Fat Bike Tubeless?

I started fat biking in the flat smooth singletrack trails of Minneapolis and never thought I’d need to go tubeless. Why bother with the sealant and burping beads, I’d never had a flat. The rolling resistance didn’t seem bad. The Framed branded tires rolled SO much smoother than the crappy Vee Mission tires that we’re on the bike when I got it. Why change what works right?

Well, then we moved to North San Diego County and I got a job where lunch rides in the hills around San Marcos were almost a daily thing. Excited to participate and kind of knowing what trail conditions to expect, I put another pound of air in my tubes and set off for my first lunch ride. The trail was SO much rockier than I expected. I’m not talking rounded river stones either. Blades, spikes, spades and scissors are a better way to describe the rocks in these reddish ribbons of dusty trail. But, none the less, my first ride went off great! No flats, seemed to have a little too many psi’s in there but, good baseline.

Fast forward 6 more lunch rides and I’d had 4 flats, none that left me stranded but rather the ones that would have you finding a flat in the morning.

This section isn’t even that bad!

Not too worried but more annoyed with constantly changing tubes and increasing my pressure until the ride became uncomfortable. Tolerable? Yeah, temporarily, sure.

Knowing I had to do something, I decided to try out the Maxxis Minion FBR that I had ordered for a fat frame build I was planning. I ordered the sealant injector kit and 24″ tubes (split tube tubeless was my best option) and then it finally happened. Bombing down Switchbacks, a great test of a bike, rider and mostly tires! Seemed to be having a good run but then I felt it. Rim to ground! It had finally happened. A snakebite puncture!

Like the good boy scout I never was, I was prepared! I HATE having to walk out of a ride! I was ready for this. Pump and tube in hand, I changed out the tube and continued on my way. The whole rest of the way down the trail I was thinking “5 flats, it’s finally time to go tubeless!”

I read up on the conversion and gave it a go! I had rounded up a length of 3/16″ ID clear poly tube to use from my air compressor to the valve stem and shot some air into the tire! Pop! Right on! I hardly even heard any air leaking between the split tube and the tire. Added 4oz of Slime tubeless sealant that I had gotten at a CX race in MPLS and took it for a spin around the neighborhood. Done. Pumped it up to 10.5 psi (where I ran my tubed Framed tires) and went to bed. Next morning, still reading 10.5!

One of our favorite rides at work is up Switchbacks and right back down it! As challenging as Switchbacks is to go down, it’s just as challenging going up. Steep and technical is the name of the game on this ride! I noticed that the grip in the back was improved! I was climbing areas where I would have slipped out on rock on the old back tire. Bitchin’! On the decent, the rear felt more supple and gripped the turns just enough to be noticably better! Bitchin’! No flats either! Bitchin’!

Rides we’re going well! Tubeless in the back and the old way in the front. No flats for over a week!

Still the front Framed tire.

We ride different trails or link up different trails almost every time we ride. Keeps it fun. Another demanding decent is a trail called Whiptail. Whiptail is as brutal on tires as Switchbacks only faster. Wednesday, we set out, I was riding quick, light, nimble… felt good! Then another rider in our group flatted. He had just switched to tubeless but got a puncture sealant wouldn’t fill. Damn. He wasn’t prepared. Nobody has plugs. He had to hike out. The ride goes on. Not more than 500 yards down the trail, I notice my rear tire is low. Pull off the trail to find this.

Shit!

Sidewall bite! Sealant isn’t stopping it. Crap! I need a plug or I’m walking out too! Lucky for me the leak was slow enough that I could pump it enough that I could ride for a half mile or so then pump back up, half mile, pump, half mile… Made it back to the shop. Rough day for tires in San Marcos!

Got some bacon strips from a local shop and and plugged it right up. It actually had two holes come to find out. No prob, fixed.

🥓 strips!
Mmmmmm

In the mean time, the front Maxxis Minion FBF tire came in along with some highly recommended Orange sealant. Excited to get totally tubeless, I do the swap that night!

The split tube!

Being tubeless in the front I could REALLY feel the suppleness! I mean it was like I had a short travel suspension fork. I wound up putting another pound of air in the tire because it seemed SO soft that I didn’t want it to come off the bead. We were planning the most techincal ride we do and I didn’t want any issues. In the parking lot there was a noticable difference in rolling resistance and on the trail, even with 11 psi front and 12 rear it felt smooth and grippy! Traction was definitely improved!

Just an example of the trail conditions.

While out on the trail I actually felt like I wanted more pressure! Something I had never thought on the old setup. The way the front tire would confirm to the surface had me riding a bit more cautious. Funniest part, is that now having the front properly setup I now REALLY noticed how supple the REAR tire was!

Tubeless is so smooth!

What do I take away from this?

1. Go tubeless as soon as you can! Especially on a fat bike, plus bike or anything!

2. Be prepared for ALL tire failures! Carry plugs, pump, a way to fix larger tears in the tire and even a tube as a fail safe.

3. The brand / type of tire makes a difference in different conditions! I think I could have run a really fast and light tire in Minneapolis but that tire would have gotten destroyed here in San Diego.

4. Pressure is SO key on fat bikes! I knew this but it seems even more important now that I know how different tires and tubes/tubeless setups handle pressure.

I will update this post in a couple weeks if there is anything worth sharing but for now I think I have the right tire setup for the trail conditions here. Tubeless is never anything I was against, just didn’t feel I needed. Well, I’m pleased to admit I was wrong. I am convinced, there are clear advantages to tubeless! You should try it if you haven’t already!

Have fun out there!

Allan 9/19/20

Edit: 10/8/20 VERY pleased to report zero flats! I’ve settled on 11F and 13R! Been having a LOT of fun on this bike and worrying less and less about flats! Such a relief!

If you need a great tire for brutal conditions, Maxxis Minions are the way to go!
FYI

Dent repair on an old Serotta!

I guess some people do read this blog! I got an email from a guy who has a nice older Serotta. Based on what’s left of the serial number and the traditional sized tubeset, he thinks it’s a 1982. Well, it had about a 10mm dent in the top tube. Totally structurally sound still. Sweet!

Here is how I removed the dent.

When you dent a tube, not only are you pushing material down but you are pushing material out on either side of the dent. The way to get rid of SOME of that raised portions is to use a tube block. The idea is to clamp the tube in a tube block and rotate the frame around the dent. This helps to flatten the high spots and if you’re lucky, pop some of the dent back out.

Cool! Except I don’t have a 1″ tube block. Ha! Figures. So I made one.

Here is my step by step process for dent removal.

Step 1. Sand the paint off all the way around the dented tube.

Step 2. Apply grease to the frame and the tube block. This allows the frame to rotate in the tube block without galling.

Step 3. Clamp the dented part of the frame and tube block firmly in a vise. Now, don’t kill it but it does have to be pretty snug.

Step 4. Rotate the frame along the axis of the tube back and forth several times.

You may notice the vise is a tad lose now. That’s cool! That means the tube is rounder than before. You can tighten the vise at this point and repeat this step. You can always take the frame out and check it for progress at any point. Just be sure to reapply grease.

Step 5. When you are happy with your progress with the tube block, clean off the frame and get ready to fill with bronze.

Step 6. Prep the frame how you would for brazing a joint but make the dent face perpendicular to the ground (straight up) this way gravity will help keep your bronze in place.

Be sure to fill the dent with bronze and then some. You will be removing the protruding bronze, smoothing it to the tube.

Step 7. Soak the flux off.

Step 8. File it smooth! Make sure you don’t remove too much bronze or file too hard into the steel. You don’t want to thin the wall of the tube.

Send it off to the painter!

DONE!

Hopefully these directions can help someone keep a beloved bike on the road! I love being able to save a classic Serotta! Hopefully I’ve made Ben proud. 😁

The owner will be repainting and rebuilding it with period correct components. Hopefully he sends me pics when done so I can add them here.

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything or if you have questions / critique.

allan@varcocycles.com

Fixturing for Bent Seat Tubes.

Wow, I am totally unprepared to build a mountain bike! …..or at least the one I want to build.

I don’t really know too much about mountain bikes because before I got this fat bike I hadn’t owned or really ridden one for…IDK, 25 years. Between BMX and cyclocross/gravel I just never got the urge.

Well, the MTB bug bit me so logically, I want to build a MTB! One problem. I’m geared to build lugged “road” bikes, not aggressive hardtails. At least I have one fillet brazed frame under my belt!

New challenges for his build will be:

1. I have NO idea what MTB geometry I want to use. Ok, not totally true. I’m tall, so I want a long reach. I want to be able to take his bike to he skatepark so gimme a low top tube. I like short, twitchy rear ends so I’m going to use sliders to “slam” the rear end. That’s all I know!

