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  1. #1
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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    I've had a really long streak of a 100% reliable working bike (3 or 4 months knock on wood) and have been loving the fact I can go ride, then simply hang my bike up in the garage until the next time I can ride.

    Well there is a race this weekend, so I figured that Ted deserved some attention before the big day. Upon closer inspection, I realized that have have close to 10 broken spoke nipples (split parallel to spoke). The majority of them are on the nds, with a few being on the ds. After reading around a little, it seems like aluminum nipples (mine are lbs built wheels with DT Swiss nips) might not fit the model for typical fat bike use in Wisconsin? Hard use hot and real cold weather, plus some road salt, plus large aggressive rider=fail?

    Not my pic, but illustrates exactly what I am seeingAttachment 867001

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    This is why I use brass, better corrosion resistance and durability...

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    Salt absorbs moisture from the air, that's why it eventually clumps. If you don't rinse your bike off (think I saw that in a recent thread) it may look dry but the salt will continue to corrode.

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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    Welp - guess I'll be taking a look at mine too... Were the split ones randomly spaced or was there an apparent pattern?

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    Man you save so much weight with those aluminum nipples you just have to use them!!

    There are smart things and unsmart things done with bikes. So many of the weight weenie things done are unsmart. Brass nipples FTW

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    Aluminum nipples are great....

    If you want to rebuild your wheel after a season to replace bad nipples...

    Not worth the weight savings, IMO.

    Edit: Just to clarify, I live in a city that salts the crap out of the roads, and I'm inclined to choose any of 3 bikes from the stable for the ride into work. Replacing after a season is a slight exaggeration, but I've never got more than 2 seasons out of aluminum nipples on anything that sees considerable saddle time in the winter.
    Last edited by jcaino; 02-03-2014 at 11:19 AM.
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  7. #7
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    I recently disassembled a wheel with alloy nipples so corroded that every time I tried turning the nipple to loosen, it just twisted the spokes to the point that the spokes broke.

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    The tradeoff from brass to alu is an ounce, per wheel, of perimeter rotating weight. Some care, some don't.

    I use alu nips on 100% of my personal bikes, simply because it takes 4-5 years for corrosion from salt/road schmeg to make a difference where I live and ride.

    No point in worrying about corrosion 5 years from now is the way I see it.

    That said, the cracks in the pic you attached are NOT corrosion related.

    Not sure exactly what to chalk that up to, to be honest, but my first guess would be spokes too short/not completely filling up the nip.

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    Not a weight weenie by any means fellas....and I did question my lbs on the use of alum. when he built the wheels. He said no worries, and now I am left with a wheelset that needs a rebuild, and after discussion with him, don't know that I really want to give him any more of my $$.

    There is no pattern to the issue that I can tell, and it appears that the spokes get a good amount of penetration into the nipples. I will take pics of the nips and report back.

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    Sorry to hear about it man. Will this keep you out of the race?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToastR View Post
    Sorry to hear about it man. Will this keep you out of the race?
    I don't think so, Terry was going to make me wait 2 weeks to black brass nips (to fix his error in judgment, he was prob drunk when he built up the wheels), so I gave my money to a bike shop in Cali. Nips will be here Wednesday, and Travis is going to build them up for me. But I am thinking that the root cause for the issue is spoke length, as every broken nipple had a spoke that seamed to not have many threads into the nipple. 263mm is stated to be optimal for my Rolling Darryl and Hope hub. I will have to see how far off his calculations were.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    Not a weight weenie by any means fellas....and I did question my lbs on the use of alum. when he built the wheels. He said no worries, and now I am left with a wheelset that needs a rebuild, and after discussion with him, don't know that I really want to give him any more of my $$.
    Any LBS, with a mechanic worth his salt, would rebuild them free of charge assuming that they are in good condition as it is. I've built wheels for 10 years and guarantee all my wheels from failure. Additionally, if this is a discussion that you had with him and he assured you, I'd hope that he would fix it.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    There is no pattern to the issue that I can tell, and it appears that the spokes get a good amount of penetration into the nipples. I will take pics of the nips and report back.
    The reason that the nipples are cracking like that is that aluminum, as far as materials go, is strong, but brittle. The breaking strength is around 1200Nm, where as Brass is in the 2000-2100 range. Most production wheels that use aluminum wheels are built on a machine that gets them to essentially just before the breaking point, same with mountain. With hand-built wheels, that can be more carefully regulated. They're ok for mountain wheels as long as they aren't going to take a beating (XC, light mountain biking, etc) but not designed for the stuff that most of us try to put our fat bikes through. Yes, there is a weight penalty, but as my roadie friend says, take a **** before you ride, you'll make up for the 2.5 ounces you added with wheels that are going to last. My philosophy is always do it right, and do it once. If you build wheels as a disposable, they are going to ride like a disposable, and you'll end up disappointed.

    EDIT: Looks like there was a reply while I was typing my novel over here. Glad you're getting it fixed, and yes, sometimes we get drunk and build wheels... it happens to the best of us.
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    panda, thanks for the insight, I am hoping he carries the same thoughts you do regarding the wheelset. I had him build me a set for my mtnbike, which was the best Chris King had to offer, and FlowEX. He knows I am a big dude who rides fairly aggressive.

    I took a spoke out and measured it (from the start of the inside of the bend to the very end of the spoke), and came up with just a smidge over 260mm. Thing is that I went with the WHITE DT Swiss Comp spokes, which are ****ING expensive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    panda, thanks for the insight, I am hoping he carries the same thoughts you do regarding the wheelset. I had him build me a set for my mtnbike, which was the best Chris King had to offer, and FlowEX. He knows I am a big dude who rides fairly aggressive.

    I took a spoke out and measured it (from the start of the inside of the bend to the very end of the spoke), and came up with just a smidge over 260mm. Thing is that I went with the WHITE DT Swiss Comp spokes, which are ****ING expensive.
    Ah, big dude + aggressive riding = cracked nipples every time, it's an unfortunate truth. Even at cost those things are OUTRAGEOUS, I priced some out for a guy today...and proceeded to just laugh because they were so much. I hope he gets you squared away and doesn't hassle you about it. If not, let me know, I'll build you some wheels myself.
    do it right, or do it twice....

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    Slightly OT, I had an old Cross bike that needed new rims. So I bought the exact rim as it's replacement and decided to do brass spokes (I don't actually remember why I made this decision as I don't build wheels all that often.) In the process of building said wheels I was quite surprised at the brittle nature of the allow nipples. We don't salt the roads, but even with a little oil, I would bet half the nipples broke before I could get them completely off the spoke. Kinda elementary, but an ah-ha moment for me.....

  16. #16
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    I prefer brass.
    I like turtles

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    They're ok for mountain wheels as long as they aren't going to take a beating (XC, light mountain biking, etc) but not designed for the stuff that most of us try to put our fat bikes through.
    This is one of, if not *the* most, ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm truly laughing out loud, while shaking my head in disbelief! Where do people like you get this, um, "information"?

    I have alloy nips on all of my bikes. All of them. DH, trail, cross country, fat, single speed. I've been riding and racing for 25+ years. Know how many nip failures I've had in the last 25 years?

    Zero.

    But perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Perhaps *you* might take a half step back and give some context to the quoted statement above?



    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    My philosophy is always do it right, and do it once. If you build wheels as a disposable, they are going to ride like a disposable, and you'll end up disappointed.
    Until you provide some context to this statement, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. I'd like to assume that you aren't calling alloy nips disposable, but it kind of sounds like you are.

    Your turn,

    MC

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    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    Ah, big dude + aggressive riding = cracked nipples every time, it's an unfortunate truth.
    Your credibility is more or less in the toilet already, and yet you keep digging yourself deeper into this hole.

    Big dude + aggressive riding = happy dude. That's about the only "truth" that is guaranteed in that scenario.

    Alu nips work fine for bigger dudes riding as hard as they want to. Perhaps it's time you pointed the finger at yourself?

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    mikesee, before you get too heated and relate my username with bad feelings, I need your help. I am about 90% sure my wheelbuilder selected the wrong length spokes or built the wheels wrong, as all of the broken nips had spokes the were 2-3mm (down in the hole aka not flush).

    170mm 9zero7
    Hope Pro 2 rear hub Rolling Darryl
    9zero7 front hub Rolling Darryl

    Hook a brother up with spoke calcs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    mikesee, before you get too heated and relate my username with bad feelings, I need your help. I am about 90% sure my wheelbuilder selected the wrong length spokes or built the wheels wrong, as all of the broken nips had spokes the were 2-3mm (down in the hole aka not flush).

    170mm 9zero7
    Hope Pro 2 rear hub Rolling Darryl
    9zero7 front hub Rolling Darryl

    Hook a brother up with spoke calcs?
    I don't have the dims for the 907 front, but for the rear I would use 263 on both sides. That's a 3x build.

  21. #21
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    I'm no Mikesee but off the top of my head, I think you need 263 both sides on the front and 266 non drive rear and 264 drive side rear.
    I can check for certain when I get home.

    Edit: OOps... Sorry. I reread it and see you're looking for specs for a 170 hub.

    Edit again at 10:00 pm... Johnshonda, Home checking my notes...
    Darryl on a 170mm Hope, 263 both sides, Darryl on a front 907, 262 both sides.
    I gotta stop trying to remember spoke lengths.
    Last edited by NYrr496; 02-04-2014 at 07:00 PM.
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  22. #22
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    Re: Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    I had my lbs build me a set of Marge Lites, and they used aluminum nipples. They pretty much suck. I'm going to have to take them back and have them rebuilt with brass. The alu nips are deforming under stress and looks like they're about to pop any second. I'll have another bike built with alu nipples, let alone a fat bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    This is one of, if not *the* most, ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm truly laughing out loud, while shaking my head in disbelief! Where do people like you get this, um, "information"?

    I have alloy nips on all of my bikes. All of them. DH, trail, cross country, fat, single speed. I've been riding and racing for 25+ years. Know how many nip failures I've had in the last 25 years?

    Zero.

    But perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Perhaps *you* might take a half step back and give some context to the quoted statement above?





    Until you provide some context to this statement, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. I'd like to assume that you aren't calling alloy nips disposable, but it kind of sounds like you are.
    Keep it classy dude, "people like me" might have something viable to say if you dont' jump to judgement right away.

    I'm not saying that al nipples are disposable, I'm not saying you haven't had good luck with them, and I'm not saying that they haven't worked for you. Aluminum nipples are more prone to shearing, that's scientific fact, as it's a more brittle material. I'm glad you're wheels have worked well for you, clearly it's not working for everyone. I've built a lot of wheels, as in I do it professionally, and it's what I've learned from experience. Do I build wheels with alloy nips, sure, just not high-tension wheels. The context for that quote is exactly what I said earlier, alloy is more brittle than brass, doesn't deform like brass, and therefore fails. I'm not attacking anyone, or saying your wrong for it. I've ridden alloy on my DH as well, and with that wheelset, haven't had any breaks, and that's awesome. Depends on how you ride, how big you are, etc. There are more than just alloy vs. brass considerations when building wheels.
    do it right, or do it twice....

  24. #24
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    I've built a lot of fat wheels this season. Almost all of them had aluminum nipples. They built up fine and so far, are lasting fine. Haven't had one wheel come back.
    For ME however, I used brass nipples on my rear wheel and aluminum on the front.
    I originally started staying away from alloy nips when I kept breaking them on my 08 Stumpjumper. I was blaming the nipples being weak as the problem.
    Now that I know more about wheels and how to properly build them, I understand that it was more likely poor build quality. My bikeshop boss is 230 pounds and only uses alloy nipples and never has a failure.
    Next set of wheels I build for my Stumpy will probably employ aluminum nipples on Comps. We'll see how it goes.
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    NY - way to figure out what works for YOU! Clearly people have different schools of thought, and have different things that work. I think it has a lot to do with what you're riding in as well as how you ride.
    do it right, or do it twice....

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by masta_panda View Post
    NY - way to figure out what works for YOU! Clearly people have different schools of thought, and have different things that work. I think it has a lot to do with what you're riding in as well as how you ride.
    For sure. Fullies and fatbikes with low pressure are certainly a little easier on nipples.
    I'm also a fairly smooth rider.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    That said, the cracks in the pic you attached are NOT corrosion related.
    I won't enter into the aluminum/brass dispute but I would like to follow up on the above statement by adding this picture.
    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?-nip2.jpg
    Notice the fine coating of pulverized aluminum dust on the rim around the nipples. And on the base of my truing stand.

