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  • Your Answers: Is it "Fatbike" or "Fat Bike"?

    As part of our Year-End Rider's Survey, we polled The Nxrth readers with several questions about bike adventures. Questions about racing vs exploring and gravel biking verses winter snow biking. One of questions that I was eager to ask that has been burning on my mind is whether the correct spelling is "fatbike" or "fat bike". Here were your answers based on 138 responses: In my mind, I've simply always used "fatbike". I've considered it a compound word and despite the fact that autocorrect virtually always says it's wrong, it's a hill I've been willing to die on. Fatbike vs Fat Bike: What Bike Brands Use This was a landslide in favor of "Fat Bike". I actually thought there would be a few more brands using "Fatbike" but I had a hard time finding very many at all and the three on this list were the only bike brands I could find using "Fatbike". The list of brands using "Fat Bike" is way longer and includes many more than those on this list. *One interesting note is that Salsa is an anomaly who calls it "Fat Tire Bike" while their sister brand, 45NRTH, calls it "Fat Bike". But this partially makes sense since 45NRTH is a major player in the tires industry and if they stayed consistent with Salsa, then they would always be saying "fat tire bike tire" which just feels silly so instead they're always using "fat bike tire" to refer to their tires. Brands that spell it "Fat Bike" Trek Borealis Framed Otso Surly Canyon Why Cycles Norco Giant Moots Many more... Brands that spell it "Fatbike" Kona Motobecane Felt Brands that use them interchangeably Corvus Cycles [Bonus] Brands that call it "Fat Tire Bike" Salsa [Bonus] Brands that call it "Fat-Tire Bike Co-op Cycles (REI) So which will it be, Fatbike or Fat Bike? The bike industry clearly favors "Fat Bike" while our sample of riders only slightly prefer "Fat Bike" over "Fatbike". From a search engine optimization perspective, even a slight user preference for "Fat Bike" would mean that all marketers might consider using that spelling as well in order to try to win search traffic despite there being less competition for the search term "Fatbike". Personally, I plan on continuing to use "Fatbike". Maybe it's just a bad habit. Or maybe it's because I did an ambassadorship with one of the only brands, Kona, that calls it "Fatbike". One thing I know for a fact, is that I won't be calling it Fat Tire Snow Biking. I prefer having our own word "fatbike" rather than just modifying "bike" by using "fat" as an adjective. Does it really matter? No, not at all really. So call it whatever you want and maybe we'll check back in next year to see if the naming convention has shifted.

  • From Upholstery to Frame Bags: Sturdy Bag Designs Talks Bags, Bike Shops, and Balance

    Sturdy Bag Designs is a Minneapolis-based bike bag maker who started making bags in 2014. Starting with a frame bag for his own bike, he estimates he's now made over 6,000 bags. In this story we talk about his background and what keeps him going. To learn more, visit the Sturdy website or follow along on their Instagram @sturdybag_designs What's the Sturdy story? What inspired you to start and what keeps you going? This all started when I was making the transition from being a bike messenger/mechanic back to upholstery work in 2014. I was commuting to my upholstery job, and was looking to get my lunch & clothes off my back by using a frame bag. The frame bag was the first item I made with the Sturdy name. My upholstery employer was very supportive of my interest in building a frame bag, and gave me materials to try it out (and the use of industrial sewing machines). My first bike shop account (2018) purchased 6 tool rolls for $120, and their most recent order was over $1,200. Slow, steady growth over time has been my model. As for what keeps me going, I just keep answering the requests of customers. 20 bike shops are on board, and a website store keep this crazy adventure moving forward. How many bags do you suppose you've made? I never kept too close an eye on how many bags I've made. Over the past 4 years doing this full time I would guess it's somewhere near 6,000 bags. How do you balance the fun part of custom bags with the more efficient side of stock bag making? Balance is the key to doing this as a career. That and flexibility. I never know what's coming as far as work goes, and I just do my best to handle it as it happens. I take custom orders only when time permits. The catalog of bags online keeps me pretty busy. Do you have a favorite bag right now? I don't have a favorite bag right now. I've designed each bag in a way that keeps me enjoying the process as much as possible over time, and after making thousands of them. They involve a lot of muscle memory at this point, and my favorite part is assembling one that I haven't made in a while. The memory comes back no matter how long it's been. Tell me about your own bike adventures. What kind of riding and where? Running a bike bag business full time is a ton of work as an individual. I commute by bike every chance I get, because it gives me more energy, and slightly offsets some of the sitting at the sewing machine. I enjoy overnight campouts, and there's plenty of locations for it around the twin cities.

