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Surly Pugsley and Salsa Mukluk Fat Bikes and accessories, gear, bags, and components

Choosing Pedals For Winter Cycling

Note: This is the third installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

If you are going to ride your bike in the winter you need to give serious consideration to your choice of pedals or cleats. Shortly after I started cycling I began using Shimano SPD cleats and pedals. However, as I started spending more time riding in the mud and light snow I needed a pedal/cleat system that could handle these conditions better, so I switched all of my mountain bikes over to Crank Brothers Eggbeater 1 Mountain Bike Pedals (I use Look Keo 2 cleats on my road bikes).

Crank Brothers Eggbeater Mountain Bike Pedals

Crank Brothers Eggbeater MTB Pedals

The open-body design of Crank Brothers Eggbeater pedals shed mud like nothing else, so if you love muddy singletrack you will probably love these pedals as well. The pedals have a wide adjustable release angle (15 to 20 degrees) and a forged chromoly spindle with cartridge bearing seals to keep the dirt out. Because your cleats can engage the pedals on all four sides you never have to look down before clipping in. A pair of these pedals weight just 256 grams. Crank Brothers Eggbeater 1 Mountain Bike Pedals retail for $60 a pair (including brass cleats) and come with a two-year warranty.

While Egg Beaters shed snow, they are not so great when it comes to shedding ice. If you have to get off your bike and walk in slush for very long there is a good chance your cleats are going to clog up with solid ice, and I’ve found that very difficult to get rid of. So, if you are going to have to ride (or walk) through slush you might be better off with a BMX pedal.

Odyssey JCPC Pedal For Fat Bikes And Winter Cyclists

Odyssey JCPC Pedal For Winter Cyclists

If you are on a tight budget you can use Odyssey JCPC Pedals. The body of these pedals is made of an injection-molded fiber reinforced polymer composite that is extremely durable. This pedal is heavy—they weigh a little over 8-ounces per pedal. Odyssey JCPC Pedals retail for around $35. Two problems, in addition to their weight, is that they use fairly low-quality screws and their customer service is non-existent.

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

My favorite winter pedals for Fat Bikes or Mountain Bikes is the Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals, made by 45NRTH, a young company that specializes in gear for cold weather cycling. They have brought a lot of exciting new cycling products to the market, including winter tires, chains, boots, pedals and balaclavas. The Heiruspecs is a wide flat pedal that has 16 replaceable alloy pins per pedal for an amazing grip. The CNC-extruded body is made of aluminum and weights only 358 grams per pair. The pedal itself is black and comes with orange pins, but replacement pin kits are available so you have your pins match your bike. Replacement pins are available in several colors, including red, blue, green, orange, silver, black, and pewter. The 45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals retail for $99 a pair.

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Premium Slim Alloy BMX Pedals

Another good choice is the 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). Like the Heiruspecs, 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 Surly Necromancer Pugsley (spoke nipples, rim tape, water bottle cages, and seat clamp). Premium Slim Pedals are available in five colors (Black, Silver, Red, Teal, and Purple) and retail for around $100 a pair.

Regardless of what brand of pedal you choose, you need to apply a thin layer of an anti-seize compound to the threads before installation. I use the Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound—it forms a protective barrier around small parts to protect them from rust and corrosion (this product is safe for use on steel, aluminum, and Titanium).

 
 

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Getting Your Bike Ready For Winter Cycling

Note: This is the second installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

Crankset On My Surly Pugsley After A Few Hours In The Snow

Crankset On My Surly Pugsley After A Few Hours In The Snow

Riding in foul weather is really hard on your bike. In my area of the country it’s not just the snow that bothers you, but all the road debris that comes along with it. Every winter our roads turn white—not just from the snow but from numerous layers of road salt. The highway department also uses a lot of sand to give motorists better traction on icy roads. Road salt and sand will eat through all the components on your bike, even if you wash it off after each ride. You can’t stop all that grit and road grime from splashing up on your chain, cables, brakes, derailleurs and crankset, but you can minimize the damage it does by spending a few hours getting your bike ready for winter weather.

Clean Your Drivetain

Let’s start with the dirtiest part of your bike—the drivetrain (chain, chainring, rear cassette, derailleur, and derailleur pulleys). The quickest way to clean the drivetrain is with White Lighting Clean Streak Dry-Degreaser. Once the chain is stripped down to bare metal it is going to be thirsty for a fresh coat of lubricant—and for winter riding there is only one lubricant I’ll use—Boeshield T-9, a lube developed by The Boeing Company (the folks who make those pretty planes). This product has a solvent and paraffin wax base and uses neither Silicone or Teflon. While the solvent will penetrate deep through other lubricants, I still recommend you clean the chain first before you apply Boeshield T-9 if for no other reason than it looks better that way. Boeshield T-9 dries quickly, but it is best to let it dry for at least 15 minutes (a couple of hours is better) before wiping off the excess. This will leave your chain with an incredible barrier against rain, mud, snow, ice, salt and road grime. Boeshield T-9 is available in a variety of sizes, from one ounce bottles up to gallon containers, and in aerosol cans. I prefer the aerosol because it is so easy to use (on the bike and everywhere else). Regardless of what form you buy it in, Boeshield T-9 has the same formula. Boeshield T-9 is also suitable for use on derailleurs, brake cables, and pivot points.

