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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Fitchburg Cycles Partners with Spoke Haven Cycling Club

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We are super excited to announce Fitchburg Cycles as a new club supporter. The shop is providing us with a start/end location for rides twice a month as well as in store discounts for club members. Fitchburg Cycles is also lending the club space for future workshops and clinics.

Owner Edwin Benet has spent his life in the cycling industry and works to create a welcoming space for all who want to ride. He, along with his wife and kids, opened the shop nearly three years ago and aimed to make the space warm and inviting. With its bright green walls, handmade wooden displays, and large bike themed  paintings (all created by his wife Mary Benet Treleven) the space is unlike any other shop in the area. Customers are offered free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate while they browse or wait for service repairs. Not to mention there’s always free treats for humans and pets alike at the front counter.

Fitchburg Cycles carries bikes from brands Giant, Liv, Momentum, Linus, Cannondale, and Borealis. The Liv brand is a dedicated women’s line of bicycles from the parent company, Giant bicycles. One of the largest and most revered women’s bike brands in the world.

Accessory lines from Pearl Izumi, Bell, Giro, Cat Eye, Topeak, Continental, Yakima, Thule, Saris, Brooks, Light & Motion, Knog, Blackburn, kryptonite, GU, Tifosi, Feedback Sports, Park Tool, Fizik, and Selle Royale offer a range of products that are well known by customers and trusted by Edwin and his staff alike. Benet stresses the importance of carrying products that are made well, have a good reputation, and he refuses to carry brands or products that he himself wouldn’t use.

We look forward to calling Fitchburg Cycles our home shop for the 2016 season! A huge thanks goes out to everyone at Fitchburg Cycles for opening their doors to us and supporting women’s cycling.

For more information on rides, please check our ride info page.

*full disclosure: club manager Cassandra works for the shop. She does not, however have any financial gain by promoting the shop or its products and services.

Surly Intergalactic Product Tester!

First of all, sorry for the bit of radio silence on the blog the past couple of weeks. We’ve been taking some much needed away to spend with our neglected friends and families. Planning all of these really cool bike rides, workshops, and such tends to be exhausting and a gal can burn herself out if she’s not careful!

Ok, now back to our scheduled programming! I’ve been selected to be a part of an awesome new pilot program Surly (as in the bikes, not the delicious beer) has put together to get some feedback on their current product line up. The people testing the products are all women folk, as Surly would like to potentially expand their softwoods to include more lady friendly items. There were around 750 applicants total and those crazy bastards chose ME! I must have had one hell of an application or I was touched by bike angels or something. All I can say is I’m incredibly honored to be a part of it all and a big shout out Christina a.k.a Jules (per the Surly blog) for making all of my dreams come true.

The way the program has been set up is that we get sent one item out of a series of items that we noted we were most interested in. Surly then picks the item they want you to test based off of your size (body style) and location.

I was beyond thrilled when I received my envelope at my work mailbox. I couldn’t wait to go home to tear it open and see what was inside! Not only did they hook me up with the Surly Striped Raglan Shirt, but they included some pretty kick ass stickers, as well as instructions as to what I was to do with said items.

My initial reaction to the shirt was, “SOFT!” I kid you not, it was the most soft piece of wool clothing I’ve ever felt in my life. Had I not been standing in my parking garage when I tore open the package, I would have stripped down and put that bad boy on right then and there. Luckily for my neighbors I made it all the way to my condo before tossing my work bag and mail on the floor, then disrobing to put on the shirt. 15690388570_2a0e943a96_k
The shirt was soft and warm and comfortable all at once. I own some base layers from other companies who claim to have fancy itch free wool and they don’t even compare to the Surly stuff. I had none of the claustrophobic itchy wool feeling at all from the Raglan. I can also say that about the Surly long sleeve jersey I’ve had for the past couple of years. I’ve posted about the jersey in the past if you look back on the blog. I’m glad that so far both items seem to have the same level of quality. This is my third season of wearing the long sleeve jersey for winter commuting and it’s held up really well.

I ended up wearing the Raglan for two days straight without washing it. I even slept in the thing and wore it to work after that. No, I’m not trying to be a dirty hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I just wanted to test the wool’s odor repelling properties. It did a fantastic job of keeping the stink away. A big plus for if you are bike commuting to work and sweat a lot or if you need to travel light and don’t have access to laundry facilities.

The longer I wore the shirt, the comfier it became due to it stretching out a little bit. Sometimes when you put on a new wool shirt, it can be a little on the form fitting side. As you wear it the more it breaks in, kind of like a pair of jeans.

I ended up commuting to work a couple of days with the shirt as my base layer. Actually, I just wore the Raglan and my Patagonia down jacket over it and was good in 25 degree weather. It helped wick the sweat away and kept me warm. It’s nice to have a piece like that in your wardrobe. Sometimes I don’t want to wear three to four layers while riding. It’s much more comfortable to just have one or two.

I want to note that I am not being compensated by Surly for any part of this product testing. I’m giving my honest opinion of the product. In fact I will cover my pro’s and con’s of the Raglan below. There are a few changes I would like to see if they decide to make a “women’s specific” version of the shirt as it’s mostly marketed as a men’s or unisex product currently.

Pros:
-Extremely comfortable fabric
-Stitching and garment seem to be durable
-Garment length in the torso (great for being in a road riding position)
-Garment length in the arms (arms are long enough to prevent drafts when commuting)
-Screen printed tag (no annoying tag rubbing your neck)
-Competitively priced (when compared to similar products from companies such as Smartwool, Ibex,   etc. who sell woolen goods)
-Wicks moisture well
-Doesn’t stink after a few wears
-More comfortable as you wear it
-NO ITCH!
-You can wear it off the bike and not look like a roadie or tri dork. Totally passes as regular, non bike clothing.

Cons:
-The cut isn’t the most flattering if you have any extra cushion or are more shapely
-The color isn’t bad, but I’d like to see something like a black and white striped or maybe even a solid color with polka dot pattern (it could be something like little fat bikes or little surly logos instead of polka dots, but you get my drift) Something to make it a little more fashionable 😉
-Not made in the USA like some other wool items, but with that comes a much higher price point
-You can’t dry wool in the dryer, but that’s the nature of wool

Surly, in my opinion, has done a pretty great job with their existing soft goods. I purchased the long sleeve jersey with my own money and would do it again. If they end up coming out with a “ladies” version of the Raglan shirt, I would also spend my own money to buy one. I would also consider giving it as a gift. I can think of a few men in my life who work outdoors and would greatly appreciate having something like the Stripped Raglan.

I would definitely recommend any of their items (with confidence that they will hold up) to a friend or family member. I plan to continue to wear the shirt and look forward to reporting back on how it is holding up. Hopefully, if all goes well I will have one or two more items to test and share my thoughts on, but since the program is in its infancy, we shall see!

Thanks again to all the kick ass folks at Surly for making items that every day cyclists need and like to use. They aren’t here to sell you the lightest and most expensive of anything and aim to just make kick ass gear and I think they’ve succeeded!

**A special thanks for my friend Mary for letting me borrow her Pugsley for the fat bike photo!

Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