Fat Bike Winter Ascent

In the few times I’ve hung out with Tim, he’s never mentioned a desire to ascend Mt. Washington on a Fat Bike, but here he is doing it for Red Bull. Why? To do something creative and I can’t argue with that…

Getting the opportunity to do this is, first of all, fun. But it’s also challenging and creative in a sport that really is not [creative]. Cyclocross and road racing, by nature, are not creative — you’re simply trying to beat the hell out of yourself and, essentially, survive longer than the person you’re racing against. That’s it. It was really cool to experience this, and see it from a different angle than what a “bike ride” was all about for me for so many years…

In that quote, Tim also states what’s I think is going on with road and the return of adventure…it’s do more than fighting to cross a finish line first, and suffering greatly in the process.

Cyclists are also after the perfect ride, a stress-releasing mood, hitting a zen state, or they simply have, “Miles to ride and all day to get there.”

ENVE confirms GRD fork for gravel/all-road bikes

After a low-key sneak preview at the 2015 NAHBS event, ENVE confirms full production of their carbon GRD fork just ahead of this year’s show. The first small run of forks has already been divvied out, but the next shipment is scheduled for the beginning of April.

The GRD fork is intended to serve the still growing gravel/all-road demographic. The fork uses a 12mm thru-axle, the apparent standard for “disc road” bike componentry. The full-carbon steerer tapers from 1.25” to 1.125”. The GRD also joins the flat-mount disc caliper bandwagon, though pix from last year’s show reveal that the prototype forks had post-mounts. The switch to flat-mount might explain the oddly long span between first glimpse and actual production. Rotors 140 to 160mm can be fitted.

The GRD fork is a remarkable for two reasons. Doubtlessly most people will be talking about the integrated carbon fender, which ENVE says can be removed in seconds. Among full carbon forks of this type, the ability to cleanly mount a full fender is still rare. ENVE’s proprietary fender is a full carbon affair that snaps securely in place at both the crown and dropouts. No word yet on what the consumer is supposed to use on rear of the bike. However, the less obvious but more important consideration is the GRD’s axle-to-crown measurement.

At 383mm A-C, the GRD neatly splits the distance between the 370mm of most road bikes and the 395mm virtual standard of cyclocross bikes. This means you couldn’t really retrofit the GRD to either existing road or cyclocross framesets without dramatically changing the geometry when the head tube gets boosted or dropped (on road or CX frames, respectively). Thus the GRD is designed to compliment frames designed specifically for the all-road demographic, rather than adapted from existing CX designs.

On the other hand, the “gravel scene” is far from uniform in its design preferences. With a maximum tyre clearance of 35-38mm, the GRD won’t fit the 40-45mm sizes that many insist are necessary for gnarlier gravel excursions, though that much volume is getting into the realm of 29er rubber. And such tyres wouldn’t fit under a 383mm A-C anyways. However, the ENVE fork is particularly appealing as for all-weather road bikes. I have often said that it is odd that frame designers should go to disc brakes that allow road bikes to accept any size tyre independent of the limits of short-reach rim brake calipers, and then be limited to forks that essentially still mandate tyres smaller than 28mm. The new ENVE fork steps outside the constraint of road fork design without going all the way to CX fork height, which isn’t necessary if the front wheel isn’t going to be encased in mud-n-grass from a CX course. The 47mm rake is a middle of the road dimension; it should be amenable to most designs outside of the low trail philosophy embraced by the Francophiles of Compass Bicycles.

So to whom does this fork appeal? Due to the unusual axle-to-crown height of the fork, one would have to design a frame specifically to fit this fork, and small framebuilders are the ones who can most quickly respond to the potential this fork holds. This is great news if you are now or soon to be in the market for a custom bicycle for all-road, or perhaps that high performance winter trainer.

How Mark V sent SRAM Apex1 to NAHBS

Today all the cycling websites on the SRAM media mailing list have announced the debut of Apex1, SRAM’s new entry-level 1x drivetrain for dropbar and flatbar road/gravel bikes. But Bike Hugger is a way ahead of them because I…..Mark V, humble priest of Her Church of Immaculate Wrenches….have already installed an Apex1 group on a 333fab titanium gravel bike, which is currently in a van on the road to NAHBS. Of course, I’m sure all the product managers for the big bike companies have known about Apex1 since late 2014, because that’s how this industry works. But that’s a story for another day. For now, let me tell you about putting Apex1 onto a bike for NAHBS.

So Max Kullaway of 333fab Bicycles registered for NAHBS months ago, and somehow or another SRAM agreed to supply an Apex1 group for a 333fab to go into the SRAM display booth at NAHBS. As the buyer/assembler at the Davidson & Kullaway Custom Bicycles studio (the frameshop for 333fab and Davidson Bicycles), I usually handle all the bike kit ordering through various vendors, but this deal was brokered entirely without my knowledge. That is until I was told to send SRAM a list of individual parts for the Apex1 group. Perhaps the layperson doesn’t realize that all these big time venders work off their own in-house SKU# (typically 7 to 10 digits) on everything they sell, and I had to order a collection of items for which no one, including apparently our contacts at SRAM, had SKU numbers. But SRAM couldn’t process our order without the correct SKU#……hmmmm. I don’t know how all that played out, but Max eventually appealed to someone at SRAM who could shove that order out the door. So with two weeks before NAHBS, UPS drops off a box with red & white SRAM logos at Davidson & Kullaway.

SRAM’s Apex1 will bring the simplicity/performance of 1x11 drivetrains and the power of hydraulic disc brakes to a very attractive price point. The 11speed drivetrain incorporates the same X-Sync chainring technology as was first developed for the pioneering XX1 mountainbike drivetrain and later used in the Force1 and Rival1 road groups. Apex1 has its own crankset design with an integrated spider, differing from the modular spider designs of the more expensive groups. The 333fab bike I built for the show used a GXP-style crank, but Apex1 is also available in a BB30/PF30 design. Rather than irksome hidden fifth-bolt pattern of the higher models, Apex1 has a conventional 110mm bcd five-arm pattern. Chainrings are available in 38, 40, 42, and 44tooth sizes. Like all SRAM X-Horizon (1x specific) rear derailleurs, Apex1’s has a non-slanting parallelogram and a top pulley widely spaced from the cage pivot. Looking at the Apex1, I could see how costs were saved with less expensive details like stamped steel rather than forged aluminium, but the overall finish and construction was rather nice. The weight is reasonable compared to more expensive X-Horizon derailleurs, but frankly all of them are kinda chunky no matter how expensive. Unlike the other road X-Horizon models, Apex1 seems to be available only as a long cage, with no mention of medium cage in the press release. The other big departure from Rival1 and Force1 is the wide-range 11speed cassette. Apex1’s PG-1130 cassette is 11-42, not 10-42. This means that the Apex1 cassette does not require a hub with an XD-style cassette body. Instead, the 11-42 cassette can fit on 10sp or 11sp (with a spacer) HG-style cassette bodies, which will make it easier to fit wide-range 1x11 on bikes for both OEM product managers and aftermarket consumers. But if you really want to use a 10-42 XD cassette, don’t worry; the Apex1 can handle it. I know because I spec’ed a 10-42 XG-1150 on the 333fab bike.

The Apex1 hydro levers look identical to Rival1, and if anything I like the Apex1 graphics better. Like all of the SRAM hydraulic dropbar levers, the Apex1 has a nice lever feel. Unlike Shimano, the pads make contact with the rotor well before you exhaust all the lever throw. Shift action feels good, though all the X-Horizon rear derailleurs feel a skosh heavy due to the roller clutch. There’s also a 11sp shifter pod for flatbar bikes; in that case I guess you’d just borrow a brakeset from SRAM’s mtb line, since there are no Apex1 flatbar brake levers.

Honestly I blindly ordered the Apex1, knowing but a few vague specs and nothing about pricing until this morning. But the pricing is really good, no joke.

Cranket: $116 GXP/ $151 BB30

Rear Derailleur: $74

11sp shifter pod: $27 (say whaaaat?!)

LH dropbar brake lever: $199

RH dropbar integrated lever 11sp: $249 (okay, not super cheap, but integrated levers never are and especially not hydraulic dropbar levers. Still these are about $20-35 cheaper than I had guessed)

Cassette: $79

Chain: $14 (this is super cheap as far as 11sp chains go)

Rapha Core


Following the new Classic II jersey, Rapha just released the Core Collection. It’s even more understated than previous collections and….

Delivers everyday essentials rooted in performance functionality. At the heart of the brand’s pared-back design philosophy, Core garments are a distillation of Rapha’s expertise at making the world’s best cycling clothing. Rapha Core is nothing more and nothing less than the basics, perfectly crafted, and should be training day staples for every discerning road cyclist.

For those into Rapha, it’s being marketed as their daily wear. As I was writing this, the weather turned so nice, I headed out for a ride in the new Core. Made of a soft, light-stretch fabric, this jersey is shaped for an on-bike fit, has attractive color-matched details throughout, and a deep-cut silicon gripper to ensure it stays in place when you’re riding. The capsule, first-ride review: exceptional fabric and design details is what you’ve come to expect from Rapha, it’s like the finest Italian kit with their branding.

Features include:

  • Colors: Black, Navy, White, Grey, Red, Hi-vis Pink, & Light Blue
  • Composition: 100% Polyester
  • 5mm ribbed cuff tipping on sleeves, collar and zipper guard
  • Raglan sleeves for on-bike fit
  • Deep-cut silicon gripper rear
  • Elasticated front hem
  • Triple cargo pocket on rear
  • Extra zipped compartment on rear pockets

And selling for $115 in mens and womens.


I am Awe$ome

On a wet and sleepy Sunday, sharing a short about one man’s struggle to prove to the world he’s awesome.

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