2. Fully fillet brazed bottom bracket! I’ve only used lugged shells so far. My stay mitering fixture should help this out some what.

3. Bent Seat tube. Wanting that short rear end I would like to try a bent seat tube! That in itself leads to a fixturing issue that is the whole reason for this post.

You see, all of the road frames I’ve made up to this have had seat tubes that are directly inline with the center of the BB shell. Peter Verdone came up with offsetting the straight portion of the tube so that the frame fixture can be setup based on numbers from your BikeCAD design. Perfect! I have wanted a reason to model my frame fixture so here goes.

The top part (left) holds the ST cone offset from BB center.

I now also needed a way to use wider BB shells. My current fixture was setup to build 68mm shells only. A standard MTB is BB shell is 73mm wide.

With this design I can change between 100, 83, 73 and 68mm BB’s in seconds.

These spacers just slide on a 1/2-20 heat treaded threaded rod and against this guy. The 5 axis at my work was open so I made this part in there.

Like you wouldn’t!

Time to machine the offset cone holder.

I forgot to rough one face of this part out and when I dropped a 1/2″ ball end mill into a spot where I think there’s .010″ and there’s a fucking 1/4″, it came flying out of the vise! Oops!

Hey, at least I get to put the word FUCK into something else!
Graduated!

For the ST cone I wanted 2 things. To be longer for torch access and to be keyed so it would have an indicator line to be able to tell how far offset I was.

The cone end!
The keyed end. You can JUST see the indicator line in front.
You can just see the indicator line here too.
It keys into the slot in the offset mount. (Don’t worry Dad, I’ll make a washer that fits in there before I tighten it down!)
Here it’s shown with a 100mm wide BB shell. Switching to any other size takes 2 seconds!

So here is my frame fixture as it stands now!

I am now ready for my next excuse to not actually BUILD the frame! Dummy axle! With COVID19 shutting things down I can’t just order a Boost spaced dummy axle from Paragon… Luckily I know somebody who can machine stuff.

Yes, I still draw stuff on paper. Some things are so simple they don’t need CAD.

I should probably fire up the BikeCAD and design the frame now! 😂

Until then, spring is springing and the trails are drying up! As fun as winter fat biking was I’m looking forward to getting the fat bike out on the dirt before we move back to San Diego in August!

Alright, have fun! Ride safe! Be nice! Make shit!

Allan

Stay Mitering Fixture

With every frame I have built, I have thought that I really need to make a chainstay and seatstay mitering fixture. And every frame I file the miters in and it just sucks! I’m doing this like a caveman. Like using a rotary phone while someone sits in front of me on their smartphone.

Naturally, I was going to make my own! I scoured Google Images for stay fixtures that I liked, I probably have a hundred screenshots on my phone in an album. There has never been a stay fixture that I was really psyched on building. But over time I settled on a design in my head. One day while it was cold as shit here in MPLS, I finally decided to start turning my ideas into pixels. My #1 goal was to be able to miter BOTH ends of chainstays AND seatstays all in one fixture! (Not at the same time. Haha!)

I decided to use a 1530 extrusion from 80/20 for the main beam of the fixture. This provides a wide base that’s rigid enough to support the tube blocks. Then I needed to make the dropout side of the fixture height adjustable to handle the tapered tubes of the stays. So I whipped up a simple bracket with a platform that raises and lowers on a slot with two pins as a guide. This platform holds tube blocks. I added markers to reference the distance from center so it would be easier to set up the stay ends evenly.

The BB and ST side uses similar tube blocks and has a fixed height block with similar reference markers. Of course I had to add “Varco Cycles” somewhere. 😁

Ok, cool! Time to machine it!

Here is the unverified version. (I still need to try it out) I’ll be building a completely fillet brazed fat bike soon and using this fixture. But first I’ll most likely lend it to a friend who is about to do a short production run to test out. If you have any suggestions PLEASE let me know! You can leave a comment here or on FB/IG, email me (allan@varcocycles.com) …. however we communicate weather we know each other or not. I’ve already gotten a couple of great suggestions for improvement so thank you to those folks!

I added a couple things based on the recommendations from seasoned builders.

V FUCK.0 is official!

If you’re a machinist and you haven’t machined the word “FUCK” into something, are you really a machinist?

I’ll certainly update this when it actually cuts tubes! Quite excited to finally see the reality of this fixture!

Until then, have fun!

Allan

Why not make a Saddle Bag?

