Tag Archives: Schlick

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout – Fat Bike & Ice Bike Racing In Minnesota

Lately I have been spending far too much time cooped up in my hotel room only getting out occasionally to go climbing at the gym or for a quick ride in the snow. I decided things needed to change and I need to make the most of my time in the US. I was keen to head north during winter as I love the winter landscapes and remoteness (it’s cool for me as we hardly ever get any decent snowfall in the UK).

Fat Bikes in The Snow

Fat Bikes in The Snow

Throughout the winter I have been following lots of website about fat bikes and snow biking, one was for the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. Its a series of fat bike races in the snowy North West. As the winter is starting to come to a close I decided that catching one of these races would be the perfect excuse for a road trip north. I got clicking on the web and found the next event was the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout up in Northern Minnesota.

Up north they will do anything on a frozen lake

Up north they will do anything on a frozen lake

Wheels on ice?

Wheels on ice?

As usual I made a plan then did absolutely nothing about it until 11pm the night before. I hurriedly chucked my bike in the back of the car along with  gear for pretty much any eventuality (I am just getting used to touring by car where packing light doesn’t matter in the slightest). I had a super busy day at work and before I knew it I was behind the wheel facing a nice 8 hr drive north. I managed 6 hours before stopping on the Edge of Minneapolis, not before seeing an awesome flaming comet blazing across the sky, it was truly amazing!

Iron Yeti Sagamore Snowxross

Iron Yeti Sagamore Snowxross

The Cuyuna Lakes Yeti

The Cuyuna Lakes Yeti

The next morning I got up nice and early then proceeded to be completely useless and take forever to get my ass in gear. The racing was set to start at 10 my changes of getting up there in time were quickly vanishing.  It was an amazing sunny winters day and once I finally hit the road there were lots of sites to keep me amused. I was driving along when I suddenly noticed a snowmobile in mid air in front of me. I took a closer look and realised it was a snocross race (like motocross but on snowmobiles). The guys were crazy launching two at a time over tabletop jumps. I was tempted to stop but decided I should push on to avoid missing the bike racing.

Everyone seems to have a snowmobile up here

Everyone seems to have a snowmobile up here

Further down the road I was driving alongside a huge frozen lake when I noticed a plane dropping out the sky as if it was coming in to land. I rounded the corner and sure enough there was a mini airstrip on the ice complete with at least 20 planes. It was a hive of activity and I stopped for a while to see if it really was possible to land a plane of a frozen lake (it was).

Jostling for position on an icy corner

Jostling for position on an icy corner

By the time I got to my destination the most of the morning had passed and most of the riders had finished but I got to catch a few people coming over the line. For a bike nerd like myself it was great getting to see all the custom fat bikes. Surly and Salsa had tents and I had a good look at a Salsa Beargrease (bloody hell they are light).

Studded fat tires are a good idea

Studded fat tires are a good idea

Without studs things get slippy

Without studs things get slippy

Everyone was super friendly and soon started packing up their bikes and heading back to Crosby for the afternoon festivities  These included  ice bike racing and bike drag racing on ice. I had planned on taking part in the ice bike race as my bike is currently shod with suitably spiky tires. Unfortunately it turned out you had to register to race on Friday evening so I had to settle for watching the racing (and carnage) which turned out to be great fun.

Riders in the spiral of doom

Riders in the spiral of doom

The course had be made on a frozen lake with the layer of snow removed to create an icy track to race on. Now obviously the layout of the course is critical and someone had done an amazing job (if general carnage and comedy crashes was the plan).

The ice course was impressive

The ice course was impressive

It started with a nice long straight which lulled you in to a false sense of security before the crazy sharp corners and general madness commenced. As if tight corners weren’t enough the last section of the course consisted of a spiral which tightened in to the centre then had a crash inducing crossing before heading back out again. I did a few laps before the racing started and even with pretty decent 3″ studded tires I still felt my front wheel starting to wash out a couple of times on the hairpins. It must have been pretty scary to race on.

Homemade skinny studded tires worked a treat

Homemade skinny studded tires worked a treat

Who needs a front wheel when you can use a skate?

Who needs a front wheel when you can use a skate?

Going....

Going….

Going....

Going….

Gone!

Gone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a 25min beginners race followed by drag racing and then a 45 mins expert race. It was a great experience, for me it is kinda of crazy to walk on a frozen lake let alone race bikes on one. Fat bike events appear to attract a certain kind of person (you have be pretty keen and/or mad to want to get out and ride in the freezing cold on snow and ice). Everyone was really cool and there was lots of good banter especially between the racers.  I was actually amazed with how fast some of the guys were going, full on leaning in to the corners. Some people decided that the tires available in the shops weren’t even good enough and took things in to their own hands with a power drill and some screws making the most hardcore homemade studded tires you will ever see. Those without studded tires however didn’t have so much luck, the sunny weather had wetted the top of the ice and turned the course into… well and ice rink. I witnessed some pretty hilarious slow mo crashes.

