Kit List: Luggage

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Bike bags:

Carradice Camper, leather attachment straps replaced with REI gear straps

Revelate framebag; medium, misfit to older Pugsley frame

Revelate Pocket, front handlebar bag

Revelate Gas Tank, top tube bag

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Drybags and gear sacks:

Sea-to-Summit e-Vent compression sack: contains sleeping bag, down jacket and VBL attached with REI gear straps

Sea-to-Summit, durable welded drybag: contains tent, excluding poles and stakes

Outdoor Research, silnylon stuffsack; contains clothing, stored in saddlebag

Outdoor Research, silnylon drybag; contains camera

assorted silnylon and uncoated nylon bags for organization and moisture resistance

Big Agnes silnylon gear bags, assorted; for tent poles and stakes

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Assorted bags:

Ziploc style bags for dry foods, electronic chargers, passports and papers

plastic bread bags for external hard drive and MacBook charger, books, postcards, etc.

small clutch (hand purse) for tools

Straps:

REI nylon gear straps (preferred)

Sea-to-Summit straps

generic reflective Velcro straps to attach raingear to D-loops on saddlebag

Velco strap to contain tightly rolled sleeping pad, stored in drybag

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The Revelate equipment utilizes lightweight, abrasion resistant Dimension Polyant VX-series fabrics and water-resistant zippers.  The VX sailcloth fabric, also called X-Pac, is extremely durable and is technically waterproof although it is common to find moisture inside the bags as with waterproof panniers, like Ortliebs.  Even a waterproof bag is susceptible to atmospheric moisture.  The stitching and construction of the Revelate bags is superb and the large zipper on the framebag has been trouble-free, despite much hard use.  Handmade in Anchorage, AK.

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The Carradice Camper saddlebag is made from a durable waxed cotton fabric, with leather straps.  A wooden dowel is screwed to the bag as a stiffener.  The bags are handmade in Nelson, England.

I have repaired several leather straps as the stitching has pulled away from hard use.  I also broke the original wooden dowel.  My replacement is of a larger diameter and is assembled with a nut and bolt, through a hole drilled into the dowel.  Eventually, the straps that attach to the saddle loops wear due to abrasion, whether leather or nylon.  The main cause is that a thin steel stock is used to make the loops.  I carry spare nylon straps and hope to make a rubber shim to prevent abrasion in the future.  Occasionally, I apply a fresh coat of wax to the bag, either Filson’s, Martinex, or Sno-Seal.  In place of flimsy saddlebag supports, I prefer a more rugged mini-rack such as the the VO Pass Hunter, which mounts to the cantilever posts and only weighs 250g.  A Nitto M-18 is more adaptable, and fits nicely on the Pugsley.  Carradice bags are as waterproof as any other bag I have used, including welded plastic panniers.  A breathable fabric, even as simple as cotton duck canvas, begins to breathe as soon as the rain lets up.

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The longflap is invaluable for carrying large, unexpected loads.  Mine has swallowed a bear resistant canister in Denali National Park, cakes and pies, or a twelve pack of beer.  There are no guarantees that a cake will remain unharmed, however.

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It has worn some from use, but “This item handcrafted in Nelson, England by: Priscilla”.

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The 11″ MacBook Air fits perfectly in the vertical position at the back of the bag.  It is padded by a soft case and half of a state gazetteer.  The side pockets are huge on the Camper.

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Maintenance.  A fresh waterproofing coat.

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Repairs.  I love these inexpensive straps from REI, if I haven’t said it already.  They never break and the sliders don’t slip.

Joe Cruz calls my luggage system, and my entire bike, “hobo chic”.  It works, and that’s what matters.

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How not to install a headset

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A silky Velo Orange Grand Cru sealed cartridge bearing headset replaces a gritty old Ritchey with worn races.  I know how to install a headset with a Park HHP-2, but I also know how to install the cups when staring at a pile of parts on a back porch, wondering how a bike will ever come of it all.  After removing the old cups with a big flathead screwdriver and a hammer, I applied a light steel wool to the inside of the headtube to smooth imperfections and ease the installation.  Some grease aids the process, but I stacked 2 x 4s until the headtube was evenly supported and applied a blunt force from above, transmitted through a block of wood with medium hardness.  Be sure to apply an even blow to reduce the risk of damaging the cup.  Hit it again if it needs some more help.  Maybe one more solid blow will assure the cup sits entirely in the frame.  Wham.  If the cup doesn’t seat by hand or doesn’t give into the frame with the first blow, consider the aid of the proper tools and expertise.

