Why I Haven’t Ordered My Wednesday, Yet, Part 3

Deadly virus layoff and a minor hurricane

After months and months of wistful longing, I dialed City Bike and pressed send…

[Six Months Earlier]

Working remotely for six weeks had not been so bad, despite my “office” consisting of the space below my upper bunk, with my computer set up on a TV tray, Max Headroom: 1.5 inches. Not so bad, at least, until the call from HR came to inform me that this particular Friday would be my final Friday of employment with them. No notice. No severance pay. Three weeks of accrued vacation time vanished. I was unemployed and in no position to be dropping $2000 on a silly fat tired bicycle. It would take six months before I would regain my adventurous self, before I could again create a future with sufficient silliness to float this fat tire dream. Six months of responsible delayed gratification, of job hunting emails, interviews, rejections, and finally, an offer.

But the unemployment nightmare was over. I was starting to loosen up on the remote screen share meetings and last night’s web search for “bikepacking Florida” had returned some very interesting results. These had tipped the scale toward action:




That’s right, the Iditarod Trail, itself and many more along those lines at FAT BIKE BIKEPACKING ROUTES .

I was ready to dial, but would have to wait until until daylight when the store was open. Alas, my job, my wonderful, beautiful, fantastic job kept me busy until a mere fifteen minutes before closing time. Finally, finally my fingers tapped the glassy surface and my phone was ringing up City Bike! The machine picked up. It went to voicemail? The store had closed early on the very day I make the call, debit card in hand? Not possible, not even with Hurricane Eta spinning slowly 70 short miles off shore. Most Floridians are are wimpy weather weenies. I just never thought people who sold Surly bikes would be among them. I redialed, only to hear the same voicemail greeting. This time I left a message…

Hi. This is Paul in Clearwater. You’re supposed to be open until 6:00, and it’s only a quarter till.

[spoken quickly, like Ralphie describing the Red Ryder at the Higbee Company Department Store, just before Santa boots him back down the slide]

I want to order a bike. I want a Surly Wednesday, large, in Blue Monday with Edna 4.3 inch tires and the Surly Rear Disc Rack and maybe some fenders, those little mini-fenders, not the big full kind…[Sigh]

[Spoken sadly, like Eeyore on his birthday]

I guess I’ll have to talk to you about it. My number is 9… Oh, I’ll call you back.*

Paul Guernsey

*Update. I called City Bike back the next day and was told Surly has no available inventory and to call back in mid December. The earliest possible delivery would be in January.

Back to Part 2 (Tubes or tubeless?)

Why Haven’t I Ordered My Wednesday, Yet? Part 2

Tubes or tubeless?

In the 90’s I raced triathlons on a DaVinci time trial frame. In search of speed I vainly attempted to keep up with the Jonses (literally) by switching to Tubeless Tires. Why? Today, I cannot name the advantages, and after one season, I switched back to tubes. I still patch my flats to this day, usually after walking my bike home. I have seen it done on the open road, and am confident in my ability to do this myself.

These days, however, I prefer comfort* to speed, and bumpy forest trails to smooth paved roads. My next bike will be a 2020 Surly Wednesday, large, in Blue Monday. But for some reason(s), I have not been able to bring myself make to a final decision and pull the trigger. First it was the matter of the Thru Axel, and now this. The Experts, people who should know better, keep advising me to equip my fat tire bike with Tubeless Fat Tires. Not this again. Why?

Following my own Rule #1, “Don’t doubt the engineer until you have a look at his plans,” I decided to take a closer look.

Experts’ Opinions

Surly Bikes puts it this way in their “Surly Tubeless Kit” ad copy, “A properly set up tubeless fat bike tire is like the holy grail of suppleness.” Superlative words, but not the Holy Grail of informative helpfulness. The Surly blog has more info on the kit (and the Edna 4.3″, my tire upgrade-of-choice) here: “Edna 26 x 4.3 tires and the Tubeless Tape Kit”, but no data concerning the costs and benefits of Going Tubeless, in general.

ThorHammer’s tubeless Edna 26 x 4.3” tire build

Scott Lamont (a Canadian with no vested interest), of Drenalin Adventures also recommends tubeless tires. In his youtube video “Bikepacking in the snow with my Specialized fatbike. Winter Camping with my dog.“**, just after describing the handling of fat bikes as “not the bulky, klunky bike that they look like they are,” Lamont goes tubeless:

“One tip, I suggest to people, is if you’re going to get a fat bike, go tubeless. This is a fat bike tube [holds tube up for camera], it almost weighs a pound and a half, with no air, just the rubber tube itself is almost a pound and a half. So, two tires, that’s almost 3 pounds of weight that you’re spinning around. Go to your local bike shop. They’ll hook you up. Basically what you’re going to do is, you’re going to drop the tubes and they’re going to put some sealant in your tires, and they’re going to tape up the rims, and the sealant covers all… It’s like a car tire. Car tires, truck tires there’s no tubes in automobile tires, right? They just rely on the sealant aroung the rim. Kind of the same thing with bike tires, except that you need some sealant in there that spins around with the tire just to make sure if there is a pin hole, it gets filled up. It works great for flats. If you run over a thorn, it seals itself up. So, as opposed to a tube, you’d have to take it out and patch it.”

Tubeless Pros and Cons from the Canadian Mountain Co-Operative

What if you run over something bigger than a thorn? Or a number of somethings? How easy is it to repair/replace a truly flat tubeless out on the open trail, compared to patching a tube? How much extra gear would I have to carry? What if I had multiple flats, far, far from the homestead or the nearest shop?

With a fully stocked patch kit, it would be no problem. Annoying, but somewhere before bedtime I would arrive at my destination under my own power. Can tubeless tires do that?

Day 20 of Team French’s 2016 ride across America on a pair of Surly Long Haul Truckers; Get a flat out here, and you had better have EVERYTHING you need to repair it. This was flat 1 of 3 for the day. Read more about this Father and Son trek here: “In Search of Long Lost Friends“. A life changing adventure I was so fortunate to join for a few days in Michigan.

This article on the the Canadian Mountain Co-operative‘s web site presented the facts I needed to make my decision: “Mountain bike tires: tubes vs. tubeless“.

Interestingly, MEC does not rank weight saving as a key factor. “Once you take the tubes out and replace them with sealant, you often get a slightly lighter system, but weight savings shouldn’t be the reason why you choose to get rid of the tubes.”

These are the KEY considerations for me:

Tubeless Pluses

Cuts down on flats: “Unless you slice your tire open, flats will feel like a thing of the past.
Better Cornering: “You can run your tubeless setups at much lower pressure without the risk of getting pinch flat. This means that you’ll be able to take corners much faster before your front wheel washes out.”
Better Climbing: “The lower tire pressure you can run with tubeless increases the contact patch of your tires to help you gain extra traction up steep hills.”

Tubeless Minuses

Tight Fit: “Tubeless tires have a tight bead that helps keep the air in, but this also means a tire that is harder to get on the rim – sometimes frustratingly hard.”
Spare Tube Required: “That’s right, if you end up with a puncture big enough that the sealant can’t fully seal it, you’ll want a way to get back home. For most riders, that means carrying a spare inner tube.”

My decision comes down to prioritizing puncture repair over performance. How often do I believe I will be a fair distance away and beyond practical help, where walking home is not a viable option? Once would be enough, wouldn’t it? But, if I had tubes on my rims, a pump, and a patch kit, I could ride home. And what about that tight fit? Is that something I want to deal with 60 miles from nowhere? And I would have to carry a spare tube anyway, not just a patch kit?

Prioritizing the tube’s ease of flat repair over the tubeless’ handling performance, I choose tubes.

How I equip the bike will ultimately depend on the next ride’s risk factors. I will most frequently not be venturing very far afield. So at some point I might own multiple sets of wheels for rides of different risk levels. I considered ordering my Wednesday with tires for the majority of my riding, and put off till later the “long haul” wheelset, especially now that tubeless tires have made flats “a thing of the past.” Why was it the Titanic had too few life boats? “Unsinkable,” right. I will order my Wednesday with Edna 26 x 4.3 tires, WITH TUBES. Hopefully, the extra width will add some cornering and climbing performance, even at the higher pressures required to avoid tube pinch flats.

Rule #2. What’s right for one may not be right for another.

Leave a comment if you learned something, too, or if you disagree. Especially if you disagree.

Paul Guernsey
The Guern

*Try riding triathlon-style aero-bars day after day, with your upper body weight resting on your elbows and your neck cranked back in order to see the road ahead? #PityTheFool #GregLemond #TourdeFrance1989

**Don’t you just have to trust the words of a Canadian who bikepacks with his hound?

Back to Part 1 (What the heck is a Thru Axle?? )

On to Part 3 (Deadly virus layoff and minor hurricanes)

Why Haven’t I Ordered My Wednesday, Yet? Part 1

The Surly Wednesday comes with, “front and rear thru-axles”.

What the heck is a Thru Axle?? This DiyMountainBike.com web page, What is the difference between a Quick Release and Thru Axle? answered my questions.

In the early 90’s I raced triathlons on a DaVinci time trial frame. This bike had style and class. It was fast, responsive, and reliable, at least as reliable as a skinny tired road bike could be. It also had quick release hubs, NOT THROUGH AXELS, because Campi hadn’t invent one.

Tullio Campagnolo (26 August 1901 – 3 February 1983) invented the quick release hub out of personal frustration with the standard hubs in 1923. Campanolo was having a day of it on his ride up the passo Croce d’Aune. Back then, you had to flip your wheel around to change gears since each side had a single sprocket. Unbolting and reinstalling the wheel was a pain, especially with cold, wet fingers. Changing gears should not be difficult and physical pain painful.

A must watch video re-enactment: How Hard Did Cycling Used To Be? [Modern Cyclist, Retro Bike, Classic Climb] on GCN’s [Global Cycling Network] YouTube channel. Ollie, the reenactor describes the results of his mid-climb gear change as, “Positively Magical.” #scarcasm. His new rear cog was a single tooth larger.

Tullio Campagnolo’s invention would remain standard bicycle hardward for 80 years, so why would a bike manufacturer BRAG about using inferior, non-Campi-based designs? Who do these Fat Bike people think they are?

Time to take a step back and follow my own Rule #1, “Don’t doubt the engineer until you have a look at his plans.” At least try to grasp the problem he is attempting to solve before you pretend an understanding greater than his. This DiyMountainBike.com web page answered my through hub questions.

Positively Magical.

Part 2 (Tubes or Tubeless?)

Born on a Wednesday, and Born to ride One

Josh Patterson‘s “Surly Wednesday review” is just the comparison I needed to decide between the Wednesday and Surly‘s Ice Cream Truck. My mind is now made up. I was born on a Wednesday, and born to ride one. Here are the boxes Patterson’s review helped me check:

“The Wednesday is a very different machine. Yes, it’s still a heavy weight, at 35.2lb / 16kg, but it’s better suited to the type of riding the average rider is looking to do. ” [✓]

“With the axle pushed back in the track ends, the Wednesday can fit 4.6″ tires, 95% as wide as the ICT’s stock 4.8” Bud & Lou.” Close enough. [✓]

“The narrower bottom bracket stance gives the Wednesday a noticeably narrower Q-factor. ” [✓]

Plus, a couple things I figured all on own:

$1550 [22% less than the $2000 ICT] [✓]

Blue Monday is a great color and matches my new Ford Ranger. [✓]

Scandinavian Winter Start

Some wonderful photos from Scandinavia by U.S. Nordic ski Olympic veteran, Caitlin Patterson.

I love all these shots, but was especially charmed by the humility of style designed into the “warming hut” in Beitostolen, Norway, about 1/3 of the way down Patterson’s post. I love how the doorway is framed by the roof-line, accentuated by the contrasting cone of snow.

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Roller skiing is…

Roller skiing is shallow, forward leaning, alternating single knee bends, balanced on a blade’s edge while rolling. Sling a rifle over your shoulders, and it’s biathlon.

All you need to get started: skis, boots, poles, and gloves; rifle optional.

A Different Kind of Halftime Show

My Superbowl half-time show would feature Yo-Yo Ma, a chair, his cello, and that is all. No lasers, no drones, not even a stage, just Ma seated at the 50 yard line.


