Long, Strange Trip For an Alloy Frame (And A Long, Wordy Post to Go With It)
This bike has led a pretty varied life. It began as a mislabeled Bikes Direct "Motobecane" frame. It had the model name of their single-speed model laser-etched into the frame, but it was a multi-speed bike. They dumped a container-load of these frames on eBay for, as I recall, $89.00, shipped. Built by Kinesis, in Taiwan, the frame is actually a very nice alloy 29er frame, equal to (and made by the same people as) many big-brand frames.
I covered over the "Motobecane" lettering on the downtube, just on principle, and built it into my first-ever 29er mountain bike, with a rigid fork and 3x8-speed drivetrain. It was my first disc-brake bike, as well. Once I got the FUNK, which took over as my main mtb, the Fauxbecane did duty as a commuter, for a while. Then, I built it up and took it to my nephew.
A couple of years later, I decided I needed a 29er with a suspension fork, for some reason, so I bought another Bikes Direct frame (with RockShox fork), and built it up. After riding it a few times, I realized that it was just slightly too big for me. So, I had my sister sent the Fauxbecane back, and I swapped parts. My nephew ended up with the new frame, and I had this one back. Unfortunately, I didn't really like going back to a suspension fork, so the bike hung in the rafters, as I rode my 1991 TREK off-road.
Recently, with the advent of the "Plus" size tires (sized between a regular mtb tire and a Fat Bike tire), I decided to experiment with tire sizes on the Fauxbecane. First, I shoehorned some 26x3" tires into it. They would roll, but the tire/frame clearance was close to nil. So, I got ahold of some WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tires (a 650b, or 27.5" tire, depending on whose marketing department you ask), and installed them on some standard 650b disc wheels I had left over from a previous project. They fit fine, but the skinny rims (24mm) rounded out the tire and narrowed the footprint.
Alas, 35mm-rimmed wheels were out of my price range, so I figured that I would just plug along with the narrow rims until I chanced upon some wide wheels I could afford. The suspension fork came off, and the VooDoo fork I had originally built the bike with went back on.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon some WTB i35 rims for a decent price on eBay, so I ordered them up. I already had a set of Deore disc hubs in the shop, and the spokes came from Colorado Cyclist. Once they were built (yesterday), I had a complete set of wheels for less than the cost of a prebuilt rear wheel, alone.
Today, I decided to transfer over the tires, cogs and brake rotors and get the new wheels on the bike. What a freaking chore that was! The tires and rims are tubeless-ready (although I wasn't planning on running them tubeless), which means that they should have a fairly snug fit at the bead, to aid in sealing. Snug, however doesn't begin to describe it.
Back in the 90s, there was run of TREK Matrix rims which were, apparently, at the large end of the manufacturing tolerance of bike rims. Coupled with Continental Tires' normally snug fit on any rim, the combination of those rims and Conti tires produced a phenomenally difficult task in mounting the tires. Tailside flat repair was a nightmare, and resulted in many a walk back to the trailhead, after all available tire irons had been snapped in two.
The Trailblazer/i35 combo makes the old Matrix/Conti fit look absolutely sloppy. I may end up having to run tubeless, on this bike, just to avoid the nightmare of pinched tubes and broken tire irons which I went through, this afternoon. I ended up having to use the handles of Park Tool cone wrenches as tire irons, in order to get the darn things mounted. I inflated them to 60 psi (well above the mazimum recommended pressure) to see if the beads will stretch a bit. I can only hope so. I also plan to carry motorcycle tire irons, when I go off-road. Otherwise, a flat will strand me.
Once mounted, though, the tires were considerably wider on the new rims, as compared to the old.
New rim on left, old rim on right
The measurements show a 20mm increase in carcass width, and nearly as much in footprint.
The difference is visible, looking at the bike, as well.
So, once I am confident I can get back, if I have a flat, I plan on going over to Mt.Falcon and checking out the new shoes. Twenty to 25 psi seems to be the pressure of choice among people who are running these tires, so I will start at 25 and see how it goes.
Once I have the tire intricacies worked out, I plan to outfit this bike for bikepacking, as well as normal trail riding. A frame bag, handlebar roll and large, expedition-style seat bag should do the trick.
I hope that the b+ tires will give me enough float to ride through the sandy stretches in Moab and Fruita. I loved the fact that my fat bike allowed me to ride, where I normally had to walk with standard mountain bikes. But, the extra wheel weight was a bit of a drag on the climbs.
I sold the fat bike (the fellow is coming down from Minnesota to pick it up), so I won't have that option, in the future. Unless, of course, I run the WalMart Mongoose offroad, which is a possibility, I suppose ... I ran the red one off-road with no problem. I would want to swap the hi-ten fork for a CroMo unit, though.
More later (as if that wasn't enough).