Light Bicycle Carbon Rim Review [35mm/650B/27.5]

Freshly built LB 35mm 650B carbon rims...

Freshly built LB 35mm 650B carbon rims…

It wasn’t too long ago the idea of carbon mountain bike rims would make my head hurt. But, as more and more riders were using them successfully I started to feel comfortable giving them a try. Of course the stratospheric costs of the premium carbon wheels [over $2K] didn’t compute. I stumbled upon a discussion about Light Bicycle carbon rims on MTBR. The cost was reasonable $200/rim delivered to my door all costs in. The customer service and warranty support seemed excellent so I took the plunge. $400 and 1 month later a box showed up from China with some pretty sweet looking carbon rims inside.

Finish detail...

Finish detail…

I’ve got a client who fabricates composite parts for the aerospace industry and I help them with their quality management system. So looking at a well made composite rim is a pleasure and the LB product didn’t disappoint. Appearance is certainly not the most important thing for a rim, but a company that can build a product that’s finished to a high level of perfection gives you some confidence in the fact they got other details in hand. The rims were straight and weighed ~412g each which is within the specification on LB’s product page. As a comparison the Velocity Blunt 35 is an aluminum rim of the same size/width and it weighs 555g.

Hookless...

Hookless…

This rim is a hookless design which is purportedly stronger and deals with rock impacts better. I haven’t test that out, but I can say this is the easiest set of rims I have ever setup tubeless. 1 wrap of Stan’s tape a a few scoops of sealant then the beads pop into place with a snap using 1 CO2 cartridge. No leaks or hassles. No burps or problems on the trail. I like it! :)

LB rim and Hope Hub...

LB rim and Hope Hub…

Brent at Velofix.ca built up the LB rims with Hope EVO Pro2 hubs and Sapim Race spokes.

  • Front wheel weight = 784g
  • Rear wheel weight = 912g
LB rims in my Pivot Mach 6...

LB rims in my Pivot Mach 6…

These wheels were mounted in my Pivot Mach 6 + Pike rig and abused on our rocky and rooty coastal BC trails for over 5 months of regular shredding. At the end of that I gave them back to Brent for a touch up and he said they were still running perfectly straight. They do have a few scuffs and light scratches rocks, but nothing to be worried about.

Testing out the LB rims...

Testing out the LB rims…

How do they ride? There are two main benefits:

  • they accelerate well [lighter weight]
  • corner and steer precisely [stiffness and wide rim supports tire better]

Is it worth the extra cost?

That depends on how much extra. The difference between a LB carbon rim and a comparable Velocity aluminum rim is $100/rim. So that means a aluminum wheelset is going to cost me $700 using the parts I typically spec and a LB carbon wheelset will cost me $900. I would pay the extra $200 for the performance upgrade. If you asked me to pay $600 or $1200 extra I’d say forget it.

Interestingly I have spoken to riders with ENVE wheelsets that cost $2K+ who also owned LB rims and they couldn’t tell a difference when riding them.

More testing...

More testing…

I’ll keep rolling with these carbon rims and see how they hold out long term. I do know 3 or 4 other local riders with LB carbon rims with as much as 18months of use on them and everyone likes them as much as I do. I’ll probably get a wide 29er set of LB rims for my Krampus built up with Hope hubs for tours where weight is more important than bombproofness and ultimate traction/float.

Dirty, scuffed and beat up, but  still 100% true and going strong...

Dirty, scuffed and beat up, but still 100% true and going strong…

 

Right Sizing the Fleet…

I've been doing a lot less of this...

I’ve been doing a lot less of this…

I’ve been shedding a lot of bikes this year. So far I’ve sold:

  • Dahon folder
  • Surly Big Dummy
  • Surly Pugsley [Sharon's]
  • Sury Pugsley [Vik's]

and I’ve got my Surly LHT up for sale so that will be gone sooner or later.

I’m headed towards a 4.5 bike fleet:

  • Bike Friday Tikit [folding bike]
  • Surly Straggler [commuter/city bike]
  • Surly Krampus [bikepacking bike]
  • Pivot Mach 6 [mountain bike]
  • Bike Friday Traveller XL tandem [only half is mine ;)]
And doing a lot more of this...

And doing a lot more of this…

The three middle bike are the ones I really need with the 2 Bike Fridays staying in rotation because they are fun to ride and because I can see myself getting a contract in downtown Victoria and suddenly riding the Tikit daily again.

I’ve hung on to a number of bikes I used a lot in Calgary for the 4yrs I’ve lived in Victoria despite not using them nearly as much. I finally had to admit to myself that life here is different and needs different bikes. I used to live right downtown in Calgary with 50km of city expanding out in every direction. So I did a lot of urban riding. Add in winter to the mix and my selection of bikes made a ton of sense there. To get to the great MTB trails in Calgary I had to drive 60-90 mins each way to the mountains making trail rides a major operation best left for a weekend.

Don't need a fatbike for winter riding in Victoria...

