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

Starting Over, AGAIN!

If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that you came here looking for Spoke Haven, the cycling club. I’m sorry to say that Spoke Haven in that iteration is no more.

After 6 years of of planning rides, designing kits, hosting events, teaching clinics, creating routes, wrangling ride leaders, sitting on boards, being a brand ambassador, working in the cycling industry, not working in the cycling industry, returning to the cycling industry, and all of life’s events in between…I’ve decided to end the club under the Spoke Haven name.

I know, it’s a bummer. The good thing is that there is still a Madison based women’s cycling club that can be found HERE.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, I’ve never been one to hold back on my thoughts or experiences. I’m sure there will be flack and I know that I’ve severed ties with women whom I used to consider friends, but when you work so hard on something for so long and see it turning into something that doesn’t represent the spirit of how the thing started, it’s time to end it.

The first cycling event I hosted officially was CycloFemme in Madison. You can probably see photos of it in the archives on here. It was an amazing event and I had many women who attended telling me they wish there was a cycling club for women in Madison that didn’t center around racing.

At the time there was the Capitol Velo Club which was a women’s club focused around training for competitive cycling. The club was dying and the leaders didn’t want to take on the responsibility any longer. At the time I didn’t understand why, but I now know thanks to my experience.

Spoke Haven was born shortly after this time. It was a way for me to offer social rides to women in the area and to build up a potential customer base for a bike shop I was hoping to open. I had written a business plan to open a more women’s focused bike shop. One that was approachable, offered more women’s options in bikes and clothing. One that made those who didn’t fit the affluent white male archetype that the cycling industry had catered to since the dawn of cycling, feel welcome!

Unfortunately the shop didn’t pan out. Adequate retail space was difficult to find and expensive. We also had two brand new shops opening in our area that would add to the already very saturated market in Madison. So I opted to work in shops and continue on with Spoke Haven as a means to continue to foster a community of local women to ride with.

The first few years were a grind. I poured countless hours into building the branding, building a website, and building up a social media following. I started a Meetup.com group to charge members to help cover the cost of marketing, insurance, kit design, printing route maps, printing stickers and business cards, fees for route planning apps, costs of having a business e-mail, etc. I never actually made any money off of the venture, in fact I lost a lot of my own personal money, but it was a labor of love and I enjoyed offering something to the community.

I was lucky enough to continue to have support of our community and had a handful of wonderful women who really stepped up and helped with leading and planning rides. They would also help out at events and represented the club when I wasn’t able to.

They spread the gospel of Spoke Haven and we had grown basically every year we existed.

This is where things started to go downhill, not for the club necessarily, but for my own personal involvement. Two years ago I had experienced incredible burnout. I had been working in a bike shop, was running Spoke Haven (still doing the majority of the back end work of it all), took on a brand ambassadorship for Liv (an experience I am ever grateful for), had been doing events for the shop, sat on the board for the WI Bike Fed, and had almost zero time to actually enjoy my life outside of the world of cycling and the commitments that came with it.

I had met with the core group of Spoke Haven ride leaders to let them know I wanted to take a step back from my duties. I let them know things in my life were changing and that I needed some time away from running the club. This was never going to be a permanent move, just something to give me a bit of a break.

I had started a new job, I wanted to focus on getting into better shape mentally and physically. I wanted to spend more time with my partner and family and not have to dedicate my time off to planning and organizing and meeting.

It was decided that those who had been ride leaders wanted to continue to run the club and I had advised that I no longer wanted Meetup to be a part of the equation because it was too time consuming to manage and wanted to simplify the club. The idea was to make it a little less official and more accessible. Meetup was costing me money that wasn’t being covered by dues and it was frankly a pain for when people wanted to renew because it wasn’t on a set annual schedule from the start of the year, instead it started whenever a new member would join.

With that, the club was being run solely off of Facebook with some info on the Spoke Haven website directing people accordingly. That format seemed to simplify some things and yet also complicate it in other ways. Ride leaders were given permissions on the page to create events, add people, share events, and post. A special secret ride leaders page was created for those of us who had the permissions to communicate with one another.

At some point I had advised our club that they had an exclusive discount at my shop for being a part of Spoke Haven. In my mind that meant that you then show loyalty to the shop who is extending that discount and don’t promote other shops or events in conflict with that support.

I hadn’t been working at the shop for a year or so (left for a couple of years to go work in insurance) and had only heard third-hand that the discount wasn’t being extended and that some people had poor experiences shopping there. It was never brought up to me directly to communicate nor negotiate with the shop to address these problems. Instead I was met with ride leaders telling people to shop elsewhere or posting events promoting rival shops over our partner shop.

My general ask of the leaders was that we as a club not promote such events or other shops and that if there are issues, to keep me in the loop.

The same went for addressing questions, comments, or concerns about the club. I requested some general updates for anything the group was planning or marketing as my name had been so closely tied with Spoke Haven not only as the club’s founder, but as a brand.

The leaders and myself had met a couple of times to help address issues. The leaders (generalizing, some- not all) thought I was putting too many restrictions on them without being more involved in the club’s week to week rides and I expressed lack of communication from them with me to keep me up to date on what was going on with the club. Literally everything for me boils down to communication.

For awhile it seemed to be alright. I had offered to lead rides as I could on days the club didn’t have a ride already scheduled. This meant the occasional brunch ride, social event, or demo event through the shop. None of my events were being attended by the leaders of Spoke Haven with the exception of one or two people. This was a pretty clear sign to me that things were not going well, there was still some feelings of hostility or something for whatever reason.

