Mom's new 27.5 plus mountain bike

My parents were never really that into biking growing up, so it has been awesome to turn them onto mountain biking and see them getting better. My mom was due for an update, so this is what she got. Wider tires and nice angles for some confidence inspiring descending. We went with a 120mm fork which is plenty for the type of riding they like to do out in Boulder, CO.

It is cool to be able to get my family out on nice bikes and I am excited that this one will see lots of use!

Shige's Monstercross bike

Sklar Bikes are now being distributed by SimWorks in Japan. Shige works for Simworks and while running their Portland office for a few months was able to make it up to Bozeman and spend some time riding and hanging out. Months before though, Shige had ordered this monstercross frame set. Something that could run 700x40 (as pictured) or a 27.5 x 2.1" tire, as he plans to set it up after this cross season.

The frame features all american made double butted tubing from Vari-Wall and an Enve Composites fork. Lots of nice bits from Chris King and White Industries as well. This bike turned out great, and thanks to Shige for the beautiful photos!

Gear Check: Bikepacking the Oregon Timber Trail

The Oregon Timber Trail is a nearly 700 mile bikepacking route that crosses the state or Oregon from the California border all of the way to Washington. As word of this project was starting to surface some time last fall, it also came to the attention of myself and a few friends that a complete solar eclipse would be passing through central Oregon in late August. Plans were hatched, mostly from the seats of our bikes here in Montana, but we knew that was where we wanted to be the next year. 

bikepacking sklar bikes

I try to do at least one big bike camping trip a year. The full reset that happens after a few weeks of waking up with not a thing to do but ride your bike all day... well... there is nothing like it. A lot of hype has come about over bikepacking in the past few years, and for good reason, bikepacking is awesome. At the end of the day though, it is not so complicated: ride your bike, eat a LOT of food, sleep under the stars, repeat. No need to over think it.

That said, there are some logistics involved in a two week trip, so I thought I could share my set up here. A disclaimer though: Things often change throughout a trip and nothing is ever final. Also I tend to pack light and suck it up a lot, so I am looking forward to reading your comments and critiques below. 

Here are some thoughts to start...

Pack with your friends
You may notice that some parts of my kit are not entirely complete. In our group of 5 people we have split into teams of two and three. My three man team is sharing cook-ware (I do not have our 1.5L cook pot or the jetboil we will be using for coffee, oatmeal and other quick meals) also a more extensive repair kit (I am mostly carrying the basics) or first aid. Splitting up things is a great way to keep your group moving at an even pace and to make things easier on yourselves.

Weight Distribution
Weight distribution is important to consider when packing your bike. Though your fully loaded bike is never going to handle as awesome as it does unloaded, there are ways to make it better. Try and keep your handlebars light. Pack heavy things like food and water in your frame bag, which is closer to the ground. "Mediumer" things are good in a saddle bag, though I try and keep that light as well for less swinging weight.

Pack light... But not super light
This could be a whole conversation on its own, but packing light is good. Bring what you need and no more. It has taken me a number of trips to find out just what that means for myself, but you can see below that I bring one outfit to wear while riding, some pretty basic camp clothes, a really light sleeping setup and not much else. Pack too light and you could get yourself in trouble. Pack too much and you could make things real hard on yourself just as easily.

Sklar bikes bikepacking oregon timber trail

First let's talk about the bike. This is my B+ Mountain bike. It is my every day bike and my everything bike. It is fun, comfortable enough for all day rides and I love to ride it, which in my opinion is the most important thing for a bike packing rig. You are going to be sitting your your bike all day, so as long as you are happy with the bike you ride, then it is the right bike for you.

Where to begin exactly is hard, so I am going to break the gear up by where I keep it. Also I couldn't possibly go over every little thing, so I am just going to highlight some of the major ones and some of my favorites. Also please note the big thing missing here - food.

Anyhow, without further ado, we will start with the...

Seat Pack
I like to keep the seat pack light if possible, but I am not afraid to keep some heavier items in there. Mainly because I am using a Porcelain Rocket Albert seat pack, which keeps things nice and sturdy. For this trip I have got a few extra Titan straps, which come in handy for all sorts of things. I also keep my sleeping pad (The Nemo Tensor), a few extra tubes, extra socks, my camp mug, and one of my favorite pieces of gear, a Patagonia Nano Puff hoodie. The nano has saved me in so many situations and is such a nice comfort for chilly mornings and evenings. I couldn't go without it. For shorter trips I keep a jetboil and fuel back here, but on this trip that is a job for someone else.

bike packing equipment oregon timber trail

Frame Bag
The frame bag is where all the heavy stuff goes. I use an awesome custom frame bag from Porcelain rocket which has two compartments. One is wider and gives me plenty of room for 2-3 days of food. The other is skinnier where I keep small and funny shaped things like my pump, spork and chargers. For this trip I am keeping our WhisperLite stove in the frame bag. I like to always keep an "emergency meal" on hand as well. In this case some dehydrated corn chowder that stayed with me for the entirety of the Colorado Trail last summer. You never know when you could really need it.