  • The January 'Fatbike & Coffee' Challenge is Now Live

    This January, The Nxrth community invites you to go fatbiking and enjoy some trail coffee. Joining is free and you can win some great prizes from Ruby Coffee and Wren Sports. To learn more and sign up, visit the Fatbike & Coffee page.

  • The Nxrth Year-End Rider Survey 2022

    Introducing The Nxrth Year-End Rider Survey. We want to get to know you better so we can create more of the content, community, and adventures that you love in 2023. Take 5 minutes and share your responses with us. In 2022, we shared 146 stories, routes, and adventure guides and we want to connect you to even more adventures and community in 2023. Submit The Nxrth Year-End Rider Survey and help shape the future of The Nxrth. Survey Below (it might take a second to load, thanks Google):

  • Seeley Big Fat Race 2023: New Venue, Same Mission to Support the Chequamegon Fatbike Heaven

    The Seeley Big Fat Race is a Wisconsin Fatbike Race coming up on January 21, 2023. This year's race sees a new location at the Hatchery Creek Trails due to logging around the Seeley Hills. Check out the history of the event and how it supports trail grooming in the beautiful Chequamegon area. To learn more about the Seeley Big Fat Race or register, visit their race website. Interview with Jerry Wright How long has the Seeley Big Fat Race been around and how did it get started? The Seeley Big Fat was first run on January 29, 2017. The name is a play on an old Seeley Big Foot spoof. From the beginning, the goal was to put all of the entry fees collected into winter trail grooming, and I am happy to report that we have made that goal each year thanks to our generous sponsors. This is a fundraiser for CAMBA. How many miles of singletrack do you groom and how much work does it take to keep the Cheq area a fatbike heaven? We typically groom 50 to 70 miles of trail each year. The trails being groomed change from time to time due to logging and other activities. Groomed trails include some singletrack as well as some winter only sections that are not good for summer riding. In fact, this year our race course is impacted by logging and we have a change in venue. The Seeley Big Fat Race will be held on the Hatchery Creek Trails for 2023 only and then back to Seeley Hills. CAMBA owns 3 snowmobiles and one Rokon motorcycle for grooming, plus about a dozen drags for various snow and trail conditions. We also employ one private contractor who uses his own equipment for the Seeley Hills trail system, and Mt. AshWaBay provides the equipment for that trail system. We typically keep one sled in Hayward for the two trail systems there; one sled at Hwy OO for those trails, and one at Cable for the Cable area trails. The Rokon gets used mostly on technical single track during low snow conditions that make snowmobile operation unsafe for the machine, the trail and the operator. In addition to the private contractor, we typically have 2 or 3 paid staff and a number of volunteers to run the machines. Our operators logged 300 hours grooming last season. Each hour of machine operation typically is accompanied by another hour or so of prep work and equipment maintenance, which brings the total time investment up to 600 or more hours each season. Each mile of trail costs between $11/mile and $120 mile for the season, excluding equipment costs. The big range is explained by the mix of volunteers to paid staff, the experience level of the operator, and the level of difficulty the trail presents of the operator. Our annual budget is typically between $10,000 and $12,000, which the Seeley Big Fat contributes to. Winter riding conditions can vary a lot, so we keep our Trails Conditions page updated at least once daily to help users decide which trail offers the best riding on any given day. I usually spend an hour or so each morning sifting through user reports and weather forecasts to keep this page accurate. Maps and signage are significant costs. Keeping them up to date as trails change is an ongoing process. Who should do the Seeley Big Fat Race? The race course is designed to keep all levels of user happy. This year's event will take place at the Hatchery Creek Trails but during a typical year at Seeley Hills, all riders do the first lap, which typically is mostly wide ski trails that any rider can handle. The long race then does a second, more difficult lap, that is mostly narrow, technical single track. And if you don’t want to race, there are lots of volunteer opportunities that you can learn more about by emailing info@cambatrails.org What's the party like at the Sawmill Saloon afterwards? There are awards, a silent auction, this year with a bike frame and wheels, as well as a drawing for other merch. The party afterwards is always great fun! Things are a little different this year, however, due to the logging impact and the course change. With our 2023 venue of Hatchery, we are presenting awards and holding our silent auction and giveaways at Hatchery after the race. We will still have a party at Sawmill later in the day with music and celebrating! You can find more information about the event at the CAMBA Seeley Big Fat webpage.

  • Meet The Wolf: 3 Days & 300 Miles of Minnesota Bikepack Racing & Community.

