Thursday, June 28, 2012

A new bike

I just sold my Gary Fisher Hifi 29 full suspension bike. It was an excellent bike and for me pretty much the ultimate endurance racing bike. Unfortunately, it did not see much use. Last year I rode it for maybe six times in addition to Tahko MTB 180. I tried it once this year as well, but it didn't have the fun factor for me anymore. Having an expensive full suspension bike gathering dust is not what I want, so I sold it.

When I had decided to sell the Hifi 29, I also came up with another plan. A quick check with Foxcomp in Turku revealed that the plan was realistic and an order was sent. Now, having two fatbikes was not what I wanted either, so I sold the Pugsley. The Pugsley was built to be capable of week long solo trips carrying all the necessary camping gear and food both summer and winter, and worked well for this purpose. It was also somewhat overbuilt and heavy, and hence not the optional choice for a do-it-all bike.

Selling both the Hifi 29 and the Pugsley enabled me to get this one:

This is a Salsa Mukluk in size XL. Since I did have some components laying around, I ordered a frame set only and complemented it with the needed components from Foxcomp. Now, why did I get a Salsa Mukluk? The following alternatives would have been available, at least theoretically.
- Pugsley. Because of the offset nature of the Pugsley, I wouldn't have been able to get a light summer wheel set for it. I wouldn't trust the Marge Lite for serious trail riding during the summer with my weight.
- Moonlander. The ultimate winter bike? The same offset system as the Pugsley with even more offset, so no summer wheel set for me.
- 9:Zero:7. The new model is available with a 170 mm rear, but the new hydroformed frame does not have a big enough front triangle for me. I want to have space for a big frame bag for bikepacking purposes.
- Fatback. I've seen only positive reviews of the Fatback, so I'm sure it is an excellent bike. It might be a bit expensive to order to Finland, though, and I didn't consider it seriously.
- Sandman. The Sandman Gobi is a really cool bike with front suspension and all. It is a little too expensive for me, otherwise I would have considered it seriously.
- On-One are releasing a fatbike sometimes in late fall. It should be relatively inexpensive, but does not seem to be aimed for what I do, and the front triangle is very small.
- Salsa Mukluk. Salsa is a cool company and I already have an excellent bike from them, the Salsa Fargo. The Mukluk was actually the bike I wanted when I got the Pugsley almost two years ago, but at that point it would not have been available within a reasonable time. Salsa Mukluk has a 170 mm rear and a large front triangle, and should be very well suited for both bikepacking and general trail riding throughout the year. The fact that Foxcomp, an excellent local bike shop, is a Salsa dealer made the choice pretty easy after all. With some reasonable components, this bike should be significantly lighter than the Pugsley I had.

The bike currently consists of the following parts.
- Salsa Mukluk 3 frame with an FSA Alphadrive ISIS crankset (22/32/bash ring).
- Surly Rolling Darryl rims with DT Competition spokes on Salsa 135/170 mm hubs, winter wheel set.
- Surly Larry tires.
- Onza Mtb FR inner tubes.
- Avid Elixir 1 hydraulic disc brakes with 185 /160 mm discs.
- Shimano M520 SPD pedals.
- SRAM X.9 9-speed trigger shifters.
- SRAM X.0 medium cage rear derailleur.
- Shimano XT direct mount front derailleur.
- Sunrace 11-32 cassette.
- Sunrace 9-speed chain.
- Salsa Pro Moto 2 seat post.
- Rido R2 saddle.
- Cane Creek 40 EC34 headset.
- Race Face Deus XC 3/4 Rizer 680 mm handlebar.
- Easton EA30 105 mm stem.
- Ergon GX1 grips.

A second lighter wheel set for summer use currently waits for the Hope Pro Evo 2 170 mm hub set to arrive at Foxcomp. I already have a pair of 47 mm Trialtech SL Rear rims waiting at home. The idea is to use the Larry tires on the summer wheel set and the Big Fat Larry on the winter wheel set.

Within the next week I will also make a framebag for the Mukluk and possibly some sort of handlebar harness for easy fastening of a handlebar drybag. I currently also have a RePack WX seatbag on order, but it remains to be seen if a drysack on a rear rack still is a better solution. For someone of my height, I suspect that a rear rack gets the center of gravity much lower than a seatbag, and hence the rear rack might be a better solution, despite a 500 g weight penalty.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bikepacking in Pirkanmaa

We finally found the time to do a bikepacking trip together one week before midsummer, we being I, Toni Lund and Hendrik Morkel of Hiking in Finland. Hendrik wanted to show what Pirkanmaa had to offer, so we decided to take the train to Parkano, Toni and I from Turku and Hendrik from Vaasa.

The train is a good way to travel, though currently VR (the railway company) has big problems with late trains and a ticket reservation system that not even the friendly VR personnel can use. We were 30 minutes late starting from Turku, but at least there was food on the train.

We missed the connection from Tampere to Parkano and had to wait three hours in Tampere, but finally got on the train to Parkano. The new InterCity trains have a limited space for bikes.

In Parkano we finally met, and immediately started the ride towards the Seitseminen National Park a little before four in the afternoon. The planned route was probably fantastic, but we soon found ourselves in a military area and stopped to look at our options. Moments later a military police came to escort us out of the area and we then continued on a bigger road.

