Friday, 30 December 2016

Wren Inverted Fatbike Fork | Install & Setup



Having no prior fork installation experience it was off to the interweb to do a little research.  I discovered that prior to installing the Wren Fork it would require some trimming of the steerer tube and the installation of a new crown race.
  
Not having a crown race on hand I contacted the fine folks over at Cane Creek who hooked me up with one of their premium 110 - Series models.  According to their literature the 110 – Series is backed by a crazy 110-year warranty.  With crown race and fork in hand it was off to my LBS (Canary Cycles) to trim the tube and install the crown race.




With the steerer tube trimmed and the crown race installed it was time to remove the Bluto. I discovered that it was not that big of a process - remove wheel, release cable ties, remove brakes, remove stem and tap with a rubber mallet while supporting the fork.

Installing the Wren Fork was pretty much a reverse process ensuring that there were enough headset spacers to match the new tube length and that the stem was snugged up and aligned correctly.  It’s important to note that the Wren can handle up to a 160mm rotor.  If your rotor is larger your will need to track down an adapter.

Wheel installation on the Wren requires a little more finesse than regular forks.  I found that the left (air) leg extends a tiny bit longer, but once both legs are aligned the supplied quick release axle will slide through.  Its also interesting to note that the axle can only be inserted from the BRAKE MOUNT (left) side of the fork and it is secured on the opposite side with a supplied nut.



So with the wheel installed it time to set the sag.   Wren does have a detailed procedure [LINK] on their site . . . but I will say that it involves balancing the volume in both the upper and lower chambers using a combination of psi and pump strokes.



When setting up the fork for your riding style its important to remember that a larger volume of air (more pump strokes) in the top chamber, relative to the bottom, will exhibit a more plush ride.  If the bottom chamber volume is larger (more pump strokes) the fork will exhibit a stiffer, more progressive ride. Through some trial and error I discovered that with 22 pump strokes in the top chamber and 6 in the bottom (60 psi) gave me the plusher ride I was looking for.  Cranking the damping counter-clockwise, slightly past center, gave me a little quicker rebound.

The installation of the carbon bash guards was very simple.  Pop the clamps on over the tube, slide in the guard and tighten the clamp.



The cable guides are equally easy to install. Slip the inner sleeve over the cable, slide it into the outer casing and zip tie the outer casing to the fork in locations to minimize rubbing.



With the fork installed its time to ride!

Check out Wren Sports | Inverted Fatbike Fork if looking for a little more detail on the Wren Fork.

Ride on!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas



During this holiday season spend some 
quality time with family and friends.

If they fatbike . . . be sure to spend some 
extra special time with them.

Ride on!

~ Fatbike Republic

Saturday, 17 December 2016

ARKEL Seatpacker 9 | Bikepacking Deluxe



Bikepacking is a subsegment of cycling that has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. Its like backpacking where you strap minimalist equipment and supplies to your body and head off into the wilderness, but instead you strap the gear to a bike and head out even further into the wilderness.  And fatbikes . . . well they are the perfect mode of two wheeled transportation for this activity.

Fatbike Packing | How to start just scratched the surface on topic of bikepacking.  In researching the subject of bikepacking bags I discovered that Arkel were expanding their product line to include bikepacking gear. Having some experience with their panniers in a previous life, I reached out and they were kind enough to send Fatbike Republic a Seatpacker 9 for some testing on an island in the unforgiving North Atlantic.

ARKEL

Arkel is a Canadian company that came to life 1988 and have been creating and manufacturing high quality cycling bags.  Using only the best materials and smart designs, they have stellar customer service and back their products with a no hassle, lifetime, transferable warranty.  Their factory shop and showroom is in Sherbrooke, Quebec where they have all their products proudly on display.

SEATPACKER 9

As mentioned previously the Seatpacker 9 is a relatively new item to the extensive Arkel product catalog and it shares the bikepacking shelf with its bigger brother the Seatpacker 15.  The only real difference between the two is capacity with the Seatpacker 15 having 6L more of storage than the Seatpacker 9.


Seatpacker 9
Some interesting features of the Seatpacker include:

- quick release seat rail hanging rack
- super fast bag install and removal
- no tail wag or thigh rub and zero side to side movement
- tapered nose and reinforced front panels
- waterproof (non submersion)
- drop seat compatible
- zippered cell phone pocket
- several tie-down loops
- sprinkling of reflective fabric
- fits seat rails <2.25" and >2.25" (with supplied adapter)



Cell Phone Pocket
The Seatpacker is made entirely in North America.  All of the fabric (even the fiber) is sourced in the USA.  The main body of the bag is made of 1000 denier Codura nylon that has been reinforced with a nylon grid.  The inside liner (gray) is made of a fully waterproof 210 denier TPU laminated nylon with sewn and taped seams.  This makes for a fully waterproof main compartment.


Hmmm . . . Nylon
Sewing and construction of the bag is 100% completed at Arkel's factory in Sherbooke, Quebec.  The aluminum frame for the seat rail hanging rack is made from 6061-T6 aluminum.  It is also made in Sherbrooke by a fairly small and dedicated neighborhood machine shop where coincidentally, the owner and some welders are dedicated mountain bikers.  And the plastic components are also made in Quebec in cooperation with a tech college which manufactures the parts while demonstrating the molding technique to their students.


