Saturday, 20 May 2017

Ultimate DIY Fatbike Seat Fender | Whale Tail


I have played around with different fatbike fender designs, but I was still getting that stripe up my back when riding in wet and muddy conditions.  So far I have made a front fender (rigid and Bluto), frame fender and rear fender . . . but I needed something more.  I wanted something that I could mount directly to the seat with and was sturdy . . . I wanted the Ultimate DIY Fatbike Seat Fender.

Downloadable PDF at the bottom of article.

In order to attach something to the seat and be effective, the fender would have to be longer than a traditional fatbike fender.  However, the longer the material the more flexible and less sturdy it will be.  I thought about adding braces, but decided on putting bends in the  material instead.  

Next was to figure out how to mount it to the seat/seatpost.  I tried wrapping it around the seatpost and using zipties, but it would spin and slide with very little effort.  Upon closer inspection I discovered the empty space between the bottom of the seat and the top of the seatpost clamp.  A little trimming and this is what the prototype looked like. 


Prototype
I used the following tools when making the prototype and the final version.  I found that brad point drill bits cut a very clean hole in the material and a fine tip Sharpie does not smear.  Absent from the photo is a ruler and nail which was used to score the material for bending.



And for material . . . crazy carpets.  This is my stock of carpets that I pulled together over the last couple of years, however recent ones I have seen in stores have been less stiff and more foam like.  Flexible cutting boards and binders may also work.



The final version ended up being a little longer than the prototype.  It took a little time (and scrap material) to determine exactly how it would attach under the seat.  I found that a four point mounting system, zipped to the rails, worked the best.



And here it is installed.  Several runs in wet conditions confirmed that the design significantly reduced the amount of flying water and mud.  While the bends do increase the stability/rigidity of the fender it does tend to dance around when the conditions get rough.



So if you want to give it a try, click here for a two-page downloadable PDF.  

Enjoy !

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Carbon on a Fatbike | Wren Sports


Be honest, everyone has thought/drooled over a full carbon fattie. Swinging your leg over a bike that weighs less than five bags of sugar and blasting down the trails on something as light as air is really cool. 

The major deterrent for carbon is the cost, so that is why the aftermarket offers all sorts of carbon bits and pieces for your fattie.  From forks to frames, bars to seatposts, wheels to cranks . . . carbon bike parts add a little bling, reduces weight and provides benefits to the rider.

Wren Sports (known for their super slick inverted fatbike fork) in addition to their superlight alloy stems and other bike related accessories . . . also carry a selection of carbon goodies for the discerning biker.

Fatbike Republic has collaborated with Wren Sports to take a closer look at their carbon bars and carbon seatpost, breathing some fresh air into a stock fatbike cockpit.





CARBON CHARACTERISTICS

Carbon is generally lighter than its aluminum counterparts.  While you may be able to get comparable weight aluminum parts, the durability/longevity may be impacted.  Carbon also offers more vibration damping over aluminum that will give your wrists/arms and back a well deserved break on non-suspended fatties.

While some say that carbon can be more easily damaged from sharp impacts, it should be stronger overall for general trail riding as carbon is harder to bend/break than aluminum.  And carbon quality has always been a concern as we have all 
heard stories of “no-name” carbon bits breaking at the worst possible time.

There is no argument that carbon anything is more expensive than alloy cousins, but lets not forget that a sprinkling of carbon on your fattie does increase the coolness factor by a notch or two.

WREN CARBON

As mentioned previously, Wren Sports carry a selection of carbon goodies for the discerning biker including: bars, seatposts, bar ends, bottle cages, seatpost clamps and headset spacers.

Bars

Wren Sports carry five models of carbon bars that vary in width, rise, backsweep and upsweep with four requiring a 31.8mm bar clamp and one needing an oversized 35mm.  
Weight ranges from 170 – 240g, but when trimmed to your preferred width they should be a tad lighter.

Wren carbon bars go through extensive two phase testing at the factory to ensure that what you are getting is a durable and quality product. 





Phase One involves a minimum 270kg (596lbs) of force up and down for 100,000 cycles and Phase Two is another 100,000 cycles with the load increased to 450kg (992lbs).  That's some crazy extreme pressures to get that flexing . . . try doing that against your knee.  Definitely some great numbers for fatigue and load testing.




