I’ve been riding around on Salsa‘s 2014 Warbird 2 for the past few weeks and thought it might be a good time to share some of my first impressions of the bike. First off, the Warbird is Salsa’s take on a gravel racing bike. If you’re not already familiar with gravel racing it’s what it sounds like…racing bikes over gravel roads sometimes for incredibly long distances. Think Dirty Kanza at 200 miles, or the Trans Iowa which ticks off somewhere around 340 miles. The Warbird was designed to provide comfort while maintaining a light, efficient build that can push a fast pace over some seriously rough roads. Sounds like fun, right?Tweet Print
Rather than a beefed-up touring bike like the Co-Motion Divide we reviewed last week, the Fargo 2 is actually a drop-bar mountain bike, with a lighter compact frame, 2×10 drivetrain, tubeless wheels, and slacker geometry than the Co-Motion. A tall, 44mm head tube means a higher handlebar for comfort off-road, and suspension-corrected geometry allows a suspension fork upgrade.Tweet Print
By Jon Pratt. Photos by Jon Pratt and Justin Steiner.
Surly has long been building simple, utilitarian, steel bikes designed to do their jobs without complaint, like the Moonlander, the Cross-Check, and the Long Haul Trucker. It’s added another feather in its cap with the introduction of the Troll, a 26-inch-wheeled, off-road touring bike designed for a multitude of tasks: touring, commuting, mountain biking, hauling, and just about anything else you can think of.
The Troll is based on Surly’s 1×1 singlespeed frame, and adds rack and fender bosses, a derailleur hanger, a spot for anchoring a Rohloff hub, and holes for Surly or B.O.B. trailer mounts. You can choose to run the chromoly fork, included in the complete bike build, or throw on your own 100mm suspension fork.
Initially, I set the Troll up with fenders and a Surly rear rack to commute to work and run errands around my neighborhood. On short trips to the store it did well smooth and capable of hauling everything I needed it to. On my 12-mile pavement commute, the stock 2.3 Kenda Kiniption tires slowed me down noticeably. I did, however, enjoy the view from a more upright cockpit thanks to the swept-back Surly Open Bar handlebars.
I had the opportunity to see how the Troll would do as a touring machine on our rail-trail trip to Washington, D.C. Expecting the worst—it was March and the 345-mile off-road route can get interesting with precipitation—I threw on a Surly front rack and a set of knobbier tires. The Troll weighed 39lbs. before loading any gear, and it topped out at 94lbs. when all was said and done. So, off we went.
The Troll did pretty well on this tour. Shimano Deore front and rear derailleurs dealt with the shifting demands under the heavy load without a whimper. The saddle wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it held its own. I did experience noticeable flex in the handlebars and some flex in the frame. While I may have been a little over-sensitive to the frame flex, the handlebars just didn’t stand up to the job. Along with their lack of stiffness, they didn’t provide enough comfortable hand positions for a long haul.
And while I enjoyed the 26-inch wheels around town and on some off-road shortcuts between destinations, I would have rather had 29-inch wheels on tour. Those touring in foreign parts may prefer 26-inch though, since 700c wheels, tires, and tubes can be scarce outside the U.S.
My experiences with loaded bike touring have taught me that how you set up your racks and disperse the weight is very important to your overall comfort and the bike’s performance. The upright riding position of the Troll means more of the rider’s weight is carried by the rear wheel, so the front rack needs to carry enough gear to offset this. While you’re at it, make sure those racks are as low as possible, close to your wheels or fenders. Initially, I had my rear rack a bit too high and experienced some shimmying from the front end as a result. Low, balanced, and well-secured gear is the way to go.
I came away from my time with the Troll both loving its multi-purpose beauty and disliking its few shortcomings. Taking the good with the bad, the Troll succeeded in its do-it-all, burly goals, but fell a little short in its commuting and touring prowess. I’d recommend it for someone interested in light touring, or needing an urban utility vehicle. Three-year warranty on the frame, one year on all the Surly parts.
- Age: 41
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 185lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $1,399
- Weight: 30.4lbs. (without pedals)
- Sizes Available: 14”, 16”, 18”, 20” (tested), 22”
- Online: surlybikes.com
By Jon Pratt
As the Circulation Manager here at Rotating Mass Media I get to play around with all the new ways to get our love for bikes into your hands. For the past few years we’ve been relying on Zinio to publish an electronic version of both Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag, our mountain bike magazine.
At the beginning of 2012 we launched both titles in the Apple Newsstand. Once established, we then started filling in both titles’ catalogs with back issues. Recently we were able to complete the entire back issue catalog of Bicycle Times, and every issue from #1 through #20 is now available!
Dirt Rag is a more complex beast. Publishing a magazine over an almost 25 year period means many different techniques have been used to physically print the magazine. Most of those processes don’t lend themselves very well to digital conversion. So…while we will strive to get some of the more important Dirt Rag issues digitized, we’ll probably never complete the entire back issue catalog. I’m currently working on getting some of the first issues into the cloud, and issues #1 through #3 are now available. Look for more soon.
Of course the world doesn’t revolve around Apple. There are other tablets, phones, and e-readers out there, so in mid-2012 we launched on the Barnes & Noble Nook. Unlike the Apple Newsstand, the Nook allows us to offer subscriptions with a monthly billing cycling which you can cancel at anytime. Barnes & Noble also gives our potential subscribers a 30 day, risk-free period to check out the current issue of either magazine.
