I think it’s fair to say that we mountain bikers here in Bellingham are spoiled. By the time August rolls around our trails are, by our standards, dried out, skitter, blown up and a chundered mess. Add to that the seasonal forest fire smoke plume that settles thick in these hills between August and September. It’s all relative (I’ve ridden in places that never ever get rain all year and places where the AQI is >200 as a standard day), but it was enough for me to build up a different kind of bike to get me through the late summer months this year. Enter the modified Private Jake. This is a reinvention of my 2016 Private Jake which I first rode back at the 2015 Singlespeed Cyclocross Worlds in Victoria, BC, a weekend I can barely remember. Three quick years later and the bike is still here, modified into a mix of fun, good for linking together logging road over-landers while the rest of the trails sizzle until Fall.
The Bike: Part cyclocross, part trail bike, part XC bike, part commuter, this bike is a little mix of everything. It’s taken me on everything from 70-mile mixed surface adventure rides and lots of vert through the North Cascades, opportunistic #dadlife power-hour rides on the bunny trails behind my house, and lately, really wet commutes back and for to my new business office in downtown Bellingham.
Drivetrain: First off, I needed a gear range that could get me over steep grades but still keep up with decent speeds on flatter grades. My solution was to install a Wolftooth TanPan adapter midline so that I could run a mountain bike rear derailleur and cassette. I originally installed the TanPan at my rear derailleur, but it made removal of the rear wheel a hassle, so I swapped the location to midline just under the handlebar. The rear derailleur is an XTR M9000 shifting across an XT 11-42. That said, I have also fit an XT 11-46, which came in handy on the even longer, steeper rides this fall. Up front is a 42-t Wickwerks chainring which fits well on the Ultregra R8000 crankset. The proprietary Shimano crank bolts aren’t precisely flush on the crank spider, but they’re tight to spec, which is what counts! For longer, faster rides I would opt for a 44t up front with an 11-46t cassette in back.
Wheels & Tires: Cushy WTB Horizon 650x47c tires have been reliable and smooth with plenty of Stans sealant inside. Now that it’s wet, a set of Byways would likely be the ideal choice, but for now, I’m sticking with the full slicks because that’s what I’ve got! The clearance on the chainstays is close but works. Tires roll on board a set of (arguably overkill but rad) XTR M9020 trail wheels. These are very strong wheels, but being non-boost and with a 24mm inner rim width, they’re essentially obsolete for anything other than “creative use”, so this was a good way to recycle and keep them going. Let’s just say the tires and body position are the limiting factors in terms of ground control. Once the rain set in, I found an old beat-up pair of SKS fenders which somehow survived the move from my Seattle days 10 years ago, and still hold the old Sellwood Cycles bottle flaps on the front and back. Team S&M heritage is what that is. And YES, I need an extra flap on the rear fender…the fender struts weren’t quite long enough for a full wrap.
Other Highlights: Things get weird out there, so to take the edge off, I’ve got a KS Zeta dropper post (35mm) set up thanks to some precision drill-work to accommodate the stealth routing, and some hardware store small parts (hose clamp) to connect a modified KS lever to the handlebar. And I’ll point this out on Kona’s behalf: if you drill holes in your frame, you void your warranty… Don’t do this at home, kids!
Blackburn frame bag and lights keep the picnic and visibility factor on point.