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Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Riding in inclement weather can really be a pain! Not only do you have to put up with snow, rain and mud during your ride, but when you get home you have to spend time cleaning the drivetrain on your bike to keep it from rusting. If you would like to spend more time riding and less time cleaning you should replace the rear cassette, hub and derailleur on your bike with a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub. This past December I bought a new Surly Necromancer Pugsley and had the guys at the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) put a Shimano Alfine 8 on it before I took it home. After a few weeks of using the Alfine 8 in the snow and mud I decided to have them put one on my Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike as well.

Black Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub

The Shimano Alfine 8 is a dependable, smooth shifting internal geared hub that doesn’t let snow, mud, rain or slush interfere with its operation. Shifting with the Alfine 8 is so smooth and quiet it is almost magical—and you never have to worry about a misaligned derailleur or bent hanger. I’ve had no problem shifting even when the temperature was bellow zero. Weighing in at over 1600 grams the Alfine 8 is not exactly lightweight, but since you lose the weight from the derailleur and cassette it is not too bad.

If you would like to swap out your old drivetrain for the Alfine 8 there are a few things you need to consider. First, you will need to completely rebuild your rear wheel to install the Alfine 8. Rebuilding the wheel means new spokes and nipples (use brass or anodized nipples since you are probably going to be riding in wet weather). The Alfine 8 is available with either a 32 or 36 hole count, so if your old rim does not match up you will have to buy a new rim as well. Second, if your bike has vertical dropouts you will also have to buy a Shimano Chain Tensioner. The Alfine 8 has a disc rotor mount (for disc brakes), but the disc is not included. This hub is bolt-on only—you cannot use a skewer.

Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub with chain tensioner

Shimano Alfine Internal Geared Hub With Chain Tensioner

Many people use the Alfine 8 while running a single ring in the front. I use two front rings on both of the bikes that have the Alfine 8 installed. On my Surly Necromancer I was able to keep the stock Mr. Whirly offset double 22/36 crankset, but had to buy a new crankset my Gary Fisher Big Sur.

The Shimano Alfine 8 is available in either black or silver and retails for a bit over $300. This price does not include the shifter, cog, cog snap-ring, axle nuts, non-tun washers or cassette joint—most of these parts are included in the Shimano Alfine Small Parts Kit (but not the shifter and cog).

While you are upgrading your bike you really ought to replace your old derailleur cables with a set of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables. These sealed cables are completely protected from snow, mud, and dirt by continuous liners.

 

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Surly Nate Tires For Fat Bike Fun In The Snow And Mud

One of the most highly coveted cycling products this year has been the Surly Nate Tire for Fat Bikes. If you are one of those guys who rides your bike in your basement on a trainer all winter, well, you can skip this article. However, if you own a Fat Bike and love playing in the snow and mud, the Surly Nate tire might end up being one of your favorite cycling purchases of all time.

Surly Nate Bicycle Tires

Surly Nate Tires

Both the Surly Pugsley and the Surly Necromancer Pugs come 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. Those of use who ride on loose and unconsolidated snow usually find this tire combination somewhat lacking—the Larry in the front is prone to washouts (especially if the path is off-camber) and the Endomorph in the rear often loses its grip in loose snow.

The Surly Nate tire has a large and aggressive knobby tread pattern that offers unbelievable traction in unconsolidated snow. While these massive tires have more rolling resistance than other fat tires, I’ve still been able to get my Pugs up to over 20 MPH on the pavement. I’ve also been able to cut a trail through five inches of fresh snow without any trouble—even on off-camber sections of the trail. In addition, I’ve been able to climb snow-covered hills while standing up out of the saddle—something I could never do with the Larry/Endo combo.

The Surly Nate is available with either 27 tpi or 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive. Lower tpi tires are generally heavier, more durable and offer better flat-resistance. The 120 tpi Nate weighs around 1500 grams, while the 27 tpi version weighs a bit over 1700 grams. The 120 tpi Nate is available with either a wire or Kevlar bead.

Due to an unseasonably warm winter I’ve spent more time on my Surly Pugsley Necromancer in the mud than I have in the snow this year. The first time I rode with the Nates was on a 35 degree day on an off-road trail that had snow and ice in the shady areas and several inches of mud and standing water in the areas exposed to direct sunlight. When I started my ride I could see the tracks left by a mountain biker who had started out on the trail before me that day—the tracks turned around after about 30 feet! However, I was able to ride for over 30 miles on this muddy trail and my Nates didn’t slip a single time (but they did throw a lot of mud).

Surly Nate Tires after riding in the mud

Surly Nate Tires After Playing In The Mud

I do need to warn about one of the side effects of these tires. If you go out for a nice ride in the melting snow and mud with a pair of Nates you are going to come home covered from head to toe in mud. You will then find yourself standing out in your snow-covered backyard with a water hose and scrub brush trying to clean your bike. Your neighbors will never understand the smile on your face. In fact, I am not certain of its source myself. Does the smile come as a result of the fun you had on the ride, or from thinking about those poor guys riding their trainers in the basement because the weather is “too bad to ride in”?

