Fat Bikes on Sidetracked.com – Iditarod Trail Invitational

Superb ….

The town of Nome stands on the Northwest coast of Alaska; 180 miles from Russia and 1,100 miles from the state capital of Juneau. Cut off by sea ice during the winter, and with no road or rail connections to the rest of Alaska, it seems like an unlikely place to build a town. A gold rush, however, can drive people to extraordinary lengths. When “The Lucky Swedes” discovered gold near Nome in 1898, thousands of prospectors headed north with high hopes, and fortunes were won and lost. Nome grew with schools, churches, a hospital, and electricity, but each winter, most of its population would depart before the sea-ice locked in the town. For those that remained, temperatures would typically be around -20C and winds would tear down from the mountains to the coast. In the depths of winter, the sun would rise for just four hours a day. In the winter of 1925, a terrible diphtheria epidemic broke out. Diphtheria is highly infectious and tends to affect children first. Without treatment, it has a very high mortality rate. That year, the town doctor had not been properly restocked with the serum needed to treat this disease and the call went out for help. A method had to be found to get medicine to Nome and save the lives of its children. These were the early days of aviation, and flying in Alaska’s winter was almost impossible. The serum could only be sent by a safe, trusted method: dog team. Dog teams held together this sparsely populated region back then. They were the primary transport for winter journeys between the villages; the mail run, delivered by dogs and men, formed the only physical connection to the outside world during the winter. A musher and his dog-team would run trails along frozen rivers and lakes, through mountains and woodlands, across bleak tundra. Individual runs were short, with teams stopping at roadhouses to rest, warm up, and resupply. During the 1925 crisis, the dog teams were organised into a relay. When the serum arrived at one road-house, it was handed to the next musher to be taken on. It became known as ‘The Serum Run’. The mushers involved were considered heroes for risking their lives by running long stretches in the face of temperatures below -40ºC; battling conditions that would have stayed the normal mail run. They prevailed, and the importance of sled dogs and their mushers was forever etched into the psyches of Alaskans. But the age of the sled-dogs was passing. Snow-mobiles and planes soon became the cheaper and faster alternatives to keeping dogs. No matter how much affection people held for the events of The Serum Run, technology offered savings in time and money – it opened a new chapter for the wilderness of Alaska. Yet, for Joe Redington, the romance of the sled-dogs and their achievements in The Serum Run were not forgotten. In 1973, after years of preparation, The Iditarod sled-dog race was run for the first time. 1,000 miles from Knik (near Anchorage) to Nome. It justifiably took the tagline “The Last Great Race” – following portions of the historic mail route and The Serum Run. The Iditarod kept alive the traditions of dog mushing, and redefined what was possible in terms of speed and distance when racing dog-sleds. It continues to this day, bringing communities together and provoking new stories on the trail every year. In the shadow of the sled-dog race, a new human-powered wilderness adventure race has sprung up. The Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) brings together racers from around the world to ski, bike, or run along the Iditarod Trail. New racers must have qualified by completing one of a number of other winter races. This gains them entry to the 350-mile race from Knik to McGrath. Successful completion of the race gives racers eligibility to enter the full 1,000 mile race to Nome.
Iditerod Trail Invitational
The ITI has almost no support for the racers past McGrath. One bag of food is dropped to bridge the 170-mile gap from Ophir to Ruby where there are no settlements whatsoever. Everything else is organised by the racers posting food to be held at the village post offices. Between the villages, racers must be entirely self-sufficient. By the time anyone lines up for the race to Nome, they are already strong and accomplished in their field. They face an ever-changing trail, bringing the best preparation that they can muster. In February 2014, I was one of those racers. Hoping to win; planning to stay safe and make it to Nome. Around 50 racers lined up at Knik to start the ITI; many facing different directions as they tried to figure out which way to go. Part of the challenge of the race is finding your way – topographically, mentally, and emotionally. There is no required route. You must pass through the checkpoints, connecting them the best way you can.The racers around me carried a variety equipment. All of the bikers had some sort of fat-bike – a four-inch-tyred mountain bike that looks like a cartoon. The massive tyres work like snow shoes for bikes – providing floatation on soft terrain. By lowering the pressure to just a few psi, you can spread your weight over a massive footprint and ride on snow that is too soft to even walk on without punching through. The rest of the equipment is down to preference. Some use pannier racks; some use soft bags in the frame, on the handlebars, and attached to the seat post. For the 1,000 mile race, I had a large load of equipment including a stove with three days of fuel, an expedition down jacket and trousers, light-weight waders, ice cleats for my boots, goggles and a neoprene face-mask. With all of this, and three days’ worth of food, the bike was heavy. It had everything I needed to keep moving forward in almost any weather. The initial few hours of the race were hard. With so much distance ahead, it felt like a joke. The very idea that I was going to ride to Nome seemed laughable. The sun was shining, the snow was hard-packed. Racers in the ITI were flying along. I tried to strike a balance between making the best of the conditions and not going too fast. As I had learned on previous occasions, mis-managing sweat can be a big problem. It’s all too easy to ride fast in the sunshine, and sweat out into your clothes. When the sun goes down and the temperature drops 20 degrees, your clothes freeze, robbing them of their insulation. We spun along the trail with mountains framing the horizon and thin snow crunching under our tyres. I chatted to Jeff Oatley for a while. He had wins in the 350 mile ITI and numerous other winter races. He was a veteran of Race Across America and a rival for the win. The competitiveness of this race is unabashed, but as like-minded individuals who may be forced to save each others’ lives one day, racers share a unique bond.Much of the first 350 miles passed uneventfully. My aim was to stay relatively fresh, keep my body undamaged, and my position in the lead pack. My mood would dip and sway with my blood sugar – brooding thoughts were the first call to start eating again. Like every condition on the trail, if you keep moving forwards, it passes. Where the flat riding ends, The Alaska Range begins. It hulks across the middle of that first 350 miles; a stark focal point. It had been a warm January in Alaska, and we had heard troubling tales of how the trail might fare through Dalzell Gorge. This part of the trail is put in specifically for the race, descending The Alaska Range into the interior. It crisscrosses the gorge, with ice-bridges put in to take it forward and back over the river. This year, the ground was bare earth with a faint dusting of snow. The bridges were suspect. And the speed for bikers was high. Coming down the trail, I had split-seconds to judge the sturdiness of ice-slabs. Sometimes they would creak under my tyres. Parts of them had collapsed, revealing the running water underneath. High stakes if things went wrong, but it was our gateway to interior Alaska.
Iditerod Trail Invitational
At the McGrath camp, Jeff Oatley, Phil Hoffstetter and I – the lead three riders who will continue to Nome – tried not to get too comfortable. We chatted and wolfed down food, relishing the chance to eat something hot and filling, rather than trail food. I arrived mid-morning, and aimed to be away by mid-afternoon. We were friendly, but there was no doubt I was trying to get a little jump on their plan to leave that evening. I had ridden the upcoming section of trail before, and I knew that the route is well used by locals. I could make some easy miles before making camp that night.So I said my goodbyes and left. It was unseasonably warm. I rolled my boots down in an attempt to keep my feet from sweating too much. As with other clothes, sweating during the day risks frostbite by night. I was fidgety on the bike – my mind still indoors at McGrath. I changed the saddle height a bit to move the pressure on my already-painful knees. I lowered the tyre pressure to give me more floatation in the relatively soft snow. I wondered if Jeff and Phil would leave earlier than they’d said.
Rivers and swamps tested my patience with flat, straight riding. The Kuskokwim Mountains drew closer, with confusing perspective: big and far away, or small and not that far? Now, there was only the crunch of snow, insidious climbing, and the tempering of effort to control my body heat. Buoyed by the long afternoon light, these felt like bonus miles. I told myself not to walk my heavily-laden bike for even a single step – the others would see my unbroken track in the snow and know how strongly I had ridden through here.The fading light made it hard to read the trail. Organising gear is one of the most important skills out here. Like all of my essential kit, I could put my hand on my head-torch with my eyes shut. So, I tried to preserve batteries by not using it yet. Half of my mind was thinking about dinner, and half of it was watching the lonely silhouettes of Ophir’s mining paraphernalia. Suddenly, I was flipped over the handlebars. The trail had widened, the snow-mobiles had spread out, and they had left little strips of unpacked trail in-between – one of which, I had just blundered into. The lights of the cabin at Ophir were just what I needed to see. Two volunteers for the dog race had decided to come out early. They immediately offered me hot food, beer, and even a bed for the night. Mindful of the following riders, I declined the beer and the bed. For every moment of comfort in the ITI, there is a voice in the back of your mind; an imperative to keep moving, to take as long as you need, but no longer. Despite the warmth inside and the dark outside, that voice pushed me on, to the longest uninhabited stretch of the route.It is 170 miles from the cabin at Ophir to the village of Ruby. The names along the way tell the story: Poorman Creek, Cripple, Wolfskill Slew. Sparse trees and unbroken wilderness from forest fires are all you can see until the mining road on the final few miles. I tried to push on, but the inexorable tipping point came. How much sleep you dare to take, and when you choose to take it, is part of race strategy. Exhausted, my bike was taking more meanders around the narrow trail. Increasingly, I was stopping for no good reason. It was time to sleep and make better progress in the morning.I stomped down enough snow off the trail to make an area to sleep in. I inflated my sleeping mat, and unfurled my sleeping bag. I was working with thin liner gloves and, although warmer than usual, it was still necessary to warm my hands under my arms for a moment before continuing. I had some warm water left from Ophir, so I put both water bottles in the sleeping bag to stop them from freezing overnight. No need to set up a stove tonight. I put a bag of food within reach of my sleeping bag for breakfast, brushed my teeth, and settled down to sleep.
