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Fat tyres and wide rims have made unsupported Canning Stock Route travel possible. They give ‘float’.  They were originally designed for snow, but soft sand is another of the few ‘mediums’ I’ve ridden where there is a genuine possible-impossible delineation.   That’s not to say that you can’t ride a more ‘normal’ mountain bike along the CSR – just that carrying the weight of food and water needed to be self-sufficient is prohibitive without super-wide tyres.

While attention to route, off-bike equipment, water sources and food demand attention, the bicycle and system for carrying all of it has to be primary to success on the CSR.  In rambling order – here are a few thoughts. Scott and I used different approaches with our bicycles.

Mine was a further iteration of the (relatively) tried and tested, whereas Scott (as usual) did his own thing. 20130721-DSC_0494 Fat Tyres/Wheels In 2005, when Jakub first rode a prototype Surly Pugsley along the CSR, there was only one ‘fat tyre’ available – the Surly Endomorph.  At 26×3.7″ it was a significant step in the genre, but is no longer made.  We both used ‘mid-width’ fat rims on our bicycle wheels – choosing amongst the panoply of hoops now available that range from 47mm to 100mm wide.  In an effort to reduce the weight of these rims, the majority of these come with ‘windows’ through which the rim strip bulges.  Understandably Scott (and others) was unwilling to take chances with rim failures, so used 82mm wide solid Surly Rolling Darryls.  I went with the hole-y version (now appears to be the only one advertised on the Surly website), and didn’t suffer any problems with them.  When pushed, Scott grudgingly admits that the solid rims might have been over-kill.  The weight difference is equivalent to two freeze-dried meal packets per bike…  I’ll mention tyre and rim issues again with regard to my trailer a little further down this post.

mixed prints - Hüsker Dü and Big Fat Larry overlying 4WD

mixed prints – Hüsker Dü and Big Fat Larry overlying 4WD

The earlier ‘fat’ cyclists didn’t really have as much choice, so used 65mm wide Large Marge rims for their bicycle wheels.  The rim part of the ‘fatness’ equation contributes to a wider, flatter footprint for increased floatation in soft sand.  It’s difficult to say whether the 100mm clown shoe rims would offer further advantage.  Their additional width does add ‘interest’ to the chainline and gearing set-up. Tyre choice for us was dazzling – and likely to get more so, with the arrival of the ‘big players’ (Specialized and Kona etc), in contrast to the unsupported cyclists that preceeded us.  Variables include width, tread pattern and casing weight.  The bicycle frame used dictates the maximum rim/tyre width – meaning that I used different tyres on front (Surly Big Fat Larry, 26×4.7″) and rear (45North Hüsker Dü, 26×4.0″), whereas Scott used Big Fat Larrys for both wheels.  I would say that it was worth having more ‘float’ on the front of the bike as it gave better control coming down the dunes at speed (up to 35km/hr in my case).  These tyres are actually pretty thin (or they’d be even heavier), so do puncture.  We both used a combination of Surly Toobs (heavy) and Specialized 26×2.7-3.0″ DH tubes (much lighter) with no noticeable difference in wear or punctures between the two.  As already noted by Martijn (2011), if some latex/’goo’ can be added to the tubes, you’ll save yourself a fair amount of time as all of our punctures were thorn related.  Though we’d thought to do this, neither of these tube types has a removable valve-core, rendering it impossible.

The end of the trail for my rear tyre.  Running low pressures with a heavy load meant that the side-walls wore much faster than the treads.  Though it held, there's a hole (plus twig) at the finish

The end of the trail for my rear tyre. Running low pressures with a heavy load meant that the side-walls wore much faster than the treads. Though it held, there’s a hole (plus twig) at the finish

Two vs Three Wheels.  Scott, aided by some Rick Hunter magic, was the first unsupported cyclist to ride the route without a trailer.  It’s possible that if I didn’t already own a long wheelbase bicycle and thus hadn’t been thinking with a view to my ‘stable’ after the CSR, I would have gone in the same direction.  I think I also had visions of such horrific  dune pushing-fests that being able to dump the trailer weight and do a second take would have been more important.  My day-mares didn’t come to pass, and reckon that what pushing we did was easier with the drag from only two, rather than three wheels.

This one ridden

This one ridden

but not this one - pushing was the main area where I think two wheels were better than three

but not this one – pushing was the main area where I think two wheels were better than three

spreading my load over three wheels did mean I had some potential to make-do if one was beyond repair.  With my wheel choices I could directly swap the front wheel for the trailer wheel.

spreading my load over three wheels did mean I had some potential to make-do if one was beyond repair. With my wheel choices I could directly swap the front wheel for the trailer wheel, and the trailer tyre was a possible spare for the bike rear tyre.

Scott found bike handling with full front panniers 'interesting', though it didn't seem to hold him back on the down-dune plunges

Scott found bike handling with full front panniers ‘interesting’, though it didn’t seem to hold him back on the down-dune plunges

He'd tried to insure against weight-induced wheel failure by opting for wider hubs and heavier rims than I did - both built by Mike Curiak himself.  The reason for success?  Difficult to say, not that it prevented punctures...

He’d tried to insure against weight-induced wheel failure by opting for wider hubs and heavier rims than I did – both built by Mike Curiak himself. The reason for success? Difficult to say, not that it prevented punctures…

Precedent was on my side – Jakub, Russ and Martijn had all gone for the trailer-based approach.  It’s certainly the most ‘accessible’ option as the bike can be ‘off-the-rack’.  There’s still no production-model trailer that gives the sort of repair/spares flexibility that would be ideal for riding the CSR.  An Extrawheel-based or -derived trailer seems to be the best out there (so far).  The ‘Pugsley’ Extrawheel works with an off-set 135mm OLN rear bike (e.g. Pugsley) with a 20-22mm spacer (?provided) on the non-drive side.  The production model only allows for a conventional front wheel (100mm) hub and ‘narrow’ rim with 26×4″ tyre in a symmetrical wheel build.  This means that the trailer wheel ‘as is’ can only be used in the trailer, though the tyres can be swapped between wheels (26×4″ maximum – not Big Fat Larry or other 26×4.7″ tyres).  I had the good fortune to have use of a prototype Extrawheel trailer built for Aga and Mateusz that took a 135mm OLN symmetrical trailer wheel.  This meant that I could swap my trailer wheel with my front wheel at need; and with a bit of re-building, bodge a replacement rear wheel.  The latter possibility would have meant a single gear (32T chainring/25T SS sprocket) that corresponded to the one I used most frequently on my Rohloff.

This prototype 'fat' Extrawheel trailer body has pannier mounting racks like the conventional version

This prototype ‘fat’ Extrawheel trailer body has pannier mounting racks like the conventional version

Both rear wheel and trailer wheel clearance is adequate.

Both rear wheel and trailer wheel clearance is adequate.

The sprung tension in the rear wheel yoke grips the trailer,

The sprung tension in the rear wheel yoke grips the trailer,

Similarly the yoke 'grips' the ends of a QR skewer specific to Extrawheel.  This, the non-drive side, has the spacer required to compensate for the off-set rear wheel.  Unfortunately the skewer isn't all that robust - so bring a spare...

Similarly the yoke ‘grips’ the ends of a QR skewer specific to Extrawheel. This, the non-drive side, has the spacer required to compensate for the off-set rear wheel. Unfortunately the skewer isn’t all that robust – so bring a spare…

Load-carrying

Unless you’re riding with a support vehicle, you’ll have to solve the load-carrying conundrum.  What you carry needs to be only what you’ll use or a limited safety-net in case of bad weather, injury or bike failure.  Both Jakub and Russ used specially modified ‘as light as possible’ Crosso pannier bags, while Martijn and others used Ortlieb panniers.  None used any of their frame-based carrying capacity.  Both Scott and I took advantage of Scott’s ‘day job’.  Using a frame-bag, bar roll and seat-pack I was able to carry all my non-food/water kit with it’s weight distribution optimised for bike-handling.

Double-size rear panniers on the Hunter long-fat compensate for the lack of trailer.

Double-size rear panniers on the Hunter long-fat compensate for the lack of trailer.

The effect of the front panniers on his steering took a bit of getting used to - but didn't hold him back much on the dune descents :-)

The effect of the front panniers on his steering took a bit of getting used to – but didn’t hold him back much on the dune descents :-)

The flapping and noise when riding the corrugations drove him to pack them away as soon as he'd eaten enough food to lose their capacity

The flapping and noise when riding the corrugations drove him to pack them away as soon as he’d eaten enough food to lose their capacity

We knew from Martijn’s experience that our panniers were going to take a hammering from the close-packed vegetation along the route.  All our bags, other than my trailer panniers, were made of a Dyneema-based fabric chosen for abrasion resistance and general toughness.

Mine held up perfectly, but Scott did manage to spear his while barrelling down closed-in dunes (twice).  He then held off repairing the gashes to see if they extended with ongoing abuse.  A fine piece of product destruction testing proved that the rip-stop fabric does stop rips.  The motto might be to ride more carefully however...

Mine held up perfectly, but Scott did manage to spear his while barrelling down closed-in dunes (twice). He then held off repairing the gashes to see if they extended with ongoing abuse. A fine piece of product destruction testing proved that the rip-stop fabric does indeed stop rips. The motto might be to ride more carefully however…

Sarah'd taken one look at the clean white fabric and laughed.  Despite Scott's assertions that it was white because it didn't 'take' dye, Sarah won the wager as to whether the Australian red-dirt would do a more permanent job

Sarah’d taken one look at the clean white fabric and laughed. Despite Scott’s assertions that it was white because it didn’t ‘take’ dye, Sarah won the wager as to whether the Australian red-dirt would do a more permanent job

My pannier - two of Porcelain rocket provenance were rear bike-based, with the two Ortliebs on the trailer.  The latter had been used by Sarah for 17,000km during our Americas trip.  We'd elected to double-up on the upper clamps and lower hook to minimise rattle and rack-wear.  For the Porcelain Rocket bags we used Arkel rails and clamps with doubled Ortlieb Plus lowers.

