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Top Five Cycling Products Of 2013

This year I’ve penned over 100 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my top five favorite cycling products of 2013. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. This list is for cycling products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. In addition, I limited myself to one winning product per manufacturer. If you click on the links below they will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). Most of the products are just samples of products you’ve probably have never heard of before. BikeLoot has several great advantages. First, you don’t have to buy a whole box of a product and the hope that you will like it once it arrives—you can try the sample from the BikeLoot box and if you like it you can order more, and if you don’t like you haven’t wasted any money. Second, you will be sampling products that most cyclists aren’t even going to hear about for another year or so! And third, the BikeLoot box also offers substantial discount codes for some of the products in the box.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I’ve spent a lot of money buying tires for my Fat Bike, but the best investment I’ve ever made in a set of tires was the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike! The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails. These tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

Lezyne makes some of the best bicycle hand pumps in the world, but the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump is in a class all by itself. I bought this pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps. The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine and the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Out of the dozens of bicycle multi-tools I own, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool has to be my favorite! Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g). The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool.

 
 

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Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

A few months ago I bought a new Felt F65X Cyclocross bike and it came stock with Vittoria Cross XG Pro 700×32 tires (150tpi). Those tires looked like they would shed mud extremely well, but I was concerned about how well they would handle glass and road debris (I live in the Chicago area and broken glass is everywhere). After looking at several cyclocross tires I finally settled on a new set of Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires.

Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

The Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tire is lightweight and has “triple flat protection.” Since I live in an area with a lot of broken glass on the roads I used to get a lot of flat tires, but that problem has almost entirely ceased since I put Bontrager Hardcase tires on several of my bikes. This tire is intended for use on paved streets and packed light trails. While not a true cyclocross tire, it does shed mud fairly well. Bontrager claims that the tread on this tire will last 50% longer than standard tire treads—I have put over 1,000 miles on this tires and they still look like brand new!

Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

The recommended tire pressure for the 700x35c tire is between 60 and 80psi. I am a larger rider so I keep the tires at 80psi when I’m on the road and 75psi when I’m on the trails. I am sure there are other tires on the market that would work just as well as these, but I have to tell you that I love these tires! One of my favorite off-road rides is a 60-mile route on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois. The trail follows the Des Plaines River and is mainly crushed limestone—but when it rains it gets pretty muddy. In the past few months I’ve set several new personal time records on this trail and I think the Bontrager tires are part of the reason (the new Felt F65X didn’t hurt either).

The Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tire retails for around $45 and is covered by Bontrager’s unconditional 30-day performance guarantee (you’ll be satisfied, or they’ll take it back).

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Bicycle Tires, Product Reviews

 

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Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

I normally ride around 6,500 miles a year and most of those miles are on the road—which means most of the time I wear Lycra cycling shorts. However, about 20% of my mileage is on off-road trails and I wear mountain biking shorts on those rides (the “when in Rome do as the Romans” thing). The MTB shorts I bought when I started cycling about twelve years ago were heavy and held water like a sponge. Fortunately, in the past few years several manufacturers have developed MTB shorts that are lightweight, durable and don’t hold moisture. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts to review these shorts should appeal avid mountain bikers, recreational cyclists and commuters alike.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts consist of an outer shell and an inner liner. The outer shell is made of lightweight 100% Polyester and has a snap front closure with a zippered fly and an adjustable Velcro waistband. The outer shell has four pockets. There are two large pockets on the front of the pants—one on each side just like every other pair of pants you own. However, these pockets have mesh on one side so water or dust won’t build up in your pockets. These are what I call “walking around” pockets—they are great for holding small items when you are off your bike, but since they do not close I wouldn’t use then while riding.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Zippered Pocket On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

On the lower right-hand side of the pants there is a roomy zippered pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). The zipper appears to be made of a high-quality nylon and is very smooth to open or close. Since this is the most secure pocket I keep my car keys and billfold in here (I sometimes have to drive my Jeep to the off-road trails).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Pocket With Velcro Closure

On the lower left-hand side of the pants there is another roomy pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). This pocket closes with a piece of Velcro and you can easily open or close it as you are riding (I keep extra carb gels in this pocket).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Inner And Outer Layers Snap Together

The detachable inner liner of these shorts is made of 90% Polyester and 10% Spandex. If you are used to riding in Lycra road shorts then you will find one of the biggest downsides to most MTB shorts with a detachable liner is that they tend to hold in heat and moisture (mainly because they have two layers). However, these shorts don’t seem to hold moisture like most of the other MTB shorts I own (and for the post month I had to ride on many days when the humidity was well over 80%). This liner attaches to the outer shell with a pair of snaps of both sides of the pants.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Chamois On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Last, but not least, the Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts has a high quality chamois (Serfas calls it their “Launch Pad Compression Foam Chamois”). If you are looking for a solid inch of gel then this chamois is not for you! This chamois is fairly thin, but  extremely comfortable. As with every other chamois on the market, I would strongly suggest you use a chamois cream before you go out for a ride (put some cream on the chamois itself and on your skin in the area of your sit bones).

