threatening enjoying the scenery pace.  

[Well I did kick it up a notch when I actually passed them.]

That was the last I saw of those guys . . . they never even made it to the scenic portion of the trail.  They did not pass me and when I got back to the parking lot the car was gone.

This video is dedicated to my new riding buddies.




Ride Fat !


Monday, 25 September 2017

First Look | 2018 Norco Ithaqua 2S

2018 Ithaqua 2 with mastadon


In 2017, Canadian based Norco introduced the fatbike world to their carbon fatbike . . . the Ithaqua. There were three flavors available (6.1, 6.2 and 6.3) each one sporting the same carbon frame with differing components. The frame featured the same Power Chassis as Norco's cross country race bikes with the ability to run up to 5" fattie tires.

For 2018 Norco is back with four models of Ithaqua:

Ithaqua 2 - 1 x 11, SRAM Level brakes, Shimano shifting, TranzX dropper post, Mulfut 80 with Juggernaughts and carbon fork.


Source: Norco

Ithaqua 2S - Same components as Ithaqua 2, but with Manitou Mastadon 100 Pro front suspension.


Source: Norco

Ithaqua 1 - 1 x 12 Eagle, SRAM Level TL brakes, SRAM drivetrain, Crank Brothers dropper post, Mulfut 80 with Juggernaughts and carbon fork.


Source: Norco

Ithaqua SL - 1 x 11, SRAM Level Ultimate brakes, Shimano/RF drivetrain, RF Next SL seatpost, HED Big Deal carbon rims with Juggernaughts and a carbon fork.


Source: Norco

After hearing about the new Manitou Mastadon being mounted to the IthaquaFatbike Republic reached out to the folks at Norco and secured a Ithaqua 2S for some real world dirt and snow testing.

And here is a video walk around of this blue beast . . . 


For those not interested in the flavor of carbon, Norco also carries a fine selection of alloy fatties in the Sasquatch and Bigfoot lines.


Source: Norco

I'm looking forward to putting some serious dirt, rocks, snow and ice under the Ithaqua 2S.  It will be interesting to see how Gravity Tune, Power Chassis and other Norco tech meshes with the Mastadon and translates into real world riding.  

I'm also curious to see how this carbon fattie compares to the alloy fatties that I have ridden and currently ride.

Stay tuned and ride fat!




Sunday, 10 September 2017

Giro Montaro MIPS | A Sweet Trail Helmet


A recent crash and resulting trip to the hospital got me thinking about personal fatbike safety and I shared my thoughts in my blog post Fatbiking Safety | The Unexpected Crash.

The most important piece of safety equipment that you can wear while fatbiking is a helmet. You go into any LBS or search on-line and you will find a plethora of skid lids to protect your brain from unintentional impacts. Many helmets spout different types of technology, manufacturing techniques, and improved safety features. And prices can range from quite affordable to crazy expensive.

As a result of my experience I reached out to the good folks at Giro and they sent along a MIPS equipped Montaro for review here on Fatbike Republic.

Buying a Fatbike Helmet

When purchasing a helmet, the main goal is to protect your head and the gray matter inside. Impacts can be from branches infringing on the trail to full on OTB situations. In this respect, helmets are like an insurance policy where you hope you never have to collect.

Many LBS carry a good selection of low-mid priced helmets in a handful of popular colors that will protect your noggin. However, helmets generally get more expensive the nicer they look and the more features they tout. So the balancing of aesthetics, price and features can be an issue at times.

It's highly recommended that you actually try on a helmet before you buy it. This is to ensure sizing and comfort. It seems that each manufacturer has a slightly different sizing chart and method for the perfect placement of the foam padding. It is entirely possibly that a more expensive “flashier” helmet will not fit you as well and not feel as comfortable as a less expensive one. There is nothing more irritating than an uncomfortable helmet on a long ride.

As fatbikes are a four season deal, you should also remember the need for a little extra room for a hat or balaclava to stave off the winter cold.

And if you happen to be looking for more information on bike helmets check out www.helmets.org.

About the Montaro

This is what the folks at Giro have to say about the Montaro MIPS . . .

From long climbs to rowdy, technical descents, the Montaro™ MIPS helmet inspires your ride no matter where the trail takes you. Its compact shape offers deep, confident coverage, and the Roc Loc® Air fit system boosts ventilation while improving fit. In addition to this helmet’s already impressive cooling power, it’s outfitted with hydrophilic, anti-microbial pads that can absorb up to ten-times their weight in sweat. We designed the Montaro MIPS to have full goggle integration, with strap grippers on the back of the helmet, and a P.O.V. Plus™ visor that allows you to lift the visor and place your goggles on the front of the helmet. Yet another great feature is the full camera mount integration – a clever break-away interface for your favorite light or camera.

