Monday, February 21, 2011

Custom Bicycle Build: Fillet Brazed Fat Bike.

Way back when...

Almost exactly a year ago I started talking about a fat bike.  At the time only the Pugsley was commonly available, and I thought that design could be improved on.  I started talking with friends in person and on this blog about a bike I dubbed the "Fatgo."  This was in reference to my desire to have the handling qualities and cargo capacity of my Fargo with fat Surly tires.  Here was the first design iteration from February of last year.

I really love the way my first generation Fargo rides on icy, sketchy roads.  It's very sedate, and stable almost to a fault.  I feel very confident and relaxed while riding that bike, both are things I wanted in a fat bike.  As happens every year about this time, our season really picks up steam.  We get busy with repairs, orders, bike conventions, and we start to ride more.  In no short time the ideas about fat bikes were largely forgotten in my mind.  Maybe not forgotten, but certainly shelved away for the time being.

Enter the Mukluk

Last season passed as a blur.  We were super busy all year and had a hell of a good time.  By the time most of the summer had passed, I'd largely forgotten about snow and all related aspirations. At the end of the summer season Interbike, our industry trade show in Vegas, takes place.  At this show Salsa released the Mukluk.  the Mukluk was pretty much the answer to my prayers.  It incorporated nearly everything I was thinking of using on my thought up custom.

I ordered my Mukluk shortly after they were released.  I settled on a frame and fork rather than the offered complete bike as I wanted to have Salsa Woodchippers on the build.  I wanted to build a set of killer wheels for it, and other parts would fall into place once the bike was up and rolling. That bike would have looked a lot like this.

As you can see, it's pretty darn similar to what I had wanted in the first place.  The bike would be stable, light, and have all the provisions for racks, fenders, and water bottles I could want.

A flaw in the plan

What I had not planned for, and what surprised many people, was the overwhelming demand for Mukluks.  Salsa was inundated with orders from shops, and the fat bike buying public all clamored for a limited supply of these bikes and frames.  We were experiencing the same rush for Mukluks as many shops around the country.  From local riders to call from out of state, it was clear that demand for these bikes would surpass the availability.  I had a choice to make, should I keep the frame for myself, or should I offer it for sale?

After mulling it over quite some time, I decided to sell my Mukluk.  It went to a very nice man in New York, who is enjoying it handily.  I have no doubt that I will own a Mukluk someday, and I've already planned out that build.  That said, I still wanted a bike sooner rather than later.  Looking at the available options, I pulled out the old Fatgo drawings.

Refinement and implementation 

After modifying the old designs taking into account recent developments, I contacted Mike Pofahl.  Mike is the man who builds custom bikes in Faribault.  He's been building bikes for 20 plus years, and does beautiful work with brass fillet brazing.  He's built me and many of our customers bikes, and he's just a great guy.  Mike agreed to build me a frame similar to the Mukluk, but tweaked slightly for use with Woodchipper handlebars.

Here's the final drawing we agreed upon.  In the end, the fork was made slightly longer for more snow/mud clearance, but it's pretty much spot on.

Mike graciously put aside his other projects and completed my bike in an astonishingly short two and half weeks!  I am very grateful for his effort and craftsmanship.  He built me a wonderful bike.


Mike dropped off the completed frame, fork, and stem last week.  I had them at the powder coater on Monday, and he had them ready to be picked up Thursday.  After the final small parts came in yesterday I built the bike and rode it on it's maiden voyage last night.  I love it.

I'll go into the build details in a post later this week.  Bottom line is this bike flat out rocks.  It's exactly what I had hoped it would be.  Happy Monday all.


Captain Bob said...


- said...

So can interested parties work through you to get one made? Heh. Seriously Ben, I have been talking to some builders of fat bikes and the one you drew up is about perfect. Its a beautiful bike, the color is fantastic!

BLACKCAPstudio said...

Who makes the seat pack you mounted on this bike (not shown in post) that you posted on MTBR? Thanks!

BLACKCAPstudio said...

Who makes the saddle mounted bag in the shot of this bike on MTBR?

Ben said...

Revelate Designs.