Whitefish or Bust: Bears and Borders...

After a few days of radio silence, our riders reappeared in the digital world and sent us some info to let us know that all is going well with their bikepacking adventure.


After spending a night near Corbin at a cool hidden campsite, Day 5 started smoothly, but quickly turned into a day long epic. Two mountain passes, a freak hailstorm, and an encounter with a couple of startled bears left everyone fairly drained at the end of a 115km day. A relatively sketchy provincial campground would be their home for the night, where the 4 riders would spend the night listening to yet more rain instead of catching up on their sleep.


Day 6 was a huge day for elevation gain with the crew climbing the Wigwam pass, and crushing “The Wall” a sub-10km climb with some 1000m of elevation gain. A fast decent afterwards would take them down to the border crossing and onward to Eureka, where after a draining 68km day, the group decided to splurge on a night of relative luxury in a roadside motel…..


Whitefish or Bust: 4 Days In...

When we last left our rag tag group of adventurers, they were rolling out from Banff with cool weather and cloudy skies threatening to up the “Adventure” quotient of their ride.

As luck would have it, the skies would open up shortly after tire met trail, and with only a few kilometers behind, a random shifter failure would introduce the first mechanical of the trip. Another shifter was sourced in short order (and by sourced, I mean dropped off by a riders wife…) and installed trail-side.

36km relatively uneventful kilometers later and we would see the group (and a large amount of rain…) spend the night at the Spray Lakes Campground, where moral was high (and reportedly, night time snoring was loud).


Day 2 would begin with more rain, and a group decision to shift the route to the Smith Dorrien up to Mount Engadine. As 22km of rain would see the riders break for tea, and an additional soggy 38 km would take them to the next camping spot. As one of the riders put it, “Horrible relentless rain made it a horrible experience”. The sad reality of bikepacking is that it isn’t all sunshine and glory, and the cold and wet conditions proved a strain on the groups ability to all push thru, with only five of the seven riders making it to Boulton. With everyone and everything soaked, camp was set up in the rain, and everyone prayed for a break in the moisture…


Day 3 saw the return of the sun, and the riders made quick and uneventful work of the 81km over Elk Pass and down into Elkford, BC. Camp was set up in the Elkford Municipal Campground, and everyone had a chance to relax, clean bikes, dry gear, and source food. Moral was high after what could arguably be the first “Fun” day of the trip…


Day 4 was off to a good start with the group crushing the big climb out of Elkford. A bit of a navigational “whoops” lead to a “bonus 20km” of riding for the five of them, and then later in the day some large washouts gave everyone a chance to hone their “bicycle portage” abilities. By all accounts, four of the riders did very well, while WLC’s own Jason Zerk somehow ended up in the river. ;) The day concluded with everyone rolling into Sparwood, BC, for baths in an A&W washroom, food, and a much needed resupply. Known scheduling conflicts would make this as far as the road would take one more of the riders, and the remaining four would ride out a few hours further, logging a 93km day, before setting up camp once again and waiting to see what adventure the next day would provide…


Whitefish or Bust: Riders be Riding...

Friday July 19th.


Banff, Alberta, Canada.

12 degrees Celcius and cloudy (or as most of us know it, Summer time in Canada), and 7 riders roll out on an epic adventure to Whitefish, Montana.


Wheel Life Cyclery has had a fun time watching this trip come together, and have been honored to partake in a few aspects of the trip planning. Thanks for your trust in our advice, our products, and our service. We wish you all the best in your ride South, and look forward to hearing about the adventures that will inevitable make this trip the first of many.

Customers Rides # 3: Salsa Beargrease - FATpacking

Our third “Customers Rides” bike belongs to the one female going on the Banff-to-Whitefish trip, and her well color coordinated bikepacking setup is based on the fast and versatile Salsa Beargrease.


Bike: 2016 Salsa Beargrease SUS X01

Upgrades: A set of Surly Knard 26x4.0 tires and a bunch of pink stuff… Crank Brothers Candy pedals. Lizard Skins lock-on grips. Beaver Guard Bluto Fender.

Gear: Revelate Designs SweetRoll Handlebar Bag . Revelate Designs Gas Top Tube bag. Revelate Designs Ranger Framebag. Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags. Revelate Designs Pika Seatbag.