Iditerod Trail InvitationalIditerod Trail Invitational
From Ruby, the race joins The Yukon River. The river is a desert for the mind of a racer. Flat, wide, and meandering on for nearly 150 miles, and it broke my resolve. Without hills, without some reward for effort, I slipped into survival mode. There was no race in my head anymore; all I wanted was to get off the river. Jeff had caught up with me at Ruby while I had lost time trying to sort the resupply in the village. On this big river, he rode away into the lead. Twice I failed to reach the town I had been aiming for and ended up weaving helplessly though the night. Eventually, I made camp out on the ice – glad that it was a warm enough year for this to be an option. In the long afternoon along The Kaltag Portage, the hills started to flatten out. The new Old Woman Cabin, so different to my experience of it in 2011, was a place to add a few more clothes: the sun was beginning to outrun my westward progress. A single path reared up ahead, and comfortable-looking tundra carpeted the edges of the trail. I wanted to make Unalakleet, but even the most optimistic estimate would have me arriving in the middle of the night. Hitting towns at night was no better than riding through any other empty place, so I set my aim to be there for breakfast – well-rested, in time to pick up the supplies that I had posted there, and ready to move on quickly. The comfy-looking tundra was actually frozen hard, so I rode on into the dark looking for some smoother ground.
I started to become withdrawn. Legs turned, but my mind did not. The trail started crossing rivers. On one, I had amassed too little momentum and power in my attempt to get up a riverbank, and toppled back with the bike landing on me. Exposed wood, splintered by the passing of snow-mobiles, provided a harsh landing with an aroma of pine. I wanted to stay right there where I fell; exhausted, nearly asleep. The choice of where to bivvy was quickly made for me by my tiredness.The trail from Shaktoolik to Koyuk is an iconic and dangerous part of the route. It crosses the sea ice of Norton Sound; which can be precariously thin. Sometimes there are even holes, covered by snow and almost indistinguishable from the safe path. Winds rip across the ice and there are almost no natural navigation cues – just wooden stakes put out to mark the race route. A snow-mobile had already gone through the ice this year, so I had no hesitation in taking a rest on its edge, and facing the challenge by day.In the morning, I covered up every inch of my body before I rode out. When I stopped to eat and drink, I had to turn away from the wind, remove my face-mask, and do the business before the wind took all sensation and dexterity from my hands. Mile by mile, progress was good. Around ten miles out of Koyuk, one stake-marker stood alone. The sea ice had overflowed – water had been pushed up through the ice. By the time I reached it, this water had frozen, but it had taken the trail markers and the snow-mobile tracks with it. I guessed which way to go from the last stake. Riding the slick, newly formed ice was treacherous. No markers and no tracks. I made my way back to the last stake and looked again. Still nothing.With no marked passage, all I could do was use my GPS to aim for Koyuk and hope. With so much slick ice, and no studs on my tyres, I attached the cleats to my boots for some traction. I tried to read the ice with uneducated eyes. The slickest surfaces threw me down for lack of grip. Soft snow broke under my weight, forcing me to a trudge. On foot, the deeper snow pulled the ice cleats from my boots. After a number of return trips to retrieve the cleats, I added straps to them, holding them firm.It felt like an eternity. I was always tense, gnawed by doubt. Eventually, I picked up a snow-mobile track across crusty snow. At full speed and maximum effort, I could keep the bike up on the crust without punching through. More tracks came in. Joining, leaving, criss-crossing. I was getting closer. Finally, a wooden stake and a motorway of mashed up snow revealed the return of the main trail.
Iditerod Trail Invitational
It was afternoon when I rolled into Koyuk, but I badly needed to put my head back together. The tension of the sea ice and the near-certain knowledge that I was stuck in a second place finish had destroyed my resolve. Jeff was about a day ahead, and Phil about a day behind.Local information is often key to safety as you move down the trail. I was told to be careful of open water heading out of town; and not to follow the Iron Dog trail markers over the edge of the ice, but try to find the local snow-mobile route over the land. In the pre-dawn darkness, and with the vaguest of directions, I followed the edge of the village, searching for a likely looking trail. I read stories into some of the tracks on the ground, hoping that they were going my way. There were occasional dismounts, eerily quiet passages over bare ice, but eventually more snow-mobile tracks joined my route. I seemed to have found my way. White Mountain is 70 trail miles from Nome, and home to Joanna Wassillie, who welcomes racers into her house, departing trail news and warming us with her hospitality. It hit me the moment I arrived and felt too much like coming home. It was a chance to relax and be ready for the final ride. A chance to chat and hear more about life in the village.The final stretch can be hard on tired legs, so I left White Mountain just before dawn, hoping to arrive in Nome in daylight. I hit those first hills at pace. All the way to the coast, they just kept coming. There was little wind and the trail was packed down hard – I wanted to make the best of it. The view from each hill was the same: more snow-covered hills. Nothing else interrupted the endless crunch of my tyres over the snow, until I caught sight of the coast. Beaches, small bays, and a long spit of land stretched as far as I could see. The promise of the finish.Topcock Mushers’ Cabin sits at the bottom of the final hill. It is where mushers put on their extra layers of clothing to prepare for the coastal winds. Winds over 50 mph are pretty common around here, battering riders and mushers alike, pushing down from the mountains, driving you towards the sea. That day, I arrived before the winds had picked up, so no face-mask was needed. I kept on, to make as much ground as I could before they came.The snow had been blown clear of the trail along the coast leaving a stark choice: ride over frozen, ridged ground, or along the ice on the edges of frozen lagoons. I chose a silent, nervy, but fast trip over the ice. I tried to keep the tension inside my head to keep it from spreading down to my muscles. The pedalling had to be smooth; any steering had to be gentle. The side-wind mustered an insistent push towards the sea, but with little traction, I couldn’t steer against it. I had to let it drift me off-course. I would pick patches of roughed-up ice to turn into the wind and take back some ground before coming out onto the slick stuff and slowly being forced across again.Safety Roadhouse is the last stop before Nome. I fantasised about a Coke and some chips to fuel the final run around Cape Nome and into town. When I hit an actual road, the excitement was short-lived. Most of the road was covered in black ice – completely unusable without studded tyres. Riding on the fringes, I made slow progress.When I saw Safety, my heart sunk. Doors closed, no smoke from the flue, no snow mobiles outside. I was too early. Safety would open for the sled dogs, but our bike race was running so fast that they hadn’t opened yet. The best I could manage was to take shelter from the wind. I ate some tortilla chips and home-made fudge from my supplies. At least I would be moving along the trail again soon.As I ate, I saw Cape Nome clearly in the afternoon sun, but its foot was shrouded in white. The wind was coming. It was already on the Cape and looked to be ferocious at ground-level. I hurried back onto the bike, trying to gobble up as many easy miles as I could before things went to hell.Fishing camps and summerhouses were silent clues that Nome was getting closer. Their dwellers’ lives were a season away, and not a soul interrupted my journey. The ploughed road made for pretty decent travel. On either side, snow was piled up a metre high. It was no surprise when the wind came, but it came hard. Trapped between the ploughed snow on the sides of the road, I frequently had to steer away from the seaward side. Often, grip eluded me and I fell. The trick was to get your hands away from the bars before you hit the ground, avoiding a trapped finger. Resist the temptation to brace with your hands, avoiding a broken wrist. Just hit the ground like a sack of potatoes, get up, and go again. The wind was stinging my face and new bruises gathered on top of old. I looked at the time and put on my goggles and facemask. Even walking, I could get to Nome before I had to sleep. The only question was how much these last few miles would hurt.I tried the road first, giving up because of the wind. Then I tried the snow just outside it – a centimetre of crust sat on top where the warmth of the sun had melted it, and it had refrozen multiple times. I was climbing towards the Cape now but, if I rode at maximum effort, I could keep the bike floating on the crust for at least 100 metres at a time. Each burst of speed would end in one of two ways. Either the front wheel would sink and I would go ever the bars, or the back wheel would sink and I would have to find even more effort to power the bike out, or grind to a halt. Nothing was easy.
For a mile or so, I was in the silent lee of the Cape. Progress came too easily, but as expected, the toil returned. Everything at ground-level was temporal. My own tracks were being erased as I moved, my feet and tyres looked vague through the white streamers. Riding, pushing, falling, I inched forwards. The last fall was a couples of miles from the edge of Nome. I watched my bike spin away from me on the ice. Lying on the ground again, I rested a moment, then decided to head down to the snow-mobile trails that had started to follow the road. Falling in the middle of nowhere was one thing, but I wasn’t going to fall again in the town.On Front Street, Nome, there was no finish line. No party, and no supporters. When I rolled to a halt, I looked around: no-one to share in the moment. I took a note of the time, and then a room in the nearest hotel. I phoned my wife, and I phoned the race organisers. The Iditarod Trail Invitational was over for me with the disappointment of coming second to Jeff Oatley. I had to raise my hand to the stronger, more experienced rider. One of only a few people who could truly understand the last 11 days.