Studded skinnies were good on the corners

Studded skinnies were good on the corners

The sun started to get low

The sun started to get low

The weather was great

The weather was great

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon the sun was getting low in the sky, the racing had come to a thrilling climax, all that was left was for the prizes to be given out and everyone to gradually prise themselves away from the fire (and bar) and head home. It was a great day and a amazing experience and best of all one which I would never get to witness in the UK.

Home Time!

Home Time!

Chicago Snow Biking Mini Adventure

I’m currently living in the suburbs of Chicago so you wouldn’t think there  would be much adventure on my doorstep. Well OK I’ll admit that most of the time the possibilities for cycling adventures are pretty limited. However sometimes things stack up and an adventure just happens out of nowhere.

One happy snow biker

One happy snow biker

The other weekend I awoke to glorious sunshine glistening off the few inches of snow which still lay on the ground.  I looked out the window for a while and gazed, admiring ‘that thing in the sky’ (we don’t see the sun much back in the UK).

My Surly Troll snow bike gets used to the snow

My Surly Troll snow bike gets used to the snow

As I looked back in to my room I couldn’t help but notice my bike sitting patiently in the corner still wearing its big 3 inch studded snow tires from a previous ice biking trip. I decided it was fate and soon I was gearing up heading out in to the sub-zero sunshine for a ride in the snow.

Custom studded Nokian Gazzaloddi 26x3" snow tires

Custom studded Nokian Gazzaloddi 26×3″ snow tires

Leaving from my hotel I tentatively crossed some icy sidewalks  completely forgetting I had uber sharp studs in my tires so there was probably no need to be so careful. I then started satisfyingly crunching my way through a good few inches of frozen powder. It seemed the snowplow guys were on my side as they had left numerous piles of snow across the sidewalk which created great tricky icy obstacles to try and clear. I got some hilarious looks from passers-by as I (very) slowly trudged along one sidewalk where the snow had drifted to a good 6 inches.

Nice day for snow biking

Nice day for snow biking

When I got to my local  parkland I was relieved to see the start of the bike trail had been inadvertently groomed by some snowmobiles. The conditions seemed to randomly changed from nice to horrific as I progressed along the trail. Lots of people were out on cross-country skis, I got pretty funny surprised looks from some of them. I even saw snow shoe prints on one part of the trail. 

Getting used to snow biking

Getting used to snow biking

You have to take care to avoid the cross-country ski trails, those funny Lycra clad pain junkies get pretty pissed if you bugger them up!

Watch out for skiing trails

Watch out for skiing trails

Even though I was never more than half a mile from hustle and bustle of ‘the burbs’ you could have easily mistaken parts of the ride for back country wilderness.

Chicagoland wilderness

Chicagoland wilderness

After a while I started to get used to the slight reduction in traction and steering accuracy. It was pretty easy riding apart from a few random frozen ruts to spice things up a bit.

Getting away from it all

Getting away from it all

There is a reason this picture of my bike looks so cold and chilling…. it was bloody freezing!

The blue bits were as cold as they look

The blue bits were as cold as they look

My 47mm wide Schlick Cycles Northpaw rim up front helps add some float to the 3 inch tires by allowing lower pressures ideal for better traction on the slick stuff (or should that be Schlick stuff?).

White Brothers Snowpack fat bike forks make a 3" tire look small

White Brothers Snowpack fat bike forks make a 3″ tire look small

Half way round I met some of the locals. I was able to get pretty close right? I think I might change professions to wildlife photographer.

I got pretty close to the local Elk

I got pretty close to the local Elk

Man these pictures are good I should be a wildlife photographer

Man these pictures are good I should be a wildlife photographer

OK I kinda forgot to mention the fence

OK I kinda forgot to mention the fence

So I did get pretty close to the locals but mainly because there is a fence round them so they are pretty tame.

Troll meets an Elk

Troll meets an Elk

As it’s was almost valentines day I though I would get the mummy Elk to kiss the little baby one so I could take a lovely photo, make it in to a card then make millions…..it kinda worked…..apart from the bit about making millions.

Love is in the air

Love is in the air

So obviously with a blog named ‘leave only tread marks’ the day wouldn’t have been complete without taking this photo

leave only tread marks

leave only tread marks

I did manage to see some actual 'Wild' life, why do deer always stand by the road?

