Sunday, 7 April 2013

Muru Witjira fatbike build for the Ultimate Adventure - Part 2

Ah, there's nothing like that feeling of 40+ hours travel time, aisle seats, double helping inflight meals, 4 airports, toting a 25kg backpack, towing a 23kg bikebag and the indignation of almost having to strip naked for each airport screening check. The TSA never repack your stuff the way you like/need it...

So, yes I arrive in Anchorage, Alaska, 99508. Catch a taxi from the airport, "Where are you going?" asked my Indian taxi driver, in his Americanised Punjab accent. "Cottonwood St, mate" I replied. "Yes very good, but which end?" he questioned. Before he had answered, I remembered the length of streets from previous US trips, and how they can sometimes span whole counties. My maps were in my pack. In the trunk of the taxi. It was 12F below. I remembered what the B&B looked like from the website picture...but it was a summer picture. No problem, "I remember what the house looks like" I enthusiastically added. We turned North off 36th and 2 minutes later I spotted the B&B:

Home for the next few days before camp was the Alaska European bed & breakfast. Awesome place to stay - homely feel, good neighbourhood, good riding closeby and public transport a short walk away for trips downtown. Most of the stuff I needed was only about a 40 min walk each way.

In part 1 of the Muru Witjira build I referred to the D.E.D. tours and the build parameters, but there are times when you gotta bend the rules. So when it came time to start wrenchin', would you choose to build the bike here at 10F below (8:30am):

Or in here at 18F:

Yeah, I thought so. Soft. Whatever, I don't need to justify myself. There's plenty of time ahead to harden up to the cold, but underneath that fluffy snow was a half inch of ice, making it slipperier than a butchers door knob. Moose were about too.

So here's what came outta the bikebag:
  •  Salsa Moto Ace bars - I like the 17 degree bend and it gives a lot of clearance for the levers to any harness or handlebar bag system
  • SRAM X0 2x10 gruppo with twisties - I like the higher shift cable tension to overcome contamination and the simple mechanism of twist shift 
  • BB7 brakes - I like the ease of adjustment and field servicibility of mechanical disc brakes
  • Selle Italia SLK saddle - my butt likes this seat
  • Ritchey Comp seatpost - I like the sturdy alloy post, especially for heavy seatbag usage
  • Crank Bros Mallet 3 - I like the ease of service, needle roller bearings, big platform, studs and open design for snow clearing
  • Extras - Blackburn Mammoth pump; bag of bolts, washers and spacers; Surly ultralight tubes
  • Lubricants - SRAM Johnnisnot cable grease, Motorex 2000 grease, Morgan Blue extra dry silicone chain lube, MTB Mechanic Bike Butter PTFE grease

...and here's what I had to build it with, a Topeak 19 and Leatherman Charge Al (brain, eyes, mouth and right hand also used during build):

About this point I discovered the TSA's repacking efforts had bent the rear rotor - mouth was used for swearing at this time of the build. No prob, I was heading downtown anyways to catch up with the team from Speedway Cycles to get a few things. Intermittent snow showers, icy conditions, still a novelty to this QLD'er - the view down Northern Lights Blvd:
Look to the ENE and you see the shrouded and snow-capped Chugach mountains.
 So much fat. Just like the fixie is to New York, fatbikes dominate as the main bicycle transport in Anchorage at this time of the year. Keen eyes will spot a picture on the wall of Adventuruss on his 10 desert solo expedition. 

I upgraded to a 180mm rotor and adaptor, picked up some boots and tyres I had on order, as well as some light pogies and a large Revelate pocket. The boots were my plan B, I had bought some Lake 302s and Berghaus supergaiters months prior to the trip, but just wasn't happy with them in a few ways, when compared to the 45NRTH Wulvhammers. Turned out to be a good choice.

The 180mm rotor was going on the front, first MacGuyver challenge of the day was to space over the front caliper adaptor 4.?mm on the Swale fork. This generation of Swale fork used a front offset IS mount (basically to suit a regular 100mm OLD front hub rotor offset), but the Hope Fatsno 135mm front hub uses a rear rotor offset, so the caliper was sitting too far outboard - you can see the caliper mounting bolt threads.

Hmmm, digging through my bolts and spares I found some M5 bidon cage spacers, perfect.

I'd like to say I bored out the hole to M6 using a corkscrew off the leatherman and a modified electric toothbrush MacGuyver style - but no, there was a battery drill and bit set in the garage. I had to hand-mill the thickness of the spacer down a fair bit, the leatherman had a file for that job. The tips of my fingers went numb for a week after holding the spacer against the file.

Cables were lubed up with Ride Mechanic Bike Butter. 

Next challenge was the front derailleur. Remember how the cranks were off my Moonlander? Well, the Surly MWOD Moony cranks are a full 10mm further outboard than regular fatty cranks, to clear a monster BFL on a Clown Shoe. My mistake was that I grabbed a spare direct mount front derailleur bracket from my spares, but it was to suit a Mukluk and regular fat cranks. The X0 front derailleur was stretching to shift into the big dog, so I drilled another hole in the bracket, shimmed it with 1 washer at the top and two on the bottom bolt to angle the cage out. Ghetto, but it worked, no other option as no Moonlander front derailleur brackets were in town.

Tidy up a few loose ends and the bike was ready to session. I chose non-studded tyres, the durometer of the Husker Dus is matched well to the snow conditions so traction wasn't too bad. First ride was in the snow and ice on the road - the plan had come together.
On another trip to the US a few years ago, I built another bike specifically to suit that trip. Trip was in California, hitting up as many mtb trails up the west coast, I built up a Santa Cruz Blur - and the first ride on that bike was on US soil at Montana De Oro, just a short drive from Santa Cruz. I really dig the symbolism of that and the adventures I have with my bikes are priceless.
This trip was many things - I have been waiting for several years for all of these events to be close enough together to attend them on the one trip: Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) training camp; DT Swiss Certification course at UBI in Oregon, Park Tool Tech Summit (my 4th) in Portland; a 10 day solo backcountry bikepacking trip through central Oregon; and to help justify it all - it was an age milestone birthday. I even slotted in a Monster Jam event while in Portland, but nowhere near as good as the last one I went to at Anaheim Stadium a few years back.

The tyres measured up at 102mm on the Darryls, you can see from the pics there is plenty of room to fit a BFL, Nate, Bud or Lou if that is your flavour. More details about the specs and measurements on the frame and fork are available at Muru Cycles.

Lay out all the bags and fittings for the camp, then time for a ride on local trails to settle in the mechanicals.

Pictured from top left and working clockwise: Revelate Viscacha (large volume rackless seatbag) with 2 Spockets (mesh pockets) attached; Revelate Harness (fit to handlebars to carry drybag and Z-Lite) with large Revelate Pocket and another Spocket; Dogwood Designs Pogies (you store your hands in them); Salsa Anything Cages with OR bottle cosies (for 1L Nalgene bottles); ghetto fabbed silver drybag to cover the MSR fuel bottle on the downtube; Revelate Gastank (for toptube near stem) Revelate Jerrycan (toptube next to seatpost); Revelate custom framebag (fits in frame front triangle)

The Muru Swale fork has lugs for mounting bidon cages, or these 3 bolt Salsa Anything cages. Great for tents, sleeping pads - light bulky items. The bottle cosies are Outdoor Research items (I don't rate them highly), holding 1L wide mouth Nalgene bottles.


Viscacha seatbag is cavernous (not holding a lot in this pic) with very well thought out strapping and support. MSR Whisperlite stove in neoprene bag, 5 days of rations, 2 nesting titanium pots, a spoon and a first aid kit all inside the bag, with a small silnylon tarp in a stuffsac strapped to the top.

Main custom framebag (originally made for my titanium Fargo) has binoculars, handtowel, toiletries and other important stuff in the top section pocket Lower pocket has spare tube, tools, spare bolts, zip ties - basically a mini shed. Jerrycan (toptube/seatpost) bag has camera batteries and SD cards, chemical handwarmers. Gastank (toptube/stem) has electricals - lights, brackets, bits of velcro, Power Monkey battery, headtorch, other stuff. Silver bag on downtube is covering the MSR fuel bottle, in a s/steel bidon cage.

Front on view of the large Pocket, for gloves, headgear, bulk snacks, other stuff. Behind this is the Harness that holds a large drybag for sleeping bags (2) outer layer clothes (Primaloft pants and jacket) VBL socks, down vest. Not pictured is the Z-Lite pad, this was in front of the harness and the straps for the pocket formed the mounting method for this. Basically it was for the lightweight, bulky items.

Cockpit. Pogies for hands, lollies, snacks, batteries for lights, chemical handwarmers. Osprey camera bag for matches, bulk Powerbars/Clif bars (must be defrosted inside jacket pocket for at least 4 hours before consumption). Exposure Diablo Mk4 light. Garmin 800.

Poor little 800, it took a beating. After a while it didn't want to play anymore.

There were still a few days until I set out on the Iditarod trail - time to explore a bit around town, fall over on the icy roads, test clothing and enjoy the surroundings. I'm falling in love with Alaska...



  1. Wow! Troy that looks amazing :) I'm jealous.

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