Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year and New Wheels

One of my long running projects has been to build a set of better 29+ wheels for my Mukluk. I've been running the fat wheels on regular 29er wheels, about 20mm internal width:

Both Surly and all the punters on the internet say this is a no-no: mid fat wheels should be on a rim of at least 30mm internal width, such as the Blunt 35 rims I have on my Karate Monkey. I haven't really had any issues with the narrower rims, but I wanted to see what a bigger rim would do.

Several months back, I picked up some 44mm Sno Cat SL rims off the iBOB list. A few months ago, I won some Schlick Northpaw fatbike hubs off ebay for a very good price. Finally, I completed my parts inventory by ordering some very reasonably priced double butted spokes this month. Add some beer and afternoon NPR on the radio, and I was ready to get building:

I've only built a small handful of wheels in my day, and I've never found the process especially satisfying. I started a decade ago when the $300 custom wheel I bought from Baer's Wheels almost fell apart after just a few rides. Baer's fixed it, but that set my resolve to try it myself. The wheels I've built since then have held up fine.

This time, I started with the rear wheel. Lacing and tensioning took me "only" about 45 minutes, not counting time out for a walk around the block with Kate and her new doll. The build went smoothly, with no big issues or frustrations, just proceeding at a relaxing pace on a winter afternoon. One small issue was that my truing stand was just barely wide enough for a 170mm fat bike hub:

But it worked well enough. I did a wheel a day for two days this week, and found the process relaxing and enjoyable. I was ready to roll this morning:

One nice benefit I noticed right away is the increase in width of the tire. The Dirt Wizard tire mounted on my narrow rim measured only about 60mm at the casing, but that grew 7mm on the wide rim. The Gravity Vidar looks wider too, but I forgot to take a "before" measurement:

Sorry, I'm not going to remount the tire on the old rim just to measure it!

This morning I took the Sno Cat shod Mukluk around my little Dublin trails. I hit Avery park first, where I found another log down blocking the trail:

The trees have been falling pretty regularly around this woodlot, which worries me a bit about the long term sustainability of this little forest.

After Avery, I stopped at the old photogenic barn:

Then hit the rough trail around the pond at Brandon Woods park:

(it's actually quite a bit rougher than it looks here) Finally, I stopped at the trails in Wellington Park, which are very smooth and easy, except for the fall line trails climbing up from the creek:

It was nice to get out on a chilly morning, but it's a mixed report on the new wheels. I'm happy to say my wheelbuild held up well, but I'm not seeing any real positive about the wider rims. In fact, I could detect a little bit of self steer on pavement that I hadn't noticed before. The Muk also felt a bit sluggish, though I'll chalk that up to me not riding much in the last few weeks.

I've ordered a new Fat Be Nimble tire, which I think I might be able to squeeze into the back of the Monkey. If that works, it might not be good for the long term prospects of the Mukluk.

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