Friday, October 19, 2007

Snow bike "State of the Union"

Since we are only a month away from consistent snow bike riding, let's talk gear. Who is making the perfect snow bike right now? Has the perfect snow bike even been made yet? The five bikes listed below share one common theme; they all have enough clearance to run the 3.7" Endomorph tires. After that, they are very different.

The newest snow bike on the market was designed by Alaskans and is being sold through Speedway Cycles in Anchorage, AK.
- Ti frame
- 165mm rear hub spacing
- 100mm bottom bracket
- Vertical dropouts
Thoughts: The 165mm rear hub is cool because it allows you to build a non-offset rear wheel. However, it also severely limits your hub options and most 165mm rear hubs are not light. So you get a super-light frame but then have to stick a boat-anchor rear hub on it. Hmmm (See my late edit below)

DeSalvo Ti FatBike
This is the only one so far and was built for 135mm rear spacing to accomodate a Rohloff Speedhub.
- Ti Frame
- 150mm rear hub spacing available

Thoughts: The 150mm rear hub "might" let you build a non-offset rear wheel and are more common than a 165mm rear hub. DeSalvo does great work but I am guessing this frame would take a year to get and cost about the same as two fully-built Pugsleys. Still, I am drooling.

Wildfire Designs FatBike
Made by DeSalvo for Wildfire Designs.
- Steel frame
- 100mm bottom bracket
- 135mm rear hub spacing
- Vertical dropouts

Thoughts: Very well made frame & fork...but is it worth 2X more than a Pugsley? I like supporting the small builder, it was the lightest available at this time last year, and I definitely wanted vertical dropouts so it was a clear choice for me.

Surly Pugsley
Surly was the first company to mass produce a snow bike, rims & tires. Without their gamble on this obscure niche we would still be welding rims together.
- Steel frame
- 135mm rear hub spacing
- horizontal dropouts

Thoughts: You can build a damn nice Pugsley for $2K and have an awesome snow bike. And now they come in grey. You could also run a White Brothers carbon fork with 100mm spacing and save 2 lbs! I am just not a fan of the horizontal dropouts.

Vicious Cycles Thunderwing
- Steel frame
- Each tube is sealed to prevent corrosion
- bb width not known
- 135mm rear hub spacing
- Killer custom paint

Thoughts: Vicious Cycles was blazing trails and built the Thunderwing before the Pugs came out. Nice!

The bottom line is that ther are way more options for a quality snow bike than there were two years ago. However, I am not sure my "perfect" snow bike is in this group. Here are the pieces to my perfect snow bike:
1) Ti frame
2) 73mm bottom bracket because my knees do feel the affects of the 100mm bottom bracket
3) 150mm rear hub spacing so I can build a non-offset rear wheel
4) Non-offset chainstays

My perfect snow bike frame would be light, have a normal Q-factor, and would allow me to run three chainrings in the front and 6 or 7 cogs in the back. That is plenty in the winter. In the summer it would double as a sweet 29" hardtail without having to build a funky, offset 29" rear wheel like I did for my FatBike.

Edit 10-28-07: My comment above about the 165mm rear hub being a "boat anchor" was based on my impression that it was a downhill hub and therefore must be really heavy. Greg from Speedway Cycles posted some great comments including the actual hub weights. The 165mm Hadley and DT Swiss hubs are both lighter than the XT "boat anchors" I am currently running. Ha! Thanks for straightening me out Greg!


Jill Homer said...

That FatBack is so cool. I would love to be able to convert my snowbike to a 29" hardtail for the summer, thereby having one frame that could be my "everything" bike. I was actually thinking about the possibility of doing that with the Pugsley, even with the offset, it may be an option.

It's too bad I hadn't heard of that bike before I bought the Pugsley frame. Actually, I take it back. It's a good thing, because I probably would have dropped the money on it.

Doug said...

Cool post Dave. It's great to see options for snowbikes. It's got me thinking even more about snow! Can't wait for it to turn cold and snowy and get out on my Pugsley.