    The Wolf is a brand new 3-day, ~100 mi/day bikepack racing event in Northern Minnesota put on by Jeremy Kershaw at Heck of the North Productions. The event connects Two Harbors, Ely, and Grand Marais in a deep northwoods event balancing racing with community. The 2023 Wolf will be held on July 21-23. In this interview, we talk with Jeremy Kershaw from Heck of the North Productions about the 2023 Wolf. All photos are by Josh Kowaleski of Pointed North Photo from the 2022 Fox. To learn more, visit The Wolf. Hey Jeremy, so who is The Wolf for? The Wolf is for anyone looking to see where the edges of their cycling limits may be. That being said, we are asking that riders come in with some centuries under their belt (not necessarily back to back) and also general knowledge of touring by bicycle. I designed The Wolf to be a hybrid style of bikepack racing. To me, that means a mix of long days in the saddle while riding against the clock but also a social component often missing in ultra distance bike races. It’s different, too, in that we will offer catered breakfasts each morning that provide another time to socialize before heading off into the wild unknown. We think The Wolf (and its shorter version, The Fox) are unique in the world of bicycle racing. Personally, I like time by myself while racing because it prevents me from blowing up while riding someone else’s faster pace. I do some of my best thinking alone on the bike, too. But the communal aspect of The Wolf and The Fox add back that shared time of storytelling and getting to know other great folks. Both events offer a unique mix of adventure, challenge and shared community. What kind of bike and gear should riders consider? I’m a fan of bicycles that can handle a variety of terrains. My preference is toward a 29er, something with drop bars and even the capability for aero (this is discussed in my bikepacking video on The Heck website.) The majority of roads in The Wolf are gravel. I believe in gearing for any trip with the idea that majority rules. Just because there may be some rough stuff does not mean riding a full suspension fat bike just for those short bits of chunk. My preferred tire width is something in the 2-2.5 inch range. The added width offers a degree of shock absorption without scrubbing too much speed. All riders are required to carry their sleeping kit (bag, bivy, tarp, ultra lightweight tent, etc) on their bike. They also need to carry clothes, tools and snacks. What they do not have to bring is cooking gear. So that saves some space leaving out the stove and pan. This gear is very similar to what they might consider bringing on an event like The Tour Divide. I sewed my first bags I used to bikepack several years ago. Today, there are many local makers of bike bags that work great. Cedaero in Two Harbors is my go-to. They outfitted my Tour Divide rig and those packs are still going strong today. Frankly one of the most important parts of long distance anything (cycling, running, hiking) is making sure your set up feels good. Too often, I see riders contorted on their bikes and it baffles me how they got out the doors of their local bike shop riding that way. Make sure nothing rattles, shakes, gets sore or causes a hot spot. Test out your equipment fully before racing. If using aero bars, make sure they are comfortable enough while leaning into them for miles on end. Any small cramp or pressure point will become a major issue in a 300 mile event. Tell me about the Heck Epic. What was it, why did it end, and how does it connect to The Wolf? The Heck Epic was our first go at multi-day racing. In many ways, The Heck Epic lives on in The Wolf. We dropped the rather overused word, “Epic,” added another day just to make it more fun, and renamed it after an animal I think embodies long distance travel, the gray wolf. Wolves are able to travel long distances, can move as both solo or communal creatures and embody a healthy ecosystem. Riders of The Wolf will be passing through many active wolf pack territories. Those with a keen eye may be fortunate to see one slinking through the woods or along the road. Many will see the tracks and scat they leave behind as clues to their travels. The pandemic forced us to pause racing in general and especially communal parts of our events. It feels really good to bring both back to our riders and the North Shore communities we visit. Can you give us a tease of the potential route highlights and any favorite areas this event will take people through? Right off the bat, The Wolf highlights three of my favorite towns; Two Harbors, Ely, and Grand Marais. Each of these places has a unique feel and rich history. All of this land that we travel through is Ojibwe land and we acknowledge that we are benefitting from that access. My long goal is to highlight the history of this North Shore of Lake Superior that is home to all of our Heck events. In particular, The Boise Forte Band of Chippewa are unveiling a newly designed map of this region with place names in the Ojibwe language. I can’t wait to study this map and start to rethink this area from a non-European lens. Each day of The Wolf offers many miles of northwoods style environments; boreal forests, beaver ponds and lakes formed by the last ice age. There is also rough, two track trail used by ATV’s and snowmobiles and even a bit of pavement to tie sections together (by the way, DO NOT believe Ride with GPS’s designation of road surfaces. The Wolf is predominantly unpaved.) One of my favorite elements of bicycle touring or bikepack racing is that stretch of road that leads into a new town. There is something very adventurous about coming into a populated place by bicycle. I always see towns differently while on two wheels. Ely and Grand Marais were specifically chosen when I designed these routes because of their proximities to camping and their downtowns. It makes for a great compromise between sleeping under the stars and accessibility to provisions. And the views are amazing, too!