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XL). In my opinion these shorts run a bit small—so if you are on the border between two sizes I’d go with the larger size. By the way, since these shorts have an adjustable Velcro waistband if your pants are a couple of inches too big you can quickly adjust them to have a perfect fit.

These shorts retail for $60 and are available from the Serfas website and from authorized Serfas dealers (most bike shops). These pants are also available on Amazon.com, but they appear to have an older version of these pants in the photos and description.

 

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Cyclocross: Training and Technique, by Simon Burney

Cyclocross: Training and Technique

Cyclocross: Training and Technique

When I hear the word cyclocross my mind immediately conjures up a picture of a cyclist, covered with mud from head to toe, throwing their bike up on their shoulder climbing a hill that mountain goats wouldn’t attempt. Cyclocross races usually take place in the fall and winter over a course that includes pavement, off-road trails, hills, man-made obstacles and mud. Cyclocross has been around for over 100 years an is usually associated with countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and France, but is growing in popularity here in the states. The folks at VeloPress recently sent me a copy of Cyclocross: Training and Technique (third edition), by Simon Burney, and if you are even slightly interested in cyclocross you need to get a copy of this book. In fact, even if you have no desire to participate in a cyclocross race you might find this book useful—especially if you enjoy riding year-round in inclement weather.

Cyclocross: Training and Technique starts by giving a brief history of cyclocross races, and then explains the equipment necessary to compete. Cyclocross bikes look a lot like regular road bikes, but allow for fatter tires so they can have better grip on the ground and greater clearance on the forks so mud won’t build up as quickly. The book also covers the basics of training, along with a section on the techniques and tactics of cyclocross racing. Near the end of the book there is a chapter on how to stay healthy—avoiding viruses, proper treatment of injuries, nutrition, hydration and recovery.

I mentioned earlier that you don’t have to be a racer to benefit from this book. The chapter on Techniques and Tactics will benefit anyone who rides in bad conditions—mud, sand, snow, rain, ice and over rocks and roots. I ride all year long and in all weather conditions, but every once in a while something will surprise me. A few weeks ago I was riding in the snow on an off-road trail and had to dismount because a busy beaver had cut down two trees and they fell directly over my trail! The trees were too big to bunny-hop over, so I had to pick up my bike by the down tube and climb over them—something any cyclocross racer wouldn’t have given a second thought about doing.

trees cut down by angry beaver

A couple of trees cut down by a beaver!

Cyclocross: Training and Technique, by Simon Burney, is published by VeloPress and retails for $19, but you can find it on Amazon.com for around $12. This paperback book is well illustrated with photographs throughout and has 230 pages.

 
15 Comments

Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

Three times in the past four years I’ve had a “parting of the ways” with one of my bikes. Unfortunately, I was always in the process of riding the bike when we parted ways—and when we went different directions it was always when I was riding on solid ice. Fortunately, the only thing I’ve hurt so far has been my pride, but to make sure I wouldn’t break an elbow this winter I started wearing SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads when heading out on the ice.

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads easily slip over your arm and are held in place with a Velcro closure. Since most people wear this product in the summer for BMX or mountain biking it has several features to improve breathability, such as vented side padding and perforated neoprene construction. The area around your elbow has an internal hard cap protector and side-impact protection thanks to EVA foam padding. I was able to fit these pads under my winter cycling jacket without any trouble or loss of flexibility.

Side View Of The SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

Side View Of The SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pad

I didn’t use these pads on every ride this winter—they were reserved for days when we had sleet and ice falling from the sky or when I knew I was going to be riding over a frozen pond. Riding over frozen ponds is easy since my steel studded tires grip the ice well—the problem comes when you make the transition from the ice to the bank. While on the ice there is almost nothing to slow your forward momentum, but when you hit the shore your front tire slows down immediately while your rear tire is still at full speed—and that’s the best way to FDGB (Fall Down Go Boom).

SixSixOne Rage Elbow Soft Shell Pads come in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and retail for $50. They are available at larger bicycle shops, as well as online retailers like Amazon.com and CompetitiveCyclist.com. SixSixOne also sells knee guards and they retail for $60 a pair.

