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    Otso Journal

    Introducing Fenrir

    The Otso Fenrir is a ride-anywhere bike for bikepacking races and afternoon adventures alike. It can be built with drop bars or with MTB bars and both selections are available as stock build options. A tire clearance of 29” x 2.6” or 27.5” x 2.8” keeps the Fenrir rolling on rough terrain, while extra frame and fork braze-ons are ready to carry gear for days or weeks on the trail. Like all Otso bikes, the Fenrir has adjustable geometry via the patented Tuning Chip rear dropout system that makes the bike as adaptable as its rider.

    While all Otso bikes are known for their versatility, the Fenrir might be the most versatile yet. It was designed to accommodate drop bars with a 50mm stem or MTB bars with an 80mm stem. The ability to build the Fenrir with different handlebar styles allows the rider to customize the bike to their riding style. When built with drop bars, the Fenrir rides like a gravel bike with extra helpings of capability and confidence. With MTB bars, the Fenrir is lively, fast, and rides like a capable 90s XC bike. Both configurations are meant to ride any road or trail on the map and carry all the gear necessary to get there.

    The Fenrir frame is made with custom-butted austenitic stainless steel for a smooth ride and corrosion resistance. It is available in five sizes, from XS to XL. Build it with gears or single speed, with either mechanical or electronic geared drivetrains. The Fenrir has a head tube angle of 68º, a seat tube angle of 75º, boost spacing, and 88mm of trail. It comes stock with a carbon ENVE Mountain Fork that has three-pack mounts on either side and a reversible dropout chip for adjustable rake. The Fenrir can accept a suspension fork with up to 100mm of travel, has routing for a cable-actuated dropper post, and has rack and fender mounts.. All build options, from handlebar type, to wheel size, to tires, to drivetrain, to anodized color accents and more can be selected on the custom bike builder.

    Present on all Otso bikes is the Tuning Chip rear dropout system, which allows the rider to adjust the bike’s geometry. This is essentially a dropout with three fixed positions. The Tuning Chip can change the wheelbase by up to 20mm, the bottom bracket height by up to 4mm, and the head tube angle by 0.2º. The front position is made for agile handling on winding trails, with a shorter wheelbase, higher bottom bracket, and steeper head tube angle. The back position of the Tuning Chip is made for a stable, confident ride on sketchy terrain, with a longer wheelbase, lower button bracket, and head tube angle with more slack. Changing positions of the Tuning Chip takes 5-10 minutes and can be done in a home workshop.

    The Fenrir is available as a frameset and a complete build that can get started here, as well as with Otso dealers.

    Heck of the North 2021

    Everything comes back to timing. Calendars, clocks, watches, and luck. If this year’s Heck of the North were held 24 hours earlier, we would’ve spent the day riding through autumn rain on sloppy roads and ATV trails. Instead, we were treated to hard, packed gravel and ideal weather by anyone’s definition for bikes, fall colors, type-two fun.

    Heck of the North is an event we look forward to every year. It’s held near Two Harbors, Minnesota on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Fall can come early in this part of the state. Past years experienced frosty tents in the morning, rain, sleet, and sometimes even snow. But this year, weather timing lined up and fall colors were paired with cool temps and partly sunny skies.

    The event has three distances: 100 miles, 50 miles, and 20 miles. Riders select their distance based on their ambition. Some choose to race against others, some choose to race against their personal clocks, and some choose to slow roll the course for a 100-, 50-, or 20-mile party with friends. There’s no wrong way (or right way) to enjoy gravel.

    A big draw for Heck of the North is the fall colors. The courses combine gravel roads with ATV trails with some technical sections to keep riders on their toes. Brilliant orange and red maples are mixed with golden birches and evergreens under blue skies for a spectacular show. It’s a challenge just to keep your eyes on the trail with scenery like this. Peak leaf in this part of Minnesota is typically early October. Barring the Gales of November coming early and blowing away every last leaf, a race in late September is perfect for the best fall colors. Again with timing.

    Fortunately for everyone who wasn’t able to ride (or those who were too focused on their computers to enjoy the course), we’ve got lots of photos from the day. We worked with photographer Evan Frost to tell the story of Heck of the North 2021 in photos.

    View and download photos here: https://otsocycles.pixieset.com/heckofthenorth2021/

    Use password ‘otso’ for access. Images are free to download. Please credit @efrostee and tag #HeckOfTheNorth if you post on Instagram.

