Bigfoot Issues

Mojave Bigfoot 04

This monster backcountry trike is as close to perfect as one could want! There are no significant complaints about it. Two minor issues are readily solved: 1) Chain tubes too short to protect clothing in front, and to protect chain in rear from debris thrown by drive wheel, and 2) Handlebar adjustment clamps allow for handlebar movement in serious off-road conditions, when tightened only with finger – this is overcome by using pliers to tighten the cam mechanism more than possible with fingers, and then compressing the cam lever into the “closed” position using a thick cloth to protect the palm of the hand.

Other than these considerations, this trike is worth every penny paid if one is using it as a replacement for petroleum powered exploration of the backcountry as I am. It is very inexpensive when compared to the Jeep Rubicon, for example, which is the ICE Full Fat’s comparison in the automotive off-road world. Entry level price for Jeep Rubicon is $33,095 / entry level price for ICE Full Fat is $5,456. Both rigs allow rugged and remote backcountry exploration (assuming you can get functional tires on the Full Fat), but you can save $27,639 by using a human based engine rather than a petroleum based engine.

With the ICE Full Fat, there are no expensive bills from automotive repair shops. There is no expensive yearly insurance premium. There is no need for a driver’s license. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars each year at gasoline stations. There is no toxic waste products from a tailpipe that destroy our air supply. There is no need for a huge garage or storage area to park it. Quite simply, I love this trike! It is comfortable with its balloon tires and full suspension. It only weighs 49 pounds, a whopping 4,083 pounds less than the Jeep Rubicon, so a fit human powered engine is quite capable of accessing the Rubicon’s territory (and if you do get stuck, the trike can be readily pulled by hand instead of a dangerous winch).

Jeep Rubicon

Yep, you can do this on the ICE Full Fat too! Much more fun on ICE.

ICE Full Fat 21

On an ICE Full Fat, the driver gets fitter, not fatter like in a Rubicon!

The ICE Full Fat is the perfect alternative to the Jeep Rubicon for folks who love to explore hidden wild places, but prefer not to leave petroleum particulate matter in the air, or for those folks on a budget, or those who want to get super fit from pedaling class 4-5 dirt roads. Read about my backroad classification system HERE.

Here are some photographs and commentary:

ICE Full Fat Chain Tube Issue 1 ICE Full Fat Chain Tube Issue 2

Motorcycles have a chain guard to keep dirt off the chain. This trike needs one too.

ICE Full Fat Handlebar Issue 2

A gentle assist with pliers is needed to keep the handlebars solid off road.

ICE Full Fat Handlebar Issue 1

The tension from the cam lever is supposed to keep the handlebars solid from rotation. For most road riding, this works fine with finger tightenting, however, for serious off-road exploring, where sometimes pressure on the handlebars happens, finger tight does not get the job done. Fortunately, pliers save the day.

ICE Full Fat Handlebar Issue 4

View from under seat, with cam lever in closed position

ICE Full Fat Handlebar Issue 3

A slight chip out of the beautiful paint job occurred through fastening and unfastening the seat for removal when folding the trike – cosmetic only – does not show with seat in place.

ICE Full Fat Steering Damper

Speaking of steering, you can even adjust the dampening by turning the screw!

ICE Full Fat Seat Rack Clearance

The clearance between the seat adjustment bar and the ICE rear rack is minimal, and makes installation of the seat more difficult. I will have this extra material removed, as I did with my former ICE Qnt trike, thereby making seat installation a breeze.

ICE Full Fat Metal Composition Sign

Quality materials proudly shown in the ICE sticker.

~~~

THE ISSUE WITH SCHWALBE JUMBO JIM TIRES:

The following report is NOT an ICE-related issue! The trike is a no-compromise vehicle. The tires however are a vastly different story. Beware of Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires!

Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tire

This is a product performance report for three items:

1) Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 knobby tires, 2) Mr. Tuffy 4XL Fat Tire Liners, 3) Schwalbe 26×4.80 inner tubes

BACKGROUND BRIEF: I have been pedaling recumbent tricycles thousands of miles since 2009, using only Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires up until summer 2015. During that time, which included numerous long distance journeys, I had never experienced a flat tire on my trikes. That is six years of flat-free riding, including one experience where hundreds of goathead thorns became embedded in the trike’s Marathon Plus tires. The tires withstood everything the road threw at them. I ceased using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires upon my acquisition of the 2015 ICE Full Fat backcountry trike, only because Schwalbe does not manufacture a Marathon Plus tire in the 26×4.80 size. The following report documents the 2015 results of using the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim knobby tire, Mr. Tuffy tire liners, and Schwalbe fat tire inner tubes.

ICE Full Flat 1

REPORT OF FACTS: Prior to my return home from the ill-fated Mojave Traverse tricycle expedition, an adventure that was abruptly and unexpectedly terminated due to severe and life-threatening weather events, I had the opportunity to ride the new 2015 ICE Full Fat backcountry trike on three short jaunts in the Mojave Desert. The first ride was 4 miles long, the second ride was 3 miles long, and the third ride was 10 miles in duration. Total distance ridden was 17 miles, with about 5 of those miles being on dirt roads, trails, and virgin cross-country desert terrain. I would have ridden more miles on the fun dirt desert roads, but I ran into a problem that finally stopped me.

On that first ride of 4 miles, I did include a minimal amount of virgin desert terrain, perhaps a half mile or so. Upon completion of the ride, a person asked me how much air I was running in my rear tire. I told him about 15 pounds. He said that it looked pretty soft for 15, so I looked back down at the rear tire – air pressure looked to be closer to 2 pounds. In fact, the tire had begun separating from the rim. Sure enough, I had just suffered my first flat tire on a tricycle, after six flat-free years! Undaunted, my head convinced me it must just be a fluke – probably picked up a nail – removed it all from trike – no nail – no evidence of puncture but for a nearly invisible little hole where air was hissing out if I pumped some in. I patched it, put it all back on the trike, and came out the next morning to see the rim on the pavement again. Bummer. This time, I put in a new tube. Good to go! Front tires still okay. Good thing I had included three spare Schwalbe tubes in my expedition kit. Still had two new tubes in reserve.

ICE Full Flat 5

Tumbleweed thorns, known as goatheads, easily penetrate the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim!

On the second ride of 3 miles, I only rode on two-track dirt roads. I did not head out over virgin desert terrain. This was the day I was filming for what was to become my “TRICYCLE” movie (click HERE to see it). I returned from the ride with three tubes still full of air. Next morning, the tires were still doing fine. Okay, that first ride was a one-time experience, I thought. Now I’m going to have some fun out here!

On the third ride of 10 miles, my goal was to see how well this ICE Full Fat could do on dirt roads that had deep sand pockets here and there. Riding along the bone-dry Mojave River, my thighs were being hammered by the undulating ups and downs in the road, which was also covered with enough sand to make forward progress quite challenging. But, the Full Fat kept on making headway as long as I kept applying power to the pedals – amazing! I never in my former wildest dreams imagined that I could ever pedal a tricycle through this kind of terrain – it was awesome – I was proceeding rather slowly, but I was still in the seat and pedaling. Trikes had finally entered a new arena where the sky is the limit (depending on one’s strength and endurance, of course). Speed was not on my mind. I was blown away that this new fatrike was capable of such travel. Yep, ICE nailed it with this design! I had absolutely NO reservations of spending close to ten grand for a tricycle!

Mojave Bigfoot 04

The ICE Full Fat, with tires full of wonderful air! Yee Haa, what a thrill ride!

On this third ride, there was only one spot about 7 feet long that I actually had to dismount and walk it through, as the sand was just way too deep for pedaling. Even so, I realized that I was loving this trike! And by the way, it is SOOO very comfortable on the pavement, with its huge balloon tires and full suspension – like pedaling a recliner chair. I highly recommend this recumbent tricycle for those seeking real adventure!

Of course, I was so hyped by this ICE Full Fat’s superior ability that I had to take it to the next level – I like to find limits, and then exceed them whenever possible. So, off the old sandy dirt road I pedaled, heading across virgin Mojave Desert like a champ, dodging gullies, circling rocks, and finding the path of least resistance through the untold millions of bushes that eventually become what we commonly know as tumbleweeds. I was in a sea of tumbleweeds. I realized that these bushes, that look so cuddly from a distance, are actually goathead colonies … every branch of the dense bush literally covered from ground to tip with one spiky goathead atop the other. If you put your hand into one, it will be the last time you do it!

Tumbleweed

Upon return from the ride, feeling triumphant that the ICE Full Fat could conquer just about anything, I was totally stoked and applauding Inspired Cycle Engineering for their utter brilliance! I was in heaven, realizing that now I was no longer limited to paved roadways, where the annoying constant drone of automobile tires kept my ears company while it deadened what’s left of my thinking brain. Nature is awesome.

My delirious elation was soon tempered however, when I discovered the rear tire was bulging way more than it should have. Within five minutes, the rear was totally flat. I grabbed the rear rack pull handle, lifted slightly, and pulled the trike backwards into the garage where I was staying. Okay, that’s a bummer, but I’ll fix it tomorrow, I thought. I got a drink of ice water inside, and returned to assess the tire a few minutes later. My eyes beheld a sight of unimaginable horror. I could have then renamed my trike an ICE Full Flat – yep … ALL THREE TIRES WERE FLAT AS A PANCAKE! I was so dumbfounded as I realized that I only had two more spare inner tubes. The tires had uncountable little goathead thorns embedded all over them – the thorns stuck in the knobby areas of the tires did no harm, but the thorns stuck in the smooth tire carcass between the knobs (by far the majority terrain of the tires) were all firmly doing their damage. Right then and there, my flame went out, and I resigned myself that I would not be doing any further riding in the Mojave Desert this year, and once back home a new solution was to be found.

