Sunday, 3 December 2017

2018 Norco Ithaqua 2S | Trail Bike Review

As the leaves fall and the puddles start to freeze so ends the summer fatbiking season and the Trail Bike portion of Fatbike Republic’s review of the 2018 Ithaqua 2S.

Having been intimately familiar with Norco’s other fat beasts (Bigfoot and Sasquatch), when the opportunity arose to swing a leg over Norcos’ new suspension augmented carbon beast I jumped at the chance to make some room in the stable.  After several months and lots of trail time, I have some thoughts on how the 2018 Ithaqua 2S fares as trail conquering machine.


At the heart of this blue beast is its drop dead gorgeous chassis.  It sports a 197 mm rear end that provides plenty of space for fat rubber, a 31.6 mm seat tube and a tapered head that allows it to run a suspension fork.

The frame is made from mid-modulus carbon which is touted for being stiff yet not brittle, and hosts a number of features including:

Power Chassis – Increased stiffness from the head tube to rear axle that ensures the most efficient ride possible through minimizing flex and maximizing power transfer.

GIZMO - internal cable routing that keeps out water and debris, prevents rattling, and allows for easy setup and maintenance.

ArmorLite – Superior quality ArmorLite resin produces an exceptionally strong bond that enhances frame strength and increases impact resistance

SmoothCore – A process that maintains precision control over the inner surface of the frame, which is critical at complicated, high-stress junctures like the head tube and bottom bracket.

Size-scaled Tubing - Increases tube profile dimensions in proportion with frame size. This ensures that a heavier rider on an extra large frame will experience the same ride characteristics as a lighter rider on a small frame.

Gravity Tune – Adjusts the front-centre/rear-centre ratio across all frame sizes, effectively optimizing geometry and rider weight distribution.

With its 69 degree head tube angle it slips into XC handling territory.  On paper this would make the Ithaqua 2S handle a little better, corner a little crisper and climb a little higher.

The seat tube is also a little slacker at 72.5 degrees which puts a rider’s weight a little more towards the rear of the bike.  This would help when descending and provide a little more open cockpit.

2018 Ithaqua 2

Unlike many other manufacturers, the chainstay length on the Ithaqua 2S varies based on the size of the bike (440 small to 448 xl).  On the large version tested it measured 445 which is about mid-range (440 – 455) when looking at other fatties.  Generally, a longer rear end will make a bike feel more stable when descending and keep the front end down when climbing.  Shorter chainstays will make the bike feel a little more nimble.  It appears Norco is trying to get the best of both worlds.

2018 Ithaqua 2

While the Ithaqua 2S has a relatively small frame opening, it does sport two sets of water bottle mounts . . . on top and bottom of the hefty downtube.  If you look back to the chainstays you will also find additional threaded holes in case you want to run a rack.

2018 Ithaqua 2

And the GIZMO cable routing keeps the exterior of the frame practically cable free.

2018 Ithaqua 2


What makes the Ithaqua 2S stand out from the rest of the Ithaqua family sits directly under the bars . . . a Manitou Mastodon 100 Pro.   Released in 2017 the Mastodon has been making its way onto OEM specd bikes and is available in several variations.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Mastodon

The 100mm of squish can be dialled in by using the rebound adjustment on the bottom of the right tube and tweaked by hi and lo speed damping adjuster on the top.  Air can be added/released from the inlet on the bottom of the left tube.  Claimed weight is 2.21 kg (4.87 lbs).

2018 Ithaqua 2 Mastodon

The Mastodon 100 Pro has an axle crown measurement of 511mm, sports 34mm stanchions and is reported to do well in cold winter temperatures.  Keeping the tire spinning and secured to the fork is a Hexlock SL (15 mm x 150 mm) axle.


The folks at Norco hand selected a combination of components from different manufacturers for the Ithaqua 2S drivetrain and brakes.

To get things moving is an 11-speed Sunrace cassette mated to a Samox 30T alloy crank.   The gear ratio range is a pretty respectable 11/46 (11-13-15-18-21-24-28-32-36-40-46) with a low crawl of 1 x 0.65 (46 cog) and quick running 1 x 2.73 (11 cog).

2018 Ithaqua 2 Samox Sunrace

Shifting through the gears is a durable Shimano SLX M7000 Shadow Plus derailleur that incorporates features from XTR and DEORE XT.  The clutch can be disengaged to allow for easy tire removal.  Up on the bars you will find a low profile Shimano SLX M7000 shifter.  The longer levers decrease shifting effort and you can downshift three gears in one stroke, while upshifting with a push or pull.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Shimano SLX

SRAM Level brake levers and mating twin piston callipers bring this carbon beast to a halt.  Rotors are AVID 180mm (front) and 160mm (rear).  And the brakes are filled with DOT 5.1 fluid which should be less susceptible to extreme cold.

2018 Ithaqua 2 SRAM Level


Transferring the power to the ground are Kenda Juggernaut Pros.  These 26 x 4.5 tires are tubeless ready, sport a dual tread compound with varying tread heights, weigh in around 1380g and are almost true to size at 4.31” wide.   Inside the tire you will find Kenda 26 x 4.5/4.8 tubes that weigh about 520g a piece.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Kenda Juggernaut

The fat rubber is mated to alloy Mulefut 80 SL rims which spin on KT hubs.   Hub spacing for the front and rear is the expected 150 x 15 and 197 x 12, respectfully.


At the front end of the Ithaqua 2S you will find a Norco branded TranzX 6061 alloy bar.  It measures a comfortable 780mm wide and is connected to the bike by a relatively short TranzZ 60mm stem.  Two 10 mm headset spacers allow for some vertical stem adjustment while Ergon GA30 lock-on grips secure your mitts to the bars.

2018 Ithaqua 2 TranzX Ergon

For the second contact point Norco specced a black VP nylon flat pedal.  While probably not the first choice for many riders, it will certainly allow you to ride the bike before mounting up your favorite pedal.

Rounding out the cockpit is an air actuated TranzX 125mm dropper post with a cable initiated thumb release mounted up on the left side of the bar.   Connected to the dropper is a colour coordinated Norco stamped SDG Duster RL saddle.

2018 Ithaqua 2 TranzX Dropper Post SDG Seat

Enough talking specification . . .  how does this beast ride!


Having the Ithaqua 2S in the stable for several months I had to opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time on the bike in non-winter trail conditions.  To get a better feel for the trails tackled check out the video.

My immediate impression of riding the Ithaqua 2S is that this bike feels quick.  I noticed this on the first ride and within a couple of pedal strokes.  As the components and geometry on this bike is somewhat similar to my alloy white beast (2016 Sasquatch 6.1) I can only attribute this “snappy” feeling to the increased stiffness from the Ithaqua’s mid-modulus carbon frame.

2018 Ithaqua 2

I discovered that the stiffer frame also made the rear of the bike a little more lively when hitting rock strewn trails at speed.  Adjusting the rear tire pressure a little lower allowed more of the terrain to be soaked up by the fat tires.  On the front, the increased stiffness allowed the Mastodon to cycle through its 100 mm of travel.  I'll dig into the Mastodon a little later.

2018 Ithaqua 2

The Ithaqua was exposed to backwoods exploration, mixed media gravel grinds, cliff hanging mountain bike trails, rustic hiking routes and unforgiving non-flowy boulder strewn goat paths.  Trail and environmental conditions ranged from bone dry to uncomfortably wet.  It was no Sunday drive for the Ithaqua 2S.

2018 Ithaqua 2

Norco really did its homework with the geometry on this bike.   The XC inspired headtube angle, coupled with the mid-range chainstay length and slacker seat tube angle made the Ithaqua 2S feel really quick and agile.  There were no unnerving “over the bar” feelings when descending and the front tire stayed planted to the dirt with minimal body english when climbing.  The Ithaqua 2S also feels quite at home crawling over and through rocks, ruts and roots and exploring uncharted territory.  This bike just feels right.

