First look: Blackburn Outpost Racks

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Got a box of goodness from the folks at Blackburn the other day- and I’ve been scrambling to get a bike together to test it out.  Inside the box was a front and rear set of the Outpost World Touring racks, a Central rear pannier, and the Central front light (pannier and light post coming up next week.)

My Raleigh Port Townsend has long been a favorite testing platform for this sort of thing, but I’ve also been waiting on parts after a broken brake lever opened a can of worms for me in what I’d need to get back on the road.

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I’ve got it back together enough to install the Outpost Racks, with which I’m impressed with so far.  The installation went fairly well, with the racks giving options for just about anybody out there looking to put together a stout touring rig.  The Outpost racks use Easton Scandium and aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum tubing in their construction- with adjustability options to accomodate 26″- 29″ (or 700c) wheels.  On opening the box, I was a little unsure what bike I’d be able to put the racks on.  They looked really big and at first I thought they would be for the fatbike.  Holding them up to the frame, I quickly realized that they were built for a 135mm “standard” rear spacing and a 100mm front- not my 190/135 combo.

The Outpost racks (front and rear) are very customizable, utilizing a nifty sliding lower attachment point that fastens to your frame or uses an extended quick release axle (not included) if no braze-on is available.  I found the racks to be easy to install, with a lot of adjustability, even if your frame doesn’t have all the attachment points of a full-fledged touring frame. In attaching to the seat stays, you’ve got three options.

  1. Attach to rack braze-ons – the method I used for the rear rack.
  2. Attach to cantilever brake posts – the method I used for the front rack.
  3. Attach to frame via included P-clamps.

The bars used to attach to the frame/posts/clamps have little rounded eyes that accommodate the angles that may be needed to get a good solid connection without bending the rack or mounting hardware.  The rear rack is rated for 55lbs and seems plenty stout.  Here you can see it with the Central rear pannier that they sent along as well (I’ll break down the features of the pannier in another post.)

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The rear rack sports a mount to attach a reflector or rear light.
1The front  rack has a removable top rack platform, features high and low pannier mounts and sports the same design and customization options of the rear rack.
9photo 3I really liked the adjustability and I can see that you’ll get a clean install as a finished product- with whatever bike you may choose.  Now that I have everything installed and cut to fit, I’ll take it off and get a weight on the rack.

The Outpost Rear rack retails for $125, with the Outpost Front retailing for $100.

See more from Blackburn HERE

I’ve got a couple more things to put together on the bike, and then I’ll get it out for a ride and let you know how the rest of the stuff works out.

 

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Borealis Echo

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So it’s looking official- Borealis Fatbikes has taken the reins as the company pushing the limits of fatbikes, bridging the gap between 29′ers and those that want tires with more than 4″ of rubber beneath them.  When it comes to carbon- they’ve got more out there than anyone.  Now with two frames- the Yampa and the new Echo, Borealis also offers their Carbondale rims, and a carbon fork- Oh my!

The Yampa has been seen quite a bit in adventure racing (with a number of wins) this last winter, and the Echo brings out more of the mountain bike feel, with a suspension tuned geometry and a 100mm Rockshox Bluto suspension fork.

Will fat mountain bikes be the wave of the future?  It’s unlikely.  But for every 100 people that don’t see any use for fat tires, there is somebody out there that is drawn to these double wide wonders, happy as a pig in shit every time we throw our leg over one of these peculiarities.

Carbon fatbikes aren’t cheap and and fat wallets help- the Echo will be offered with 4 spec levels ranging from $4000-$7200.  So start pinching your pennies.

 

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Meet the Maker: Ruthworks

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I came across Ruthworks via Facebook and reached out to Ely in San Francisco where he works at his home shop, enjoying the opportunity to spend time with his family. Ely is the owner, sewer, leather worker, cutter, designer and fabricator at Ruthworks, with quite a few beautiful items available for randonneurs, tourers, commuters and every day folks.

We did a little interview and it went something like this:

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WTB Nano Gravel Tire

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WTB released a new, gravel-specific tire named the Nano 40c during day one of Quality Bicycle Products’ Frostbike product expo. The tire employs a high volume 40mm casing, rounded profile, and centerline tread pattern designed for speed, consistency, and ample cushioning aimed at the rapidly emerging gravel market.

