Gear thoughts

A few things I’ve tried lately, or am about to try.

First, I tried out a Vredestein Bull Lock tire as a “lite” alternative to the Surly tires.  The Bull Lock is billed as 26×2.35 but is widely (ha-ha) considered to be one of the fattest non-DH tires out there.  It airs up nice and plump on the Large Marge rim — close to 3″.  Here’s a photo of it on the Pugs, right next to my Stumpjumper with Cane Creek wheels.  Quite a difference those rims make!

Vredestein Bull Lock

The Vredestein Bull Lock 26×2.35 tire on the Large Marge rim and on a Cane Creek XC wheel.

The tire rode reasonably well on the Pugs.  The main problem with it was that it had a diameter of 27″ vs. 29″ for the Endomorph that it replaced.  This lowered my bottom bracket by about 3/4″.  I changed my seat angle to compensate, but I still felt like I was riding a Schwinn Sting-Ray at times, and I did strike a pedal once in a corner.  Plus, it just wasn’t as plush as the Surly rubber.  It wasn’t bad, but not what I was used to.

Having said all that, I think that this tire has a place as an emergency spare on a tour. It weighs half of what a Larry weighs and it’ll certainly get you to the next town competently enough.  Think of it as one of those 50-mile spares that you get with most compact cars nowadays.

(Note: OTOH, I really dislike this tire on my racing wheel.  It has a “lightbulb” cross section on this wheel because it is so much wider than the rim.  It flexes like crazy under cornering loads, and I’m afraid I’m going to rip it right off the rim if I get too aggressive.)

The next item I want to waste your time talking about is the innertube I used. Big deal right? Well, what if there were a fat tube that weighed half of what the Surly tube weighs? There is: it’s the Avenir 26×2.40-2.75 tube. I got it at my LBS. (Searching online, I can only find the schraeder version of it. When I search for “Avenir presta 2.75” I get lots of pages that claim to be selling it, but the picture is definitely nota picture of this tube.)

Comparison of a standard MTB tube, the Avenir 2.75, and the Surly tube.

The Avenir tube, when flattened, is nearly the width of the Surly, but it weighs 210g less.  This is a huge difference! Although I’m running tubeless, I still have to bring spare tubes on tour in case of a loss of tire pressure. (Can you imagine pumping up a tubeless Larry with a hand pump?) Two of these weigh a full pound less than two Surly tubes.

I’m running one with a Larry on my rear wheel right now to see if it holds up, and so far, so good. I will of course give it a good look-over when I remove it to put in the Stan’s sealant to make sure it isn’t getting ready to blow out.

On to gear that I haven’t tried yet but will any day now.  I’ve decided that to haul my stuff, I’m going to use a pair of Salsa Anything Cages on my front forks. I should be able to put my tent in one of them and my sleeping bag in the other. No, I don’t have a magic way to attach them, I’m going to use hose clamps even though it’s butt-ugly. Remember, I’m just doing a few short tours this summer. If I find that these are as great as everybody says they are, maybe I’ll spring the money to have bosses brazed onto my fork for next summer. I sure wish Surly would get with the program and offer an offset Pugs fork with the braze-ons already installed!

On the back, I’m going to install a Bontrager rack that I picked up at a LBS on sale. The rack itself it light, about 500g; the attachment hardware is a boat-anchorish 200g more! So I went to the hardware store and bought some P-clamps, which I will use to attach some lightweight rack stays that I pirated from another rack (total weight: about 60g). I realize you probably can’t visualize what I’m talking about, but I’ll post pictures once I get around to installing it.

On this rack, I’ll try to get all my clothing to fit into my 20L dry bag, otherwise I’ll have to use a set of panniers that I have lying around. You might think, 20L of clothing? What the hell? Well, the thing that I’m concerned about is a spare pair of shoes.  At size 15, they take up about one entire pannier, or most of the dry bag.

As an alternative to a spare pair of shoes, I might try to get by with my Keen Commuters as my sole (ha-ha) pair of shoes. Although they don’t feel quite as efficient as dedicated riding shoes, and they aren’t quite as comfortable to walk in as dedicated walking shoes, they do a reasonable job of both. In fact they’re by far the most comfortable riding shoes I’ve ever worn. I’d be leery of setting off on a through-ride of the GDMBR with nothing but these, but I think that they may be just the ticket for the shorter rides that I have planned this summer.  I may find that they are all that I need when I tackle the rest of the route.

Then of course, there’s the Revelate frame bag. I’ll be carrying a 4L water bag in here, along with food, tools, you know, the heavy stuff.  I am not planning to carry a water filter, as I think they’re a pain-in-the-ass. For dire emergencies I will use chlorine dioxide tablets. They’re cheap, they’re small, they weight nothing, and everybody thinks they’re great. The only thing they can’t do is get rid of sediment, so the water might look gross, but it will be safe to drink.

In addition, I just received a pair of Revelate mountain feedbags. I’m currently using them just for water bottles. I’d like to put a camera and other sundries like sunscreen in one of them, but I don’t know if I’ll have enough water capacity. We shall see.

One last thing, I have a Titec J-bar that I’m going to try out. I’m just waiting for some thumb shifters that I ordered to arrive ’cause grip shifts just won’t cut it on these babies.


5 thoughts on “Gear thoughts

  1. Fat bike tires see so little pressure you don’t need to carry an emergency spare. Just carry something to sew up a tear. The same kit will fix other torn gear like a ripped bag.

    Salsa Anything Cages are fragile. I wouldn’t trust them for long term durability on a tour.

    safe riding,


  2. Great idea, Vik, although I’m not sure I trust my sewing skills that much! Plus I imagine that whatever you use as thread (dental floss?) is going to wear out pretty quickly if it contacts the ground. Have you actually tried this out on the trail?

    • I haven’t tried it because I haven’t been able to come close to damaging a fat tire over the years I’ve owned a Pugs given the low pressures. When I rode the CDN GDR we didn’t carry a spare tire.

      I would expect a tear on the sidewall where the tire is thinner. That could effectively be sewn shut. A backpacking awl would be useful and could fix any textile damage you might have.

      You could also use some vulcanizing glue and a larger rubber patch to fix a tear.

      For a tear in the tread area I would sew it and back it up with some other booting material [power bar wrapper] to keep the tube in. Ultimately your goal in the unlikely event of a damaged tire isn’t to complete the GDR, but to get somewhere you can have a spare shipped to.

      safe riding,


  3. I agree with Vik. Two fat tires are heavy enough. There’s nothing a needle and thread, along with some duct tape and/or vulcanizing rubber can’t do. There’s not much on the GD that will tear a tire. I’m touring on a Pugsley right now with 2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apples on 65mm rims for mixed pavement and dirt road riding. When I make it further south and expect to be on dirt for the remainder of the summer, I’m only two fat tires away from a full-fat setup again. I’ve rebuilt my front wheel to include a dynamo at which point I got a Marge Lite and an aftermarket Pugs fork for 100mm OLD. I would confidently ride a Marge Lite on the rear of a symmetrical build, although I have some concern about incorporating it into an offset wheel (especially with 2.35″ tires at 25 psi). With some extra electronics and much heavier wheels that my last “touring” bike, I’m looking for ways to make the Pugsley more spry. I’m looking for one bike to do a little bit of everything, including long stretches of pavement.

    In AK, we generally use 2.5-3.0″ DH tubes in fat tires. I wouldn’t hesitate to put normal 2.1″ tubes in the the Vredestein/Marge combo lighten the ride.

    And finally, for “fatbike” riding where floatation isn’t the most important feature, such as on trails or GD, a narrower single wall rim could save even more wheel weight, especially up front. Jeff Jones has a 50mm rim at 660g, and Speedway Cycles has (had?) a 50mm UMA rim. At about half the width of the tire, this is a normal ratio (rim:tire, 50mm:94mm) for XC bikes. It is certainly not too narrow, and many people have reported good traction in corners with this tire profile.

    When are you headed out on the Divide? I’ll be down there in about a month. Maybe we can bump along together for a few miles.

    • I just made it further down the page. Sorry to hear that your Divide plans have been interrupted. I should be in CO later in the summer. Sounds like you’ve got some good rides planned. What about incorporating the CO Trail to get over the Front Range?

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