Features of the Montaro MIPS include:

  • MIPS equipped
  • P.O.V. Plus visor adjustment
  • Hydrophilic, anti-microbial padding
  • Full camera mount integration
  • Roc Loc® Air fit system
  • Roll-cage reinforcement
MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) - This helmet technology is designed to reduce rotational forces from certain types of helmet impacts. Learn more about MIPS in this video.

P.O.V. PLUS – Allows you raise the visor and place your goggles (if you wear goggles) on the front of the helmet.

HYDROPHILIC PADDING – This padding helps to manage your sweat while riding by absorbing up to 10 times its weight in water. In addition, the X-Static antimicrobial lining helps to reduce odor.

FULL CAMERA MOUNT INTEGRATION – A plastic helmet insert allows the mounting of “GoPro” style cameras without the need for aftermarket mounts.

ROC LOC AIR FIT SYSTEM – This patented technology actually keeps the helmet suspended slightly above your head and allows for increased airflow. The single knob adjuster allows you to custom fit the helmet in seconds with one hand.

ROLL CAGE REINFORCEMENT – A web, moulded inside the helmet’s EPS foam liner helps the helmet to hold together under impact, and provides an extra measure of strength and integrity.

Unboxing

The Montaro MIPS is a new helmet for 2017 from the folks over at Giro. Reviewing the list of features and MSRP ($150) I would consider it a mid-high range bike helmet.


It arrived in an industry standard two piece box with instruction booklet, action camera attachment and descriptive tags attached to the helmet.


Dropping the Montaro on the sales the size large weighs in at 378g.  This is pretty much in the same ballpark as the other low-mid range helmets in my inventory.  The advanced technology does not appear to add any additional weight.

Montaro weight

The color I received is called Matte Titanium/Flame . . . there are actually seven colors to choose from.  The Montaro MIPS is also one sharp looking helmet with its proportionally sized visor, sharp color scheme and plenty of well placed vents . . . 16 to be exact.



Things start to get really interesting when you turn over the helmet and get a peek inside. The suspended "lattice" is the heart of the Roc Loc Air Fit System, which is complimented by strategically placed padding to ensure that your cranium is well protected.

Montaro inside

So the moment of truth . . . how does it fit? I used the sizing chart and instructions on the Giro site to select the appropriate size. Dropping the Montaro MIPS on my head, adjusting the “lattice” with the rear button and tightening the chin strap . . . it fit like a glove. The helmet actually felt like it was floating above my head with zero points of contact. 

Montaro adjuster

This was the MOST comfortable helmet that I have ever strapped to my head. Over the years I have tried on many different styles, brands and price points and there has always been something that did not feel right. Not so with the Montaro MIPS.

Before I hit the trail I installed the supplied action camera mount. This plastic insert, formed to fit in the upper rear vent, is designed to fit ‘GoPro” styled camera mounts. 

Montaro camera mount

I did find that the insert was a little finicky when first installing as there was no mating plastic sleeve for the insert to slide into. The insert is held in place by the release catch that rests inside the helmet foam and grips the helmet shell. There were no issues with fitment after the initial install.

On The Trail

So how does the Montaro MIPS feel on the trail . . . one word . . . amazing! It does not matter if you are taking a quick spin down the trail or a full-day excursion, the Montaro MIPS was super comfortable. It felt like I was not even wearing a helmet.


The vents kept my head cool during short and long climbs and while doing extended gravel grinds. And the anti-microbial treatment did seem to work as I did not get any of that funky helmet smell after multiple sweaty uses.



The action camera insert did not move and it held the SJ6 Legend in place during all sorts of vigorous fatbiking activity.  And while not tested in winter mode, there is plenty of room to wear my favorite balaclava when it gets cold. 


Montaro and Norco Sasquatch

Did I have the opportunity to actually test the Montaro MIPS in any crash situations? Thankfully no . . . crashing once is enough for me. But based on the extensive testing that Giro does on its helmets I trust that it will do its intended job when then time arrives.

Final Thoughts


Since receiving this helmet for review, the other helmets in my inventory have been collecting dust.  

The Roc Loc Air Fit System and padding placement make this one comfortable helmet.  I also find the integrated camera mount very convenient.  And the MIPS system is an extra level of protection that I hope I will never have to use.

Giro have certainly brought their A game when designing this helmet.  Be sure to check out the Montaro MIPS next time you are looking for a new bucket to wear on your fatbiking adventures.

Stay tuned as Fatbike Republic also takes a closer look at the convertible Giro Switchblade.

Get Fat !