ICE Full Flat 6

A truly horrific sight to behold after sixty minutes of desert riding!

What I really found interesting was the fact that each tire had a Mr. Tuffy tire liner carefully installed between the inner portion of the tire and the vulnerable tube! On that final ride, where I pedaled across about a mile of virgin desert floor, not only did the three tires fail to protect the tube, but also did the tire liners. Hmm. So that’s basically the end of this little drama. Four flat tires occurred over the course of 17 miles of riding, with virgin terrain amounting to perhaps four miles at the outside. The dirt roads were not the problem, rather the contact with the tumbleweeds.

CONCLUSIONS BASED ON THE EVIDENCE: I purchased this ICE Full Fat for my ultimate human-powered freedom machine. It delivers in spades! ICE has pioneered new ground, and unquestionably leads the pack with their superior vehicle. None of what I have explained in this account is a negative reflection on Inspired Cycle Engineering. They got it RIGHT! The failures that led to the end of my riding time while in the Mojave Desert fall squarely on two companies: Schwalbe and Mr. Tuffy.

Here are some thoughts I find amazing: 1) This trike is designed for backcountry exploration, yet the Schwalbe tire company makes an inferior tire for terrain that is many times more demanding than that found on pavement with my former Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. 2) Even the reportedly invincible Mr. Tuffy tire liners did not stop the goatheads once the thorns breached the lightweight tire carcass. To come back from one ride that lasted about an hour and a half with all three tires flat is, in my humble opinion anyway, absolutely unacceptable! I am not interested in any rhetoric from Schwalbe that to build a desert-worthy tire, such as the Marathon Plus in the 26×4.80 fat tire size, would make it too heavy! NO EXCUSES SCHWALBE – STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND MAKE A FUNCTIONAL TIRE! What good is a superior trike with inferior tires?

ICE Full Flat 2ICE Full Flat 3ICE Full Flat 4

Three tires worthless after one short ride in the Mojave Desert!

Schwalbe makes both the best cycling tire on the planet and the worst cycling tire on the planet. I suppose to the company’s credit, it could be argued that since the fat tire market is so new, they simply rushed into production a tire that looked aggressive and tough, and maybe now they will learn the lesson and get to work designing a true off-road tire that actually allows a backcountry explorer to fully explore without fear of not making it back. What has this taught me? Most significantly, I now realize that I CANNOT depend on Schwalbe to get me back home! To say I’m gun-shy at this point is a gross understatement. Of course, I could opt to avoid desert terrain, and simply ride dirt roads, staying clear of anything that hints of thorns, but why would I choose to do that? I never worried with my Schwalbe Marathon Plus! Four flats – crazy!

I seek a tire that rises to the same level of ultimate superiority and domination that the trike itself enjoys. Imagine if all four tires on 4×4 Jeep vehicles went flat in less than ten miles of backcountry exploration – the customers would not stand for such a thing, and Jeep sales would suffer if no tire company could make a worthy tire. There is no fun to be had fixing flat tires, literally every 5 miles. Why do bicyclists accept this notion that flats are normal? Because they have been sold a bill of goods. But with Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus tire, it has been made abundantly clear that cyclists do not have to put up with flat tires. This Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 fat tire is so thin that I can actually wad it up with my bare hands when flat! It is the most worthless tire I could imagine. The company is riding on reputation with this Jumbo Jim, figuring that most riders will not use it for genuine tough going, and hoping that it’s “macho” appearance will sell the inferior product. You can fool some of the people all of the time.

1975 Jeep CJ5

My trusty 1975 Jeep CJ-5 never failed me. Only one flat tire during a ten year period!

Then, there is the coveted Mr. Tuffy tire liner. Surely, I initially figured that even though the Schwalbe Jumbo Jims were not Marathon Plus quality by any stretch of the imagination, that the Mr. Tuffy liners would save the day. After all, the Mr. Tuffy tire liner company states: “Tire Liners (aka Tube Protectors) shield against punctures from thorns, glass, and road debris – the nemesis of every bicyclist. When a thorn or piece of glass attempts to penetrate the Mr. Tuffy liner it comes up against a surface that is both hard and elastic. The object pushes against the surface which gives way while resisting initial penetration. Mr. Tuffy grinds a thorn into sawdust and broken glass into sand.” (boldface emphasis by Mr. Tuffy – read their claims HERE). Lest anyone think that a stray thorn breached the sidewall of the Jumbo Jim tires, the offending breaches on the first of my four flats were directly on the tread that contacts the road – not on the sidewall. The Mr. Tuffy box even says: “RIDE FLAT FREE!”

When I removed the three Mr. Tuffy tire liners after all these flats, I ran my hand across the interior portion of each liner, the side that contacts the inner tube. What I felt was ample evidence to realize that the liners did not accomplish their intended job of protecting the delicate inner tube. On each of the tube-side of the liners, my hand contacted numerous tiny thorns that had penetrated all the way through, and had consequently punctured the tube. These were little thorns too, not big thick ones, and they left so many holes in the Schwalbe inner tubes that to attempt patching them all would have simply been a waste of time. Lesson #2: Convert to a tubeless tire setup from here on out!

At this point in time, I do NOT recommend Mr. Tuffy tire liners. In my situation, all they did was add weight to the trike. This added weight would have been acceptable to me if they successfully prevented a thorn breach that the inferior tires let through, but considering that the liners were not effective, I see no need for them. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh … without the Mr. Tuffy tire liners, the multiple flats might have occurred sooner, actually stranding me out there – at least I made it back to the garage (barely) before all the air was lost. So, perhaps Mr. Tuffys are simply time extenders.

ICE Full Fat Mr Tuffy 3

I initially I installed the Mr. Tuffy liners with high hopes. Things just didn’t work out. Notice that on the green Mr. Tuffy box, it says: “RIDE FLAT FREE!”

Bigfoot Tubeless Conversion 03

One “thumb-down” since my other hand is busy holding the box

Last, and probably least, is the question of the inner tube itself. Kenda makes an ultra heavy duty tube called the Q-Tube, which is highly thorn resistant. It is no guarantee, but at least you can feel the difference is thickness when comparing it to a typical Kenda bicycle tube, which is pretty close to worthless junk in any situation beyond smooth pavement. As with Schwalbe, Kenda makes both the best and worst tubes on the market! What are they thinking?

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: My initial thoughts that night after discovering three flat tires after a couple of miles of virgin desert riding was wondering what good this awesome backcountry trike was if I couldn’t actually use it to explore the remote and wild natural world I so much adore. It was a conundrum. Here I have this very expensive piece of off-road equipment called the ICE Full Fat, but then the tire industry produces inferior products – and without quality tires, tubes, and/or liners, I can’t go anywhere with confidence! So where do I go from here?

Another disturbing thought also crossed my mind the next day after the flats: My long planned Mojave Traverse expedition was aborted unexpectedly at the last possible minute before I headed out into extremely remote and hazardous territory due to a freak and unpredicted regional storm deluge. What if the weather had been as predicted, and I actually had departed into some of the most remote and inhospitable terrain know to humans? I had three spare Schwalbe inner tubes in my trike’s emergency supply kit, along with one full spare tire (made by another company other than Schwalbe). Based on the experience I had during these three rides discussed in this article, I now feel that I would have been heading into a potential death trap out there, quickly using up all my patching material and spare tubes.

The spare tire I had for that expedition was a Vee Tire Company “Bulldozer” model, a 26×4.70 gnarly knobby tire that looks even tougher than the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim. Keep in mind that I have never used this Bulldozer tire, but from simply handling it, it does seem more rugged than that Jumbo Jim. I initially was going to mount Vee Tires all around on the Full Fat, but ICE threw in the Jumbo Jims gratis, and based on my former experience with Schwalbe, I figured I would just go ahead and give the Jumbo Jims the ultimate run for their money across the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Clearly, the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires are as close to worthless as one can imagine when riding over ground with thorns! Do NOT BE FOOLED by their “tough” outward appearance – they are lambs in disguise! The rubber carcass is so thin you would be shocked! I certainly was.

The Schwalbe Jumbo Jims are now history as far as I’m concerned. I will never run this tire again – four flats in 17 miles of mostly dirt and paved roads proves an inferior product rushed into production without proper or extensive testing. Reputation only goes so far. Schwalbe will have to once again earn my respect if they wish to see their fat tires on my trike! Actually, I really do hope they step up to the plate and make a Marathon Plus tough tire for off-road adventurers (it is more needed off-road than on the pavement, so should be better). If Schwalbe continues to offer only this tire, I will be sorely disappointed. I absolutely do NOT recommend the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tire if you are serious about heading out into the remote backcountry!

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: The Vee Tire Company Bulldozer tire will be the next rubber on the drive wheel of my ICE Full Fat, with Vee V-8 tires on the front. The more tire tread that is composed of traction knobs rather than open empty space, the less chance thorns will do their dastardly deeds. Jumbo Jims are full of thin empty space, whereas Vee tires have much more thick rubber in the form of traction knobs covering their tires.

When I first acquired this ICE Full Fat backcountry trike, the dealer Mark Waters of Backcountry Recumbent Cycles recommended that I put some chemical flat tire liquid into the tubes to prevent flats from thorns. Since I have used tire liners with my former Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, I opted for the liner solution over Mark’s chemical option. Of course in retrospect, his potential solution seems like it may have been a wiser choice, but unless I eventually try it myself, I will not know.

There is another potential solution, and that is the idea of going tubeless. My good cycling friend Matt Jensen pleaded with me for weeks leading up to the Mojave Traverse expedition to go tubeless, using a tire sealant compound inside each tire. Matt has been riding his Motobecane Lurch fatbike all over for months now, with not one flat tire! He is convinced that tubeless is the ultimate answer for reliability. As has occurred in the past six years when Matt has given me advice I did not heed, I am now thinking the better of my decision to remain with a tube setup. We shall see.

I LOVE my ICE Full Fat, and hope to keep it from becoming an ICE Full Flat!

~

ICE FULL FAT VERSUS JEEP CJ5: My head comes back to this comparison simply because it is fully relevant to my situation of backcountry exploration. I wish to compare the rugged and time-tested Jeep to the new ICE Full Fat. My old Jeep was set up in a way that exceeds the current Jeep Rubicon legendary performance capabilities. I had large tires with traction treads that got me over the roughest backroads I could find. The Jeep allowed me to successfully explore California’s Mojave Desert from north to south and east to west. During a period of ten years with the Jeep, I only had one flat tire, and that was caused by a sharp metal shard. NEVER did goathead thorns flatten any of my Jeep tires! If I were to apply the same comparison with my Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires to my Jeep, it would be roughly equivalent to me having all four tires of my Jeep go flat within each 60 to 90 minute time period. I could not imagine having to repair four flat tires on my Jeep every hour and a half – that would really ruin my backcountry experience!

Let’s consider the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. They are known for designing and manufacturing superior tires, just as Schwalbe is known for designing and manufacturing superior tires with their Marathon Plus line. Imagine for a moment if Goodyear produced a tire meant for Jeep Rubicon vehicles exploring the wilds, except that instead of using the same superior quality they do in their road tires, they used an exceptionally thin walled rubber that could not withstand goathead thorns! Would serious Jeep enthusiasts buy that tire? Of course they would not! If a Jeep was stopped within 90 minutes of total travel time with four flats, word would immediately spread that the tires were absolutely worthless!

So why is Schwalbe producing tires for backcountry exploration that fail consistently if they leave two-track dirt roads and head cross country through virgin terrain? They make the tires look tough as nails with the aggressive knobby tread. They hype the tire to buyers based on its huge size. They are careful however to limit their discussion to snow and sand (was this intentional?). Here is what Schwalbe says about the tire on their website: “BIGGER IS BETTER. This is especially true if you want to cycle in deep snow or loose sand. In these conditions only large volume combined with extremely low air pressure can help. Schwalbe‘s Jumbo Jim is an extremely light-bike Fat Tire. In the usual Fat-Bike 4 inch width, it weighs less than 1000 g Alternatively, it is also available in extra wide 4.80 inches.”

Schwalbe seems very concerned about remaining as lightweight as possible in that description, boasting that it weighs less than 1000 grams. Personally, I prefer a tire that gets the job done and gets me back home safely, regardless of weight, rather than one that fails consistently to keep me in the game. What good is a lightweight tire when you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with flats on each wheel? People who are outback adventurers may not be so weight conscious as road bike racers are. The goals are completely different: speed versus exploration. I would like to see Schwalbe boasting about the Jumbo Jim reliability and toughness rather than their current direction.

Initially, I certainly felt confident about the tires based on the company’s solid reputation, and my six-year experience with their Marathon Plus line. When in sand, they performed well for me. Truth is, this tire is functional in snow and sand, but DO NOT take it across a desert under ANY circumstances! Thorns destroy this tire so quickly your head will spin.

Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tire

This Jumbo Jim may look tough and rugged, but it is a lamb in wolf’s clothing! It has no protective belts or carcass strong enough to keep out even the smallest thorns. The tire material is so thin that I can mount and unmount these tires with my bare hands. As it currently stands, this tire is not a serious contender for serious backcountry explorers. Even though it may look like your motorcycle tire, that’s where the similarities end – if these were on a motorcycle, they would be torn to shreds in short order.

ADVICE TO POTENTIAL BACKCOUNTRY EXPLORERS: If you plan to remain on dirt roads, this tire may work for you. However, if you plan on really pushing the limits to your remote journeys as I do, this Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tire WILL leave you stranded, even if you have extra tubes in your emergency kit. Punctures and flats happen so frequently that you will quickly deplete your supply of spare inner tubes! Weekend Warriors who keep things pretty tame, or who enjoy cruising main street to show off their monster trikes, will do fine with the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim. Just keep an eye out for those sneaky thorns – don’t ride through any accumulation of fall leaves on the ground either, as sometimes goatheads have been known to reside under the gorgeous leaf covering. If you want an easy tire to change, this is it, as this tire is so darn pliable that it’s a snap working with it!

SCHWALBE JUMBO JIM 26X4.80 FAT TIRE:

PROS:

Looks tough and impressive – works well in sand and snow – super easy to mount on or remove from the rim – folds up small for carrying a spare – Schwalbe lettering on sidewall is impressive – does the job for most occasional backcountry riders who stay on roads or well-used trails – carry spare inner tubes and patch material even if using for light-duty riding just in case.

CONS:

Extremely thin carcass not able to withstand a breach by even the smallest goathead thorns – so much non-treaded open space (area between the traction knobs) that most thorns embed directly into the vulnerable thin skin rather than the impervious knobs, thereby puncturing the inner tube – no built-in layers of tire protection that prevent thorns from reaching the tube, as found in the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire – not a functional tire for those serious about extensively exploring remote outback where dirt roads end – requires rider to carry as many spare tubes as will fit in the emergency kit, along with multiple patches, and a working ability by the rider to repair or change inner tubes – thin lightweight carcass more vulnerable to sidewall damage or breach by sharp objects than a Marathon Plus tire.

WILL SCHWALBE LISTEN AND RESPOND?

I am but one guy in a sea of folks who ride fatrikes and fatbikes. Watching the online video of people who use this new breed of cycle, it appears many of them are out for a whopping good time in a limited setting, and if that market has no quarrel with this tire, then Schwalbe will likely continue to produce it as is. Folks who live in desert regions, where thorns reside in abundance around every corner, will eventually experience the same failures as I did. It is all a numbers game with large manufacturing firms – if the monetary income numbers justify a continuance of the current tire, then it will probably remain as is. Only if enough people with ongoing puncture issues speak up would anything change. I suspect I am in a very tiny minority, thus change may not occur. I did not buy my fatrike for simply weekend thrills, but rather to replace a petroleum powered Jeep, so I could use it in real life just as I did my Jeep. I do not baby the vehicle by keeping it on hard packed dirt roads all the time, or in snow or sand. I use it to explore where my call of the wild leads me, and having to alter that because goathead thorns might be out there is not an option … period! I want a no-compromise tire for my no-compromise trike! I simply do not care if it weighs a little more – the peace of mind is worth it!

Perhaps a way Schwalbe can “save face” on this one is to simply put into production a genuinely functional backcountry tire for serious explorers like myself, perhaps naming it the Jumbo Jim Plus. That way, both markets can coexist side by side. I would most definitely use Jumbo Jim Plus tires IF they reach the same superior standard set by the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire (which stops goatheads in their tracks – a true flat-free tire). There is a world awaiting out there, and I do not want to be limited because of flimsy tires! Come-on Schwalbe … let’s do this right! Thanks!

NOTE TO SCHWALBE DESIGNERS:

You have designed a tire that leads potential users to believe it is a rugged tire capable of getting them into the wilds and back again. The aggressive appearance of the Jumbo Jim clearly shouts this to fat tire cycle adventurers. However, there is more to building a tire than creating one that will sell itself based on appearance …

If you have not already done so, I invite you to learn about an expedition I was on the verge of taking, one where my objective was to pedal an ICE Full Fat clear across the Mojave Desert, the same desert that brought about the failures discussed in this article. Click here to learn about the Mojave Traverse backcountry cycling adventure. Why is this important information for you to understand as a tire designer? Very simple: my life was about to be at risk by attempting the passage. Tires are where the vehicle contacts the ground. If the tires lead to failure, as demonstrated here, not only would the expedition fail, but a life could have been lost. The Mojave Traverse was to be an unsupported journey of 410 miles, 48% of which was off pavement. I had no automobile backup. I was going to be on my own. In the best of circumstances, it would have been very risky!

The only reason this trek did not occur was due to severe life-threatening weather events that flooded and devastated much of the route. It was called off the morning of departure based on the available evidence. I was about to embark on a dangerous ride on Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tires. I had packed 3 spare inner tubes, thinking that surely I would not need all of them, if any. Why did I think this? Because I have been using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for six years with NO flats. I had faith in your brand name, your company, you as designers of capable tires.

You see, designing a tire means more than simply making one that weekend warriors on day rides close to home can use, where if they did get a flat, it would be inconvenient, but probably not life threatening. If a tire shouts aggressive adventure, as your Jumbo Jim does due to its appearance, people like me, who trust a company like Schwalbe, will head out into adventures where equipment failure could be fatal. This is serious business here! You may respond that the Jumbo Jim was meant for just soft snow and sand, but please understand that it appears to be capable of more than that. If desert travel was not designed into your tire (which it clearly was not), then a disclaimer should accompany your advertising to warn potential users like myself not to run your Jumbo Jim on my trike for a remote and hazardous expedition.

It is my hope that by reading this end-note, you will reach a higher level of awareness regarding who uses your tire and for what purposes. Had you tested the Jumbo Jim in desert cross-country terrain, you would have quickly discovered, as I did, that they are not worthy of rugged off-road terrain. As I ponder how this all played out, I am relieved that the severe weather system of mid-October 2015 in the Mojave Desert brought my plans to a sudden and unexpected halt. Had I proceeded as planned, I now realize that I would have quickly exhausted my spare inner tube supply, and would have been seriously stranded in territory that has claimed many lives over the years. I was about to embark on an adventure that could have been my last.

A great responsibility rests on your shoulders. I hope that has become apparent through reading this entire article, and learning about how I was poised to use your Jumbo Jim tires in a very serious way, that a classy a looking design and some slick advertising to folks who want to play in the snow or sand on fat tire cycles is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are going to market this design at this low level of quality (compared to your Marathon Plus tire), you owe the cycling public an explanation of the tire’s limits, which, as we have now learned, are quite restricted. It is not an all-purpose off-road tire by any means. Tell your customers please!

It is also my hope that you will step up to the plate and design a Jumbo Jim Plus tire, with all the rugged durability I have come to expect from the Marathon Plus tire. Off-road backcountry riding subjects a tire to MUCH more abuse than a road tire, thus must be even more rugged than the Marathon Plus street tire. Will it be heavier? Sure, but guess what … I will make it through the expedition alive! Weight is insignificant when weighed against one’s life!

So, I now have an offer for you, dated November 25, 2015:

Send me three Jumbo Jim Plus prototype tires when they are ready, and I will happily test them for you, and I guarantee a non-biased evaluation. If they work, I will sing the praises from the mountaintops, as I have done for the past six years with your Marathon Plus tire. Let me know when you’re ready to rock and roll …

Mojave Bigfoot 01

This is what I’m talking about: a Full Fat, not a Full Flat! Can it happen?

ICE Full Fat no tires 1

When viewing the ICE Full Fat trike without tires, it becomes quite evident that without rubber on the wheels, the trike no longer serves any functional purpose. I have ridden this backcountry vehicle enough to say that I am extremely impressed with its superior ability to roam off the pavement where standard recumbent tricycles simply can never venture. This ICE trike, and other fatrikes like it, allow heretofore unheard of adventures on three wheels. Yet, when we view this incredible trike without tires, we realize that it can go nowhere – it just sits in one place, looking like some antique invention. The utter importance of tires cannot be overstated!

So, here we have the Inspired Cycle Engineering company manufacturing a trike that has few limits to travel, yet it depends entirely upon another company producing a tire that allows the trike to live up to its full potential. Essentially, ICE is at the mercy of tire manufacturers, for without them, they have no useful product. What I find quite disturbing is that due to the inferior quality of the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tire, the trike comes up looking inept, which, of course, it is not. Quite the opposite – this trike is awesome! The huge downside is that until a tire manufacturer makes a tire that does not consistently and quickly go flat from tiny thorns in the bushes, the ICE trike can only be ridden on dirt roads, snow, or sandy terrain (in addition to pavement, of course).

The ICE Full Fat is held back ONLY because it depends on the tires to be useful for adventures into the wilds. ICE is so very close to the perfect adventure machine. Unfortunately, until ICE makes its own tire at the same quality level as its trike, or until ICE partners with a tire company to make a tire worthy of the Full Fat, this compromise state will remain in existence, leaving riders having to frequently and regularly repair or replace tubes. If we use the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim as a measuring assessment, tubes will need replacing with each flat incident, because the tires are so thin that multiple thorns penetrate the inner tube, creating a situation where patching many tiny holes is not a viable option. This gets expensive over time.

NOTE TO ICE: Please, allow your trike to be ALL it can be! Do whatever you can to assure serious backcountry riders adventures that are not brought to a sudden halt because of little thorns on the ground. Partner with VEE Tire Company, or another manufacturer, to make the ultimate backcountry tire, which, until you created the Full Fat, was never needed before. Now it IS needed desperately! The new tire could be called the Full Fat, in honor of your Full Fat trike. You make an unbelievably capable vehicle – please give your customers the option to have an equally capable tire. As you can see in the photo, your trike is useless for backcountry adventures without functional and dependable tires – make this happen so that your loyal customers can confidently ride your trike without limits. Thank you very much!

~ ~ ~

DECEMBER 22, 2015 UPDATE REGARDING TIRES

I’ll make this quick:

Bigfoot Tubeless Conversion 03

One “thumb-down” since my other hand is busy holding the box

In case you have not read the report, I’ll sum it up here and simply say that I had 4 flat tires in 17 miles while riding my ICE Full Fat in California’s Mojave Desert. This is in spite of the fact that I had carefully installed the famous Mr. Tuffy 4XL tire liners in each tire to protect the vulnerable inner tube setup that shipped from the ICE factory for use on this trike. Bottom Line: Mr. Tuffy failed repeatedly, with numerous needle-like thorns sticking clear through the liners, leaving the inner tubes with so many minuscule puncture holes in each tube that it would have been a futile effort to patch them all (especially since they would go flat again in just a few more miles). Conclusion: Convert to a tubeless tire setup!

So, seeing the wisdom in all this, and realizing that if I truly do want to ride my wonderful fatrike through the wilds of Planet Earth, which I do, I am in the process of converting the stock factory tube setup to a tubeless solution with Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant inside. The lesson has been learned the HARD WAY, but at least it was indeed learned. My skull may be thick, but it is not impenetrable! Yee Haa … fun days lie ahead.

Bigfoot Tubeless Conversion 01

Wheels have been removed to facilitate the conversion (old boxes make great trike stands)

Bigfoot Tubeless Conversion 02

Three Alexrims ready to go tubeless

Bigfoot Tubeless Conversion 04

These beefy VEE tires are definitely more rugged than the original Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires that came installed direct from the ICE factory when I received the trike. Visit the VEE tire company HERE if you wish to learn more about them for your own fatrike. Even though these VEE tires are tougher, I still recommend converting to tubeless if you prefer to keep on riding rather than replacing inner tubes continually! Go tubeless – ride free!

Just watch how well Stan’s NoTubes sealant works to stop flat tires:

Click HERE to visit the Stan’s website!

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JANUARY 16, 2016 TUBELESS TIRE CONVERSION COMPLETE!

Ever since the Full Flat Fiasco, where dozens of minuscule pinholes from tiny desert thorns prevented me from enjoying the Mojave Desert backcountry, I realized a tubeless tire solution was the most productive path to follow. With the assistance of my cycling buddy Matt Jensen, who has a fatbike with tubeless tires that he converted from tube tires, Bigfoot is now happily as flat-proof as possible. It is indeed a great day in trikedom!

We converted to tubeless using the so-called “Ghetto” method because the ICE Full Fat comes with rims that are not air tight – the seam is not welded, thus would not retain air. The Alexrims Blizzerk 80 rims on Bigfoot have a non-welded seam, which requires a ghetto solution. Alexrims makes a Blizzerk Pro, with welded seams, but that does not come on the Full Fat. Additionally, with the weight-saving holes cut out of the rim, air would escape through them if only the rim strip were in place because rim strips are not air-tight. Gorilla Tape can be applied over the rim strips if you have a welded seam rim, and a traditional tubeless tire conversion could be applied, but I opted for the quicker, easier, and cheaper ghetto method. Besides, Gorilla Tape leaves a sticky mess if ever removed.

With ghetto, we installed a 24×2.4-2.75 Kenda Q-Tube inch inner tube onto the wheel, and then pumped just enough air into it so it would be inflated slightly. Next, we sliced the inner tube in half along its length, so that we could spread the tube material out over both sides of the rim. This method effectively will seal the air in the tire, not allowing it to escape through the wheel seam or hole cutouts in the wheel. The “ghetto” name comes from the fact that in the “old days”, riders who were experimenting with tubeless tires used this jury rigged solution to get the job done. It may be old fashioned, but it WORKS!

Then, the fat tire is mounted, in preparation for air inflation. With ghetto tubeless, the stretched rim over the bead area will be contacting the tire bead instead of the metal rim contacting the tire bead directly. This seals the air tightly, and with these low pressure tires, air is never lost like in high pressure road tires. Prior to tire inflation, 6-8 ounces of Stan’s NoTubes sealant is poured into the tire carefully. At this point, the tire is inflated to at least 10 pounds, although we pumped the tires up to 13 PSI.

The wheel and tire, with tire now fully inflated, is cleaned up (any soapy water necessary, or spilled sealant wiped away), and then the wheel is rotated and shaken in all directions to fully insure that that sealant is well spread around the interior. Finally, the wheels are mounted on the trike, which is then immediately ridden to further guarantee that the Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant is well spread around the interior of the tire. Flats are now a thing of the past! Another big advantage to this conversion is that there is nothing inside the tire (tube and Mr. Tuffy liner) to inhibit smooth rolling of the tire on the pavement, or to put the tire off balance, so the trike actually rides noticeably smoother and softer.

I would have created a video of this procedure, but so many are available already on YouTube that one more is not necessary. I’ll put another person’s video at the end of this article to give you an idea of how this looks in motion.

PHOTOS OF THE GLORIOUS DAY:

Ghetto Tubeless 01

Matt installs the tire over the wheel, which has the cut Q-Tube spread out over the sides of the rim. This will ultimately keep all the air in the tubeless tire.

Ghetto Tubeless 02

Airing up the tires is one of the final steps of the procedure.

Ghetto Tubeless 03

With tire aired up, it is shaken to distribute the sealant all around. Note the tube sacrificed for the job is now protruding around the edges. The tire bead seats against the tube. This excess tube material may be trimmed away later for appearance if desired.

Ghetto Tubeless 04

I hold the bottle of Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant, an absolute must for backcountry explorers!

Ghetto Tubeless 05

I installed Surly black rim strips, replacing the stock ICE orange strips (I like black).

Ghetto Tubeless 07

Here is the tube you will need for each wheel if you have 26 inch wheels. It is a 24 inch sized tube because you want it to fit super snug. A 26 inch tube will NOT work.

Ghetto Tubeless 08

The 24 inch tube sticks out on each side once the job is complete. It can be left this way, or trimmed away with scissors or a blade if you want it to look like a standard tube tire setup.

Ghetto Tubeless 09

Notice the sacrificed 24 inch tube excess around the bead. Keep it or trim it off as desired.

PHOTOS OF MATT JENSEN TESTING OUT OUR FINISHED TUBELESS FULL FAT:

Ghetto Tubeless 10Ghetto Tubeless 11Ghetto Tubeless 12Ghetto Tubeless 13Ghetto Tubeless 14

NO MORE FLATS! YEE HAA … HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN!

Below is a video presentation by someone else, showing the ghetto method of tubeless conversion. You may notice slight variances in this person’s method, however it does show the splitting of the sacrificed tube. Matt and I used a different tube size than these folks did, but you’ll get the idea. There are many more YouTube videos of this ghetto setup.

~

ICE FULL FAT CHAIN GUARD SOLUTION

After learning of Larry’s Full Fat dilemma with the chain being so filled with mud that the chain tubes became totally clogged, I initiated a conversation with Patrick Selwood of ICE. He is an exceptionally conscientious fellow who aims to please. I asked him if a chain guard of some type might be fashioned for my ICE Full Fat trike. Well, Patrick set to work and put together a nifty little unit that now resides on Bigfoot, which will keep all that nasty dirt, grime, mud, and snow that the rear tire flings around off the chain.

This solution, which he says is a prototype for Rohloff equipped Full Fats, will not work for riders with standard rear derailleurs on their Full Fats because with a derailleur system, the chain must move laterally in a significant manner, which this solution does not allow. But on a Rohloff rear end, the chain never moves laterally, thus this will work. Patrick indicates that depending on customer demand response, such a prototype has the potential for becoming available to other riders (the number of trikers worldwide with Rohloff equipped Full Fats however is relatively low).

Also notice in the photos that I have upgraded my rear elastomer system to green/red rather than red/yellow. This will allow me to carry loaded panniers on backcountry trips without the rear of the trike sagging from the additional load, as it did with my load on the Mojave Traverse expedition. Elastomer strengths are as follows: yellow = soft / red = medium / green = hard. The combination of red/yellow came stock on the trike, which provides a softer ride unloaded, but is too soft with full panniers.

Here are some photos showing the customized chain guard and the elastomers:

Full Fat Chain Guard 09Full Fat Chain Guard 08

What the chain looks like without mud protection (on Larry’s trike):

Larry's muddy chain

Click HERE to read Larry’s backcountry adventure story and see more photos! Hopefully Larry will soon have his new ICE Full Fat rear fender, which will also keep the goo off his seat, shoulders, and head. ICE has developed a nice fender solution for this trike.

ICE FULL FAT SEAT BRACKET CLEARANCE ISSUE

The bracket that attaches ICE seats to the frame has multiple slots so that the seat can be adjusted to rider preference regarding angle of recline. This is as it should be, so that ICE trikes can fit a wide array of rider sizes and preferences. On my former ICE Qnt, once I set the seat to my liking, which was at full recline, I simply removed the other slots, thereby shortening the bracket considerably. Since I was the only rider of the trike, I did not have a need to readjust the seat angle.

On the new ICE Full Fat, the bracket is also multi-adjustable. On this trike however, the long bracket presented an issue for me because I have a rear pannier rack, and with the rack on the trike, the seat bracket came mighty close to it. Now, this would be no big deal if a rider was not going to be removing the seat, but when I removed the seat to fold the trike for car transport last October, it became clear that a lot of wiggling and adjusting of things was necessary to get the bracket off where it connects to the frame mount (hard to explain, but obvious when one attempts to do it).

The pressure clamps that hold the bracket to the ICE seat are somewhat of a challenge to access due to the close proximity of the seat mesh, the frame mount, and the rear pannier rack, and getting tools in there to loosen and adjust the two pressure clamps is kind of a pain, takes some time, and would just be easier if the bracket wasn’t so darn long. With the bracket full length, it cannot simply be raised up to free it from the frame mount because the pannier rack stops its upward movement, and the same issue is in reverse when I went to put the seat back on the trike (ya’ have to do this to appreciate what I’m saying here).

So, as I did several years ago on my ICE Q, I just did on my ICE Full Fat: I shortened the bracket, getting rid of the useless extra adjustment slots, and now it easily can be lifted off the frame mount, and then easily reinstalled later. The pressure clamps are still a pain in the neck to get adjusted and tightened, but at least the bracket itself no longer is trapped in place by the pannier rack. Here are some photos to try and make sense of what I’m going on about in this extended monologue:

ICE Full Fat Seat Rack Clearance

Notice that the bracket cannot simply be raised without striking the rear pannier rack, so the seat must be manipulated around to get the bracket off the frame mount.

Full Fat seat bracket

By shortening the bracket, which eliminates the useless adjustment slots, this issue can be solved. Do not do this if you are not sure if you want the seat to forever remain in the most reclined position. There is no adjustment possibility once the surgery is complete.

Full Fat Seat Bracket cut

Here is the bracket after it has been shortened, leaving only one seat recline option.

Full Fat Seat Bracket 01

Now, there is plenty of clearance between the seat bracket and the pannier rack, which makes it significantly easier to remove and reinstall the seat when necessary for folding the trike for transport in a small automobile. Notice the tight tolerances also around the adjustment nuts and bolts for the pressure clamps that hold the bracket in place on the seat tubing – not much room to get tools in there to adjust the clamps – no big deal if you don’t fold the trike very often. The pressure clamps are semi-soft plastic, which could develop stress tears over time if they were frequently loosened and tightened on a trike that was folded on a regular basis for auto transport.

Full Fat Seat Bracket 02

At least it’s easier now than it was. This is a good solution for me since I leave my trike fully reclined at all times. Actually, this trike can recline significantly more if a rear pannier rack is not installed or used, making it even more comfortable (the greater the recline, the less issue of potential “recumbent butt” after hours in the seat). I had the seat reclined by several more degrees at first, but then realized that once I tried to install the pannier rack, the seat would actually hit the fender and rack assembly (my custom-made fender is part of the rear rack conglomerate), so I had to move it back up to where it is now. As is, the recline is more than many riders would choose. I just like it that way! Notice also that I have a green/red elastomer combination, much stiffer than that red/yellow that comes stock on ICE trikes – I needed this because when I have the trike loaded with adventure gear for outback multi-day treks, the stock elastomers were too soft, and sagged due to the weight of water, tools, and camping gear attached to the seat assembly.

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