    Thanks to all Heck riders, their families/support crews, and spectators for keeping things fun and friendly on the course. Thanks to volunteers for making this experience possible. And thanks to Jeremy Kershaw and Heck of the North Productions for creating an event that shows the very best of Minnesota cycling. We hope timing works out and that we can do it all again with everyone next year.



    Shop Tour of Wolf Tooth & Otso Cycles

    In this Wolf Tooth & Otso Cycles aerial shop tour, we are telling the story of the Wolf Tooth ReMote Dropper Lever making its way from engineering to machining, lasering, assembly, shipping, and finally to its recipient. Along the way, you get to see the facility and our staff, and finish by checking out the Otso Cycles space.

    Read more

    Sonoran Desert Scouting

     

    Spring 2021 rolled around and I found myself itching to get back on my bike for a little tour. The ongoing pandemic had all but smashed my plans (like everyone else’s) for long tours outside of my home state. The lockdown and stay at home orders prompted Spencer, my partner, to see what he could link up around Tucson. We scouted the first edition of this route together in March 2020 and I found out that scouting can be extremely frustrating. Let’s just say it involved some very steep climbs out of dead ends in the hot desert sun. No thanks. Eventually, the route’s kinks were worked out and the Babad Do’ag Backroads was born.

     

     

    My friends and I volunteered to be the guinea pigs of this route. It was late March and the temperatures were already climbing to the mid/high 80s during the day. We all packed at least 6 to 8 liters of water per person and most of us decided to cowboy camp (no tent, just a pad and sleeping bag). The route was originally running counterclockwise which would mean a big climb up Reddington pass. None of us wanted to do this climb. It’s steep, there are lots of 4x4s and jeeps that dust you out, and it just wasn’t the way we wanted to start this route. My friend Brittne and I both had to work on the Friday we wanted to start the route, so we decided to meet Monique, Dani and Abbie at the first camp spot along a powerline road. Long story short, darkness descended on us a lot faster than we anticipated and we camped about 2 miles away from our friends. The night was filled with coyote howls, owls hooting their hearts out and a big full moon that gave the saguaros an eerie glow.

     

     

    In the morning, we watched and waited underneath the sparse and prickly palo verde trees for our friends. Brittne and I wandered a bit and stumbled upon a cattle trough filled with clean water. This is like finding a treasure chest in the desert! We filled our bottles and returned to our posts. We then heard a rumbling in the distance followed by a parade of side by sides cruising down the road. Their Trump and “Biden Sucks” flags whipped in the wind as they sped by us. My eyes rolled out of my head and across the desert. Brittne and I exchanged laughs over the ridiculousness and crossed our fingers our friends would be able to navigate around the caravan of idiots safely.

     

     

    At around 10am, tiny dots descending the chunky gravel road told me it was time to start hooting and hollering. Our friends had made it! We greeted each other with hugs and high fives. Monique, Dani and Abbie were all in consensus that the control road they had ridden that morning needed to be taken out of the route, because why do unnecessary hard shit if there’s an easier-ish way that’s only adding a couple miles? We all hopped back on our bikes and prepared for the long climb up the backside of Mt. Lemmon to Peppersauce Campground and then Oracle. The climb was grueling as we pedaled past scorched cactus from the fires the previous summer. Green plants were sprinkled in here and there, reminding me that the desert is truly resilient despite the harsh conditions. Some of the valleys were completely untouched by the fire and boasted tall yuccas reaching towards the sky with extended shoots. We stopped every now and then to sit in the shade, sip water and recharge.

     

     

    We finally reached Peppersauce Campground and raced towards the water spouts on a well earned descent. Peppersauce Campground looks like something out of a fairytale. Trees as tall as houses produce shade for grass and flowers to bloom underneath them. It looks very much out of place in the Sonoran desert, but it is gladly welcomed. The water spigot was not producing water the weekend we decided to go (an investigation by Spencer found that they had not paid their water bill so they had been cut off), so we had to ask some folks for water. After we filled up, we basically flew down the mountain. The sun was setting and turned the mountains surrounding us deep shades of pink and purple just as we reached the AZT. We camped along a sandy wash that night, drinking tea and finding animal bones.