What to carry when on a bike? Talk to a hundred cyclists and you’ll get OVER 100 different answers. What I take for summer, what I take for winter, what I take for long rides, short rides, hot rides, road rides, gravel rides….. Blah blah blah!

I’m not going to tell ANYBODY who has half a clue what to bring. If you go on a ride no farther than you wouldn’t mind walking home from, then bring nothing. I don’t care. But most people don’t ride within a half mile of home. I just wanted to always have 2 things in my saddle bag. A tube and a multi tool.

There are plenty of small bags for that. BUT! I wanted a bag for my Fat Bike! A 26×4″ tube is pretty huge so small bags would NEVER come close to holding the tube alone. Larger bags are either dorky or really large, padded and expensive. Outer Shell makes a drop dead gorgeous roll top bag that I use on my cyclocross bike and absolutely love! It would have most likely been a great solution except for one thing….. I have a sewing machine now!

I ordered up some 500 denier Cordura and got my Brother out. (Side note, I am closet Brother fan! Mark my words, one day I will own a Brother CNC mill!) I was thinking something like a bi-fold wallet. Tube on one side, multi tool on the other. Without any real plan I cut up a chunk of fabric and put the pedal to the metal.

For years I have used those Velcro strips that you use to wrap a bunch of computer cables together to reinforce some of my less superior saddle bags. I figured I wouldn’t attach any straps to the bag rather keeping the minimalist theme going and just tightly cinch this velcro computer strap to the saddle rails.

Son of a bitch it worked! Not the most sexy saddle bag ever created but it may be JUST what I needed!

And you know what? If it DOESN’T work, I have like 7/8 of that yard of fabric left. I would love to get better with my sweing machine but you know, for now, this is just what I need.

Don’t be afraid to make your own shit!

Allan

Oh, and go have fun!

Dad’s All Road, my first fillet brazed frame.

Ever since I started building frames, I had dreamt about building my Dad a frame. I just never thought he would go for it. You see, he is 72 and retired. He rode his bike to work, rain, shine, snow, rain, freezing temperatures for the last several years he was working.

He has an aluminum Trek road bike with 25c tires and an aluminum fork! It’s horrifically stiff and he still rides it to lunch with his old co-workers almost daily.

So, last year I had him ride my Cyclocross bike and he seemed to enjoy the ride. He was looking into a Salsa something-or-other when I offered to build him a frame. He was excited and so was I!!!

Since he lives in Albany, NY and we’re in Minneapolis, my Mom measured him up and sent me his numbers. Comfort was his #1 request so I RattleCAD’d him up something with a comfortable/upright position and a sloping top tube. Disc brakes was his #2 request followed by a 1x drivetrain with a clutched derailleur. Smart guy hu?

My #1 goal was to fillet braze as much of this frame as I could! Which meant, everything but the bottom bracket. That I used Nova’s Double Oversized Long Shin lugged shell.

My #2 goal was to clear 650bx47 WTB Byway’s aka: S-Bent stays. Testing the limits of the chainstay sockets on the bottom bracket shell.

I ordered up some Columbus Zona main tubes and chainstays for their toughness and Spirit seatstays for their ride quality from Framebuilders Supply. I really like their service! They get me stuff quicker than anybody else and I had a chance to ride with Mike Cobb (co-owner) at NAHBS 2016. Cool cat.

I love internal cable routing. Unless it’s a track bike that you may take on the street and you may wanna switch from brakes to no brakes, I see no reason to NOT go internal. I just love the look too! Here I use 5/16 x .031 wall stainless tubes bent with a brake line bender make the cable routing.

This is also the first time I’m building a frame with my own alignment surface as I got a KILLER deal on a 24×36 surface plate!

With the front tri mitered up it’s time for the big moment! I tacked them all up, checked alignment, tinned them all, checked alignment and laid down the fillets. It’s great how fast it went compared how I used to build with lugs and no frame fixture!

I felt the drive side of these Paragon Flat Mount dropouts needed an extra window like the Paragon Low Mount dropouts I used on my personal CX build. Of course the brake side stays solid to withstand the braking forces.

Slotted! ✓

Chainstays and dropouts became one.

Next was the chainstays to BB shell. I am VERY happy to say that this was the alignment right off of my frame fixture! Not dead ass on but not shabby at all in my opinion. My goal is to build with thru axles soon so I’m really happy with this!

Another chainstay note. S-Bend chainstays don’t work in lugged BB shells JUST like people told me. Haha!

