Field Tested: Fyxation Blackhawk

It comes as no surprise that carbon fiber has found its way into fat bike frames. It does come as a surprise that a company like Fyxation—better known for practical steel frames and urban accessories— would be one of the early adopters of carbon frames.

Fyxation Blackhawk

I asked Ben Ginster, Fyxation’s co-founder, about the decision to go with carbon for a fat bike: “A big driver behind carbon for the Blackhawk was our goal of a producing a true four-season bike. While steel fat bikes are a great entry to the fat biking world, a carbon build allows you to build a sub 30-pound winter rig that’s quick when the snow is flying, but can also be a capable trail bike year round. We’ve done builds down to 23 pounds, which is feathery even for bikes that never touch snow.” Seems legit to me.

The Blackhawk isn’t a Fyxation exclusive design, but it hit all the targets of a four season bike: modern axle standards (197/150), clearance for five-inch tires, suspension corrected, and capable of running 29plus tires on a second wheelset in the summer. Shift cables are internally routed through the top tube, and the 31.6 mm seatpost diameter is ready for a dropper post, but you are on your own for cable routing.

After consulting the Blackhawk’s sizing recommendations, I chose a medium (17”) frame, and was comfortable from the get-go, but riders with long legs might need something longer than the stock 375 mm seatpost, as I was almost maxed out with my 32-inch inseam. The rest of the bike fit very well, a good thing since my first real ride was over six hours long.

Extras

The build kit is a smart blend of affordable and sturdy. Some standouts are the aggressive Surly nate 3.8 tires, Sun mulefüt rims, and Hayes prime brakes. I rode quite often in single digit temps, and the prime brakes seemed completely unaffected. My tester was set up with a 1×10 drivetrain and 28 tooth ring.

If you aren’t happy with one of the multiple stock builds, Fyxation offers a custom build program through its dealer network. From mild to wild, you can get almost anything you can dream up, from racerboy builds to super-fat trail bikes with suspension forks, Fyxation can scratch your carbon itch.

Geometry is a happy medium between cross country and trail, and it’s easy to set up with a riding position that is efficient and all-day comfortable but ready to rip. I was surprised by the playful nature of the Blackhawk, some of that might be attributed to the bouncy nature of the fat tires, which can be timed to spring off and over trail features.

There is plenty of room to run 29 or 29plus tires in this frame. I was concerned the taller 29plus tires would raise the bottom bracket to an undesirable level, but even another inch taller wouldn’t drive things into the tippy range, and may actually improve things in tight, technical terrain.

Parting Thoughts

The stable geometry is well suited to icy conditions and long rides, making this a strong contender for wintertime endurance racers or long haul winter riders. The lack of rack mounts and a second bottle cage may limit the touring and commuting aspects of this bike, but frame bags and hydration packs aren’t bad options. All in all, I had a smashing good time on this bike, and would have no problem recommending it to riders looking for a lighter weight way to get fat.

  • More info from Fyxation
  • Price: $2,795 (complete); $1,795 (frame + fork)
  • Weight: 29.8 pounds
  • Sizes: 15”, 17” (tested), 19”
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Leather saddle roundup: All that’s old is new again

From Bicycle Times Issue #36

leather saddles graphicWhat’s old is new again it seems (aren’t hifi stereos and albums grand?), but what never gets old for serious cyclists is the leather saddle. Prior to Avocet developing the first gel saddle in the 1980s, nearly all saddles sold were leather.

While the company that John Boultbee Brooks founded in 1866 had a dominant hold on the leather saddle market for close to 140 years, newcomers like Selle Anatomica and Rivet entered with a modern approach.

Our resident mileage munchers have been riding various leather saddles for the better part of 2015, on various terrain in various weather conditions. While the basic engineering principles apply to most (adjustable tension for dialing in the proper hammock effect, saddle bag loops), our six saddles each take a slightly different approach to supporting your derriere.

And unlike most saddles, ones made of leather need the noses raised up in order to offset the hammock effect, even the harder models. ~ Ed.

Cardiff Mercia

By Adam Newman

CardiffThe Cardiff saddles may sport the classic English silhouette, but they are made in Taiwan, named after the city in Wales and topped with Australian cowhide. Quite an international affair.

