Monthly Archives: April 2020

Gravity Bullseye Monster Fat Bike Initial Impressions

In my last post I ended my mentioning that I’d ordered a new non-powered fat bike which arrived a week ago. I’m not at all sure what’s up with the name of this bike, the Bullseye Monster made by Gravity. It’s an entry-level bike, so nothing too fancy but a step or two up from a standard box store bike. Most bikes of this size and form weigh in between 30 to 38lbs, the Bullseye Monster weighs in at about 36lbs. So, it’s toward the heavier end but compared to the 75 lb Rover it feels impossibly light as I’ve gotten used to the heavy cruiser weight of the e-bike. I don’t plan to be doing anything extreme with this bike and really just wanted a well built, solid and dependable bike for riding around on the new trails. I’ve been riding it for just over a week, here are some initial thoughts.

Like many bikes sold over the internet it arrives mostly assembled. Like the Rover, I had to attach the handlebar to the stem, attach the front wheel to the forks, attach the pedals, tweak the rear derailleur and brakes then air up the tires.

First, I have to say that it’s been 20 years since I spent time with a regular, non-powered bike. I worked in a bike shop for two or so years and it’s not taken long for me to remember some of the details of a well made bike, both in terms of how it feels to ride as well as the various aspects of quality differences to be found in the frame and components. Right off, the components such as the shifters, derailleurs, brakes, etc are entry to mid-level parts that perform fairly well. These are not as light as more expensive components but they are still fairly well made and they do what they are supposed to do. So, functional but heavier.

A few basic specs. This is a fat bike so, 4” wide tires, 26” diameter wheels. The drivetrain is 2×8, so, 16 gears (11-34T on the rear cog, 22/32T on the front chain rings) which seems to cover my needs very well. I’ve had no problems going up short but steep hills at about 14 to 18% grades. On the kind of terrain I’ll be riding I don’t need high gears for high-speed riding though it is geared well enough that I’d have no problem maintaining 18 to 22 mph were I on paved downhill. I think these bikes are mostly to be used off road or on gravel roads of various grades and at speeds ranging from 3mph and up and in these scenarios, this gearing is fine.

The Mission Command tires by Vee seem to be designed for average conditions which is to say, a bit of everything but nothing too extreme. They’re not reported to be the best tires for snow, I’m not sure about sand. On pavement they have a good bit of self-steer at the current tire pressure of 15psi. I suspect that if I needed to do a lot of road riding I could pump them up to 30psi and much of that self-steer would go away. They do fairly well on gravel and off road which are what I will primarily be using the bike for. Thus far, they are fine on my trails which consist of hard pack, semi-loose dirt and mud. I’ve been riding through some pretty rough terrain on my new trails which still include a few thorns, branches, small, pokey tree stubs, etc. No punctures yet!

This bike has no suspension! It’s an aluminum frame on a hard chromoly fork but I’m riding with the tires at about 15psi and it’s not too rough on our rock road and the trails. In the 10 days I’ve ridden the Gravity I’ve gotten in about 62 miles, average of just about 5.6 miles per day and less than an hour of riding per day. I expect to continue with my trail building for another week or so and after that will bump up to 2 to 3 hours of riding every day again. Though at only 5 miles per hour on the trails I’ll only be getting in 10 to 15 miles a day. I’m fine with that as I’m loving the experience of riding the new trail and really I think of it as time in the saddle more than miles ridden. If the terrain dictates that riding is slower that’s not something I‘ll worry about.

All in all, the feel of the new bike on the trail is fast, nimble and fun, I love how it handles. I’d been a bit concerned about how my knee would feel on the steeper climbs but that’s been no problem at all. I drop down to the granny gear and spin right up. No doubt, it’s work and I’m breathing hard at the top but I have no problem getting up. Getting to the top of the steepest climb which averages about 17% grade and is steepest at about 23% (according to Ride with GPS) has my heart rate at about 165bpm.