Customers Rides #2: Salsa Cutthroat

While almost everyone doing the Banff-to-Whitfish trip is opting for fatbikes, it just wouldn’t be a TDV bikepacking trip if someone didn’t show up on a Salsa Cutthroat!

Behold, Customers Rides #2!


Bike: 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Apex 1 (Large)

Upgrades: BlackSpire 30t Snaggletooth Oval Chainring. Wolftooth Chainring bolts. Sunrace 11-46t Cassette. RedShift ShockStop Suspension Stem.

Gear: Salsa EXP Series Anything Front Cradle/Drybag/Front pouch. Revelate Designs Mag-Tank Bolt-On Top Tube bag. Salsa Cutthroat EXP Framepack. Revelate Designs Terrapin Seatbag.

Customers Rides #1: Kona WoZo - FATpacking

If you’re going to do a bikepacking trip you need a bike to do it on!

This post will double up as a bikecheck for our “Tour Divide” blog write up, and will also kick off a new “Customers Rides” series we hope to feature on our webpage and social media.


Bike: 2017 Kona Wozo (Large)

Upgrades: Manitou Mastodon Pro EXT suspension fork. SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed driveline. SRAM Guide R brakes. RaceFace Aeffect Dropper post. Hope Pro 4 rear hub. Specialized seat. RaceFace Grips. Surly Knard 26x4.0 Tires. Crank Brother Candy 2 pedals. Stickers. LOTS of stickers.

Gear: Salsa EXP Series Anything Front Cradle/Drybag/Front pouch. Salsa EXP Top Tube bag. Salsa EXP Fat Hardtail Framepack. Revelate Designs Jerry Can & Mountain Feedbags. Revelate Designs Terrapin Seatbag. Overlander Suspension Fork Rack & Cage mount c/w Salsa Anything HD Cages, Revelate Designs Polecat Bags, and Lezyne Flow Cages. BearCozy.

Whitefish or Bust: The Tour Divide Section 1


So what happens when you take bunch of local riders, strap a bunch of stuff to their bikes, and drop them off in Banff with a compass that insists on primarily pointing South?

Local cycling buff/WLC staff member/ZerkADo Fitness guy/beer enthusiast Jason Jerk decided to find out, and over the past few months he’s managed to trick and convince an additional handful of riders in joining him on his quest for adventure. And by trick and convince I mean pass the majority of planning and motivating off to another member of the trip. You know, as you do…

This coming Friday July 19th will see him, his better half, and 5 others dip their feet into the world of bikepacking and ultra endurance riding as they trace out the first section of the infamous Tour Divide route from Banff (Alberta, Canada) to Whitefish (Montana, USA).

Leading up to their start, we hope to take a quick peek at some of the bikes and gear they will use, and along the way we hope to have a few updates, pictures and stories.

Stay tuned…

Words on paper: A Return to the BLOG.....

Well, the "Blog" portion of the website has effectively been dead in the water for the better part of a year now.  It's not that we don't love writing down random thoughts and sharing them with the digital world, it just that we've been BUSY with life in the new shop, continuing to make all aspects of our customers experiences better, and even sneaking out for the occasional ride.  We've got a few fun up-and-coming things on the books though, and hopefully we'll have a better presence back here soon.

So what's new with us?  Well, the new shop is pretty much settled in now, and we're really working on just rocking out the bikes and brands we carry. 

Kona's 2019 launch event in Squamish, BC was a BLAST, and their new 2019 bikes are looking killer.  Rocky Mountain has some cool changes in the works for 2019 also, and we'll be stoked to see those bikes hitting the floor soon as well.  Salsa is also mixing thing ups a bit for next year, and we'll be continuing to support a good mix of their bikes in the shop. 

With the morning air getting chilly, the CX riders are kicking off their race series and there are whispers of FATbiking season approaching fast also.  We should have our 2019 Fatbikes hitting the shop floor soon (Hint hint: the 2019 fatties are AWESOME!), and hopefully some CX stuff too.

As the 2019 stuff rolls in, we will be looking to make some floor space as well, so keep your eye's pealed for our annual "GARAGE SALE"  event to be going live in the near future.....


