Event: Bikepacking Night in Israel, May 2nd

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Update: A Facebook event has been created.  RSVP and keep up with updates on the Bikepacking Inspiration event page.

Join the Israeli bikepacking community for an evening centered around your bikes and our stories of travel and adventure by bicycle.

Lael Wilcox is a finisher of the HLC2015 and will share secrets about eating on the trail, jumping rope while on tour, and why reading books late into the night is good practice for the HLC.  She will also explain why a snowboarding helmet is such a good idea when riding in Alaska in the winter.

Nicholas Carman is the mechanic and spokesperson for this mad traveling contraption.  He will talk about bikes, routes, and why it isn’t a big deal that he uses platform pedals.

For the past seven years we have traveled through North America, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.  Our approach to bicycle travel has evolved, and we now seek unpaved roads and trails as much as possible, including routes such as the HLC and IBT in Israel; the Great Divide and the Arizona Trail in the USA; the GR5, 1000 Miles Adventure, the red hiking trails in Poland, the Greek Bicycle Odyssey in Europe; and the Dragon’s Spine Route across South Africa and Lesotho.  Sometimes, we call Alaska our home.  Together, we share our story, as well as some technical discussion about routes and equipment.  A short Q&A will follow.  We fly back to Alaska on May 4th.

Ride to meet us at Kfar Sirkin at 6:30PM on May 2nd.  Pack your bike for a ride across town, across Israel, or around the world.  If at all possible, ride your bike!  Join us on a ride to the Nachshonim Forest to camp for the night.  It’s really close, so don’t sweat it.  First time bikepackers welcome!  It is rumored that HLC singlespeed champion Nir Almog will be present.

Meet: HaDkalim St. 3, Kfar Sirkin at 6:30PM for conversation, the program begins at 7:00.  Bring food and drinks to share, especially if you are driving.

Ride: Nachshonim Forest, after the event.  Simple camping gear, a small light should be fine, pack a beer and a topic of conversation.  We’ll probably ride to coffee in the morning.

Tell your friends!

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Durable goods


I’d rather not buy anything.  I will spend hard-earned money on durable goods to reduce cost over time and to ensure proper operation in use.  Unearthing equipment from the closet has exposed tired, torn and broken gear.  Some is repaired, some is replaced.  Some is ready to go, despite wear.  Getting ready for summer.

Carradice Camper saddlebag, repaired several times.


Brunton cookpot, previously repaired (note handle from M5 bolt and housing ferrule), soon to be replaced.  Product discontinued.  Suggestions for an inexpensive .8L-1.2L cookpot, not too deep not too shallow, not too heavy?


Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent, previously repaired, several parts replaced.  In use for almost 5 years.  Ready to go.

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Klean Kanteen 40 oz and 64 oz bottles.  One large bottle dented, one smaller bottle broken from severe freeze.  Water always tastes good and can be warmed over stove.  Dented bottle, ready to go.

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Tires.  Since tires are consumable by design, it is common to consider the price of a tire in relation to durability and other features.  I prefer Schwalbe touring tires for puncture resistance and durability, wearing several tires well past 10,000 miles.  Maxxis makes some tough mountain bike tires that we like.  CST, Geax, and Kenda sell some great tires at a great price.  Reflective sidewalls are a useful feature, with no downside.  I am always looking at tires.


Nylon quick-drying shorts, without liner.  Cheap and durable, good for riding, swimming, sleeping, walking, everything.  Cotton t-shirts– everyone is giving them away.  Need new shorts, probably Patagonia 5″ baggies.


Wool long underwear is comfortable, wicks moisture and resist odors.  Wool is not particularly durable compared to synthetic fibers.  I generally trust Ibex for quality.  I generally avoid Smartwool clothing, but recent experiences are changing my opinion.


EMS down jacket, in use for two years.  Down is always said to last a lifetime.  That may be the case in the closet, but in the real world a garment will have a finite lifespan.  I recently replaced the zipper slider and  have patched several holes with duct tape.  I am searching for a purpose-specific ripstop fabric tape.  Light and warm, ready to go.


EMS Deluge jacket, made of Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, which boasts waterpoofness and breathability in a lightweight package.  The zipper is fatally scrambled and the fabric has worn in several places in two years of use.  Replaced.  The exact same jacket is on order.  Otherwise, I would have gotten the Marmot Minimalist, but this jacket fit me better.