There were only two negatives worth mentioning. First, the pedals that come with the bike are too small and my feet slipped off them a few times. After a couple days I switched them with the Rover’s larger, sturdier Wellgo pedals. Much better. Also, the head tube is said to be limiting as to fork upgrades because it is not tapered. In my case, I’m not concerned as I don’t expect to be adding a suspension fork, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s only been a few days so I’ll likely report back in another couple of months but I don’t expect there to be any problems.

I have no intention of making any upgrades anytime soon. As things wear out I’d likely consider replacing the stock parts with improved components but I don’t feel any need to do that until they wear out.

I’d have no problem recommending this bike for anyone looking to get their first fat bike.

Rides over the past two weeks.

4/12 4.00
4/13 4.00
4/14 4.00
4/15 4.00
4/16 4.00
4/17 4.00
4/18 5.50
4/19 4.00
4/20 4.00
4/21 4.00
4/22 6.20
4/23 8.00
4/24 4.50
4/25 7.20
4/26 4.00
4/27 11.1

Trail Building Fun

I’ve changed things up a bit! For the time being I’ve redirected most of my riding time, normally 3 to 4 hours to trail building around our place. I’ve gotten in a bit of riding as well but most of the time has been spent raking, clipping and mowing a new woodland trail. Funny, I’d not at been planning to do this, it just sort of happened. Once the thought occurred to me that I might put in some trails I just went with it and once I started in on the work the enthusiasm took over. 4 days later and I’m pretty happy with the progress. Thus far the trail, which starts with an older trail my brother-in-law Greg put in 10 years ago, contains about a one mile loop with a longer option to my parents’ place. If I take the longer ride to my parents the loop is about 1.6 miles.

I’ve got quite a bit more to do to finish the planned route along our property lines but I’m in no rush. Much of that will be fresh path building through some thick stuff so it will take some time. I’ve also got a lot of older paths made by Greg that just need some maintenance. All in all, should end up with about 3 to 4 miles of paths.

The thinking behind all this (as much as there was any actual thinking involved) is that it would be nice to have a riding experience other than my current 35 mile route on the roads and gravel. While I love those rides they are shaped and changed by the county maintenance schedule and practices. It makes sense (I think) to spend some time and effort to better utilize our own land and get to know it better. I’ll keep my impact to a minimum which is to say that the paths are not going to be very wide. For most of the trail I’ll have a width enough for two people to walk abreast. Some segments may be more narrow. I’ll let them evolve a bit based on how they’re being used. My hope is that family will use them and I can adjust based on usage.

A bit about the path/trail building process. I try to take a minimal approach with the intent of minimal impact. I use a rake, limb clippers and my mower. I’ve got a general route planned and primarily let the land guide me based on the density of growth. I move forward based on tree/brush density choose it the path based on least growth. Common sense probably, just looking for the easiest path forward. I rake some of the leaves and fallen branches then use the clippers to remove branches that reach over the path and small trees in the path. Then run the mower. Repeat. It’s great exercise. I’m averaging about 4 to 5 hours a day working on them trail and the result is already rideable.

Over the past few months I’ve been riding 3 to 4 hours, 35 miles, on the county roads and I plan to transition much of that riding time to these trails just looping around. I’ll end up with fewer daily miles because trail riding speed will be more like 4 to 6 mph rather than my usual 12 average. But ride time will be the same. With daily 3 hour rides I suspect that I’ll have the new trails pretty well packed in just a couple weeks. In just the 4 days of building and preliminary test rides they are already starting to look like used trails. There’s something so comforting and reassuring about a well used woodland trail. These trails have the added element of being on family land and so almost feel like a kind of gardening.