Well, it would seem that a year of Game of Thrones "Winter is Coming" memes were correct, and the return of white fluff piles and associated negative temps have plunged us back into the core stereotype of being Canadian.

And so what does that mean for cycling?  Lots, something, or nothing depending on who you are......

There are still 3 cyclocross races to slip and slide thru over the next week and change (Dark Knight, Cadence Cross, and the always ridiculous SCXAB17).  Luckily those riders are well versed in both riding in terrible conditions, and in bringing their own warming beverages.

4 season commuters will plug along like nothing has changed......cause frankly, those are the most hardcore cyclists out there.  Many will go the other way though, hanging up their helmets and instead switching to skis, snowshoes, snowboards, or pizza and binge-watching Netflix.

Fatbikers are no doubt getting giddy and airing down tires while layering up in merino wool for what should shape up to be another great season of balloon tire fun.

And us at the shop?  Well, I think we're dipping out toes into a bit of everything.  Fatbikes and Plusbikes are a plenty on the shop floor, studded tires are piling up, and 45NRTH gear is hanging on the walls.  We'll be at the cyclocross races in some capacity.  We'll be in the shop Tuesday-Saturdays.  We'll be dreaming of rides, sneaking in the occasional one, and planning (and exciting) some cool shop projects.  And we'll be trying to sneak in the occasional blog update too.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter..... they're just 4 different flavors of cycling goodness.


Wheel Life Cyclery vs. Quarq Shockwiz

Sure it's been two years since the ShockWiz Kickstarter campain.  Yes, it's also been a year since SRAM jumped on board and launched the product under the Quarq name.

If you went by time alone, you might think us folks at WLC had been slacking off in regards to the hottest new product in suspension tuning.  But truth be told, the ShockWiz has been hard to get a hold of and slow to get to market.  Once the "product available" email came in though, we jumped at the "add to cart" button, and well....... that pretty much brings us to now.

The Quarq ShockWiz is a small electronic gizmo that attaches to the air chamber on your (air sprung) suspension fork or rear shock.  Using Bluetooth technology, it transmits data to a (free) ShockWiz app that you load on to your smartphone.  Yes, this means you have to bring your phone along on your next ride....... but lets be honest, you were probably planning on hunting Strava KOM's with it anyway, right?

In person the ShockWiz is small, expensive, unassuming and comes in a box containing almost nothing aside from the required mounting accessories.  Being a crotchety old grump, the lack of printed instructions was a bummer to me, as was the realization that learning to use the device/app requires watching a few YouTube videos.  Yes, I realize this is the preferred method of ingesting information for 99% of the population........but I personally would have liked something to read.  Once I broke down and stared at the computer for a while, I found it exceedingly simple to mount the unit and load up the app.  It did however take me a while to realize that the Bluetooth function of my phone needed to be on in order to pair with the device.  Whoops.

Set-up for using the device is straightforward and the app walks you thru the steps with a nice "Setup Wizard".  The actual steps of this process were a little more in depth and time consuming then I expected, but nothing you couldn't power thru in an uninterrupted 15 minutes.  Make sure you have a shock pump with you though, since you'll be taking things down to 0psi when you start.

I was curious to see what the app would tell me about my setup as I had my own thoughts after a few good rides.  Air pressure felt right to me (though I do like it on the firmer side), but the rebound damping seemed a little light.  Compression seemed a tad bit high.  Okay Mr. ShockWiz, what do you have to say? 

Let go riding!

On the trail the app monitors shock performance in live time, and will offer suggestions of what to ride next if it requires more data.  I found myself stopping every 20-30 minutes to check the app, and see if it had any route suggestions, and then would alter my course accordingly.  After an hour or so of riding, I stopped for a break, and checked my results.   First up, it was recommended that I drop the air pressure in my (120mm travel?) Rock Shox Pike........ something I sort of expected right off the bat.  I'm always game to try something new though, so 110psi became 93psi. 

I reset the app, and went riding again.  With 93psi, the fork felt soft to me, but the ShockWiz seemed to disagree, giving me a green light for shock pressure but suggesting I lower my compression damping and add an air spacer.  Since I didn't have air spacers and a socket set in my backpack, I opted to lighten the compression damping by two clicks, and add a few more psi to the fork.  I reset the app, and started off again.