Genesis Caribou Review (BikeRadar)

I am not sure they really understood what Fat Bikes are good for – a lot of the review is done in comparison to more normal MTBs ….. It can’t really be compared.

In the wilds of North America, caribou have evolved with wide, concave toes to prevent sinking into the soggy ground and soft snow that dominate the landscape. It’s a fitting name then for Genesis’ fat bike, with the trend for big floaty tyres also originating in this often desolate land.

Ride and handling: rethinking your style

If you haven’t ridden a fat bike before you’ll quickly notice that the handling is far removed from what you’re used to. Heading to the trails along the road, you have to rethink how a bike handles, you become acutely aware of how much, on a ‘normal’ bike, you lean to corner.

With the Caribou’s 4in-wide Vee Mission tyres resisting directional change you have to turn the bars far more than usual, and with more force, as the bike resists leaning over. On hard-packed surfaces this isn’t a bike that wants to change direction on a dime – even the camber of the road had us quarrelling with the bars.

 Huge tyres and no bounce: a recipe for fun or disaster?

Hit the trails and the ungainly handling is muted somewhat. At trail centres where corners are banked and cambers generally levelled, the Caribou behaves better. The geometry is trail orientated, with 69.5-degree head and 73-degree seat angles – it’s not a nervous bike through the corners, but nor is it the most lively or agile. Let the tyres down to below 12psi and all of a sudden the low-treaded Mission tyres really do have acres of grip in normal trail conditions. It takes a bit of getting used to but soon you can pick the speed up and sling it towards corners.

