Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet recently – too much Christmas pudding and not enough paying attention to the blog! I’m also designing another website which has made me want to tweak this one (and probably move hosting too) so watch this space for ‘Spanner 2.0’…
One of the people who’ll be very happy to see a blog update is Hugh, who’s been very keen to share his funky Jeff Jones inspired fat bike with us. After seeing a fair few 29’ers last year 2013 certainly seems to be all about fat bikes! I’ll let him take up the story:
September 2007: My partner and I were spending a few weeks in Key West, Florida. I wanted a bike to schmooze around town and go ride the beaches. I saw a strange bike outside Evan Cycles Key West. Dane, the bikes’ owner suggested I ride it around the block… 🙂 A month later I was back home in Spain riding a custom built purple Pugsley. I’ve probably done in excess of 10,000kms with the Pug. I found it the ideal, go anywhere, touring bike for the rough mountainous gravel tracks and roads in “mal estado”.
It was great fun to ride but it’s no lightweight. A year ago I decided I wanted a lighter Pug, a titanium Pug, something a bit different with nice bits and posh wheels. Of course no bike shop I know of is crazy enough to stock such a bike so it would have to be a custom job – and then I discovered XACD!
Inspired by articles I read on the Spanner blog I thought I’d do my own thing and set about project “Pez Gordo” an elegant, light, and comfortable fat bike specced with desirable components. I also thought that if it turned out well I could sell Pez Gordo custom fat bikes to discerning cyclists who’d rather buy a complete bike without all the headaches associated with building it themselves.
First up I wanted symmetry as opposed to the Pugs off-set geometry. A relaxed head angle and a low stand-over hight. XACD had a design with all the numbers and shapes I liked and, working with Porter, I came up with a fat version along with a fat version of their truss fork. Mike at lacemine29.com built me a set of black anodised 65mm Marge Light rims on blue Salsa fat hubs with red spokes and Husker Du tyres. The rest of the components are; Nitto bar, Thompson set-back seat post and stem, XT front and rear mech, 11-34 9spd cassette with STX shifters, 44,32,22 Radar chain rings, Octane cranks, BB7 brakes with 203mm rotors and a Brooks copper rail saddle and grips.
Result; rides like a dream, climbs hills with ease, stops on a dime. Looks pretty, unlike it’s owner 😉
Well I think we can say it certainly looks unique 😉
Jeff Jones makes bikes with a fat front end but doesn’t go the whole hog, Hugh’s run with the fat bike idea and made a very neat job of it. The XACD version of the Jones frame uses slightly larger diameter tubing which could take away the compliant ride that the Jones are famous for. The Jones will also be lighter too, although it’s probably safe to say Hugh’s frame is going to be tough, and won’t be worried about having a larger rider on board.
It would be interesting to ride a Jones frame to see if there is any ‘magic’ involved or to find out if it’s all in the mind of the owner. I think the truss fork is a particularly good match to fat bike use, and shouldn’t be that heavy either. Hugh tells me that the whole bike weighs around 32lbs which is pretty decent for a fat bike.
Hugh says the bike certainly causes a stir wherever it goes:
I have to admit the frame turned out way better than I expected. It looks rather elegant in the flesh and it gets a lot of interest from other cyclists, it gets it’s picture taken a lot but I do feel a little self conscious when I’m asked to pose alongside! There are subtle differences compared to a Jones frame, but it is more or less along the same lines. I’d like to think it’s got pretty much the same performance. It goes without saying that the Jones frame and fork are about four times more expensive but, I suspect, not four times better made or lighter!
Make no mistake, this bike is a fast, comfortable and responsive ride. It’s pleasantly surprised many of the die-hard bikers that have taken it for a spin, and these are guys used to riding serious high end bikes. So I’ve done something right, or just might have got lucky!
I asked Hugh about what he might like to do the next time based on his experience with his first frame.
What about frame and fork changes? I first fitted it with a Salsa Enabler fork, a much cheaper and more practical option. It worked great, although it’s a bit heavier and less blingy for sure. The truss fork seems more responsive and has more “feel”. The jury is still out on that one. I’m thinking I’d try a Ti Project 2 look-a-like as a kind of compromise between price and performance.
You’re right about designing your own frames, getting things right first time is, well, difficult! I would consider sliding drop-outs and make provision for a belt drive. I would re-think the rack mounts. Devise an adapter for fitting a Rohloff hub. Mount the rear brake calliper to the chain stay. Clamp the seat post with an integrated seat clamp. Reposition the water bottle mount on the down tube to behind the seat. Maybe a sand blast finish with Pez Gordo and a logo etched onto the down tube and head tube… OK, it’s a total re-work!
Sounds like we’ve got some fun times ahead! I cautioned Hugh about making a standard bladed titanium fork, especially in the light of what happened with the Spicer forks that XACD made which had strength issues (shall we say!). The truss design certainly seems a safer bet, although it sounds like even though can take some getting used to. I can’t help feeling that there’s a good reason why you don’t see more titanium forks around…
I’d offer up the suggestion of running the cables stealthed in the top tubes/seatstays, with the multiple tubes I think the extra strength is there to risk the holes you’d need. What is it about fat bikers and cable disks though? Strange 😉
I asked Hugh about how the truss fork went together as I couldn’t see how the headset is adjusted:
I hadn’t a scooby how to attach a truss fork, there was no instructions, no You Tube, no nuthin’! The truss came in 3 parts, the main fork, the steerer tube and a shim/washer/spacer ring thing. Luckily it turned out to be quite easy.
You basically use the top half of two headsets, including the star nuts and top caps, at either end of the head tube and steerer. A small spacer then takes care of the gap between the fork and the headset. That extra ring thing needs to be on the bottom of the steerer and is held in place by the second top (now bottom!) washer. It’s a shim that fits into the sealed bottom bearing. The steerer tube then slides in from the top, the headset is adjusted via the top caps and everything secured in place with the pinch bolts on the fork and stem.
Cool, easier than I would have thought too! Jeff Jones has a bit more info on fitting truss forks over on his website: http://www.jonesbikes.com/?option=com_wordpress&lang=en&p=1818&Itemid=58
Hugh also mentioned that the setup is very flexible as the height of the fork can be adjusted in the frame to tune the head angle slightly. At the moment Hugh’s still experimenting which is why there are plenty of spacers around the stem!
I asked Hugh about what came next:
I’ll be using this bike as a demonstrator for potential customers and for trying out different parts, eg. front suspension, internal geared hubs, electric assist, possibly belt drives and maybe even a Schlumpf geared crank! And above all, riding and having fun 🙂
If you’re interested in talking to Hugh about having a frame or bike made then feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org just don’t forget to come and let us see the results afterwards!