My Pink Meriwether Adventure Bike

Nicholas Carman1 5214

Everything I need to have fun and survive, all wrapped in pink.  Not shown here are a tent, computer, or a front derailleur, which broke after a year and a half of adventure.  For the AZT, we’re traveling without a tent.  The 11″ MacBook Air has rejoined the packlist and fits nicely in the Revelate Viscacha with a certain packing procedure (clothes and groundcloth packed first).

The basic details are that it carries everything I need to survive and have fun including 4 liters of water, clothing and camping gear, durable 2.4″ tubeless tires on wide carbon rims, a useful range of gears, 120mm of seriously plush front suspension, a wide handlebar, all time lighting and USB charging, and the same saddle which has adorned every bike I have ridden since 2009, likely over 75,000 miles of touring and commuting on its bent steel frame, still as comfortable as ever.

The important details are 434mm chainstays, a low but not too low bottom bracket, a long but not too long top tube, a portage handle, a 68.5 degree head tube angle, and the aforementioned 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork with 51mm of offset.  All other parts come directly from my Surly Krampus and are designed to be world touring friendly, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket and the option for standard QR wheels via replaceable Paragon dropout plates and of course, a different fork.  As always, the bike is designed for big tires and a ton of extra clearance.  

The Meriwether handles singletrack better than the Krampus, descends better than the Krampus, climbs better than the Krampus, and pedals more comfortably than the Krampus.  But that’s only because I rode the Krampus for a year– and during that time it was a great bike– but I was paying attention and figured out how to make a bike better for me.  Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles is the catalyst and the confidence for this project who massaged my ideas into digital lines and degrees in BikeCAD, and manufactured our ideas in steel, willingly coating his handiwork in a pink blanket of paint.  Some call the color theft-protection, but honestly, it is the only color I wanted.  I did consider a muted lavender hue, but settled on antique pink, as I like to call it.

The bike easily finds the center of the trail, and doesn’t have the tendency to oversteer or understeer as other bikes I’ve ridden.  I can look further down the trail and know that my tires will take me there, not into the weeds.  On flowing serpentine trail, I sit down and position myself between the wheels, which are properly weighted for the front tires to cut a line and the rear tire to follow aggressively.  Riding this bike through corners– thanks, for certain, to the lower bottom bracket which I initially resisted– is like waterskiing.  The harder I dig, the harder it turns.  

The bike climbs.  Shorter chainstays result in a more direct power transfer to the rear wheel, even through Whit was concerned that his drive-side half yoke would be flexible.  It is not.  The low bottom bracket changes my relationship with only the tallest, most menacing obstacles while climbing, resulting in more frequent pedal strike on technical trials-like climbs.  In all other situations, the 60mm BB drop is a feature, and within a week, pedal strike is minimized through experience.  I might adjust the BB drop to 55mm if I had the chance to do it again, but that is a very personal consideration because I love climbing chunky stuff.  But the bike doesn’t try to tip over backwards on steep climbs and the shortened top tube allows me to approach long ascents in a seated position, while out of the saddle efforts are directly rewarded.  I recently spend much of the Highline Trail in Arizona either hiking alongside my bike, descending behind the saddle, or ripping climbs in a 34-34 gear combination.  It is a stand-up and hammer gear combination on any steep mountain bike trail, but chain retention is good and it forces me to hit the gas.  Sometimes a little extra gas is what you need for the next ledge or rock in the trail.  Soft-pedaling through challenging trail usually results in walking.  And yes, the portage handle is awesome.  I now have three useful hand positions for hauling the bike, each for a different kind of hike-a-bike.

Descending is unlike any hardtail I have ridden.  The Krampus gave me much of the confidence I sought over the classic geometry of the Raleigh XXIX and its 80mm fork.  Add to that more modern geometry, including the 68.5 degree head tube and the 51mm fork offset on a remarkable 120mm fork, and this bike is seriously confident going downhill.  Again, a little lower bottom bracket helps to keep my center of mass behind the front axle, reducing the feeling of going over the bars on steep trails.  I’ve taken to descending almost every section of trail I can find, save for most of the Pipeline Trail off the Mogollon Rim and a couple rocky drops on the way into Pine.  But, I rode most of the last section of the Highline into Pine at dusk, and loved it.  Happy to be on 2.4″ Ardents, for sure.  And the Pike, get a Pike!  To be fair, I’ve ridden some MRP Stage forks which also feel phenomenal, and some other modern RockShox offerings have impressed me on test rides, including the new Revelation and SID forks.  But for the same weight as a Revelation (which has 32mm stanchions) and the same price as a SID (yes, kind of a lot), you can have the Pike which boasts 35mm stanchions with premium RockShox internals.  The concept of using more fork offset with a lower head tube angle results in a bicycle with improved descent characteristics yet which preserves mechanical trail and handling on neutral trail sections and on climbs– it descends better without any drawbacks. 