Quick Tip: If you have a steel bike frame and ride in either snow or rain I would suggest you spray Boeshield T-9 on the entire frame (inside and out). This product will not harm paints, plastics, or rubber.

In The Spring The Snow Turns Into Mud

In The Spring The Snow Turns Into Mud

Wash And Wax Your Bike

Now that the drivetrain is clean it’s time to show your bike frame a little love. Before you can wax your bike you have to clean it first. While there are many good products you can use to wash your bike I usually use Dawn dishwashing liquid. Dawn does a great job of cutting through grease and grime—just squirt a small amount of it into a bucket before you add the water and then as you fill the bucket the suds form. Using a soft brush gently scrub the frame, rims and tires of your bike. With a gentle rinse the dirt should fall off your bike. Don’t ever use a high-pressure washer on your bike or you will drive dirt and water into places that will cause you trouble in the future. Now dry the bike off with a cotton cloth (an old T-shirt will do).

If your bike is several years old I suggest you use Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound on the frame to remove scratches in the paint and smooth out the finish. If you have any chrome on your bike you can use a bit of Brasso Multi Purpose Metal Polish to make it shine. After everything is clean apply a coat of Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Paste Wax and your frame should look like new. If you apply a good paste wax to your bike every year you will find it is a lot easier to keep it clean.

Quick Tip: If some of the paint has chipped off your bike frame your local bike shop can sometimes find a bottle of touch-up paint to match. If they can’t match your paint a good alternative is to use acrylic fingernail polish (if you need help matching the color you should ask your wife or significant for help). Give the acrylic nail polish several days to set and then seal it with a coat of paste wax.

Check Your Brake Pads

When you ride on roads that are covered with salt and sand your brake pads will end up having grit embedded in them and this can wear down bike rims rather quickly. So, while you are cleaning your bike take a look at the brake pads and see if they are in need of replacement. For my winter bikes without disc brakes I like  Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads due to their superior stopping power in wet weather.

Kool Stop manufactures several different compounds for use in their brakes—some compounds are best for dry weather cycling and others are very aggressive for use in wet weather. As the name implies, the “dual compound” brake pads are a combination of two compounds—it uses a black compound usually found in their dry weather pads along with their aggressive salmon colored pad that offer superior stopping power in wet weather. Kool Stop ships these brakes with the dual compound pads preinstalled, but they also include an extra pair of salmon colored pads (for really nasty weather).

If you have never replaced a pair of brake pads on your bike before you might wonder how difficult a job it is. There is no reason to have the local bike shop put these pads on for you—a total amateur can put on a set of these brake pads in under 15 minutes, and the second set will probably go on in 10 minutes.

Finish With Some Anti-Seize Compound

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound

Another product you need to have on hand for winter cycling is a tube of Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound—it forms a protective barrier around small parts to protect them from rust and corrosion. While this product can be used on many bicycle parts, like the bottom bracket, headset cups, and quill stems, most non-mechanics will use it for pedal threads, seatposts, water bottle cages and shoe cleats. This product is safe for use on steel, aluminum, and Titanium.

I will discuss cleat and pedal selection in another article, but even if you don’t change to a different style of pedals for winter riding you still need to remove the pedals and coat the threads with an anti-seize compound or they will be nearly impossible to remove after a full season of riding in the snow, sand, salt and muck. Also, in the winter I have to switch styles of water bottle cages on a couple of my bikes and if I apply the anti-seize compound on the threads of the bolts it is a lot easier to get them on and off. Another great use for this compound is on the cleats of your bike shoes.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling

 

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Introduction To Winter Cycling

Note: This article is the first installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

I started cycling in the spring of 2002 because of major health problems I’d suffered with over the past winter. With a change in my diet and several hours a week on my bike I was able to drop 60 pounds and get into decent shape. However, when winter came I stopped cycling and put on about ten pounds. The next year I determined to ride as long into the winter months as I could—and I found out I could handle temperatures down to about freezing. Over the next few years I kept experimenting with clothing and gear and can now easily ride in temperatures down to -20F (-29C). By the way, I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and the temperature rarely gets any colder than that.