Fatbike Republic was sent a WHM350 with a 25 degree rise, 9 degree backsweep and 5 degree upsweep and a super wide width of 840mm.


Seatpost

Wren carries three different models of carbon seatposts in diameters from 27.2mm – 34.9mm and lengths from 250mm – 400mm.  Weights range from 167g – 188g when looking at the 350mm length version.  Other differences between the three models include: carbon vs aluminum rail clamp, CroMo vs titanium bolts and offset vs straight.



Fatbike Republic was sent a WSP650-316 with a 31.6mm diameter and 400mm length.  This model seatpost comes with the carbon fibre rail clamp, titanium bolts and is not offset.

CARBON INSTALLATION


When it comes to carbon paste there are two schools of thought on using it when installing carbon bars and seatposts.  One camp says to use it only if the bar/post slips and the other says to use it period . . . both recommend ensuring the aluminum mating surface is clean.  I reached out to the folks at Wren and they sat in the second camp.  Its better to use the carbon paste as it reduces the clamping forces needed to keep the bar/post in place.  Nuff said.

Taking a closer look at the WHM350 bars I noticed indicator marks on each end of the bar in addition centering and levelling marks in the middle.  A couple of Wren stickers also adorned the shiny black goodness.




Dropping the uncut bars on the scale they weighed in at a svelte 238g while the stock RF Aeffect weighed 330g.  That’s almost a 100g savings.




The stock bars on the Sasquatch 6.1 measured in at 760mm and the Wren WHM350 bars measured in at a whopping 840mm.  Simple math would mean trimming 80mm (40 from each side).  The folks a Wren recommended taping the end of the bar and use a 32T hacksaw blade to get the cleanest cut.





After measuring twice and marking the bars I got ready to cut.  At the last minute I decided to match up both sets of bars and noticed that my marking was off.  I discovered that the RF bars were actually 10mm wider (770mm) than stated which meant that my 40mm cut mark needed to be adjusted to 35mm.  Lesson learned . . . take your own measurements.



I remarked the bars to 35mm, lightly clamped them in a vice, held my breath and started to cut.  The 32T blade sliced through the carbon bars like butter with practically zero resistance and the marking around the full circumference of the bars helped keep the cut straight and clean.  In a couple of minutes I had the bars cut, untaped and ready to install.



Installation of the carbon bars was a straight forward process with the only consideration being the clamping torque which is 8Nm max.


The WSP650-316 carbon seatpost is another thing of beauty with
its carbon fiber rail clamp and ti bolts.  As with most seatposts the minimum insertion depth is clearly marked at the base of the incremental measurements that run up the shaft.


Weight savings amount to about 74g when compared to another aluminum 31.6mm x 400mm seatpost.  The Wren weighs in at 198g and the well used Nukeproof at 272g. 


As the Wren seatpost uses the traditional twin rail clamp design, mounting up your favorite saddle is easy.  Prior to inserting the seatpost you need to ensure that any old dirt/grease is removed from the seat tube.  Maximum clamping torque is 8Nm.  After determining the appropriate seat height, the application of carbon paste provided a little extra grip that reduced the need for over tightening.


IN USE

With the bars and seatpost mounted up to the Sasquatch it was time to head out on the trails and see what the fuss is all about.

Bars

The weight loss on the front end was immediately noticeable.  The WMH350 carbon bars actually made the bike feel lighter when loading up to head out to the trail, and on the trail with the bike seeming more lively.



I did notice that during ultra frigid temperatures the carbon bars did not get as cold as aluminum and less cold transfer means warmer hands.  This should also hold true for heat transfer if you live in warmer areas.



These bars are tough as well.  I did take a rather nasty over the bar tumble and laid down hard (on the bar end) during a failed high speed maneuver on a frozen lake.  Neither event damaged the bars.



Running on smooth snow it was a little more difficult to notice the vibration damping, especially when running low psi and a suspension fork.  This changed when the bars were swapped to a rigid front end, higher psi and a dirt medium.  The bars seemed to transmit less vibration during a 30km gravel grind with multiple 200ft sections of fist sized rocks.