  • Jared Linzmeier's 5-Century Northwoods Bikepacking Trip [Part 2]: Riding Back Home from Cable

    Founder/Owner of Ruby Coffee, Jared Linzmeier was looking for an epic, full-northwoods bikepacking adventure that left from his back door and took him to familiar places via unfamiliar routes. Here we share part 2 of his day-by-day adventure journal, maps of his route, and a gallery of photos. In Part 2, Jared shares about his return journey home from Cable and daily notes from days 4 and 5. Story and Photos by Jared LInzmeier. Journal Entry Day 4: 137 miles, 3830 ft climbing From Cable to Tripoli via Clam Lake, Park Falls It was hard to leave Cable. I had a tasty breakfast at Velo cafe and a nice strong cup of drip coffee. It was a little bit overcast and I felt the urge to linger, have a slow morning. I resisted that gravitational pull, packed up my stuff, and hit the road north of Cable, a morning fog hanging low in the majestic trees of Bayfield County. The route passed east through the Porcupine Lake Wilderness passing lakes, streams, North Country Trail, and a fair bit of solitude on the way to Clam Lake for a resupply. Into the Ashland County State lands, the route incorporated a mix of chunky, rutted, wet ATV trails that required a few short hiking sections. From there it was mostly nice forest roads all the way to Butternut and then smooth county roads to Park Falls and Fifield, which offered plenty of options for resupply, lodging, etc. I was considering stopping at Sailor Lake campground, but it was a bit buggy and I still had some daylight left so decided to keep riding on the good gravel roads. As the sun set, I rode through one of the unexpected highlights of the trip: Riley Lake Wildlife Management Area. This was such a stunning landscape, with expansive views over the large bog and a lot of dispersed camping options. I rode into the night, with a glorious view of the stars and the sounds of the forest keeping me company. Day 5: 147 miles, 3560 ft climbing From Tripoli to Amherst Junction via Tomahawk and Wausau A new day ahead! As always, everything starts with coffee. Ideally a hot one. First a Tripoli resupply then smooth forest miles north of Tomahawk followed by scenic, mellow miles on the Bearskin State Trail that include incredible views of Lake Nokomis and the Wisconsin River. Several bridges offer expansive views of the Northwoods waterways. Shane gave me a heads up that I should stock up heavily in Tomahawk, with no options for food from there to Brokaw. The landscape began shifting back to more open farmland and undulating hills as the smooth gravel roads stretch to the south. The Averill Creek crossing might have you guessing if you’re on the right track. In the summer it can be pretty overgrown, so prepare for a couple of slow miles with some hike-a-bike and possibly downed trees blocking the trail. Marathon County is more exposed in the summer heat, red granite gravel passing by rustic farmland, and leading to a couple of deceivingly difficult climbs toward Brokaw. Entering Wausau, I soaked up the late afternoon buzz of people and traffic as I rode in on the bike path and made my way through town over to the base of Rib Mountain, where I had started the route a few days earlier. I wrapped up Shane's loop and went to Culver's nearby to fuel up and relax a little before finishing my ride home as the sun went down. Consecutive long days on the bike bring about a calm, meditative state that helps to put the world into perspective. For me, that also meant a lot of reflection and meditation on gratitude. I felt deeply appreciative for an able body, the time to pursue this ride, the kind people I met along the way, my family, and so much more. . Plan This Adventure Yourself Jared's notes and recommendations Plan conservatively with resupplying. There are a lot of convenience stores on the route and several larger towns with hotels and other lodging. But there are also long stretches that are very sparse. Remember to use outlets when available to top off batteries. Some of the camping options won’t have electricity available. This route includes some highway miles so be prepared to ride around some traffic and use caution to be visible. Overall the gravel is fairly smooth and rideable, but it does vary from segment to segment and depending on time of year. Some sections can be loose and chunky. Much of the route can be ridden on tires as narrow as 35mm, but for comfort and enjoyment I’d recommend at least 40mm and more ideally closer to 50mm. Certainly a mountain bike would be handy, albeit a bit slower going on the smooth sections. Build an approximate itinerary that suits your goals. This route can be challenging in some areas. There are a few segments that may require some additional navigation attention or a reroute: Marathon County School Forest Corbin Shooting Range Wintergreen Trails (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cnnf/recarea/?recid=27827) Averil Creek

  • Jared Linzmeier's 5-Century Northwoods Bikepacking Trip [Part 1]: An Adventure Out My Back Door