With a slightly firmer feel thanks to the extra psi, the fork felt a bit more to my preference, and even the ShockWiz agreed it was still within range (another green light for me!).  It was still recommending an air spacer addition and even lower compression damping, and now a bit more rebound damping as well.  Since all changes should be done one at a time (ish?) and from the top down on the suggestion screen, I opted to pause my ride and head home to tear down the fork and add a spacer.

With the air spacers added, it was back to the fun part of testing, and another few KM of ripping around the trails had both me and the ShockWiz pretty darn happy with the performance of the front fork.

Overall, I have to say I'm quite happy with this tuning tool, though I did come away from it with a few "tips" that I feel I should pass on.

1. The ShockWiz works best when used as a dedicated tuning tool, and not as a "monitor my random ride" tool.  Use it with intent if you want the best results.

2. Bluetooth is a PITA sometimes.  Walking away from your bike for a mid-ride snack, pee break, hike, photo op, etc?  Expect that your phone may likely have lost connectivity with the ShockWiz or be prepared for a disappointing data-less surprise once you get home.

3. For best results, expect to use the ShockWiz over multiple rides with series of small suspension adjustments in between.

4. A shock pump is your friend.

5. Unless you are really committed and focused.......expect to spend more than a day getting things dialed.

6. Ride the terrain you want your suspension tuned for.

All in all it's a VERY cool product.  While it's retail price might be a bit steep for some, I do think it's a cost well spent if a rider has multiple bikes with suspension to set-up, and a good investment for tuning down the road.  For those not looking to drop that amount of coin in one shot..... Well, lucky for you WLC has just launched a rental program.  Come into the shop for more info!

Shop Life in Bicycle Land: A Random Ramble

There are days that you get to ride fancy dream bikes.  There are days that you get to ride budget bikes.  There are lots of days you don't get to ride at all. 

It's funny, because with all of the bikes I have tried and owned, one of my favorites is still my Surly 1X1.  It's been modified with an angle grinder, touched up with spray paint, and cobbled together with a parts mix spanning 1996 to present.  It was set up as a mountain bike originally, and now serves a more utilitarian role.  But it's comfy, capable, and pretty much bombproof.

I think we often get too caught up on WHAT we ride, and don't focus enough on the fact THAT we ride.  Cycling is a lifestyle we all share in a lot of ways, and no matter what sort of bike (or what wheel size...) you choose, we're all in the same boat together..... Sentanced to life behind bars.

Making a MONSTER: Part 3

Well, lots of other fun shop projects......and the realization that I have to do some real work every day..... has slowed the Ice Cream MONSTER Truck project a bit over the past few weeks.  But, a renewed interest in making the most monstrous monster ever had the ICT back on the stands this week, and there is much to report.

Namely....... IT LIVES!!!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself from a blog perspective.

The key to making this whole thing functional and ride-able came in the form of a new WolfTooth Drop-Stop chainring.  While most companies seem to ignore Surly's wacky (yet functionally awesome) "OD" crankset, WolfTooth decided to bust out some sweeeeeeet new 1x rings to fit the off kilter 94bcd 5-bolt set-up.  We brought in a bunch of the 28t and 30t options, but decided to use the 28t in this case, because of the SnowShoe 2XL's crazy huge outside diameter.


The real thing that makes these rings worth every cent in this application is the fact that they are machined with a small "shelf" on the crank side which effectively places the center line of the chainring right smack dab in the middle of where the inner and outer chainrings would normally reside.


And what does that mean in practice?  Two things mainly:

1. In a "standard" 1x set-up, these rings will give you a chain line that effectively "splits the difference" of the standard 2x chainring positions.  In layman terms.....it works really well.

2. In a "not standard" 1x set-up.......and by that I mean, "If you choose to run SnowShoe 2XL tires..... on 100mm rims no less.....the chain still clears the tire with 3-4mm of clearance in the largest rear cog (which in our case is a giant 42 tooth compliments of a great SunRace MS3 11-42t cassette).

Sure it doesn't seem like much clearance in a picture, but it works just fine (and honestly is about as much clearance as you get with some stock set-ups anyway).

And there you have it....... Wheel Life Cyclery has made a Ice Cream MONSTER Truck!  Once the trial and error part was out of the way, it's actually a pretty simple conversion, and nothing that's too hard on the pocket book either.

The bike is in the shop (and technically available...) if anyone wants to come witness this beast in person.  Pictures REALLY do not do justice to how big these tires really are!

Making a MONSTER: Part 2

No photos this week sadly, but some updates on the Ice Cream MONSTER Truck (ICMT?) none the less.

With our attention turned to the drive line, it quickly seemed like the extra tire width was possibly going to contribute to interference with the chain.  Luckily, we had multiple plans in mind to try to counter this:

Plan 1:  Cross our fingers that everything would miraculously work with no real changes.  While we were very hopeful here.....we were also realistic enough to not stop out planning hat this point.  Sure enough, in the front small chainring and the granny gear out back, the chain was within a millimeter of hitting the tire.  Clearly not acceptable, since these tires will certainly require some easy gearing.

Plan 2: Swap out the 2x drivetrain to a 1x set-up.  Out went the 11-36t cassette, and on went a sweeeeeeet 11-42t stack.  Out front we stuck with the Surly OD cranks, and opted for their 28t narrow-wide ring and matching bashguard.  Unfortunately here, the 28t ring resides in the same spot as the stock 22t granny.  It's an ideal location with "normal" 4.8" tires, but here it doesn't cut the mustard and creates the same rubbing.

Plan 3: New crankset.  The interweb speaks of some Race Face cranks that fit the ICT, and with the new cinch mount aboard, the possibility of finding a gear that would give clearance seemed likely.  But new cranks ain't cheap, we didn't have any in the shop that fit the bill, and quite frankly it seemed like a bit of a waste to toss out a perfectly good set of OD's.

Plan 4: Try more chainrings.  With a bit of searching thru catalogs from our various distributors, a possibly easy solution presented itself.  A quick "Add to Cart" was busted out moments before the boss man checked out the order, and now some fancy new rings are soon to be en route.

More updates soon!

Making a MONSTER: Part 1

Every once and a while a bike is released upon the masses that just changes everything.  I feel that at the forefront of this statement, clearly must stand Surly.  On the oversized tire front, their Pugsley can be credited for making fatbikes what they are today, the Moonlander introduced us to how fat FAT could be, and the Krampus showed us that Plus could be a plus.  And then there was the Ice Cream Truck.....

The ICT showed us that you could take the fattest of the fat wheels and tires, combine them with the fattest of the fat industry spacing standards, and toss in some long and low geometry to make a quick handling monster truck of a bicycle.  The Ice Cream Truck is a true Go Anywhere bike that will suit you well in all 4 seasons, no matter what stands in your path.

But what if that's just not good enough?

There are certain types of people out there that always have to push the boundaries.  Spicy just isn't spicy enough.  Fast just isn't fast enough.  Big just isn't big enough.  Fat just isn't FAT enough.  Enter Vee Racing and the SnowShoe 2XL Tire.


This beastly beast of a tire was released upon the industry in 2016 without a single bike available to swallow up it's 5.05" width.  While a "mere" quarter of an inch wider than a 4.8" tire doesn't seem like much, it has to be witnessed in person to truly understand it's actual physical size ramifications.  The extra width also causes the outside diameter to balloon up to an astounding 30.5" (as measured mounted to 100mm Clown Shoe rims).  That's right, it's a full 1.5" taller than a Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 4.0 mounted on 80mm rims.  It's a brute among brutes.

Naturally the Surly Ice Cream Truck seemed like the logical bike to swallow this up.  Many folks tried, and the huge O.D was what thwarted them.  But clearly this couldn't be the end? 

With a bit of quiet time at the shop, the WLC crew was on it.  After much persistence (and maybe some harassment), we finally managed to get our hands on a few sets of Surly's latest MSD drop out chips.......

These little babies have a few sweet tricks up their sleeves.  To be precise....by "a few" I mean 4 that I have found so far:

1. Allows you to utilize a standard (non-direct mount) rear derailleur.

2. Allows you to lengthen OR shorten the rear chainstay length over the stock location.

3. Allows you to mount more......er.......stuff to your bike with the addition of another set of eyelets.

4. Allows you to squeeze in Vee Racing SnowShoe 2XL 5.05" tires!!!!!

As teased on Surly's own social media accounts many moons ago, the 2XL fits with no issues in the overly spacious front fork.  With a workable amount of space in the back, the project is moving ahead. 