On faster trails, through flat corners or bomb-holes the compromise of running low pressures is evident in tyre roll. While we stayed rubber-side down during testing, we knew when we’d pushed too hard and our planned arc round the corner very quickly became a lot wider. It’s the same when you hit an unexpected bit of off-camber trail – all of a sudden you’re battling with the bike to go where you want it to.

The bars have a huge amount of sweep, which compromises technical control

Heading to soft, wet, rooty woodland trails you start to see why those crazy Americans love fat bikes. Unlike a traditional mud spike the fat tyres don’t cut through the mud, they surf around on top of it. You don’t get pin sharp accuracy, and if you head through a rock garden that extra width and undamped suspension from the nigh-on 3in deep tyres bounce around from rock to rock. If you take your time, pick a line and let the bike monster-truck over it you’ll get to the other side with a grin on your face. Individual rocks and roots disappear under your footprint only to re-emerge the other side none the worse for wear.

Frame and equipment: specced for adventuring

Genesis has specced its Alt Riser bars with a massive 20-degree sweep. On long gentle rides the sweep puts your wrists at a relaxed angle, but in more technical terrain it conspires to keep your elbows in and puts extra pressure through the outside of your palm, compromising control and grip. When the trail gets steeper, especially where rocks and roots are prevalent, the lack of a shoulder on the tyres mean they step out too frequently for confident climbing or descending, with the bars adding to your nervousness.

With adventuring in mind, Genesis has made the bike as luggage friendly as possible. The fork alone would take a rack, mudguards and at least one bottle cage or carry cage per leg, while the front triangle has eight bolts bolted in. At the back there are yet more rack mounts. Essentially, if you’re going to disappear for a long time, this is the machine to get you there to begin with.

The wide rigid fork gets a full complement of mounts

The drivetrain is a basic 1×10 setup, with Shimano Deore gearing and Race Face Ride cranks. The ring is a 30-tooth version, which helps lower the gearing. This isn’t a bad thing when the trail climbs and you’ve packed the kitchen sink. For versatility we’d add a 40-tooth extender, or run a SRAM 11-speed setup.

While those big tyres add flotation, they lead to a number of compromises. What suspension they do provide is entirely un-dampened, making for a bouncy ride. They’re also heavy, meaning they resist getting up to speed or changing direction. Oh, and good luck if you puncture and only have a trail pump. At least if you’re stuck in the Arctic pumping tyres up will help you stay warm.

Super wide rims are drilled to drop weight

With a fat tyre behaving wildly different at different pressures on different terrain, unless you do want to spend 10 minutes pumping a tyre back up to pressure when you hit firmer ground, your ride is almost guaranteed to be compromised at some point, more so we feel than with a regular trail bike setup.

Summary: enjoyable, in its intended environment

With its massively wide tyres and rims, and rigid forks, the Caribou is never going to be the fastest uphill or down but that’s not really what it’s designed to do. If you just want to go flat out 100% of the time, you’ll already know the Caribou isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get out to the wilds and explore, and aren’t too bothered about beating your mates up the hills, you might want to look a little closer. Despite our concerns over spec and the compromises inherent in the fat tyres, it has an infectious quality that does result in a post-ride grin.

Once you get used to it, the Caribou can be a grin-inducing ride

Ride in the kilpatrick hills

So the kilpatrick hills are just outside glasgow and I have never been there to walk or ride but the Facebook meetup group were going there today although later so I decided to stop there this morning to have an early ride.

Road was pretty icy but once on the bike it was great and then I started to climb

And climb right to top of ridge. The genesis caribou has a 1×10 setup but up top it hits 13% ave gradient (makes note to check on gps track) I was having to sit back and pedal as standing or leaning forward meant the tyres were starting to slip. But sitting down meant the front wheel lifted on every pedal stroke …. I confess to 2 brief halts. Then the top ….

Nice pretty untouched snow – luckily someone had passed yesterday so I had an indication of where to go – it was all new to me. Fat tyres only sunk in 2-4 inches but when I stepped off it was 6-10 deep ….. Ooooft

Then the path led down


By the bottom I was grinning ear to ear.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 14.25.38

Fat bikes don’t fit

Well the roof racks on the car have had to resort to straps to secure the wheels …..


Went down the beach for a test ride on the sand with the bike whilst waiting for the wind to kick in for kitesurfing. It is good on sand but as I discovered also very good over seaweed strewn rocks and kelp. Cycled right on the edge of the water with spray going everywhere – all I could think of was RUST which is stupid as bike wouldn’t be left with salt water all over it. In fact I had the sprayer in the car so rinsed it down on my return. Only did 10km but on sand that felt longer – riding down the dunes on the very soft sand felt very strange and I worked out that turns had to be gradual and carved to stop the tyre digging in.

Screenshot 2015-01-29 20.07.41
Great fun

Afterwards the wind kicked and had a great hour and a half on my small 6m wave kite. Top day.

Screenshot 2015-01-29 20.07.07

What a great first (snow) ride

Saturday morning 7:30am alarm goes. Wolf down some muesli and get the bike out.

bike adventures-13

It says -3C on the thermometer and snow is forecast so today i have packed my snowboard goggles and mitts along with roadie neoprene overshoes into my handlebar roll – JUST IN CASE.

rolling to the meet up
rolling to the meet up

There is carnage on the 2 mile stretch of road leading up to Mugdock as idiots in cars forget they are 2WD (4WD wannabes) cars with low profile tyres – so they have slidden and created some entertainment for me (and probably higher insurance premiums)

kissing cousins
kissing cousins

Meetup with pal Stu then off to meet the rest of the guys. This was my first rolling on snow with the fat bike and it felt so smooth and tracked so easily once there was powder. The other boys were on a 29er normal a 26 full sus and then two 29+ bikes running 3″ tyres. First we went up to the boards and my pal said the 15psi I was riding was way too high so I dropped it to 8psi then immediately slammed it into a board and gave myself a puncture. I told them to head on but they waited the 5 min for me to change the tube. Then onwards we went. The route they went involved lots of single track sections through the woods so I felt i was not getting the terrain I wanted.

A lot of trees were down so handsaws came out sections were rerouted or trees dragged out of the way ….

tree blocking the way
tree blocking the way
fat tyre little snow
fat tyre little snow

2015-01-17 11.23.16So after 3 hours of lots of stops and starts i headed off by myself to enjoy the crunch. Went upwards towards the Campsies and the West Highland Way were there is a great descent but it was not snowy more sludge and mud so I headed straight across the heather up to a stone fence for a spot of cold leftover pasta. Then a few more loops before heading home ….