The Mercia is the most elegant of the four models in the Cardiff lineup, with beautiful copper-plated rails and rivets. The traditional saddle bag loops are present in the rear as is a small black name badge. I hate to call it a copy but with the three holes in the center of the leather it bears a very, very close resemblance to a classic Brooks. This is no cheap imitation though. The leather seems to be of high quality. The edges are finely trimmed and the underside is covered with a synthetic layer to protect the leather.

These classic leather saddles require you to earn your comfort, and during my testing I didn’t come close to really breaking it in, something Cardiff says takes hundreds of miles. Even after conditioning the leather with Cardiff’s own conditioner the leather remained as firm as a brick. Rapping your knuckles on it elicits a resounding thwack, like on a piece of wood. I wish I could say otherwise but the Cardiff was about as comfortable as wood, too.

The Cardiff saddle looks fantastic and is well-made, and purists may decry my lack of dedication to the cause, but with so many other choices that are comfortable right out the box, I can’t endure months of discomfort en route to saddle satisfaction.

  • Weight: 625 grams
  • Height: 2.5 inches
  • Rail length: 5 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 7 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: Hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Tannic brown, sable black, moss green, white
  • Made in: Taiwan Price: $110, $130
  • cardiffltd.com

Rivet Cycle Works Independence

By Gary Boulanger

rivetRivet founder Debra Banks likes to ride long distances—750-mile brevets are something she gobbles up like others eat M&M’s—and a couple years after her sweetheart and Selle Anatomica founder Tom Milton passed away from a heart attack while riding in 2010, she departed and launched Rivet in Sacramento, California.

The Independence model is named after the 12,095-foot Pass in Colorado, which includes a 19-mile climb. The 12 mm wide embossed rivets add a nice aesthetic—there are several nice touches on this saddle—and the 5.5-inch cutout slot took the edge off immediately. Unlike the others I tested, the Rivet uses injected molded pieces to connect the chromoly rails, cleverly incorporating saddlebag rails. It also uses a treatment to waterproof the leather, with two flaps on each skirt riveted together to keep the saddle tensioned (hence the name of the company). Like the other saddles on test there are nine rivets connecting the leather to the frame.

At three inches, the Rivet Indy was the tallest of the three I tested, so if you’re replacing your saddle consider the height difference. The Indy also needed its nose raised an inch for its sweet spot. Of the three saddles the Rivet Indy took the longest to break in (300 miles), but remember that all leather saddles get better with age and time, something no gel saddle can boast.

  • Weight: 461 grams
  • Height: 3 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 5.5 inches
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: 4 mm Allen wrench (included)
  • Made in: Taiwan
  • Colors: Black, white, red (tested) burgundy, and limited edition veg-tanned chestnut
  • Price: $195
  • Rivetcycleworks.com

Brooks Imperial B17

By Gary Boulanger

brooksThe catalog copy from 1890 describes the original Brooks Imperial as “sure preventive to all perineal pressure”; I’d say that’s still correct after 125 years.

Reintroduced in 2008 after a long sabbatical, the Imperial shares the same popular dimensions as the top-selling B17. What sets the Imperial apart and adds to its versatility is the 4-and-one-third inch cutout slot and 36 pre-punched holes, 12 of which I’ve held together by laces provided by Brooks. The company calls this “laced skirts for reinforcement,” and for those looking for a tad more stiffness, it works. The frame is chrome plated, and after seven years of use still looks new.

Like most quality leather saddles, the Imperial has a harsh break-in period. But once my sit bones settled into the sweet spot and the nose was raised to its ideal height for my position, I settled in nicely. The Brooks tension spanner is a bit tricky to use, but important to have on hand after the first few months of riding.

Overall, the Imperial has been nearly perfect. There aren’t many bells and whistles; just consider it a journeyman which works well in all conditions.

  • Weight: 507 grams
  • Height: 2.25 inches
  • Rail length: 2.25 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 4.75 inches
  • Length: 10.7 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: Brooks spanner wrench (included)
  • Made in: Great Britain
  • Colors: Black (tested), honey, brown
  • Price: $135
  • Brooksengland.com

Selle Anatomica X

By Gary Boulanger

selle anatomicaIn 2007, Tom Milton launched Selle Anatomica as a competitor to Brooks, which had been purchased by the Italian group Selle Royal in 2002. Milton’s design included a nearly 8-inch slot, and riders responded in the positive immediately.

