This post is geared towards those individuals who are planning to build up a complete snowbike from a Mukluk frameset. The intent is to let you know what parts the Mukluk frame requires to get it rolling, and also to let you know what component options are available to you.
From a snow bike perspective, the Mukluk uses mostly standard-issue parts, configured and installed in a straightforward way (no required offsets, etc.) With the exception of the front derailleur mount, all the components used to build the frame into a complete bicycle are currently available in some form or another from various manufacturers.
If you don't realize the intricacies implied by that last sentence I urge you to have your local shop help you out with the build. Snowbikes are a slightly different breed than a typical mountain bike and require some special parts and extra knowledge about how things fit together to get everything to play nice with the big wide tires. If this does not intimidate you, or you already know what I'm talking about, then grab a beverage and your reading glasses, because this is a long post.
Let's start with what's inside the box. There should be three items:
1. Mukluk Frame w/ Lip-Lock Seat Collar and Rear Derailleur Hanger
2. Enabler Fork
3. Problem Solvers Direct High Mount Front Derailleur Clamp (more on this later)
If you are missing something, first check the box and the packaging. If you still are having trouble, contact the shop you got your frameset from. If you are a shop reading this, it's time to call Salsa.
On to the easy stuff: for starters, here is a list of ‘standard issue’ mountain bike components you will need. There is nothing special or unique here. This stuff is no more difficult or tedious to pick out for a Mukluk build than for any bike build:
Headset: Standard 1-1/8” threadless
Stem: Anything 1-1/8” threadless compatible
Seatpost: Any 27.2mm diameter seatpost (but a long 400mm post may be necessary because of the extremely sloped toptube)
Collar: Lip-Lock is included, but incase you are interested in switching over to a QR style, you will want to order a 32.0mm size Flip-Off collar
Handlebar: Whatever works with your chosen stem and riding style
Shifters: Anything compatible with your bars and in the speed you want. We feel twist shifters offer an advantage over paddle shifters when wearing big, bulky gloves
Rear Derailleur: Whatever works with your chosen rear shifter
Cassette: Any standard Shimano/SRAM-spline cassette in the speed that works with your chosen shifter
Grips: Whatever works given your bar diameter and shifter choices
Saddle: Your preference here
Pedals: We like flat pedals and warm snow boots, but run what ever you brung! Some folks stay clipped in all winter
Front Brake*: Mountain Disc, Front, Standard 51mm I.S. front mounting
Rear Brake*: Mountain Disc, Rear, Standard 51mm I.S rear mounting.
* A quick note regarding brakes: The viscosity of both DOT Fluid and Mineral Oil are affected by cold temperature. Mineral Oil can freeze around -22F, where DOT will not freeze until -60F or so. DOT fluid is better choice if you plan to use hydraulic brakes AND go out when it’s REALLY, REALLY cold. Mechanical brakes don't have fluid, so they are not affected by temperature like a hydraulic brake. For fairness of conversation though, moisture (melted snow from brake heat) can sometimes build up around the caliper and/or housing cable exit and freeze the brake. Likewise, overflow, or any water for that matter, has the potential to freeze a caliper in sufficient conditions. There is no solution that is 100% guaranteed not to somehow freeze up.
So that covers the standard issue stuff. Also don't forget some headset spacers. Now let’s jump into the more snowbike specific components:
Bottom Bracket and Cranks: The Mukluk's bottom bracket shell is 100mm wide, and therefore requires a bottom bracket designed to be fitted in a 100mm wide shell. Additionally, the crankset either needs to also be compatible with 100mm wide shells (if the spindle is attached to it) – or – it needs to be compatible with the spline/spindle interface of the BB.
BB = FSA and TruVativ both make a 100mm wide ISIS BB’s
Cranks = Any ISIS-spline mountain crank will work with this bottom bracket style
BB = This is a TruVativ proprietary spline, and it is offered in a 100mm wide version
Cranks = TruVativ Blaze, Ruktion, Hussefelt and Holzfeller cranks are compatible with this spline type
JIS Square Taper
BB = Phil Wood offers a very nice 100mm wide square taper BB with a Ti spindle
Cranks = Any JIS square taper crankset made in the last 20-30 years should work with this BB. Considering many people/shops have an old set of square taper cranks lying around, the total cost of a Phil Wood BB and square taper cranks can be just as affordable if not cheaper than any of the other mentioned crank/bb combinations.
BB = Hollowtech II, X-Type, etc. This is the outboard style BB cup to be used with 24mm spindle cranks. King, Hope, Shimano, Race Face, as well as several other companies make this style BB. There are currently a lot of options in every price range
Cranks = Surly Mr. Whirly
This is a BB/Crank combination offered by E.13 (The Hive) in a 100mm width that uses an over-sized 30mm spindle with a really trick 3-sided polygon spindle interface on the cranks and comes with a matching outboard bearing style BB
As you can see, there are several options for BB’s and cranks. The main thing to remember is:
1. 100mm BB shell width
2. BB and crank interface are compatible
Front Derailleur: The goal for the front derailleur on the Mukluk was to offer a solution that allowed users to have options. Current solutions for front derailleur mounting on 100mm wide BB/Cranks has been limited to E-Type and E2 (direct E-type) front derailleurs. This was limited to mainly two Shimano models. For the Mukluk, we partnered with Problem Solvers to offer a Direct High Mount Bracket that clamps to the frame’s seat tube and allows the use of any high direct mount front derailleur.
Problem Solvers Direct High Mount Bracket
Shimano currently offers SLX, XT, and XTR front derailleurs in this style and SRAM offers X7, X9, X0, and XX. Both companies also offer a mix of 3x and 2x in these models. There are just 2 key things to remember for proper front derailleur compatibility:
1. Direct High Mount
Wheels: Wheels are the defining feature of snow bikes. Wide rims and huge tires work together to provide excellent floatation on soft surfaces. There are currently a couple different approaches to wheels. Some snow bikes use non-offset (symmetrical) built wheels with wide hubs and traditional straight frames, and others use standard size hubs built into an offset wheel, which is paired to an offset frame. In either case, the end result is the same: Move the cassette outboard on the right side to line up with the 100mm wide BB/crankset. Done correctly, this should ensure the chain will not hit the tire through the full range of gear use.
The Mukluk uses a non-offset (symmetrical) design. The frame is designed to take a non-offset rear wheel built around a 170mm O.L.D. hub. The front fork is designed to take a non-offset front wheel built around a 135mm O.L.D. hub. Another thing to note about the front wheel it the Enabler fork takes a 135mm rear disc hub, but uses a front disc brake caliper and mount. Some other snowbikes do this differently, using a rear hub and a rear brake for the front wheel, or a front brake and custom 'front' 135mm hub.
Why did we choose a rear disc hub and front brake caliper?
We chose rear disc hub compatibility because there is a pile of good, affordable 135mm singlespeed disc hubs available, and in a pinch, any old 135mm rear disc hub with a freehub body will work. There is a ‘front 135’ hub standard that uses 100mm front hub disc alignment, but there are very few hub options for this, and they are very expensive.
We chose a front brake mount style because brakes are sold in front/rear sets for both aftermarket and OE purposes. Often a set is slightly cheaper than singles. Additionally, some people will transfer brakes from another bike they already have, or pull a set out of the parts bin in the garage. This allows a direct mount up. With the rear-rear system, you need to obtain an extra rear brake mount to get the front brake to work nicely.
With the Enabler system, the fork does all the work. Any common 135mm rear hub will work, and any common front disc brake will work. Now back to components…
Since rim and tire options are the same front or rear, I’ll speak about the hubs first, and then about rims and tires after.
Front Hub/Wheel: As mentioned above, The Enabler fork is designed to use a rear 135mm disc hub. The key thing here is ‘rear’. Any rear singlespeed disc hub is a great option. These are very common, and come in a wide range of prices, qualities, and colors. There are far too many 135mm rear hubs available than we can possibly name, just remember they need to be rear 135mm hubs.
Rear Hub/Wheel: The Mukluk frame is designed to use a 170mm rear disc hub, or a 135mm rear disc hub with 17.5mm offset build, in conjunction with the Salsa 35mm space-out kit. The 170mm rear disc hub lets you build a stronger, zero dish rear wheel. The 135mm rear disc hub option is a viable alternative however and the offset rear wheel has proven itself for several years now.
Salsa recommends use of the 170mm rear hub with the Mukluk if you are building from scratch, but we also understand that snowbike wheels are extremely expensive. The space-out option is designed to give current offset snowbike wheel owners another option, or enable someone who cannot procure a 170mm rear hub an alternative.
Current 170mm hubs we are aware of:
Salsa Mukluk Quick-Release Hub – Made by Formula
Fatback Quick-Release– Made by Hadley
Fatback Import Quick-Release
Fatback Import Bolt-On
Phil Wood Custom Disc
Sturmey Archer SX-RK3 3-Speed Internal
Choppers US – offer several very low price 170mm disc hubs but only in singlespeed configuration
Current 135mm hub options:
Once again there are far too many rear options than we can list.
Rims: The Mukluk frame and Enabler fork both have enough clearance for 4” tires mounted to 100mm rims. There are several rim options. For your front wheel you will need non-offset drilling. For your rear wheel, the rim drilling will be determined by your choice of a 135mm rear hub or a 170mm hub.
Use of the 135mm rear hub will necessitate an offset drilled rim that results in a 17.5mm offset build.
Use of a 170mm rear hub will necessitate a symmetrically drilled rim that will result in a non-dished rear wheel.
In theory, a symmetrical (non-dished) wheel is stronger than a dished rear wheel. If building from scratch, we suggest building a 170mm spaced rear wheel.