The S-Bend seatstays were SO cool to work with and I was SO happy with how they came out.

I stuck a straight seatstay bridge in there and just thought that with the curves of the stays, the bridge needed some form of curve to it as well.

Bridge mitering has always been a BITCH to me. I’ve printed out paper miter patterns and tried to free hand it with grinder and files… never really having an efficient way to get them done. Then Joe Roggenbuck suggested a little fixture like the one above. I got the angled V block and set a stop in the Bridgeport. The fixture holds a 3/8″ tube in on center so you can cut, flip and cut without moving the machine. Brilliant idea Joe!

Myth Cycles on Instagram posted a similar fixture to what Joe suggested only the bottom block has pins that locate the fixture in the while keeping the center line and a bolt to lock it down. This ought to make bridges completely pain free. The only limitation to this design is that it only works with one diameter tube. I made this one to work with 3/8″ (10mm).

Actually, I made 2 of these because I have a new friend in the framebuilding world who was having the same struggles. You see, at work we had an interesting resume come across our desks. Ben Oliver is a diversely talented guy, welder/pro team bike mechanic/machinist who was looking to gain more CNC Machining experience. He also is the lead framebuilder at Stoemper! Since Ben was similarly annoyed with SS bridges, I just made 2 side by side. He sent me a pic of him using his to miter a brake bridge. Since a brake bridge isn’t 3/8″ wide he just shimmed up the opposite side to maintain the center line.

Time for the headtube badge! I wanted this one to be a little taller than other ones I’ve made because the headtube on this bike is 210mm long. Ha!

Forgot to braze in the bottle bosses before doing the rest of the front triangle. Oops. No problem. I was basically done at this point. Great timing because my parents were going to be in town on Father’s Day. The bike wasn’t built but the frame was done!

I slapped a few things on the bike to give my Dad a larger picture of the end result, he was speachless! Words couldn’t describe how satisfying it was to see him SO happy and excited with his frame! But he wouldn’t get to ride it for 2 more weeks as my Mom and him were taking our son on a 2 week trip to South Dakota.

As I was building it I was SO happy with how the brake cable routing came out I had to take a pic!

All done! I took it out for a little ride and was thrilled with how comfortable of a ride it was! These tires are amazing! At 30 psi front and 35 rear they were smooth and seemed have a lot of grip in corners. Kinda felt like they could go 5 psi lower each. The bike is very comfortable to cruze on at just about any pace. Sprinting felt funny but with a stack height that high I wasn’t surprised.

Fast forward to next Friday, time for his first ride!!!! I don’t know who was more excited for this moment!

I had him hop on to show him how to use the SRAM shifter and his ear to ear smile was all I needed to see!

We tossed the bikes on my rack and went to Highland Park. It has a great network of paved trails and some beautiful scenery.

He did 13 miles on it and loved every second of the ride! Amazed at how the big tires and steel frame/fork absorbed the road noise and bumps compared to that older Trek. He loved the simplicity of the 1x shifting and really appreciated the 11-42 tooth cassette on the hills.

Such a bucket list item for me checked off today! ✓

Beyond having my Dad be super happy with the bike, simply being able to share a ride with him was so special to me. It’s something we haven’t really done since I was younger. He was always there when I was racing BMX, shooting video or taking pics of my friends and I, but not on a bike. So it was just so great to be on the same plane, leaning into the same turns, riding through the same puddles, enjoying the same experiences. Like we did when I was MY sons age. Fucking CRAZY how that circle comes together hu?

It has been so awesome building a frame for the guy who built my first bike!

Now, I’m just going to fix the pin holes in my fillets and have it powder coated then Dad’s All Road will be shipped off to Albany for my Dad to enjoy for years to come! I’ll update this post when that all happens!

For now, do something you love and relish in every moment of it!

Allan

Here’s the powder coated pics!

“Vark Tool” BB Chase and Facer

Up until now I have relied on the goodness of others to complete my frame builds. I have passed this final step on to friends and local shops. Naturally I would like to do this step myself but Park Tool’s frame finishing tools are just out of my price range for now. They do however make the best tools in the business! I’d be buying local as they are made just over the river in St Paul, Minnesota.  I am psyched to be able to design my version of their tool around their cutters! Park Tools have always been great to me so I will continue to support Park Tool where I can as well.

Sure I could have gotten the Ice Toolz kit for less than half the price but even if the quality is there, they are made in China and having the taps and facers resharpened is probably not a service they offer. Made in the USA is the way to go anyways! 

Enter the “Vark Tool” BB Chase and Face tool! 

I ordered the taps and facing tool and took to Fusion 360 to design myself the handles. 

…..then waited. Waited for the right “scrap” material to show up at work. I wanted to use 303 stainless because its, well, stainless and it’s nice to machine.  I also waited for the machine I wanted to use to be in between jobs on a weekend. My day job has this EXTREMELY sweet Nakamura Turning Center. It’s amazingly accurate and smooth. Below is a screen shot from Fusion 360’s Turning CAM. 

I wanted the OD of the tool to be bigger than the major diameter of the taps so that when I set the tool down I’m setting it down on the body of the tool and not the tap.

This pin goes between the two ends of the tool in order to keep the two taps centered during the chasing process. 

That fit!

Next i drilled and reamed handle holes and tapped a set screw on the back to hold the handles in place. Then a couple 3/16″ dowel pins for driving the taps and facer. 

Here is how the facing tool looks on there. I got the Park Tool # 690XL so I could use it to face 46mm head tubes when the time comes. Obviously some more tooling will need to be made for that to happen.

Perfect fit in my Grandpa’s old toolbox!

I am nearly (more like FINALLY) ready to use this on the All Road frame that I’m building for my Dad so I’m really excited to use this for the first time! I’ll certainly let you know how that goes! 
Until then…. support Park Tool! They made this project worth doing! Now, let summer BEGIN and let’s have some friggin fun!!!! Enjoy every moment because it only happens once and we aren’t getting any younger!!!!

Allan

Cyclocross 2018 

Another great season of cyclocross here in Minnesota! My son, Ethan, moved up into the Juniors class with mixed emotions. He was happy to be moving up with the big boys but not always happy to ride the full course. But as the season progressed he was getting his endurance up more and more! I’m so proud of his progress this year! 

Started the season off at Theo Wirth for the All-City Intercontinental Cyclocross Championships! 

Perfect weather! Cool morning and warm by the time the whistle blew! 

Got to hang out with his CX buddy Roczin! 

Then we skipped a race to do a #BushBuilds Cyclocross Skills clinic with Marcus Bush! Bush taught Ethan and I a lot that day and we made some friends!

Next up was Karma Cross in New Brighton. No major hills, which we both liked but that doesn’t mean an easy course!!! 

Game face for Green Acers! Green Acers CX is the best! Such a fun atmosphere! 

Little Guy Racing CX in Jackson Medow is a really cool race in a really cool spot! 

A link to Jackson Medow.

He got on the podium for the first time in Juniors at Jackson Medow! 

Fulton Star Cross is a night race and usually a wet race! This year wasn’t too bad in Saturday when I raced but Sunday was another story for Ethan! 

Here I am right behind the leader….. after getting lapped! 

Sunday for Ethan….. got dirty! He was really excited to debut his new helmet! I think it still has mud from Lyons Park in Chrystal! 

We then slid on into the MN States CX race! 

I loved this course! I didn’t race it but I rode along with Ethan and it had a little of everything! Twisty off camber, paved segments, barriers, hills, a log to bunnyhop! It was more like going for a trail ride!

Proud to get on the podium! Allbeit 2nd out of 2, it’s the support you get at CX that I love. Seeing his eyes light up when they call his name for the poduim… makes the whole season worth it!

And that’s our 2018 season! 

I’d like to try a XC MTB race this summer too! 

Some cyclocross hecklers came under fire lately. I’d like to share my personal experience. At Fulton Star Cross I shouldered my bike up the big hill to where the finish line is for one lap and I heard a guy yelling “Holy Shit, you better have 2 flat tires! It’s a bicycle, RIDE IT!!!” You know what, the next laps, I rode the mother fucker and damn it, it was faster! After my race he came over and said “You did awesome out there man!” and Hi5’d me!

These are also the same guys that cheer Ethan on when he’s out there! You should see how happy that makes him, hearing them cheer his name and offering encouragement. It’s really heart warming to see!

So you see, hecklers make cyclocross better for Ethan and I so, in my opinion, heckle the shit out of me! I’ll ride better and I know they’ll take care of my son when he’s out in the mud! 

Well, time to get back to building frames! 

#WinterIsHere
Thank you for checking this out!

Allan

Stepping into the world of the Fillet Braze! 