Known for its length and long slotted cutout, the Selle Anatomica X also boasts some of the most generous setback of any saddle I’ve ridden in 25 years (I measured about five inches of saddle behind the end of the rail, compared to 3.5 on the Brooks and a little less than 3 inches on the Rivet).

I initially used this saddle on my repurposed Ibis Hakkalügi after I inflamed my sciatic nerve last fall, and it allowed me to ride again after four painful weeks off the bike. That gargantuan 7.75-inch cutout slot was the real hero for me, allowing enough give to pedal back into shape as I healed. Rails are made from 4130 chromoly, and the frame also includes saddlebag loops.

I like the subtle embossed ‘X’ on the rear, and the break-in period was by far the shortest of my three on test. The Watershed leather is also waterproof, so fear not hearty tourists! Just make sure to keep your 6 mm Allen key on hand to dial in the right tension for your comfort level the first month of riding.

  • Weight: 487 grams
  • Height: 2.5 inches
  • Rail length: 2.75 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 7.75 inches
  • Length: 11.5 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: 6 mm Allen wrench (not included)
  • Made in: u.S.A.
  • Colors: Black (tested), graphite, mahogany, vintage, red, white
  • Price: $159
  • Selleanatomica.com

Fyxation Coachman

By Eric McKeegan

fyxationThe Coachman is a sporty-looking saddle, although at six inches wide, it isn’t as narrow as its profile suggests. Like the Cardiff, it is built from Australian cowhide in Taiwan, The saddle isn’t waterproof, but there is nylon laminated to the bottom of the leather, which should help keep rain and mud from the rear tire from soaking in.

I bit the bullet and forced myself to break in this saddle over the course of a three day tour. Let’s just say I was glad to have a quality chamois. I could tell the shape was good for me, and once I got the angle correct and the tension dialed it, it was an acceptable place to spend the day.

I wasn’t sold on it as an everyday saddle until I happened to grab the bike it was installed on to ride to the store in street clothes. Low and behold, it had broken in and I was perfectly comfortable for the short trip. I’m still up in the air if I’d pick this saddle over a more standard padded saddle for a long tour, but I do know this saddle is mighty cool looking. And some days, we all want to look cool.

  • Weight: 545 grams
  • Height: 2.75 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11.5 inches
  • Width: 6 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Brown
  • Made in: Taiwan Price: $100
  • fyxation.com

Velo Orange Model 3 Touring

By Eric McKeegan

velo orangeThose looking closely might notice more than a strong resemblance between this saddle and the Cardiff Mercia in Adam’s review. That is because the Cardiff and Velo orange saddle (and the Fyxation) are built in the same factory.

The Model 3 uses a pebbled finish on the leather and chrome on all the steel hardware. There are a pair of holes on each side of the saddle that are laced together underneath, a nice touch to keep future issues with the sides flaring out at bay.

Much like Adam with the Cardiff, I noticed the Model 3 is very firm. Unlike Adam, I have some history with this saddle (on a Velo Orange bike I reviewed  a year or two ago) and found it much more to my liking out of the box. I didn’t get as many miles on this saddle as the Fyxation, and it hasn’t settled in as a “ride without a chamois” saddle yet, but it is getting there.

A solid nose up posture is helpful, as is a seatpost with a lot of offset. Too little offset and I ended up sitting on the metal brace at the back of the saddle, which is very, very uncomfortable. Overall, it seems like a decent competitor to the B17 in size and intended use.

  • Weight: 565 grams
  • Height: 2.75 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 7 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Brown, black, honey
  • Made in: Taiwan
  • Price: $95
  • Velo-orange.com

leather saddle careKEEP IT IN SHAPE

Proper care for your leather saddle includes letting a wet saddle air dry versus using a hair dryer. If a tour is going to be an especially wet one, get a cover for it. Follow the instructions on how much tightening is necessary and when, and be sure to use an appropriate saddle treatment as directed (Brooks Proofide, Obenhauf’s Saddle Goop). A popular saying among leather saddle users is “ride ‘til it’s dry, then you apply.”

KEEP IT SAFE

Worried about someone stealing your prized leather saddle? Here’s some advice from Rivendell Bicycle Works, one of the top-selling companies of leather saddles since 1994: “Use a saddle cover, even a plastic bag, to disguise it. Lock it to the frame with a chain. Use pitlocks. And maybe best of all: Write your name on it or otherwise ruin its resale value, using a woodburner tool or a Sharpie.”

