NAHBS: Adventures in Off Road Adventure Bikes

[Publisher’s Note: Justin is being coy when he writes about these adventure bikes and fails to mention his own participation in the 2012 Tour de Divide — and on a single speed bike, no less.]

Most – if not all the bikes being shown at this year’s NAHBS are head turners, and the variety of types of bikes and the journey their designers and builders took towards completion is just as unique. I couldn’t myself help from trying to  overhear the conversations of attendants as they talk amongst themselves about these creations.  Nowhere did these talks take on such a feeling of hushed excitement than when the attendants were talking about, and sometimes to, the bikepacking, expedition and snow bikes.

The Tour Divide, a 2700+ miles mountain bike race, traversing over the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Banff, Alberta Canada to the border station in Antelope Wells, NM – the majority of the route on undulating dirt roads is one of the supreme measuring sticks of endurance – not just for the rider, but for the bike as well. The race is sometimes becomes a rider’s passion and life dream, and when it comes to picking a rig to take you all the way, many turn to getting a custom job done.

Moots, of Steamboat Springs, CO, was showing off its latest Tour Divide-destined titanium wonder, almost eclipsed itself by its own trail maintenance bike (which we’ll get to, later)


Decidedly au courant in its frame characteristics and parts selection, the owner of this lovely bike and Moots certainly were listening to each other. Moots’s Steamboat Springs frame building workshop is on the route itself and its sister shop, Orange Peel Bicycles has seen many a weary rider, making it through Montana and Wyoming on the wing’s of a prayer to get their rig tuned up and their belly full from next door’s barbeque joint.


This frame features a large front triangle to fit the Revelate bikepacking bag inside and a Rohloff speedhub compatible rear, negating the need to run those pesky derailers that have a tendency to die a sticky death in the peanut butter mud sections of the always unpredictable weather of the Tour Divide. As a weight saving measure, this bike is totally rigid, but sports one of Moots own plush titanium seat posts holding on to a personalized leather saddle. ENVE carbon hoops, of course – front hub being a dyno hub and the back as we mentioned is a 14 speed, maintenance-every-15,000km, Rohloff. .


The cockpit, which a Divide rider will spend much time working with starts with a pair of Salsa Woodchipper off-road drop bars, offering multiple hand positions for those long days in the saddles. Further augmented with a pair of titanium aerobars – no  doubt also created custom at Moots, to offer even more choice to lay those hands. Aerobars  on a mountain bike are the dead giveaway to a Tour Divide Rig.  Freeing up more area on the Woodchippers themselves for all the other accoutrements of adventure racing: GPS unit, SPOT tracker; the Rohloff shifter is conveniently placed on the end of one of the aerobars, and the other aerobar has a bell to alert ATV enthusiasts and black beers that may be in the way.  The head tube top cap has a stealth USB port, attached to the dyno hub for charging lights, phone, etc.

The rig for the NAHBS is finished up with wine bottles lashed to the rigid fork, no doubt useful for the after party later tonight, but most likely will be replaced with water bottles while on the ride, and perhaps some champagne to celebrate at the finishing line.

Also to take on the challenge of turning Tour Divide rig into utilitarian art is Rob English, of English cycles, no doubt famous for his all-steel wonder time trial bike (also on display). English also brought along their interpretation of a dream Divide rig, working in collaboration with Black Rainbow Project’s owner, who this bike is for. Black Rainbow Project’s bags adorn the bike itself, and use a interesting strapless design – the frame bags themselves are simply bolted to the frame.


The front of the bike sports a 135 mm spaced fork, holding a rear wheel with an additional freewheel on it, as valuable insurance against unforeseen circumstances render the rear Shimano Alphine hub unusable. The front fork is also wide enough to accept 26″ snow bike tires, for all-season training.


English also worked hard to provide a clean cockpit, with a custom aerobar-like setup, attached to swept back handlebars, offering judicious room for maps, lights and roadside jelly donuts.

If the mounting hardware used for the bags wasn’t enough holes in the frame, the rigid fork also includes 3 mountpoints per fork leg for additional choices. A pair of Salsa Anything Cages adorn the fork to hold onto, well, anything. The rear of the frame breaks off at the seat post, allowing you to slip on and off the belt drive, as well as make packing the bike for the transatlantic hop from Black Rainbow Project’s UK home to the start in Canada (and back home) just a little easier.

Over at Groundup Designs booth (previously covered) Dave Nice made an appearance with his Tour Divide rig – this one having actually already completed the arduous journey – fixed geared, even.


Dave’s bike keeps it very simple, sporting no rear brake, and one gear that doesn’t coast. Eric Baar again was busy hand-painting pinstrips on anytihng that was metal and kept still for more than 5 minutes, including Dave’s rig, while Dave took advantage of Oskar Blues’s early afternoon beer tasting.


Not to be left out of the fun, Chris King’s Cielo brought out a bike packing rig. The front rigid fork sports five mounting points per fork leg, with a tapered headset keeping everything together. Understated, but ultimately Cielo and co have more experience than practically anyone in the domain of two-wheel’d adventures.

Finally, not to be out done by anybody, Moots also holds this writer’s award for best bike at the 2013 NAHBS: the Moots Trail Maintenance Bike,


Designed to have everything needed to maintain the local Steamboat Springs trail system, without the need of additional motor vehicle transportation, the Moots Maintenance Bike’s rear rack has room for a chainsaw (with custom titanium blade guards),


and a front rack, holding trail tools including a rogue hoe – and some thank-you beers for the trail volunteers.


The 29″+ wheels and long, long wheelbase keeps things rolling smoothly, while building trails, or fending off the upcoming zombie apocalypse.


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