    And for your reading pleasure; crevice corrosion.
    Aluminium's corrosion resistance - Aluminium Design

    Nice little diagram with the crevice corrosion explanation in this one.
    Corrosion of Aluminum and Its Alloys: Forms of Corrosion :: Total Materia Article

  28. #28
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    Excellent discussion here. I gather that some believe aluminum to be inferior to brass. Of course, saying as much brings on an internet argument.

    Bully! Good show!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traktor View Post
    Excellent discussion here. I gather that some believe aluminum to be inferior to brass. Of course, saying as much brings on an internet argument.

    Bully! Good show!

    Brass does have a longer fatigue life than aluminum, that's just science. Sounds like we need a metalurgist up in here.

    Look, no disrespect to all the wheel builders here, but the MTBF for aluminum is way shorter than that of brass.

    Science, how does it work?
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcaino View Post
    Science, how does it work?
    You have to apply it specifically to the problem being discussed.

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    Thought this was more about road salt and it's effects on aluminum spoke nipples?
    '

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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    Questions for the experts on aluminum nipples:

    Why does DT Swiss include aluminum nipples for free with their spokes but charges for brass?

    Why were aluminum nipples ever developed in the first place? What problem did aluminum nipples solve?

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    maybe brand specific? ive used alu nips from DT on all my wheels (except enve ones) for so long now i cant even remember and I have never had a problem except ONCE when the spoke didnt fill the nipple and they sheared. i use spoke prep, and the bikes DONT sit wet persistently, though i live in scotland where most every ride is a wet one...dunno...

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by dRjOn View Post
    maybe brand specific? ive used alu nips from DT on all my wheels (except enve ones) for so long now i cant even remember and I have never had a problem except ONCE when the spoke didnt fill the nipple and they sheared. i use spoke prep, and the bikes DONT sit wet persistently, though i live in scotland where most every ride is a wet one...dunno...
    A very good point. I refuse to use anything other than DT nips--based largely on a few experiences in the last 10 years where customers wanted a matchy color that DT didn't make. The resulting builds saw some of the nips failing before the wheels were at final tension.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adroit Rider View Post
    Why were aluminum nipples ever developed in the first place? What problem did aluminum nipples solve?
    They can be anodized pretty colors.
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  36. #36
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    I had my aluminum alloy dt swiss nipples corrode into powder in one year of commuting.
    Some of the de-icers used in the Midwest are absolutely terrible. I would never use alloy nipples on anything that sees the roads around here in the winter again . I replaced my wife's car wheels on her car because the were no longer safe from the corrosion. Just because someone never had any problems in there geographic location doesn't make it a non issue. Brass for the win .
    I am slow therefore I am

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    I had the rear spoke measured and it was 261, which appears to be 2mm short of optimal. I did notice the the nds spokes appear to be shorter also, as more threads are visible below the nipple.

    Now its time for that awkward talk with the lbs.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burnt-Orange View Post
    I had my aluminum alloy dt swiss nipples corrode into powder in one year of commuting.
    Some of the de-icers used in the Midwest are absolutely terrible. I would never use alloy nipples on anything that sees the roads around here in the winter again . I replaced my wife's car wheels on her car because the were no longer safe from the corrosion. Just because someone never had any problems in there geographic location doesn't make it a non issue. Brass for the win .
    No argument whatsoever. Any bike used for commuting, pretty much anywhere, is going to see lots of road schmeg that's going to wreak havoc on more than just the wheels.

    But that's commuting.

    As this is a mountain bike forum, I was discussing mountain bike use. Like, on trails. As such I stand by what I've written.

  39. #39
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    I thought this was a fat bike forum ... sorry if I am doing it wrong
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adroit Rider View Post
    Questions for the experts on aluminum nipples:

    Why does DT Swiss include aluminum nipples for free with their spokes but charges for brass?

    Why were aluminum nipples ever developed in the first place? What problem did aluminum nipples solve?
    Where are you getting your DT stuff from? It depends on the spokes as well, If I order straight gauge Champ spokes (2.0 usually) they come with brass. If I order Double/Triple/Bladed they come with Alu. I think the mentality there is that people who are trying to shed weight there will want lighter nips as well, as the rotational mass is less, which really is what matters, not the overall weight, though that is a factor as well. Alu was originally developed, from what I understand, because of the lesser rotational mass. Someone else please chime in with more info if they have specifics, I'd like to hear more about it as well.
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    Well I have to give props to my buddy who was able to make time in his very busy schedule to fix the lbs mistakes.

    He must have added some go juice the wheel, cuz we got first place in the 2 person team powderkeg race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    Well I have to give props to my buddy who was able to make time in his very busy schedule to fix the lbs mistakes.

    He must have added some go juice the wheel, cuz we got first place in the 2 person team powderkeg race.
    Sweet wish I could have been there. A friend of mine finished 4th in a solo and his wife took first, not sure of the cats.

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    Nice. His wife on a Borealis? There were some really fast guys in the top 5. On the first lap the leader was 4 minutes ahead of me, but part of that difference was they didn't have to put up with the traffic jams as a result of very difficult trail conditions.

    Had a blast, and even though the trails started out good, they quickly became very difficult as the race went on.

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    She must have done a different cat, she was on a white pugs.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    This is one of, if not *the* most, ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm truly laughing out loud, while shaking my head in disbelief! Where do people like you get this, um, "information"?

    I have alloy nips on all of my bikes. All of them. DH, trail, cross country, fat, single speed. I've been riding and racing for 25+ years. Know how many nip failures I've had in the last 25 years?

    Zero.

    But perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Perhaps *you* might take a half step back and give some context to the quoted statement above?

    Until you provide some context to this statement, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. I'd like to assume that you aren't calling alloy nips disposable, but it kind of sounds like you are.

    Your turn,

    MC

    The inherent problem I've encountered, as a mechanic, user, etc, is that while you can get aluminum nipples to nice fine tension right off the bat, any re-tensioning that is required down the road due to an impact or the wheel going out of true becomes extremely difficult and can round out or break the nipples. Their increased propensity to seize just compounds the matter. This problem is mainly due to the difference in ultimate strength. Usually in these situations brass would be just fine. You will no longer have "even tension" all the way around the wheel, but it's just what's needed to keep a wheel round under those circumstances. They can be used for all those applications you mentioned, they just aren't as flexible in the long run and when the wheel has to be "revisited", problems sometimes occur.

    This is not to say that I wouldn't build a standard (not I-9, etc) wheel with aluminum nipples for myself, but I'd have a hard time recommending it to anyone based on my experiences working on wheels for customers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    She must have done a different cat, she was on a white pugs.
    There were a few females there, maybe I was confused. Shorter brunette with a little bit rounder face? 5'4" ish? I was there for all the awards, her was announced a few before ours.

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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    Nice. His wife on a Borealis? There were some really fast guys in the top 5. On the first lap the leader was 4 minutes ahead of me, but part of that difference was they didn't have to put up with the traffic jams as a result of very difficult trail conditions.

    Had a blast, and even though the trails started out good, they quickly became very difficult as the race went on.
    Congrats man - strong work! How many bikes were out there? Any idea? Who'd you team up with?

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToastR View Post
    Congrats man - strong work! How many bikes were out there? Any idea? Who'd you team up with?
    I think there were 75? My cousin came over from Green Bay to race. You should go ride it tomorrow to get an idea of how it went down. Trails broke down pretty quick, Ant Hill was hike-a-bike, and the rest of the single track turned into a tire width rut by the 3rd lap. HAD AN ABSOLUTE BLAST.

  49. #49
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    Aluminum Nipples & The Fat Bike Life Don't Mix?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    I think there were 75? My cousin came over from Green Bay to race. You should go ride it tomorrow to get an idea of how it went down. Trails broke down pretty quick, Ant Hill was hike-a-bike, and the rest of the single track turned into a tire width rut by the 3rd lap. HAD AN ABSOLUTE BLAST.
    Awesome. Glad you had fun!

  50. #50
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    I'm going to apply a drop of Boeshield T-9 to each and every one of my alloy nipples, a few at a time when they are down between ~5 and 7 o'clock, so that the T-9 has a chance to dry before I rotate the wheel. Hopefully, this will help to prevent salt from building up in the threads, causing corrosion.
    My bike is still under construction, about 70% done. Hit an impasse, waiting for a part and a tool to arrive. The weather here has gotten uglier, cold and rainy. I'm hiding out indoors.

    I might have to make a ritual out of using something like Salt Away when I'm rinsing off my bike after riding the beach.

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