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Gravel Time: The Lowell 50

The Lowell 50. Part race, part color tour.

The Lowell 50. Part race, part color tour.

The last gravel race of 2018 is just over a week away, and we didn’t want you to miss it.

We were on hand way, way, way back in March when the Michigan Gravel Race Series kicked off at Melting Mann. It’s hard to say if that feels like just yesterday or a whole lifetime ago; spring, summer, and fall have flown by, but we’ve been able to squeeze in some great rides and a lot of fun memories.

While you can certainly grind all winter, October 27 offers up a decidedly spooky finale to the MGRS at The Lowell 50. With the Rogue 100 replacing the traditional 57 mile course, riders who love the normal route have had to wait a full year since the last time they battled the wind, rolling hills, and tough field the Flat River Class always seems have in store. There’s also a rather testing 34 mile route that, while cutting out some long stretches to the east, still includes nearly all of the punchy hills that start and end the 57 mile route as well. For a race with plenty of farmland, you’ll have to have your climbing legs on at least a few times.

It’s also a great course for a true gravel or cyclocross bike, with riders often switching up their tires based on conditions. Our own Ted Lott says the course was hard and fast to kick off the month of October, so unless things change, normal 35mm tires should be a nice, safe bet for race day. Of course, it also comes down to personal preference; we’ve seen riders on everything from 25mm road tires to the stacked fat bike class on four inch tires, too!

What might be our favorite option is the 47mm WTB Byway. Designed for 650b ‘road plus’ wheels, the 47mm width fits in most all road bikes like the Kona Rove or Sutra, giving you drop bars and road gearing, but a bit more rubber to smooth out rough gravel or to keep a bit of flotation over loose stone or sand. These also offer up just enough tread and sidewall protection to make them rather serviceable on the trails, too, although anything too techy would be more work than pleasure.

Make sure you get your gravel rig in for a quick tune-up and tubeless refresh, and give the Lowell 50 a try! Best of luck to everyone willing to push themselves and enjoy some stunning fall colors in the heat of a chilly fall classic.

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Jump'n'Pump with Bob :: Sunday, September 23

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As had been noted and documented before, our head wrench, Bob Hammond, can shred. His reputation is so stellar that he’s been asked to help instruct a clinic on how to rail the pump track, and your first chance to learn from the master is this Sunday!

LIV Cycling gave Bob the ol’ ring (well, probably a text message first) to see if our guy could help offer up so pointer on jumping and pumping in the dirt. Bob is a long-time BMX and dirt jumper, in addition to being a pretty incredible downhiller, too. He was jazzed to join in, and you can get involved to learn about riding and jumping.

The clinic will go over everything from how to ride berms, smalls jumps, pump tracks, and the basics of getting airborne. No prior experience is needed, but you’re going to want to be comfortable with basic handling skills. Pop on your flat pedals and wear a helmet (duh) and we’ll work you up to being comfortable getting off the ground.

The morning session will be structured to help beginners tackle the basics, while the afternoon session will be designed to offer more experienced riders a bit more instruction for more speed, higher jumps, and the chance to push their limits that little bit further. Proceeds from both sessions will go to help the on-going GR Bike Park rebuild! The GR Bike Park is going to be THE place to use these skills once construction on the second phase, currently in progress, is completed for the season.

For updates on the both sessions, keep an eye on things here. Each session is just $10, with the event taking place this Sunday, September 23, at Rock City BMX.

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Celebrate 30 Years Of Kona (Or Get A Head Start on 2019)

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Kona is ahead of the game in so many ways, but their knack for getting new bikes into boxes and then into our hands probably what we appreciate the most! Ignore the calendar, 2019 is here. 

We're expecting a nice big truck load of fun this week, including some of the most anticipated bikes of the season. While we'll still have 2017s and 2018s on sale through the end of the month, you may want to rub your dimes together for some of the newest and coolest bikes on offer here, there, or anywhere. 

Over the next few days, you're going to see the 2019 Kona Libre (which we waxed heavily on here), the Rove ST, the freshened-up Big Honzo, and the Hei Hei AL. But there's one bike you're really going to want to scramble to see, and that is one that's been 30 years in the making. 

Earlier this month, Kona unveiled (or, more accurately, UNLEASHED!) the 30th Birthday Bike! In order of three decades of sweet rides, they crafted a special edition of the Honzo ST with a snazzy mirror finish, 30th birthday saddle, and a special decal denoting which of the 201 frames made you ended up with. 

The bike is spec'd with SRAM NX1 bits, but you can go crazy thanks to the modular dropouts. There's something about the look of that thing that makes us want to go singlespeed. 

You can check out the Birthday Bike online, but man, you're going to want to see it in person. 

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Melting Mann 2018: Cold Fun in the Sun!

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Another fun day in Vandalia! This past Saturday, we packed up and headed south for the fifth edition of Melting Mann, the gravel road race that doubles as one heckuva good time. 

Spring Break started early, but instead of short pants and sand, we had on a few layers and gravel in our teeth. Any event scheduled for March in Michigan is a crapshoot, and Melting Mann is seen a bit of everything over the past half decade. We'd call 2018 a bit of a draw; most of the course was dry, but it was dry because it was frozen solid. Temperatures didn't get above freezing until well after the race was over, but hey, it's Michigan; everyone on the line knew how to dress for the cold. 

The race had 35 mile and 24 mile options for racers, plus fat bike categories. It's always so cool to see the different bikes people pick for a race like this, and how some riders feel more comfortable on a fat bike or mountain bike, love a gravel bike, or stick with slicks on a traditional road bike. There's a sense of run-what-you-brung, which is especially cool in these types of weather conditions. We saw everything from brand-spankin' new carbon race bikes to one or two original steel fat bikes with all of nine speeds, and some old school 26ers with v-brakes! 

You can check out all the results from a very fun day right here

Next up, we're planning on earning our Easter dinner with The Dirty Thirty, a new race that will start and finish just a short trip east in Saranac. You can learn more about the race here. If your bike needs some love before Saturday, make sure you get your service scheduled so you don't miss any of the incredible riding weather on offer this week! Finally, Grand Rapids is going to get a sniff of 60 degrees and plenty of sun! 

With plenty of folks on the move for Spring Break, there's no clinic this Thursday, but keep your eyes peeled for a new series coming your way in April! 

 

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My Kona: Wes' Kona Big Unit

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We're looking forward to spring, and some of us slightly more than others. Folks with new bikes, or bikes that have been built up as something new, are especially antsy. Wes' Kona Big Unit has him jonesing to shred, with a utilitarian build that's tough enough for a big season. 

The 2016 Kona Big Unit began as a frame and built up as a singlespeed. Heading into 2018, the bike is going to be the everyday shredder, race winner, and trail crusher for Wes. Because he travels a lot for work, the bike needs to be very easy to maintain, tough as nails, and be suited for any number of trail systems. 

The frame itself is a rarity these days, and hasn't been in production since 2016. It's made of 6069 scandium, which offers a springy steel ride but at a much lighter weight than even aluminum. The frame also spearheaded the now nearly universal sliding rear drop out that has swept the industry, making it easier to adjust your wheelbase to how you ride, as well as switch between singlespeed and gears. That choice is an easy one to make now, because it takes about 30 minutes to switch back and forth once you get the hang of doing it. 

Another big choice was to stick with the fully rigid Whisky fork. It takes off a bit of weight, sure, but with little maintenance or adjustment, it's also a bit of a time saver for a rider who admittedly puts his bikes away wet, mud, and quickly. 

That utilitarian theme extends to the drivetrain, where he's opted for 1x10 components with a tight 11-36 cassette. Putting in big miles means he'll through anywhere from four to six chains this summer, and 10 speed components add up to a lot of savings. He's gone with a SRAM GX groupset, paired with a 34t Wolf Tooth Oval chainring up front. There appears to be just a bit more room for a bigger ring, which may prove useful later in the season and in any potential gravel races. 

After a few years on ESI grips, he's back on ODI grips, a Prologo Novo saddle, Shimano SPD pedals, and RaceFace seatpost and bar. He's switching to an Easton 90mm -17 degree stem to lower the front end. 

The wheels are Stan's Crest with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in a 2.25 front and rear. 

This bike weighs in at 23.1 pounds, not the lightest the world, but there's some weight to be shed from the crank when the need arises. 

What's your Kona story? Let us know about your bike, it's history, and why you love it and we can feature it on the site! Contact ilikefatbikes@gmail.com with your Kona photos and tall tales. 

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CDC Does Spring Break In Knoxville!