Vicious – Graceful Fat Sheba (80mm)
Surly – Rolling Darryl (82mm)
Speedway – UMA (70mm)
Speedway – UMA (80mm)
Chain Reaction Cycles – Flat Top (80mm)
Chain Reaction Cycles – Flat Top (100mm)
Surly – Large Marge (65mm)
Surly – Large Marge Offset (65mm)
Choppers US – Super Fat 2.5” (36 hole only)
Choppers US – Super Fat 3” (36 hole only)
Choppers US – Super Fat 4” (36 hole only)
Tires: Each of these tires has its own performance characteristics. The Larry is the most conventional in appearance and design, the Endomorph is the most paddle-like, and the Spider is the most affordable, but least performance-oriented tire in the bunch.
Surly Larry 3.8”
Surly Endomorph 3.7”
Innova Spider 3.7”
Surly offers large volume tubes or you can try cutting weight by stretching your luck (pun intended) by using either a normal-size 26” or 29” tubes. We’ve noticed that a 29’er tube creates less of a ‘divot’ in the tire casing, than a 26” tube. The 29’er tube essentially is expanding inward toward the rim, while the 26” tube is inflating outward toward the tire.
Rim tape/strip options are limited. Rox makes a really nice and lightweight rim strip. Choppers US have some wide rubber rim strips but they are heavy. DIY rim strips made from hockey tape, packing tape, etc are also common. Experiment close to home before you put your DIY rim strip job to an important test however.
That covers wheel component options. Once you have the proper hubs and rims picked out, getting the correct spoke length, lacing the wheel, tensioning and dishing is exactly like building any other bicycle rear wheel.
Space-Out Kit: If you’ve gone the 135mm rear disc hub route for your rear wheel, you now have a dished rear wheel that is offset 17.5mm to the drive side. The Space-Out Kit is a 35mm wide aluminum bracket that attaches to the left inside dropout face via the disc brake mount, using 55mm-long, high-strength M6 bolts. This bracket moves the left dropout face inboard and narrows the rear spacing down from 170mm to 135mm, while also creating a 17.5mm shift in the hub’s centerline. This effectively converts the Mukluk frame to a 135mm spaced, 17.5 offset frame. To finish the job, a 170mm skewer needs to be used with the rear wheel to sandwich it and the space-out bracket between the dropouts. This option is only for rear wheels.
1. Front Derailleur = Direct High Mount
2. Front Brake = Front Brake
3. 100mm BB and compatible crankset
4. Front wheel should be non-offset, 135mm O.L.D rear disc
5. Rear wheel can be non-offset, 170mm O.L.D disc or an offset built rear wheel based on a 135mm O.L.D. rear disc hub
Cables & Housing: The Mukluk is designed to use full-length cable housing for both the brakes and the front and rear derailleurs. This offers a fairly well sealed, low maintenance system that is less prone to contamination from mud, snow, and ice. If mechanical disc brakes are used, an appropriately long rear brake cable must be used. Below is a list of housing lengths Salsa uses when building Mukluk completes bikes. The actual housing required will vary depending on your bar choice, stem length, shifters, etc.
XS SM MD LG XL
Front Derailleur 1040 1140 1170 1200 1230
Rear Derailleur 1500 1600 1630 1700 1750
Front Brake 670 770 800 800 800
Rear Brake 1600 1700 1735 1750 1770
A standard length front and rear shifter cable is plenty long (usually 2000 – 2300mm), and a standard brake cable (usually 1700mm) is good enough for the front brake. Only the rear brake is a concern. Most cable manufacturers now offer a ‘mountain mechanical’ rear cable that is made for mechanical disc brakes (these are usually around 2500 to 2700mm). If you can’t nail down one of those, just go with a ‘tandem length’ rear brake cable. Buy two and keep the spare in your parts bin.
Jagwire offers Ripcord brake kits in a variety of colors that contain enough housing and long enough cables to be used with a Mukluk. The Ripcord derailleur kits however, DO NOT contain enough housing. Your local shop will have cables, as well as bulk derailleur and brake housing that can be cut to appropriate lengths for the Mukluk frame.
Cable Routing: Everyone has his or her preferences, but here’s how I do mine:
Right hand (rear brake and rear shifter): Cross in front of the headtube to the left side of the bike. Run the rear shift housing down the middle position and the rear brake housing down the left outside position. After the last guide on the downtube, branch out to the respective chainstay guides.
Left hand (front brake and front shifter): Cross front shift housing in front of headtube to the right side of the bike. Run housing down the right outside position of downtube guides. After last guide on downtube, cross over the rear shift housing and route up and into the stop on the back of the seat tube. For the front brake, cross in front of the headtube, and then behind the right shoulder of the fork. Stay above the tire, near the crown and route over to the guides on the back of the left leg. Secure the housing at the guides and also secure it against the backside of the crown with a zip-tie run through the fender/rack mounting hole. This front brake method won’t work if you have a fender or a rack mounted. In that case, just come across in front directly to the left fork shoulder.
I hope this info is of help to those of you preparing to build up a Mukluk from a frameset. Remember, if anything doesn’t make sense, you should seek assistance from you local bike shop. They are the experts and will help get, and keep, you rolling.