Archive for August, 2013

Long and Short’s: Riding Northern Michigan with Surly’s 29+

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Riding mountain bikes for a quarter century now, I’ve seen a lot of changes in equipment.  Back in the late 1980s, it was all about steel hardtails – just rigid forks, and no suspension.  Since then, there have been so many advancements in mountain bike technology. Now, it seems tough to imagine that a trail bike could almost completely forgo those technologies and still make a fantastic ride.

Built around three-inch-wide Knard tires, Surly’s Krampus recently proved me wrong. I took it out for the Annual Long and Short’s Ride in Northwest Lower Michigan, and on that wide-open, mild-climbing singletrack, I discovered its natural habitat — and all the fun it brings.


Register Now: 2013 Triple Trail Challenge

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

It’s that time of the year again! Warm up your legs, wash that chamois and get ready to ride, eat, and enjoy some great beer: It’s the infamous Triple Trail Challenge, 46 miles through Hell, Michigan. In partnership with the MMBA and the Pinckney State Recreation Area, we bring you the ultimate mountain biking experience in the region!


Why We Ride: Part II

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

This completes our two-part series from the Tree Fort crew. Missed the first? You can find it here.

Mike Lewis

Everyone, I think, dreams of having a job that aligns with their passions, but more often than not that dream either never materializes, or becomes just a job and the joy quickly runs out. My name is Mike Lewis, and I love working in the cycling industry!

My job title at Tree Fort is customer service, which involves anything from handling online orders, trying to keep web site product listings updated, or frantically attempting to learn all cycling disciplines enough to help with technical questions. Realistically, though, that job description is evolving daily as we uncover new challenges and take on new endeavors.

I have a wife and daughter, and at 30 years old, I feel lucky to be at a place in my life where I can truly say I am proud of the company and industry I stand for. As a cyclist, I enjoy all the new experiences one can have on a bike, from the practicality of daily commuting, to the discovery of bike packing and touring, and lately, the competitive thrill of racing. I appreciate an old steel bike with countless miles of road under its belt as much as the latest technologies in today’s high-end mountain bikes.

I live in Canton, Michigan — not a place with a strong cycling culture, but when you know where to look, there are miles of quiet dirt roads, meticulously maintained singletrack, and of course the Michigan beer culture, which rivals any in the world! My bike stable includes a Cannondale F29 Carbon and a Salsa Vaya, and both get lots of use!

Most of my riding these days comes from commuting, shop group rides, and my newly acquired love of local MTB racing! Post-ride recovery for me usually means a cold chocolate milk!

When I’m not out riding, I can be found playing with my daughter, or pursuing my other love, rock climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. There are always challenges to making your hobby your work, but with the right people and the right attitude, it can make you start everyday with a big smile!


Howdy. My name is Jesse Ramsey, and I’m the new guy at Tree Fort Bikes. I’m 27 and I hail from the Metro Detroit area. If you come into the store, I’m one of the guys who will be assisting you with you all of your cycling needs. I recently moved to Ann Arbor, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the Tree Fort team.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of riding. There may have been a few years that I got away, for whatever reasons, but I’ve always found my way back. Starting out as a toddler on training wheels and transforming into a punk kid on a BMX bike, I always felt that feeling of freedom while riding. Now, I’m just a dude on whatever kind of bike is beneath me, and I’m still achieving that feeling multiple times a week — rain or shine, on-road or off. There’s nothing to me like pushing physical and mental boundaries with only a bike and the gear you were born with. I even went as far as getting “RIDE A BIKE” tattooed on my knuckles. I justified that by saying, “If I ever stop riding, then I’ll have made two bad choices.” Then the “A” wore off, and now my knuckles say “RIDE BIKE.” The message is still there.
My favorite styles of riding include mountain biking, long distance/light touring, grinding some gravel, and pulling some long hauls for charity. I do enjoy the occasional scenic road rides, but sometimes a guy just has to get gnarly. With all the local trails and loops, it’s hard for me to stay on pavement. While off-road, I prefer to go over the big stuff, bomb down the steep runs, and crush everything in between. Thanks to the Salsa Horsethief 2 (reviews to come), it’s pretty easy to accomplish those tasks.
In short, cycling is my positive way of letting out all the stuff negative stuff I take in — or just overloading my day with positive stuff. It’s my means of transportation, exercise, exploration, and now, income. I personally think I have a pretty good thing going. Any complaints, and it just means I haven’t ridden enough. Thanks for taking the time to read my bio. NOW GO RIDE!


The bike I’m currently riding the most is a 2012 Salsa Fargo, a 29er with drop bars that works just as well commuting to work as it does tackling the Tour Divide.

The steel frame and fork give the Fargo a smooth ride, helping to soak up the bumps typical of dirt roads, two-tracks, and single-track. I primarily use the bike day-to-day for commuting and dirt road riding, with plans to do more bike-packing trips in future.

The drivetrain on the bike is a mix of what comes standard on the Fargo 3 along with upgrades and changes to make the bike work better for me.

Stock parts include:

  • Shimano Deore front and rear derailleurs: With bar-end shifting, higher-end derailleurs don’t really make a difference, so I’ll run these until they’re worn out, then most likely replace them with Shimano XT because they hold up better.
  • Salsa ProMoto 2 Stem: Dollar-for-dollar, this is a great value when it comes to stems. Should the stock one not fit me properly, I think I would have still replaced it with the same model but in a different size.
  • MircoShift 9-Speed Bar End Shifters: Clones of the Shimano BS-77 Dura Ace bar-end shifters, but they do have a bit more play than the Shimano shifters have, and are on the list of items to be upgraded in the future to gain a little bit more accurate shifting.
  • Shimano HG-50 11-34t 9-Speed Cassette: A great cassette for those who want clean shifting and don’t care about weight. They are also fairly cheap to replace if you’re more likely to ride your bike instead of work on it.
  • Salsa Wheelset: Although heavy, the Salsa wheels have performed well for me, have stayed fairly true, and the Formula hubs still roll smooth a year later with no maintenance. These are being replaced with a pair of SRAM Rise 40 wheels in the next few weeks

Upgrades or changes include:

  • Avid BB7 Road Disc Calipers: To replace the stock Avid BB5 brakes that came on the stock 2012 bike. In 2013, Salsa actually made this upgrade for you. BB7’s are easier to adjust than the BB5’s, and I feel they have a little more braking power. I run a 180mm rotor up front and a 160mm in the back.
  • Shimano XT M771 Touring Crank: Replaced the stock FSA Power Spline crank and dropped about two pounds from the bike while making the crank/bb stiffer. Sadly, the aftermarket XT Touring parts are Euro only, but the 48-36-26t gearing is nice and makes for great all-road gearing.
  • Cane Creek 40 Series EC34 headset: An upgrade over the 10 series that comes stock. The upgraded cups, bearings, and seals make the headset one less thing to worry about on a long ride.
  • Thomson Elite Setback Seatpost: This helped me dial in the fit, and I like how solid Thomson posts are made.
  • Brooks B-17 Aged: This was my first experience with a Brooks saddle, and I couldn’t be happier. I had picked the Aged model for its style — the satin rivets, the unique textured top, and under lacing.
  • Jagwire ProRoad XL Cableset (formerly Jagwire Racer): Spending a little more money on high-quality cables means you will have to do less to keep them running smoothly in the future. The compressionless brake housing also gives you increased braking power.
  • Continental TourRide 700c x 47mm tires: These will not be seen on the pages of any site listing super-light bike parts. You will more likely find them on the bikes of people spending weeks out on the road. The TourRide tires handle gravel roads as well as pavement, along with the broken pavement found on Michigan road’s shoulders. Flat resistance has also been good.
  • Time ATAC Alium Pedals: This pair of pedals have been in use on several bikes over the last 10 years or so. The bearings on Time pedals are great, and need very little if any service. I would recommend Time pedals to anyone that wants pedals that simply work well and shed mud like no other.