Seapost

The impact of the weight loss from the WSP650-316 carbon seatpost was less noticeable than the bars.  Riding on snow with a squishy rear tire the seatpost did not feel much different than its alloy cousin.



Increasing the tire psi and switching to dirt, the seatpost felt as if it took some of the "sharpness" out of the same 30km ride.  While not in the same category as a Thudbuster, the WSP650-316 did have a subtle difference over what you would expect from an aluminum seatpost.



To ensure the proper clamping torque I initially used a standard seatpost clamp, but later swapped to a quick-release to make mid-ride adjustments less of a pain.  Dropping and raising the carbon seatpost was trouble-free and slip-free when using carbon paste.

Bikepacking

Bikepacking is a quickly growing sub-segment of fatbiking where you strap camping gear to your fattie and head out into the wilderness.  Much of this gear is strapped to the bars and seatpost so as to maintain maximum mobility.  However, several carbon manufacturers indicate that their bars and seatposts are not bikepacking friendly.

Wren Sports carbon bars and seatposts seem tailor made for bikepacking. The handlebars are rated up to 450kg load.  The key is the maximum clamp torque which is 8Nm.  If the clamps used to support the bags/bikepacking equipment can hold with a maximum of 8Nm of torque, the handlebar can easily manage most bikepacking gear.

According to the folks at Wren, when running a seatbag the forces are primarily applied to the seat rails with little leverage against the seatpost. The seatpost and rail clamp are designed to handle loads from people sliding off the seat and putting load on the back of the saddle.  In other words, seatbag . . . no problem.

Wren Sports are not worried about their carbon bars and seatposts holding up to adventure riding.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you need carbon on your fatbike?  I would say yes if your definition of need includes:

  • the lightest components;
  • vibration damping for rough terrain; and
  • reduced temperature conductivity
If not, then you can still have plenty of fun on your fatbike without those ultra light carbon bits.  But then the question becomes do you want carbon as it does offer benefits and is rather cool?

Either way . . . need or want . . . be sure to check out Wren Sports for their line of carbon bike accessories.

Ride on!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Vee Snow Avalanche | Winter White Wonder


Every year the folks over at Vee Tire release a new tire or two for the fat riding public.  For the 2016/2017 riding season the totally new Snow Avalanche made its debut.  

This tire has a fresh new tread design while still maintaining a hint of traditional Vee DNA.



Fatbike Republic reached out to the folks at Vee Tire who sent along a pair of their 4.8 PSC Snow Avalanche for a close-up look and some real world testing.

Don't forget to check out the ride video near the bottom !

The Tire

The Snow Avalanche is available in two sizes (26 x 4.0 and 26 x 4.8) and in both studded and non-studded versions.


According to the folks at Vee Tire:

The Snow Avalanche features an aggressive tread design for enhancing steering performance and off-camber grip. With a low rolling resistance and excellent float, this directional tire is great for blocked trails or loose snow.
They are also available in two types of rubber: Silica compound and Pure Silica Compound (PSC).  In the black silica compound the 57A rating on the hardness scale allows the rubber to keep its low resistance and flexibility in all temperatures.



The PSC compound, in its signature off-white color, is much softer with a hardness of 50A which gives it better ice performance, makes it quieter, and allows less terrain to stick to the tire.  For comparison purposes a pencil eraser has a hardness of 40A, a car tire tread measures in at 60A and a running shoe is 70A.

Overview

The tires sent for testing were the studded 26 x 4.8 PCS version of the Snow Avalanche.  In addition to being tubeless ready with a folding bead, they are directional and have a 120 TPI.  This is the stuff one would expect in a top shelf tire.




As mentioned previously, this is a totally new tire for 2017 and Vee looks to be heading in a new direction with tire design.  A quick look at the tire reveals smaller more square edged lugs that would appear to give more biting surfaces.

Running down the center of the Snow Avalanche are alternating square vertical paired lugs with a modified chevron lug pattern that blends into the first transitional row.  The alternating beefy square edged lugs of the first transitional row each contain a pointed carbide stud.  
The second transitional row is comprised of studded square edged rhombus lugs.  The Avalanche's shoulder alternates between large and medium vertically oriented rectangular knobs.  These lugs are slightly concave towards the center of the tire.  Its interesting that Vee Tire has chosen to only texture the transitional portion of the tire's carcass and leave the center bare.