FixieDave said...

pugs is hard to beat in terms of value but man that new ti frame is pretty sweet!

looking at having james from blacksheep get something together for me of course singlespeed though =)

Simmons said...

Great post! If only Moots would make the Snoots bike a part of their line up. I think it would be another popular option. Expensive, but if it works for Mr. Curiak, it has to be worth it.

Anonymous said...

Ha, Dave, well my pugs season started today. Just didn't call you cuz it was bit pioneering...Set out to do red creek loop but ended up just going up and down corral. Too snowy on top, too muddy at the bottom but the middle was just right!

So my question is how do snow bikes ride when you put a front shock on??? Is it better like summer or do you end up stoppering the front end and bogging down more??

Chris E.

Dave Harris said...

Nice post Dave.

As I was in the midst of a 9 hour hike-a-bike yesterday my thoughts were drifting to these fat wheel bikes.

Do they make normally unrideable sand rideable? Serious question.

Dave said...

Chris E. - You are the MAN for attemtpting the Red Cr loop on the Pugsley! I think the real problem with suspension on the front is with the oil & seals when the temps drop below zero. I ruined a set of seals on a Fox Vanilla by riding it at 5 degrees. I had studded tires on my 5 Spot.

Dave H. - I have never ridden my snow bike in sand but the original super-fat rims were made by Remolino and were designed specifically for sand. 80mm wide! Also, I remember reading a post from a guy who rode laps at the 24 hours of Moab two years ago and claimed he could ride all of the sand sections on his Pugsley. It could add a whole new element to your "exploration" in the desert. Cool.

Jill Homer said...

Dave H.

For what it's worth, I've ridden my Pugsley on sandy beaches that I'd attempted before with my Snowcat bike. I can ride now what I couldn't ride then. Wet beach sand is like pavement, but even in really soft sand, in which I'm leaving about an 1" deep track and spinning at 4 mph, I'm still moving forward. Even running relatively high tire pressure, I have yet to get bogged down in sand.

Dave Harris said...

Hmmm.....can you hear my cogs spinning?

Dave said...

Dave H. - Oh, I hear the cogs fact I think I see smoke. :)

Chris said...

I'll reiterated that the Pugs is good in sand. In fact I intend to spend a few weekends at least this winter exploring the washes with mine.

DaveB I like how you think. The only thing I don't like about the FatBack now is the big rear hub :(

The Pugs is still a damn good off the shelf solution.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of "snowbikes" look here: Sheesh!

I suppose these will be legal in Yellowstone???? From the great state of Idaho, of course!

Chris E.

Rick LaBelle said...

Extreme snow bike mentor: Joanne came home from Fitzy's today with the mother load...two new Pugsleys are now in our garage, praying for snow! (they kill it on the driveway gravel ;-) Let's ride.

Speedway said...

Hi Dave,
I am the designer of the Fatback along with my mechanic, Pete Basinger. Just wanted to let you know that the Fatback with the "boat anchor" 165 rear hub is down to 23.97 lbs. with pedals, all 27 gears (20,30,40X 11-34) and without any exotic parts. I would ride/race this bike anywhere and not worry about any componentry. Last year, the weight we were all trying to break was 29.4 lbs. Why worry about hub options? Chris King is now making a 160 which is very easy to convert to 165. I'm not using the Kings currently because I have a stock of Hadleys, which I think will outperform the Kings in cold weather. I also have a stock of DT Swiss in 165. None of these hubs are heavy. The difference is 30mm of hollow shell and axle. They are still lighter than XT's which most people run. With ALL offset designs, you are limited to a couple of rim choices. Rim choice is way more important than hub choice. You can use ANY rim and tire combination on my bike. Also, you cannot run an Endomorph and have a 73mm bb unless you want to sacrifice gearing. I have a friend here in Ak I believe you know who builds a bike with a 73mm shell and his latest customer is now buying a Fatback. The wider bb disappears under most people on the first ride. If you are ever here in Anchorage, come on by the shop- I'd love to take you out for a demo ride.
Greg Matyas
Speedway Cycles

Speedway said...