 

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Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

A few months ago I put a pair of Rolling Darryl rims on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley and red (burgundy) Surly PVC RIm Strip that you can see through the cutouts. To add a little more color to the rims I installed red anodized spoke nipples. I thought I was done upgrading the bike—and I was until I saw a pair of Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals.

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

During most of the year I ride with Crank Brothers Eggbeater Mountain Bike Pedals, but once the snow and ice starts falling I switch over to wide flat pedals. Back in November I put a pair of 45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals on my Pugsley—they have a great grip, but a really thin finish (it started chipping off after just a few rides). Since I am in the local bike shop several times a week anyway, I asked them to help me find a pair of wide flat pedals with a more durable finish and they suggested the Premium Slim Pedals.

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Pedals are made from extruded and CNC machined aluminum (6061 alloy) and have a CNC machined chromoly spindle for added strength (with sealed bearings). There are sixteen removable and replaceable metal pins per pedal (eight per side) for a great grip. The pedal body varies in thickness from 14mm to 17mm. These pedals weight 8.3 ounces (236g) each, which is two ounces per pedal heavier than the 45NRTH Heiruspecs. In all honesty, the main reason I bought these pedals was the beautiful red anodized finish. These pedals perfectly match several other red anodized items I’ve recently added to my bike (spoke nipples, rim tape, water bottle cages, and seat clamp).

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Pedals are available in five colors (Black, Silver, Red, Teal, and Purple) and retail for around $100 a pair. These pedals are sold at bike shops all over the United States and you can use Premium’s dealer locator to find an authorized dealer in your area.

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium has a fairly simple warranty on their bike products, they are “100% guaranteed against manufacturer’s defects for life to the original owner.” However, the rest of their warranty says, “If you buy a Premium product and it breaks, bends, or dents because you were jumping it off roofs, trying to learn tailwhips, or sliding down a rail, you’re out of luck. If you break a used Premium product your friend gave you and you can’t prove you bought it with a copy of the original bill of sale, you’re out of luck.”

 

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Frame Defender (Product Review And Giveaway)

Last spring I was at the local bike shop when a young man brought in his two-week old $1,900 mountain bike for repair. He claimed that when he was out riding on a local trail his bike frame buckled—and since this was obviously a manufacturer’s defect he wanted a new bike frame. The folks at the shop told him they would email a photograph of the damage to the manufacturer and file a claim for him and then let him know what the manufacturer decided. When the guy left the shop I looked at the frame and could immediately tell that the damage to his down tube was not a defect—it appeared as though he had hit a large rock or tree stump and it left a nasty gash in his down tube about four inches above the bottom bracket. The folks at the bike shop knew the guy was not telling the truth about how the damage happened, but instead of calling him a liar they would let the manufacturer break the bad news to him. I thought about this incident when the folks at Frame Defender asked me to review their bicycle frame protector—a product that could have saved this guy from a lot of grief.

Frame Defender Kit For Mountain Bikes

Frame Defender Kit For Mountain Bikes

Frame Defender is made of a dense, but lightweight, foam that is intended to absorb the energy from a shock (like hitting a large rock or tree stump). Most of the products on the market that claim to protect your frame simply protect it from scratches—this product is meant to protect the frame from impacts. Frame Defender is not just a single pad to protect the down tube—the kit also comes with pads to protect your chain stays and four extra pads you can use at your discretion. The down tube pad measures 24″x3″. There is also a 10”x3” pad and a 8”x2” pad, along with four 1.5”x1” pads. The standard thickness of each pad is 5.5mm. These pads can easily be cut down to size with an X-Acto knife or razor blade.

Close-up Of The Frame Defender Pads

Close-up Of The Frame Defender Pads

On the back of a Frame Defender pad is a thick layer of 3M adhesive. When you put this product on your bike consider it to be a permanent addition—3M adhesive products are meant to last. Normally I test every product I review, but there was no way I could truly test this product unless I deliberately crashed my bike into the boulders around Lake Michigan. However, after examining the product I am certain it will work as advertised—unless you get hit by a truck I think your bike frame going to be well protected by this product.

Frame Defender Kits retail for $25 and are only available from the Frame Defender Website. Once you get to their Website you can look at the 20 or so colors and patterns they have available. You can choose from several solid colors (like black, blue, and grey), two-tone color combinations and several camouflage patterns.

Close-up Of The Frame Defender Pads

Close-up Of The Frame Defender Pads

As my regular readers know, I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review. While I did examine, twist, handle and photograph this product I did not put it on one of my bikes (remember, this product should be considered a permanent addition). So, I have one Frame Defender Kit in perfect condition that I am going to give away to some lucky reader. To enter the contest for the Frame Defender Kit pictured above all you have to do is pick a number between 750 and 1000 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, February 8, 2013. After the contest closes I will use a random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one has the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get this Frame Defender Kit. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense.