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Take a virtual tour of Fyxation’s new retail space

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Located in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood in southeastern Wisconsin—home to a vibrant cycling community and the Riverwest 24 hour race, one of the largest urban bike races in the country—Fyxation recently renovated its new location to include retail.

Housed in the same building as Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Roasters main roasting facility on North Humboldt Boulevard, the smell of fresh coffee is always in the air.

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“It’s a pretty amazing space and is not your typical bike shop,” co-founder Ben Ginster said. “The new space houses our leather production as well as our design center, office, warehouse and our new retail space and bike repair department. We’re located right off of the Humboldt Boulevard commuter route, which is one of the busiest bike commuter paths in the city and home to Milwaukee’s first green bike lane.

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“Our space is unique; in addition to housing our design center and warehouse, we’ve also relocated our leather production into the new facility and the new space is also home to our first ever Fyxation retail store,” Ginster added. “Our new flagship store is about 2,500 square feet and features Fyxation bikes, parts, our new line of Milwaukee- made backpacks and messenger bags, a full service area and our in-house leather production/assembly.”


Take a virtual tour of Fyxation here.


“As you can see from the Google View inside tour, the store is very open and in addition to having our service area out on the floor so customers can engage with our service team, the shop is focused around three large, open bike kiosks that let you walk through the store and explore current bike models.

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“All of the displays in the store are mobile so that we can quickly convert the shop into an event space like we recently did when we converted the shop into an art gallery for a fundraiser for a  local cycling non-profit. Our leather production is in plain view and gives visitors a chance to see our production up close as we cut, rivet and assemble products for the shop and for our domestic and international customers.”

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Meet the Maker at Fyxation February 28

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin, based Fyxation Bicycles announces Meet the Maker, a series of events to celebrate local makers and designers. Paul Reardon, owner and fabricator at Blue Steel Fabrication, will be on hand to discuss what goes into designing and producing a custom bicycle, tube joing techniques and even a frame brazing demo at Fyxation’s headquarters at 2943 N. Humboldt Blvd. in Milwaukee. Doors on Saturday, February 28 at 6:00pm, with refreshments provided by Colectivo Coffee.

Tickets are free, but space is limited. Register here.

 

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In Print: Cycling Wisconsin’s North Coast: Fat Bikes, Beer and Badgers

Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #32, which is on sale now. Grab a copy at your local newsstand, order one here, or best of all, order a subscription and never miss an issue.

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Words and Photos: Dave Schlabowske

I may never go to Colorado again. After a whirlwind weekend tour of Wisconsin’s North Coast along Lake Superior, I found some of the best mountain biking I have experienced since I last rode in Durango. While the trails don’t have quite the same mountainous vistas, the views of Lake Superior from the top of Mt. Ashwabay are just as spectacular, and oxygen is a lot easier to find at 1,280 feet than it is at 12,800 feet riding over Engineer Pass.

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I first visited Bayfield last February, when my friends Julian, Nick and I made the trip north to ride the ice road to Madeline Island and explore the frozen sea caves on our fat bikes. That trip was so much fun, my family and I took a three day weekend in Bayfield in July to paddle the same places I rode on my Schlick Northpaw (see Issue 29). It was an amazing experience to see the very same caves in polar opposite seasons!

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During the family trip, I was invited by the folks from the North Coast Cycling Association (NCCA) and Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) to ride the local trails at Mt. Ashwabay with State Representative Janet Bewely from Ashland. I was so blown away by the quality of the flowy, fun mountain bike trails, that I made a promise to myself to come back and ride them again when I had time to take photos for this story.

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Julian couldn’t make out most recent trip back over Labor Day weekend, Nick and I spent some serious time ripping Torogdor, Upper Diesel and the other trails at Mt. Ashwabay with John Murphy from the NCCA. There are currently a little more than five miles of really challenging, fun trails to ride, but the plan is for 25 to 30 miles of trail. Construction moves relatively quickly because the northern CAMBA crew roughs them in with the mini-excavator they purchased and then finishes them by hand. 

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Beer

Every time I head to Lake Superior I make a mandatory stop to fill a growler or two and eat some amazing deep dish pizza at The Thirsty Pagan in Superior. The micro brews there are some of my favorite because they always have an interesting sour on tap. This last trip it was a tasty Berliner Weiss.