The buzz around the office is the Article View option on the Nook. It’s pretty cool, you should check it out. And while you can purchase a single copy of the current issue, there are no back issues available for purchase through the Nook store at this time. Subscribers will always have access to the issues they have downloaded as part of their subscription, but you can’t purchase an issue you may have missed. Bummer.
No resting on our laurels over here…just recently we launched both titles in the Amazon Kindle store. Similar to the Apple Newsstand model, you can purchase subscriptions and back issues on your device. Just do a search in the Appstore for either magazine. And as is with the Nook, Kindle users get 30 days to check out the magazine before committing to a subscription purchase.
While we are primarily a printed magazine that is delivered to your door and sold in newsstands and bikes shops around the world, I’m always looking for ways to increase our digital readership because I think digital offers enhancements that can’t be produced in an analog environment. Hyperlinking, additional content, rich multimedia—there are so many possibilities in the digital form. So look for more digital launches as we expand to even more platforms in the near future. Oh and we’re working on a combination print & digital subscription but it’s an annoyingly difficult process for smaller independent publishers, so no ETA yet.Tweet Print
By Jon Pratt,
A few weekends ago my friend Mike and I went on a ride that is quickly becoming an annual ritual for us. A bikepacking trip along the Great Allegheny Passage, which runs from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh. While pedaling 150 miles along a car-free route, camping along the way, makes for a pretty good weekend in itself. Throw in a little festival about halfway along the trail and things really start getting interesting. Did I mention it’s a beer festival? Now I’ve got your attention right?
It’s called the Beer & Gear Fest. Each year around the 2nd weekend of June, Wilderness Voyagers, a rafting/fishing/biking outfitter in beautiful Ohiopyle State Park gets about 30 brewers together with a few kayak and outdoor sports companies and puts on a little party.
For an extremely reasonable entry fee you get to sample beer to your heart’s content while listening to some great live music. There are always some interesting beers on hand, some good, some not so good. This year the standout, I won’t say in which category, was Blue Canoe’s Maple Bacon Pancake Porter. Yep, they went there.
Oskar Blues and Troegs showed up, along with a local favorite of mine – Fat Head’s Brewery. Fat Head’s is based in Cleveland, Ohio and their Head Hunter IPA is outstanding, winning silver and bronze medals in the last two Great American Beer Festivals.
I love it when two of my most favorite pastimes, biking and beer, come together in such a perfect fashion. Are there any festivals along the trails close to you? Let us know in the comments below, and who knows, I might just show up.
By Jon Pratt
The birds are chirping, the buds are budding, and I don’t need a light on my commute to and from work; it must be time for Pittsburgh’s infamous Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride, held this year on April 28.
Each year local brewer Scott Smith from East End Brewing gathers up a few hundred of his closest friends to deliver the first kegs of Pedal Pale Ale to a local pub, by bicycle of course. For the past seven years Smith has been riding through the streets with a keg towed behind him in everything from a kid’s bike carrier to a space-age flatbed hauler.
Starting out at the brewery, the group follows him around on a lazy meandering ride to a destination only known by Smith. Upon arrival you can trade in your token, anything from a derailleur pulley to a postcard, for a fresh pint of his heavenly creation. Pedal Pale Ale is a moderately hoppy American Pale Ale with a touch of malt and fruit. It was originally brewed to celebrate Bike Fest, a 10-day bicycle festival organized by our local bicycle advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh.
The last few rides have become fund raisers for local charities. This year’s ride will put some much needed change into the pockets of ABOARD’s Autism Connection of PA and Bike Pittsburgh.
If you’re into bikes and beer there are a number of similar rides around the country, and world. A few of note:
- The Tour de Brew in Kansas City, a bicycle tour of the historic brewing landmarks in Kansas City to finish off Bike Week 2012, May 20.
- Oskar Blues’ 2nd annual G’Knight Ride in Longmont, Colo., on June 16.
- Harpoon’s B2B ride covering 148 miles between their breweries in Boston, Mass., and Windsor, Vt., on June 16.
What other beer, or non-beer, themed rides are going on in your neck of the woods?
By Jon Pratt
Aside from the occasional trip to the local pub, riding bikes and taking photographs is how I spend most of my free time. To capture those on-the-bike memories, I’ve tended to look for point and shoot cameras that capture as close to a digital SLR-quality photo as possible. Though DSLRs produce considerably better photos than point and shoot cameras, I find them unusable in most riding scenarios. Thankfully there are some incredibly good small pocketable cameras.
The best I’ve found are in the Panasonic Lumix DMC and the Canon S lines. While all cameras have their drawbacks, each of these gave me the ability to shoot RAW with full manual control and produced incredible images.
So what do I shoot with now you ask? A Nikon AW100. Nikon’s all weather, jpeg only, full auto, GPS enabled, smack it off a rock, drop in a lake, toss it into a mud wrestling match point and shoot offering. All of these images were made with this camera.
Why? If I showed you my credit card bill over the last few years you’d understand. Every six months or so there is a $400+ charge for a new camera. It turns out I’m pretty hard on my gear. There have been times where I’ve had a camera for a little over a month before it became the unwilling victim of a downhill mountain bike crash or of an unscheduled swim in a pocket full of mud and grime.
Nikon’s AW100, so far, has taken some serious abuse and captured some great memories. The photographs aren’t going to end up on the cover of Dirt Rag or Bicycle Times, but they are surprisingly good in most cases. And, I’ve got a couple of extra dollars left over for that after-the-ride IPA.