     

     

    The next morning, we rolled into Oracle and stopped at the Oracle Patio Cafe for food and coffee. I highly recommend any pastries and goodies from this heaven on earth. After eating my weight in pastry and questioning if I would be able to ride the remaining 55 miles, we set off down the highway to get to the Honeybee Loop and then the bike trail leading into town. I don’t think I pedaled a single time on that road. It was 15 miles of the wind in my hair as I sped past wildflowers blooming from the pavement. Honeybee Loop is some of the best singletrack in Tucson that is fully loaded bike friendly. We all had a blast ripping down the little hills and passing some surprised mountain bikers. Once we entered the city limits, we all started breaking off in our own ways to head home. In-n-Out was the only thing keeping my legs moving in circles as I pedaled into my driveway.

     

     

    If you find yourself down South and anywhere near Tucson with a bicycle, this route is a great way to see the landscape without having to travel too far away from an airport. It has Saguaros, desert critters, chunky gravel and long descents into the sunset. Definitely check out Spencer’s write up on the Radavist for more details and recommendations. Safe riding!

     

    Bikepacking Roots releases the 600-mile Northwoods Route

    A new bikepacking route in our backyard was just shared by the good folks at Bikepacking Roots. Otso is a presenting sponsor of this new Northwoods Route alongside Shimano because this part of the world is special to us, as we spend a lot of time riding the dirt near Lake Superior. The press release from Bikepacking Roots is below.


    September 12, 2021: Bikepacking Roots has released the long-awaited Northwoods Route, a 600-mile-long circumnavigation of the western half of Lake Superior through northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Following primarily gravel roads, relatively smooth two-tracks, rail trails, and short sections of pavement through thick forests and along countless lakes of all sizes, this loop has been created to be inviting to riders on both mountain or gravel bikes. And for riders looking for more technical riding opportunities - loaded or unloaded - along the way, the route includes singletrack alternates and trail networks in route communities along the way. The loop is closed by utilizing the passenger ferries that travel to Isle Royale National Park to cross Lake Superior (note that bikes are not allowed on any of the trails on Isle Royale!).

    Each of the three states along the route offers unique landscapes and riding experiences, from the cobbly beaches and cliff lines of Minnesota, to the heavily eroded ancient mountain belts of Michigan, to the glaciated and remote countryside of northern Wisconsin. Small towns along all these segments offer regular resupply and lodging opportunities.

    Singletrack alternates along the route include the 43-mile-long Duluth Traverse, the relatively new Jackpot Trail near Tofte, Minnesota (with more trail construction coming soon), and some of the most popular trails in the CAMBA trail system near Cable, Wisconsin. A dozen additional mountain bike trail networks along the route provide many more opportunities for singletrack riding.

    “This was an especially rewarding route to create,” says Kurt Refsnider, Bikepacking Roots’ Executive Director and lead route developer. “I grew up in Minnesota and rode and hiked extensively in the Northwoods, and I had ambitions to do some bike tours in the region before I moved away. That never happened, but now we’ve been able to create an amazing route for others to experience and learn about the region by bike.”

    In the summer and fall of 2020, several dozen members of Bikepacking Roots’ volunteer Route Test Team test rode sections of the route and alternative alignments to provide feedback and help refine the loop to provide the best possible riding experience. These riders also helped identify cyclist-friendly businesses along the route to include in the route guidebook.

    In order to make trip planning as easy as possible and to help riders more deeply connect to the landscapes through which they ride, Bikepacking Roots has also developed a 70-page guidebook for the Northwoods Route. In addition to providing all pertinent logistical details, educational chapters explore the region’s geology, forest ecology, the recovery of the gray wolf, and the story of the world-class CAMBA trail system in northern Wisconsin. The introductory chapter by Alexandera Houchin, bikepacker and member of the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, shares her perspective on her homeland and the treaties through which that land was ceded to the U.S. Government.  

    More information about the Northwoods Route, the digital navigation and waypoint data, and the full 70-page route guidebook (in both e-book and print formats) are available on Bikepacking Roots’ website. Development of the Northwoods Route was made possible with support from Bikepacking Roots’ members and from Otso Cycles and Shimano, companies that both believe in the transformative power of bike adventures. 

    Bikepacking Roots is the only 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, growing a diverse bikepacking community, advocating for the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride, and creating professional routes. The organization values human-powered adventure and an inclusive, engaged, and informed membership that makes a positive impact as we explore by bike.