Freedom- it’s the first that that comes to mind when I think about cycling. Buying my first road bike was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. After high school I moved to Madison, WI. A college town that in the 13 years I’ve lived here, will forever have issues with parking and cramming traffic riddled streets with cars. Cars trying to navigate the tiny isthmus between our two massive lakes.
I found riding a bike to be one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to get to where I needed to go. I started riding out of necessity more than anything, but it opened the door to some pretty amazing experiences.
My love for two wheels really started to grow when I decided to purchase an 80’s Raleigh Sportif. It was an old 12 speed bike with a step through frame and friction shifters. Having little experience with maintaining a bike with actual gears, I decided to ask a friend to help convert it to a single speed, in order to simplify the riding experience.
That bike took me between my two jobs, on bike camping trips, to commutes to the grocery store, and everywhere in between. I loved it. One of the two jobs I rode it to was at a local bike shop. A friend helped me get a job on the sales floor and it inspired me to sign up for my first ever charity bike ride. Working at the shop afforded me access to inexpensive or even free gear from fellow employees. I was able to purchase my first “road”, technically it was a cyclocross bike, for the ride. I had chosen to purchase a Surly Cross Check.
I picked it due to it’s versatility. I could put smooth road tires on it, I could outfit it with a rack or fenders, and use it for commuting. It fit the bill for everything I needed out of a bike.
My training rides consisted of rides around our beautiful lakes, commutes to my job across town, rides on the Capital City Trail, rail trail excursions, and even let me to do my first really long overnight ride. My partner and I rode to Governor Dodge on Military Ridge and back to Madison.
It became my obsession. All I could think about were bikes and cycling gear. I obsessed over components, what clothing to buy, commuter gear, and getting as many miles in as I could on that bike. I had worked hard all summer to save up for the bike between my two jobs. I wasn’t in school at the time and had been staying practically rent free with my partner in our tiny one bedroom in downtown Madison. It was a wonderful time to start a new, expensive hobby!
That summer we had also completed our first Wisconsin Aids Ride, known as the ACT ride. It was 300 miles in four days across Wisconsin’s famous Driftless region. Each day we cycled a different portion of the state and we camped at local schools at night. It was hot, the hills were hard, but it was incredibly satisfying to get to the finish at the Capitol Square, in the heart of downtown Madison.
Many hours of training, fundraising, and agonizing over gear to bring all paid off for that experience.
It truly changed my life and it’s led me to a passion that still burns within me. I enjoy telling people my story about how I got so involved with the world of cycling, because I started out to it being completely new and absolutely clueless. Yes, it can be intimidating coming into a new activity where you know absolutely nothing, but it’s worth trying it out. You never know where it may take you.
We have all been there and you are never completely on your own when starting something new. Just a reminder as you may be looking to hop into something that is new or scary.
Cycling led me to where I am today and it’s opened my eyes to so many wonderful things. It helped give me the confidence I needed to know that I can make it through something that is extremely challenging. It provided me mental and physical strength I never knew I had and I want to take a moment to reflect upon that and thank cycling for what it has provided me.
It’s a wonderful stepping stone into wellness and I would encourage everyone to give it a go!
It’s halfway through the year. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!
So much amazing stuff has happened this year and it continues to be a whirlwind. Last fall I applied to be an ambassador for Liv Cycling and was chosen to be one of many women who will be representing the largest women’s cycling brand IN THE WORLD!
It’s an incredible honor and it’s been a wonderful experience up to this point. I look forward to telling you all about it.
For those of you who don’t know, Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles. Liv was created in 2008 and was the brain child of Bonnie TU. TU is a petite and highly stylish woman whose idea for creating a women’s brand stemmed from her own experience while shopping for a bike and clothing for the Tour of Taiwan. The lack of bike sizes for smaller women and comfortable clothing inspired her to get Giant on board with creating products for the women’s market.
The very first products were co-branded with Giant’s name on them and were often shrunk down versions of some of the brand’s most popular men’s models. Giant eventually decided to go ALL IN on Liv being its own brand, wiping the slate clean and going back to the drawing board when it came to bike design, accessories, clothing, and more for women.
Liv brought in female engineers for designing the new bike models, they focused on graphics that were fun and bold, but didn’t scream “girly bike”. They dedicated countless hours to developing comfortable touch points on the bikes such as their women’s saddles. What came out of it was one hell of a line up of bikes for women to choose from.
Liv offers a full line up of kids, hybrid, city, road, cyclocross, and mountain bikes. Liv is the first women’s bike brand to launch a long travel, full suspension downhill bike which is the Hail model for 2017. An inspiring feat, as no other brand has dedicated themselves to creating such a magnificent offering to the women’s market.
The brand works closely with athletes such as Leigh Donovan, professional down hill rider and mountain bike coach, to develop their products to be best in class. They also utilize women like myself who are ambassadors of the brand, who work in the field and can give real world feedback from women we ride with to continue to improve the products coming to market.