The 27 tpi Surly Nate tire retails for around $80, and the 120 tpi version is around $120. You should be able to find these tires in the Men’s Department of your local bike shop. This tire is made in China by Innova.

Once you get your hands on the Surly Nate tire, make sure you look for the Easter Egg (hidden message) just above the bead of the tire. In case you can’t find it, it says, “Deep Fried Meat Fueled Natepocalypse.” I am not sure of the best way to translate this into English.

 

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Odyssey JCPC Pedal For Fat Bikes And Winter Cycling

Throughout most of the year I ride with clipless pedals on all of my bikes. I use Look Keo 2 cleats on my road bikes and Crank Brothers Egg Beaters on my mountain bikes. The Egg Beaters are great for riding in mud and sand, but I’ve had the cleats on my shoes clog up while riding in heavy snow and slush (usually after I had to get off the bike and push). When I got my new Surly Necromancer Pugsley a few weeks ago I decided to try a new pedal and the guys at the local bike shop suggested the Odyssey JCPC Pedal.

Odyssey JCPC Pedal For Fat Bikes And Winter Cyclists

Odyssey JCPC Pedal For Winter Cycling

The body of the Odyssey JCPC Pedal is made of an injection-molded fiber reinforced polymer composite that is extremely durable. This pedal is heavy by road bike standards, weighing in at a little over 8 ounces per pedal. However, these pedals shed mud, snow, sand and slush better than anything I’ve tried. The metal pins on this pedal are like superglue for your shoes—I’ve not had my feet slip a bit with these pedals. In fact, I liked these pedals so much a bought a second pair for my old ice bike (a mountain bike with steel studded tires). In case you are wondering, I’ve not noticed any damage done to my cycling shoes as a result of the pins on this pedal.

These pedals are available is several colors, including the standard Black, White and the just introduced Red, Blue and Ocean Blue. If you are the artistic sort you can mix the colors—just take the pedals apart and you can have Red on one side and White on the other. The pedal comes apart by removing 16 metal pins with a 3mm hex. This might seem rather frivolous, but since you can also use these pedals with the metal pins on just one side you could use the different color to easily identify which side has the pins poking through. Personally, I would not suggest riding with pins on just one side since you lose a good bit of traction when you ride without the metal pins under your shoes.

The Odyssey JCPC Pedal retails for around $35. If your local bike shop does not carry them you can find them at numerous places online.

 

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Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

It was nearly four months ago that Surly announced several new fat bike products, including the Surly Necromancer Pug (formerly known by the much cooler Black Ops Pug name and also by the horrible Neck Romancer name). After one look at the Necromancer I knew I had to have one, so I asked the folks at the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois to order one for me. Surly seriously underestimated the demand for this bike and for a while it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to get one till next March. Fortunately, Mary Daisy, one of the owners of Zion Cyclery, worked tirelessly to make sure I got my new bike and it finally arrived yesterday.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

My New Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

To call the new Surly Necromancer Pug a “work of art” would be an understatement! Nearly the entire bike is black, including the rims and spokes. The Necromancer has 82mm-wide single-wall Rolling Darryl rims, a Shimano drivetrain and a Mr. Whirly offset double 22/36 crankset. The front tire is a Surly Larry (3.8″) and the rear tire is a Surly Endomorph (3.7″).

Since December is not exactly the busiest time of the year for bike shops in the Chicago area, I asked the folks at Zion Cyclery if I could be present for the build. I had no part in putting the bike together—I was just there to photograph the blessed event. While the Necromancer is one rugged fat bike straight out of the box, I wanted to make a few changes to transform the bike from rugged to nearly invincible. The crew at Zion Cyclery spent a lot of time preparing a list of options for me and we ended up with one of the coolest bikes you will ever see!

Grant at Zion Cyclery working on the front fork

Grant at Zion Cyclery working on the front fork

The standard Necromancer comes with Avid BB7 cable actuated brakes, and these were replaced with Avid Elixir 3 Hydraulic Disc Brakes and a Shimano SM-RT53 Disc Rotor. Since I plan on riding this bike in a lot of snow, mud and dirt the standard derailleur cables were replaced with a Gore Ride On Sealed Low Friction Cable System. These cables have an uninterrupted housing so they are completely sealed from the elements (it also means I don’t have to worry about oiling the cables after a ride in the rain).

Curt at Zion Cyclery making a few adjustments on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley

Kurt at Zion Cyclery making a few adjustments

The biggest (and most expensive) change was deleting the stock Shimano Deore rear derailleur and 9-speed cassette for a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Hub, coupled with a sealed Shimano Alfine Shifting Lever. This change meant they also had to install a Shimano Alfine Chain Tensioner. The internal hub might be considered a luxury item, but if you spend much time in deep snow you will appreciate how much abuse a premium-level component group can offer.

