Category Archives: 29plus

Review: Chumba Ursa 29 plus Bikepacking Rig


My review of the Chumba Ursa 29+ Bikepacking rig got published on Bikepackers Magazine today.

Check it out!




Are Plus Tires Too Fat?

Regarding durability and potential sidewall cuts, plus sized tires, by design, have wider sidewalls that allow for fewer possible line choices to pick than narrower tires would when navigating tight rocky singletrack. Its in these situations where precise tire placement may be preferred more than the increased traction, rollover, and compliance that a plus tire provides. The issue becomes when a plus tire either is so well reinforced that it is incredibly heavy or the tire is made so attractively lightweight that the sidewalls are too thin to depend upon in all trail sceanarios.

Price of course comes into play here and yet again we see a place for the bicycle industry to focus it’s efforts on achieving highest possible durability, with lowest possible weight, while providing it to the consumer at the lowest possible cost. As the saying goes, however, “Light, strong, and cheap: pick two.”

What are your thoughts?

When would Plus-sized tires be too fat?
For that matter, when are 3.0, Plus-sized tires too skinny?

When are 4.0, fatbike tires optimal? What about 4.8’s?

When are 2.2 or 2.4 width tires too skinny?
Can it be quantified? (E.g., for snow greater than 3 inches deep, a 3.0 tire is too skinny to be efficient enough, etc.)

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We would love to carry on a discussion for which tire size you would choose and which conditions you would prefer it.


UnBoost Your New Frame


With many new frames using the new BOOST 148mm standard, you may have recently purchased a new frame or found one under the Christmas tree that uses that new spacing. What could be a potential problem for you however, is trying to use your existing wheels with your new BOOST-spaced frame.
Well, there is now a MADE IN THE USA solution now for you to use your existing wheels with your new frame.
D.Fender is a company making a spacing kit that will convert the 148mm spacing to the more conventional 142mm.


You will need to space your disc brake appropriately, but this is a great step in the right direction for those of us who love the new frames available with the 148mm spacing, but also love our 142mm hubs that we already own.

Get your D.Fender UN-BOOST-SPACER-KIT  by clicking the link below.

Merry Christmas! Carol of the Spokes

My USA made, Velocity Blunt 35 rims have held up very well over the last 8 months while running 29+ tires, as well as regular 29er tires. I will likely write up a long term review in the months to come.
Today is Christmas Day, a very special day to me.
In lieu of being able to ride with you all to celebrate this special day, I wanted to share with you my favorite Christmas Carol video, which just so happens to be one that Velocity USA put out last year:

Wide Tires on Narrow(er) Rims

Recently, I have had opportunities to ride a variety of plus tires and rims in a few different combinations. When riding narrower 35mm wide rims, 3.0 tires are definitely more rounded out than they would be with a 45 or 50mm wide rim, but I actually tend to prefer it. I can’t say definitively why it feels better to me, but I suspect that the flattening out of the center tread when run on wider rims feels less precise, harder to turn, and more sluggish to me. Now, with narrower rims, the peaked center tread feels more efficient and lively, quicker to turn, yet when I lean forward on the front 3.0 tire with lower pressure, it compresses, increasing tire surface contact, thereby yielding more front end traction and ultimately more control. I tend to acticely lean into the front when I steer and drift the rear more than I used to with previous setups and have grown to really appreciate the flexibility when I have that 29×3 Chupacabra at 12psi. Shifting weight fore or aft can really make a huge difference in how efficient the bike feels and how much traction the riders have at their disposal. Getting familiar with this sensation has made me faster. Undoubtedly faster.


First Look & Review: Pivot Cycles – Les Fat

For the better part of 2015, I viewed the Pivot Les Fat as a type of white whale. Although I did not actually obsess over it to the point of it nearly destroying me, I did devote much time to learning how Pivot designed it and if it was a “Jack of all trades, master of none”, or a really good, lightweight all-day, endurance-oriented, adventure-ready, multiple-season, multiple-tire sized framework on which to plan my future outings upon.


Photo Credit:


Before this past weekend, I had not been able to even see one in person, let alone ride one, and yet at the same time it seemed to be the ultimate “swiss army knife” bike with ability to accommodate all wheel sizes, Swinger dropouts and reversible headset cups maximizing versatility by changing geometry to suit the application/wheel size, and built up upon a lightweight, yet famously durable Pivot carbon frameset. Either it was really popular and flying off the shelves, or local Pivot dealers decided not to stock it.
Although I hadn’t necessarily traveled far and wide to specifically seek out the Les Fat, mostly due to the price point inhibiting my desire of actually owning one (the frameset alone retails for $2699), every person who had purchased one, from what I read or heard, had a difficult time finding one for a test ride, let alone sourcing one in stock to buy it.
The shop closest to home for me, aka my LBS (local bike shop), Black Mountain Bicycles, hosted a Demo Day this past weekend, where Specialized, Pivot,  and SRAM came with their latest offerings. Weeks prior, after finding out that my schedule was clear for that day, I asked my friend at the shop if he knew about the lineup Pivot would bring, specifically if they were bringing a Les Fat. I hadn’t seen one on the showroom floor at the LBS, so I was curious about seeing one in person and possibly riding one on my local trails.
Before going to the Demo Day, I already knew quite a bit about the Les Fat from studying up on it earlier this year.
The ability to run a set of 29+ wheels and tires (or any other size you like) on a high quality frameset was a little bit rare, but to be able to adjust the geometry accordingly while keeping the bottom bracket height the same was beyond rare. Not only that, but the bike has the clearance for up to 5 inch tires and yet they trimmed down the Q-factor tremendously, apparently “a full 15mm narrower than other cranks designed for 197mm rear ends”.  They internally routed the frame for a dropper post, shifter cables, and hydraulic disc brake hoses as well.

I could go on and on about the specs, but you can read all those on Pivot’s website, ( You should probably click that link, it will open it in a new tab, and then you can toggle between my initial impressions review here and the Pivot website. Thats what I would do. 🙂

Let’s not beat around the bush too much, how about we get right to what I did and did not like? Sound good? Great! Read on…

What I liked.
1. The look.

Sleek for a fat bike, not over the top on color or graphics (Salsa has rainbow sherbert colored Beargreases for 2016, which some adore, but I abhor), and nicely shaped tubing, the downtube is thick in all the right places, but doesn’t look overly beefy from the profile view.
2. Cornering and trailbike prowess.
The first trail taken was a downhill with many banked switchback turns. The Maxxis Mammoth 26×4 tires were interesting.  On my primary bike, I have been running a 29×2.4 Maxxis Ardent on the rear that had a similar tread pattern for the most part to the Mammoth, but more evenly spaced knobs without so much space between the center knobs and side knobs. This space between the center and side knobs could be advantageous or horrendous,  depending on your riding style. I quickly found that I was able to really trust the side knobs, particularly on the front tire, but when braking would break loose the rear tire VERY easily for such a high volume, large contact patch tire. It broke loose much easier than the 2.4 Ardent. Both front and rear tires were holding approximately 8psi. While this rear tire breaking loose was annoying to me initially,  I learned to use it to my advantage and drift the corners that resulted in VERY fast turns. The side knobs were there for me too when I leaned the bike hard. The lower bottom bracket and slacker headtube angle of 69 degrees really helped make this fatbike feel like a capable trailbike. (I did have a significant pedal strike on one turn, likely due to the lower bottom bracket.) I was smiling all the way down those 6 bermed switchbacks. I came to a bridge with a slight lip up to it and gave it a quick bunny hop. Although the wheels and tires felt a little heavy, it was nimble in the air and sailed easily over the bridge, adding more trail bike confidence for me. I felt like I was already familiar with how this bike handled in what was less than a mile of riding and I was ready to really push it to see what it’s limits were.

3. Q-factor.

I have ridden Surly, Salsa, and Borealis fatbikes previously and after riding my primary bike everyday, which is a 29er with a 73mm bottom bracket , I dramatically notice the difference in Q-factor when my cranks are spread out to 132mm  and I feel like my legs are really bowing out on each pedal stroke. Yeah, you get used to it to some extent, but I always look at bikes with the intention of riding them of all day and multi-day rides. A large Q-factor always seems like a bad idea for endurance riding to me, even though I admittedly have no first hand experience riding all day in the saddle on those types of bikes. Another bike I was able to test and review this year was the 29plus Trek Stache 9, which did not have a high Q-factor,  but had short chainstays and wide seatstays. I found myself rubbing my calves, particularly the right calf on the seatstay numerous times while climbing and moving my body around to stay balanced up technical climbs. It only had a 148mm rear hub. The Les Fat has a 197mm rear hub. The Q-factor is 120mm, which is apparently 15mm narrower than all the other 197mm rear hub fat bikes on the market. On the Pivot Les Fat, I did not notice the Q-factor much, if at all and my calves rubbed on the rack mount bolts maybe two times while balancing up technical climbs, but that was just barely noticeable, not like the Trek Stache 9.

4. Mounts.
Three waterbottle cage mounts! Rear rack mounts! Phenomenal. Many kudos to Pivot for including these. Most carbon frame manufacturers try to avoid excessive mounts because they want their carbon frames to be uber light. Not sure why they didn’t choose to also include mounts on the fork. That would have made it even better for a multi-day, exploration, endurance rig.




What I didn’t like.