I also found that when I returned to work at my shop, a few loyal women still came in the patronize the shop, but others went and shopped elsewhere. Purchasing new bikes and accessories from other shops, ones that offered no incentives as I would have to them for being a part of the club. That is also a pretty large red flag- a blow that I realize meant it was probably time to start letting go of the club and moving on.

At first I had every intention to give Spoke Haven to them. It was a strong identifying factor for so many of the women who were part of the club, but at some point there were women who were riding with the club that had no idea what the origin even was of the club. They didn’t know who I was or how many countless events and rides we had done prior to them joining a random Tuesday night jaunt around the Olbrich area.

That didn’t bother me. What did bother me was hearing from people that the club was becoming something that didn’t reflect the spirit of creating a space for any person who identified as a woman or feminine being to come and ride. Beginner, new riders I had spoken to were put off by a couple leaders of the group telling them that if they wanted a certain type of ride that, good luck…you can plan that yourself and get people to ride or if a Tuesday didn’t work for them that they would have to start up a ride on another night because Spoke Haven doesn’t have time for that.

What had also started happening in co-rides with other groups in the area who were co-ed and having riders from those groups essentially man-splain and take over the ride, negating the whole reason why Spoke Haven existed. I also felt general resistance to opening ourselves up to promoting ourselves to being more trans and queer friendly.

The club itself does have a fair share of queer women, but the average rider could be profiled as a cis, middle-aged white woman. I was actually on the younger end of the spectrum for the club. Again, didn’t bother me much as we had a fairly good representation of age diversity. I’ve also always befriended people who are older than I, even when I was a kid.

I had one woman who I spoke to who asked me if our club was only queer people, because if so, she didn’t want to then ride with us. WHAT?! Not the type of image I wanted. Meaning, don’t come ride with us if you aren’t open to queer folks on bikes!

The straw that really broke the camel’s back was when I had planned a ride on an open date on the calendar. I had known it fell on the week of a holiday and there hadn’t been a ride event created for that date. I messaged the ride leaders and let them know I had a limited timeline to plan a ride for that day, but it was going to be cool event with a nice route. The other leaders acknowledged that usually there would have been a ride that night, a Taco Tuesday ride (which, btw I coined that term for our monthly ride and eat tacos event and they still use that ride name for themselves with the new iteration. You’re welcome, you can keep it. Yeah, I’m a little salty.) It was confirmed though that they would not be planning a ride for that evening because of the holiday.

Awesome! I was going to host a Tuesday night ride. It had been forever and I was excited to see my cycling friends again. So what ends up happening? The other ride leaders decided to plan another competing ride on top of my ride after I had exclusively worked it out with them to plan something special, something cool for the club to do.

It was this occurrence that led me to my decision. I was going to end the club as Spoke Haven. I didn’t like this weird, power play, catty, non-sense. I decided to pull all permissions from the ride leaders and close the ride leader page. I had posted, basically stating that it was a crappy thing for them to plan another ride on top of mine, even after we all had agreed that there wasn’t going to be one that night. It’s just something you don’t generally do. That’s like me knowing that a competing shop is trying to host a women’s night and then planning something to directly compete with it, you just don’t do it. It’s poor taste.

It’s like hooking up someone at my shop and then having them refer all their friends to the direct competitor, oh wait…that actually kept happening. No tact. I guess I went the eye for an eye route, guilty as charged.

The sad thing is that I really didn’t want things to get to the point that it did. I really loved meeting so many wonderful women and loved knowing that there was this entity that offered support, encouragement, and a safe space for them to ride and make friends. Many of the women hangout socially outside of just riding bikes and it’s awesome to know that my little event of CycloFemme snowballed into something that made that exist

I’m not blaming all of the ride leaders for what happened. I know part of it was my own fault. Ideally I would have made the decision two years ago to part ways and recommend they start over with something of their own. I know my actions weren’t the most noble. I was hurt though. I felt like I was being bullied by my own club. I felt like I had let in people who took advantage of my hard work and what I had built, to only shut me out when I wanted to come back and add to what the club was offering.

A couple of the leaders had asked to continue to use the Facebook page as that’s how they were communicating the last few rides of the season. I declined. I pulled all authorizations and also changed passwords of shared accounts for anything the ride leaders were using (mapping apps). I was still paying for that out of my own pocket, not massive expense, but still an expense.

I identify so strongly with Spoke Haven and it has been my baby for so long. Therefore, I want to breathe new life into it. I want to create and build and expand on what it was before. Not in the fact that I want a club, but to create content, engage with the online community, and use it as my outlet to talk about things I enjoy and have a passion for.

This will likely lead to a rebranding, meaning a new logo, a new Facebook presence, and wiping the slate clean. I’m keeping all of the old blog content on here as I know folks have reached out and found it helpful for my reviews and such.

Just know there will be a lot more new content to come and it will expand beyond just the realm of cycling.

I’m sorry to anyone that I have disappointed with my actions, but I had to do what felt right in my heart. For those of you who reached out to me or stopped into the shop after the fallout, thank you. Thank you for understanding the situation and still supporting my endeavors.

I hope to move past this and hopefully someday I’ll be on good terms with the few people who I’m sure to have upset, but if not and they never speak to me again, I guess we just weren’t meant to be.

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.