Don’t need a fatbike for winter riding in Victoria…

Fast forward to now when I can be on world class MTB trails in less than 15 mins and riding after work is no big deal. I still need to do some urban riding, but it’s less frequent and involves much longer distances per trip.  And forget about winter. We ride “skinny” MTBs here 365 days/year.

Selling bikes I loved and had many great times on has been hard. I tried to make use of my fatbikes here just to justify their existence, but eventually I had to acknowledge they did nothing well that I needed to do on the coast. We rarely if ever get snow and sand beaches are not common.

The garage is feeling a bit bare, but it’s nice to be able to move around inside it more easily.

The one bike I need to make a decision on is my Santa Cruz Nomad. With a new mountain bike in the fleet I don’t absolutely need it, but I have many great memories of our rides together and my thought is winter is so brutal to suspension bikes here that I’m hoping to ride it through the wet part of the year and give the Mach 6 a rest. If that doesn’t happen I’ll be selling it as well.

Surly Long Haul Trucker For Sale

My Surly LHT...

My Surly LHT…

I’m selling my trusty Surly LHT touring bike. My limited touring time these days is spent aboard a mountain bike offroad so I need to find this bike a new home. It’s a great looking bike that rides well for touring or errand missions. The bike is in excellent condition with no damage or significant wear. I’ve been using it mostly for short distance utility rides.

You can see a whole bunch of photos here: https:

  • //www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/sets/72157624116957171/
Retroshift brake levers...

Retroshift brake levers…

Build Spec:

  • 58cm 26″ wheeled LHT in blackalicious
  • XTR front and rear derailleurs
  • 9 speed cassette
  • Shimano Dura Ace bar end shifters mounted on Retroshift brake levers
  • Tektro CR270 canti-brakes with Koolstop salmon pads
  • Velo Orange stainless steel fenders
  • Shimano Alivio triple cranks
  • Velo Orange headset, stem & bell
  • Cateye bike computer
  • Schwalbe Big Apple 26″ x 2.15″ tires
Big rubber and sweet fender lines...

Big rubber and sweet fender lines…

The bike is currently setup as a 1 x 9, but the front derailleur is in place and the stock Shimano triple rings can be-reinstalled to easily provide wide range gearing. Everything is in excellent condition with minimal wear. You’ll be able to ride this bike for several seasons without doing anything to it.

Some lovely silver and gold accents...

Some lovely silver and gold accents…

A few things shown in these photos are not included with the bike:

  • no saddle
  • no pedals
  • no racks
  • no dynohub or dynolight
  • no skull mudflaps [I'll include some black mudflap material and the fenders are pre-drilled for easy setup]
Race Face single ring plus stock Shimano triple rings included...

Race Face single ring plus stock Shimano triple rings included…

Cost is $999 + $99 for shipping.

If you want the options listed below [sold as a package not a la carte] the cost is $1399+$99 shipping:

  • front and rear Old Man Mountain racks
  • dynoub front wheel + B&M light
  • Brooks B17 Champion Flyer in Honey
  • Time ATAC platform clipess pedals or MEC MTB style platform pedals
  • Compass Bicycle 26″ x 1.75″ tires nearly new [very fast]
Optional dynohub + light and front rack...

Optional dynohub + light and front rack…

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 Tent Review

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

I’ve been using a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 tent as my primary bikepacking shelter for two seasons now so I thought it was time to share some thoughts. My previous tent was a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2. The motivation to get a new tent was reducing packed weight and bulk. The Seedhouse SL2 is a light compact tent for 2 people and a luxurious shelter for 1. However, the Fly Creek is 1/3rd lighter and much more compact. For trips where you are at your limited saving a pound of weight from your gear is very nice.

Zipped up tight...

Zipped up tight…

There is no free ride. The ultra lightweight comes at the expense of durability and interior space. As compromises go they aren’t too bad. I should add it’s fairly expensive compare to other UL shelters so wait for a sale at REI to grab one.

Cozy...

Cozy…

I’ve spent rainy nights in this tent and stayed nice and dry. The small aerodynamic shape means it hands high winds during storms well and it’s free-standing so you can skip the pegs on nice nights and just use it as a bug shelter. The tent uses a single shock-corded pole that setups up very quickly. If you are facing a storm you can get a shelter up and your gear inside quickly.

Works great as a bug tent in good weather...

Works great as a bug tent in good weather…

At nearly 6′ tall the Fly Creek is big enough for me to stretch out in when sleeping with personal gear on either side of me. I can sit up cross legged at the front of the tent to get dressed or read a book. Having said that I wouldn’t want to spend 2-3 days waiting out rainy weather inside this shelter.

Strategically placed mesh for ventilation...

Strategically placed mesh for ventilation…

The fabric colours are warm and pleasant while staying subdued for stealthiness. It’s fairly thin so you have to treat the tent gently if you don’t want to be repairing it. I’ve skipped the footprint and put the tent on the ground without any damage.