Next up......getting the driveline to work.

A Return to the Ride..... Muskrat Loop Mutterings

Early on Monday afternoon I found myself with a rare break in my eternal "To Do" list, and a sideways glance at my weather station was rewarded with the knowledge that the great outdoors was sitting at a seemingly balmy -10 degrees Celsius.

I thought about my Surly Pugsley, and how it was filthy and in desperate need of a tune up.  I thought about how long it's been since I've actually gone for a ride in the "cold", and how I wasn't even 100% on what to wear (my knowledge of winter layering seems to have been replaced with the ability to estimate how many diapers and bottles of milk I need to pack for an afternoon out).  Then I thought about how it seemed like I was stalling and making mental excuses.......

Okay, here we go.  Current ghetto socks?  Ya, they're likely fine.  Old cycling liners, insulated tights (complete with holes), and an old pair of hiking pants?  Ya, that should work.  Top layer........Hmmmm..........old merino wool long sleeve shirt (again, c/w holes), thin zip-up synthetic mid-layer designed for hiking, and a fleece hoodie.  Seems legit.  Feet get a pair of Gen1 45NRTH Wolvhammers, face gets a 45NRTH Lung Cookie, and hands slip into 45NRTH Sturmfist 5's.  Looks like I'm ready.

Toss a leg over the trusty Pug, turn Eastward, and start pedaling.  The cold is pretty biting on my lungs, so I pull up the face-guard over my nose.  Much better.  5 minutes of snowy gravel later, and I'm starting to warm up nicely.  The sun is out, and the wind isn't too bad, so the kilometers start to roll by.  The gravel soon turns to untracked snow and I soon realize I've worn too many layers.  I pause briefly to unzip the air vents on my hoodie and pants, and have a quick drink of water.  Oh right..... the nozzle on the bottle is frozen solid.

Back on the bike.....the resistance of smooth soft powder and prairie wind blown snow drifts reminds my legs with warming pain that it's been a while since I've been in the saddle.  It's funny how life can keep you off the bike sometimes.....hours turn to days......days turn to weeks, and suddenly it's almost an embarrassing long amount of time since your last ride.  It just happens.  It doesn't seem like a big deal.  And maybe it really isn't.  But then you ride again.....you get back on......and thru all the cold and the pain and the suffering, you find yourself grinning like an idiot, and unable to justify why you've been gone so long.  And so I apologize for my negligence to my trusty fatty, as we continue to grind along in silence next to 10km+ of fresh coyote tracks.

Eventually my bike would lead me back home.  Back to warmth.  Back to family.  Back to reality.  And back to frosty congratulatory beverages and hot food.  And with sore legs and residual smiles, I would sit back and spend the rest of my day starting the daydream-esque countdown to my next ride.  Perhaps it will be tomorrow, perhaps it will be next week, perhaps it will be next month.  And honestly, it doesn't matter.....as long as there is a next ride.


Ya Gotta Start Somewhere

It was -24.9 degrees Celsius when I woke up this morning.

Upon seeing this on my thermometer, I'll be honest.....the first series of words that sprung to my mind wasn't, "Hey, I should start a shop blog".  But in all likelihood, the cold will be here for a while (because Canada), and since I can't ride my FATbike and be in the shop at the same time (because trying to be an adult), I figure I may as well find some other outlet for my love of cycling. 

And so begins the WLC Blog........

Now what, you might ask, are we planing on using this blog for?  I mean, we already have an Instagram account for photos, a Facebook page for facebooking, AND a website....... and well, to be really honest, I'm not quite sure what this blog will be about.  Most likely it will be about bikes, cycling, and how it all fits into (or controls?) our lives.  Maybe it will be random tales from the shop.  Perhaps epic stories from the trail.  Maybe a fun way to document some of the cool custom builds we do for our customers.  Maybe we can do a guest blog segment.  Maybe we'll just make it up as we go.  Regardless, it will very likely contain rambling rambles, grammatical errors, and on some level, as least a hopeful shred of information and/or entertainment for anyone who wants to read it.

Welcome to our words.....