The claimed weight of the Snow Avalanche PSC 4.8 studded is approximately 1740g.  Laying it on the scales it actual weighs almost 100g less at 1653g.




Mounted to an 80mm rim with 8psi the 4.8 Snow Avalanche expectedly measured in a little smaller at a true 4.34".  For giggles I borrowed a 90mm rim from my LBS (Canary Cycles) to see if a wider rim would make any significant difference in tire width.  Nope . . . still below 4.4".




Tread depth is around 0.19" for the center treads to 0.31" for the shoulder lugs.  In comparison, the Snowshoe 2XL runs 0.25" down the middle and 0.33" on the sides.

To aid in winter traction there are 240 pointed tip studs strategically placed around this tire.  When taking a close look at the studs I was able to see that some were actually seated a little deeper into the lug having a little less carbide protruding to catch the ice.  I'm not a super fan of the pointed stud as I feel they offer slightly less traction that the flat top stud.  But we'll see what the actual testing reveals.




Field Test

As mentioned previously the Snow Avalanche come in a studded and non-studded version.  Since these tires are the studded version they are only being tested for winter riding.  The 4.8's were mounted to a Norco Sasquatch 6.1 sporting a 197mm rear and 150mm spaced Wren on the front. 




Winter conditions can differ from location to location and even from day to day in the same location, but its safe to say that the primary snow types are: light and fluffy; wet and heavy; sugary and hard packed.  Ice conditions can range from smooth and slick to chewed up and rough.  And trails can be virgin, groomed and tire track.  The Snow Avalanche were tested in as many combinations as old man winter and father time would allow.

Tire pressure during the testing varied depending upon the conditions.  Generally 8-10 psi was used for hard packed/groomed trails and 4-5 psi for the softer/unknown conditions.

The off-white PSC compound did have an impact on the amount of snow buildup on the tire.  As there was significantly less buildup than on "regular" tires and this translated to more snow traction and directional stability.




It was easily noticeable that this tire can corner.  You point the wheel and the tires goes in that direction with very little hesitation or slippage.  This may have something to do with the sharper edge profile of the lugs coupled with the PSC compound that gives and maintains grip.





Auto-steer . . . that's when the shoulder lugs of the front tire grab something and decides to pull the bike in that direction.  This can be quite annoying and frustrating having to wrestle a tire in the direction you want to go.  The Snow Avalanche does not suffer from the dreaded condition.



There were no issues with climbing hills besides the engine losing power or encountering "surprise ice" under a dusting of snow . . . but more on ice later.  Descents were always controllable with the tire not exhibiting any unnerving traits.




This tire is pretty quick on the hard packed and on the ice.  A slightly shallower tread pattern creates less rolling resistance.  Less rolling resistance = more speed.  While it did seem a little quicker on the hard stuff, it also kept plowing through the deep and sugary stuff.  The distinct chevron pattern left in the snow also assisted with maintaining the momentum in less than ideal conditions.





I did not have to go looking for ice as there was a fair amount on the trails during testing, and when conditions were right I rode a few 25 km ice grinds on frozen lakes.  As mentioned earlier I have never been a super fan of the pointed studs having tested them previously (in non-PSC tires) and found they were not as grippy as the flat top studs.




However, the Snow Avalanche did provide better ice traction than I anticipated.  The super soft PSC compound complemented the pointed studs to make riding large expanses of glare ice, with 50 kph cross winds, rather pleasant.  The bike was controllable with course changes being uneventful.  I found that on the rough chunky ice the flexible PSC compound gripped a little more that other non-PSC tires I have ridden.  And the hidden ice under a layer of snow . . . well that's going to cause any tire grief if you hit it with reckless abandon.




Anyone who has ridden studded tires know that at the end of a season to expect a few missing studs and it was no different with the Snow Avalanche.  I actually only had to replace one in the rear which was surprising given the tires super soft compound.  I also noticed the studs that were initially seated a little deeper, had actually leveled themselves out.