Snow wasn’t too deep but still that lovely crunch.

bike adventures-21

My thoughts on the Genesis Caribou so far: (2 rides in)

  • Gearing seems about right, struggled slightly on some hills but i think I just need to man up.
  • Tyres although wide have little grip so wet roots will still slide. Think it was specced more for weight
  • Bottom bracket quite low so a few pedal strikes – but this may be a contrast to the 29er
  • Despite strikes actually pretty flickable on technical sections – I thought steering would be slower but has a good feel.
  • Tubes … uuugh … how last century – will need to convert to tubeless sometime in the future but this might also mean changing the tyres
  • Slow …. the sections to trailhead even on tar are painful (man up once again and get over it)

Overall – a keeper ….. more once tested for more than 80km.

Strava slowness
Strava slowness

Bikepacking – the first pack

8am this morning and the door bell rings with the post doing his special delivery. This one is quite special. My order from alpkit has arrived.

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Possum frame bag and also the sat bag …. which I then added my old busted fender to zipped onto some convenient straps on the bottom (the aim of this is in the rain and mud to stop the bag being sprayed continuously)

2015-01-16 13.28.04

So far impressed by the construction of the bags … out for a ride tomorrow but think it will only be with the frame bag in place …….. The forecast is for a bit of a snow dump tonight and tomorrow ending at 8am so looking forward to it and trying out the fat bike in ‘designed for’ locations

Chewing the Fat – reblogged

Love this old blog from Dales on fat bikes (see what i am googling recently)

Fat bikes are gaining popularity not just as niche snow and sand machines, but as everyday bikes for use on natural terrain. Cue the Surly Pugsley, one of the first mass-produced fat bikes. Now that fat offerings are available from various mainstream companies, more and more riders are now asking themselves if this sort of bike could be for them.

I purchased one of the last 2013 complete Surly Pugsleys a few weeks ago, as an alternative to a short travel suspension bike, for use year round and to complement my single speed Surly Troll. So far it hasn’t failed to impress, in sand, snow, mud and on natural and man-made trails.

Its maiden voyage saw me trying to climb some of the fireroad trails around the Pentland hills, which were covered in deep snow. It’s was a baptism of fire/ice, and it took a whole new set of skills to the keep the bike on the straight and narrow. I quickly learned the key was to stay seated to ensure the rear wheel kept traction, and stay in the granny gear to keep the wheels rolling consistently. I found that if you stood up, the rear wheel lost grip, and if you shifted up a gear, the big tyres would slowly grind to a halt. All this aside, the Pugsley impressed, and the narrower tyre tracks veering off to the left and right of the trail showed where lesser bikes had tried, and failed, to muscle their way through/over the deep snow drifts which covered the trail.

Later in the week I went riding in the deep mud which had collected around Arthur’s Seat after the snows had metled. The Pugsley was again in its element, and the impressive float of the 4 inch tyres allowed me to scrabble across deep muddy puddles, and although it was difficult to precisely steer the bike, general stability was excellent, and at no point did I feel the need to dab a foot, which was good, because the mud was thick enough to suck the shoes off my feet. It was like piloting a paddle ship, just spinning the cranks in a low gear, and aiming for the far shore.

My third ride was an extended tarmac jaunt across Sustrans National Cycle Route 1, which runs from the Edinburgh city centre out towards Dalkeith. Obviously a long tarmac ride is beyond the scope of what a fat bike is really built for, but what surprised me was how quick the big tyres wanted to roll once they gathered speed, probably because the contact patch was only along the centre inch or so of each tyre if they were inflated past 15psi. It was by no means fast, and I only managed a 10mph average, but this allowed me to cover 20 miles in a couple of hours, and take in the scenery at a leisurely pace. To critics who say these bikes are just sideshow attractions for use one or two months a year, I’d like to disagree, and echo the idea that a fat bike can make a good everyday bike, and felt no more inefficient than a 140mm+ full suspension bike when on the road or path.

My Pugsley was given its first true test at the new Cathkin Braes Commonwealth Games XC course. Although it carries a man-made vibe, the loop includes steep descents, rocky climbs and great views, alongside the staple berms, doubles and sweeping switch-back climbs. It’s still in a slightly unfinished state, so the trail was rougher, the mud was deeper, and the rocks more prominent than they might be in future.

Despite finding myself in a group comprised of riders on 140-150mm travel rigs, the Pugsley never felt less than sure-footed, and easily kept pace with the full suspension rigs. The super fat tyres offered excellent traction through the berms and on the climbs, outclassing even the stickiest 2.5″ tread on the other bikes. Winching up the climbs was no chore with a 22-tooth front ring, and full 11-34 rear cassette, the paddles on the rear tyre hooked up on even the softest terrain, and would only slip on the slickest of roots.

Interestingly, downhill sections were less of a challenge than expected. Run at 10psi, the Larry and Endomorph tyres offered plenty of float, and an inch or two of “free” suspension, which took the edge of rough descents and drop offs of up to a foot or two.

On the steeper sections I was glad I’d replaced the stock BB7 brakes with a pair of Avid’s more powerful hydraulic Elixir models, which scrubbed off speed quick enough, even with the substantial rolling mass of the Pugs’ big wheels and tyres to contend with. My only other changes had been to the cockpit, for personal preference, and I threw on a pair of Shimano’s new Saint pedals, which allowed me to ride with hiking boots in the poor weather, so I could always get off and push if the going got too tough.

The Pugsley truly shined in the unfinished sections, where deep swathes of mud or water cross the trail. The final climb was scattered with deep, sandy patches, which proved troublesome for the average XC/AM bike

So whilst many fat bike riders stick to sand, and to snow, I’m eager to try out my Pugsley as my “main” bike for 2013, and test the idea that fat bikes can be used as proper trail rigs, rather than just as clown bikes for soft, and otherwise impassable terrain.

So it’s so far so good with the Pugs, and I’m looking forward to trying it out at some of the larger Scottish trail centres, to see how it really measures up against the more traditional all-mountain and cross-country machines in our demo fleet.

Most recently, having seen the footage from the recent “Forth Fat” fat bike gathering in East Lothian (which I sadly missed, arriving on the fat bike scene as recently as I have), I’m also eager to schedule a trip to the beach!

If you can’t wait for the Pugsley, check out the Surly Moonlander, currently available in sizes 18-24″. The Pugsley will be available again from late summer in the UK.

Until then, happy trails!

Up in Lewis sans bikes

Up in the Isle of Lewis for the new year – no bikes and missed my fat bike today on the beach ….. Was peachy beachy, sand was firm enough for most mountain bikes although further along the sand was soft requiring wider tread.



