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Beardcicle Chronicles: Getting Back to the Bike

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I suppose I should try to write something political here. Use the final weeks of the election to try to get people really thinking about the choices before us and the consequences of those choices.

But I can’t and shan’t. Or is it shan’t and can’t? Either way. Ain’t doin it. Maybe I’m just too jaded. Or maybe I am just too apathetic at this point. It’ll be what it’ll be and either way we’ll all be paying for all of the mistakes we’ve made since… well, since the eruption of modern politics where the money’s the thing and not the people.

No. No, I’m not going down that road.

Instead I suppose I should talk about bikes. Yes, bikes.

Strange, but I am starting to fall into bike lust mode again. I know I shouldn’t be and, strangely enough, I know exactly why I am in this mode.

So, first, why am I suddenly drooling over bikes?

The Pugs has been rebuilt and resurrected a number of times — new bits and pieces when the old bits and pieces break or die. Thinking about when I first bought the Pugs and what was on that bike then until now I think I can list all of the original parts that are still in use:
-Fork
-Rims – front and rear
-Front hub-body
-Front spokes
-Rear brake lever
– Rear brake caliper

That’s it. Every other part on the bike, including the frame, has been replaced once or more. I’ve gone through three or four different drive train configurations and have pieced together other changes as required. I had the rear wheel rebuilt on a new hub when it became clear that the Shimano hub that came with the bike wasn’t going to cut it and I was spending more time rebuilding it every few months than it was worth. Don’t even get me started on chains. I wonder if I could sell all the used chains in my parts bin by the pound for scrap. Could probably make a house payment with it if I could.

I replaced the frame just over two years ago now when my seat post fused to the seat tube and in trying to chisel it out I ripped a huge gash in the seat tube. Not good.

It’s been a good bike and I really do love riding it. Sure, I’d like some wheels that I could set up tubeless and that didn’t weight 500 pounds each, but I also like that my old-school Large Marge double-walls are indestructible, even for my fat arse.

The problem is that in late August, while washing the bike after a muddy ride, I noticed a small crack in the powder coat at the upper junction of the seat tube and the rear triangle. This is something that a lot of Pugsley owners had noted a few years back. An issue that Surly first addressed by replacing frames, then by having owners watch the cracks for growth. My last frame showed the same type of crack in the powder coat. That crack, though, never grew.

On the new frame? It’s growing. It started as maybe a quarter inch in length. It’s now closer to three quarters of an inch. Right on the edge of the weld.

Hopefully it is a non-issue. And, worse case, I probably could just find someone to re-weld it for me. Of course, knowing my luck, what’ll happen is that I’ll be bombing the trail at GPRA, hit one of the table-top jumps, and the weld will pop when I land, turning the back end into a pretzel. Probably turning me into a pretzel at the same time.

Knowing that I have what could be a structural crack on the bike has ignited my thinking about bikes and getting a new bike — trying to prepare for the eventuality of needing a new ride.

The thinking started just as thought — what do I love about the Pugs? What am I looking for in a bike? Is a fatbike the best option if I were to buy something new?

Then the thinking started going down the road of, “I don’t even know what is out there for bikes anymore.” Sure, I’ve been hearing a lot about B+ and of course fatbikes are still popular here in Alaska, but the past two winters have been so bereft of snow and stuffed with ice that a skinny bike with studs rather than studded fat seemed the way to go. After an initial ray of hope, this winter feels like it may be more of the same.

Maybe a plus-bike is the way to go. Something better suited to both summer riding and the bulk of the winter riding I do.

Bonus, there is a wider selection of tires to fit on a plus bike — standard, already available tires up to the newer three inch ones.

The problem is that there are few makers doing 29+. 27.5+, or B+, seems the norm. I’m not sold on this size. After reading some stuffs on the interwebz, it seems that if I were to migrate from a fatbike to a plus bike that a 29+ is the way to go, for all kinds of reasons I can’t really articulate.

Going 29+ presents challenges as there aren’t many manufacturers building those. Sure, any fatbike frame, generally, will take a 29+ wheel and tire combo, but that means building up a second wheelset. And who wants to do that? A good wheelset costs nearly as much as a decent complete bike. Then again, my last drivetrain ended up costing nearly as much as a sorta-decent complete bike.

All in all I have a few choices in my dream world where I can actually contemplate buying a new bike: A Surly Krampus, a Trek Stache, or stick with a fatbike and look at something from 9:Zero:7.

I like the idea of the Krampus. Surly. Steel. Good at lots of things, but not perfect for anything.

I always have to keep in mind that the bulk of my riding will be commuting, so I need something that can handle that and transform into a trail ripper on the weekends. On the downside — it’s heavy and probably has a number of the same issues as the Pugs — things that just bug me like the fact that anytime I remove the rear wheel I end up having to adjust my shifters to get it to shift right.

I’m also not 100 percent sold on their build for the price.

I’m intrigued by the Stache. The entry-level version has a pretty good build kit, a decent price, and a bike shop guy I know had one built up last year and loved it. I liked the Farley I used to ride, though it had some issues with geo for me so I think the Stache would likewise be a dependable ride, but maybe with some similar issues for me on long rides. My only two gripes about the base build are that it is built up 1X10 rather than 1X11 and it uses a press-fit bottom bracket. I don’t have a bearing press so a PF BB means I can’t fix it myself when it dies on me like I can with a threaded. And the 1X10 isn’t a huge deal as I could swap my 1X11 from the Pugs.

Of course, a 9:Zero:7 fattie would be nice. Their base build is pretty decent and I’d love to support the local guys. I could always build up a set of wheels later for summer use.

This is all just dreaming for now; a lust I need to get under control before I go out and do something silly. Like buy a bike that I don’t need. I tried dropping the Pugs once and ended up going back to it, warts and all. Hell, I just need a bit of duct tape to cover up the crack so, at a minimum, I can’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind. And duct tape fixes everything, right? Maybe Gorilla tape is the better choice here. Yeah. Gorilla tape. That’ll do.

I guess the best thing to do is to get out there and ride what I got. If I can ride while making wahoo sounds? All the better.

Phil was born and raised in the Midwest. He moved to Alaska in 2010 and started his bike commuting life then and hasn’t looked back yet. He is primarily focused on how bikes can be used to supplant other forms of transportation, when it makes sense to do so, but he is also interested in how to combine different forms of alternative transportation to create a sustainable and enjoyable commute. Besides cycling, Phil works as a business analyst, is a recovering poet, teaches technical writing, and still harbors a dream to write a great novel some day.

What do you think?