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Three blows to each side was enough to fully seat the cups and copious amounts of grease are applied before the cartridge bearings are installed to limit the intrusion of water and grit.  Happily, the crown race is a split ring design that allows tool free installation, and avoids the hammer.  Below, the Raleigh XXIX now has a Rock Shox Reba fork and a gold On-One Mary handlebar.  To come: a derailleur hanger and used XT derailleur, a lightly used 32 tooth Surly steel chainring, a NOS Suntour XC Expert shifter; new cables, housing and 9-speed chain, as well as Ergon grips from the Hooligan.  Lael’s gold VP platform pedals have ridden to the Knik Glacier on the Pugsley and across Corsica on the Hooligan, but will find their greatest adventure yet in Colorado.  Her grandfather was a gold jeweler and while I can’t afford real gold, she’s easily pleased by gold anodized aluminum.  The bike is shaping up.

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The bike was sourced from Craigslist. the stem and Surly chainring are from Boulder Community Cycles, and the Suntour shifter(s) are from Big Dummy Daddy, who has a PhD in sharing bikes.  Or is it bike-sharing?  He can tell you more about bike sharing programs and Denver’s pioneering project than almost anyone.  His dissertation entitled “Public bicycle sharing as a population-scale health intervention for active transportation in Denver, Colorado“, is exhaustive.  Read some of it.

Bikepacking on a budget; a bike for Lael

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She likes a nice pair of boots and a shiny brass bell, but she’s not all that fancy– she’ll sleep in barns and dugouts, atop mountains and aside rivers and is content eating a raw beet, seeds and some lettuce for dinner.  We’re both gypsies, connecting the dots by bicycle.  Another reason to reach Colorado, aside form the availability of water and shade, is that I’m still charged with the task of buying or building a bike for Lael.

To recap her bike situation:

Her Surly Long Haul Trucker is much loved and well used, but the limits of the bike have been reached considering the “real” mountain biking we’ve got planned.  With a 2.0-2.1″ tire the LHT is a very capable dirt road tourer and a light-duty trail bike, and still fits a fender.   It remains in Anchorage and is in daily use by a friend in need of some wheels.  My Schwinn High Sierra is providing the same service in Tacoma, WA.  I like to give bikes out for permanent loan when possible.  The potential to recover a few hundred dollars from a bike with considerably more utility seems wasteful when I can be assured the bike will be ridden daily.  If she needs the LHT again it’ll be waiting in Anchorage, free of dust.

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Her Surly Pugsley was great fun and a great tool though the winter, allowing her to commute to work every day and to explore the local terrain.  The elementary school she worked at was five miles away, and many mornings she was on the bike by 7:30.  At this time of morning in Anchorage winters, you’ll encounter neither rain nor shine– it’s cold, dark and snowy.  Leaving for Europe, she liquidated her assets and sold the bike.  Mainly, the sale of the bike was a financial and logistical decision as shipping or flying with the bike was unreasonable, but her main complaint about the ride was that the wheels were heavy.  I can attest to that, and my Marge Lite rims improve the ride and allow me to open up my riding style, especially with as much climbing as I’ve been doing.

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The week before flying to Europe, I bought Lael a Cannondale Hooligan on closeout sale at The Bicycle Shop.  She’d been joking about it all winter (much truth…), and always hopped on for the “indoor criterium” circuit around the showroom floor.  With the handlebars and fork removed, the bike packs to the shape of a cello and avoids airline surcharges.  In spite of small wheels, the rigid frame and disc brakes are assuring and feel mostly like a normal bike.  Unlike the “normal” bike she is used to, the small wheels and an overall weight of 24 lbs allow the bike to climb and accelerate easily, perfect for city riding and the steep pitches encountered in Corsica.  Of course, it’s also easy to carry up stairs or onto the train, and is a fun conversation piece while in traveling.  On different sides of the globe, we’re both peppered with inane questioning about wheels and tires– Surely, small wheels must be slower?  And you must pedal two, or three times as fast to cover the same terrain?  We’d like to keep the bike for future experimentation, but it is most definitely not the bike for the Colorado Trail and beyond.  For that, we seek something more conventionally appropriate for the mountains.  After years of commuting, cycletouring, and ATB-ing, this will be real mountain biking.  Lael arrives in Denver on the 23rd with lightweight bike luggage and camping equipment, but without a proper mountain bike.

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I’m looking for a new or used, steel or aluminum, rigid or hardtail, 26″ of 29″ wheeled mountain bike.  I’d dreamed that we could both ride fatbikes with lightweight wheels, but finances are steering me towards sourcing a used bike from the Denver-area Craigslist.  I’ve actually wanted to do this for quite a while– find a used bike en route, prepare it for travel, and ride away.  Denver is a great place for this experiment and the Colorado Trail will be a worthy proving ground.  Bikepacking on a budget!

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Several days before traveling to Europe, Lael raced the Skinny Raven Twilight 12K in Anchorage in a time of 47:40 (6:24/mi), and placed third in her division amongst a field of almost 1200 runners.  She enters one race annually, and generally falls into a comfortable third place.  Not bad for an occasional racer!