Weather though was brutal with sleet showers and a temp of 2 degrees cold for me although luckily have a very warm hat now thanks to girlfriends mum …. Cozy


Fatbiking ….. Is not allowed (not my view)

So whilst I have just embraced fatbiking and love it’s simplicity and back to basics and its greatness in all terrain I saw this over at single tracks and though it was pretty funny …..

The general public, for the most part, doesn’t truly comprehend our obsession in mountain biking. And who can blame them? What doesn’t sound foolish about spending more on a bike than a nice used automobile, only to throw both you and the thousands of dollars in self-propelled, high-end tech down a rocky mountain? Stepping back and looking through the eyes of others makes you realize how foolish it all can seem. But there are those amongst us that take this foolishness to a whole new level by participating in the delusional subcatagory of fat biking.

Here at Singletracks, the fat biking phenomenon is in a full blown outbreak amongst the writing staff, quite like this season’s flu virus. It’s even spreading to the children of all things. The children!! I will admit that a fair number of our writing staff live in regions of the country where numerous feet of snow falls every year, thus making fat bikes an attractive proposition. Consequently, the views shared here are my own, and definitely do not reflect that of the writing staff at Singletracks.com.

Not once while riding on a gorgeous summer day have I thought to myself, “If only I could suffer more by riding through snow in sub-zero temperatures, battling frostbite and terrain simultaneously.” There are numerous activities I can enjoy during the winter time that don’t require biking in the snow: drinking hot cocoa, sitting in front of a fire, watching football, even shopping for next year’s mountain bike. Sure, I occasionally participate in winter-related activities such as skiing. However, I tend to contain my outdoor winter activities to those that offer lodges with hot meals and alcoholic beverages within mere minutes of participating in said activities. Fat biking provides you with none of these niceties. Nay, necessities.

While New Mexico does receive snow in the winter, there are numerous trails near the Albuquerque metro area that stay dry enough that a fat bike is not needed. So in that regard, my take on fat biking is admittedly biased. However, I know there are many of our readers who reside in snow-filled terrain, yet still abhor the idea of riding in snow. It is for you that I have decided to write my anti-fat biking manifesto:

1. Biking in temperatures below freezing is permissible but not encouraged.

Mountain biking in the negative temperature range is absolutely banned. Our very distant relatives, homo erectus and the neanderthals, worked very hard to “invent” fire to combat the freezing cold. Additionally, a great deal of research and effort went into developing the modern heating system for personal home use. Honor their efforts by sitting in your heated home, sipping hot cocoa that was warmed in the microwave or on your electric/gas stove, while sitting in front of a fire.

Mountain biking should be a anjoyment of the great outdoors, not a battle of wills against mother nature. Photo by: Greg Heil

Mountain biking should be an enjoyment of the great outdoors, not a battle of wills against mother nature. Rider: Greg. Photo: Delphinide

2. No man, woman, or child should have to fear the loss of digits due to mountain biking.

These types of medical maladies should only be encountered while summiting Mount Everest. And since Mount Everest does not have mountain biking trails, we have no need to attempt such feats on our mountain bikes in the winter.

3. Tires wider than 4 inches are to be ridden on the beach.

Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a minute. The ultra fat tires were first developed for beach cruisers (as a past resident of Florida, I am clearly an expert on the history of bikes on beaches). How these made the leap from a sunny paradise to the frigid tundras, we may never truly know. However, the natural habitat of fat bikes is along the coastline. Fat bikes found further inland, on snow-plagued terrain, should be considered an invasive species and dealt with appropriately.

4. While mountain biking, you should never be mistaken for the abominable snowman.

Being mistakenly identified as a creature from folklore commonly occurs while fat biking in the winter due to the 12 or more layers that is required to be worn in order to stay warm. It’s how ancient folklore is perpetuated in the modern era. And as more mountain bikers take to fat biking, the more often people will report false sightings of the abominable snowman. This will prevent the masses from accepting real photos published in the next issue of the National Enquirer.

It does not get much better than this on a fat bike. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP

It’s imperative not to wear all white while fat biking in the snow so as not to be confused with the Abominable Snowman. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP

5. Mountain biking was invented in the mountains of California, where the weather is constantly sunny and 70 degrees.

Ok, so it may not be sunny and 70 in the mountains year-round, but you get my drift. While not all of us have the luxury of residing in the human-infested state of California, we should all strive to mountain bike in the true spirit of the sport: biking only when the weather is gorgeous. For some, this may only occur for one month of the year, while for others this may be year-round. But that’s why we as humans invented cars and airplanes, so we can transport ourselves and bikes to warmer climates.

In all honesty, I don’t fat bike because I hate the cold. Plain and simple. So to you fat bikers, hats off. You are truly some of the most hardcore, passionate riders amongst us. Thanks also for pushing the industry to develop better cold weather gear so I can stay toasty warm on my rides when the temperature dips to 50.

Apidura Saddle Bag for Bikepacking

From Bikepacking mag:


Apidura has turned the heads of many long distance ultra cyclists across the world. A company based out of London, England, the folks behind Apidura have established a brand that strives to create rackless packing systems that will optimize bike handling and weight distribution for your trip – whether it be pavement, gravel, or trail, Apidura has proven to succeed, and has many athletes to back that up.

The company was built on experience. Apidura was born after owner, Tori Fahey, completed the Tour Divide in 2012.  A race like the Tour Divide is never something that is thrown together. It takes months to plan your rig, what you will carry and what bags you will use. No matter how much you train with your set up and dial in the intricacies, you might end up running into issues, or things you wish were different about the gear you chose to bring along. Tori took the 2,700+ miles to reflect on what could be more efficient about her bags, and how they could be designed differently to help with weight distribution, or ease of use. Thus, Apidura came to be.

The company as a whole has a focus on creating bags that are ultralight, durable and functional – but what really strikes me is their mission, which is to promote “unencumbered bicycle touring so that cyclists can spend more time enjoying the ride.” That is really what it is all about, right? We want to feel as close to being on a empty bike as we can while riding on a loaded rig. Not only does it provide the most efficiency, but comfort as well.


We had the pleasure of testing the Apidura Saddle Pack (regular) on an overnight fat bike excursion to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. The pack is designed using a 4-layer laminated xpac fabric for the main body which provides superior waterproofing, and is lightweight and durable. This pack also holds an excellent shape when empty. Apidura uses a hypalon fabric, which is ultra durable in high abrasion and high stress areas, and will help protect against friction or puncture. The straps which connect the bag to the seat post are extremely durable and easy to yank on. They also stay in place very well through rough terrain. It is to be noted that we were testing a sample pack versus the commercial production pack. The difference here was in the buckles – they were different than what you would see on a purchased pack from Apidura. The commercial production packs use Woojin Lion Buckles (below right), which are significantly more durable to tension and strain than the buckles on the pack that we tried (below left).