Now, I love lugs! The lug work of Curt Goodrich, David Kirk and Eric Estlund is undenyably jaw dropping but I have run into too many limitations with lugs. Tube sizes and junction angles are the ones that really get me. 

You see I’m planning a build for my Dad! Yes my Dad is the guy who got me on a bike way back in…. IDK 1983, he used to commute 12 miles to work when I was a kid but had to give it up as he aged. Knees and just lack of time made his rides more weekend geared. Both him and my mom supported my BMX racing habits all the way to the NBL Grand Nationals! My parents moved into the city of Albany in 2011 so then my Dad started riding to work again! He rode an old Trek that I had slapped together for him with some old parts. It’s a pinch too small for him and the thing rides like a brick! Aluminum frame and fork makes for a…. firm ride to say the least. He rode that thing back and forth to work every day, even through the winter! At 70 years old!!!! 

Back in July my parents visited us here in Minneapolis and I had him try my CX bike out. While too small for him he loved the700x40 tires at 35 psi! So we talked about it and decided I’d build him a comfortable bike that can go anywhere! 650b with discs, 1x and a sloping top tube! 

With the sloping top tube and tall head tube I would have had a hell of a time modifying even a sloping TT/HT lug to get the angle I was after. So I needed to step up from MAPP gas and into the world of oxy acetylene. I had been given a rather old torch with tanks and regulators a while back but was a little nervous to use it because one of the regulators was stuck. With zero experience I had to lean on my friend Shawn Peterson. Shawn builds beautiful MTB and Fat Bikes out of his garage that is LOADED with machines and jigs and fixtures. He steered me towards a mini aircraft style torch. The Uniweld 71. I hit up eBay and scored a brand new unit for $25 less than Amazon! 

I ordered up some Gasflux bronze and flux from Framebuilder Supply as well. Its kinda the industry standard so, knowing what I know about fillet brazing at this point (aka nada), I don’t ask questions and go with it.

Now if I could help one person to buy the correct hose I will be a happy camper. In gas welding there are 2 styles of threads. The A size is a 3/8-24 thread and the B size is a 9/16-18 thread. This Uniweld 71 torch and most other aircraft torches have A sized threads. Your regulators will more than likely have a 9/16-18 outlets. So you will need to find hose with A sized threads AND B sized threads. I noticed I could only find that combo with 3/16″ ID hose, which is perfect! Don’t fuck around with adaptors and shit just buy the right hose. Go to your local welding supply place to get the right stuff. 

I still need to buy flashback arrestors! From what I read it’s unlikely that you will ever have fire go back through your hose and into the tanks (boom) but arrestors will make sure that can’t happen! 

Then there is the tip. (Insert “just the tip joke”) From what I am finding, for fillet brazing you want a small, cool tip. I started with a Uniweld 17-1 tip (or most call it a #1) and then got a smaller 17-0 tip (#0). So far I like the #0 better. I think as I get more control over the torch I will switch back to the 17-1 for faster heating. Right now I don’t mind taking my time with this.  

Kirby was really excited for fillet brazing! 

Theres the hose on the torch. Almost ready!

Since the regulators I had we’re 50+ years old and shot I picked up these middle of the road regulators. They aren’t Uniweld or Victor but they’d “get me into a lot of trouble” according to the guy at the local welding supply place. 

FIRE!!!!!

For safe keeping of my tanks I cut a 2×4 to fit across 2 studs in my garage then ratchet strapped the tanks to it. That outta keep them in place! 

I was so excited to give a fillet a try, I grabbed some tube cut-offs and Brazed them together…. well, by definition I brazed the together. In reality I used WAY too much heat and all the bronze I put just sucked in-between the tubes, not building ANY type of fillet what so ever! 

Ok, I need help! Luckily Joel Greenblat of Clockwork Bikes was amazing enough to envite me to his shop so he could show me what I needed to see! His shop is like a playground! Alignment table, lathe, mill, gas fluxer, tube sets, a sanding belt mitering machine and some beautiful projects hanging on the wall. He lays down a perfect fillet in about 1 minute! 😲 Then with the torch in my hand, walks me through the process. Thankfully he’s a patient teacher because again I started dumping too much heat into the joint. But he gives me more pointers and works me through another joint. 

Back home I try another fillet. Seems like getting a really cool, quiet flame is what’s needed. I tried taking g a pic of the flame but it’s just too much light for my phone’s camera. This next fillet came out a bit better. 