My panniers – two of Porcelain rocket provenance were rear bike-based, with the two Ortliebs on the trailer. The latter had been used by Sarah for 17,000km during our Americas trip. We’d elected to double-up on the upper clamps and lower hook to minimise rattle and rack-wear. For the Porcelain Rocket bags we used Arkel rails and clamps with doubled Ortlieb Plus lowers.

As suspected, this proved the best combination.  In light of this, we'll be putting Arkel rails on the Ortlieb panniers too.

As suspected, this proved the best combination. In light of this, we’ll be putting Arkel rails on the Ortlieb panniers too.

Drive-chain etc

“Conventional” drive chains set up to clear the wide tyres and rims used on fat-bikes have been used with great success on the CSR.  I alone, chose to differ by using a Rohloff internally geared hub.  Scott, who’s long been a ‘Rohloff-person’, used a 2×7 speed set-up with 20/32T chainrings up front and a partial 11-34 cassette.  This was, in part, a trade-off determined by his choice of wheels and hub spacing to maximise strength (see above) as Rohloffs only come with 135mm spacing rather than 170mm.  I probably had the advantage of one ‘easier’ gear by using a 32T chainring with the stock 16T Rohloff sprocket.  The bottom-line – both our set-ups worked without significant fault – so knowledge, familiarity and preference with what you use are the most important factors in drive-chain choice.

With my trailer wheel to create drag coming down dunes I didn't need more than a rear-wheel brake.   The rotor-bolts needed to be watched as they came loose a couple of times, but I had plenty of stopping power.

With my trailer wheel to create drag coming down dunes I didn’t need more than a rear-wheel brake. The rotor-bolts needed to be watched as they came loose a couple of times, but I had plenty of stopping power.

No worse for all the wear it had suffered.  Both of us used leather saddle - mine a Brooks B17 and Scott's a Sella Anatomica.  With the heat, the smoother surface helped reduce abrasion.  We would both recommend padded bicycle shorts after our experience of the corrugations.

No worse for all the wear it had suffered. Both of us used leather saddle – mine a Brooks B17 and Scott’s a Sella Anatomica. With the heat, the smoother surface helped reduce abrasion. We would both recommend padded bicycle shorts after our experience of the corrugations.

So to finish my CSR posts, a spec-list for those who like them, and onto planning the next adventure :-)

Frame Custom Twenty2 Titanium ( 135mm OLD, offset rear triangle)
Fork Twenty2 custom Chromoly 135mm Symmetrical (465mm AC)
Hope Integral (44mm) headset
Front Wheel Surly Rolling Daryl 32H rim – windowed, with rim tape
Big Fat Larry 26×4.7″ 120tpi tyre
Hope Pro2 Evo FatSno 135mm front hub
Cockpit Jones Loop H-Bar Aluminium
Ergon GR1 BioCork grips
Stem – Easton EA70 100mm 20 degree rise
Seat Brooks England B17 Ti saddle – brown
Raceface Deus seatpost 30.9x400mm
Drivechain Raceface Atlas FR 100mm crank
Chris King MTB bottom bracket
32T Hope SS Chainring
Shimano HG93 9-speed chain
Rohloff cables and housing
Rohloff twistgrip
Brakes Avid BB7 Disc Brake (160mm rotor) – rear only
Rear Wheel Surly Rolling Daryl 32H rim – windowed, with rim tape
45North Husker Du 26 x 4″ 120tpi folding tyre
Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 – disc, 16T  (black). 160mm rotor
Carrying and Accessories Porcelain Rocket Booster Rocket Seat Pack
Porcelain rocket Frame Bag
Porcelain Rocket Ground Control handlebar pack
OMM Sherpa Rear rack (Pugsley version – modified)
Porcelain Rocket Rear Panniers
Porcelain Rocket Top-Tube Pack
Porcelain Rocket camera case

Post-takes

Scott wishing for an engine other than his legs

Scott wishing for an engine other than his legs

The fan club - Scott signing autographs at Well 33

The fan club – Scott signing autographs at Well 33

Not all hard work - shade and soft grass at Durba Spring

Not all hard work – shade and soft grass at Durba Spring

Happiness is a bicycle - Scott hires his bike out in exchange for a beer in the middle of Gravity Lake

Happiness is a bicycle – Scott hires his bike out in exchange for a beer in the middle of Gravity Lake

The enthusiastic support of our companions en route - with treats left for us in well 46

The enthusiastic support of our companions en route – with treats left for us in well 46

The end

The end

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