Wooljin Kross Buckle - less sturdy buckle on pack we tested


The regular size pack is relatively large. Although the strap systems allow the pack to compress very well,  it is still rather deep.  I was riding on a small frame Surly Pugsly, and was cutting it close with about an inch of clearance.  I did try this pack on a small frame Rocky Mountain Element, and was not able to use it with the rear suspension without rub.


I was able to fit my entire sleep system in the saddle pack with plenty of room to spare. As we were just going on an overnight and the distance was not too significant, I decided to pack for comfort. In the bag I packed a Grand Trunk Hammock with ropes and carabiners, a Big Agnes 20 degree down sleeping bag, a Marmot Bivy, and finally a Big Agnes Clearview mummy sleeping pad. I was able to fit all of this while still compressing the bag down as far as the straps would take it.  This illustrates how high volume the bag actually is. Again, aside from the minimal clearance while using this pack on a small frame, the bag performed exactly how it should and I did not have any rub on my rigid fat bike. If you are riding on a small frame, I would suggest going for the compact bag option, especially if you have a full suspension bike. This will ensure a good fit with plenty of clearance.


While we were riding back to the car after our overnight trip, one of the sample pack edition buckles broke from tension. The buckle was connected to the left strap which connects the bag to the seat rails. It was sagging lower than the day before, so we really yanked on it to gain more clearance.  While doing so, the male side of the buckle snapped and was rendered useless. We were able to tape it up and be on our way. Although this is not idea for the long haul, as mentioned above, Apidura had used a less durable buckle on their sample packs, and are using a much stronger buckle for their commercial production bags.

Overall, the Apidura Saddle Pack was extremely well constructed. You can tell there was a lot of thought put behind the construction of the pack.

BIKPACKING review: The Interesting Jones H-Bar ….

From Bikepacker:

Through the years, strapping my bags to my bike, loading them up with camping gear, and hopping over my saddle has been described as “the couch.” Maybe it was a reference to watching football every Sunday on the couch, with a beer, food, and your team on the boobtube, everything you need, right? What I’m getting at is that the couch is pretty darn comfortable. A least at the beginning of the game, before your team goes down 14-0, that couch is a pretty cozy place.

When I thought my couch was as comfortable as it could get, I slapped on some 710 Jones Bikes Loop H-Barson my Surly Moonlander. The main reason was to give me a more upright position to cure my unnecessary pains. Not until I actually talked to Jeff on the phone did he convince me that his bars are capable of so much more. Riding my bike down Schafer Road, into the canyons and along the White Rim, I kept thinking to myself, he was right.

The Jones Bikes Loop H-Bars

Jeff Jones has gone through a number of styles with his bars, but has stuck to one major theme, a lot of sweep, 45 degrees to be exact. Also present on all of his bars is a 13mm rise/drop. Starting with his original steel H-Bar with one hand position, all the way to the Loop H-Bar – Jeff understands the need for comfort, and carries through with these innovations.

Jones Bikes Loop H-Bars
Jeff Jones designed the Loop bars to make for a better overall ride. The bar gives riders more hand positions, an inherent benefit for bikepacking. The extension bar out front gives space for plenty of fun gadgets, like lights, GPS, SPOT, and other items. The loop feature also stiffens up the bar. Jeff originally started with the 660mm bars, Surly asked Jeff if they would make some longer ones for a hand full of 2014 bikes. The rest is history, even Jeff said he digs the longer bars.

“It’s made from two different tubes that are butted (one is also tapered) then both are bent , mitered and welded together, then heat treated, etc. This is not a normal handlebar that is made from a single piece of bent tubing. And it is not made it giant numbers like most normal bars. It is very well made and works very well” says Jeff Jones.

The Test
The Loop H-Bars have been on my Moonlander since June, primarily for the fatty commuter I put together early this summer. But my intentions have always been to use them for long days in the saddle. Recently I have done just that, trying to figure out if these bars are Tour Divide friendly. Although the bars are pretty beautiful naked, I installed extra long ESI Chunky Grips and some red Lizard Skin Bar tape, which doubled as my bag stabilizer and bar protector.

Jones Bikes Loop H-Bars

Unless you purchase a custom bar, 45° of sweep is the most you are going to find for mountain biking. A normal bar will typically have about 9° of sweep. Some companies, like Salsa, have bars with more sweep (23° ). Either way, it’s no where close to what Jeff Jones is doing. By using so much sweep, the bars keep you more upright. It also keeps you more centered on your bike, rather than leaning forward which proved to be helpful on descents.

I have noticed the sweep does not hinder my riding performance, it actually gives me more confidence which was hard to believe before my first ride with them. The industry trend has gone towards shorter stems and wider bars. 710mm bars could be considered short now. But the H-bars actually feel much longer than what they really are creating a bar with stability and responsiveness. You don’t have to move the bar all that much to get your bike to do what you have ordered. The bar comfortably kept my hands, and shoulders in a position that I enjoyed being in. I am currently using a 90mm, 10mm rise Thompson stem.

Hand Positions
After I got off the White Rim last week, my next ride on my full suspension was rather interesting. I instantly moved my hand from the grips and tucked my hands in closer to the stem of my bars. My body understands comfort, and it instantly mimicked the upright position of my Jones Loop H-Bars. My standard position would be right over the brake clamp, it is a nice middle ground.

Jones Bikes Loop H-Bars

While pedaling out of the saddle or in more aggressive terrain my hands would sit at the ends of the bars, giving me full leverage to pull up or crank down. When I needed to have my hand on the brake for descents, I would align my hands with the brake, about 2 inches in from the end of the bars. When I was working against the wind I would lean over the bike, and reach my hands on the loop further away from me. This position makes you more aero while not sacrificing comfort all that much. I also found myself resting my forearms on the loop part of the bars mimicking aero bars.

A few things to note. When I plan on using the bars for more singletrack, I will likely roll with an 80mm stem. I did not notice too much reach out of the 90mm stem, I just want a little more comfort and control on the rough stuff. Your hands naturally want to be placed at the end of the bar when descending, this took some getting used to for me. I could always trim my ESI Grips a bit and move the brake clamp down the bar, but it would create a useless space on the bars, the opposite of what these are meant for.

Multiple hand positions
Plenty of space for gadgets
confortable sweep
Flip bars for 13mm rise/drop
Have to move hands to brake
Heavy, but carbon available soon


The Jones Loop H-Bars are the alternative to your standard flat or drop bars. The ability to have so many different hand positions, while creating so much extra space, without sacrificing function of steering is a huge bonus. I keep finding new comfortable positions, which is likley to alleviate the issues with numb hands. Jeff has found the sweet spot between sweep, rise, and length to make a fantastic product, especially for adventure cycling.


