Winter Powered by Krampus

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Snow Krampus

It’s been awhile and we realize that. Much apologies to anyone who has followed the blog. With lack of a good working computer and living with just a tablet and smartphone, blogging hasn’t been the easiest thing to accomplish. Never fear, there’s much to cover and be discussed now that the Spoke Haven’s tech  is now up and running again.

There are some new bikes in the lineup as of late 2016 and early 2017 and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

The first bike to join the stable was a Surly Krampus. The Krampus has been around for a few years. It’s what is classified as a mid-fat bike or plus sized bike. It has a 3″ wide tire spec’d on it. Surly has updated the Krampus for the 2017 model year with their knot boost spacing, the ability to add an internally routed dropper post, and a few other bells and whistles. Check Surly’s website for current spec’s.

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Stock Surly

I went for what is now referred to as a legacy Krampus. The bass boat green color cannot be beat. It’s probably one of my favorite Surly colors of all time. The bike just sparkles in the sunlight. So much so that I named my small sized Krampus Swampy Sparkles.
Before I delve into the overview, I want give a little history on Surly as a brand.
Surly has brought fat and plus sized riding to the mainstream.  When the Surly Pugsley landed on the market, it was not soon after that we saw a plethora of fat bike offerings from bike companies big and small. Each one trying to capture this new wave of people who wanted to extend their riding seasons and be able to ride in places never thought possible. OmniTerra is the term Surly uses to describe their category of fat and plus sized bikes.

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Headtube Glitter

Now, Surly admits to not being the first company to use the fat tire or plus sized platform. That being said, they have been able to push the cycling industry forward with creating bikes that are accessible and relatively affordable. Being a part of the Quality Bike Parts (QBP) family definitely makes sourcing a bit easier and a little more affordable.

I have personally ridden damn near every iteration of a Surly fat or plus bike they have ever made. Notice I said I have ridden, not owned. I don’t have a money tree growing outside of my front door! The exception being the new 27.5+ Karate Monkey. I admit that if I ride that bike, I may want to ride that over my Krampus. Maybe not though. Although the Prince purple version of that bike tempts me every time I see it. *drool*

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Photo from Surly’s Website- Karate Monkey

The Krampus is more nimble feeling than a traditional 4-5″ tired fat bike. It holds its own on groomed snow as well as on icy bike paths. With the name like Krampus, it’s surprisingly not marketed much as a snow bike. Rather, Surly deems it as a trail bike. Something you can do a great deal of exploring on, but it excels on dirt and loose rocky, rooty goodness.

That’s not to say the Krampus can’t be a fantastic off-road touring rig or a bike to use for snow riding. It just excels more at being a trail ripper that inspires confident riding. For those of you who are looking for a dedicated dirt tourer from Surly, check out the ECR. The ECR is on the same 29+, three inch tire platform- just different geometry and more mounts on the bike for attaching gear.

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Photo from Surly’s website- ECR

Out of the box the Krampus had some great things going for it. Shimano SLX and Deore components, a 1x drive train, mechanical BB7 brakes, beautiful paint, and a no-nonsense cockpit. I am usually one for taking a bike and pulling most stock parts off of it. I didn’t do much of that this time around. I didn’t feel the need to, as the bike was extremely functional and well performing.

I did swap out the stock chain ring for a wide-narrow option from Race Face. I also added some fun orange anodized headset spacers from Wolftooth components. I chopped about an inch and a half of handlebar off each side and slid on some Ergon grips. My friend’s over at Green River Cyclery in Auburn, WA hooked me up with the sickest decals ever. Some fun purple bar ends I had laying around, a set of Giant platform pedals and I was ready to go!

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A little bit of bling.

As an intermediate level mountain biker, the Krampus got me out of some riding situations I would that would have previously been either too sketchy or a death march on my fat bike. The width of the tires and the extremely low pressure they are able to run makes up for not having suspension on the front fork. They also provide amazing grip on even the greasiest of trails.