Bike packing gear oregon timber trail sklar bikes

Handlebar Roll
The Handlebar roll is a great place to carry your lighter, bulkier gear. Keeping weight off your bars is very beneficial for handling, so I put as much stuff up here as I can that is light, but takes up lots of space. It all gets shoved into a 20L dry bag and then strapped in to my Porcelain Rocket harness. Here I carry my tent, a nice light Big Agnes Fly creek that is awesome for one and just great for two really good friends. I also carry my sleeping bag, a 40 degree MontBell bag that I have had for years. Oregon summer nights are pretty warm and I should be just fine throwing on a puffy if I need anything more. I also carry a long sleeve hooded wool shirt and a pair of wool leggings from Duckworth, an awesome Bozeman company. Those sure come in handy on chilly mornings/evenings and camp chilling times. For this trip I am trying out a new feed bag from Revelate designs. Mostly to keep my camera and a few other things. Excited to see how that goes!

bike packing gear oregon timber trail sklar bikes

Handlebar Bag
The Handlebar bag might be my favorite thing about bike packing, mainly because it is where I keep my snacks. It is also handy for those things you use often. I keep my Salomon windbreaker in here, an item which has saved my life on several occasions. As well as a multi tool, some repair stuff, gloves, sunscreen, aquamira for treating water. Oh and did I mention snacks? Haribo peaches are my favorite.

Finally I have the backpack. I can hardly stand riding with a pack any more, but ya know, for a big trip like this it is really nice. The hydration system makes it so you drink water all day and stay hydrated. We will probably set up camp at a few points along the trail and go for some day rides, so it should be nice for that too. Also... do you see how many snacks I can fit in there?

Bikepacking Gear Oregon Timber Trail Sklar Bikes

Well that is about it. Minus a few items and a whole bunch of food and water. It takes a lot of thought, but not a ton of gear. Let me know what I am missing before I leave and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

My Prototype Titanium All Road Bike

Titanium... The ultimate bicycle material. This lightweight, space-age metal is full of mystery and allure. Is it the right tool for every job? surely not, but since I started putting tubes together to build bike frames, Titanium has been a goal. The journey wasn't quick. Fillet brazing was easy to access. I cut my teeth building frames by melting brass between steel tubes and spending hours and hours buffing the joints smooth. It gave me a great base and taught me how a frame comes together, but about twenty painfully slow frames in, I moved on to TIG welding. TIG allowed me to build steel frames faster and more economically - which of course is good all around. TIG welding is also the only way to join titanium tubes and in the back of my mind though I knew that Ti was the goal. Almost as soon as I had purchased my first TIG welder I was cutting up Titanium scraps I scored from my builder friends and trying to get better. 

Fast forward a few years and I knew it was time. There is only so much practice you can do before you just have to do the real thing. I learned a lot building this frame and it went a whole lot better than expected. Though I am not yet ready to offer Ti frames for sale, I am confident that I should have them ready to roll by the end of the year.

Anyhow, this bike is based off of my team SSCX bike from last fall. That bike is still one of my favorites, though it was built as a stock size and 56cm is a touch small for me. So this design got a little larger, but the handling is still very similar. 

Though I race 10-15 cross races each fall, I ride my bike most days that there isn't snow on the ground here in Montana, so building a bike that is strictly for racing isn't the best choice for me. This geometry isn't quite as twitchy and fast as your traditional CX race bike. It is however awesome for long days on gravel or short after work spins up the many logging roads we have in town, even super fun rattling down some single track. And you know what? when it is time to go race, it is a bike I love, have spent a lot of time on, and feel super comfortable with. It's an all arounder and it is the only cross bike that I need. Especially because the PMW sliding dropouts allow me to make it a single speed for racing or geared for all around riding.

I am looking forward to getting a few more titanium prototypes out the door. This material is fun to work with and even better to ride. Here's to more of the riding part.

Marcia's Custom 27.5" Mountain Bike

Marcia wanted a bike for riding the trails where she lives in Santa Cruz, CA - A place I have been lucky enough to ride a few times and would always go out of my way ride.

After riding 26 for years and then trying out 29" wheels, Marcia wanted to give 27.5" a try. More of a traditionalist this bike features no dropper, clearance for 2.5" tires and a really nice all around geometry. If you know what you like, then stick with it!

Can't wait for this thing to get out on the trail!

Drew's 29+ Singlespeed in Curry and Turquoise

Drew Contacted me last fall looking for a new mountain bike. After years on a custom bike by another builder, Drew had dabbled in the world of plus tires on a Surly Krampus, but he knew the geometry and compatibility was not quite what he wanted. We worked together to design drew just the bike he wanted: Something that climbs well, but can really open up on the descents. A plus bike that takes advantage of high volume and loads of traction, but doesn't feel bogged down. We also designed around a 140mm fork and a dropper seat post. Oh, and the bike had to be ready for the road trip he was planning through Idaho, Wyoming and Montana before he took the bike back home to Colorado.

It was really fun to have Drew come pick the bike up at the shop here in Bozeman. Getting to see his excitement on the first ride was a privilege - making people happy on their bikes is why I do this.

Drew and I were also able to talk a lot while we rode and went out for beers after. One of the things we discussed was what the custom bike experience is about. Whether you buy a bike from me or another builder, you are not just getting a bike out of the deal, but a relationship with someone who hears your needs and wants - someone who really gets to know you in regards to your riding and sometimes even more, and that is really cool. I have had the pleasure of meeting some great people building bikes and I am happy that I can continue to do so. Always happy to have customers come pick up their new ride.

Enjoy the photoset of what we built below: