Our Reader’s Rig of the week comes from Victor Wiltmann in Ontario, Canada, who shares his 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard, a bike with loads of history. Learn how the Blizzard came into Victor’s life, how it handled some of the Highland Trail 550 route in Scotland, and a little about his longtime interest in breathing new life into old bikes here…

Words and photos by Victor Wiltmann

Hello! My name is Victor Wiltmann, and I work primarily in cross-country skiing. I have worked at various levels, but most recently for the provincial sport body here in Ontario. Biking fills the concrete technical/mechanical interest of mine that isn’t as present in skiing (vs. ski-waxing, which can feel a bit more artistic at times!). Although I have always ridden bikes, I’m relatively new to biking being my “main” summer activity. This is largely thanks to my enthusiastic bike partner, who moved in with me at the beginning of the pandemic.

  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard

I have always enjoyed tinkering with bikes, though. I maintained a rental fleet of bikes for my parent’s housekeeping cottage resort near Parry Sound, Ontario, as a teenager. I also held several other jobs during high school away from home that required me to ride about an hour each way, so I converted an old CCM Ice into a road bike with some parts I found in the ditch near my home! I also attempted to cobble together a “mountain bike” for my brother at the time through similar sources, but it was less of a success.

  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard

This 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard was originally purchased by my friend Jon’s dad, who passed it on to him. All three of us and another friend rode the Telluride to Moab San Juan Huts route in 2016, with Jon riding this bike.

  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard

The pandemic renewed my interest in bikepacking, and, with the extra time, I dove into the world of tinkering with bikes. Re-using and recycling bits has always been an interest of mine, so refurbishing a vintage/steel bike appealed to me, but I didn’t have much luck finding anything until I remembered Jon’s bike and inquired with him about it. He hadn’t been riding it much, and in exchange for an XC skate ski kit, we had a deal. I’m not even sure I knew exactly how/what what I wanted to do with the bike initially, but thought it was cool.

1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • Frame 1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard
  • Fork(s) Surly Ogre or RockShox Tora (80mm)
  • Rims Bontrager Ranger/Sunrims
  • Hubs Shimano Deore/Deore XT
  • Tires Bontrager XR-4 2.35″ (front) / WTB Velociraptor 2.1″ (rear)
  • Handlebars Surly Sunrise
  • Headset Ritchey Logic
  • Crankset Riro NX (32/22)
  • Pedals Shimano
  • Cassette SunRace 11-40, 9-speed
  • Derailleurs Manual shift (front) / Sunrace M8 or M9 (rear)
  • Brakes Tektro Mechanical Disc/SRAM 9.0 V-Brake
  • Shifter(s) Shimano Deore 9-speed thumb shifter
  • Saddle MEC MTB
  • Seatpost EVO 26.8mm, no setback
  • Stem ~60mm
  • Front bags Phantom Pack Handlebar Bag
  • Frame bags Ibera Triangle Frame Bag (screwed into the bottle cage mounts)
  • Rear bags Phantom Pack SIC Seat Pack
  • Accessory bags 2x Dry bags on Blackburn Everything Cages + Toppeak Top Tube Bag
  • Other accessories Bright fluorescent helmet and hat!

After I found the Surly rigid fork at a local shop, followed by lots of faffing with random parts and visits to the local bike co-op, it took its shape before a vacation/bikepacking trip to Scotland last spring. All of the parts that were replaced in this build are being used elsewhere!

1999 Rocky Mountain Blizzard

I finally got to ride the bike in earnest on a modified portion of the Highland 550 Trail in Scotland. Major respect for the riders who do that trail all in one shot and on a single speed! Hopefully, there are many more trips to come, some along with my brother, who owns a real mountain bike now.

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