In the mail

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A kitchen and a mailbox are perhaps the greatest features of living in town.  A bed is overrated, as is multiple bike ownership.  Jobs are alright, for a time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky to receive many interesting things in the mail, including correspondences from old friends, kind offers from new friends, and a few items ordered from faraway.  Somehow, I’m swimming in stickers.

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From Portland, OR

A friend in Portland sent a handwritten letter with updates.  We talk about new bikes, old bikes, and bike trips, mostly.  Shawn Granton is the illustrative genius behind many notable comix and zines related to bicycles, Portland, and travel.  He’s the guy behind the Urban Adventure League blog, the Zinester’s Guide to Portland, and the Bicycle Touring Primer.  He has also crafted many illustrations for local Portland bicycle events, and is a regular contributor to Bicycle TImes.  His wit ranks alongside his wisdom about bicycles and his craft with the pen.  Included is a self-made sticker which reads “NO, I don’t have a D.U.I. I just like riding my bike”.  Thanks Shawn!

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From Missoula, MT

A friend from the Adventure Cycling Association has been kind enough to send maps of their first bikepacking route.  The Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route (IHSMBR) promises over 500 miles of dirt roads and trails, with over 200 miles of singletrack asides, including access to over fifty hot springs en route.  Secret springs are rumored to also exist along the route, if you can find them.  This route is the the result of much hard work and research, especially by ACA cartographer Casey Greene, who is also an expeditious Montanta bikepacker, packbiker, and photographer.

In contrast to the Great Divide Route, the IHSMBR promises to be a true mountain bike route, complete with epic climbs and descents, and some hike-a-bike.  Knobby tires are necessary and panniers are not advised.  This is my kind of route!

The design of these maps make a great leap beyond those found on other ACA routes.  Due to the non-linear path of this route, it borrows from a broad-scale map format, as used on the Divide maps, but includes many of the features you see on other popular adventure maps, such as those in the National Geographic Adventure series.  Genuine topographic details, relief shading, and a unique font choice carry these guides into the future.  All photos by Casey Greene as well.  The details of the new maps are described in detail on the Adventure Cycling Blog.

Lael and I are looking at ways to include this route into our summer plans.  So many places to go!

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From Minneapolis, MN

Contributors to Bunyan Velo volunteer their time and donate their experiences and images to the magazine.  Occasionally, an envelope will arrive from Minnesota with a couple of stickers and a thank you note from editor Lucas Winzenberg.  I’ve worked with Lucas in some capacity on all four issue this past year, and am grateful for the chance to reach so many new readers, and to share the kind of riding we do.  The whole thing is growing– the riding, the writing, and the readership– tell your friends about Bunyan Velo!  Issue No. 4 is out now.

A few weeks ago, I received this Bunyan Velo stem bag and a wold cap made by Randi Jo Fabrications, which is really just one woman in Oregon named Randi Jo.  In addition, I’ve got enough BV stickers that Lael thought they would a suitable replacement for a broken ziptie on her Mukluk.  The “Get Rad” patch has yet to find a home, but I have an idea.

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From Annapolis, MD

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These Crazy Bars come from Velo Orange, headquartered in Annapolis, MD.  The concept of multi-position handlebars has grown popular over the last few years, as have alternative mountain bars featuring 20-50degree bends (also called alt bars or mountain comfort).  This bar blends the two concepts with a 666mm width at a 45deg angle for the main grip position.  The forward sections are designed to replicate the comfortable semi-aero position on the hoods of a road bar.  The concept on paper, is brilliant.  In person, the bars look a little nutty.  They are so wild looking, in fact, they’ve attached the designers name to the bar.  Casey’s Crazy Bars are described in greater detail on the VO Blog.

I’ve thought about which bike will get these bars first.  It will be either the Surly ECR or the Shogun Prairie Breaker, although I think I prefer a slightly wider bar on the ECR due to the oversize, over-wide wheels (29×3.0″). Additonally, I’ve decided the current position on the Shogun is too upright, as a steel touring bar is currently affixed.  This bar may help, with the option to use the forward position on crosstown sprints to work.

From Calgary, AB, Canada

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It has been a few weeks since I received this custom framebag from Scott Felter of Porcelain Rocket.  While the bag is filled with clothing and food on a daily basis, I’ve finally found the opportunity to get out for a multi-day trip.  More details on our ride up Resurrection Pass soon!

Also from Missoula, MT

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I am proud to be the first official customer of Wanderlust Gear, a new project for Paul Hansbarger of Missoula, MT, also an ACA employee.  He has years of experience designing and making gear under the name Hans Bagworks.  This Beargrass top-tube bag is Made in the USA and features a simple, lightweight design.  Removable plastic stiffeners are included to stabilize the side panels of the bag.  I am especially interested in the Rattlesnake stem bag, which claims to hold a standard water bottle and some snacks, a 32oz Nalgene, or even a 40oz. Klean Kanteen.  Remarkably, both bags are priced at $35, a sign that competition in the industry is good for consumers.  Paul also makes custom framebags ($140+) and insulated pogies in his Missoula shop.  More products are to be released as winter fades to spring.

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The all-important MUSA tag.

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From 45NRTH

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These didn’t arrive in the mail, at least not to me personally.  I purchased these from The Bicycle Shop, where I work.  While the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro is the best bicycle ice tire on the planet (without question), I was curious to try this new offering from 45NRTH,  a new company from Minneapolis, MN, a sibling in the QBP family.  The 29×2.35″ Nicotine tire is a touch wider than the 29×2.25″ Ice Spiker Pro, with more pronounced blocky knobs on the outside.  I was hoping to retain as much flotation at possible on 50mm wide Rabbit Hole rims on the ECR.  Unfortunately, the 222 studs do not inspire confidence in truly icy conditions, and while each stud features a concave design which claims more “edges”, any studded tire that doesn’t make a lot of noise isn’t doing its job.  The result is a decent mountain bike tire with a little extra bite on the ice.  A poor ice tire is an easy habit to kick.  The volume of the tire is notably smaller than the 3.0″ Knard it replaces, as expected.  Hey 45NRTH, how about 400+ studs per tire next year?

The Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro features 402 studs per tire (29″ version), with a similar lightweight folding casing.  The Ice Spiker is also tubeless ready, officially, and the Nicotine warns against tubeless use, although it may be possible.

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Lots of knobs, not a lot of studs.  Each stud is only slightly raised from the tire.  At least, it would be nice to mold extra stud wells into the tire to allow custom studding as needed.  400+ studs please!

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On smooth glare ice, the studs do catch some traction, but not enough to really be safe on off-camber sidewalks and rutted alleyways.  This skid is at 12psi, riding at about 8mph.  Lael has ridden this bike, and has enough bruises to cash in for some Schwalbes, I think.  The Grip Studs on my Mukluk are more effective.  As a result, I ride the Mukluk almost every day.

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The Surly ECR frame features gaping clearances with 29×2.35″ tires, something I like to see, leaving lots of room for mud, and enough room to keep it out of the drivetrain.  While the BB is lowered with the smaller tires, for commuting and normal touring it rides very nicely (lest I be called an internet-arm-chair-engineer).  Still thinking a Krampus is more my style, or a Krampus-inspired 29+ Mukluk.

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From Grand Rapids, MI

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To that end, the 45mm Velocity Dually 29 rims might be just the ticket to turn a Mukluk into a 29+ bikepacking beast.  These high polish USA-made rims feature a doublewall construction, and a tubeless ready design.  They are yet to be built, as I decide which hubs will be used.  The main concern is whether I prefer to ride a rigid 29+ bike or a suspension fork with 2.4-3.0″ tires up front.  One build would use a 135mm fatbike specific hub, while the other would use a 100mm hub, possibly with a 15mm thru-axle on a suspension fork.  A dynamo is also part of the equation.  Knards look awesome on the Duallys.

Revisiting Ukraine

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We’ve all been reading about the events in Ukraine.  As a result of my Ukrainian heritage and our recent travels in Ukraine and on the Crimean Peninsula, I have a unique interest in the Ukrainian story.  I have some beautiful images from our time in Ukraine which I haven’t shared.  As I revisit them, I am moved by the experience in contrast to the fiery images streaming through major media channels.  My family (from NY) visited Ukraine with us for ten days, in which time we met long-lost family members in villages on either side of the country, and celebrated 22 years of Ukrainian independence in the central square in Kyiv.  Above, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square, the current site of the protests and violence in Kyiv, quietly buzzing with celebratory energy on August 24, 2013.

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Society of Three Speeds

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Mark’s New London 3-speed is enlivened with (retro-) modern parts, including alloy rims and cranks, a new saddle, alloy fenders, and durable tires.  Feeling that the bike is not as great as the sum of its parts, he seeks a new frame to replace the gas-pipe tubing of this old English klunker.  This old Trek road frame might have worked well as a host for his parts, but it wasn’t meant to be.  There are countless other candidates within reach.  Many older road frames with average tire clearances will do– too tight, and the 38mm tires will rub the chain stays, too wide and the caliper brakes will not reach the rim.  The considerations for a 700c to 26 x 1 3/8″ conversion (622mm to 590mm) are much the same as a 650b conversion.  A 26 x 1 3/8″ wheel is also referred to as 650A, and at 590mm it is 6mm taller than a 650b wheel, which is 584mm.  In total, the considerations are about the same for either conversion.

Original parts: New London steel frame, Sturmey-Archer hub and top-tube shifter, front hub, front lamp, stem and handlebars.  Upgrades: VO 50.4 BCD cranks, Honjo fenders (now painted black), Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires (replaced with Marathon Plus), Sun CR-18 polished rims, Tektro long-reach dual pivot caliper brakes, VO city bike brake levers, and MKS Sylan Touring pedals.

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Mark is a mechanic at Two Wheel Drive in Albuquerque, NM.

I recently received notice in the post that I am the 18th member of the Society of Three Speeds, much to my surprise, as I have never owned a three speed bicycle.

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Join the Society of Three Speeds!  Membership dues are only $7 until April 8th, at which time they will return to $10.  Act now.  Three speeds is all you need!

Rule #1: “I will endeavor to promote three speeds as a viable means of transportation.”

Thanks for thinking of me Shawn.

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Shawn is also the real-life character behind the bicycle and travel comics, Urban Adventure League and Ten Foot Rule.

Better than a blog: Urban Adventure League

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To counter all the trees that have become pulp on account of Lance Armstrong and bicycle racing, there is the subtle wit, the humility, and the handcrafted comics of Shawn Granton.  He rides blissfully slow, is clothed as if Grant Petersen went on a shopping spree at Goodwill, and documents his bicycle travel as a subterranean un-superhero.  He rides to comic conventions and cross-country and does nothing spectacular except visit friends and drink coffee and pedal.   Yet, he is the perfect antidote to almost everything in the cycling world, and even considers himself a caricature of it all.  His real superpowers are pencil and paper, and his cause are people on bicycles.  It’s not a race, but he’s winning.

This week, a slim envelope arrived in my mailbox from Shawn.  Hailing from the universe of Cascadia (Portland, OR), Shawn has self-published the reality comic series Ten Foot Rule for over 15 years and is co-credited with the popular Zinester’s Guide to Portland, a best seller at Powell’s.  His Urban Adventure League guides include an instructional bike touring manual and a “Bike-Fun Primer”, which discusses ways to involve riders in a non-competitive, non-commercial, and non-combative way.  Since 2005, he has also published a blog by the same name, Urban Adventure League.

These zines are a must-read for anyone who: enjoys Jan Heine’s Bicycle Quarterly or the evangelism of Grant Peterson, but rides a bike made in Taiwan or made of Hi-Tensile steel; appreciates the humor of Bike Snob NYC, but stopped reading a long time ago; or considers the bicycle a way of life and wishes for a more bikeable future.  Here is a taste of Shawn’s work.

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Three issues of Urban Adventure League– part instruction, comedy and inspiration.  And, a button.

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A hearty compilation of the comic Ten Foot Rule, “Distance is a Long Range Filter” includes many years of travel.

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“paper is a screen that does not turn off” is a textbooklet investigating important issues such as the Continental Divide, daylight savings time, cyclepaths, the self-death of cities by highway, and the joys of cycletouring.  This is an essential text in the School of Bike Touring.

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Shawn’s main ride is a stylishly realized Surly Long Haul Trucker, although he is currently re-imagining a 1984 Raleigh Crested Butte ATB, because bigger tires are better. Note, dynamo lighting and a Carradice saddlebag.

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His bike touring expertise is undeniable, and a keen sense of bicycle culture keeps things fresh.  Riding with friends can be hard.  Riding alone can be hard.  They can both be great.

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Sometimes bike culture gets in the way.  We all ride bikes, right?

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And a personal favorite, the Half Hour Retro-Grouch Comedy Hour.

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Every self-respecting publication has a recipe.  Make your own damn energy bars!

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Some of his tours are documented as neatly detailed travelogues— even better than a blog.

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Some are simple human comedies that aren’t funny and aren’t meant to be.  Sometimes they are funny.

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And others do more than all the pixels and words in the world.  Shawn is a one man Critical Mass, slowly making the world a better place to ride a bike.

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His skills have even been professionally contracted.  This is a sketch for the Five Boro Bike Tour, which also serves as a suitable guide for any day ride.

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All of these zines, and more, can be ordered at the Urban Adventure League Store.  They don’t cost as much as they should, so buy two or three or all of them.  Posters and buttons are also available.  A collection of sketches and comics can also be found on the Urban Adventure League Flickr site, including several that have been published in Momentum magazine.  For professional contracts, contact Shawn here.

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From the “Bike-Fun Primer”:

I feel that bike fun is a necessary tool in the toolbox for creating a more bike friendly world, along with a more kind, civil, and just society.  As the quote attributed to Emma Goldman and repeated ad nauseum goes, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.”  If we don’t know what it’s like to have fun NOW, how are we going to know after everything becomes magically “perfect”?  Would we ever know?

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(All words and images presented in photographs are Shawn Granton, tfr industries/Urban Adventure League, 2005-2012.)

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