Monday, 19 June 2017

2017 Garneau Gros Louis 2 | Review


For more than 30 years Garneau has been designing, manufacturing and distributing high quality sports clothing and gear . . . including bicycles.   In 2016, this Quebec based Canadian company entered the fatbike world with two flavors of the Gros Louis.  They expanded their lineup for 2017 to include:

  • Gros Louis 1 - RST Renegade, 197 mm rear, 1 x 10 drivetrain, Avid DB5 brakes with 5" JJ tires
  • Gros Louis 2 - Tapered aluminum fork, 197 mm rear, 1 x 10, Avid DB1 brakes with 5" JJ tires
  • Gros Louis 3 - Alloy Fork, 170 mm rear, 3 x 9 drivetrain, Promax Decipher DSK-913 brakes with 4"Maxxis tires
Fatbike Republic reached out to Garneau and secured a vibrant orange Gros Louis 2 for some up close and personal one-on-one testing on "The Rock".




FRAME & FORK

The Gros Louis 2 is available in two colours (orange and green) and four sizes (S, M, L and XL). 

The aluminum frame has an oversized downtube with internal cable routing that keeps the shifter cable out of harms way.  Additional cable ports in the seat tube and downtube will accommodate a 31.6mm dropper post.  The welds on this bike are nice and smooth.




The rectangular chain stays provides a generous 197mm rear spacing and the tapered head, with suspension corrected geometry, will allow you to run all the popular fatbike suspension forks.



Holding the front end off the ground is a very sexy tapered aluminum fork with 150mm spacing.  In addition to the braze-ons located on the fork blades, you will also find them on the top and bottom of the downtube and at the base of the seat stay.  This bike is adventure bound.



DRIVETRAIN & BRAKES

Getting the Gros Louis 2 moving down the trail is a 1x10 drivetrain.  A Prowheel MPX-11 crank, sporting a 24T direct mount chainring, connects to a Sunrace CMSS3 (11-40T) cassette via a KMC X10 EPT chain.




The rear derailleur and shifter are both from the Shimano Deore family.  A Shadow Plus RD-M615 moves the chain and a SL-M610 rests up on the bars.



SRAM Avid DB1 hydraulic brakes, paired with 180mm and 160mm rotors, slow down this orange beast.  These brakes are filled with DOT fluid which should be less susceptible to extreme cold.



WHEELS & TIRES

The Gros Louis 2 runs 80mm HJC tubeless ready aluminum rims.  Square cut-outs around the rim reduce weight.  For tires Garneau chose 4.8" Schwalbe Jumbo Jims.



The front wheel spins on a KT-M9CF (15x150) hub while the rear is a KT-M9Z9 (12x197) . . . both having quick releases.



BITS & PIECES

The Gros Loius 2 comes with a 55mm stem (10 degree rise) holding a set of 740mm x 31.8 bars.  The grips are Kraton lock-on while the saddle is a comfy looking Garneau Rouleur.  A quick release on the seatpost is appreciated and so are the one piece forged alloy pedals.



FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This is one sweet looking fatbike.  The blaze orange rim strip mirrors the orange frame which is complimented by the black fork and rims.  Subtle touches of orange on the grips, coupled with smooth welds and a tidy cable arrangement (shifter cable being routed through the top tube) pull together the bike's aesthetics.



So how fat is the Gros Louis 2 . . . with stock pedals this bike weighs in at a respectable 15.62 Kg (34.4 lbs).



HITTING THE TRAILS

The Gros Loius 2 arrived at the tail end of winter.  That odd transitional season that has snow + mud + water.  A great testing ground for any fattie.

Swinging a leg over the bike I immediately noticed that the seat was extremely comfortable, and we can all agree that spending a couple of hours riding with an uncomfortable saddle is not fun.  The Rouleur is a good choice for a stock fatbike seat.

