Nov 29, 2007

Epic Designs


Custom and speciality outdoor gear made and tested in Alaska.
Its my passion to design gear and build gear to help you pursue your passions, whether they be cycling insanely long distances, climbing and skiing hard new lines, or packrafting first descents in the Arctic. All work is garanteed bombproof with a 100% satisfaction garantee.



Top 10 Tips for Biking in Snow

Originally posted at, December 14, 2007

Jill Homer of Juneau, Alaska, is training to ride 350 miles in the human-powered Iditarod. The race, which starts in February, follows the same route used by the famous dog sled teams.

People sometimes say, "Wow, riding a bike on snow — that's great. But how does it work?" Snow-biking can be different from regular cycling, so I've compiled a list of 10 tips for riding a bike on snow.

1. Think surface area:
If you've ever used snowshoes before, you know that all that mass at the bottom of your feet can mean the difference between coasting atop power or wading knee-deep in it. Snow bikes work they same way. They incorporate wide tires with a flat profile in order to distribute bulk (you) as evenly as possible, allowing for maximum floatation.

2. Fat is the new skinny. As long as there have been bicycles, there have been weight-weenie types trying to shave grams off wheels. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to see a spoke-free wheel sporting tires as thin as razors. But once you slice into snow, skinny tires might as well be razors. Snow-bikers know that fat means float, and have been developing bicycles to accommodate increasingly larger wheels for years. I predict that not too far in the future, someone will build a bicycle frame with room for motocross tires. Look for it.

3. There is no shame in walking.
Cyclists hate to admit when they come to a hill or an obstacle they just can't conquer. I have seen cyclists blow out their knees and face-plant over logs just to avoid suffering the indignity of getting off the bike and walking. Snow-bikers have no such pretensions. We know that bikes are not ready-made for snow, and vice versa. If snow is too soft, or too deep, or too wet, we simply step off and amble along until we can ride again. We learn to enjoy it, like walking a dog, but without the constant slobbering.

4. When in doubt, let air out. Often, snowy trails are what we would call "marginally ridable." By letting air out of tires, you can increase the surface area and improve your floatation. Sometimes it means riding on nearly flat tires at a pace a snail wouldn't envy, but, despite what I said in the previous paragraph, it's still better than walking.

5. Learn your snow types. It's been said that Eskimos have dozens of different words of snow. Snow bikers also understand the myriad varieties: powder, sugar, corn, hard-pack, sandy, slushy, and so on. Each type comes with its own challenges. But understanding the nature of the white stuff you are trying to ride atop, you can adjust your riding and wheels to meet the conditions.

6. Don't be disappointed when you fail to set a land-speed record. Snow, like sand, puts up a lot of resistance, and snow bikers are not known for their speed. I have often heard accounts of cyclists who said felt like they were careening down a hill, only to look down and see they hadn't even breached the 10 mph barrier. In snow races, 10 mph is considered fast. Eight mph is average. Six mph is respectable, and four mph isn't uncommon. When asked to describe the nature of the 2006 Iditarod Invitational, which was plagued by cold temperatures and fresh snow, third-place finisher Jeff Oatley said, "It was about as intense as a 2.5 mph race can be."

7. All brakes are not created equal. When contemplating what brakes to put on their bikes, cyclists have all kinds of reasons to choose between disc or rim. But snow bikers, who often find their rims coated in a thick layer of ungrippable ice, have the best reason of all: Rim brakes could mean an icy death by gravity. Go with disc.

8. Re-lubricate and be free.
There is nothing that will slow down a snow biker faster than having their hubs freeze up, which is always a possibility when the mercury drops below zero. We have to lube up our moving parts with a special low-temperature grease, sold widely in cold regions like Fairbanks and Minnesota.

9. Stay away from moose tracks.
Common injures for road cyclists include road rash and head injuries. Mountain bikers have problems with broken collar bones and bad knees. Alaska snow bikers are always being tripped up by the deep, narrow holes moose leave when they walk through the snow. Avoiding these minefields will help curb post-holing injuries like broken ankles.

10. Stay away from dogs.
We talk a lot about fear of angry moose, grumpy bears and rabid wolves, but our most likely animal to have a dangerous encounter with remains the sled dog. They approach so quickly and quietly that we sometimes don't even have time to jump off the trail. A collision can be disastrous — imagine tangled lines, confused canines and a lot of sharp teeth. Add to that an annoyed musher who's likely packing heat, and you stir up the kind of fear that convinces snow-bikers to give those racing puppies a wide berth.

Jill Homer blogs at Up in Alaska.

Nov 25, 2007

Grease Guarding Surly New Hub

We like the Surly new hubs...they are simple, fairly well made, cost effective and with lots of layup options.

Have built up a number of wheelsets for winter fatbikes using the Surly hubs (w/ Large Marge rims as well as Speedway 70s and 100s). Out of the box and prior to use, we're upgrading the hub with 1) Phil Wood Spec'd bearings and 2) Morningstar Soup / Grease for winter conditions. On a recent rebuild we took it a step further by modifying the hubs and making them grease-able in situ.

Quick, fyi, description: Break the hub down as usual. Prior to reinstall of the bearings we drill a small thru-hole in the body of the hub. The hole is tappered and located dead center on the hub body. Its easier to do this before the wheels are laced-up. Important to clean all shavings and metal filings from the hub; esp the axle cavity. We just black tape the hub to cover the hole.

We remove the seals on each Phil cassette bearing and clean with a good degreaser and repack with Paul Morningstar's Soup. Replace ONLY the outboard seal on the bearing

The hub is then reassembled.

Before adjusting and tightening the endcap, with a small greasegun you can now inject more Morningstar Soup into the center of the hub body. Once the cavity is filled (doesn't take much as the axle fills most of the body void) force / pressure will move grease down through the hub, across the bearings and out the outboard seals...purging the bearing of any unwanteds while refreshing the grease.

Works well on the Surly Hubs. Same concept is applied to Phil Bottom brackets and the platform pedals we use!

[Grease Gurard is a TradeMark of WTB...we DO use some legacy WTB GG hubs, all our bikes have WTB GG headsets and some riders are using the WTB GG pedals]


Nov 23, 2007

FatBack Ti Frameset

Fatback Titanium Frame from Speedway Bicycles.

link to Speedway Cycles, Anchorage, Alaska


Another fine Alaskan Product...the guys and gals at Speedway are on top of the art of Fatbiking in Alaska...lots of fine products in their shop and a lot of knowhow to go along with it.

FATBACK in snow

FATBACK clearance

It has mondo clearance, vertical droputs, 100mm width fork, (other fork options and widths available,) 100mm bb so you have all possible gears. Plenty of standover in all sizes, and best of all it's ti. It's the perfect material for a snowbike-light (3.3 for a 16, 3.5 for an 18, and 3.65 on a 20) and rust free.

FATBACK sunset

Read the MTBR thread for more info: