Written by Drew ♦ Photos by Kim and Drew
I’ve enjoyed riding on snow since the first year I got ‘into’ mountain biking. My second race ever was one of the Hillside ‘Cold Bear Series’ events. After a handful of Hillside races and a couple of times participating in Triple D I was, honestly, still on the fence about my need for a fatbike. Hard to justify a bike for one or two snowmobile trail races a year and the “I want to be cool and have the newest thing” factor alone. Last year I borrowed a friend’s 9zero7 and rode it to a new course record at Triple D but perhaps more importantly just really had a nice time riding it around. The cost of entry still seemed too high but a seed was definitely planted.
Over much the same period I’ve gotten into carbon fiber repair. As I’ve fixed bikes for friends or they’ve seen my own repaired bikes at races the question of when I was going to get into framebuilding has come up often. My answer was always never. That the advanced technology used in the molding process by the major manufacturers, and even by the ‘open mold’ types in Taiwan, far exceeded what could be done elsewhere. There are simply so many awesome road, cyclocross and 29er frames out there made with carbon technology that I couldn’t touch that the whole idea of “my own” frame was a total non-starter.
Last fall a good friend had an incident involving a large log pile and a well-used Pugsley. When I heard about the damaged frame it right away clicked in my mind that I could create a carbon bike worth building (because you simply couldn’t buy one anyways) and solve a large part of the budget issues both at the same time.
After some searching I also acquired an art deco style Colnago C40 missing the chain stays, a headtube from an early El Mariachi, a White Brothers 26″ carbon fork, a steerer/crown from a damaged Look HSC5 fork and a good amount of carbon supplies. The plan for the construction was to turn the whole thing into what was really just a carbon repair job. The bottom bracket, seat cluster, stays, headtube etc., were cut down to the smallest useable pieces of steel and completely wrapped in carbon which was then woven onto the tubes of the Colnago. This construction method assured that I wouldn’t have to worry about the strength of any carbon to steel bonding and would keep the steel (read: weight) of the frame to a minimum. A friend referred to this construction method as an “amalgamation” and that stuck in my mind.
One of my major gripes about most fatbikes had been the steering feel. The 9zero7 I had borrowed was much closer to feeling like a mountain bike and I loved that. I decided to build mine with an even steeper headtube angle in order to get an even more mountain bike like feel. Appropriate parts for the build-up were acquired from various parts bins. The jewel of which being some NOS early 90s Coda 4-bolt disc hubs and matching rotors which saved me about $300 vs. buying similar quality ‘modern’ bits. I had Ben Witt at Milltown Cycles lace them to Rolling Daryl’s and went with the ‘light’ Larry’s. The wheels wound up costing nearly as much as the entire rest of the bike but were more than worth it!
I completed it last spring and rode locally and at Wolverine Village. I did enjoy the quick steering and overall had a great time on it, but found that the bottom bracket was simply too high. With my construction method I was pretty much stuck with the tube angles as they left the bottom bracket and by creating a very steep headtube angle, which raised the headtube, I had also created a bike with too high of a bottom bracket for it’s intended use (particularly with winter and deep snow looming). I had to cut it apart…
The second time around I made a few adjustments and went with a more traditional geometry. Currently it’s just a bit “quicker” than a 9zero7. This time around I felt like I had gotten it “right” so my girlfriend Kim and I decided to paint it in a manner befitting a “completed” bike (this means I sprayed a basecoat and showed her a picture of the graphics I wanted then sat back and watched). The finished product is entirely our own but you might catch the inspiration if you look carefully.
At some point in this process Kim also got excited about the idea of a fatbike. In her words, “A fatbike? Why not?!! In the land with almost 6 months of winter, I figured why not add another incentive to get outdoors? Our local bike paths are mostly left untouched in the winter, while our sidewalks may not be cleared for days after a significant snowfall. And it’s the morning after a fresh snowfall, or a snowy moonlit evening, that inspire me to ride. Now I can cover more terrain. But I’m looking forward to using the fatbike in the summer too!”
I noticed that last year’s 135mm rear offset 9zero7s were on clearance and she bit on a bright red frame. Again, parts bins were raided and another set of Coda hubs were laced up… this time to Marge Lites with Husker Dus. Since both wheelsets will work on either bike we each now have some flexibility depending on the conditions and season. Her “parts-bin” build started getting awful close to being all matching and awesome to the point where we did order a few parts. Now her bike sports a complete Ritchey WCS wet black cockpit and XT 770 drivetrain bits.
Last weekend we hit the North Shore for a two day hike and used our new bikes to get back to the car.
About the Author - Drew is based in Rochester MN and works full-time as a technologist in a clinical endocrine laboratory. In the past he has worked extensively doing custom metal and composite work in the automotive world. The opportunity to combine that experience and his love of racing all types of bikes is a dream come true.
Photography - Kim is a photographer and web developer in Central Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota. When not behind the computer you can find her mountain biking, backpacking, and enjoying the outdoors.