Salsa Fargo New Bike Day!

Let’s start the blog with some honesty. The last 6 months have been an absolute BLUR.

I accepted the position of Store Manager for Wheel and Sprocket at the end of September and it’s been like riding on a train with no conductor, barrelling down the tracks at full steam ahead. It’s been many weeks of putting in overtime, not having enough staffing for the volume of customers coming into the store, and frankly I barely have enough energy to make myself dinner when I get home most nights- let alone create content for pleasure.

Believe me, if I could get paid doing this full-time and not have to deal with lines of customers out the door impatiently waiting to be told the bike they want is out of stock, well I’d chose doing this all day long!

Within the absolute insanity that has been the bike industry, there have been a few awesome additions to my bike life. This is where the Salsa Fargo comes in! I had not been in the market for a touring bike. In all honesty I need a mountain bike much more badly than I needed to buy the Fargo, but she just called to me. The bike had come in for one of our store customers and he ultimately found a screaming deal on a tricked out Ti version of the bike on eBay.

Out of curiosity I decided to throw a leg over the bike and take it for a short spin around the shop. It was the perfect fit! I knew I wanted it right then and there. The thing I like most about the bike is that it blends the elements of two bikes (Surly Krampus and Soma Doublecross) I already own into one beautiful piece of machinery. It has the 29″ wheels with the ability to run plus sized tires, it has all the mounts you could ever need for bike packing, it has lightweight triple butted frame tubing, it has a lightweight carbon fork, the wheels are tubeless ready, and the cockpit is super comfortable!

Not to mention Salsa wisely spec’d the bike with mechanical TRP disc brakes which allow for much greater adjustment and field serviceability. Oh and did I mention it’s set up with 1x Apex with a super wide rear gearing? The bike hits all the sweet spots with a really nice mesh of great value for the price, design and component wise. The sparkly deep red colorway also reminded me of why I loved the OG Krampus so much. You just can’t beat a beautiful paint job and fun graphics.

Naked Fargo with no bags to cover her paint scheme.

I’ve had goals to do more off road bike packing. The Tour de Chequamegon and a few other routes that have cropped up care of bikepacking.com have piqued my interest. I could have easily ridden the Krampus for such endeavors, but it’s honestly just kind of a heavy and slow bike when it comes down to loading it up with gear.

The Krampus can get rowdy on trails and is fun on flowy stuff, but it does not climb well even with the updated gearing and I have come to really loathe the ever present horizontal dropout design that Surly insisted on using (we get it, you want everyone to ride single speed).

The Krampus also lacked some of the updated gear zits that most modern frames now sport, regardless of whether or not people plan on using their bikes for loading up. I know the modern iteration of the bike has them, but Salsa has been a brand of bike I’ve not owned up to this point and wanted to take advantage of the fact that I now worked at a stocking dealer.

Getting dressed up for the road.

A few changes I’ve made to the bike mostly had to do with aesthetics. I converted the tires to tubeless and used some fun Muc Off anodized red tubeless valves that matched the paint color of the bike. The jury is still out on the included Terravail Sparwood tires. I’m sure they kick ass off road, but I’ve been using this bike for commuting and I could see myself putting on something from Rene Herse or Panaracer with a more supple design and smooth tread. I’ll likely just ride these until I wear them out though as I don’t want to throw a whole bunch of money at a perfectly functional bike.

The other updates were some of the bike bling that I pulled off the Krampus including the Easton carbon seat post, Salsa lip lock seat binder, and the Wolftooth headset spacers. I still get annoyed that the orange from the Salsa binder is so much more bright and vibrant than the spacers from Wolftooth. Matching anodized parts can be a pain in the ass sometimes if they aren’t coming from the same company or batch even.

I really like the flared handlebars that are on the bike. In years past I’ve not liked some of the options that have come stock on bikes like the Surly Crosscheck or similar “cross” or “gravel” bikes. The Salsa Woodchippers seem to fit just right. The 44cm width on the size small bike feel great in the hoods, tops, and drop position. I did drop the stem down and may do so a little more as I’ve gotten a bit more used to a more aero position on my road/gravel bike while riding the trainer this Winter. I’m finding that I enjoy engaging my hamstrings and glute muscles to put out more power than sitting more upright and having quad dominant pedaling.

I’ve been riding the bike with flat pedals, which is also new for me as I really enjoy the feeling of being clipped in with the exception of mountain biking. I’ve been pairing the pedals to some new 5.10 shoes I picked up. I’ve had a pair before, but the new ones fit a little better and feel a bit more comfortable.

Ultimately I may toss my Crank Brothers Candy pedals on or invest in the Mallet pedals from them as they have a larger, more off road friendly platform. I have yet to stray from Crank Brothers pedals as they’ve just been my go to for so long and it’s difficult to want to go to anything else when I have three sets of their pedals and multiple cleats for said pedals.

The command center.

I’ve transferred all of my bike packing bags and cages over to the Fargo and have even picked up an additional feed back from Revelate Designs (not pictured) as well as their Mag Tank (not pictured) as I’d like to leave my Topeak top tube bag for my Topstone. I can just barely fit the Blackburn Elite handlebar bag on the front without interfering with my hands on the bars. I may just use a more basic dry bag that has loops for running the straps through that’s a little more compact as the one that comes with their mounting system is cavernous. Great for hauling a lot of sh*t, but annoying when you ride small bikes and need narrower bars! To be fair, this wasn’t an issue when I was running Jones bars on the Krampus as the bars give you so much space that you can fit just about anything on there as long as there is tire clearance.

A small, but fun detail I added to the Fargo was the stem cap. It’s a design by Bryn Merrell with some orange colored poppies. I’ve decided to name the bike Poppy as it seemed appropriate. It goes with the other little orange flourishes on the bike I have added and brings me joy when I look down at it while riding. I love the small details that make a bike feel more personalized. It makes me sad to see so many stock bikes go home with folx that lack personality.

For anyone who has been keeping up with my gear via this blog or on my Instagram, you may have noticed I’m no longer rocking the Giant GPS on my bar anymore. As much as I wanted to like that computer, it just wasn’t functioning well. The app was super glitchy, so uploading was kind of an issue and sometimes the unit just straight up didn’t work as it should. If I tried starting an uploaded GPX route, the computer would often times think that immediately from the starting point was also the stopping point and end the ride. This happened a lot if I had programmed a loop with the same stop and start point. It was time for an upgrade and I’ve never owned a Garmin unit as I had always worked for places where I got demo products to use at no charge. I had used Saris’s Joule GPS for many years prior to getting the demo unit of the Giant Neostrack. I’m almost certain Giant discontinued the product. Likely because it wasn’t great. For the price you can get an entry level Garmin or similar product that has better instructions, function, and apps to work with.

The unit I picked up was a Garmin 530. I had debated about getting the 830 as it has a touch screen and there have been a couple of times I had wished I had purchased that one, but I realize for winter or cold weather situations the touch screen is useless as no one has cracked the perfect design for a glove that can work well with a touch screen. It was also less expensive and I just needed a computer that could sync to my phone and I could upload routes to that I could trust to work.

Bryn Merrel makes stem caps, apparel, artwork, and even mtb fenders with her artwork! Check her out online!

At this point I feel I should list the cons of the bike which honestly the only con is that the gearing is just a tad too low for what I’ve been doing with it. The rear cassette is an 11-42 which is excellent for climbing, but with the 32t chain ring up front it makes it difficult to get speed on the flats or pedal downhill to use gravity to climb rollers. I’m not faulting Salsa for this what so ever. This bike is intended to be an off road touring machine that will need to be geared low to get up tough climbs while loaded down.

I have picked up an Absolute Black chain ring to try. I bought a 34t oval ring which they claim feels like a 36t. I’ve never ridden a bike with an oval ring before other than test riding a customer bike with an old Shimano Biopace on it. It should give me better city gearing for commuting without giving up the wide range for when I get to a hill. I have not installed the new ring yet as I haven’t had time or energy, but will hopefully get to it in the next week or so when the weather starts looking nice.

Anodized red to match the bike.

Overall I’m very happy with the bike and the purchase. I’ve had a couple of folx ask why I went with a Fargo over a Cutthroat and my first response simply there are no Cutthroats to be found anywhere due to the bike shortage. In truth though, it comes down to the fact that I like steel frames. A high quality steel frame with triple butting is light and strong. It’s often able to be repaired and is made for the long haul. I love my Soma frame as it’s light and fun to ride. I enjoy a steel fame paired with a carbon fork. It makes for a really nice ride feel and for a bike that I’m going to be loading up with gear for traveling, it gives me a little more peace of mind. I can always replace the fork down the road with another carbon one or even a steel option, which is also nice.

I also already have the Topstone, which some people may think is redundant to have. I have sold my dedicated road bike though that was full carbon because I was using the Topstone so much. I fell in love with how it eats up road chatter and I can do road or gravel rides on it and it’s still fast even with the lower gearing. It’s a great bike for the area I live in which is shitty pavement and lots of hills going out to the Driftless region. I just wanted to be able to keep the Topstone unloaded for that type of riding and have the Fargo for the loaded touring and overnight camping trips.

I had planned on selling my Double Cross, but realized I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility of having a bike on my trainer to get rides in even if it’s cold and sh*tty outside. I’m going to be swapping the crank back to a road double on that bike and putting a front derailleur on it and keeping it as my trainer bike. Another project I’ve had neither time nor energy to take on, but soon! I’ll be sure to post when I get around to that.

The Krampus is currently in limbo. I need to finish putting new pads and rotors on it as the salt ate away at them pretty good the last couple of years. I also pulled the Jones bar off of the bike in the off chance that I may want to put it on the Fargo down the road. I could see the Fargo being a really kick ass bike with a Jones bar on it. Who knows, I’m always changing my gear up. The Krampus will likely stick around at least for the Summer as I don’t see being able to snag a new MTB anytime soon. I want to get another full suspension bike, but something different than what I’ve had in the past. I hate to admit that I like the Fuel EX from Trek as I have mixed opinions about them as a company. They make some really nice bikes, but there’s a lot they’ve done behind the scenes and socially that I don’t identify with and have a hard time riding basically an advertisement for them.

If anyone has any recommendations for a good Fuel EX alternative, please reach out! I also had been looking at options from Salsa as their carbon full sus bikes look wicked. Then again, it’s probably going to be at least a year before they become available again.

That’s all for now as I have much to do on my day off and not much time. Thanks for continuing to read along and please give a follow to @spokehaven over on Instagram for more up to date content, etc.

Eat well and bike often!

Cassandra

Swift Campout ft. Surly Krampus- Video

I decided to do a little S24O bike packing trip on ye olde Surly Krampus and my set of Blackburn Elite Outpost bags. I got to my destination and come night fall, let’s just say it wasn’t an ideal sleeping situation. Wicked high winds and a few too many passing cars and motorcycles made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Usually I would’ve just stuck around, but I had work the following day and homework due as well.

I made the decision to do a late night ride back home, so we’ll say I took a few hour nap before heading home 😉 Spoiler, I know…still enjoy the video though if you want to see what gear I used!

#eatwellbikeoften

Swift Campout 2020

Swift Industries has been a leader in promoting and supporting bike exploration since they came onto the scene. Their upcoming Equinox Campout is a great opportunity to get outside and explore your local parks, trails, and camping destinations.

I plan on doing an overnight now that I’ll have the luxury of a weekend day off and not having to be at work until noon most days! Quite exciting stuff coming from someone who hasn’t been able to get a consistent weekend day off for almost a year. Retail management is usually not super conducive to having weekends off like…ever.

If you want to explore rides in your area or connect with other campout leaders, head over to swiftcampout.com. There’s still time to create a profile and even post your own ride if you’d like to encourage others to join.

I plan on riding my Surly Krampus paired up with the Blackburn Outpost Elite handlebar and seat bags. I haven’t yet taken the handlebar bag out for an overnight and am looking forward to it. I recently swapped some Jones Bars on the bike and it will be getting another upgrade soon as an MRP carbon fork it also on its way!

Blackburn Outpost Elite

I plan on ditching the old fork and existing wheel set as the next upgrade I want to make is some Stan’s tubeless wheels so I can drop some weight off the bike and run lower pressure. I’ll likely keep the Rabbit Hole wheels so I can easily swap my studded tires onto the bike for winter commuting.

MRP Rock Solid Carbon Fork (mine will be the 490 length with QR)

I really want to do a write up on both the Blackburn seatbag and the handlebar bag soon, so I’m excited to get out and see how it holds up. I’ve used it for commuting a couple of times, but would like to see how it holds up to 50+ miles of gravel riding and being packed with camping gear.

Stay tuned for that and thanks as always for reading.

Eat Well, Bike Often!

Cassandra

Topeak Fuel Tank Review

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In a land of seemingly endless options of independent makers and custom bag companies, why would anyone want or need a stock production bag?

I’m here to dive into the world of production cycling bags including top tube bags, seat bags, and handlebar bags. Starting with one of my all-time favorites, Topeak’s Fuel Tank (large).

Topeak has been in the cycling game for nearly 30 years. They’ve been known for their iconic Joe Blow series pumps, but have since branched out to everything from bike repair tools to bags to cycling computers, saddles, repair stands, racks, lights, and more.

I had to do some background research Topeak as it’s not apparent where they are based. A little search engine sleuthing brought me to a profile on Bicycle Retailer’s website stating that Topeak is a Taiwanese based company.

It makes sense. Taiwan is the world’s hub of cycling manufacturing. State of the art facilities with both factories and design firms are sprinkled throughout the country. If you’ve ever purchased a bike or cycling product, it was likely either manufactured or designed in Taiwan.