FatBike Friday First Time Fun

OK the niggle i will get out the way first – and this is it. Riding a fat bike on Pavement or tarmac is crap. Granted I only have to do 20min at the start and end of the ride to get into the trail but it isn’t great.

But the good things

Amazing traction – anywhere loose ridged sandy Muddy and Icy you will have great grip. I stood up on an icy fire-road ascent and when the weight moves forward the rear started to loosen and slip but keep seated or your weight back and there is no issue


heavier Steering
That wider rubber does need firmer input on the arms – but just think of it as a work out for the upper body.


Mud – Got the joining up with the path wrong and slammed into a wedge of mud about 20cm deep at 30kmh …. the bike slowed jolting me but then popped up and over where my other bike would have flipped me over the bars … ‘great i though saved by my Fat’ I thought.

Anywhere that is more technical is where the bike really shines. I was doing rocky single track without the normal worries about picking a line that i do on the Lynskey 29er.

Here is a short video (using GoPro template) that i edited (in 3 min) so not detailed but gives a flavour of the bike.

The ride here on Strava

Screenshot 2014-12-13 10.47.54


Film Wednesday: ReEvolution Teaser

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
Ed Abbey

Carrying things on the Fat Bike Forks – Salsa Anything Cage vs …?

Came across this review and got me thinking of possible UK alternatives …..

The definition of bikepacking is different for everyone, and that is what makes it awesome. One thing I think we can all agree on is that it involves strapping cargo to your bike.

I’m sure a few folks are getting ready for a fall bikepacking trip on their fatty or even that winter ultra a few months down the line. As the mercury drops, your pack list grows. Gloves, extra base layers, coats, and even more water. Shifting around gear can prove to be difficult. A few bike manufactures such as Surly and Salsa understand this, and have incorporated 3 bolt mounts into their forks.

Recently I loaded my fork up with some cargo, gearing up for some winter bikepacking and possibly some redemption at a winter ultra this year. After doing some research, there are not many options for cargo loads that attach to the fork bolts on a Surly Moonlander or any Surly/Salsa bike for that matter. The Salsa Anything Cage is the obvious option and the most popular among bikepackers. The other option is the Cleveland Mountaineering Everything Bag.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

Salsa Anything Cage:

The Salsa Anything Cage has been around for a while now, giving bikepackers the ability to carry dry bags, stuff sacks, water bottles, sleeping pads, or any roundish piece of gear. The Anything Cage comes with 3 hole mounting points to fit perfectly on a Surly or Salsa fork, or any 3 bolt mounting system for that matter.

Although Salsa does not recommend it, the Anything Cage fits your standard cage bolts, meaning you could easily fit it inside a standard frame to carry some extra cargo. Just don’t run to them when it breaks with a warranty inquiry. The cage functions with two straps (included) that pull your items to the cage itself. Without the two provided straps, it is just a few pieces of metal welded together.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

Last year Salsa took the Anything Cage off the shelve because many of the cages were breaking at the welds. Since then, they have re-introduced a stronger, sleeker looking black cage that can hold up to 6.6 pounds of junk. We suggest that you buy two cages if you plan on mounting to your fork, they are not sold in pairs.

Cleveland Mountaineering Everything Bag:

The Everything Bag is another option to carry water bottles, stuff sacks, sleeping pads, fuel bottles, and anything that you can stuff in the bag. Like the Anything Cage, the bag is meant to attach to the Salsa/Surly three bolt fork/frame system.  The bag comes ready to mount with 3 installed bolts and 3 washers on the inside of the bag. Also included is 3 washers on the outer part of the bag to provide stability.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

Unlike the Anything Cage, the Everything Bag is a 2/3 circular bag with a bottom that is made out of XPac. Attached is two cinch down pieces of webbing, with metal cam buckles that allow you to tighten down your cargo by a tug of the strap. These buckles prevent any loosening while riding and are very easy to undo with the pinch of the clamp.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

One of the unique features of the Everything Bag is its ability to work on a standard fork with no bolts. When you make your order with Jeremy, he will ask you what fork you have and provide the proper p-clamps. The p-clamps come with a protective rubber liner to prevent any damage to your fork.


So what’s the best system for your next adventure? That is for you to judge, but we feel that each product has its strengths and weaknesses. Both are unique and innovative ways to carry extra gear. If you don’t mind some weight up front, this system is perfect. If your ride is more singletrack heavy, especially technical singletrack, this option may not be the best. However, both bags were tested on road and singletrack and both held up well – so saying they are not reliable on singletrack is just not true.

One thing we noticed was with the weight comes a bit of self-steering, especially on a relatively heavy fat bike or one with wider tires/rims. No matter what option you use, it’s important to keep each side a similar weight. Otherwise the bike tends to self-steer.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

The Anything Cage was tested with a Porcelain Rocket Anything Cage Bag. The bag proved to be the perfect option and fit for the Anything Cage. Stay tuned for a full review of this bag next week. On top of the $3o.00 price point of the Anything Cage, you will likely need to buy something like the Porcelian Rocket bag, or a dry bag to mount to the cage. We think Salsa has fixed its cracking cages, however it’s still a bit scary knowing it has happened. If you are in the backcountry, figuring out a fix could prove to be difficult.

The Anything Cage webbing straps are a nice complement to the cage itself, especially if you are just mounting a water bottle, circular stove such as a Jet Boil, or a rolled up sleeping pad. The simplicity of the cage has its advantages, like being able to customize the way you carry your gear. The weight of the system alone (including straps) is 174 grams contrary to what the Salsa website says, and with the Porcelain Rocket Anything Cage Bag, 238g.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

The Cleveland Mountaineering Everything Bag was designed to withstand a bit more abuse, while not compromising weight and functionality.  These two products are very similar, but with the simple addition of the ⅔ bag, it instantly gives the Everything Bag more stability. We tested the bag with a water bottle, and loved how easily accessible it was to grab, but more importantly how easy it was to slide back in place without tinkering with the straps. It also proved to be a great stuff sack for a rain coat as well as other quick access items. It can fit a small dry sack and again easily slide in and out of the attached webbing straps.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

The weight of the system is 226g, slightly heavier than the Anything Cage, but also a bit more versatile off the shelf. You also will be paying a bit more at $50.00 for the whole system. We did notice a few issues with rusting bolts (provided) after sitting in the rain for a few days.

Anything Cage vs. Everything Bag

Either way, both cages are unique in their own way and act as a simple solution to carry more gear. We really like having one of each, as we have found great uses for both systems. If you have some boss mounts, it’s time to consider putting them to good use.