Grips (second contact point) are usually upgraded early in fatbike's life cycle, however the Gros Louis 2 lock-on grips provide plenty of grip even in wet weather.



Many fatbikes require an additional outlay of cash to get pedals (third point of contact), however Garneau supplied flat alloy pedals with this fattie. They are not super grippy or super light, but they will get you moving until you upgrade to your pedal of choice.

The Gros Louis 2 has a relatively steep head angle of 69 degrees giving it closer to a XC geometry.  The steering is responsive allowing the bike to weave around obstacles.  Coupled with a moderate 450mm chainstay length the Gros Louis 2 feels like it can climb like a goat.  


Garneau must have done its homework when selecting this drivetrain. Shifting up and down the cassette happened with a touch of a lever with no dropped or skipped shifts.  The 24T x 11- 40 gear combination will not have you looking for more.  The super low climbing gear (24 x 40) will get you up and out of most situations while the cruising gear (24 x 11) will get you down the trail at a respectable speed.  Thumbs up Garneau.



The SRAM Avid DB1s do an excellent job of slowing the fat beast.  No need to grab a handful of lever with this entry level braking system . . . one finger does the job.  They are powerful and predictable in both wet and dry conditions.



The 4.8 Schwalbe Jumbo Jims are a good tire choice.  The open tread pattern and 0.25 deep lugs propel the Gros Louis 2 over, around the through obstacles.  They measure in a 4.4" wide and weigh in at a respectable 1310g a piece.



Not only is the Gros Louis 2 a good trail riding and exploration bike, it should make a great bikepacking machine.  A huge frame opening will fit plenty of gear in a frame bag.  Braze-ons on the fork and on the rear triangle will allow the mounting of other needed camping gear.



While taking a break on the trail one day I took a closer look at the chainstays and chain line.  Having a 197mm rear end I knew that it had plenty of room to fit 5" tires, but would it fit a Snowshoe 2XL?  Only one way to find out.  While wrestling the tire off the rim I started to chuckle as the folks at Garneau put a little surprise on the rim strip.  The perfect amount of levity when changing a flat in -10 with frozen fingers or +20 and bring eaten by mosquitoes.



The Snowshoe 2XL will fit and spin in the Gros Louis 2.  There is between 3/8" - 1/4" clearance between the tire and chainstays/seat tube.  It may be a little tight for caked up mud, but should provide decent clearance in the white stuff.




FINAL THOUGHTS

With a great drivetrain, strong brakes, comfortable cockpit and a super tire choice the Gros Louis 2 is a great value.  Many other fat steeds running a 1x10 with 197 mm rear and 5" tires have a list price north of the Gros Louis 2 MSRP of $1799.99 cad.

Although not tested in the depths of winter, this fattie should perform quite well in it native white habitat.  Thus making it a full four season bike.

You can get your hands on this bike through visiting Garneau on-line or through any LBS that carries the Garneau's product line.

If you are in the market for a mid-range, well appointed fattie with unexpected extras . . . be sure to check out the Garneau Gros Louis 2.

Ride on!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mud Armor | SKS Germany Fatboard Set



The attraction of fatbikes to most people is that they are fun to ride and that they can go just about everywhere.  The big fat tires provide oodles of go anywhere traction and tend to kick up a lot of mud/dirt when conditions are prime.  While the process of getting fatties dirty is fun . . . the cleanup afterwards is anything but.

The most common fatbike fender is flexible in nature (DIY) and while it offers protection, the flexibility of the material limits its size and coverage.  If looking for increased coverage of a larger fender you would need brackets/support or go with a material that is more rigid.




The folks over at SKS Germany design, develop and manufacture all sorts of bicycle fenders including those for fatbikes.  Fatbike Republic reached out to SKS Germany who provided a Fatboard Set to review in the wet Atlantic spring.


SKS Germany

SKS Germany (located in Germany) opened its doors in 1921 making curtain rods.  In 1932 the company moved to making bicycle pumps and by the 1980's became the market leader of OEM air pumps supplying 90 countries.  Since 2000 their product line has increased to now include: tools, bags, gauges, water bottles, cages and fenders for on and off road.

Fatboard Set

The SKS Fatboard Set includes a downtube fender and a seat fender that are actually manufactured in Germany.  They come with a 5 year warranty and the packaging is multilingual showing that these folks are a global players.



Picking up the fenders its immediately evident that they will not go flopping around like flexible fatbike fenders. They are manufactured from polypropylene which is a very lightweight and tough structural plastic.

SKS Germany claim a weight of 353g for the Fatboard Set and when dropped on the scales they weigh in slightly heavier at 359g. However, the measurements are spot on at 5.5 inches wide and 18.8 inches long. Lots of mud coverage.




Downtube Fender

Taking a closer look at the downtube fender you will find two premium velcro straps that will attach it to the downtube.  Two V-shaped rubber capped mounting points make sure the fender will not move and minimizes any possible paint marring.  And for those folks who have fatties with cables running underneath the downtube, the cable can run in the V and thereby not interfering with the Fatboard placement. 



I was curious about the divot and hole in the end the fender so I contacted the folks at SKS who informed me that they use the same fender for the seat and that hole is the mounting point for the arm.  Makes sense.



Installing the downtube fender is quite simple.  Place the fender in the preferred location, lay the velcro strap over the top of the tube, run it through the buckle, and then pull it tight and secure.  The strap is extra long and is easily trimmed.  Although not necessary, I placed a couple of strips of electrical tape on frame under the strap to further protect the paint.



Seat Fender

The seat fender is the brother of the dowtube fender and attaches to the bike via the seatpost without any tools.  The folks at SKS call their attachment system a Quick Release Powerstrap.  



The fender is adjustable horizontally (on the seatpost), vertically (using the hinge on the fender arm) and leveled with pivot point on the fender.  This allows the fender to be tailored to any fatbike.  As the seatpost clamp is a universal fit it can be easily swapped between bikes.  And the rubber coated mounting point minimizes horizontal movement.





Installing the seat fender is also quite simple.  The adjustable web nylon strap (connected to a cam-lever) wraps around the seatpost clamping back into the head of the fender arm with a solid "snick". 



Removal is a one finder operation involving flipping open the cam-lever from the head of the fender arm, thus releasing the nylon strap.



In Use

With the fattie encased in mud-armor it was time to hit the trails to see how the Fatboards would react to the 5" Jumbo Jims and 4" Vee Snow Avalanche.



The downtube fender was quite successful in deflecting/capturing mud and water from the front tire.  This kept my legs and lower portion of the bike pretty clean.  



Not only did the fender take care of wet stuff . . . is was also quite useful in deflecting sand and small rocks.  While riding some groomed multi-use trails, at times I could heard the steady pelt of small rocks against the fender. 



The velcro straps and rubber capped mounting points kept the fender from moving.

The long rear fender was much more successful in keeping things clean than the short flexible fenders that mount to the seat stay.



With the two adjustment points (arm and fender) you are able to have the fender hug the tire in wet terrain . . . or allow a little more space for when mud gets chunky.



In everything but the most ambitious (bouncy) riding the fender would stay oriented over the wheel.  If it did move, lining it back up with the tire is super simple by releasing the cam.




Final Thoughts

A good downtube fender will keep your legs clean, grit out of your teeth and lower part of your fattie needing less washing.  A successful rear fender will stay in place and keep that dirty mud stripe off your back.

The SKS Germany Fatboard Set is a well though out set of fatbike fenders that mount up super easy without tools. They are tough and can be tailored to your specific fatbike geometry and work with both 4" and 5" tires.  And they are easily removable when conditions no longer warrant mud armor.

If looking for a little more mud (and stone) protection be sure to check out the SKS Germany Fatboard Set.

Ride on!







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!