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Spring is a curious thing in Michigan. You can’t rely on anything when it comes to the weather, and even the tail end of March can be snowy and cold. You need a break, and we’re doing most of the planning.

This year, we’re heading south to Knoxville, Tennessee for Spring Break 2018! Get far enough south to enjoy the warmth, but close enough that the drive doesn’t eat up your whole weekend. Knoxville is home to a massive network of urban trails, most of then dirt, that winds through the whole city. We are packing up and bringing the tribe with us; meet up, catch up, and hang out with the CDC crew for three days of dirt riding!

Trail expert Courtney Joesel will be leading skill sessions and rides over the course of the three-day trip. She’s a certified expert who has already helped instruct riders at our Louisville MegaCaverns trip earlier this winter. Courtney is a ton of fun to ride with and everyone who gets time with her is a better rider for it.

Sound like fun? Call or stop by the shop for more details and to reserve your spot on the trip. Lodging rates and other expenses will be determined as we get a little closer to the trip and will depend largely on how many people are planning on joining.

Stay tuned for more information throughout March and make sure your bike is ready to rock!

You can get a taste of the Knoxville scene here. 

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James Cleans Up: Muc-Off For A Clean Bike

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Late fall and early winter here in the mitten can mean all sorts of different weather in a short time. Sometimes times that random weather can leave your favorite riding surface a little wet which can make your favorite bike pretty messy. That sucks. Good news is it doesn't have to stay that way! It can shine like new again after a good cleaning with my favorite line up of Muc-Off products! Check em out!

I like to start off with the bike cleaner so I get all the big nasty stuff off the bike before moving on to the more intricate parts. Give the whole frame a good misting of water; it just needs to be damp but not sopping, then give it a spray with the magical pink stuff. Let it sit for a couple minutes, then give it a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush or something of the sort. Then, rinse off the bike. At this point, you can either let it air dry or wipe it down, dealer's choice.

Now that the frame is done, it's time to tackle that gross drivetrain. This time, you start right off spraying that wonderful fluorescent green stuff all over the chain, chainring, cassette, and jockey wheels. Gotta let it sit a couple minutes again then start in with whatever cleaning brush you prefer to scrub out that grime. Give it a rinse and wipe down with a rag and you're ready for the final phase, lubing that chain. My preference is the ceramic lube but have been known to use the wet or dry kind from time to time.

Now that the bike is looking good as new it's time to go get it dirty all over again! For the right sprays and lubes, stop by and we'll show you what we use every day in the shop. Cleaning your bike is the best way to get more life out of parts and to avoid expensive replacements and repairs. It helps you keep an eye on wear and tear, and it's a great use of five minutes whenever you ride.  

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Lighten Up, Folks: Carbon Fat Bike Rim Special at CDC

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Our pals at Velocity just rolled out the most highly-anticipated product since the quick release (thanks, Campy!), and that gave us a really, really good idea. 

Like any good bike shop, we've always got some carbon hoops bouncing around for a rainy day. We've had some Sarma 80mm carbon fat bike rims in our back pocket just waiting for a good reason to get them laced up. Then, Velocity made our dreams come true with new fat bike hubs! They're like their MTB hubs, but available in 177/197 widths and with a bit of a bonus. Instead of 3 pawls, they've got 6. Do the math, and that's twice as much! The front hub weighs in at 198 grams, with the 177 rear 258 grams. We have HG and XD drivers in stock, too, so if you're running Shimano or 11/12 speed SRAM, we've got you covered. 

We're kicking off winter fat bike season (fat is always in season) with a hot deal for cold weather. We'll build you a set of Sarma rims (650 grams each) on Velocity hubs with DT Swiss spokes for $800. Yep, Carbon fat bike wheels of under $1k. Gotta be 150 mm front hub, and we can build 177 or 197 rear hub, just let us know which you need! 

Carbon rims will take a solid pound or more off your aluminum rims, especially if you're still running tubes and rim strips. Lighter wheels are the best investment you can make on your ride. Even if you aren't worried about racing, it's so much more fun to shoot out of corners, fly up hills, and feel a lot more snappy out on the trail. With lighter wheels, your fat bike might just become your go-to year-round bike...if it isn't already. 

There's a catch because of course there is! We've only got five sets of Sarma rims in stock, so it's first come, first serve, and when they're gone, they're gone forever. With that little splash of mortality, stop by or give us a call. Not sure what spacing you need? We'll look for you, no problem. 

 

 

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