I did manage to see some actual ‘Wild’ life, why do deer always stand by the road?

Taking lots of photos of Elk (and my bike), stopping to chat to skiers and turning the pedals in snow takes longer than you think and soon the sun was starting to set on an amazing mini adventure.

The sun sets on a perfect day

The sun sets on a perfect day

So I don’t quite know why this felt like more of an adventure than just a ride. Maybe it was the unusual conditions, the unusual sights or the thrill of staying out until it got dark. All I know is it was a bloody nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Chicagoland!

My Troll Gets Fat For Winter

I decided that as we are ‘supposed’ to get a proper winter here in Chicago with lots of snow and ice I would give my troll a makeover and turn it into what I like to call a semi-fat bike.

20130120_132506

I decided to go with a lightweight set up as I quite fancy using it for trail riding over the summer, the fat tyre should help take out some of the trail buzz and make it easier to clear tricky sections. I started with some White Brothers SnowPack carbon fat bike forks. I was going to just get some Surly steel forks but these popped up on eBay and only ended up costing about $100 more so I decided it was worth it. They are the 450mm axle to crown version which is exactly the same length as the trolls original forks (although the fat tire adds some height) and also super lightweight at 919g. They have a pretty huge offset as well (42mm) so it will be interesting to see how this changes the wheelbase and if the extra length affects the handling much.

20121009_171648 - Copy

For the wheel I couldn’t resist going home grown and getting a blue Hope FatSno hub from the UK, this is a 135mm fat bike specific front hub that allows you to build a strong symmetrical wheel. I paired this with a Schlick cycles Northpaw-S 47mm rim. At 47mm it’s much narrower than other wide rims such as the Surly Marge Lite which comes in at 65mm. However this brings some benefits, it’s super light for such a large rim at 550g, this is only 155g heavier than the Mavic XC717 cross country rim I run on my standard wheel. This is mostly due to the pretty awesome looking cut-outs. The 47mm width also makes sense for trail riding, it allows the use of a fat tire but helps it keep more rounded profile so it should corner better on the dirt. It also helps avoid catching the rims on rocks etc when the trail gets gnarly.

20121115_214810

I picked up some Surly Endomorph 26×3.7 inch fat tires cheap of eBay so I’m using one of them up front. Out the back I have my Rohloff mounted to a 21mm rim already which should allow me to use up to a 3 inch tyre. This is actually one of the main problems I have discovered there really isn’t much choice when it comes to 2.5-3 inch tires. I have ended up going with a Maxxis Ardent 2.6 Inch DH tyre which was one of the largest volume tyres I could find. The only problem is that it’s a DH tyre so it’s crazy heavy and also has some pretty hardcore knobs on which don’t really fit with the semi-slick tyre up front. I’m still on the lookout as I have more space in the frame, so let me know if you have any ideas? I’m secretly hoping Surly bring out a 26×3 inch Knard similar to the tyres on the new Krampus.

20130105_145734

I’m a novice at wheel building having only build a couple before so I had one or two issues building up the front wheel. This was partly due to the width of the rim. The hub isn’t completely symmetrical so the wheel has to be slightly dished, i used spokes with a couple of mm difference. It took a while and a considerable amount of swearing to get it laced up nicely and all tightened up right.

DSC_0015

The only other issue I came across is that although the Hope hub is front specific it still has a rear specific disc brake mount. This becomes an issue if you are using a symmetrical fat bike fork with 135mm spacing, which just so happens to be what mine is. Its worth noting that White Brothers makes an adaptor to allow front specific 135mm hubs to be used with these forks, i just didn’t get one with my secondhand forks. I ended up having to splash some cash and pick up a Carver rotor spacer kit which has a nice machined aluminium 5mm spacer and some longer torx bolts to keep it all secure. There are cheaper solutions, you should be able to get washers from a good hardware store (note they have to be pretty narrow to fit on the disc mount. Typicall all the stores near me didn’t have any washers the right size.  Hope also make rotor spacers which come in 1 and 2mm varieties so I would need a few and the shipping was going to be crazy expensive. Syntace make rotor shims but they are only 0.2mm so I would need a fair few. In the end I decided that although expensive ($20) the carver option would be the strongest (also coolest) and if you going to do something you might as well do it properly, right?

DSC_0030 DSC_0027

The bike is all built up, looking suitably pimped and working well. All that remains is for the weather gods to cook up some of the bad winter weather we are supposed to get here in Chicago and deposit some snow and ice so I can put it through its paces.

20130120_132436

20130120_132450