The house lights fade to black as twenty spotlights follow a solitary, slender figure walking through applause to the center of the field. He bows, sits, and begins to play. What has he selected for us? The notes of J.S. Bach, perhaps will resonate from Ma’s strings and spruce top board. They fill the stadium, the air waves, and our hearts. At one tender and particularly exposed passage, the spotlights, too go out as one simple line of melody continues out into the night. The darkness now is pierced with pinholes of staccato camera flashes and of distant stars whose planets on some future starry night like this will many years from now receive a broadcast emanating from the Earth.

One by one, the lights return as the music crescendos, building in complexity of rhythm. Finally, Ma stands to thunderous applause. He deeply bows. Exiting the spotlight, the bow-wielding artist leaves only an empty chair and cello, shining like the Sun.

BiDitarod, the New Sport for Sporting Dogs

The BiDitarod is a sport combining Biathlon with Skijoring, at least four sports in one. Biathlon, itself a combination of Nordic skiing and shooting, together with Skijoring, a combination of Nordic skiing with dog mushing. The BiDitarod is Skijoring with a rifle.

Like the biathlon, the rifle is used (by the human) to shoot at stationary targets at 50 meters with a .22 caliber rifle. This is done between two and four times, depending on the length of the event. Between shootings, the human slings the gun to his back and skijors a looped course of several kilometers. For each of these Skijoring sections, the human is attached by rope to his dog, which helps pull him around the course.

But that is just three sports (skiing, shooting, mushing). To round out the event and keep the dog busy while the human shoots, the dog enters a corral stocked with rabbits. The team earns extra points for each rabbit the dog catches. The rabbits put on special helmets and pads so they are not harmed as the dog drops them into the Capture Basket. A clever dog can make up points for an inaccurate shooter, or give the human a bit more time to shoot more accurately. In Great Britain, as well as Australia and New Zealand, sheep herding is often substituted for rabbit catching. The dog that wins the most points for his partner is awarded the coveted Big Dog award.

Traditional BiDiterod events are followed by a hot meal of stewed rabbit or lamb in the Big Tent.

Enjoys long walks on beach…

broken shell in hand
carving words in firm wet sand
rising tide erased

smooth skin bronzed by sun
ever watchful lifeguard stares
only surface deep

plover scurries forth
on urgently churning legs
skirts the bounteous wave

2018/05/07 © paulGuernseyPlayer haiku

3 haiku, written after one of my “Beach Triathlon” workouts, and after reading the Introduction to

by Robert Hass

Hoping to get a deeper, more substantial grasp of what haiku was meant to be; hoping to read some true haiku, some truly good haiku and to Learn From The Masters. Really enjoyed the introduction, can’t wait to read more.

I have started work on my Poetry, a Definition series; The Final Word, but may have found something more fun than Proving Myself Correct, for now.

WordPress site “Tagline” changed to,
If you want more readers,
write better poetry and prose.

Vasa Haka

Norrut Åker Vi

We fly to catch the shining Gustav lad,
our future king, for he was right,
the Danish Prince grows soft and lies too close to France,
and now has lost his pleasure in the simple things,
the wind that moans through needled bough,
the crow that caws on high above the ridge,
the warmth of fire as night draws in with edges hard.

Norrut åker vi.

Up North, we pray to find our hearts, our souls.
Up North, where friendships still do burn,
Up North, where loyalty once owed is paid.

Norrut åker vi.

2018/02/19 © paulGuernseyPlayer haka

Here is my entry for the “Tuesday Night Poetry Reading” contest. It started out as a Haka for the “All Whites” Nordic ski team (1 member: me). It sort of evolved into an anthem for all Nordic skiers who aspire to enter VasaLoppet. It is also a “note to self” about this whole “sojourn” of mine to Northern Michigan. All Whites, because that’s the color of my ski outfit, and because I am a fan of the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team. Thus, the need for a haka. Still have to work out the dance moves. 😊

Because anyone who wants to be “unstoppable” needs a haka:

Because I’ve been working way too many hours and may be approaching the limits of sitting in one place too long. The random becomes more welcome.