Once again Nate Zukas shared some info with me on Facebook about building a “dam” fillet then using gravity and that dam to contain the current puddle of bronze. That seemed to work well with me. Sometimes you just need to hear the same thing in a different way for it to click. 

I cranked out a few more practice fillets and am definitely seeing progress. I still have a LONG ways to go as I would like to be able to leave some fillets “raw” as I feel that is the most honest way of showing ones skill. Zukas and Mars Cycles both do this really well! 

I wanted to practice a joint similar to what I would be doing on my Dad’s frame so I grabbed the 2 tube sizes and mitered them to the angle to be built to. 

Trying to keep the miters as tight as possible. 

Flux.

Tacked it.

Then took it out of the jig to lay down the fillet. 

Das Fillet!

Now I had the task of cleaning the fillet up. Man, this is TIME CONSUMING! 

Again, I still have QUITE a ways to go but hey, if we aren’t pushing ourselves then we won’t get better. 

If I haven’t bored you to death yet, check back soon for updates on my fillets and progress on my Dad’s frame! 

Have fun!

Allan

Bike commuting for the WIN and a review of the Timbuk2 Tuck Pack! 

Ok, so soon, I’ll get back to building frames. I just need to finish some component designs first and machine them up! 

Meanwhile, I am really excited to be able to say that I was able to make a tank of fuel last 1 month! Yes siree, today is May 21st and the last time I filled my gas tank was April 21st! 

I drive a 2004 VW Passat Wagon with 160-something thousand miles on the clock. I did the timing belts at 140k and that’s about it. (engine wise) It’s been paid off for a while now so all I’ve been paying on it is fuel, oil changes, tires and brakes. My last job was 36 miles each way and I was starting to hate the accelerated wear and tear on it. 

As an added bonus, I’m going from 2 tanks/week to 1/month! At ~$3.10/gal that’s about $280/month I’m saving! 

Maybe I’ll get a cheap fat bike for winter duty but for now I have the best dang blue commuter/cross racer to ever come out of my garage! 

To celebrate, I just ordered a new Timbuk2 Tuck Pack roll top back pack. I absolutely LOVE my Timbuk2 Raider pack but it is really only good for carrying a few things. Since I eat a lot, I have room for my days food and that’s about it. The other day I wanted to bring a few other things and the Raider pack was TIGHT!!! 

As you can see my Raider pack is pretty full and this is just enough food to get me through a 10hr day! 

The Tuck Pack is a simple bag with a large opening on top, a side access zipper for a laptop (which I never really plan to carry) and a front pocket that opens vertically. Timbuk2 makes a lot of packs with vertical zippers so you can get to your stuff by pulling one arm out and slinging the pack around to your side. 

Probably the coolest aspect to me since I don’t like the idea of wearing grey/black when I ride (you know, the color of pavement) is that this pack is flaming bright ass, stare into the core of the sun orange!!! Also for added visibility there is a strap towards the bottom of the bag for an additional tail light. BE SEEN!!!!

And it looks great with a Yellow Lab!

But then again, what DOESN’T look great with this handsome son of a mother. By the way, for this pic (above) I put the Raider pack INSIDE the Tuck Pack! 

Chillin’ with a seal at the Minnesota Zoo. To give you a size reference, I’m 6’3″ and about 200lbs. 


If you ever read a review and the reviewer has nothing bad to say about the product they are reviewing then they were probably paid for the review! So, onto what I don’t like about the Tuck Pack. There are very few pockets inside. True it has a laptop sleeve but there are really few places for other smaller stuff. I always keep a small first aid kit, a tube, keys, a spare shoe laces, patch kit and other random things in my bag. The first aid kit fits into one of the few pockets inside the main compartment really well but my tube is just tossed in the bottom. No biggie really. The front pocket is the same. Large with no added pockets. Now, for the FRONT pocket, that is A-OK with me but the only thing I feel is a MUST that the Tuck Pack doesn’t have is that little safety latch for your keys. You know the one that’s on a little piece of “ribbon” for lack of better terms? I really miss that! I will probably add my own soon! 

Still, I would highly recommend this bag! Bang for the buck, it’s unbeatable!

My bro-in-law, @unfunnymike on IG, introduced my wife and I to Timbuk2 about 6 or 7 years ago when he worked for them. We have sinced gotten backpacks, messenger bags and even luggage and even my wallet! We haven’t been disapointed with any of it!   

Here is a link to the Tuck Pack if you wanted more detail. 
My wallet: