Jetsam and flotsam

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The list of items that populate my bags and my bike is exhausting.  My Kit List accounts from this past month are almost completely inclusive.  However, if I was to upturn my bicycle and shake all the contents from the bags, a few items would fall to the ground to my surprise.  Some are useful, just in case; some are useless, mostly; and at least one item is an unexpected stowaway.  Item origins are indicated in parentheses, when known.  Less than half of these things are even remotely essential.  If you are looking for a way to trim down your touring load, start with the small stuff.

nail clippers, the worst I have ever used, $1.99 CDN in a small gas station (northern B.C.)

insulated electrical housing, 3 inches (came with Supernova headlight, Alaska)

extra Surly rimstrip for Marge Lite rim, black (Bozeman, MT)

1ft. yellow ribbon with reflective strip (Alaska)

3 spokes, length unknown but hopefully useful somewhere on the bike (Alaska and Montana)

tube of Nivea SPF lip product (Ontario, since June 2011)

spare tube, 26×2.3″ with unthreaded Presta valve  (from REI, Bozeman, MT)

tent stakes, began with 13 in AK, 9 remaining

homemade postcards, a dwindling supply of 100 (Ft. Collins, CO)

wallet

assorted business cards and grocery rewards cards

lens filters for camera (Fort Collins, CO)

6 links SRAM 9sp chain (Fort Collins, CO)

Origin-8 plastic chain retention, did not fit Lael’s drivetrain properly (Fort Collins, CO)

small Ziploc bag of 50 ibuprofen, dwindling (Anchorage, Alaska)

4 standard matchbooks with logo (Fort Collins, CO)

1 page from Dirt Rag magazine, Surly Krampus advertisement, to protect MacBook screen from keyboard when packed (Bozeman, MT)

postage stamps (Antonito, CO)

embroidered patch on Carradice Camper saddlebag, Great Allegheny Passage (March 2011)

3 plastic zip-ties (Alaska and Colorado)

1 small rubber band marked “Organic Broccoli” (origin unknown)

On our recent travels near Santa Fe, Joe Cruz exhumed a similarly well-used orange tube of the exact same Nivea SPF lip product from his bag.  His was purchased in South America, mine in Ontario, Canada.  There must be something about men with fatbikes and soft lips.

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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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DIY fatbike fenders

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In an afternoon, some donated corruplast signage from Bike wRider, fender hardware spanning several decades from Off The Chain bike co-op in Anchorage, and several dollars of aluminum door threshold sourced from the hardware store become a fatbike fender.  The whole thing was assembled with a Crank Brothers multitool, some standard M5 nuts and bolts, and the leather punch on a Swiss-Army knife.  The aluminum threshold material is extremely lightweight and bends easily, while retaining enough rigidity in use.  The corruplast has proven its durability all summer, despite a variety of abuse.  It is best to align the corruplast “with the grain”, as it will bend and crimp in the opposite direction.  The modified Nitto M18 rack is integrated into the design, and the steel tang shown below was eventually removed as the aluminum fender rib served the same purpose.  I did not expect the fenders to last through the entire summer, but they show no signs of letting up.  Eventually, I made a front mudflap from duct tape and reflective ribbon, and the rear mudflap was sourced from a broken Planet Bike fender.  DIY fatbike fenders– Take America Back!

First, bend the aluminum and locate the holes.  Drill, and install to the frame.  It is nice that the Surly Pugsley has proper threaded fender mounts on the inside of the seatstay and chainstay bridges, despite few commercially available fenders in this size.

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At first, the flat steel rack mount was used, but was later removed as it was redundant.

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Locate the holes to bolt the rack to the frame of the fender.  The Nitto rack is made of tubular Cro-Mo, while the struts are solid aluminum with steel hardware.  I removed the backstop support of the rack, simply by bending and breaking it  The sharp fragments of brass filler are covered by the red electrical tape.  In the future I might do all of this differently, although with the knowledge that it has lasted all summer I cannot complain.  This was my final project before leaving Anchorage this spring.  While a but crude, I wasn’t going to let the planning phase encroach on the ride.

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Clearance is a little tight with the modern top-pull front derailleur.  A little bending will do.

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In addition to the Nitto Rack stays, a chromed steel fender stay from an old ballon-tire bike was used.  Made of low-grade steel, it was easy to widen and bend to shape.

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After installing the aluminum and mounting all the bolts, I removed all the parts and reinstalled with the corruplast.  There is excessive clearance for the 60mm tire, but the design is intended to fit a full-sized fat tire.

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A Carradice saddlebag typically mounts to the seatpost, but with a bag support I find I can fit several drybags between the the bag and the seatpost.  Aside from extra capacity, this method reduces swaying common with saddlebags, and provides some cushion to my MacBook which is stored vertically in the Carradice Camper.  A basic nylon gear strap holds thing in place.

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Ideally, the corruplast is used in the other direction, “with the grain”.  It does work in this orientation, but it tends to bend into a ridged shape like corrugated cardboard.

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This direction gives a clean bend and holds a nice shape.

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60mm Schwalbe Big Apple tires on 65mm rims roll well on pavement, allowing a handful of hundred mile days.  On dirt and gravel roads, traction is a bit scant.  I might select something with a little more tread next time, even if only the Schwalbe Fat Frank tire.  For a more aggressive tread in this tire size, there is the Maxxis Holy Roller 2.4″, Kenda K-Rad 2.5″ and the Kenda Slant Six 2.5″.  There are other options with considerably more aggressive tread patterns for downhill use, but they also approach the weight of a proper 4″ fat tire.  The Big Apple is a little lighter than the smooth Black Floyd tires available from Surly, and as I expected, are quite durable and puncture-resistant.  I didn’t have a single flat from Anchorage all the way to Bozeman, Montana.  When I fit fat tires, I sent the Big Apples back to Anchorage where Bike wRider intends to finish them off.

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I like a bike with fenders and powerful dynamo lighting.  The Pugsley has been my daily transportation for almost a year, and these features make it comfortable and safe in all conditions.  I have little time on the Pusgley without the fender, except in a frozen Alaskan winter when it is unnecessary, but one of Joe’s considerations after touring on the Pugsley in the summer of 2010 was that a fender would combat the “unusual amount of spray in the wet”.  I still experience some overspray onto my feet while riding fast in extremely wet conditions, such as on pavement.  Overall, I remain clean and dry.

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The Take America Back slogan was part of Joe Miller’s unsuccessful bid for Senate in 2010.  He was a vocal Tea Party candidate, but lost to Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, a write-in candidate in the race.

Perfect: The Colorado Trail

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It’s almost impossible to lose the trail, some of which is rough and unrideable, and some of which is better than perfect and seemingly, in the middle of nowhere.  Perfection in the middle of nowhere, unlike an unheard falling tree, still exists in waiting.  There are many resources about riding and hiking the Colroado Trail, so a photo essay seems the most appropriate addition to the current bank of information.  The trail is great, and it’s doable, if extremely challenging.  You really only need a bike and the Colorado Trail Databook.  A mountain bike is a necessity, but if you don’t mind hiking and just want to see some of the trail, the first few segments near Denver are accessible on an older rigid 26″ wheeled bike with 2.0″ tires.  It’s always more important to get out and do it, than to sit at home trying to figure out how.  If you get out and try, you’ll immediately know more than all the online resources could ever share, no matter how vibrant the pictures or captivating the text, it’s all fiction.  This blog is a fiction, allowing me to remember things the way I want and to write my own history in which I am a helmeted superhero and my world, perfect.  But it’s not perfect as I eventually require some income and winter is imminent and I do all this writing and riding for fun and for free– real life continues in our living fiction, and in fact I’m quite busy.  But the Colorado Trail approaches perfection and cuts through the stress of real life, and we’re drunk with it.  For a moment, we are helmeted superheroes clad in sunglasses and wool, grunting up and hollering down the Rockies.  For a moment, perfection.

Follow the photos below, imagine and plan your own trip on the local rail-trail, or to the beach; down the Divide or across the Colorado Trail.  If you’ve never traveled by bike, it may change your life.  If you have the experience, the time outdoors on two wheels will reinvigorate your belief in the bicycle.  You will return home different, if you don’t find a home on the road.

Waterton Canyon to the South Platte River.  Petits cornichons, small pickles; grown, handpicked, pickled and packed by Lael in Corsica.  Electrolytes without equal.  Day 1:

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South Platte River to Buffalo Creek.  Burn area, and the smoothest singletrack of the entire trail.  I’m enjoying my used Surly Torsion bars with new Velo Orange thumb-shifter mounts, which fit the Shimano bar-end shifters taken off my drop bars.  VO cork-foam blend grips are cool and comfortable on hot days, and cushion my hands on rough descents, although they are more dense than standard Grab-On foam.  Unlike Ergon grips, they don’t callous and discolor my hands when riding without gloves.  An ergonomic cork-foam grip would be an ideal combination, and would be great on both drop bars and upright bars.  For the price of a sandwich, the VO grips fit my budget better than buying another pair of Ergons, as I hacked the last pair to fit my drop bars.  Ergons are the obvious choice for anyone spending lots of time on the bike, but I’m always seeking new, low-cost solutions.  The new grips don’t make my hands stink like rubber either, the curse of golfers and mountain bike riders alike.

Seductive singletrack abounds.

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Buffalo Creek to Jefferson Creek.  Thru-bikers from Durango, and some of the most exotic, scenic riding we’ve done.

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Jefferson Creek to Breckenridge.  Georgia Pass, and the intersection with the CDT, which is co-located with the CT for a distance.  The final descent to Highway 9 near Breckenridge is amazing.  Descend with glee– superheroes.

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Happy summer kids.  We love it.

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Switchbacks at dusk, descending into town.  Perfect.

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Good Morning Great Divide

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Bed by campfirelight, awake by sunlight. Smoke fingers linger over my down bag in the early morning; I always take time to admire how lofty my bag has become by sunrise. I played games with REI for years returning bags, and finally bought a better bag at a local shop in Missoula last summer. I’m fully content with it, and a vapor barrier extends the range at the end of the season. Toss the coals about, lay a log on top and heat some water– coffee and cream of wheat will get me where I’m going. This is my last night in the woods for a while, as I’m into the great wide Wyoming open for a week of sage and sunshine. I can count the campfires I’ve had over the past four years on one hand, and this seemed like an occasion to burn a little bit of the woods. The campsite was littered with rusty cans of Texas ranch-style beans and shotgun shells– it wasn’t dirty by USFS standards, but well used. I took the opportunity to use it some more. If i’d had a big gun, I woulda shot it.

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Two days ago I climbed away from Idaho on the Reclamation Road between Yellowstone and Teton National Parks into a thick August swarm of tourists. Yesterday I climbed away from Teton tourists to the not-so-secret handicap accessible swimming hole at the top of Togwotee Pass. Descend twenty miles, then climb back to Union Pass and ride until dark. From my camp at 9000 ft, today is all downhill, nearly, and the final miles into Pinedale are paved. Ice cream and wifi aren’t too far off, despite fifty miles of riding. I rest my forearms on the bars and find my aero position– I’m there by noon.

The Great Divide narratives underscore the pretense of long stretches without water, the presence of bears and to be off the trail by “mid-October at the latest”; mostly I count long stretches without a half-gallon of ice cream for $4.44, and the fact that I’m “in bear country” is nothing new. The riding is occasionally challenging, but the route is a logistical walk in the park with the help of the ACA maps. It’s dangerous to visit supermarkets with big eyes and an empty stomach as 4 for $7 promotions of Keebler cookies and day old donuts are tempting– a hungry sucker, I had to find a way to pack a dozen day old donuts and a half-gallon of soymilk. The soymilk fills the Kleen Kanteen, but doesn’t last long. The donuts are now a ball of smashed donuts, and that’s just fine. This is the first “super”-market I’ve visited since Butte, and the experience is overwhelming– they have everything.

Leaving Idaho behind, squeezing between the two national parks…

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Not interested in an $8 campsite– the campground attendant was incredulous at that, and rude– I rode the final hour of sunlight to the Teton Nation Forest boundary. This is public land and I figure my tax dollars are hard at work helping the trees grow so that I can sleep amongst them. Actually, the USFS is a road builder above all else. They build a lot of roads, and a gated logging road provides perfect camping. I awake to climb up Togwotee Pass, to a 46 mph descent down the other side, and a climb back up to Union Pass. At 15 mph the Surly Larry tires hum, at 25 they sing, and at 45 they scream.

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Making camp by campfirelight, I awake to descend two-thousand feet to Pinedale over fifty miles– let the fat tires roll.

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