    Founder/Owner of Ruby Coffee, Jared Linzmeier was looking for an epic, full-northwoods bikepacking adventure that left from his back door and took him to familiar places via unfamiliar routes. Here we include part 1 of his day-by-day adventure journal, maps of his route, and a gallery of photos. In Part 1, Jared shares the inspiration for this adventure and daily notes from days 1-3. Story and Photos by Jared LInzmeier. This route travels through incredible Wisconsin landmarks and landscapes, connecting Rib Mountain at the southern end of the loop to the Chequamegon National Forest at the northern end. Shane Hitz assembled this loop by combining and bridging three existing routes that are usually raced, toured, or bikepacked: 1. Dave Schlabowske’s Tour de Chequamegon [LINK] 2. Chris Schotz’s TTT 103 [LINK] 3. Shane’s own Red Granite Grinder 144. [LINK] Together they are a pretty ultimate Northwoods experience, with some truly amazing sights and stops along the way. One of the nice things about a looped route is that riders can select start points that suit their preferences or needs. Being born and raised in Wisconsin and having spent a lot of time up north, my attraction to this route was that it connects communities and places that I’m familiar with by traveling through a lot of unfamiliar, off the beaten track terrain. My ride centered around the town of Cable being my destination, breaking my trip down into ‘there’ and ‘back.’ Furthermore, I thought it would be an even greater connection to start the ride from my neighborhood in the Amherst, Wisconsin area, adding approximately 120 miles and bringing the route total to over 600. Journal Entry Day 1: 100 miles, 2400 ft climbing I rode from my house in Amherst Junction to Edgar via Wausau and camped at Scotch Creek Woodland- Preserve. An adventure from your back door. The first day of riding I decided on a route that took me on some familiar local country roads that led to gravel through the Dewey Marsh area north of Stevens Point. I got a later start in the afternoon after work, so I wasn't exactly sure how far I'd get or where I would camp. I also had to adjust my mileage expectations based on the load of my bike and kit I was carrying. North out of Dewey, there’s an unpaved access road into Marathon County Forest that leads through Leather Camp Forest Unit and emerges near Kronenwetter, just southeast of Wausau. This stretch is basically a two track road through the woods. From there I rode to Nine Mile County Forest, where Shane Hitz's Ultimate route originates. The track carries on west of Wausau on some nice, scenic gravel and heads over to Edgar on a pretty well maintained ATV trail. By the time I reached Edgar, it was after 9pm and dark outside so I stopped for the night at a primitive and probably unsanctioned camp in Scotch Creek Preserve. Journal Entry Day 2: 113 miles, 4300 ft climbing From Edgar to Phillips via Ogema, Timm's Hill Sometimes you hear noises at night. I yelled into the night a few times at whatever animal was making some huffing sounds. Mostly I convinced myself it was a deer in the nearby woods and that it would leave me alone. It was also a subtle reminder that adventure isn’t far from home. Woke up and shook off the dew, found some hot water to get some instant Ruby coffee going right away using hot water at a nearby gas station. The sun came up and I had a beautiful view of Rib Mtn to the east. I rode some bumpy stuff (legacy type singletrack) through the Scott Creek Preserve (tough on a loaded bike), emerged from that and ventured north. Great rainbow views to the west, especially at Rib Falls, which I took as a message from the universe that I was where I was supposed to be. The surface northwest of Merril transitioned noticeably as I made my way out of the red granite roads into the forest roads of Lincoln County. More rugged stuff, more variety. That kicked out near Westboro and I got rained on pretty heavily. Rail trail to Ogema, where I stopped for lunch and warmed up at the Rail Trail Cafe. I’d advise stopping here to fuel up because options before and after are pretty few and far between. The rain subsided and I finished the rest of the hilly route through Timm's Hill (highest point in WI!) and all the winding way to Phillips. I was pretty wiped after this day due to the climbing, weather, and the tougher gravel forest roads, which had become slow from precipitation as well. My feet and gear were wet and I was physically tired from being cold so I decided to get a hotel for better recovery. Phillips has a lot of resupply options, including a well-stocked Pick N Save! I got a rotisserie chicken, peanut butter, bars, apples, and wobbled my bike over to the hotel. Bathtubs and hand soap do a decent job for washing gear. Journal Entry Day 3: 108 miles, 3380 ft climbing From Phillips to Cable via Winter What a wonderful impact some sunshine, dry gear, and coffee can have. I felt euphoric once I got out of bed and got moving (I might have definitely used two packs of instant on this day). I had some gear that needed an extra boost to finish drying before hitting the road again, so I happily recalled passing by a laundromat the day before. Thankfully my room had a hair dryer that dried out my shoes pretty effectively as well. Heading west out of Philips, I made quick time on a paved section and then got started on more gravel in the scenic Flambeau State Forest. The riding was undulating and pretty smooth, with the classic scenes of log piles here and there and the occasional truck passing by. There’s something empowering about knowing you have everything you need to take care of yourself through remote segments. Along with that is a healthy dose of vulnerability away from the comforts and resources of home. Next stop was a resupply in Winter followed by a short stretch on the Tuscobia State Trail. By this time I was fixated on the pizza looming in the distance in Cable and savored the smooth miles in the Chequamegon National Forest. About ten miles from Cable the route transitions from gravel to proper single track. Riding along the Namakagon CAMBA trail, I quickly forgot I was approaching 100 miles for the day and lost myself in the fun of mountain biking on my loaded rig. I stopped for a few photos and watched a muskrat dip into the water, soaking up the landscape. The last few miles into town are a dynamic series of punchy gravel climbs and a bit of rough two-track that eventually emerge to a fast and fun descent that leads right to the North End Trailhead and into Cable. Let me tell you: PIZZA NEVER TASTED SO GOOD. Thankfully I arrived just in time to order before The Rivers closed for the night. Camping at the town campgrounds a couple miles away was also absolutely perfect. To see the entire route including the journey home, stay tuned for Part 2 .

