It was a gorgeous fall afternoon when I walked out the back door of Healthy Habits Bike Shop & saw my favorite bike was gone. Was she locked up? No. As employees, we’ve always left our bikes parked out the back door, unattended. We’ve been at this location for 10 years, “It’s Bettendorf!” and we’ve never lost a bike. Well, no longer can we be so lax with our babies.
My bike was a 2016 Salsa Mukluk. It was the base model, aluminum frame with the Bearpaw carbon fork and a SRAM x7 drivetrain. She arrived attractive enough, but the boys promptly helped me remove the front derailleur and replace the two stock chainrings with a single orange RaceFace Narrow-Wide 30t chainring. The benefit was it allowed for a bit more room in the rear chainstay so I could upgrade from the stock Surly Nate 3.8 tires to the wider Specialized Ground Control 4.6. Using yellow Duct Tape for my rim strips, I set up the tires tubeless, put on yellow Fyxation Mesa MP Platform pedals and Arundel sport bottle cages. I later added an orange Chromag riser bar and orange Wolf Tooth headset spacers and stem cap. I named her “50 Shades of Orange” and she was HOT!
We had so much fun together!
We rode in parades, we “stomped” on Davenport’s Credit Island and Clinton’s bottoms, we were one of more than 100 who participated in the 2016 Quad Cities Global Fat Bike Day, we lead gravel rides and rode trails, hell I even rode the cow paths in my neighbor’s pasture, working on my off-road skillz. And yes, she killed it at the 2017 Quad Cities Criterium Faterium! She was my girl!!!
Despite filing a police report, having loads of people share the theft post from our shop Facebook page resulting in thousands of views, regardless of mates riding urban creeks and thickets, the reality settled in: she was gone and I had to replace her.
But how? How do you replace a ray of sunshine? She was so bright, it was like looking into the sun!!! But having tasted fat biking, I couldn’t be without a steed and began a sad search for No. 2. This was not fun shopping. First of all, I didn’t want a new fat bike. I wanted MY fat bike. Secondly, there was only one model that appealed to my penchant for color: the Salsa Beargrease Carbon NX1 in red with a galaxy print on the underside of the downtube. But I’d just sold one to a friend and I was not going to steal her thunder.
I looked at the rest of the Salsa fleet, the Surlys, the new Heller and the Fatboy from Specialized. NOTHING appealed to me. Everything was so basic and blah (in color) so I focused on the components I wanted: trails showed me that I enjoyed a 1x drivetrain and I wanted more than the seven gears I had previously. I did not want a suspension fork, didn’t care if I rode carbon and enjoyed the relaxed geometry of the Mukluk and wasn’t sure the more aggressive, shorter headtubes of the Beargrease or Fatboy were for me. As I whittled down my options, price was an issue (remember I’d just ordered my gravel bike and really didn’t have a second bike in the budget), but when I looked at the 1x11s available in my size, the price between aluminum and carbon wasn’t a crazy difference.
So I made my decision–the Salsa Mukluk Carbon SLX 1×11 in matte black. In addition to having the drivetrain I wanted, the rear spacing on this model was wider than my first bike which will hopefully alleviate the issues with rubbing. (During February’s Frozen Fat Fondo Fest, the mud caked so heavily on my tires that it wore into the chainstay.)
When the new ride arrived, I felt pretty blah and the guys at the shop teased me, “Oh, my new fat bike arrived, woe is me.” I probably sounded like Eeyore.
I couldn’t let it remain a black-on-black bike so I chose red for my accent color. Even though it arrived tubeless ready, complete with sealant rim strips already applied, I pulled them off and repeated my Duct Tape rim strip trick only this time in red and proceeded with a tubeless set up. I then put on red RaceFace Chester pedals, red Arundel bottle cages, a red Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar and topped it off with a red Spank Oozy riser bar which I cut to fit my shorter wingspan. It was starting to grow on me.
Then I took her out to DeWitt’s Westbrook Park for some trail riding. Oh. My. GOSH! I couldn’t believe how different it rode!!! I was zipping around on those trails like my hair was on fire! I definitely had bugs in my teeth because I couldn’t stop smiling!!! The beefy Maxxis Minion FBF 4.8 tires were grippy AF! Meet Black Betty. . .
The following day I took her on our weekly gravel ride and had my ass handed to me. Is it the tires? I was completely gassed after just 16 mostly-flat miles! And during Sunday’s Fatties at Five ride from the shop, I was the “sweeper” mainly because I couldn’t keep up! WTF?! Apparently Black Betty is a beast and she is going to attack my legs like a crazy mutha! I’ve already been told I’m not going to want to ride the Maxxis Minions in the Fat Bike Birkie going down next March in Hayward, Wisconsin. We shall see. Until then, let’s ride!!!!