Final Thoughts


After several month of winter testing I have to say that the Snow Avalanche is a truly a great winter fatbike tire.  


The tires saw many types of snow (fresh, hard packed, sugary) on different types of trails (virgin, groomed and singletrack).  The pointed carbide studs coupled with the PSC compound performed better than expected in all ice conditions.


I'm very impressed with the new tread design of the Snow Avalanche as they roll fast, have good ice traction and allow you to control the tire rather than the tire controlling you.


Be sure to check out the Snow Avalanche 4.8 PSC at your LBS, favorite on-line retailer or at the Vee Tire home world.


Ride on !



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Blue Toolbox Bling | Park Tool


Many riders do some level of maintenance/repair on their fatbike.  It could be as simple as ensuring there is enough pressure in the tires or a more challenging feat such as lacing up a set of wheels.  While doing maintenance on your bike is rewarding, we all end up bringing our ride into our LBS from time to time for some special love and attention.

As your skill and confidence grows so does your collection of tools.  I'm pretty sure most of us have started with some basic tools (maybe even a multi-tool) and when time and finances allowed we added to the toolbox/toolroll.  

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Park Tool has been supplying bike tools and maintenance equipment since 1963.  The telltale blue is synonymous with quality.



ADT-1 Adjustable Torque Driver

There are always a couple of "specialized" tools that we would love to have that are a little harder to justify.  For me that tool was an adjustable torque wrench.



I would normally cinch down on a bolt until it "felt right", but as I started dabbling in more delicate bike parts with specific torque ratings I finally broke down and purchased from my LBS a tool that I had drooled over many times . . . a ADT-1 Adjustable Torque Driver.

As the name indicates this is an adjustable torque driver from 4.0 - 6.0 Nm in 0.5 increments.  Its adjusted by twisting the silver knob on the end of the handle with a 6 mm hex.  



Located in the other end of the handle are three 1/4 hex drive bits (3 and 5mm hex and a Torx T25).  The 4mm hex comes pre-installed in the magnetic business end of the ADT-1.  These four bits will allow you to tighten many of the fasteners on your fattie.



The ADT-1 fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and has a very solid feel weighing in at 270g.  The literature says that the torque limiting clutch prevents over-tightening of threaded fasteners and subsequent damage of components, but not having used one before I was curious to what actually happens.



Its actually quite simple really, you set the driver to the appropriate Nm and pop in the correct bit.  When tightening the fastener the driver will skip (ever so slightly) and make a crack/pop sound when it has reached the desired torque.  Simple.

The ADT-1 is assembled and calibrated at Park Tool's factory in Minnesota.


VC-1 Valve Core Tool

This is another specialized tool as it is designed to remove and install Schrader and Presta valve cores.  The VC-1 would come in quite handy for those folks entering the world of tubeless and needing to remove the cores to install product into the tire.




The primary reason I added it to my toolbox was that one night a riding buddy went to air down his tires on the trail and the core shot out of the valve and got lost in the snow.  He did eventually find it and got back on the trail, however I'm sure if that happened to me I would not be so lucky.  I'll be checking the valve cores of my tires from time to time.


BBB-3 Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair - 3rd Edition

Having grown up using Clymer and Haynes repair manuals for dirt bikes, trikes, quads and cars . . . I needed one for bicycles.  Enter the BBB-3.


From the Park Tool web site
Updated with new information, techniques, photos, procedures, and components, the BBB-3 3rd Edition is a complete repair manual created to provide both the novice and veteran mechanic the information needed to perform nearly any repair from trailside repairs to complete overhauls. Written by Park Tool Director of Education, Calvin Jones, the Big Blue Book is the perfect reference guide and step-by-step repair manual for nearly any bike, including road, mountain, bmx, and single-speed. We wrote the book on bicycle repair.
Its great to be able to look up how to repair something on-line, however a manual is not impacted by a slow internet connection or a dead battery. And you can't scribble notes in the margins of a smart phone.


The BBB-3 is well organized, well written and has plenty of color pictures to help you get the work done.  Although nothing is specifically fatbike related the information and procedures are easily transferable.

This is one handy book to have in the shop. 

That's all the Park Tool in my toolbox for now, but I'm sure there will be additional blue bling making a home in my bike tool arsenal. 