  • Top 3 Reasons to Join Fatbike Gear & Adventure Day

    Fatbike Gear & Adventure Day is coming up on Monday, Dec 12 at 7pm. In this 1-hour virtual event, we'll talk about our favorite races, adventures, and fatbike gear so you can plan a great winter of fatbiking. Hit the link to join us. Interested in being a part of this? Check out the top 3 reasons to join us here. 1. It's a Brand New Community Event with Laura, George, & Jill We have some really rad guests talking all about their favorite fatbike gear, races, and adventures. Laura Hrubes, George Kapitz, and Jill Martindale are joining us and we want to hear from YOU. Bring your fatbike questions and join us in this brand new community event. 2. Learn About New Races, Adventure Hubs, & Great Gear The best tips come from the ones on the ground who have tried all the gear and ridden all the places. We're going to talk with our fatbike panel about their recommendations on incredible fatbike experiences so you can discover new places and gear this winter. 3. Win Prizes from Wren Sports, 45NRTH, Embark Maple, The Nxrth, & Broken Spoke Bikes Our sponsors and panelists are super generous and will be giving away some great gear to keep your adventures going this winter. Here are the prizes: 1. No-Nonsense Carbon Handlebars from Wren Sports 2. Sturmfist 4 Gloves from 45NRTH 3. 6-Pack of Maple Energy from Embark Maple 4. 'In the Woods' Sweatshirt from The Nxrth 5. Winter Beanie from Broken Spoke Bikes

