Tastes better than Phil Wood grease

20111125-111816.jpgI eat a lot of rice and beans; long ago it was cans of black or kidney beans, although lentils are now favored for packing efficiency and cost. The ensemble necessitated salt, and beckoned for some heat. Tapatio was the usual favorite; Cholula was a little pricey, Bufalo brand chipotle was my preference, but Valentina was the loss leader. The thick glass bottle was almost as massive as the contents, and I emptied the sauce into my third water bottle, under the downtube–an old Trek bottle that had come with my first adult bike many years before. My bike at the time, a 1995 Trek 520, was about the same vintage as the bottle.

The bottle was period-correct, and crusted with hot sauce at the spout.

In time, the bottle contained a concoction of all four sauces, a mild capsaicin slurry, and was never again suitable for drinking water. In memory, the “era” of the hot sauce water bottle signifies a very specific period in time for me, in life, and in my development as a touring cyclist. This was exactly when I began gaining an individual “touring style”. Storing hot sauce in a drink bottle is one of many things that may collectively define touring style. Others rotate socks and underwear on certain cycles (or never), chains and cassettes (or never); and poach condiments and napkins, habitually, from diners and gas stations. I regularly empty a half-filled bottle of honey into a half-empty jar of peanut butter to save weight and space.

In Calgary, pre-Divide, I installed two bottle cages to the fork legs of my bike, inspired by the Salsa Fargo, long distance bike trekkers, and modern bikepackers. At some point a lightweight packing system becomes overstressed, and moronic. I was within range.

I anticipated needing to carry more water, and wanted to carry the weight low on the frame without forcing more stuff into my saddlebag, which already bursts at the seams after a grocery run. I still wrestle with fitting bananas, and avocados. Tortillas are much easier than bread, which result in sort of a Wonder bread tortilla in my Carradice saddlebag.

In practice, I did not often need more water capacity, and chose to carry my water pump in one of the fork- mounted cages to free up some space. Even the water pump was an occasional luxury, and not an absolute necessity on the Divide as a folding 2L Platypus bladder was used, with great simplicity and success. The second fork-mounted bottle cage carried some water occasionally, but was most often filled with an empty 1L drink bottle. I found that the bottle, when full, was a bit unruly on rough roads without a strap to retain it; a smaller bottle didn’t warrant the weight and complexity of the whole system– the bottle cage and hose clamps– for a few sips of water.

As food phases come and go, I haven’t had milk for a few weeks, but I have carried peanut butter and honey since Alberta. Naturally, somewhere between Missoula and Jackson, the awkward cylinder of Peter Pan migrated to that lone bottle cage on the right fork blade. This, finally, was worth the weight of the hose clamps and aluminum. Peanut butter, as no surprise, is one of the best sources of bulk energy, bested in packing efficiency only by standard dry nuts, beans and grains. However, it can be eaten right out of the jar, requires no water or stove fuel, and when the honey supply gets low it can be drained into the PB jar for a space-saving delicacy. I have woken up-hungry on a few frosty nights, and taken a spoon to this concoction. I wasn’t cold thereafter.

Recently, Lael’s lower bottle cage broke, and I gifted one of my fork-mounted cages to her. As a result, I was left with a single jar of peanut butter on my right fork blade. It’s a fun conversation piece, and a good place for an awkward cylinder; and you could probably pack your bearings with it– the creamy stuff, that is.

Some ideas: Peanut butter in dinner grains make a creamy Eastern fusion meal, trailside; in tortillas, with honey, raisins, apples, cocoa powder, flaked coconut, Grape Nuts, instant coffee crystals… there is no need to buy energy bars, GU, salt tabs or caffeine supplements. Pack bearings, treat a leather saddle, anti-sieze lubricant when assembling the bike at an airport?…

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The Bridgestone MB-1 pictured above was available in 1987; only 300 were offered. The catalog stated:

If you spend more time riding trails than dreaming about it; if you’re tired of bikes that position you like a typist and steer like tractors; if you want a light, comfortable, nimble bike for precision travel over any surface – then the MB-1 is your bike. A maverick. Blind to the whims of the market and built to ride.

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