Salomon mid-height Gore-Tex hiking shoes.  These are the best all-weather biking shoes I’ve ever used.  Expired, due to extended hard use.  Need replacement.


Patagonia Capilene 2 long-sleeve top.  My current clothing system relies upon this layer, over top of a lightweight wool shirt, and a cotton t-shirt.  Walz cycling cap has outlasted nearly a dozen chains.


Revelate Gas Tank, top tube bag.  Fits more than you’d think and built light and tough.  Ready to go.


Sea-to-Summit eVent compression drybag.  Durable, ready to go.


Enameled steel camping mug.  Tough as nails, beat to shit, ready to go.


Thermasrest Prolite sleeping pad.  Either it is durable or I am lucky, but this has been with me for over a year without any punctures.  I have punctured mats from REI and Big Agnes.  I have repaired several holes in the past with bicycle patches and duct tape.

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Mont-Bell UL3 Down Hugger sleeping bag.  This is one of the best in class, and after several years of testing bags, I have landed on this model.  Lael loves her Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag, except when it is 12deg at night.


Brooks saddle.  Comfortable.  More notably, this saddle has been extremely durable.  People often mistake it for a new saddle.  I smile and respond that is has seen over 30,000 miles since October 2009.  Lael loves the stock saddle from her Cannondale Hooligan.  If I was to buy a new saddle, I’d pick one up for $35.


Steel bikes.  I’ve broken one steel frame, but I’ve also ridden dozens.  I would not hesitate to ride aluminum, yet I still ride steel.  Titanium would be nice, but it’s out of my price range.  Steel wins again.  The Pugsley is coming to Europe.  Shown here with 26×3.8″” tires on 65mm fatbike rims last summer, I am currently building 29″ wheels for our upcoming journey.  Thinking about Rabbit Hole rims.


For further details, revisit my Kit List posts from last fall.

Kit List: Luggage


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




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


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


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.


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.




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.


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


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.


Maintenance.  A fresh waterproofing coat.


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.


Santa Fe Lost and Found


Charged with forest service maps, local hiking and biking trail maps, and an iPhone, our plan was for five days of riding dirt roads and singletrack.  Even before leaving town, we consult the iPhone.  Stop and go navigation was to become a pattern, and a series of forest fires and floods over the past decade would erase much of the valuable information from our maps.  More images from my trip with Lael, Cass and Joe, here is another installment of riding with friends.

Leaving town on a rail-trail is easy.  Eventually, we find our way onto dirt roads and BLM property and encounter a spectacular rocky descent from atop a mesa.  So far, so good.





Navigation is easy when you can see where you are going.  This vantage offered a map view of the area.


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Several transport stages require riding on pavement.  Working together to reach the Jemez Mountains and USFS lands by dark, a brisk paceline forms.


A map view of the Jemez area indicates concentric ridges and canyons around the Valles Caldera, at the center of the Jemez Mountains.  In the morning, we climb a ridge on FR 289 into the trees.  The views from atop this ridge are our first signs of the dramatic effect of forest fires over the past decade.  This fire burned last June, and was followed by a biblical flood event.  Fire followed by water is a toxic potion in arid climates.





In search of water, we venture down a gated 4×4 track.  Followed by a fun descent, we hack our way through shoulder high vegetation.  The map indicates a trail, but we only find the obvious signs of erasure– fires and flood, and the thick regeneration of understory vegetation.  In five days, we encounter only five surface water sources.  Luckily, several opportunities to fill our bottles from municipal sources ease the strain.





In lieu of a trail, a sandy creek bed will do.  It’s handy to be riding a Pugsley in times like these, although a lightweight bike and soft 29 x 2.4″ tires will also do the job.




Our eventual escape from this isolated drainage requires some pushing  Technically, it was my suggestion to find water that led us to this point.  Later, it would be Cass’ enthusiasm for singletrack that would have us hauling our bikes over logs.  For now, push.  Joe says any day with more that 50% riding is a success.  This day was to be a success, as we are soon back on the road.


In search of secondary forest roads, we dead-end at an abandoned gravel pit.  Return.