We eventually arrived at the Visitor Centre of the Seitseminen National Park, before it closed, and ate hamburgers and bought maps. And then the trails began...

The Seitseminen trails were mostly dream trails for someone used to the technical trails of the Turku area. Flowy and fast singletrack, technically easy enough to enable a good pace but still very interesting to ride.

There were occasional boardwalks as well, generally in pretty good shape.

Then there was this photography thing...

Common cottongrass.

Cloudberry flower.

Wild rosemary.

Hendrik's bike looked great with the new Porcelain Rocket bags.

And on we go...

Toni gives it all.

Some fallen trees were still on the trails.

A short break at Kovero.

We continue, first on trails...

... and later on small roads towards Kuru.

Then sun now was lower on the sky, but with the sunset at 23:15 we still had plenty of light.

Around 22:30, after 55 km, we arrived at the shelter near Suolijärvi. The outfit with bug proof clothing and a mosquito net was necessary to keep the sanity. The mosquitoes were bloodthirsty and came in great numbers.

Hendrik starts the fire, naturally without matches.

We spent some time around the fire...

... before going to sleep.

I got up some time past seven the next morning. My Tarptent Double Rainbow is an exceptionally nice shelter in conditions with plenty of bugs.

Hendrik was comfortable in his bivy...

... and Toni did well under a mosquito net.

Arctic starflower (Trientalis europaea).

Morning coffee.

We continued towards Kuru on Pirkkan Taival. At least this section was very nice.

Toni had some problems with the fenders. He didn't have time to remove them before the trip.

After Kuru we continued on mainly small roads towards Tampere...

... and had an early lunch at Toikko.

We had company.

Who's there?

And then we continued on the small roads. These roads would be a paradise to train on. Lots of up and down,  and dwindling enough to be interesting. I had fun in the uphills and felt that my fitness was slowly returning to normal.

Bike switching. Hendrik seemed faster on the fatbike.

We arrived at Tampere in the afternoon. Hendrik went to buy a train ticket and I left my bike to be fixed at R-Tech Suspension. The bottom bracket was grinding its internals and it was unsure if it could have taken another day. A big thanks to the bike mechanic who switched the bearings and also straightened the derailleur hanger. During the time it took, we had dinner and ice cream. Hendrik then went back home with the 18:00 train and I continued with Toni to the trails south of Tampere.

The trails started out fine...

... but it soon turned out that the trails south of Tampere were something entirely different than in Seitseminen. Our first attempt took us along a trail that obviously didn't see much use anymore. When it continued in deep mud we turned around to try our luck at the east side of Hervantajärvi.

This went well for a while and while the trail was marked on the map as a ski trail it seemed ok for a while, though it was very technical.

It soon got worse, but the trail was still used quite a bit.

A nice little bog section. The mosquitoes liked us.

The trail ultimately ended in the middle of a fairly large bog. Seemingly at least some people walk to the bog now and then, to do whatever you do on a bog.

We now had no other option than to turn back and aim for a place we had passed a little less than one hour earlier. Having run out of water several hours ago, we just wanted to camp close to water and if possible in a place with fewer mosquitoes. We ended up at the southeast corner of Hervantajärvi sometime after eleven in the evening, after 105 kilometers of bike riding and pushing. There were lots of mosquitoes around. We started by filtering some four liters of water, before refreshing ourself in the lake.

Now that we had water, the next task was bug protection.

I soon retired into my bugfree zone and drank 1.5 liters of water and ate some dried meat and müsli bars. Toni still made himself an outdoor meal and suffered some more.

The night was again nice and warm.

Good night!

The next morning was better. Obviously we were no longer as attractive to the mosquitoes now that we were no longer completely overheated.

To my surprise, Toni managed fine under the mosquito net. I had expected them to find their way in close to the ground, but that was not the case.

Making more water.

Toni optimizes the tire pressure.

Ready to leave.

The trails were mostly quite technical and some sections were impossible to ride on.

Turning back towards Tampere.


 Again we did some photography.

Going uphill.

Now followed some time on the urban trails and park roads around Tampere. We had lunch at Kaukajärvi.

Plenty of opportunities to stress every single muscle fiber in the legs.

We soon arrived at another forest section of the Kaarina trail. It started out nice.

The trail soon became difficult  and technical. It was now fairly warm, around 22C, and it was too hot for the mosquitoes except in shadowy places. At least something positive.

The Kaarina trail is not recommended for bikepacking according to our experiences, due to its in many places technical nature. After we got through this section we had around 15 km left to the railway station in Tampere. At the first possible occasion we bought a Coke, which tasted heavenly. Most of this last section went on small roads like this one, meant exclusively for bicyclists, runners etc. (and skiers during the winter).

In Tampere our goal was to have a pizza and a beer before taking the train back. We had to make do with a pizza only, though, and take the beer on the train.

Finally at home after around 65 km of bike riding and pushing. Toni still had around 35 km to go in light rain, but he needed the training anyway, because of Tahko MTB. Go, Toni, go!

Thanks to Hendrik and Toni for an excellent bikepacking trip. We should do it again. The fall should be pretty nice in the Seitseminen area...

Toni's report, part 1part 2 and part 3.
Hendrik's writeup.