1. Climbing.
Climbing was a chore. This was likely the combination of a slacker, 69 degree headtube angle,  and heavy wheels and tires.

The front end wandered. It felt like I was having to significantly restart the momentum with each pedal stroke, even though I was clipped in, smoothly and continually turning the cranks with lots of wattage. The wheels weighed in at 4.96lbs (the lower build with Sun Mulefut rims apparently are 1lb heavier) and the tires are almost 3lbs each. That is much more that I am used to and more than a 29er or even 29+ set of wheels and tires would weigh. The frame, at 3.5lbs and fork at 1.7lbs are much lighter than my steel frame and fork however.
I would have loved to try it configured differently  (see dislike # 2). After the initial downhill with bermed turns, I was very much hoping that, with the carbon frame and rigid fork, I would be able to fly on the uphill that was next. I gave it all I had as this climb was not too steep, but long enough at over a half mile and one of the best short sprint barometers for my fitness.
After pushing hard for half of it, it was obvious that this carbon frame and carbon fork were not as easy to climb as my steel frame with steel fork. I figured that something was significantly different, but was ready to ride the rest of the 10 mile loop I had planned to figure out what it might be. After descending another tight turning, flowy, downhill singletrack section that I had ridden every Monday all summer, I felt like this bike was fast again. I was right. Strava said it was my personal record. 15 minutes into a ride, on an unfamiliar bike is crazy to be getting a PR on a trail I have ridden so often, but it really inspired confidence in the turns. I then hopped on the road a bit. The geometry of the medium frame was very neutral, allowing a comfortable, upright riding position, which was likely due, at least in part, to the 70mm stem. I typically run a 100 or 110mm stem on my 29er. The bars were also very wide. This is the short stem, wide bar trend that everyone seems to love right now, but I have been reluctant. It’s what I rode from 2004 to 2010, but I no longer find it advantageous. More on that in a future article. On the road, needless to say, I tried getting down closer to the bars and extention my torso out toward the front end more. Putting my forearms on the grips into a pseudo aerobar position tended to help, but the wheels felt a little more difficult to keep up to speed, maybe because the rims and tires weigh so much more than I am used to. Regardless, I then bombed down a fireroad with brand new waterbars to either slow down for, or bunny hop. I confidently did a mix of both and got another downhill PR on this bike. Phenomenal.  Then came the climb. Yeah, not so good. A wandering front end that wanted to lift up, the fact that I couldn’t keep my weigh over the front end and stretch out like I did on the road, and the rear tire slipping out when I was on a 10 to 15% grade left me very frustrated.


A short, steep, loose-over-hard pack climb where the front end wandered while climbing.

2. Internal Cable and Hose Routing
Rattled loudly and continually on every downhill. That is all. I would otherwise find this to be very beneficial.


3. Stiff Carbon
Though the fat, 4 inch, tires took a lot of jarring out of the trail from their high volume and low pressure, I could tell that the carbon fork and frame did not seem to be very forgiving. This was especially evident when dropping off curbs, either as a wheelie drop or each wheel separately. Going up the curbs was a breeze either way. Bunny hopping was easy too.  The bike feels very easy to manuveur. It did feel abrupt and stiff compared to steel however.


4. Lack of complete build options.
This was one of the biggest let downs for me. Somehow I had hoped that Pivot had brought additional wheelsets with them that fit the fat bike width drop outs, but fit different sized tires like 29×3.0 or 27.5×3.0. They offer two build packages, but they are both spec’d with 26×4 tires. If you designed it to run alternate wheel sizes, it would at least be nice to test ride it with one or more of those setups as well. The differences in geometry are only listed for a few of the combinations, but it should give you an idea of how the wheel size changes the geometry. It doesn’t change much, but could be just enough to make you prefer a certain setup. With no way to test a configuration that I may prefer,  quite possibly 29×3.0, I was left cautiously curious.


5. Price
$2599 for the frameset
$4699 for the lower end “Les Fat X01” 26×4 build with rigid fork and Mulefut wheelset.

Currently, I don’t see the higher end “Les Fat XX1” 26×4 build available. Anywhere. I believe the Pivot rep that handed me the bike (it was this build which I test rode) said that it’s MSRP was $5399. I can’t easily find the high end build MSRP, but will edit it once it shows up.


Overall, I really, really wanted to like this bike, despite the larger “pay to play” ratio than I would normally consider. I actually think I may have enjoyed this bike tremendously if it had a 29+ setup with lighter wheels like Velocity Duallys and Maxxis Chronicle tires upon them. Unless I build up a set of 150/197mm spaced hubs, throw on my own cassette/rotors/tires, and ask the Pivot dealer if I can throw them on the test bike at the next demo, I don’t see myself ever finding out. I like the idea of having a fat bike at my disposal, even if I live in sunny San Diego. It would be fun to throw some 5 inch wheels/tires on and take it to the beach or desert, and of course up to the mountains where we get snow for a few days per year. I did get my fastest downhill times on a few familiar segments…I have always wanted another bike…I would have to trade my car for it. And then I would only have a frame. It was fun Les Fat, but I don’t see us meeting up again down the road.