 
45 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Product Reviews

 

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Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (Product Review and Giveaway)

I’ve never kept count, but I imagine that in the past 10 years I’ve purchased at least 20 different compact multi-tools for my bikes. Like the Cynic philosopher Diogenes who spent his time looking for an honest man, I spend my time looking for great bicycle products. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me one of their new products for review, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool, and it has a few features that ought to be of interest to any cyclist. As an added bonus, I’ve not seen this product reviewed anywhere else yet—and I am always delighted when I can share new products with my readers.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g).

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Spoke Wrench and Chain Break Handle

The Torx drivers are mainly needed to tighten the bolts on disc brakes (usually found on mountain bikes). In case you are wondering—Torx bolt heads resist slipping better than Philips head bolts, and there is less chance of stripping a Torx head bolt.

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. I never throw my old bicycle chains away—I keep them so I can test chain break tools! When I put a short length of chain on the Serfas ST-17i I was surprised to find out it had a self-centering head since it’s not mentioned on the package. The self-centering head means that your chain will not slip as you are working on it. Even if you keep your bicycle chain clean and well lubricated it is going to wear out. While it is always best to replace your chain before it wears out, some cyclists (maybe most) just don’t check very often to see how much their chain has stretched. If your chain should snap when you are out on a ride you will need this tool to remove the damaged link and put the chain back together. If you are not sure how to use a chain tool there are several good videos on YouTube.com that can show you how they work (most of these tools work the same way).

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool. It seems like nearly every time I get a flat tire it is during a rain storm (this past Saturday it was during a snow, sleet and slush storm). The small CO² inflator heads that most cyclists carry are easy to drop (especially when wet), but since the CO² inflator head is built into the body of the Serfas ST-17i it is very easy to handle and even easier to use.

There are two items lacking from this tool: a tire lever and a carrying case. You always need to have a pair of tire levers with you when riding, so make sure you pick up a set before you head out. The lack of a carrying case is no big deal since most of the ones that come with cycling multi-tools just take up space in your saddlebag anyway. However, loose items in a saddlebag will make enough noise to drive you crazy on a long ride. A great way to prevent the noise is to put loose items in a short length of on old inner tube and seal up one end with the glue from your tire patch kit. By the way, I also keep my spare CO² cartridges in shorts lengths of inner tubes as well.

The Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool retails for $45 and can be ordered from the Serfas Website or from almost any bike shop in America. If you like this tool but have no need of the chain break or Torx wrenches you should check out the Serfas ST-13i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (it retails for $36). One step above the Serfas ST-13i is the Serfas ST-15i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. The Serfas ST-15i comes with two tire levers and glueless patches (it retails for $40).

As some of my regular readers know, I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review—most of the time I give the products to random visitors who comment on this blog. However, I’ve decided to hold a contest for this beautiful Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. To enter the contest all you have to do is pick a number between 200 and 500 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, January 11, 2013. After the contest closes I will use a random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one has the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get the Serfas ST-17i I reviewed today. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article. I will mail this product to the winner via Priority Mail at my expense.

 
 

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Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

I bought my first pair of steel studded bicycle tires about nine years ago and used them until they dry-rotted. Two years ago I bought a pair of Innova steel studded tires and was happy with them (even though they are very heavy), but decided that this year I wanted to experiment with a different brand for one of my other bikes (I have studded tires on three of my bikes). I ordered a pair of the “new” 45NRTH Arcwelder tires, but returned them to the bike shop right after I got home when I saw that these “new” tires were the same as my old Innova tires (but with a 45NRTH logo). I finally decided to go with a top-of-the-line tire, the Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires—and I am now one happy winter cyclist.

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires are made with a special winter rubber (durometer 58A) and are intended for extreme winter riding. This tire has large knobs for great grip in mud and snow, along with 304 studs to keep you steady on the ice. The studs are made of aluminum and have sharp carbide pins—these pins should last for the life of the tire (or longer). Each tire weighs 750g (25.45 ounces). I bought a pair of 26″x2.2″ tires, but similar tires are available in other sizes. The recommended tire pressure is 29 to 65 psi. I keep mine at around 40 psi for winter riding.

These tires are extremely easy to install, but before you take them out in the snow for the first time you need to break them in by riding on hard pavement for at least 30 miles. The pavement helps seat the studs properly into the tires and roughens up the tips a bit for a better grip on the ice. The large tread pattern (knobs) on this tire provide wonderful traction in mud and snow, but they do require some extra effort on pavement because of their high rolling resistance.