Its In The Details

Dropping the Seatpacker 9 on the scale the rack weighs in at 280g and the bag at 353g for a total of 633g (1.4 lbs).  This is slightly less than the claimed 640g.


Bag Weight


Rack Weight
As the name suggests the Seatpacker 9 has 9L (550 ci) of storage and that is measured with one fold of the bag end.  Two folds and storage is reduced to about 8.5L.


9 L of Storage
Arkel recommends a minimum of 7" clearance from the the seat rail to the top of the tire to clear the Seatpacker 9.  Any less than that and the bag will be scrubbing the tire.

INSTALLATION

Installing the Seatpacker is dead simple.  So much so that Arkel condensed it into a four step infographic located on the bag tag.  If the rails on your favorite seat are spaced <2.25" then you use the small aluminum bar to attach the rack to the seat.  If >2.25" you must use the large bar and an enclosed plastic adapter.  The seat shown below was exactly 2.25".


Rack Install

The small bar was a little short and the large bar would not fit . . . so the small bar was used and the toggle clamp was cinched down a little tighter. Once the logistics of the seat rail & aluminum bar were figured out, installation and removal of the rack takes less than one minute and is super sturdy.

The reinforced rubberized plastic seatpost clamp snaps securely over the post with a velcro strip to ensure it stays in place.  If used on a dropper post the clamp would secure to the upper part of the stanchion and allow the post to slide.  Neat idea.  The only limitation would be the available space between the bag and the tire.


Seatpost Clamp - Dropper Compatible

The bag itself installs in a flash by sliding the aluminum rack into a sleeve on the top of the bag.  A velcro strap secures the bag to seatpost and you are done.  Removal of the bag is just as easy and can be done in mere seconds. 



With the seat adjusted to my preferred height the rails measured 8.5" from the closest point on the tire.  With the bag installed there was 3.25" of clearance between the bag and the tire.  Perfect.

IN USE

Shortly after receiving the Seatpacker 9 an opportunity arose to field test the bag on an overnight trip.  It was mid-October and temperatures were forecast to be above freezing with no rain and little wind.

Quickly pulling together gear for the trip I stuffed the Seatpacker 9 like Uncle Jerry stuffing himself during Thanksgiving.  So much so that I was unable to fold the end of the bag and connect the side straps.   I jammed 3.98 kg (8.75 lbs) of gear in the bag.  I then discovered that the straps at the end of the bag could be connected effectively "supersizing" the 9L and making a decent carry handle.  However, the waterproof capabilities of the bag was compromised as the end of the bag was indeed open to the elements.



A 3.5 hour drive to the trail head and a 4 hour ride got me to my overnight destination of Point Rosie.  The 25 km trail consisted mostly of dirt packed single track, matchbox sized beach rocks, sand and a good sprinkling of water and mud.





When I got to my final destination the bag removed in mere seconds and even doubled as a not so comfortable pillow as the temperatures dipped below freezing overnight.  Thanks Environment Canada!



During the entire 50 km round trip I can honestly say that I did not notice the Seatpacker 9 hanging off the back of the seat.  I actually had to reach back a couple of times to ensure that it was still there after hitting a few rough spots.  No leg rub, no swaying, no nothing.



I did stop at one point to check the seat rail attachment.  Even with the extra cinching the small aluminum bar had shifted slightly on the rails.  Probably because the rails fell right on the 2.25".  I removed the bag, readjusted the rack and continued.  I did not notice any difference in performance between when the bar had shifted and when it was seated correctly.

It was unavoidable, but the Seatpacker 9 did make a wonderful seat fender keeping the muck and grime off my back.  As I was unable to test the Seatpacker's waterproofness during the trip I grabbed a large roll of paper towels, stuffed it in the bag, snugged it up and sprayed it unmercifully with a garden hose for several minutes.  Not really a fair or scientific approach to testing, but the bag came out super clean and the towels were dry.  Quite acceptable.


Water Testing

Although slightly diverging from the true backpacking theme, I was able to install a rear rack on my fatbike and still maintain 1/4" clearance with the Seatpacker 9.  The rack allows for additional mounting points and the ability to run panniers for more storage.


Panniers Anyone?

Finally, the Seatpacker 9 also makes for a pretty decent extended seat bag to get the gear off your back when trail riding and not carrying loads of stuff into the unknown.


On The Trail

WRAP UP

The Seatpacker 9 did not disappointment.  With the amount of gear that I stuffed into the bag I was expecting something to give.  Nope. The heaviness of the stuffed bag was not noticed while riding and the pocket to store my phone/GPS was handy.  The bag was easy to install/remove and it cleaned up well when muddy.  And lets not forget that it also looks pretty sharp.

Although not tested, the simple and functional design of the seatpost clamp would easily allow the use of a dropper post.  In my particular setup it would have provided a drop of about 3".  This of course will vary by bike and rider.

The seat rails on the saddle used for testing just happened to be exactly 2.25" which was a tad wide for the small bar and to narrow for the wide bar. All the other seats in my inventory measured <2.25".  I chatted with the folks of Arkel about this and they recommended slightly trimming the wide bar to fit the 2.25" seat rails perfectly.  Arkel also have an adapter for Brooks seats that tend to be extra wide.

The folks at Arkel love cycling and love what they do.  I anticipate new and exciting advances in the bikepacking world from this Canadian company. For a closer look at the Seatpacker 9 head down to your local bike shop, swing by Arkel's showroom or visit them online. 

Ride on!

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!