Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Finally! My Cogburn CB4 Hunting Bike review post!

Future is bright for hunting by bike!

Been waiting a long time to write this post.  However I wanted to make sure that I really put the Cogburn CB4 through its paces before I started spouting off about it.

Its not often I have something to truly say about a product.  That said, I dont really consider the Cogburn CB4 a product.

Obviously it is, but to me it has become more of a "tool".

The bicycle itself has always been a tool for me.  A tool to access hard to reach places.

A portable vehicle.  Something that when the terrain and the going gets to much (water, mud, deep brush) I can just pack it up, haul it on my back and keep moving further with.

It says something that the horse was first replaced by the bicycle, not the car........

CB4 the lone wolf in the category
You're never really stopped in overland travel when you have a bike.  Delayed for sure, shackled, but never stopped.

Its not like that with an ATV or a truck or a car. Eventually they get mired.  They get wedged or they get sidelined. Not the bike, it just gets hauled along and when the riding is able to be done again, you toss your leg over it and hit the pedal and go. Never mind the fact that its quieter than a conversation.

I have been hunting by bike for as long as I can remember being able to hunt.  It started out as a way to get to my friends farm in the next valley, then I realized I could ride the tractor paths instead of the road and lo and behold, there were birds, squirrels and deer on those paths anyway.

As far as I can tell there are really just two ways to hunt on a bike.

Number One is to toss your gear on and use it as an approach vehicle to get to a hunting area or blind, or stand etc.

Number two is to hunt while you ride it.  To use it as your legs, to creep along and scout the ditches and the brush and keep a sharp eye out for game.

To cruise by low quality cover and bee line it for the A-stash.

I practice both, but my biggest buzz comes from the second version.

Thunder Chicken
The wily "Thunder chicken" (Aka Ruffed Grouse) is by far my favorite quarry.  There is no better tasting thing in the world in my humble opinion.  You might as well lump Grouse, Lobster and Walleye together as some of the best things you can pluck from nature and pour butter on and consume.

Grouse are also amazingly fun to hunt off of a bike and to me fall is defined by that action.

Now before I go on there is one thing that you need to realize about me that are maybe pertinent to this conversation.

That being that I am about the journey as much as I am about the kill.

To be successful in my book does not equal numbers.  It equals adventure and it equals seeing things I have personally never seen before and being where other people are not or at the very least hard pressed to get to.  I am just as happy about hauling ass for miles through hell and mud to see a potential prime habitat and score just one version of the animal that could live there.

Assault bike
So if your a numbers guy, if you are keeping tally of how many things you have put in the bag every year and hold yourself to "success" as being 6 versus 3, then you might be in the wrong place.

Case in point is the time I cycled, backpacked, swam and wallowed to get to an inland lake in the Chippewa National Forest with an inflatable belly boat to set up in a small rice lake that NOBODY was accessing.

I sat there all day until sunset when sure enough a fat single Green Head dropped like a MIG into my blocks.  One shot, one duck five hours of access and one insanely memorable hunt.  I had done it.  I found that spot where nobody could get to and was able to find my quarry and make that memorable shot.

Heading to better cover
Like they say, its called hunting "not catching, killing or shooting".

This is not just about my need to roam, it is also because I am landless.  I am not of the landed gentry that can afford huge tracts of land (wish I was!), manage them for game and have the luxury of not competing with my fellow man.  I am also not of the income bracket that can pay those folks for a week stay to hunt their land!

I have one option for hunting and that is public land, and the only way to even see game on public land is to work harder, smarter and longer than the next guy.

Andy contemplating the Cogburn CB4
Back to the Cogburn CB4 and the idea of it as a tool.

First its fat.

Fat is good.

I have tried all manner of bikes in the woods.  The fat bike is by far the best.  Its quiet, its forgiving on rough terrain and its stable to ride on.  Call it a fad, call it a gimmick but your wrong.  I had moved on to a Pugsley for hunting years ago from a hard tailed mountain bike because it was just plain more fun to hunt off of.

The CB4 just takes it one step better.  Integrated racks, a low slung top tube and a scabbard round it out and the camo seals the deal.

The low slung top tube is key when you have the scabbard.  I had no idea how much I roll off the back of a bike when I dismount. However when your gun is sticking up off the back of your trusty steed, that movement is not an option.  You must go over the top tube and with a game vest on, big hunting boots and jeans, that movement is like high stepping over an electric fence......

The basic geometry of the bike puts the user in a more upright position.  This is also good.  Your riding is more like the witch in the Wizard of Oz then face down and forward like a world cup MTB racer.  Its really comfortable, lets you ride at really low speeds in heavy clothes and still manage all the roots, ruts and rocks in the trail.  The bike comes with really, really wide handle bars.  This is a good thing, its like having power steering.

Camo. Is that important functionally?  Not to me.  Other guys might like that but I am not really that into it.  In fact one way I hunt a lot is to see a bird, drop the bike and walk the bird down.  Many, many times I have come back to the trail I started out on and wondered where the bike is........camo can hide the bike from you as much as the game and that has created a few challenges for me.  I have been tying an orange rag to the handlebars to help me out!  It does look cool though and gets plenty of comments!

The scabbard.  This is both an awesome thing and a source of frustration as well.  Forever I have been just slinging the 12 gauge over my back and dealing with the pain.  The first time I put the gun on the scabbard it was the most freeing feeling I have had in a long time.  Yeah, get that blasted thing off my back and on the bike, that feels good!
First strap attempt = too slow to remove
That said, I have been struggling with an effective way of quickly removing the weapon from the bike in a fast and effective way.

The scabbard is built for bows and rifles.  It is built more for hunter type number one, the ride to the hunting spot and leave the bike hunter.  This is really conducive to big game and bow hunting.  The actual rubber mounts for the guns are geared toward sleek weapons and not a short stubby shotgun and therefore I have had to improvise the upper attachment.

Second strap attempt, much faster, still a challenge
I have gone through several different straps and currently am centered on a velcro ski strap as the fastest and most effective. I will say however that not a small number of grouse have literally walked past me, tails in the air as I struggled with other straps, trying to rip the gun off and get a shot!

So yeah I would say this is a place where the set up could be improved for hunter version two, that of the guy looking to hut off the bike with quick reaction times.  Keep in mind that here in Minnesota it is legal to have your gun uncased while riding and loaded...... I have certainly toyed with the idea of having an ATV style rack on the handlebars, however that means I can not travel tight twisty trails and I do like the fact that the upright scabbard allows for that type of riding.

I had some early opinions on the tires that the CB4 came with.  The Nates.  The Nates are a fairly aggressive tire and somewhat noisy.  I was originally going to switch out the Nates with another less aggressive tire.  My Big Fat Larry's are super, super quiet.  However after some hunts on trails that had a lot of vegetation and some moisture, I was aware that the Nates were able to gain traction where I know a less aggressive tire would have spun out.  So while they may be noisy on gravel and hard pack it is a compromise worth making when you get off the traveled roads.

Scene from the roads
I think that the most important point in the whole thing is that there is a brand called Cogburn that understands that there is a person out there in the hunting (and fishing) world that uses a bicycle to gain human powered access to the backcountry.

Wether that is because of philosophy or because its mandated by law due to land management.  Meaning Wildlife Management Areas, or Federal areas where motorized vehicles are restricted.

It does not matter.  The person who is willing to work harder, who is willing to grab another tool that allows them to go further into the bush, further into the area where the average hunter cant go is now being given access to a tool that will allow them to do that.

I love the CB4 and what it means for future tools that allow me to more easily hunt off of a bike.  It is my hope that means more innovative scabbards and gun racks and trailers.  As well as frame bags and panniers created with the idea of hunting in mind.

I would also say I would love to see a much lighter (albeit more expensive) version of the CB4.

Once loaded, gun and gear it is really heavy, while I could see using my Ti Mukluk in a similar fashion and saving a solid amount of weight.  However it is great to have the upright position of the CB4 and to just keep my Muk set up like I want it for true winter riding.

I get the fact the CB4 is marketed and priced toward the bait and bullet crowd and that is smart.  I do feel however that just like the transition from cheap rubber rain coats to Gore-Tex that the serious hunters will be looking for more performance.

That said, this is year one.  This is the start now it will be fun to see what all the hunters out there do with this machine and how they manipulate it, bend it and make it serviceable and how those innovations come back to benefit us all.

Go get on your bike and bring your gun...........

Get on it


samh said...

"...I get the fact the CB4 is marketed and priced toward the bait and bullet crowd and that is smart. I do feel however that just like the transition from cheap rubber rain coats to Gore-Tex that the serious hunters will be looking for more performance."

Well said. All of it.

Joboo said...

A Thompson Contender and a shoulder holster have made me the bird serial killer for years!! Lol
Even in the down years, I'm happily a killer of birds!!

Tim Ek said...

That scabbard looks like it would mar up your fore stock. ???

Loki said...

It's actually padded Tim Ek! Hard to tell but it's gun friendly!

Your_bro said...

You might try adhesive backed Velcro; stick the fuzz to the gun and the hooks to the scabbard, then just rip it off when birds are bothering you.

chukt said...

I used to work for a guy in Wyoming that had a bike custom built for hunting Elk and Deer.

His scabbard was a modified hard case mounted on the front rack and held the rifle barrel down. He could silently slide the rifle out of the scabbard from the seat in case he rode up on an animal.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time I biked for grouse. Had an English Setter who loved it. She could run really fast down the road and still point birds. Amazing.