I have been also able to climb up some pretty technical, rocky ascents with the Krampus without hesitation. It has been a boost of confidence and allowed me to feel more comfortable riding more technical terrain as I develop my riding skills.

Overall I have really enjoyed the bike and it’s provided me some really fun riding over the summer and this winter alike.

Now, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns with the Krampus. The bike is quite beastly. There are a couple of local climbs I have either had to walk up or stop and take a rest on because the bike can take quite a bit of huffing to get it up some steeps.

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Getting Ready for Quarry Ridge! Photo by: Brenda Limpert

I do sometimes wish it came stock with hydraulic disc brakes in some situations, but I like mechanical brakes in a touring or bike packing situation where they are more field serviceable. It’s kind of a wash, but it may depend on what you plan on doing with the bike. I hope to use it more for off road touring and bike packing in 2017, as I have added a full suspension 27.5/650b bike to my stable. More on that in another post!

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Liv Pique 2 Sneak Peak! Photo: Vital MTB

Having the ability for a dropper post with internal routing would be nice, but that also adds weight. Same with adding a front suspension fork. All items being addressed on the current iteration of the Krampus. I personally don’t see adding a suspension fork to the bike anytime soon. There are quite a few folks out there in the blog world that have experimented with front suspension with some mixed reviews.

So far I haven’t had any real issues with the bike, other thank experimenting with chain length when I first built it. I ended up shoving the rear wheel as forward in the dropouts as possible and shortened the chain accordingly. I do sometimes get chain rub on the rear tire when in the largest rear cog on climbs, but it’s not enough to really make me pull the crank or cassette off to put in a spacer to address the issue.

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Snow Day!

Overall I am happy with the bike and look forward to having it being something I can beat on and not feel all that guilty about. There is nothing insanely expensive on it spec wise and everything is pretty dependable component wise. I look forward to experimenting with some different setups on it for bike packing. I see a Jones H bar in Swampy Sparkle’s future. A Jones bar and possible the Krampus/ECR fork with braze-ons to make gear hauling easier.  krampuspaint

If you are interested in checking out the Surly Krampus or any of Surly’s other bikes you can check out their Intergalactic Dealer Locator on their website. Almost all bike shops utilize QBP for ordering though, so you can pretty much source one from any shop in your area. I’ll be sure to post an update on the Krampus should it get a makeover, but for the time being it will be my outdoor winter bike, ready for the snow and slush!krampusseminole

Full disclosure: I was not paid by Surly to write a review for them. The bike was purchased via a shop discount through Fitchburg Cycles in Fitchburg, WI. All accessories added to the bike were also purchased by me and not paid for by any of the companies mentioned in the write up.

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Madison & Milwaukee Area Women Cyclists Join Forces for CycloFemme 2016

I am proud to announce that Spoke Haven has joined forces with Ladies’ Revolution of Milwaukee and the Bell Joy Ride- Madison to offer up a unique, women-trans-femme friendly riding experience for CycloFemme 2016.Participants will have the opportunity to try an overnight bike camping ride with the support of experienced ride leaders from the local cycling community.

Bike camping, sub 24 hour (S24O) outings, and bicycle touring have become more prominent in the past few years with the development and marketing of adventure geared bikes. There’s an increasing demand by women and men alike to find ways to use their bicycles as a vehicle to explore natural areas and enjoy the great outdoors.

The Madison and Milwaukee CycloFemme rides will take place on the packed gravel, Glacial Drumlin state trail. Milwaukee riders will have long distance, 65 mile (one way) route option or can opt to start at another location along the route for a shorter ride option. Madison area riders will have a roughly 30 mile ride option leaving from Revolution Cycles Madison or a shorter 17 mile route option starting from the Glacial Drumlin Trail head in Cottage Grove, WI. Madison area riders will also have the option to forego camping for an out and back ride to and from the trail head.

Ladies’ Revolution, Spoke Haven, and Bell Joy Ride- Madison riders will arrive at a group camp site at Sandhill Station in Lake Mills, WI. The ride itself is FREE to participants, but there is a $5 daily or $25 annual trail use fee for Glacial Drumlin. There is also a $10 fee for anyone opting to camp to help cover expenses of the site.