Last, a few thoughts about electric bikes and trail riding. My niece has been visiting for the past couple weeks and having a good time riding the Lectric XP. The last couple days she’s been riding it on the trails and having a blast. I’ve been riding the Rad Rover and it is indeed great fun on the trails. That said it feels somewhat out of place on hilly, tight turns where riding is 4 to 8 mph as compared to the more stretched out pavement and gravel rides where the speeds are 10 to 18 mph and often 20 . The Rover, at 75 lbs, feels much better suited when it’s cruising and allowed to stretch out a bit. To put it another way, I then I the Rover is better suited to the wider, lazy turns that are common with trails built for 4-wheelers or motor cycles. It’s meant for cruising for distance. As far as these two electric bikes go I think the XP is better suited to these trails as it’s tighter and and more nimble. It’s a bit rougher as it only has the 20” wheels but these trails are fairly smooth and will be more so when they are done. Which brings me to…

Enter the pedal only, non-electric fat bike. It’s been on my mind for a month or two that I’d like to have a “regular”, non-powered mountain or fat bike. After a couple weeks of research I ended up ordering another fat bike. This will be sized between the Rover and the XP as it has the same size wheels as the Rover but a much smaller frame. At about 36 lbs and a stand over height about 3 inches less than the Rover I think it will be much better suited for trail riding. It will be here later today, I’ll post photos and a review soon.

Chunky gravel and punctured tubes

4/5 13.8
4/6 13.8
4/7 26.3
4/8 13.8
4/9 27.6
4/10 27.6
4/11 27.5

Latest Video:

My sister and niece are visiting so I’ve been keeping my rides shorter, mostly riding in the morning when it’s cold. We’re keeping our visits to outside porch visits because our cabins our small. Normally we’d just pile in but social distancing and all that.

Our roads are being dug up by the county for spring maintenance. Normally they grade the gravel roads a few times a year and in theory that’s what they are doing. But it seems more like ploughing than grading. After a few weeks of traffic and a few rains it will all settle back down but for now my previously relaxed gravel rides have turned into a much bumpier, rockier experience. Pretty interesting but not the smooth, carefree rides they were. The upside is that even though it’s the same road it almost seems like a different road so it’s variety even though it’s the same. LOL. Another upside is that because they’ve so destroyed the road I’m going much slower, pedaling with no electric assist for most of the gravel road which is great exercise. I was already reducing my use of electric on the gravel sections but now it’s almost no assist at all because I need to go slower. Even though I’m only riding 26 miles compared to the 38 miles of my normal loop I’m still getting in 2.5 hours of ride time because it’s so much slower.

All that said, I don’t understand the goal of the “maintenance” work. Why churn up a road that was largely smooth and level? A last note: I finally had my first puncture. Thanks to the Slime in my inner tubes I didn’t have a flat! The Slime filled in the leak and I had no problem getting home. I rode the bike for three or four days before taking off the front tire and patching the tube. The tube was holding pressure pretty well so I’m not sure I needed to patch it but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Super glad I slimed the tires!

A last note: 2000 miles for the year thus far. I’m not sure I’ll maintain my current pace through the summer and really, I’m trying to not have any goals. Just ride and enjoy would be the extent of my plans.

Outside for the season

Well, here we are. Middle of a global pandemic and in the U.S. we have, not surprisingly, fumbled the response horribly. Our political process, discourse and system are in a persistent state of crisis and disfunction. We currently have the worst president in U.S. history and he’s made a real shit show of the crisis and through it all his supporters keep supporting him. People are dying. It’s a mess and that’s an understatement. All that said a crashing of the economy and drop in human use of fossil fuels is good for the planet. There’s a lot that might be said on that subject.

I’m riding. I don’t know what else to do at the moment. I’m trying to be helpful to my nearby family, older folk that need to stay home. So I’ll shop for them and try to be safe. And when I’m not shopping I’ll be riding. The past few months it’s been my obsession and continues to be so. So much has changed in the past couple of months and things will be getting worse before they get better. At the moment I’m not sure what I can do to about things so I plan to keep pedaling as it’s one thing I can do that puts my mind at ease and helps me stay sane, stay healthy.

I’m nearing 2,000 miles for the year and my rides are now consistently at about 3.5 hours and 40 miles.

3/18 25.9
3/20 38.7
3/21 32.2
3/23 41
3/25 41.6
3/26 45.6
3/27 39.2
3/29 41.9
3/30 45.8
4/1 44
4/2 47.5
4/4 38.8