My Surly Necromancer Pugsley on Lake Michigan

Surly Necromancer Pugsley With A Shimano 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Since most “winter cycling gear” is made in Europe it is usually not suitable for the harsh winters we experience in the Upper Midwest. As a result, every fall I used to visit the local ski shops and sporting goods stores looking for gear that I could adapt for use in winter cycling. However, last year I didn’t have to buy hardly any new gear—that is when I realized I had finally figured out how to ride in brutal conditions, stay warm and have a great time!

Gary Fisher Big Sur with Shimano Alfine 11-Speed IGH

Gary Fisher Big Sur With A Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

When I started winter cycling I was riding an inexpensive Trek 4300 mountain bike—I just added a cheap pair of steel studded snow tires. Later, I put an Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal geared hub onto a Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike so I could ride through the slush on off-road trails, then put an Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal geared hub onto a Trek 1200 road bike so I could ride on the roads that were covered with sand, salt and slush without having to worry about my gears jamming. Finally, I bought a Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike with 4″ wide steel studded snow tires—this puppy will go through about anything winter can throw at you!

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

There are many advantages to riding in the snow and ice. For example, you never have to worry about mosquitoes, sunburn or overcrowding on the trails! In addition, you don’t have to put up with those guys in the team jerseys who have never been on a team—they spend all winter in their basement riding on their training wheels, I mean trainers, while watching reruns of The View.

An Old Photo Of My Trek 4300 After An Ice Storm

An Old Photo Of My Trek 4300 After An Ice Storm

Winter cycling is a lot of fun if you have the right gear. When people ask me about how difficult it is to ride in the snow, I tell them that the hardest part of ride is the first 500 feet as you leave your garage.

In the next few installments in this series we are going to talk about getting your bike(s) ready for winter and the gear needed to help you enjoy your ride, along with several articles about the different pieces of clothing you need to stay warm. If you are considering buying a Fat Bike for this winter I would strongly suggest you check out Fat-Bike.com because those guys have a lot of good information about the new bikes on the market.

 
48 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling

 

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A New Surly Pugsley Lands In Lviv, Ukraine

A few weeks ago I mentioned that William Salefski, an American citizen working in Ukraine, saw the article about the Surly Necromancer Pugsley that Zion Cyclery custom-built for me and he decided to wanted one tricked out the same way. He visited Zion, Illinois in early July to pick up his bike and then shipped it to Lviv, Ukraine. Last week he sent me a note to let me know that his bike made it safely to Ukaine and I asked his permission to share a few photos with you.

William Salefski in front of The Lviv Opera House (lviv, Ukraine)

William Salefski in front of The Lviv Opera House (lviv, Ukraine)

Look at the smile on his face! I’ve seen a lot of cyclists with their new bikes—some people have a grin, triathletes usually have a look of pain, but a new owner of Fat Bike always has an ear-to-ear smile on their face!

A Beautiful New Surly Pugs

A Beautiful New Surly Pugs

In his note to me Willaim said, “The roads in Lviv are mostly made of cobbles, and the Pug eats them up. Half a bar tire pressure. There is also some road repairs being done, and the Pug rolls right over the sand. The winter snow will not be a problem.” (By the way, half a bar of tire pressure is equal to about 7.5 psi)

The Cobblestones In Lviv, Ukraine

The Cobblestones In Lviv, Ukraine

Look at those cobblestones! These beautiful cobblestone roads survived both Soviet and Nazi occupation during WWII and they remind of roads in the Paris-Roubaix race (my second favorite bike race in France).

Another Happy Fat Bike Owner!

Another Happy Fat Bike Owner!

In William’s second note to me he said, “Well, the smile from the first ride was the sheer fun of riding a bike that is unlike any bike I’ve ridden before. Having ridden bikes with 30+ pounds of pressure, the Pug feels like riding on a cloud. Over here, it’s even more pleasant since the big tires just eat up the cobbles in the city center. I can ride the Pug faster than my normal commute bike, a Swobo Dixon with Marathon Plus tires, on the cobbled streets. I like it better than my full-suspension MTB on the cobbles. However, ‘nimble’ is not the word to describe its handling. But I really enjoy the different handling. It reminds me of my FJ40: not the fastest or most agile means of transport, but it will roll over anything. I can’t wait to get some snow on the ground to try it out.”

 
 

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45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I live near North Point Marina on Lake Michigan and have often heard yacht owners say that a boat is a “hole in the water into which you pour money.” Sometimes I feel that way about my Fat Bike, a Surly Necromancer Pugs. In the first two years I’ve owned that bike I’ve spent more money on tires than most people pay for a new road bike. I’ve gone through four sets of very expensive tires—the old tires didn’t wear out, I just kept looking for a better sets. Fortunately, 45NRTH came out with what I believe to be the finest tire ever made for a Fat Bike—the Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike!

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

By Fat Bike standards, the Hüsker Dü is a lightweight tire (under 1,250 grams each). While this tire would be the equivalent of a lead weight on a standard mountain bike, it is much lighter than the other choices you will find in a 26×4″ Fat Bike tire. In addition, this tire rolls like a dream! I have used it on mud, sand, dirt and pavement and it has a superb ride. I did not use this tire in the dead of winter since I have a set of 45NRTH Dillinger studded tires for snow and ice.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

Hüsker Dü tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive. Thanks to the Kevlar bead the Hüsker Dü is the easiest tire to change that I’ve ever had—which is pretty good since the first time I took the tires out I got a puncture just six miles into the ride! I am not going to blame the tire for this one—I was riding in an area that no sane person would take their bike in the first place.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

My Surly Necromancer Pugs came stock with 3.8″ Surly Larry tires on the front and 3.7″ Surly Endomorph tires on the back (often called the Larry/Endo combo). These tires are great for folks who are lucky enough to ride on groomed snowmobile trails and hard packed (consolidated) snow. The Larry/Endo combo is also good on packed sand (the sand near the waterline around a lake). However, on mud or loose snow I always had trouble getting decent traction with these tires. The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails.

One interesting observation: A few weeks ago I wrote an article about my new Felt F65X cyclocross bike. I use the Felt F65X on routes where I have to travel over both pavement and off-road trails. The Felt F65X is faster than my Pugs on off-road trails when I am riding in a straight line, but I always have to slow my cyclocross bike down in the turns because if I overbake a corner I will wind up in the Des Plaines River. On the other hand, the Hüsker Dü tires on my Pugs have such an amazing grip that I don’t even have to hit the brakes in the turns! If you own a Fat Bike don’t limit yourself to just riding in the winter! Fat Bikes make great off-road trail bikes and beach cruisers as well.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü tires retail for $150 each. I know—that is more than most people pay for the tires on their car (and the tires on their car will last at least ten times longer). However, you need to remember that the Fat Bike market is still relatively small and the laws of “supply and demand” are in full effect.

In case you are wondering how this tire got its name, Hüsker Dü was the name of hardcore punk rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota (the group existed from 1979 to 1987). 45NRTH is headquartered down the road in Bloomington, Minnesota.

 

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New Surly Pugsley Destined For Ukraine

A few weeks ago I stopped in at the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois, and one of the mechanics told me that they had just received a phone call from a cyclist in Ukraine who saw my article about how Zion Cyclery built my Surly Pugsley Fat Bike with a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub and he wanted them to make one just like it for him. It turned out that William Salefski, an American citizen working in Ukraine, was the cyclist who wanted to Pugs and he was going to be in the Chicago area in July to pick it up. I didn’t know when William was going to pick up the bike, but by chance I was at the shop when he arrived and I was delighted to meet him and welcome him to the world of Fat Bikes.

William Salefski and his new Surly Pugsley

William Salefski and his new Surly Pugsley

William's first ride on his new Pugs

William’s first ride on his new Pugs

Mechanic Grant explaining how the Alfine hubs works

Expert Mechanic Grant Mullen explains how the Alfine hubs works

Packing the Pugs for shipment to Ukraine

Packing the Pugs for shipment to Ukraine

I want to make it plain that I have absolutely no financial connection with Zion Cyclery—they are simply the bike shop I choose to do business with. They are a family owned shop and have a sterling reputation for quality work, great customer service and fair prices. I have visited dozens of bike shops in the Chicago suburbs and these are the only folks I will let touch my bikes!

 
 

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Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Regular readers of this blog know that I only review products that I’ve actually used myself in “real world” conditions. Unfortunately, most of the time when I review tire pumps or CO2 cartridges I have to test them out in my garage since it is hard to know when you are going to get a flat tire. However, the first ride I took with the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump I got a puncture just six miles away from my house! This pump is easy to use and far exceeded my expectations.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

I bought the medium-sized Lezyne Alloy Drive 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.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

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. The flex hose is stored inside the pump when not in use and the entire unit attaches easily to your bike frame with the included pump mount.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

Flex Hose With Presta and Schrader Connectors

This pump is 9.2 inches long and about as big around as a quarter. The pump is rated for a maximum pressure of 90 psi, but if you ride a Fat Bike, or even most mountain bikes, you are never going to need pressures near that high.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

The Flex Hose Easily Connects To The Pump

The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump retails for $45 and is available in four colors (Black, Blue, Red and Yellow). You can purchase this pump directly from the Lezyne website or from your local bike shop. If all else fails you can also find it on Amazon.com.

 

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