Riding out, the boys consider this “road” rideable.



Lael has a good head, and considers a mellow hike instead.



We encounter a local resident and trail-builder who verifies that all local singletrack trails have been destroyed by fire and flood.  He suggests some alternate routes near Los Alamos, and offers a roof for the night, just as the sun takes a dive.



We awake at the edge of Cochiti Canyon.  Torched and flooded, the canyon has seen the end of days, but is finding some footing after a year and a half.  A light frost has fallen on the mountain tops– beautiful.



Joe is riding a custom, packable Rob English 29er travel bike.  The rear triangle can be removed for easy packing, but there are no delicate hinges and it is a fully functional mountain bike.  It is equipped with a White Brothers carbon fork and a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub.  Cass rides his road-worn Surly Ogre.


In Canada, cattleguards are called Texas gates.



The grassy plains of the Valles Caldera Preserve, at the center of the Jemez.  Hiding somewhere are a herd of elk.


Doubletrack above Los Alamos.  We connect with local singletrack recovered from devastation by local trail crews.



Dressed in black, Joe is perfectly camouflaged amongst torched trees.


Lost and found– Cass consults the map.


Cass and Joe have been cycletouring for years, and have probably ridden enough to encircle the Earth several times.  There is no shortage of stories with these guys, such as that one time in Egypt, or riding a tandem in Kyrgyzstan, or the millions of delectable calories consumed.  Cass and Joe, talking and riding:


Near Los Alamos, we break for some friendly competition.  Joe suggests a proper pull-up, while Cass advocates for the underarm method.


The eerie, empty streets of Los Alamos are home to national laboratories responsible for developing weapons, including the historic Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb.  The town feels like the combination of a large public university and a Soviet facility.  Signs proclaim, “Take two minutes for safety!”.  Safety and solidarity, comrades!

The Bikini Atoll is an island chain in the Pacific which was the site of 23 atomic detonations in the 40’s and 50’s.  It continues to be unsafe for human habitation, and is the name of a street in Los Alamos.


Loaded up with food and a carton of wine, we climb up past the ski area above Los Alamos in the final light of day.



Los Alamos below.  The subject of tomorrow’s ride is seen in the distance on the other side of the valley.


Camping in an alpine meadow, we commune around food and wine.  Cass and Joe commune inside a shared Megamid tarp, telling touring stories into the night.


The next morning, we climb the Pipeline Trail to a huge singletrack descent.  The forest fires have reduced the organic content of the soil.  The resulting rocky “kitty litter” soil is hazardous on off-camber trails.  There are a few white-knuckle moments on the ride down, especially on well-worn Surly Larry tires.  It may be time for some new rubber.  Nearing the end of my “fat year”, it’s almost time for a new bike.





Joe’s Revelate handlebar bag has recently been replaced after much use, and the new design features convenient mesh side pockets which he stuffs with fruit.  As advertised, those are Avid single-digit levers.  Joe is an expert lightweight bikepacker, and keeps his bike as tidy as a Japanese cycletourist.



Resupply.  Despite the signage, this is actually a grocery store.  Four tired and dusty dirt touring bikes take respite from riding.  We are all effectively riding 29″ wheels, although mine are 26×4.0″.  On the right, Lael’s bike is the only one without a framebag.  With camping gear and clothing, her loaded bike weighs a mere 45 lbs.  The bike was sourced from parts on Craigslist in the Denver area and cost less than $700– not bad for a real mountain bike.  Although she arrived with lots of cycling experience this fall, she did not consider herself a mountain biker.  Commuting on a Surly Pugsley this winter developed sharp reactions on the bike, and previous dirt touring experience in the US, France and Mexico on her Surly LHT engrained a love for off-pavement travel.  After almost two months of riding singletrack, she can no longer hide the fact that she is a real mountain biker.


These two never run out of things to talk about– Rohloff vs. derailleurs, remote Peruvian routes, popular superhero films, and home-made beer can stoves.  Ride up to the Nambe Reservoir for the night.  The next day, we expect to ride up the Rio Nambe Trail.  Expectations, like rules, are meant to be broken.





After coffee, a breakfast of broken expectations.

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And unexpected encounters.  This little bear is limping, and quickly backs down from Joe’s stern demeanor.


