1 x 11

SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrains continue to become significantly more affordable without losing much, if any, of their awesomeness. I’ve had an XX1 bike. Super great. I have an X1 bike. Love it. I’ve installed a GX drivetrain on my wife’s bike and recently purchased a bike of my own with that very same drivetrain. Two thumbs up. While retail price is around $1500 for an XX1 group and just over $550 for GX, the similarities are incredible. Provided you stick wth 1×11*, components from all SRAM 11-speed groups are interchangeable; you can mix and match cassettes, cranks, shifters and derailleurs to your heart’s content. Here’s a nice review from Pinkbike, selected because their conclusions mirror my own.

Fat Bikes

Boy have fat bikes come a long way in a short amount of time. Weight is coming down. Frame design is starting to look like standards may well exist. Competition and economies of scale are driving down price. I recently rode a Specialized FatBoy Comp all over Portage, and could not have been happier. It steers well. It goes great in the snow. It looks cool. It shifts very nicely. Brakes are strong. Nothing wrong here.  A couple of days later I rode a Trek Farley 7  at night in Al Sabo with some friends. Let me set it up: full moon, great snow, not miserably cold, not too fast, not too slow. I rode sweep, turned off my light and just followed everyone else. I experienced low-grade euphoria the entire ride, and continue to get happy just thinking about it.

The Skinny on Light Fat

Before tearing into this next bit, I’d like to state that light weight is not required to have fun. Light weight can (well, typically, DOES) increase the zestiness of a bike. However, it isn’t required. You don’t need hundreds of dollars of wheels to have fun on a fat bike. Seriously. However, if you’re into that sort of thing, this next part is for you.

One of the things about fat bikes is that a good chunk of weight lives in the wheels and tires, and getting that weight down pays back twice: once in that the bike as a whole is lighter and again because the rotational weight goes down, making the bike accelerate more quickly. The problem is that options were few and the good stuff consisted of very high-priced carbon rims that cost more than two kilobucks and… nut much else.

Enter the Mulefut  rim. It’s relatively light single-wall aluminum rim that makes tubeless easy and retails for a little north of $150. Assuming you can use your existing hubs (and why not?) you could get two rims, a bunch of spokes and the labor to put it all together for something close to $500, depending on the spokes, nipples, etc. Not cheap, but perhaps a nice upgrade.

Somewhere between the Mulefut and the carbon HED fat rim lies the BAD, the aluminum HED fat wheel. We got a couple pair at the downtown shop and installed a pair on a bike. We found ‘em to be quite a bit lighter than the stock wheels (with Mulefut rims, no less) and super duper easy to set up tubeless. $1200 for a complete wheel set is pretty darn good, relatively speaking.

Last bit on fat bike weight: tires. Skinnier fat tires (did not see that phrase occurring when I started this) are lighter than fatter fat tires. The Kenda Juggernaut is a really happening tire for the fat bike racer crowd.  Want to lose some weight without spending a bundle? Think about your tires.

Winter Riding

Winter riding makes a person think about their wardrobe A LOT. Lately I’m riding a bit more recreationally and a bit less fitness-y, and I’m changing my wardrobe to match. Where I once wore a base layer and a good jacket, I now subscribe to the full three-layer system: base, thermal and protection layers. I’ve found that swapping out the insulation layer works pretty well for different temperatures, and an excellent protection layer is a wonderful thing. For insulation layers I’ve used a long-sleeve jersey and various fleece jackets, while my family members use fleece and loftier jackets with either down or some synthetic equivalent. Protection layers have been ski jackets, running jackets and bike-specific items. I’ve also been messing around with chemical hand- and foot warmers. These aren’t quite magic, but they certainly help.

OK. That’s the brain dump. Worth almost what you paid for it.


* It is possible to run GX in 2×10 and 2×11 formats, but a different derailleur is required.