Just thought I'd add a few more things. The White Bros. fork is only 380 grams lighter than a 100mm width Pugs fork, weighing in at 800 grams, despite it's advertised weight. It only has 91mm of clearance, so it cannot be used with a Large Marge/Endomorph and just barely works with a Snowcat/Endo, which is about 86mm wide, leaving 2.5mm per side. As far as going with a 150mm hub-I tried that first and it's not really any better than a 135. You still have funky offset stays and and rims, leaving you very few options. A 165 hub needs no offsets and builds the most bomber wheel with everything symmetrical. If you think finding a 165mm hub is difficult, try finding the appropriate gearing to run a 73mm bb with an Endo. Yes, you can pull off all the loose cogs on your cassette and space them out on the inside, running a five speed. Then buy all new chainrings after converting your gear inches to try and duplicate a normal range of gears. This combination is not compatible with all derailleurs. Why bother? I would also suggest that your knee problems may not have been from a 100mm bb but because of an alignment or pronate issue. Depending on crank and pedal combo's, you are only talking a difference in foot width of less than 3/8" per side. This sounds like a lot, but with many folks using heavy winter boots and platform pedals, you could have that much difference everytime to step off. I run Eggbeaters most of the time myself and getting your cleat fit properly (ie wedges) can make a hube difference. Oddly enough, going to a wider stance can eliminate many people's knee problems. This is why Specialized came out with the Body Geometry shoe.

Dave said...

Thanks for posting some great info here. It is great to hear directly from the man who designed the frame and obviously has tried every variable out there. Good point about the gearing issues when using an Endomorph on a Large Marge with a 73mm BB shell.
Based on your pics on MTBR, I thought you were running the WB fork on Large Marge rim so that is very good info as well. I think you will sell out of these frames very quickly.

Speedway said...

Just another follow up since I have the scale out. A DT Swiss 165mm rear hub weighs 375 grams. A Hadley 165mm hub weighs 430 grams with a steel frehub (ti are available) and an XT 135mm weighs in at 445grams. All weights without skewers. Food for thought.

Chris said...

What is the seatpost size? Can we get some info on the custom fork that was listed as included for $1650 price? What are the top tube lengths?

Sorry we haven't gotten in contact since you had to help the customer Greg but I have a LOT of questions that still need to be answered and I'm sure a lot of other people do to.

Speedway said...

The seatpost size on the Fatback is 27.2. Effective top tubes are 22 5/8, 23 1/2, and 24 1/8. The custom fork is steel and weighs about 1000 grams with 9" of steer tube. It is a unicrown design with Breezer dropouts, disc only with no rack braze ons. I will sell a frame with a Surly fork for $1500 which has braze ons if you need them. I am also working on a segmented fork, but I don't have any yet. Let me know if you have anymore questions. Thanks for your interest.


Chris said...

How many bottle mounts on all size frames? Cost of just the frame alone? Frame seat tube and head tube angles? Rear rack braze ons? Cost of rear hub options?

And it takes an Etype front der correct?

Oh also what are you using for bottom brackets for square taper?

Appreciate the answers. We could talk over the phone but others probably want to know too. You are possibly swaying me back although a John E fork still seems like a good option.

Speedway said...

There are three bottle braze ons on the Fatback, so you still have access if you run a frame bag. Cost of frame alone is $1399 Seat and headtube are 73, 69.5. Yes there are rear rack braze ons, it takes an Etype front derailleur and Hadley hubs are around $380. I'm running Phil Wood bb's. I've got some great forks if your interested. I've got some if you just want to convert your Pugs to 100mm. Give me call.907-222-1967

Unknown said...

I must to say i love the snow, the cold climate, although i´m not a child anymore i remember my happy childhood and all the beutiful time that i spent with all my friends. Now when is snowing i prefer to spend my time with my boyfriend, most of all that he decided to buy viagra, we enjoy all the time.

Anonymous said...

Anyone experimenting with carbon fiber frames/forks/rims?

I run a carbon fork as a suspension replacement for winter cycling and it's been great.

Wonder does carbon get brittle like steel?