  • Seeley Dave's Fatbike & Rack Part 2: Custom Silver-Brazed Fatbike Rear Rack

    Dave Schlabowske recently got a new Milwaukee Bicycle Co fatbike. He rounded it out with completely custom components and he silver-brazed a custom rear rack. In part 2 of this series he shares how he designed and built the rack for lightweight bikepacking setup. See his process and gallery of photos here. Read Part 1 about Dave's fatbike build HERE. Story and photos by Dave Schlabowske. Over the many years I have been bikepacking I have refined my camping gear so most of it packs very small and is extremely lightweight. My shelter and sleep system only weigh about 3 lbs total, and I can stuff the Zpack Duplex tent, the Enlightened Equipment 40° Quilt, Thermarest NeoAir Uberlight pad and Sea to Summit pillow in two Sea to Summit 5 L roll-top dry bags. Because that gear is light and small, I was looking for a way to pack it that did not take up precious space in a bikepacking bag that was designed to hold heavier items. My experience with lightweight rear racks has not been good. Aluminum racks eventually break due to fatigue from vibrations riding rough trails and gravel roads. Stronger chromoly steel racks are heavy and overkill. Planning the Custom Fatbike Rear Rack When Trek came out with their 1120 with its unique front and rear rack system I thought that was an ingenious way to pack small dry bags, but it was still overbuilt for my lightweight gear. When I converted my Milwaukee Bicycle Company Feral 29 from an MTB Trail Bike to dedicated bikepacking rig, I had it stripped and asked if Ben’s Cycle could add more rack mounts and then had it repowder-coated. Ben’s has the Waterford Precision Cycle-built frames delivered without paint so they can add almost any braze-on a customer wants before powder coating, so they had no problem with my request to add a triple mount on the downtube, top tube bag mount and two water bottle mounts to the seat stays. Using the Trek 1120 rack as my inspiration, I planned to build a custom rack using 3/16” 304 stainless steel wire, which is a tad thicker than what is typically used for water bottle cages. I bought a handful of 60 inch lengths of wire from Speedy Metals in New Berlin for about $5 each. The wire is thin enough that I can bend it with a simple hand tool and can be silver-brazed given I still have an Oxy-Acetylene torch, but no longer own a tig welder. Measuring, Bending, & Brazing The project is something like a combination of origami and packaging design in that the main section of the rack is all bent from a single 60 inch piece of stainless wire. I measure all my bends from the center of the wire and then make the bends. Along the way I am careful to keep the rack symmetrical and aligned. While it is important to measure carefully and make precise bends, the wire is forgiving in that I can twist it and tweak bends slightly after they are made. Once the main rack is brazed up, I braze it to two pieces of ¼ inch stainless plate that I cut into strips to mount the rack to the chainstays. After that is done, I add some additional 3/16” wire pieces to the main rack so I can securely attach the dry bags with Voile straps. I am also able to attach things like my tent stakes and Morakniv Bushcraft knife. The first rack I built for my 29er worked out so well that I just built another one for the new Milwaukee Bicycle Company fat bike I just got. I made efforts to keep the weight down on the fat bike rack (10.9 oz/310 g) and it ended up lighter than the 29er rack (12.8 oz/363 g). You may notice I like the color orange for my bikes, which dates back to my first bikepacking/gravel bike, which was the iconic 1993 Bridgestone XO-1. That bike was destroyed when my old concrete garage collapsed at our first house in Milwaukee, but I have had a thing for orange steel bikes ever since. How it Performs I built that first rack two years ago, and after a few thousand miles of bikepacking on varied rough terrain, I have had no failure or need to make repairs. The racks are sturdy, but also flex enough so they hold up to all the vibrations that cause stress fractures in aluminum racks. I can’t make these for other bikes since they are custom built to fit specific seatstay dimensions. For those who want something similar, I suggest they look at the Aeroe rack system. That is a bit more heavy duty, but seems very well engineered. To see Dave's original custom rack and his Milwaukee Bicycle Feral 29er, see his Reader's Rig HERE.

  • Seeley Dave's Fatbike & Rack Part 1: Milwaukee Bicycle Company Buck Shot Fatbike Review

