Tag Archives: S&S Couplers

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!

Advertisements

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