Part of what completes the riding experience is not only the bike, but also the stuff that goes along with it. Those are items that help you meet your riding goals.

Currently the following items get rotated on or off the bike, depending on the ride:

  • Revelate Designs Salsa Frame bag: Efficient packing for stuff like my flat kit, tubes, and tools. No big deal. There’s also plenty of room for a jacket, warmers, or 100 oz bladder and camp stove, if that’s what the ride calls for. If you normally ride with a Camelbak full of stuff, put it in a frame bag. Your back will thank you and you’ll enjoy the ride more.
  • Salsa Wanderlust Rear Rack: Only used on extended trips. Fits the bike like a glove, and accepts most pannier brands.
  • Revelate Gas Tank: Top tube bag, which I only use on longer trips.
  • Salsa Anything Cages: Can be mounted to the front fork to carry my sleeping mat or fuel bottles on longer trips.
  • Garmin Edge 500: Helps me long my miles and fitness goals, and works in places that smart phone apps don’t because of cell coverage.
  • Knog Beatle Rear Light: Just in case it starts to get dark.
  • Light and Motion VIS 180: I will use this if I know it’s going to be a dark ride.
  • Light and Motion Urban 550: Great all-in-one headlight to tame the urban jungle. Also makes for a great backup light for fall trail rides.
  • Nite Rider TriNewt Wireless: No longer made, but this light is great for trail riding, and the wireless remote control knob makes it easy to adjust the amount of light needed on the go.
  • Trailside Maintenance Kit: Includes a Quick Stick tire lever, Park IB-3, Salsa derailleur hanger, a tube or two, two feet of duct tape, chain connecting link, two 16g CO2 cartridges with inflator, and a mini-pump. I will also carry a crash kit with basic first aid items on longer rides.


I used a bike when I was a kid, and I used a bike when I was in college. I think it was a Huffy when I needed a 24 inch, and it was another Huffy when I finally made it to big girl size. I don’t have a complaint about those bikes, or the decision my parents made to buy them. They took me all over my hometowns, and even far beyond. There was my grandma’s old neighborhood, where big Ash trees used to hang shading arms on the streets that curved from Warren Avenue to Ann Arbor Trail. There was Plymouth, where mom and I spent summers taking the craziest trips to the farthest-flung places, given what we were riding. We went to movie theatres, malls, fantastic lunch spots, with each trip taking us fifteen, twenty miles and more. And then, that bike took me across Ann Arbor, where I would go to school and begin everything.

I would have laughed at you, then – if you’d have told me that bikes would completely shape the next part of my life.

It began with the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. That was my first job out of college, and I met my new boss, Glen, on a beautiful day in June. Glen ran the Arts and Recreation Program at the Center, and at the end of my first day spent helping at a community picnic, Glen told me about the main event we’d be working on that summer: a 240-mile trip across Michigan, just about coast-to-coast, and ridden, the whole way, by bike.

Holy mackerel. I might have said that out loud.

The trip was called IRide. It was fully adaptive, including riders on any and all kinds of bikes — whatever best suited their abilities and needs. I could tell right away that this was one of the most important, most magical things that the Center did.

“You gonna ride with us?” Glen asked, grinning the biggest grin. I only later learned that this modest person was an elite cyclist, competitive in years past.

I’m sure I matched the size of his smile when I leapt at the invitation.

And everything sort of happened from there. I made the dive and hung up the Huffy; I bought a lovely, almost-good-as-new Schwinn World Sport from a real nice hobby mechanic selling on Craigslist. It was the first road bike I’d ever ridden. I’d never even seen anything like it, because I’d never taken the time to really look at a bike — what makes it do what it does, or how it helps the rider ride as they’d like. So I went on IRide that summer, and it was indeed so important, and so magical, that when the right excuse came around, I gave up using a car altogether — totally, cold turkey, in a style only ever expressed in a twenty-two-year-old person, who sees nothing at all but the big, broad sky — and I took to two wheels on the road. My commitment grew, and fast. When I left the Ann Arbor CIL, which had been a service year for Americorps, I saw an ad for a shop called Tree Fort Bikes, which had a website full of people whose smiles (each blinked by at the bottom of the web page) looked as broad and committed and thrilled as Glen’s had been that year ago, on the day I agreed to do something that I saw, now, had changed my life. I knew nothing about bikes, not mechanically and not within its market. What I had was a passion, and a commitment, and I did everything I could to show it to those guys. As it turns out, they were open enough to believe in those things, just on their own. I’ve worked in Customer Service here ever since. I feel like I have a lot of people to thank for the learning experience this has been for me from its earliest beginning, and continues to be each day – the mentors and friends that my coworkers became to me, and our customers, too, who a year ago, heard a nervous young person on the other end of the line, asking them to repeat that brand name, that model year, that rubber compound, that sizing standard. Thank you, to everyone, a whole hell of a lot. I couldn’t have asked for better, then and still now, because in work like this, or any work worth doing, learning never comes to a stop.

I think I’m at the point in this story where I can fess up, and tell you that I’ve never really been in love with bikes on their own. When I started at Tree Fort, I bought and built up a new bike because I do like to go fast, so I wanted a snappier engine, and because I like to go fast, I wanted the equivalent in stopping power. But that’s all. I think many of us come from a place like that. Cycling, for me, was only ever about the people it led me to. It was the places I traveled to, the places I found. It was the decision to begin my day with the wind in my face, and with my legs working hard the whole way – not just pressing a pedal to the floor, and then getting angry when I had to press the other pedal beside it. Gas pedals, brake pedals — they can really piss a person off. Sure, you get pissed when you’re riding a bike, too. Riding on the road, people cut you off, honk at you, scream weird shit right up close to your face as they blow by you going double the speed. But what I get to do next that that guy in the car cannot, is that I get to throw down, and get my legs going like a madass race horse, and wear myself dead out in sixty seconds. And when I’m worn out, when I’ve gotten it all out of my system, I get to slow down again, and that’s when I get to see the best part of all, and I feel like the silliest, happiest fool, in having to remembering it: that nothing else matters, nothing at all in the whole world, but the feeling of being alive. It’s a gift, to be able to know that feeling every day; it’s a gift that it can be so simply found.

Ridge Rocker: A new race, and a way to support survivors

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

We’re happy to share an event that brings together local mountain bike racing and community support.

Ridge Rocker is a brand-new event that’s also a benefit for Beacons of Hope, a Michigan-based charity, with the goal of raising awareness about sexual assault and supporting resources available to survivors. The race is on Saturday, November 9th at Island Lake Recreation Area. Registration is open through Wednesday November 6th. You can register to race in the duathlon, a 3 mile paved run and 19 mile mountain bike, or choose to bike or run separately. There’s even an option for an “advanced mountain bike” preferred start time. For the most up-to-date race information, visit the event page on Facebook.

Event donations go to a unique pair of organizations: Haven of Oakland County and SAFER.

Haven provides services to women, men and youth who have experienced sexual assault and/or domestic violence. Their services are comprehensive, including counseling, a 24-hour crisis support hotline, a safe shelter, first response, court advocacy and a Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team.

SAFER is a web-based organization that works with students to improve campus policies and programming that address sexual assault. They provide trainings and mentoring, maintain a sexual assault policies database on their home site, and provide an online resource library and network for student organizers.

Look for the education and resource tent at the event for information about these and other local non-profit organizations who share this mission.

Why We Ride – Part I

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

This year, Tree Fort Bikes will turn ten years old. It’s been a big year for us, in more ways than one. I think those who’ve been a part of the past decade can look around and say with honesty that we’re proud of what we’ve built together: a bike shop that’s small in size and crew, yet broad reaching; dedicated to all those folks both local and across the country who, like us, can’t wait for that moment when they’re finally out on the road, on the trail, in the woods, or in the city, and riding.

This short series is about what riding means to each of us here at Tree Fort, and what keeps us coming back for more.