More information on the Madison area CycloFemme ride can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/586568414839869/

More information on the Milwaukee area CycloFemme ride can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/965124386911696/

Soma Doublecross Build Longterm Review

A year ago I had an idea for a fun winter project, build my own bike up from parts. I’ve had some experience wrenching on my own bikes over the past few years, but never built a bike from the ground up. I was looking for a bike that I could use as a commuter, light tourer, and something I could use for century rides.

I had a Surly Crosscheck in my stable, so it may not have made sense to buy another steel framed cross bike. The Doublecross is a bit of a different slightly different breed. The frame itself is about a pound lighter, the geometry is slightly more slack, the quality of the powder coat was noticeably better, and the frame also had more included braze ons. To be fair Surly has since improved upon their powder coat and newer models also come with more braze ons, but I owned an older model and had been lusting over Soma’s frames for a long time.

I pulled the trigger on the frame. This was before Soma offered any complete bikes, but I’m glad I went with a custom build as it allowed me to a) learn new bike skills and b) allowed me to spec the bike the way I wanted it.

Over the winter months I started buying up parts for the bike. I knew I wanted to reuse some of the existing parts that came off of my Cross Check and also source some reliable, classy bits for it as well. If you’d like to see how the build started, click HERE.

My final build list is as follows:
Frameset- 48cm Some Double Cross (I’m 5′ 5″ and it fits nicely with a 90mm stem)
Wheels- Suzue RXC Touring Wheelset (Incredibly smooth bearings and true out of the box)
Skewers- Salsa Flip Off Purple
Tires- Resist Nomad 35c (Supple, fast rolling tires- not a lot of flat protection though)
Crank- Shimano Tiagra Triple
BB- Shimano Tiagra
Pedals- Crank Brothers Candy 2 Orange
Front Der.- Shimano 105 Triple
Rear Der.- Shimano XT 9 spd.
Shifters- Shimano Bar End Shifters 9spd
Chain- Sram 9spd
Cassette- Shimano 9spd
Shifter Mounts- Paul Thumbies
Headset- Tange Sekei Purple 1 1/8″ (Very nice looking and smooth bearings)
Handlebar- Nitto Noodle 41cm (Much more comfortable than the Randonneur bars)
Handlebar Tape- Velo Orange Leather
Bar End Plug- Fyxation Locking
Stem- No Name Silvery Goodness
Brakes- Tektro CR720
Brake Lever- Tektro Short Reach
Cables- Jagwire
Seatpost- Ritchey Classic
Seat Clamp- Salsa Lip Lock Purple
Saddle- Velo Orange
Front Rack- Nitto M18
Front Light Mount- Paul Threaded Braze On Mount
Fender- PDW Origami (I swap these from bike to bike as I hate full coverage fenders)

I’m extremely happy with the build. The only real changes I made from the original build was the saddle and the brakes. I wanted to re-use the Paul Mini Motos I had on the Cross Check, but the way some of the cable routing was on the bike…I just couldn’t quite get them set up as they way I liked. They are currently living in my parts bin awaiting a future project or I may opt to sell them off.

The original saddle I had on the bike was a Brooks Flyer. The saddle had been good to me over the years, but it’s heavy as hell and has started not being as comfortable. I adjusted the tension on it somewhat just to see if that would help and it hasn’t, so it’s going to be used at wall art in my home office or at the shop when it opens. I received the saddle as a gift, so I don’t want to sell it off.