2018 Ithaqua 2

Although I did not have the opportunity to do an overnight bikepacking trip, I did head out for a day trip sporting a weighty seat bag.  With the proper bag setup the Ithaqua 2S could also make a pretty decent bikepacking machine.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Arkel Seatpacker

When returning from any ride, I normally grab a bucket of soapy water and sponge to make sure my bike is all clean and pretty for the next ride.  While carbon bikes may be a little more prone to scratches, I did notice that the Ithaqua 2S cleaned off super easy with minimal effort.

The SRAM Levels did a superb job of slowing this fattie down. There was no fade after extended use and no unexpected lock-ups as the cylinders provided good feedback to the brake levers.  Water and mud dunking had minimal impact on the performance of the brakes.  And if you need to lock up the tires for an emergency stop, or drift through a gravel corner, these brakes will fit the bill.

2018 Ithaqua 2

The drivetrain blend of Shimano, Samox and Sunrace may seem a little unconventional, but it works quite well.  I love the dual action upshift (push/pull) of the SLX shifter and the fact that you can drop several gears with one stroke.  This is especially useful when you unexpectedly get caught in a higher gear and need to downshift fast.   The SLX derailleur is reliable and did not miss a shift.  Well . . . except for the time the rear drive side of the Ithaqua smashed a large rock.  A quick trip to my LBS to replace the bent the derailleur hanger and it was back up and running like nothing happened.

2018 Ithaqua 2

The 30T chainring combined with 11/46 cassette provided quite a respectable range of gearing.  I felt the 30 x 46 did provide enough low end torque for climbing and low speed maneuverability and the 30 x 11 did move the Ithaqua 2S along quite quickly.

The Juggernaut Pro 4.5s worked surprisingly well at mid psi (8-9) on wooded trails and high-psi (14-15 psi) riding hard packed.   They gripped well at lower pressure and rolled fast at higher pressure, but I did observe that were not super happy on off camber wet situations.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Juggernaut

I did swap in a set of Surly Nate 3.8s for a short time to see how the Ithaqua 2S would react with a narrower tire.  It did feel a little more agile, however there was a slight trade-off in stability.  The Juggernaut Pro 4.5s effectively split the difference between a 4.0” and 4.8” fatbike tire.

2018 Ithaqua 2

The cockpit on the large sized Ithaqua 2S fit my 5’11” frame quite well.  The longer 780mm bars combined with the 60mm stem made turning and climbing/descending very natural.  In most cases the grips and pedals are the first items on a bike to be replaced, but the Ergon GA30s are actually a pretty decent grip that stay in place and are comfortable.  Unfortunately, the VP nylon pedals do not have the stickiness that many of us need when getting serious on our fatties and were swapped out for something a little more aggressive.

2018 Ithaqua 2

The real star of the cockpit is the TranzX dropper post mated to the SDG Duster seat.  Press in on the lever, sit on the seat (to lower the post) and press lever again to bring the seat back to its original position.  I never knew how useful this was until I tried it on the Ithaqua 2S . . . no more getting smacked on the rear when descending rocky terrain.  While the lever could be a little more robust, it did operate at 100% and there were absolutely zero issues with the dropper post. 

2018 Ithaqua 2

Rounding out the cockpit is the SDG Duster seat.  It was quite comfortable for both short and longer rides and did not rub or place any undue pressure on the lower extremities.  It’s also rather stylish with its color keyed logo.

Now . . . back to the fork. I followed the Manufacturer’s Setup Guide for recommended spring pressure (PSI) and adjusted the rebound to one click past mid-range (click 6) and hit the trails.

2018 Ithaqua 2 Mastodon

I played with both the hi-speed and lo-speed damping considerably over the duration of the trail test review.  Maxing out both would effectively “lock-out” the fork which was great for gravel grinds.  From the video you can see the actually types of terrain tackled and in the majority of cases I found that a mid-range setting for both (high-speed 3 low-speed 2) worked quite well.

While the Mastodon is a little on the portly side at 2210g when compared to the Wren at 2140g and the Bluto at 1840g, it performed very well on the Ithaqua 2S.  The hefty 34 mm stanchions practically eliminated any noodley type feeling associated with other forks.  
The Hexlock SL axle attaches from the brake side using a “keyed” hexagon in the fork and a 6 mm hex key.  

While I did not hit any massive jumps or drops, I did subject the fork to stressors that one would expect to tackle on a full suspension bike.  It seemed like whatever trail I rode the stanchion o-ring would finish the ride about ¾ up the tube.  The Mastodon did not moan, groan or complain . . . did not bottom out and was very stable.  Norco did a great job in specing this fork for fatbike trail riding.


Fatbikes were originally minted for winter use, but as the sport has grown more and more people use them as multi-season bikes.  Still, there are some folks who put them in storage when the snow melts believing that a bike with lesser girth would be better suited as a trail machine.

What I really like:

- Agile and responsive XC inspired carbon chassis
- Usable well spaced gearing (30T x 11/46)
- Dropper post & grips

- SLX shifter
- Internal cable routing
- Mastodon fork

Areas for consideration:

- More robust dropper thumb release
- Additional armour for downtube and bottom bracket
- 28T chainring for extra low gearing
- Studdable tires

The Ithaqua 2S can easily hit the trails with any regular hard-tail bike, and tackle most places you would normally ride a full-suspension.  
Any actual or perceived difference in speed is more than made up for with increased traction and stability.

The 2018 Norco Ithaqua 2S is first and foremost a fatbike.  However, its XC inspired carbon chassis, durable components and suspension fork it makes one heck of a trail bike.

Stay tuned as Fatbike Republic releases the Ithaqua 2S into the winter wilderness.

Ride Fat!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Swagman Sitkka 2 | Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review

Wouldn't it be great to hop on your fattie and head out on a network of trails from your backyard?  This may be a reality for some, but for the majority of us heading out on the trails means transporting our bike to the trail head.

There are many ways to get your fat tired steed to the fun stuff
  • Inside your vehicle (in various states of disassembly)
  • In the back of a pickup
  • On the roof of your car
  • Hanging from the trunk/hatch mounted rack
  • Strapped into a hitch mounted rack
Swagman, located in Penticton BC, have been designing and manufacturing bicycle carrying gear since the early 1990's and have a solution for most of the situations above.

Fatbike Republic reached out to the folks at Swagman when it was discovered that their new fat compliant, hitch mounted rack had zero frame contact.  Within a week a Sitkka 2 arrived at FBR headquarters for a closer look.

Be sure to check out the detailed video at the end of the review.


A considerable amount of thought went into the design of the Sitkka 2 and as a result it boasts the following features:
  • Zero frame contact (straps and arms touch only rim & tire)
  • Fits bikes from 20" to  29"+ wheels & fatbikes up to 5" wide
  • Sliding straps accommodate bikes of various lengths
  • Wheel ratchet straps and pressure chocks firmly hold bikes and secure wheels
  • Locking ratcheting arms with replaceable keys help to prevent bike theft
  • Rack folds up against the back of the vehicle when not in use
  • Tilts down to allow access to the rear of vehicle even while bikes are loaded
  • Fits 1 1/4" and 2" hitch receiver
  • Comes with threaded locking hitch pin
  • Weight: 45 lbs

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Box


The Sittka 2 arrived with the box having only a couple of minor superficial scuffs.  The handholds and straps made moving the 40 x 24 x 10 box relatively easy.  After opening the box it was easy to see that the strategically placed packaging kept all the parts unharmed.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Open Box

When assembling any product its a good idea to first read through the instructions. The three pages that came with the Sitkka 2 were pretty thorough and included information on installing it on your vehicle and loading the bikes.  The actual assembly is pretty straight forward and is actually detailed on the first page and includes four infographics.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Instructions

I emptied the box, laying all the parts and galvanized fasteners on a 6x8 moving blanket, including two allen keys for the assembly (4 & 6mm).