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

One thing that all studded bicycle tires have in common is that they are loud. While I don’t carry a sound level meter with on bike rides, these tires did seem to be much louder than the other snow tires I’ve used in the past. How loud? Let me put it this way: You better hope that when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs that it happens in the summer, because if these tires are on your bike when it hits you are going to attract the attention of every walker and biter within 30 miles (it is a well-known fact that Zombies are attracted to loud noises).

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires retail for $120 each at your local bike shop. They are also available from the REI Website and in some of their retail stores. I will only be using these tires when the snow just an inch or two deep—anything more than that and I’ll be riding my Surly Necromancer Pugsley (with 4″ wide steel studded snow tires).

Now for the confusing part: Nokian Tyres PCL is headquartered in Finland and is known throughout the world for their fine car and truck tires—they operate the world’s only permanent winter tire testing facility. At one time Nokian Tyres PCL manufactured bicycle tires, but not anymore. Today they license the Nokian name to Suomi Tyres LTD (another Finnish company). The Nokian Hakka WXC 300 tires are actually manufactured in Taiwan and are distributed in North America through Quality Bike Products (QPB).

One warning: When I installed these tires I noticed that the front tire wobbled a lot—it had at least 1″ of lateral movement. I took the tire (and rim) off the bike and but it on my Park Tool Truing Stand and found that the rim was in perfect shape—the tire itself was the problem. I then deflated, removed and then reinstalled the tire, but that only made the problem worse. I took the mounted tire to the local bike shop to have the professionals tell me what I did wrong. Turns out it was just a defective tire, so they got a new one for me. I have never been impressed by any tire made in Taiwan because of quality control issues. However, if you can get a good snow tire you are going to have a blast playing in the snow!

 

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Surly Rolling Darryl Rims (Putting My Surly Pugsley Fat Bike On A Diet)

Question: How long does it take to finish building a Fat Bike? Answer: The world may never know! I’ve never met any Fat Bike owner who has actually finished tinkering with their creation—there is always a “little upgrade” or “tweak or two” in the works. Fat Bikes, like my Surly Necromancer Pugsley, are among the most versatile and customizable bicycles in the world and every time you think the bike is finished you find something else you would like to do with it. My wife has never understood why I need to keep buying upgrades for my Pugsley, but then again, I’ve never figured out why she needs 200 pairs of shoes (that number might be slightly exaggerated). Last week the guys at the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) made a few upgrades to my Pugsley, or, to put it another way, they helped me put my Fat Bike on a diet.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer (AKA, Surly Black Ops Pugs, Surly Neck Romancer) weighed an incredible 41 pounds the day I brought it home from the shop—this is about six pounds over factory weight because I had a Shimano Alfine 8 Internal Geared Hub installed, along several other upgrades. The bike came with 82mm wide Surly Rolling Darryl rims that weigh 1030 grams each (33.3 ounces). Last week we swapped out those rims for Rolling Darryl rims with cutouts and that took off six ounces per rim. These cutouts now only reduce the weight of the rim, but they also allow you to install a colored rim strip. I used the Surly PVC RIm Strip—they call the color red, but it is actually burgundy. To add a little more color to the rims I had them install red anodized spoke nipples.

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

My Pugsley came with rather heavy 1.3mm inner tubes that weigh about one pound each, so we switched these out for lighter 1.0 mm tubes (Surly Toobs). In the summer I use Slime in my Fat Bike tires and this adds eight ounces to each tire, but have finally decided that this is not necessary when riding in the snow (I hope).

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Thanks to the incredible effort of the owner of the local bike shop I was finally able to get a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger winter tires, the first-ever studded Fat Bike tire. These tires have an aggressive tread pattern and 240 lightweight aluminum-carbide studs. I haven’t had a chance to use them in the snow yet, but I can tell you that they have an amazing grip in the mud. Due to their business practices 45NRTH is one of my least favorite companies in the world, but this tire looks and feels great (I will publish a full review after Chicago gets some snow this year).

45NRTH Dillinger Fat bike Snow Tire

45NRTH Dillinger Snow Tire

This trip to the bike shop helped my Pugsley shed 3.5 pounds—that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can really tell the difference when climbing a hill. As I said in an article last year, once you start customizing a bike it is hard to stop until you run out of cash. When the guys at the bike shop were ringing up my sale I asked them how much their average new bike sells for at the shop—well, I topped that number by about $40 with just this upgrade. Therefore, I am officially finished customizing my Pugsley—at least for today.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Fat Bikes, Product Reviews

 

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