The new Velo Orange saddle is incredibly comfortable right out of the box. The only thing I’ve done to it was put a little proof hide on it to protect it from the elements. It’s a big improvement from the Flyer. The textured top and laminate they use to help the saddle hold its shape make a big difference. Also, you can’t beat the price! The saddles aren’t made of English leather, it’s Australian, but the quality matches Brooks for a fraction of the cost. I would definitely buy the saddle again and recommend it to anyone who is leather saddle curious.
The handlebar tape I have on the bike is leather as well. Kind of fancy, I know, but I really wanted to build a beautiful bike. There’s nothing like having a matching saddle and bar tape. The bar tape is actually Velo Orange branded as well. It’s the same color as the saddle and is super comfy. Much like a saddle, it does take a little time to break in, but proof hide helps. Once the tape has been broken in, it feels like an old baseball mitt. It just feels right on the hands. I’ve been working on learning to ride without gloves over the past couple of years and have enjoyed it so much better with this bar tape. It’s not super padded, but for me that’s a good thing because too much padding actually pinches and doesn’t feel good on my hands.

The Paul thumbies have made me really happy. I used to nail my knees on the bar end shifters when I had them on my Cross Check. They’d also get scuffed up and were just not in a great spot. Having the shifters mounted on the top of the bar makes for a cleaner look. I also don’t have to worry about real estate on the handlebars as Paul makes a super kick ass light mount that threads into braze ons. The shifters themselves are in friction mode. When mixing and matching road and mountain parts, it just makes things easier. There’s not as much tweaking you have to do on the derailleurs, you can just use the shifters to trim as needed. I also like that I can dump several gears at once without having to index.

The bike rides really smooth and is extremely comfortable on long rides. The bike is a little on the heavy side. Mostly because the wheel set is a very sturdy 32hole build with a 24mm wide rim. The wider rims are nice for putting fatty tires on. I’d like to experiment with the new Soma Cazadero tires on it at some point, but I will probably wait for the weather to turn before swapping tires out.

I also have all alloy parts and absolutely no carbon on the bike. I do see the potential in the frame for being a good, comfortable cross racer. Throw a carbon fork, bars, seat post, and carbon railed saddle on the bike and it would ride like the wind. Currently I own an aluminum Raleigh cross bike, but it’s not the most comfortable thing to ride on weather beaten roads. Steel may not be the lightest material in the world, but it sure is a lot more forgiving!

Soma has done a fantastic job on their overall bike line up and the Double Cross is no exception. I get tons of compliments on the bike and the color of the frame. The pearly blue is extremely classy looking and the powder coat has held up incredibly well. The logos and the frame badge are also gorgeous. Color me in love with the bike and the Double Cross frame. I should note that the newest color of the bike is more of a gunmetal-ish grey, but still very beautiful.

If anyone reading this is debating between the Surly Cross Check and the Soma Double Cross, I would highly recommend considering the Soma. It does has a taller head tube on it which means it’s not as aggressive, but for the price I think it’s just a slightly nicer frame. That’s not to say I’m not down with Surly. I love them as well and would buy a dirt tourer or one of their many cool fat bikes,  but I just love the Double Cross more if doing a straight comparison. One other major plus, for me, is the fact that Soma uses vertical drop outs and not horizontal drop outs. I know why Surly uses horizontal dropouts and it makes for a more versatile frame, but they can be a pain in the ass when changing a rear flat. I also used to have issues with the wheel pulling to one side no matter how tight the rear skewer was on the Cross Check. I haven’t dealt with that what so ever on the Double Cross.

To wrap things up,  I plan on owning my Soma Double Cross for years to come. The bike is an absolute pleasure to ride and is a true stunner. Keeping a steel bike in your stable is always a good idea, especially a cyclocross bike as they are incredibly versatile and can allow you to ride places your skinny tired road bike wouldn’t. So, if you don’t already own one…I highly recommend looking into a good steel steed 🙂

2014 Wisconsin Bike Summit & the Saris Gala: Part 1

The 2014 Wisconsin Bike Summit & Saris Gala have come to an end. While I’m sad the whirlwind of events and planning is over, I’m happy to have my life back to normal!

My participation in the events always starts a few months before. One of my jobs is to assist the Bike Fed (as a representative of Saris) with obtaining high quality donations for the silent auction, raffle, and live auction.