Ride on!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Super Light Stem | Wren Sports


What is the cheapest and easiest part to replace on your fatbike that will have the most impact on its handling, performance and comfort?  Well if you read the title of this post you know the answer . . . the stem.

These days stems are available in a variety of material, lengths and angles that allow riders huge amounts of flexibility for fine tuning their reach to the bars.




Wren Sports (known for their super slick inverted fatbike fork) have designed a line of superlight alloy stems to compliment a selection of carbon goodies and other bike related accessories.

Fatbike Republic has collaborated with Wren Sports to review one of their crazy light stems as part of a fatbike cockpit refresh.

WREN STEM

The folks at Wren have chosen to create their super-light stems from AL7050 aluminum alloy which is stronger and lighter than AL6061 - which is primarily used in most stem manufacturing. 




Instead of using CNC machining, Wren uses 3D forging that compresses the material (making it stronger), allowing slightly less material to be used (making it lighter) and ensuring the correct grain structure (making it tougher).  3D forging is also superior to CNC because it does not create any edges that can concentrate forces.  Plus it give a more molded look.




A four-bolt clamp further distributes the clamping force across a wide area, which is especially beneficial when paired up with a set of their carbon bars. The bolts are Torx T25 chosen for strength, lightweight and convenience. Wren had initially went with T20 bolts for increased weight savings, but realized that is not a size found on most tools riders already own.





These stems are available in lengths 40 – 130mm with a +/- 6 degree angle and the 80 - 100mm with a +/- 17 degree angle.  All sorts of options for the discerning fatbiker.

They fit standard 28.6 steerer tube and bars with a 31.8mm diameter.  At this point in they will not fit the oversized 35 mm bars such as the Race Face Aeffect.  


And they weigh between 71g – 92g depending on length and rise. 

CLOSER LOOK

Fatbike Republic was sent a WST 106-50 (50mm with 6 degree rise) with a claimed weight of 74g.  Dropping the stem on the scales it actually came in underweight at 73g.  This stem is light.




How light it is compared to other stems?  A generic 50mm weighs in at a portly 125g and while not completely comparing apples to apples the 60mm Race Face Aeffect (that was being swapped) weighed a whopping 155g. Just for fun . . . a large organic free range egg weighs in at 55g.



Taking a very close look at the stem you can see very clean lines and no excess material to be found anywhere.  Its nowhere as bulky and burly as other stems and almost looks delicate in comparison.  I was really curious on how it would hold up up to the rigors of fatbiking. 


60mm & 50mm (Canary Cycles)

IN USE

The stem mounts up just like any other stem and has a recommended torquing of 6 Nm.  As the stem was being installed on a set of carbon bars I wanted to ensure the torque was on spec.



As with mounting any shorter stem, mounting up the 50mm Wren stem made the front end a little easier to lift, steering became a little quicker and the front end felt a little lighter when climbing.  Sitting a little more upright also gives a little more comfortable riding position.

So how does the Wren ultra light stem compare to other stems in performance?  Honestly . . . its a stem . . . it mounts the bar to your bike and allows you to turn.  Maybe the question should be "does the Wren super lightweight stem hold up as well or better than heavier and bulkier stems?"



After several months of riding (late fall into the heart of winter) I have not noticed any issues with this stem.  Riding dirt, snow and ice . . . the stem performed.

I took one nasty OTB tumble that ended with the bars being knocked out of alignment as well as giving me some bruising.  Locking the wheel between my knees the stem was levered back into position and back on the trail.



Another time, when doing a lake ice grind, I laid my Sasquatch down on the ice pretty hard whacking the bar end off the ice.  After my knee stopped complaining, I surveyed the stem/tire alignment and all was well.



So after giving the Wren super lightweight stem some "tough love" on the trails . . . I have no worries about its performance.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Buying a stem is probably not the most sexiest purchase you can make for your fatbike.  However, it can have an impact on the bike's handling and your overall comfort.

If you are in the market for a new stem and the traditional chunky stems are not turning your gears . . . then go visit the folks over at Wren Sports and take a closer look at their line of sleek, lightweight and affordable stems.

Ride on!