Okay, enough of the kool-aid talk. My journey as an ambassador first started in January with our first webinar to discuss the brand history and get familiar with our responsibilities.
Each brand ambassador is provided with gear from Liv including swag for events, clothing, and other promotional materials. We submit an event calendar for the year and our goal is to simply get more women out riding.
After each event, we report back on how things went and provide feedback on what we hear from women at our events.
Liv also offers ambassadors an opportunity to attend an ambassador camp. This year there were two camps due to the sheer number of women who are a part of the program (somewhere around 125 women). The first camp was in California near Newbury Park, the home of Giant’s USA headquarters. Attendees had road and mountain bike riding options, as well as workshops, yoga classes, and brand seminars.
The second camp location was a mountain bike specific location at Mulberry Gap, a lovely family owned get-a-way in the Appalachian mountains near Elijay, GA.
I had opted to attend the second camp as I’m getting much more into mountain biking these days, I had never been to Georgia, and I really didn’t want to sit on a plane for 4 hours!
The flight to Atlanta is a little over two hours from Milwaukee, WI. There is really no comparison to having to fly into LAX, even though ATL is the busiest hub in the nation.
My time in Elijay reminded me quite a bit of when I went to bike school for two weeks in Ashland, only much less cramped!
I stayed in a large group cabin with five other women. We had probably 20-25 women total at our camp. We spent our days attending clinics, seminars, riding some of the best mountain bike trails in the country, and bonding over our love of cycling and the Liv brand.
I met so many incredible women, who continue to inspire me through my journey as an ambassador. They come up with so many fun and unique ideas for inspiring the women in their communities to ride!
I also have to give a huge shout out to Jen, Dorothy, Stephanie, and Liz from Liv for creating such an awesome experience for us.
Kate and her family at Mulberry Gap are also some amazing people. I can’t wait to return there for more adventuring in the future. Their hospitality is unmatched and the riding is challenging, but incredibly fun!
Liv ambassadors are offered some great purchasing opportunities for bikes. We are encouraged to get the latest and greatest, so we can speak to the quality of the bikes.
I personally decided to purchase not one, but TWO new Liv bikes. Fitchburg Cycles is the shop I work through as an ambassador, as they are a Liv dealer. Through the shop I landed on the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1. A full carbon road bike with tubeless setup carbon wheels and Shimano Ultegra components.
When I discovered that Mulberry Gap would be an option for attending Liv’s annual ambassador camp, I also jumped at the chance to order the Liv Pique 2 full suspension mountain bike.
It may be the kool-aid talking, but they are two of the best riding bikes I have ever owned and I’ve owned A LOT of bikes.
Out of the box they were both extremely comfortable. The only change I made to the Avail was swapping out the saddle, as I’m very particular about my saddle choice. The bike feels fast and stable at the same time. It’s an endurance road bike, so it’s great for spending all day in the saddle or for someone who may not want quite as an aggressive position on a road bike.
The Pique 2 took some dialing in as I had never owned a full suspension bike before. It comes with a dropper seat post, which is a welcomed addition to my bike. It makes clearing obstacles a lot more comfortable! I eventually found that I needed to set the rear shock at the stiffest setting and then dial in the pressure and rebound to suite my needs.
I’m used to riding a plus sided bike with no suspension, so I like a little more stiffness in the rear end, but like the forgiving nature of full suspension. It climbs incredibly well and I haven’t changed much parts wise on it with the exception of the rear tire, which I opted for a slightly wider 2.4″ tire as opposed to the 2.25″ tire that came on the bike. I like wider tires for the extra grip on some of the loose stuff. I also opted to put my favorite ESI silicone grips on as I don’t really like plastic/rubbery lock on grips.
The saddle is incredibly comfortable on the Pique and I tend to forget it’s even there. The SLX drivetrain performs flawlessly and I’ve never come to wish I had more gears on the 1×11 setup.
When women ask me how/why I am a Liv ambassador I often reply that I wouldn’t represent a brand I didn’t believe in and if the products sucked, I wouldn’t want to be a part of what they are doing. Good news, the products kick ass and I’m proud to be riding their stuff!
My ambassadorship is no where near over yet for the year. I have some really wonderful plans for events coming down the pipeline.
Sunday June 25th is a brunch ride to Paoli with a coffee stop at True Coffee roasters leaving from Fitchburg Cycles at 10am.
Sunday July 9th is a my Functional Fitness for Cyclists clinic at Cross Fit Big Dane- currently full, but e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending!
August will most likely be a fun Tour de Breweries ride featuring some awesome local breweries!
September will be an in shop maintenance clinic at Fitchburg Cycles
October will most likely be the last event which is kind of a toss up, but a costume ride or bike camping outing isn’t out of the question. I’ll have to see what options folks would be interested in.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.