Shimano Alfine SG-S501 8-Speed Internal Hub

Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Hub

Several other minor changes were also made on my new Necromancer. The standard handlebar grips were replaced with Ergon GC-2 grips. Since this bike does not ship with pedals, I chose to put Odyssey JC PC Pedals on (at least for the winter). I’ll probably switch the Odyssey pedals out for Crank Brother Egg Beater pedals once the snow melts.

Everything on this bike is solid black, except for the disc brake rotor, chain and bolts. I didn’t change the chain, but all 24 of the silver water bottle bolts (yep, the Necromancer has 24 braze-ons) were replaced with solid black Origin8 Alloy Bottle Cage Bolts. Unlike the standard Pugsely, the Necromancer has braze-ons on the front fork so you can put a water bottle cage on each side (plus space for a bottle cage on both the down tube and seat tube). The inside of the bike was coated with Boeshield T-9 to give it a bit of added rust protection. Finally, since I ride in an area that is full of broken glass I asked the shop to put 8-ounces of Slime in each inner tube (if you’ve ever had to change a tube when the wind-chill temperature is -20 degrees Fahrenheit you will understand).

In case you are interested, after the customization this bike weighs in at 41 pounds. That is a lot more than my carbon fiber Trek Madone, but I don’t plan on racing anyone with my Necromancer (except maybe over a few miles of single-track in deep snow).

The Surly Necromancer Pug has suggested list price of $1850. The Shimano Alfine Internal Hub and associated parts was around $450. Once you start customizing a bike it is kind of hard to stop until you run out of cash. While the changes I made could not be considered a necessity, they will make operating the bike in inclement weather a lot more enjoyable.

Cyclists have a tendency to either love or hate their local bike shop. In my case I have to say I love it! I’ve purchased my last five bikes at Zion Cyclery and I have never been tempted to try to find a better price at another bike shop. Their prices are fair, they treat their customers well and their mechanics are the best I’ve ever seen. Over the past few years Zion, Illinois has lost a lot of locally owned businesses—some due to the bad economy, others due to poor management. Don and Mary Daisy have owned Zion Cyclery since 1981 and their son Chris is in the process of taking over. Their business was built the old-fashioned way—hard work, customer service and honest business practices. If you live in northeastern Illinois or southeastern Wisconsin you really need to pay these folks a visit before you buy your next bike.

 

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6,000 Miles Down And Seven Weeks To Go

Yesterday I passed the 6,000 mile mark for the year. Last December when I set a goal to cycle 5,000 miles before the end of 2011 I never dreamed that I would hit that goal before the end of September. In my area of the country even dedicated cyclists usually hang up their bikes by Thanksgiving, but I ride all year long. Two days ago I spent two hours riding in light snow and I can honestly say that I am looking forward to winter.

The All Seasons Cyclist passed the 6,000 mile mark this week

The All Seasons Cyclist passed the 6,000 mile mark this week

I have ordered a new Surly Black Ops Pug (now called the Necromancer)and the local bike shop I use said it should be in around Thanksgiving. After all the time I’ve spent making fun of “Bike Ninjas” I decided to go over to the Dark Side—the Surly Black Ops Pug is only available in solid black (they call it Necromancer). Not only is the frame black, but so are the spokes, rims and components. However, since this bike will be used to ride in the snow I should still be easy to see (plus I use reflective gear in the winter). The Black Ops Pug has Rolling Darryl rims, 3.8″ wide tires, a Shimano drivetrain and Mr. Whirly offset double crankset. This bike is incredibly heavy, but no one is really expecting you to set any speed records while riding in several inches of fresh snow.

During the past few weeks I have run a lot of reviews for winter bike products and I still have many more cold-weather cycling products to tell you about. The National Weather Service claims the Chicago area is supposed to have the worst winter we’ve had in over 30 years, so it looks like I’ll have a lot of opportunities to try out the new winter gear I’ve bought.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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4,000 Miles Down And 1,000 To Go

Yesterday I passed the 4,000 mile mark for the year. Since my goal for this year is to ride 5,000 miles it means I only have 1,000 miles to go and almost 5 months to do it in. At the moment I am over 600 miles ahead of the training schedule I set up last December.

4,000 Miles So Far For The All Seasons Cyclist

4,000 Miles So Far For The All Seasons Cyclist

Last year I rode 4,650 miles, but I was out of the country for several weeks during the summer and not able to ride. Since I planned on being at home most of this year I thought 5,000 miles was a reasonable goal. I hate to complain, but I had no idea that Mother Nature would be so difficult to deal with this year. In February we had the worst blizzard in 30 years, followed by the wettest spring in history. In June I was off the bike for 12 days due to food poisoning. July turned out to be the wettest in history and one of the five hottest, but I was able to ride over 850 miles that month anyway!

I love cycling in all sorts of weather and the past few weeks I’ve ridden a lot at night. This week I started taking a serious look at the Surly Pugsley as my next (winter) bike purchase. I am going to wait a few weeks to see what the new Surly Moonlander looks like. The Moonlander (according to their blog) has 4.5 inch wide tires, which ought to make for an incredible time on the snow this winter!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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