As we near town, evidence of trail use grows despite continued damage.  Still, very few people pass this way, especially on bikes.



All at once, we are back on the road and on our way back to town.  By 5PM we have spent most of the day pushing our bikes, lost.  Descending on dirt at the day’s end, we include a little singletrack descent back to town.  Found.

As Lael and I begin looking for a place to hang our hats this winter, I look forward to more riding with friends.  Cass will be a short train ride away, and we’ve both got plans for some new go-fast allroad touring bikes.  As snow begins to fall in the mountains, we will escape to the south and to lower elevations.  With a lightweight load and some svelte new machines, Pie Town, NM will only be a day or two away.

Capable of both paved and unpaved surfaces, I’m designing my ideal “road” bike around a VO Campeur frame.  At the center of the build will be a versatile, voluminous tire and a large framebag.

Note: Velo Orange has recently announced a significant drop in their frame price; the Campeur, Polyvalent, and Rando frames are now available for $500.  A healthy Campeur build kit is available for $650, and for the first time a complete bike is offered for $1600.



List: Bikepacking bags and makers

Nicholas-Carman1-3213.jpg Updated 10/6/2015.  Please send additions or corrections via the “Contact me!” page, or in the comments below.  The essence of this listing is to highlight local bag makers around the world although the list will grow to include custom, non-custom handmade, and factory made bikepacking luggage.  Get out there!  

Revelate Designs; Eric Parsons (Anchorage, AK)

Oveja Negra Threadworks; Lane Condell and Monty Wilson (Leadville, CO)

Bedrock Bags and Packs: Andrew Wracher (Durango, CO)

Bolder Bikepacking Gear; Greg Wheelwright (Boulder, CO)

Wanderlust Gear; Paul Hansberger (Missoula, MT)

Randi Jo Fabrications; Randi Jo and Eric (Cottage Grove, OR)

Porcelain Rocket; Scott Felter (Calgary, AB, Canada)

Hamilton Threadworks; Sarah Hamilton (Victor, Idaho)

Cleaveland Mountaineering; Jeremy Cleaveland (Grand Junction, CO)

Rock Geist; Winston-Salem, NC

Apidura; (UK)

Alpkit; (UK)

BURGFYR; Sven (Hamburg, Germany)

Miss Grape; (Italy)

WIldcat Gear; Beth Barrington (Brecon, Wales)

Crater Packs; Rich Shoup (Telluride, CO)

Defiant Pack; (Carbondale, CO)

Alpine Luddites; (Ouray, CO)

Phantom Pack Systems: Tim O’Brien (Canada)

J Paks; Joe Tonsager (Denver, CO)

Becker Sewing and Design; (Fairbanks, AK)

Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks; (El Paso, TX)

Barking Bear Bagworks; (Michigan)

Lone Mountain Innovations; Torin Browning, (Rathdrum, ID)

Rogue Panda; (Flagstaff, AZ)

Switchback Bike Bags; (Colorado)

Bike Bag Dude; (AU)

Bikepack; (Poland)

Inuvik Studio; (Spain)

InPackStudio: (Israel)

Spok Werks; (EU)

Bike-BAG; (UK)

Shift Bikepacking; (Switzerland)

Parsley Bags; (Germany)

Stealth Bags; (New Zealand) Nicholas-Carman1-3660.jpg 1124WP Original text from 2012, the listing above is updated regularly: The list of lightweight bag makers is growing.  Inspired by their own lightweight bicycle travels and the growing bikepacking and endurance racing scene, these craftsman are making ultralight bags for rack-lite or rackless touring.  Lael recently picked up an Oveja Negra front accessory bag called the “Lunch Box” at SubCulture Cyclery in Salida, CO.  The bag is made locally in Leadville by a promising upstart comprised of a seamstress with a riding habit and a rider with a sewing itch. Constructed of the now standard Dimension-Polyant VX-series sailcloth, the bag holds a paperback Gogol novel as well as a windbreaker and small personal items for easy access during the day.  Made in Durango, the Bedrock “Chinle compression panel” pictured below was spotted on the Colorado Trail.  As every town should have a brewer and baker, a framebuilder and a bag maker would also populate my ideal town. 8479WP 8482WP 6605WP Nicholas-Carman1-2965.jpg