“The inspiration for this tire actually came directly from this show one year ago,” stated WTB’s Product Manager, Chris Feucht in reference to Frostbike 2013. “We were blown away by the number of requests we received for a gravel tire last year so we took a long, hard look at our tire line and decided to use the Nano tread pattern as a starting point. We wanted something that would appease racers due to its speed and light weight, yet also appeal to those wanting comfort over the long haul. By simplifying the pattern slightly, we’ve actually created a more durable tire while maintaining speed and the unique Nano handling characteristics, making for a winner.”

WTB Nano 40c tires will be available in Race and Comp versions starting April of 2014. Nano 40c Race tires will feature a folding Aramid bead, Lightweight Casing, DNA Rubber, weigh in at 470g, and retail for $49.95. Nano 40c Comp tires will feature a wire bead, Durable Casing, DNA Rubber, weigh 550g, and retail for $31.95.

 

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Chrome Knurled Welded

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Chrome has some new offerings for on and off the body.  Waterproof, lightweight,  a good price point and guaranteed for life.

I’m stoked to check out the handlebar bag/duffle on the Fatback.  The two backpacks, panniers and handlebar bag range in price from $100-$160 and look to be a more affordable option for those looking to get out on the bike.

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First Look: 1up USA- Double Bicycle Quik Rack

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1up USA, nice rack.

I’ve been saying that every time I see the thing on the back of the truck.  After the love faded for my Thule Apex rack (which happened rather quickly,) I was on the lookout for a better option to carry bikes- especially these new beasts that have been welcomed into the family, with 4 and 5 inch tires, respectively.  I came across 1up USA and reached out to them.  We set up some product for review and SHAZAM! We’ve got a slick new system to carry 2 of our bikes handily.

Some highlights on the Double Quik Rack

  • Made in the USofA!
  • Built heavier duty- using a 2″ reciever.
  • Has add-ons available to carry up to 4 bikes
  • Anti-theft hitch lock that tightens to eliminate vibration and bouncing (better for offroad use)
  • Rated for bikes up to 75lbs each
  • A work of art

It came (nearly) fully assembled, and was a breeze to put on the truck.  I promptly put my Fatback up and was super impressed with how easily it was secured.  That with 4.8″ tires and 82mm rims.

So there you have it.  I’ll be putting this through the paces for a while- stay tuned for a proper review and the long term test.  I’m really impressed so far- it looks like this is going to be a great rack for this climate and the bumpy roads that rural Alaska has to offer.

1up USA 2″ Double Bicycle Quik Rack- 48lbs- 38″ x 14″ x 10″ folded – Retail $559

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New: Chrome Red Leather Workboot

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Chrome just stepped up their workboot game with a new colorway that looks a bit more “workbootish.” Their 415 Workboot Red LTD (that means limited edition) looks pretty clean and adds another option to their already existing line.  The Workboot isn’t SPD compatible, but is great for an all around town, flat pedal option.  I’ve currently got the 415 Storm Workboot and it’s held up well over the last year.

The 415 LTD Workboot is available as of today- for $130.  Available at your local bike shop, or straight from Chrome.

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Review: Thule Apex 5

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Bike racks.  Sure, you can get by without one.  If you don’t have a car that makes it easy.  But if you travel and want to bring a bike (or  bikes) with you, then you have to figure something out.  About two years ago I picked up what I felt was the best option through a team deal.  The Thule Apex 5 (retail $429.95) is a hitch mounted rack that, as the name suggests, carries 5 bikes.  The Apex is apparently a step above the Vertex, which retails for $309.95. Why 5 bikes?  My truck seats 5 people (plus a driver) and when it comes to group rides, bike races or road trips- it seemed like a good idea to have the option to carry as many bikes as possible- especially if putting them in the back of the truck isn’t an option.

When choosing a rack- there are a lot of options out there.  A whole slough of brands, mounting capabilities and price points.  If your vehicle doesn’t have a hitch mount- then you’re going to have to go with a roof mount or a rear door mount.  The roof mount is very stable- and provided you are tall enough to load them, you can  fit a number of bikes up there.  The least expensive (and least safe,) is the rear door mount.  They work- but if carrying your bikes is a regular thing- look at something with some theft deterrents and can carry your bike(s) more securely.  If you go with a hitch mount- you’ll have to figure out if you have a 1-1/2″ or 2″ receiver.  Many cars and smaller SUV’s use the 1-1/2″ size, while trucks often go with the 2″.  Some racks allow for both, but the Apex 5 only works with a 2″ receiver.  I went with the hitch receiver because I felt it was a good balance of stability, safety and I could easily take it off if I wanted to. That, and I have a hitch receiver mounted on the front of my truck, which allows for the use of the cab over camper while carrying the bikes. Here we have 5 bikes of various types loaded up.  It’s pretty crowded.

truckWhen I first loaded up 5 bikes of different types on the rack- I realized that the support bars aren’t quite long enough to accommodate the bikes with much room between them.  It didn’t help that my Port Townsend had it’s portuer rack on  it. There were flat bars, riser bars, drop bars swept back bars… A wide variety to be sure, but either way, the limited room on the rack makes for a really tight fit- and possibly some bumpin’ and grindin’ between the bikes- not something that I really want happening, especially if my carbon SSCX bike is on board.

A cool feature of the Apex is the security in it’s two locks.  One locks the expander knob into your receiver hitch (so people can’t steal the whole works)- the other locks a light cable across the top tubes.  They both handily accept the same key. The cable lock is quite light, but it is of course better than nothing.  The rack arms fold down nicely and securely, and the rack itself folds at the receiver to allow acces into the tailgate or rear door.  It can be a little heavy if fully loaded, but the rack feels solid.

The rubber straps that are used to secure the bikes have not failed, even in freezing weather.  They are handy in that the three securing points are all covered in silicone, so you can get the straps pretty tight and you don’t have any vibration.  So far so good, right?  Sounds like a pretty great way to carry 5 bikes from point A to B?  It’s OK.  In the past 6 months, the rack has essentially lived on my truck and I’ve been using it a fair bit more since we got our fatbikes. It’s been in these more recent months of multiple uses per week that my thoughts have gone from it being a pretty ok product to it being a poor product with poor customer service from Thule.

There are a number of moving parts used to secure the bicycle.  They can vibrate off easily and should likely be removed if not in use (which is a bummer.)  The parts that I’m referring to is the anti sway section that attaches to the seat tube.  Both the “Anti-sway with overmold” and the “Anti-sway angled extension” vibrate off of the “Cradle over-mold with insert.” I have lost three since spring.  That means the bikes can sway while moving, or more likely, when the hitch is lowered to get into the bed of the pickup. Secondly, multiple of the  ”Cradle over-molds with inserts” have broken because of the pressure the bikes induce as the hitch is lowered.  This also prevents the anti-sway feature. So no anti-sway, which was a pretty handy feature.

When I emailed Thule about the issue, thinking that it could be something that could be improved by better design, and possibly a warranty issue, they suggested I take back my rack to where I purchased it.  Not gonna happen.  I’m not going to spend a couple hundred in shipping for the round trip to Seattle.  No way.

At this point I have a theory that Thule is Swedish for “Mediocre”.

It’s not a horrible rack, but it isn’t one that I’m very happy about either.  I’ll likely be getting rid of it this spring and I’m looking into getting something better suited for my needs.  It’s just ok.

I did learn a few things with this experience.

  • Figure out what your needs are:  Do you have bikes with a stepthrough frame or frame bags (in the case of my fatbike?) Really small frames also might be difficult to fit.  Full suspension bikes may prove difficult as well.  Though I haven’t felt that my carbon frame is at risk in breaking while being attached by the top tube on bumpy roads- I think a better way to secure a carbon frame would be by the wheels.
  • Don’t assume all racks are equal:  There are a lot of options out there, and you want to make sure that you are buying the right rack.
  • Pay the piper:  Expect to spend some money.   They aren’t cheap.  But they do carry your bikes around.  I’ve found a carbon fiber road bike on the side of the highway that some poor bastard lost off the back of his crappy garage sale trunk mount rack.  It might have cost him the bike.  Look into other brands besides Yakima and Thule.  I’m really liking the design of the racks from 1UP USA and Kuat Racks.

So that’s that.  I’ll be looking for a rack that can hold my fatbike and my cross bike now.  It’ll likely be maxed at 4 bikes, but I’d rather carry four bikes well, than five bikes poorly.  Now I just have to find out if a platform hitch mounted rack will allow for 4.8″ tires!

 

 

 

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