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Parts

You will also need a 1/2" and 3/4" wrench and/or sockets.  I also grabbed a rubber mallet in case something needed a little tap.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tools

Following the instructions and the diagrams I had the rack assembled in about 30 minutes.  
Be sure to check out the video for more detailed assembly.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Assemble

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review

The rack comes ready to fit a 2" hitch receiver, but by removing the "sleeve" it will fit a 1 1/4 receiver.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hitch

The assembled rack easily slid into the 1 1/4 hitch on my Jeep Patriot.  I chose to use the chrome locking hitch pin for the extra level of security.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Installed


There are a few features that really caught my attention.  Firstly, a well padded hook holds down on the front tire and not the frame.  This makes the Sitkka 2 carbon frame friendly as it's generally not recommended to use frame grabbing hooks on carbon framed bikes.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hook

The extra wide "bumpers" on the tire straps is a smart idea when considering the large number of cut-outs in fatbike rims.  The hold-down force is spread out over a larger area.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tire Strap

I did not initially understand the combination of upturned and downturned tire trays until it was actually mounted to the vehicle.  When placing the front tire in the upturned tray, the rear tire will sit ON the down-turned tray.  The length of the bike will dictate where the rear tire lands.  Aligning the sliding strap mounts with the tire will give the bike a custom fit.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Tire STrap

The Sitkka 2 practically hugs the vehicle when folded and did not impede driving and parking in any significant way.  And the pop of neon green/yellow will make you a little more visible.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Folded


The Sitkka 2 is very easy to use.  First you lower the rack from the folded position and fold out the arms - to approximately 135 degrees.  If carrying one fattie its recommended to mount it closest to the vehicle.  Then slide the ratcheting hook to their full extension and release the straps (on both trays) from the buckle.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Open

Load your fattie with the front tire tire in the upturned tray, fold in the arm and slide down the ratcheting hook until it touches the tire near the crown.  The push down until you hear the click. 

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Hook on tire

Finally, align the sliding straps to the center of the tires, slide through the buckle and pull down tight.  It took me approximately two minutes to load two fatbikes . . . that is pretty quick.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review strap on tire

When driving down side roads and on the highway the bikes did not move, nor did ratcheting hook or wheel straps loosen.  While not made for off-roading, I did take my Patriot on some dirt roads and the Sitkka 2 performed well.  For heavy off-roading I would recommend riding the fatties instead.

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review in use

The Sitkka 2 can also easily tilt away from your vehicle by pulling up on the cam lever and lowering the rack.  There is no need to remove the bikes from the rack and there was plenty of room to clear the rear hatch on my Patriot.

Tilting fatbike rack

The lock in the ratcheting hook is quite useful when needing to leave your fattie unattended for a short period of time.  After hearing the "click" when pulling down on the ratcheting hook, insert the key into the button and turn. 

Swagman Sitkka 2 Zero Frame Contact Fatbike Rack Review Lock

This lock will not prevent bike theft, but it will definitely deter any would be thieves.

Check out the video . . .


Having traveled several hundred kilometers carrying fatbikes hither and yon, I
have to say that the Sitkka 2 is a super quick loading and unloading fatbike carrier.  The ratcheting arm (that holds the tire and not the frame) did not need retightening during any trip and the tire straps held the tires confidently.

The lock did come in handy when making a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home from a ride.

When unloaded and folded the Sitkka 2 practically huggs the vehicle.  And even when fully loaded, the rack easily folded down allowing full access to the rear of my Patriot from the fully opened hatch.

