This week’s Reader’s Rig comes from Joshua Torrans in Michigan, who offers a detailed look at his custom titanium midtail adventure rig from Black Sheep Bikes in Colorado. Learn more about Joshua and how riding his one-of-a-kind machine has inspired him to take on several winter ultra events here…
Words by Joshua Torrans, photos by Joshua Torrans, James Morrow, and Rob Meendering
Hello, fellow adventures! My name is Josh Torrans from Schoolcraft, Michigan. I’m a fellow bike nerd and bicycle mechanic who enjoys more coffee than I need and looking for any reason to strap stuff on my bike for a long pedal or sub-24-hour overnighter. My love for cycling started as a kid growing up on the farm. My first off-the-farm job was detasseling corn, and I spent my entire summer’s savings on my first mountain bike with a Blackburn rack to replace my BMX bike. In 1996, I started working in the bike industry.
Since late 2004, I have adopted fat tires right off the get-go. I found it was an advantage for commuting in the winter at the time in Northern Indiana. I still have and ride the Surly Pugsley that started my fat tire obsession. The Black Sheep Frozen Nog Ops build was inspired by hours of saddle time on different bikes and falling in love with winter riding. During said saddle time, you can dream big. The dream was a bike to haul bulky winter gear easier through winter rides and ultras like the Arrowhead 135.
Realizing that you need to have experience to get accepted for races like the Arrowhead 135, I started researching. At the start of 2020, I attended Jill Martindale’s Winter Shakedown, then raced the Polar Roll 30 hosted by 906 Adventures in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Halfway through, I took a bad digger, roughly 18 miles in, and broke my collarbone. I am pretty sure the cold temps and adrenaline helped keep the pain at bay to finish. Being sold on winter racing, I knew I had some work to put in to qualify for bigger events. Most of you know the investment in bigger races and gear takes time.
The parts on this build came from a couple of key mid- and long-tail bikes available out there. I own a Surly Big Fat Dummy, but that bike carries way too much with its 61.5″ wheelbase with a base weight of 50 pounds. I considered a Salsa Blackborrow with a wheelbase of 53.8″, but I really wanted to use a Gates Belt with a 170mm XL Rohloff hub and fit a 26″ tire like the Surly Bud and Lou. This combo was not possible unless I ordered one from a company called Muru out of Australia.
My current fat bike uses the drivetrain listed above and has a Black Sheep Deathsplosion fork on it, which, by the way, is the cat’s meow! I contacted James at Black Sheep Bikes to see if he would be willing to build such a frameset with roughly a 57″ wheelbase themed disgustingly winter. Roughly a year later, I took a road trip from Michigan to Fort Collins, Colorado, with my uncle to pick it up. James and Tarryn were beyond great to work with. Their skill and input made for a dream trip for a dream build!
Frame Black Sheep Midtail
Fork Black Sheep Deathsplosion with triple cage mounts
Rims ENVE M685 26” rims with Sapim spokes
Hubs Schmidt 150mm dynamo (front) / Rohloff 170mm XL 14sp (rear)
Tires 45NRTH Vanhelgas, Wrathchildren, or Surly Bud and Lou
Handlebars Jones style with thumb hooks with integrated 70mm/90* stem
Grips Jones Kraton 205mm long clear and Brooks leather bar tape
Headset Chris King Frosted Turquoise
Headbadge Jen Green mixed metal
Crankset Cane Creek Titanium EEwings 175mm, 46T
Pedals Shimano Saint
Bottom Bracket Chris King Frosted Turquoise
Brakes Paul Klampers with Love levers, short pull
Shifter(s) Sram X-O modified with Gebla shifter box
Saddle Brooks Team Pro S
Seatpost Black Sheep
Lights K-Lite MTB, dual charger with front and rear Cube flashers
Bags Morrow Packs (pictured) or Johnny D’s Bike Bags
Other accessories Wolftooth titanium cages (summer) / Tailfin cargo mounts (winter)
To top off the build, I wanted to fit bags made of waxed canvas. I came across two great Michigan bag builders. Since I had a tough decision to make, I commissioned both: Johnny D Bike Bags for a brown with oversized zipper for the summer set and Morrow Packs for the quilted goodness and disgustingly winter set. They complement the build and fit well together if I mix and match.
Since picking my bike up, I have put over 5,000 miles of saddle time. I just look for any excuse to go for a ride on it. Who doesn’t enjoy a bike that feels like a fitted suit? Riding the Crusher EX225, I realized the long wheelbase is better for more than snow races. Recently, I entered and finished my first winter ultra, the inaugural year of the Polar Roll Ultra 140. The Black Sheep performed flawlessly, and I even used the steering lock quite a few times since Todd Poquette and crew like all their races to include some hike-a-bike enhancements.
You can see more from Joshua on Instagram.
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