FOR Mike “Kid” Riemer, the marketing manager at Salsa Cycles, bikes are a predictable passion, but so is fly fishing the lakes and rivers of Minnesota. Bringing the two together was the next step and pimping the brand’s fabled Blackborow fat bike build was the way to do it. Mike’s goal was simple: his bike needed to be able to take him and all his fly fishing stuff wherever he wanted to go, something he sums up in a one line mantra – “Bring what you need to do what you love to do.”
With a giant rear rack capable of holding two full-sized rear panniers as well as extra storage behind the seat tube, the Blackborow is designed to do just that. And while Mike’s Blackborow is a one-of-a-kind with custom bags by Cedaero (painted in brown and brook trout racing stripes by Montana-based artist Mimi Matsuda), rod holders, a cutting board, fitted Yeti Ramblers and an Ernest Shackleton quote on the downtube (Perce Blackborow, who lends his name to the bike was a stowaway, on Shackleton’s trans-Antarctic expedition) – there’s nothing stopping you from customising your own Blackborow. Nothing except money, of course.
We spoke to Mike about his magnificent bike.
What was your thinking behind this custom build?
The bike is a celebration of combined passions; bikes, the outdoors, and flyfishing. I’ve worked in the bike industry since ’93 in some form or fashion, and have been a rider far longer than that. Flyfishing is a newer passion. I started 7 years ago, spending the first 2 years fishing Tenkara stye. That just made me want to try ‘Western’ style flyfishing and somebody set the hook well because it is has definitely taken hold of me in a big way.
When we were working on the new Blackborow design, our thoughts were on increased capacity. Being able to bring more gear, or bulkier gear, to create and enjoy new experiences and adventures via the bike. Minimalist bikepacking setups are all the rage, but the Blackborow delivers a different message. Bring what you need to do what you love to do. That put my mind to flyfishing and building a bike that not only would be great for doing it, but would celebrate the beauty of trout in a big way.
Where do you usually fish? What are the species you target? What’s the terrain like? Day trips or several days camping?
I like to fish for trout so that dictates most of my fishing. I know there are many other species of fish I could target much closer to home (Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes), but I enjoy wading as there is just something special about standing in moving water that washes away everything else going on in life. Fortunately, I live in Minnesota and there is plentiful trout fishing relatively nearby, both in Minnesota and Wisconsin. My favorite haunt is the Rush River. It is beautiful with quite distinctive character depending on what section of the river you are fishing. I’m a dry fly lover and I take a bit of pride in feeling like I can fish dry flies at any time of the year, if I choose and present the fly right. I think that bit of thinking comes from those 2 years spent Tenkara fishing. I worry less about exactly matching the hatch, and worry more about presenting the fly well. If I can’t fish dry flies, then I’ll switch to swinging streamers or nymphs, but I really hate to indicator fish so I just don’t do it.
The terrain varies from rolling hills to steep bluffs to fairly flat pasture land depending on where you are. Most of my fishing is day trips, but there are great spots to make multi day efforts with camping.
Tell us about the custom panniers and the racks.
The new Salsa Blackborow comes with the rear rack. The easiest way for folks to understand the capacity is that the rear rack can hold 2 full size rear panniers on each side. But the frame design also creates some extra, very useable space behind the seattube. We call the lower space the Stowaway Space and the upper space No Man’s Land.
The custom bike bags were built for me by Cedaero, located in Two Harbors, Minnesota…on the shore of Lake Superior (another tremendous waterway!) I brought a prototype Blackborow and rod tubes up there and we had a brainstorming session over a few local beers. We came to some simple ideas like drainage on one of the panniers for wet gear, but also to some pretty cool ideas like the elevated rack deck. It creates the perfect space for a couple rod tubes. It is almost like they are sitting in a pickup truck topper. They were smart enough to design it so it is easily removable and can be used as a cutting board or fillet board if necessary.
Originally, I’d thought of just doing a Brown Trout bike, but when I was talking with a fly shop owner one day he said “Why Brown and not Brookie?” That stuck in my head, so I decided to go one side Brown Trout and the other side Brook Trout.
I contacted an artist friend of mine from Bozeman, Montana, Mimi Matsuda and she agreed to paint the bags for me. I sent her the most basic digital sketches of what I was thinking but she could see what I was getting at! As you can see she did a tremendous job. She is a fantastic artist, but also she really creates her art from her love of nature. I encourage your readers that love art to check out her website and consider buying a piece if it suites their taste. I’m really looking forward to making a trip to Bozeman at some point this coming year so that she can see the complete bike in person. At this point, she’s only seen the photos.
What does the Shackleton quote on the tube say?
“Difficulties are just obstacles to overcome after all.” –Sir Ernest Shackleton
Where’s your next mission on this bike?
It is going to be another run into a northern Minnesota trout lake. Then possibly a multi-day Steelhead trip in northern Wisconsin on the Brule Bois. But on the grander scheme of things, my plans for 2018 include the varied states of Iowa, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana! I’m sure you are quite well aware of the saying, ‘Trout don’t live in ugly places.’ Thus far I’ve found that to be true!
For more from Mike, Salsa and the Blackborow, check out their video, ‘Touching the Sun’.
A US$2 799 stock build includes a 1×12 SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes, and Sun Ringle Mulefut 27.5 x 80mm rims with Maxxis Minion FBF/FBR 27.5 x 3.8″ tubeless tires. Frame sets are US$1 799 including the rack. salsacycles.com/bikes/blackborow