So if you are looking for a quick loading, hitch mounted, two bike carrier, that will not break the bank and is carbon frame friendly with it zero frame contact . . . be sure to check out the Sitkka 2 by Swagman.

Ride Fat !

Monday, 23 October 2017

How to Install a Dropper Post | TranzX

How to install a dropper post on a fatbike

Seatposts are probably one of the least flashy parts on your fatbike, yet they play such and important role.  I have ridden with stock alloy, aftermarket alloy (bling), suspension post (Thudbuster) and carbon (Wren).  All of which have certain advantages and characteristics.  The one seatpost that did not get under me was a dropper post.

Several of my buddies have dropper posts and swear by them especially when riding into technical downhill sections.  I would stop and manually drop my post as they flip a lever and keep on riding.  Putting the seat back up in riding position is actually more of a pain.

When the Norco Ithaqua 2S landed I had the opportunity to try a dropper post as it came stock on the blue carbon beast.  The dropper was a TranzX 125mm air actuated with a bar mounted cable remote . . . I just had to install it.  How hard could it be?

The 8.5 x 11 one fold instruction sheet appeared pretty complete as I quickly skimmed the words and glanced at the pictures (mistake number one - read everything twice).

The first step involved sliding the cable through the lever mechanism with the fixed barrel resting inside.  I then mounted the lever to the left side of the bar, just inside the grip.

TranzX on a Norco Ithaqua 2S

Secondly, the cable had to be fished through the housing.  In my case the housing was already run inside the frame using the GIZMO internal cable routing system and out through the seat tube.

TranzX dropper post install

After accomplishing that, I needed to trim the end of the cable to the specified length and install a removable barrel end.  Not having the proper cable cutter I improvised with a set of linesman pliers.  It wasn't the neatest job, but it worked.

The barrel end securely seated itself in the bottom of the dropper post and the post was secured in the frame.  Easy peazy . . . or so I though until I looked back up at the bar.

Now I'm no expert in installing dropper seat posts, but that large unnatural curve sorta looked wrong.

I then took the time to read the instructions (twice).  No real help there on explaining the steps to correctly measure and cut the cable.  Calling up some extra brain cells I figured out a way to address the issue.

Step One - Get the Correct Tools

I could have used the linesman pliers again to cut the housing and cable, but I wanted to ensure a clean cut so it was off to my LBS to secure a cable cutting tool.

Using a EVO cable cutter

Step Two - Remove Seatpost

This will allow the housing/cable to be pulled through the frame giving the perfect curve up at the bars.

Ithaqua 2

Step Three - Measure the Housing/Cable

With the perfect curve, mark the housing where it enters the frame.  I used a piece of green tape. 

Reinstall the seatpost and pull the housing/cable back towards the bar to make that large unnatural curve. 

Measure the distance between the green tape and the frame . . . and that is how much housing needs to be cut off.  In my case it was 9.25".

Step Four - Prepare for Cutting

Remove the green tape from the housing.  Take the seatpost out of the frame.  Remove the lever from the bar and pull housing/cable out through seat tube. 

This left a significant amount of housing/cable sticking out of the seat tube.  Remove the cable from the bottom of the seatpost, trim the cable flush with the housing and measure and mark 9.25".  I used green tape again.  

Step Five - Cut the Housing

You only get one shot at this.  Before cutting the housing be sure to pull the actual cable back through the housing so when you cut the housing you are not cutting the cable as well.  Then push the cable back through the housing.

Trim the cable as per the measurements in the instructions and reinstall the barrel.

Connect the barrel to the bottom of the seatpost, as per the instructions, and reinstall the seatpost, pulling the slack housing/cable out through the front of the frame.

Reinstall the lever on the bar and admire the perfect curve.

It was a little bit of a nail biter when making that final housing cut, but it all worked out. (whew)

If your dropper post cable runs outside the frame it will probably be a little easier to install as you will have full access to the cable.  The hidden internally run cable made the process a little more complicated . . . but its not impossible.

Ride Fat !