Two weeks prior to the event I get pulled into a conference room with a computer, projector, and a butt load of donation items that need to be packaged together. The packaging is the easy part. It’s the assigning a package number, creating a bid sheet, creating a display sheet for each package, inspecting each individual sheet, printing the sheet, and having to put the sheet in a frame or on a clipboard that is time consuming and slightly soul sucking.

The reality is though that the work isn’t that bad and it’s completely satisfying to see all the hard work come to fruition and to see people’s excitement each year during the event.

This is my third year working with Saris and the Bike Fed on these events and I hope to continue to help the event in its success.

Moving on…
The Wisconsin Bike Summit is awesome. Last year I presented and only got to stay for my presentation, but I managed to carve out some time this year to stay for the majority of the event.

Since I was attending a bike summit, I decided to hook my trailer up to my Soma (double cross) and roll on down to Edgewood College. Edgewood was our gracious hosts this year and I can say with confidence that they were much easier to work with than the Inn on the Park. Nothing against the Inn, it’s just that Edgewood has a more welcoming vibe. Not to mention better options for parking and exposure to impressionable college kids who seemed pretty interested in what all the hoopla was about.

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I promptly parked my bike in the provided event parking racks and headed into Preston Hall. I checked in, picked up my name tag, and stuck an awesome “I BIKE. I VOTE” button on my shirt. When I entered the main auditorium I was greeted with a gaggle of my Saris co-workers from the commercial parking department as well as our CEO, Mr. Chris Fortune. Hellos were traded and I then headed over to grab some delicious Colectivo coffee, fruit, and a pastry. A few more familiar faces in the crowd prompted hellos and the opening remarks began.

Dave Cieslewicz (executive director of the Bike Fed, ex Madison mayor, and all around cool guy) talked for a bit before introducing Chris Fortune, who then introduced Michael Johnson from the Boys & Girls club of Dane County. Michael shared some great stories about how he became involved in cycling and what the local cycling community has done for the Boys & Girls club with their annual bike fundraiser.

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After the opening remarks, the first break out sessions started. The Women & Bicycles session was on of the first of the day and ended up being in the auditorium. Myself, Carolyn Dvorak (leader of the program), and Krista Crum of Madison B Cycles each presented. Each of us covered different topics on women’s cycling with some cross over, but we each brought some great information to the table.

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My focus was on what we were doing with the Women & Bicycles program in Madison. I discussed our Women’s Cycling Meetup, the Taco Tuesday rides, workshops, and partnerships with key businesses and groups.

After our session was done, I had the opportunity to chat with a good amount in people who were interested in my work and the work of the program. There were lots of great audience questions regarding how to encourage women riders, how to get women of color involved in cycling, and how to keep busy moms biking.

There was a second women’s session after our session in the auditorium, so I stuck around and watched the presentations. Renee Callaway moderated and presented. She spoke about cyclocross and getting women involved with the local race scene. Heidi Ploeg discussed her experiences of bike touring across the US as well as in the Netherlands. Amanda Schultze discussed the state of women’s cycling regarding to marketing and product development. She also showed some examples of market research she, as well as her Trek colleagues conducted and what the results were. Last, but not least, Kathy Mock discussed the Wisconsin High School Cycling league and how their program is reaching young girls/women who wouldn’t normally be involved in traditional school sports.

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Each of them had very different presentations, but all were incredibly informative and was glad to see such a fantastically diverse number of topics being covered relating to women’s cycling.

Once session two winded down, there was a box lunch and special guest presenters. The award for the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s Youth Advocate of the Year award was awarded to Dennis Taylor, a 12 year old from Milwaukee. Dennis was recently hit by a stolen SUV and the driver fled the vehicle. Maintaining a positive outlook, Dennis decided to help raise funds to install speed bumps in his quiet neighborhood. The Bike Fed has also helped to get Dennis set up with a new bike and gear for riding!

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The featured guest presenter of the day was ex Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. R.T. helped establish Minneapolis as one of America’s premier cycling cities. His presentation helped instill faith that Madison and other Wisconsin cities can still work at obtaining Platinum level bike city status, even with a Republican majority. Minneapolis faced similar challenges when Michelle Bachmann was in office.