Thanks for reading.


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Ride alongside one another. On bikes, through life, together.











The In Between

It seems there is room in between.

As many tire, rim, frame, and fork manufacturers have seemed to have found out in the last year, there is much room in between.

Between the existing chainstays and seats tags of existing 29er frames? Perhaps.

What I see however, is the room in between existing tire sizes. Pacenti showed the world there was room in between mtb wheel sizes. Many balked. Surely those who did regret balking as they look back. Many of those likely did not want to miss out on the next wave which we are seeing now, the 27.5+ craze that is occurring.  It is interesting to say the least. For those of us who were interested in the Krampus and the 29+ platform that was unveiled in 2012, we saw, as we did with the introduction of 29ers and fatbikes, that there was room outside of what we had been familiar with.

It seems that the industry intends to show that there is still plenty of room in between what we have been familiar with.
Although I agree to some extent, I feel that it is not necessarily giving us much different, or even any appreciably better experiences. By delving into the areas in between what cyclists have been familiar with, it merely blurs the lines between those bicycle types/platforms/intended applications and removes the distinction that was previously assigned to the different bicycle types we have grown to love. It is very possible that the reason why most bicycle frame and part manufacturers make decisions to delve into the spaces in between is because there is little risk and it can be marketed as more versatile. It could be compared to making a bunch of different variations on the spork. People are familiar with spoons and they are familar with forks. While both are better at performing the specific,  intended application they were designed for, it’s easy to pretend that you can now do away with your spoon and fork and just have many different varieties of sporks going forward.
Many of the different types of bicycles that have come about recently are seemingly spork-like. Yes, in the backcountry, if you can only bring one utensil, you can get by with carrying just a spork. It will not be as useful at tasks where someone would normally prefer either a fork or a spoon, but it will get you by for a short time.

I love many of these spork-like bikes, because I love the backcountry or just long rides where I desire to roll over many different types of terrain and bring a bike that isn’t going to be too specifically applicable for any one of them, but will allow me to be somewhat comfortable on all of them. The “Jack of all trades, master of none” dilemma.  It’s good to have these bikes, but here is my issue with them:

The aim at the in between market provides a false sense of ingenuity and stifles true research and development in areas we have not yet explored for cycling.

I applaud Surly and others that have released new platforms outside of the familiar which other manufacturers balk at. Yes, others may try to utilize that platform 3 to 5 years later, or design something in between what was available previously and your new platform, but that is true ingenuity. Developing a new platform is not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but it is most certainly a much bigger risk than releasing something in between what is currently available.

Surly released the Extraterrestrial tire this week, a 26×2.5 touring tire. I just heard of it today.  We have had 26×2.5 DH tires for years, and we have had larger volume touring tires for years, but not anything like this to the best of my knowledge. Surly also has the 26×3.0 knard and dirt wizard tires, but they are bigger and designed for off road riding.


What are your thoughts on it? Is it in between what has been available previously or something completely new and innovative?

Drop Bar Mountain Bike Philosophy and Setup Optimization – Salsa Fargo, Deadwood, and Cutthroat [VIDEO]

In this video, Nick gets the rundown on Mikki’s Salsa Fargo setup for mountain biking, commuting, and bikepacking. Mikki discusses his setup, what he plans to change and why those changes will better suit his application. Part 2 will discuss more on the Cutthroat model, how it differs from the Fargo and Deadwood as well as how it could easily be modified from bikepacking race bike to more of a comfortable commuter or a more generally capable mountain bike.
Many thanks to Mikki from for taking the time to discuss his rig with us. If you are ever in Solana Beach, CA make sure you stop by and say hello!

Thanks for watching.

20150908 – Just posted part 2/2. You can view it here:

Salsa Cycles 2016 Deadwood – 29plus [VIDEO]

Check out what I was fortunate enough to demo today!

Many thanks to Mikki from Revolution Cycles in Solana Beach, CA for hosting and Cori from Salsa Cycles !

Trek Stache9 29+ Review and First Impressions [VIDEO]

The Trek Stache9 is a very capable 29plus hard tail trail bike with good geometry for aggressive riding on technical trails, minimizing the need to carefully choose exactly the right line. At the same time, the Stache9 excels in climbing since the rear wheel finds traction with the 29×3.0 inch Chupacabra tires on even the steepest and loosest terrains.

Watch the video to hear more about our experience after testing the Trek Stache 9 midfat #plusbike hardtail on the trails in San Diego.

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