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. 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.
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.
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 I reckon that what pushing we did was easier with the drag from only two, rather than three wheels.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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|
|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|