Saturday, 9 March 2013

Muru Witjira fatbike build for the Ultimate Adventure - Part 1

Years ago, before the internet and social media and pet monkeys, wifey and I used to do a lot of 4x4ing. Monster trucks, hardcore wheeling and rockcrawling was a growing scene, I subscribed to a few offroad magazines made from paper (remember those?), excitement would build when I received the latest Petersens 4 Wheel & Offroad mag.

Two annual events they (Petersens) hosted in the US was the Ultimate Adventure (20 or so handpicked heavily modded 4x4s would tackle hardcore trails inside a week) and the D.E.D. Tour - the basic premise was two staff would ship their tools and a set of tyres to some small town USA, they'd fly in, buy some old beater 4x4 from the local wrecker, wrench on it in the carpark, then drive the truck back home seeking adventure, hardcore trails, and Dirt-Every-Day (hence the D.E.D.)

This stuff appealed to me. But how could I replicate that in bicycle mode? Easy, but I needed to build a rig for the ultimate adventure and D.E.D. tour I had planned - Alaska Iditarod trail and backcountry central Oregon.

It all started with a bunch of bolts. Seriously, before I had anything remotely fatbike orientated, I gathered the bolts I'd use for the build, I was so excited. Bolts. Yeah, the build had started.

But let's rewind a bit here. There is a back story that should be told, because a few people kicked out the stops to make this build a reality. I was planning on taking my ti Fargo for the Oregon section and borrowing a Pugsley for Alaska. But over the xmas break, an opportunity from Muru Cycles planted an idea that got me thinking about taking a titanium fatbike over. Timing was key - the frames were still being made as the weeks turned to days before I flew to the US. I quote an email I sent to the Muru team before I left:

"Hey team, I wanted to take the time to be serious for a moment and pen a word of thanks.
Thanks for the opportunity to take this bike with me on this trip, I can't begin to fathom the amount of work in the background that happened to enable the frame to arrive today. I truly appreciate it. When I look at the frame and fork, it delves down deep into what I really wanted out of an adventure companion and fatbike. Bikes to me are something special, not just mere bits of metal. I see character, personalities, needs and potential. Each of my bikes go on adventures of their own - they have stories not unlike my own, as without each other there is no adventure, so they share my trips like a faithful companion. And then, when stored back home, I can visit my bike room and reminisce on the trips we've shared, and plan future trips over mountains, across streams and into the wild blue wilderness.
I will do my absolute best to capture the moments on camera, to give you some great marketing material, both still and motion - tested in the harsh Alaskan winters and on Oregon singletrack.
A big thank you to all involved in getting the frame to me. Looking forward to the build... :)"
Want a tissue?

In following the tradition set by the D.E.D. tour, my dream envisaged flying in with a bunch of parts in a bikebag and building the bike in a hotel room, a driveway - wherever - and then set off on an adventure. This is part 1 of that dream...

I worked closely with the team from Muru on frame/fork lead times, timeframe was tight but confident it would arrive in time. I had a good build spec in mind, one that had a blend of lightweight and beef parts for essentially what was to be an expedition bike. Bars and stem arrived, a donation from fellow fatbiker Kedan.

Woohoo, so many presents to open.

Hope Fatsno hubs, Holy Darryls, black DT comps, prolock nipples.

I didn't fancy building these up in Alaska.

A little detail of mine when I build wheels (for 25 years & certified DT Swiss master wheelbuilder), is this industrial grade label with build details - spoke tension, length and type etc. Also helps when packing spares for a trip, you can identify immediately which spoke to grab.

The delivery times were spot on from Muru, they tracked them from the factory to my door, communication was excellent. The frame and fork arrived Tuesday at the shop, I flew out to the US next morning, just enough time to fit the essentials...

 Frame is machined very well. Grit-blasted finish graphics are a nice touch - this frame is very unique in several ways - the way the wording was layed up on the seattube, and the fact it was going to be the very first Muru Witjira built in the world. I got very little sleep that night, wrenchin' an' packin'.

Racklugs. Fender mounts. Tripod mounts. Streamers. Whatever you use them for, the design team at Muru have included more of what you need, less of what you don't.

Mid blade cage mounts on the fork, ideal for bottle cages or Salsa Anything cages. Or streamers.

This I really like - replaceable derailleur hangers. This style of dropout is unique to the first generation of Witjira frames - second gen will have a different design to incorporate the rear brake within the rear triangle.

The headtube runs a 44mm I.D. zero-stack headset (that's the wordy explanation of the term ZS44) and I plan to run 2 forks on this bike - the ti Swale fork for expeditions; and a Lefty for singletrack fun and short missions (more on the lefty upgrade to come). Headset cups pressed in one at a time with copper antiseize grease.

Nice new blade carves the ti steerer on the Swale fork, just like Nans' roast dinner. Including the metal bits too - Nan sometimes confused roast beef with roast potatoes and would wrap them up in alfoil - Pop didn't argue with Nan so he'd just carve it anyways with the electric knife...


Starnut smacker-innerer.


I rebuilt the BB cartridges and installed some new FSA ceramic hybrid bearings (FSA Ceramic SB24377) into the MWOD Andel cups - as you can see the old ones were running a bit rough. By-product of fun.

I had to use the cranks off the Moonlander (Surly MWOD - offset double) as the cranks I wanted weren't available. Chainline was not optimal, but this wasn't immediately apparent, until part 2 in Alaska...

Ready to go into the bikebag.

 That's it for the build in Australia. Part 2 starts in Alaska...


  1. I wish I had found your blog earlier, would have invited you to stay for a day or two in Seattle!

    Regarding bolts -do you happen to have a source for those M4 bolts with the almost cone-shaped heads (in the foreground of your pic)? I like that they're lower-profile than a cap head, but take a larger wrench than a button head. I've only ever obtained them by pulling them from brand new bikes. I've done a fair bit of searching both online and with serious fastener suppliers here in Seattle, but no luck.