Based off the design and aesthetics, part of me assumed Topeak was German based. Maybe it’s the fact that Topeak and Ergon (saddle & grip company) have been so closely linked as they have co-sponsored professional cycling teams.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here because every time I post a photos of one of my bikes with the Fuel Tank I’m asked by someone what type of bag it is.

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The Fuel Tank is a masterfully designed bag. The outside texture is a rubberized finish with a carbon like pattern. You can see in the above photo the texture and stitching is high quality.

The bag is made in two size options. I opted for the large as it can fit even the largest of phones with loads of room to spare. The size specs are below courtesy of Topeak’s website:

Capacity- 45 cubic Inches
Size- 9.4″x4.3″x2.5″
Weight- 5.28oz

Topeak states that the bag is made out of a 420 denier nylon and PVC combination.

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While the outside of the bag is a sleek matte black, the inside is Topeak’s signature yellow. I’m always a fan of bags that have bright interiors so you can actually see what’s inside. The bag has an included padded hook and loop divider. You can see on the left side of the bag I utilized that to create a little holder for my lip balm. This makes it easy to find and be able to grab it one handed while cruising along while riding.

The right hand side of the bag has a large mesh pocket, Topeak suggests a battery bank or something similar can be placed here on their website. All of my battery banks are too large to fit in there, but I stash things like my minimalist wallet or nutrition gels in there. It also works well for stashing a mask since we are in COVID19 times as I write this.

To provide a bit of the scope of size for this bag I can comfortably fit the following:

iPhone 8 with case
Rav Power 20k milliamp battery bank
usb micro cord
Apple lightening cord
ear buds
several hydration mixes (I usually carry either a tube of Nuun or 3-4 powder packets)
2 nutrition bars (RX Bars or Clif/Luna)
nutrition bloks
a portable peanut butter packet (RX nut butter or Justins)
a packet of chamois cream (Hoo Ha Ride Glide)
minimalist wallet
cloth mask
portable hand sanitizer
+ more room to spare

You can fit a TON in this bag and then some. It’s one of the largest top tube bags I’ve seen on the market without being a custom product. P1040824P1040825
One of my favorite features of the Fuel Tank is the fact that you can pass a charging cable through the bag on the left hand side. This means that if you use a GPS, smartphone, or need to juice a light on the go you have the option to run a cable up to that devise while your battery bank stays safely tucked inside the bag.

I’ve only had to use this feature once on a bike camping overnight as I forgot to charge my cycling computer before I left home and it was awesome to be able to have that option without having to leave the zipper of the bag slightly open at the top.

The cable pass-thru placement allows you to tuck the cable out of the way and not jiggle around on the bag.
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Another feature I love about this bag is it’s essentially waterproof. The rubberized material around the entire bag paired with the thickly padded, structure, and the waterproof zipper with a zipper garage ensures your electronics and other sundries stay dry.

I can attest to this as I got absolutely drenched last summer on my bike camping outing with Bell Joy Ride Madison. You can read my write up or watch my vlog about the trip in earlier posts on the blog.
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As far as attaching the bag to a bike. I’ve been able to successfully attach it to every bike in my stable, including my large carbon tubed Topstone Carbon, which is notoriously difficult to put a strap style bag on- hence their top tubes have drilled attachment points for direct mount bag systems.

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There’s a small bit of wear on the bottom of the bag, but it’s still in wonderful condition!

The retail on the Topeak Fuel Tank Large is around $50 depending on where you purchase it. I’m sure you can find some sale prices online, but always recommend checking with your LOCAL BIKE SHOP to support them.

I purchased this item with my own money via my bike shop employer. I was not asked by them or Topeak to write this review and don’t receive any monetary compensation from writing said review.

Honestly, this is one of the highest quality production bags I’ve owned and used during my many years as a cyclist. I’ve had the bag for going on two years now and it has yet to fail me or let me down.

I’m always impressed by the amount of items you can carry in the bag and have never had one returned for any reason at my place of work upon recommending the bag to customers.

Topeak has a home-run on their hands with the Fuel Tank and hope they continue to keep making the product for years to come!

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Topeak Fuel Tank on the Bike Packing Rig

That’s all for this write up. Be on the lookout for write-ups on some of Blackburn’s production bags! I’ve also been plugging away at a video review for my Cannondale Topstone Carbon RX, but have had some issues with audio. Stay tuned as I’ll likely release a write up prior to the video.

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Bike Packing Blue Mound Vlog!

I did a short vlog on my bike packing trip to Blue Mound. While long form blogs are fun and all, some folks want to just watch the story unfold. Please like, comment, or subscribe on YouTube!

That helps me be able to create more content and help promote more women-trans-femme folks for getting out and riding!