After lunch I ended up tying up some loose ends before the Gala set up started. I also had the opportunity to chat with Director Dave himself as well as the wonderful Peter Gray (bike advocate and midnight rider) and Jay Ferm from Planet Bike.

One of my favorite aspects of the Bike Summit is being able to socialize and bounce ideas off of other advocates. The networking aspect of it is huge and often leads to some really great collaborations.

I look forward to being a part of the 2015 summit and encourage everyone to attend the summit. If you are a cyclist in the state of Wisconsin, there’s no excuse NOT to attend!

What’s In Your Seat Bag?- 1st Edition

seatbagEvery cyclist should have some sort of emergency kit or way of fixing a flat when out on a ride. We always preach that even if you don’t know how to fix your own flat, there’s someone out there who does. Ride prepared!

These are a few items we choose to carry on our bikes at all times, no matter where we’re headed.

From left to right:

-Glueless tube patches
These are an easy, quick fix should you pinch flat or run over something sharp. It’s also a good idea to carry a wet wipe or hand sanitizer to clean off the area you plan on sticking the patch to.

-Crank brothers speedier lever
Out off all the tires levers we’ve tried (up to this point) this is one of the easiest to use. All you need is one vs. the standard 2/3 pack sets. This lever allows you to remove or install any kind of tire with ease. Crank brothers even has a video that shows how simple the Speedier lever is to use!

-Standard Patch Kit
Vulcanizing patch kits do require a little more time and patience to use, but they do a better job of sealing off holes. You can also utilize the sealant to mend not only tubes, but tire gashes as well.

-Park Chain Tool
Chain tools seem to be one of those items where it’s really worth investing in a nice one. I’m pretty sure we’ve killed 3 chain tools before wising up and buying our trusty Park Tool one. You never know what will happen on a long ride. If your derailleur fails or something happens with your chain, you want to have the option to rock your bike singlespeed to get you home or to have the option to fix it if possible.

-Extra chain linksWhen you get a new chain on your bike, there’s usually going to be some extra links. Manufacturers tend to sell chains with excess links rather than not enough. If you take your bike into a shop, ask them to hold on to the extras in case you need to do a roadside repair. Use your chain tool to push out the link pin most of the way and connect in the new links if needed!

-Fix It sticks
The Fix It sticks have replaced two tools that used to be carried. One was a full on hex set and the other was a Swiss army knife with a couple of screw heads. This particular set of sticks has the correct size allen heads and flat head to make adjustments to our bikes. There are various options for heads depending on what your needs are. They have come in quite handy this summer!

-Chamois Cream
Having extra chamois cream around is great. Sometimes you don’t expect to go for a long ride or your friend may have forgotten theirs at home. We’ve used Hoo Ha for years and love it. We’ve used it as an anti-chafe cream for running, for the bra line area, used after long hikes where there was pant rub, and of course on long bike rides. This particular cream smells nice and has good healing properties. It’s also parabin free for those who don’t want sketchy ingredients in/on their bodies.

-Bike Tube
Patch kits are somewhat of a last resort in our camp as we like carrying an extra tube. Of course if we get multiple flats or two flats at once, the patch kits come in handy. The general rule of thumb we like to advise is, carry a tube that is either a little smaller width wise for your tire or the exact recommended size. You can always use a 23-25mm tube for a 28-32mm tire, but you can’t really use a 35mm width tube on a 28mm tire. Get what we’re saying? (feel free to ask questions)

That’s all for this edition of “What’s in Your Seat Bag?”. We’ll continue these posts with some less essential recommendations. There are different items for different types of riding and situations that can come up. Feel free to share with us your photos and recommendations for what to carry on the road!

SIDE BAR: Many folks would say- what? no pump. We do generally carry a pump, but we view this more as if you were stranded with other cyclists or out on the road…this is the bare minimum of what you would need to get going. That’s assuming there is air nearby. A presta to schrader valve converter is also a handy item to have as well. If you don’t know what that is, Google it or ask your local shop. We forgot to include that in the photo!