    Dave Schlabowske recently got a new Milwaukee Bicycle Co fatbike. He rounded it out with completely custom components and he silver-brazed a custom rear rack. In the first of this 2-part series he reviews his new fatbike and shares about the build he chose. Stay tuned for part 2 where he shares how he designed and built a custom rack for it. Story and photos by Dave Schlabowske. Lugged steel bikes were my first love, when I got into cycling as an adult. My dream bike was the orange 1993 Bridgestone XO-1, which I even bought used. That bike was a unicorn and perhaps the first true bikepacking bike before bikepacking was a word. Sadly my XO-1 was destroyed in a freak accident when my 1920s era concrete garage collapsed at our first home in Milwaukee. Insurance replaced that bike with a custom frame built at Waterford Precision Cycles, where I eventually worked as a builder for a while. I started tig welding Standard BMX frames and handlebars that Waterford built at the time, then moved to machining and finally to brazing. I was not there long enough to earn the title of master frame builder, but I have probably welded and brazed more joints than were smoked at Woodstock. As mountain biking exploded in the later 90s, tig-welded steel frames became the the leading-edge technology for mountain biking because the process allowed for angles that most lugs could not accommodate. While tig-welded aluminum frames are inexpensive and carbon is now the choice of racers and weight weenies, I still have an affinity for steel … and the color orange. Planning My Custom Waterford-Built Steel Ben's Cycle Fatbike So when I heard that Ben’s Cycle added a Waterford-built fat bike to their Milwaukee Bicycle Company line of custom frames, I decided to hand down my Carbon Mukluk to my wife (who didn’t have a fat bike) and order a Milwaukee fat bike for my winter ride. We now live in Seeley, WI where I groom 5 miles of private trails in our neighborhood for fat biking and skiing. Plus the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association grooms around 70 miles of singletrack. Add in the hundreds of miles of snow covered gravel trails and you can see we live in fat bike nirvana. A Fatter Orange Twin I already own an orange (‘natch) Milwaukee Bicycle Company Feral 29er, that I have set up as a dedicated bikepacking rig with lots of mounts and a custom rear rack I built. So I had them build the bike up as a fatter orange twin. Ben’s gets their MBC frames from Waterford bare steel, so they can customize them with their cool stainless logo badges and add extra mounts anywhere a costomer wants. I asked for top tube bag mounts, three-pack mounts below the downtube by the bottom bracket and two water bottle mounts on the top of the seat stays for the custom rack I built. I opted for a carbon Mukluk fork because it has lots of mounts for bikepacking and routing for dynamo lighting wiring. Selecting & Building Out the Components The build on the bike was nice but not top end. I opted for the now industry standard Sun Ringle’ Mulefüt 80SL wheelset from Hayes Bicycle Group based in Mequon. I am running a Shutter Precision PDX8-150 dynamo hub on the front to power a Sinewave Cycles Beacon headlight (that also keeps my electronics charged while riding), but the rear hub is a Sun Ringle’. Tires are studded 45NRTH Dillinger 5s, set up tubeless of course. I opted for SRAM Eagle GX, a step up from the NX group on my Mukluk, because it allows for a 52 tooth big ring in the back standard. I am pushing that with an FSA Comet crankset with a 30 tooth chainring ideal for the steep punchy hills on the trails out my back door. Brakes are Shimano Deore rather than SRAM for the ease of maintenance with mineral oil. Ergon GA3 grips sit next to a PNW Loam dropper lever on the aluminum Jones H riser bar. The saddle is a Selle Anatomica X2 (which at one time were made in Elkhorn, WI) on a PNW Pine dropper post, one of the few droppers that come in 27.2 mm. Pedals are Fyxation Mesa Subzeros anodized orange of course, another great Milwaukee company. Fully built up with the dynamo hub, riser bar, leather saddle the complete bike tips the scales at just under 32 lbs. For comparison, my Mukluk with a similar build but no dynamo hub weighs 29 lbs, so there isn’t much of a weight penalty to the Reynolds 853 air-hardened butted steel frame. When you add all the bikepacking bags and gear the bike will be toting, it is hardly worth thinking about. Riding & Geometry The bike rides super stable at speed. There is no wobble when I rip the downhills and the frame geometry seems ideal for bikepacking, with a slack-ish 69° head tube angle, 73° seat tube angle and 455 mm chainstays. The head tube angle and longer chainstays make for a stable ride when loaded and the big front triangle fits the same Salsa EXP frame bag as my Milwaukee Feral 29er. The stainless rear rack I built for this frame is actually a few ounces lighter than the one I built for my 29er and still holds my tent, sleep system and Morkniv Bushcraft knife in case I want to stop and make some firewood to warm up on a ride.

  • Top 5 Stories on The Nxrth | FALL 2022

    With the winding down of fall, we're taking a look at the 5 most popular stories on The Nxrth from September, October, and November of 2022. This roundup covers some portraits, Gordon the blacksmith, and a whole lot of gravel racing. 1. Gravel Pizza Portraits The inaugural Gravel Pizza Overnighter took place in September. 37 new friends biked the Northwoods and camped at a pizza farm together. Here are the portraits of the original crew of riders who biked a little gravel, hiked through a little sand, rolled through a little rain, climbed a couple hills, ate a few slices of pizza, and got to see one 10-inch pumpkin get blasted 700 yards from the largest cannon I've ever seen. READ THE STORY. 2. Filthy 50 Interview w Trenton Raygor Chatting About the Soldout Year 9 and the Community That Built It The Filthy is a sellout gravel biking event in beautiful Lanesboro, Minnesota. In this story, we talked with co-organizer Trenton Raygor about October snow, the move to Lanesboro, and why the heck it fills up so stinking fast. READ THE STORY. 3. Meeting Gordon Gearhart, the 906 Awards Blacksmith In 2015, Todd Poquette asked a local blacksmith, Gordon Gearhart about making belt buckles for an upcoming endurance cycling event. Since then, the iron-forged awards have been adopted for the Polar Roll, The Crusher, and Marji Geskick 100. They've become an iconic symbol of ruggedness, pain, and glory that only a small number of people ever get. READ THE STORY. 4. Winston County Gravel Cup Sophomore Year Recap & Gallery The Winston County Gravel Cup recently had its sophomore year of gravel in September. Year two saw nearly doubled attendance, great weather, and some stunning photos to relive the event. Here race director Jake Ellefsen shares a recap of the event and save-the-date for net year. READ THE STORY. 5. Red Granite Grinder Q&A with Shane Hitz The Red Granite Grinder was a perfect way to close out the fall gravel riding season. This year's event gave access to private property segments and trails that aren't open to the public. In this interview, we talked with Shane Hitz about how he dreams up such unique courses. READ THE STORY.

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