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You can’t find a better pairing for microbrews than bicycling, so as you would expect, Thirsty Pagan owner Steve Knaus is bike guy and a big supporter of Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS). COGGS was started in 1994 when the Superior Bikers and the North Star Bike Club combined. Since then the nonprofit organization has built 35 miles of killer mountain bike trails in the granite hills that tower over the Twin Ports of  Duluth and Superior. The trails are part of the Duluth Traverse system, which includes a plan to build 100 miles of mountain bike trails right in town! There are even a lift-served trails at Spirit Mountain. 

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Fat Bikes: Badger Build

During my repeated visits to Superior this year, I’ve been curious about the opportunities for beach riding but didn’t have the time to investigate the shoreline until this recent trip with Nick. Since we knew before we left that we would be looking for sand, we brought two of Fyxation’s prototype carbon fat bikes as test vehicles. My rocket on two wheels tipped the scales at 26.5 lbs built up with as many quality components from Wisconsin companies as possible.

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I started with Answer carbon bars and seatpost, Hayes Prime brakes, Sun-Ringle Mulefut 80SL rims laced to Fyxation hubs with Wheelsmith spokes. For sneakers, I got a pair of the new Bontrager Hodag tubeless tires. Add Fyxation grips, bar-end plugs, pedals and a red Selle-Anatomica saddle made in Elkhorn, and you have the Badger Build. I did have to look south of the Cheddar Curtain for the SRAM X9 drivetrain, but otherwise the entire build is from Badger State bicycle industry.

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Nick and I looked at Google Maps and it looked like sand as far as the eye could see on the Wisconsin side of the Superior Entry on Wisconsin Point by Allouez Bay. To get there you take HWY 53 east to Moccasin Mike Road (seriously) and out to Wisconsin Point where there are a bunch of places to park by trails that lead you to the beach, which is part of the largest freshwater sand bar in the world.

With very few cars, lots of smooth, flat asphalt and bike lanes, Madeline Island offers a wonderful opportunity for an easy ride through gorgeous scenery.

After filling our growlers and eating pizza with Steve at the Thirsty Pagan, Nick and I only had time to ride about five miles of beach when we had to turn around so we could get back to Bayfield. With so much more sand to explore, we plan to bring our Fyxation fatties back to ride more sand. The beach had so much driftwood, that it offers some really fun technical opportunities, which is unusual for beach riding.

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Back in Bayfield, Nick and I hopped on the ferry with our touring bikes to ride around Madeline Island. With very few cars, lots of smooth, flat asphalt and bike lanes, Madeline Island offers a wonderful opportunity for an easy ride through gorgeous scenery. Nick brought his four-piece fly rod and we took a break along the beautiful shoreline to toss some flies in Big Bay State Park. He didn’t have any luck pulling in a shore lunch, but we snacked on blueberries, which were plentiful pretty much anywhere you looked down.

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In town we found our whitefish at the Bayfield Inn Lakeside Restaurant, which is right across the street from the Isaac Wing House where we were staying. I can’t say enough good things about the Isaac Wing House. Our two room suite had a huge bathroom with whirlpool and two porches, one overlooking the bay and the other more private and surrounded by wild flowers. It will definitely be the first place I try to reserve the next time I head back to Bayfield.

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Perfect cheesie vacation

While I might still visit my friends in Durango, I honestly have to admit that I can’t wait to get back to Bayfield. The tiny town of 457 sits on the edge of one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, the Apostle Island National Park, so it is the perfect home base for a silent sports adventure.

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With quick access to great MTB trails, unparalleled sea kayaking, and scenic paved roads. Throw in great food (you have to try the whitefish livers), a good coffee shop, a bike shop, and you have the making of a perfect Wisconsin vacation.

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Keep reading

If you like this feature, purchase the complete Issue 32 here, or choose from our print or digital subscription options and help support your favorite cycling magazine.

 

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First Impression: Fyxation Quiver

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Fyxation is a Milwaukee based company founded in 2009. Its first product was the robust Session 700 tire, the tall, high volume rubber you see here. Fast-forward a few years and the company now has a complete line of components and frames focused on urban riding.

The Quiver is a 4130 cro-moly frame with rear facing, horizontal dropouts. The company’s proprietary derailleur hanger allows the frame to be offered as a single-speed for $800, or with 1×10 gearing for $1,200, and 2×10 gearing for $1,390. I’m testing the 1×10 equipped with Sram’s Apex drivetrain and rear shifter.

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