Single free-standing pole design...

Single free-standing pole design…

There are lots of guy point on the sil-nylon fly to get the tent ready for high winds during a storm. Although once wet the fabric stretches a bit so you usually end up adjusting it at least once. The pegs that are provided with the Fly Creek are high quality and easy to penetrate into hard ground – so far!

Compact packed shape...

Compact packed shape…

The tent is a front entrance design which saves weight, but isn’t as easy to use as a side entry shelter. There is a small vestibule area for your pack and shoes, but if you plan to enter and leave multiple times it can be a pain. Especially when it’s wet as water from the fly can get knocked off and drip inside.

Easy to setup...

Easy to setup…

All in all these short comings are worth it to me to get a light compact tent for demanding mountain bike tours. I’ve kept an eye out for a better option, but so far I haven’t found one.

Blackspire Bruiser Bashguard Review

Blackspire Bruiser...

Blackspire Bruiser – click image for product info…

There are a new crop of XX1/XO1 bikes out now that use a narrow-wide single chainring up front with a clutch derailleur in the rear. This setup doesn’t require any chain retention help, but it does leave your ring/BB area vulnerable to rock/log impacts.

XX1/XO1 don’t play nice with traditional crank mounted bash rings and using a full ISCG chain guide just to get the taco style bash portion is a waste plus it adds back a bunch of weight you paid through the nose to get rid of.

There are some Taco only bash guards, but until I found this Blackspire Bruiser they were all made for the bigger rings we were using on double/triple ring bikes so they hang down too low [ie. MRP XCG].

The Bruiser was purpose built for the smaller XX1 rings and works with 26T-32T. There is also a 32T -38T model if you need a bigger ring. It is light at 76g for the smaller ring version. Low profile and best of all made in Canada. Cost is $60 CAD so that’s like $20USD or something? ;)

Bruiser installed...

Bruiser installed…

I ordered 2 for Sharon and my Pivot Mach 6 mountain bikes. We’ve been using them nearly 6 months now and they have performed as expected.

  • light
  • unobtrusive
  • provide protection from high obstacles to protect the frame
Bruiser with crank in place...

Bruiser with crank in place…

Surly Straggler

Singlespeed simplicity...

Singlespeed simplicity…

I built up a Straggler recently to replace my LHT as a commuter bike on my 50km round trip between Victoria BC and Sidney.

The goal was to build a bike that was more fun to ride than my LHT unloaded and faster…in that order of priority. My secondary goals were to reuse as many parts as I could from my spares bin and maximize compatibility across my fleet. I’m really tired of building up expensive wheels that only work on one bike for example.

40T x 16T...

40T x 16T…

My build is pretty basic:

  • 58cm Straggler 700c version
  • Velocity Blunt SL rims + Hope Evo Pro 2 hubs
  • Compass Bicycle 32mm tires setup tubeless
  • Race Face Turbine cranks + Time ATAC pedals
  • SS 40T x 16T drievtrain
  • Brooks B17
  • Velo Orange hammered 45mm fenders
  • Avid BB7 brakes with 160mm rotors
  • Salsa Short ’n Shallow bars with Tektro brake levers
  • Salsa 70mm Moto Ace stem

Front end...

Front end…

I’ve got a torn muscle in my arm so I have been keeping my rides short. So far the bike is meeting my expectations for enjoyment and speed. The SS gear ratio seems to work for the speed range and terrain I am riding.

The fit is good [I ride a 58cm LHT]. I may swap in a slightly longer stem, but I’ll wait and see if that’s needed once my arm is better and I can commute on it a few times.

Unlike my LHT I have kept this bike clean and simple. No racks, no gears, no dynohub and no tubes! I did install full fenders and mud flaps because I live in the PNW and I hate getting road grim on me….especially since a good chunk of my commute is dirt.

Rear end...

Rear end…

Although the Straggler is setup SS at the moment the rear Hope hub is a geared version so I can quickly swap to a 1x derailleur setup using a down tube shifter. Given my move towards light weight touring and the fact I don’t need super low gears a single-ring drivetrain will more than meet my needs for the odd road tour I take this bike on. Heck I may give SS touring a shot and not bother with gears, but it’s nice to have the option.

In terms of negatives for this bike my main concern is whether I’ll find the frame too stiff for my needs. I enjoy a lively flexible steel frame and the performance that comes with it. However, when considering my options the cost of the Straggler frame was such a good deal through my LBS I figured it was worth a shot. Worst case I sell it next spring and move the parts to something else.

Can be setup as a singlering drivetrain if desired...

Can be setup as a singlering drivetrain if desired…

My 58cm black 26” wheeled LHT will be posted for sale shortly. I’m going to clean it up and take some photos today for the ad.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/sets/72157624116957171/

Sadly this will be the end of my membership in the Surly LHT club, but at least I’ve still got a Surly under me! ;)

Full fenders and mud flaps...

Full fenders and mud flaps…