Contact Whit Johnson at Meriwether Cycles if you have any custom bicycle needs.  He specializes in mountain bikes with character, built for adventure.  He likes short chainstays, fat tires, and extra attachment points.  He has recently built several gorgeous custom forks for internal dynamo wiring to accompany custom frames and has pushed the boundaries with his fatbike and plus-sized bikes for the past few years.  I really enjoyed working with Whit on this project.  He quickly understood my ideas and converted them to numbers, to visual impressions of a bicycle, and ultimately into a sweet ride.  Check out Meriwether Cycles on Instagram, Flickr, and on the Meriwether Blog.  He is located in Foresthill, CA and has relatively short lead times.  Pricing starts at $1200 although a frame similar to mine would cost about $1500.  

If you are interested in stock bicycles with a similar character to my pink bike check out the Advocate Hayduke, Jamis Dragonslayer, and Marin Pine Mountain.  

Nicholas Carman1 5208

Build details:

Meriwether Cycles custom steel frame for 29/27.5+

RockShox Pike RCT3 120mm, 15mm TA, 51m offset

Chris King headset and BB

Shimano Deore crank, 34/22T rings

Shimano SLX direct mount front derailleur with Problem Solvers clamp, XTR GS rear derailleur

Shimano XTR 9speed rear shifter, front friction thumb shifter on Paul Thumbie

Shimano XT 11-34 cassette and SRAM PG-951 chain

Specialized 75mm stem

Race Face SixC 3/4″ riser carbon handlebar, 785mm wide

Salsa Regulator Ti seatpost, zero setback

Ergon GP1-L grips

Brooks B-17 Standard

Avid BB-7 brakes and levers, 160mm rotors

Derby HD 35mm wide carbon rim to Hope Pro 2 Evo rear hub

Light Bicycle 35mm wide carbon rim to SP PD-8X dynamo hub

Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ EXO tires, tubeless

Redline Monster nylon pedals

Supernova E3 Triple 2 headlight, E3 Pro taillight with custom brackets

Sinewave Reactor USB charger, top cap mount

Revelate Designs custom ziperless framebag, Viscacha seatbag, Gas Tank, small Sweet Roll and small Pocket

Randi Jo Fab Bartender bag, Bunyan Velo logo

Salsa Anything Cage HD and 64 oz. Klean Kanteen

Salsa stainless bottle cages on fork attached via hose clamps, 32 oz bottles 

Nicholas Carman1 5216

Nicholas Carman1 5217

Nicholas Carman1 5218

Nicholas Carman1 5219

Nicholas Carman1 5221

Nicholas Carman1 5222

Nicholas Carman1 5239

Some People and Bikes from Interbike 2015, Las Vegas, NV

Nicholas Carman1 5079

Advocate Cycles frames are hot off the press, each featuring custom decals designed by local artists on the top tube.  Tim and Odia Krueger of Advocate Cycles shared a booth with Cycle Monkey, Sinewave, and Red Bear Products.  The 27.5+/29 Hayduke is in the foreground, and would be a great bikepacking rig.  It shares many features with my new frame.

Arriving on Monday morning, each of the five person Revelate crew had their own story of nocturnal misery at cruising altitude.  Except Lael, who claims the “shortest plane ride of her life” as she slept from takeoff to landing.  A summer of sleeping directly on the ground probably helps.  By noon, everyone assembled at the Mandalay Bay convention center to reassemble the contents of a shipping crate into Revelate Designs booth #21186.

Interbike is a trade show.  Everyone rolls their eyes about Las Vegas, about the nature of the show, about the cigarette smoke in the casinos, about the food, about the organization that operates the event, and the industry.  Everyone complains about Interbike.  However, it is the largest collection of cycling industry professionals in North America, eclipsed in size only by Eurobike and the Taipei International Cycle Show, and for the most part, a lot of productive things happen here.  There are a lot of nice people, a lot of exciting new product, and for most attendees, there are new prospects.  Lael and I enjoyed meeting many internet friends for the first time.  We made new connections which we look forward to developing into the future.  I met Charlie Kelly and after a teaser story from the first Iditasport event in the late ’80s, I bought his book.  Lael met Rebecca Rusch, the legendary endurance cyclist best known for her 13 1/2 hour passage of the Kokopelli Trail.  We huddled around pizza and beer to hear stories from Mongolia and secrets of new products, designs to make cycling better and more fun.  We talked a lot about Revelate luggage, bikepacking, and adventure by bike.  We met the Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association, Jim Sayer; Editor of Bicycle Times magazine, Adam Newman; and on more than three occasions, I passed Tom Ritchey in the aisles of Interbike.  Is Tom Ritchey the most recognizable guy in the industry, or is he just everywhere?

Interbike was awesome.  We spent so much time talking to people that the week passed much faster than expected.  And now, in a last minute rush, we find ourselves trying to shift entirely into bike touring mode.  I haven’t downloaded tracks for the AZT, scheduled a route from Las Vegas to St. George or from St. George to Kanab.  Skyler and Panthea arrive in a few hours.  We’ve located a nearby desert campsite for the night, expecting to return to town to pack and plan in the morning.  It will be nice once we get rolling, but for now, my busy summer continues.

Unpacking the crate.  The bare convention hall is transformed in less than 24 hours.

Nicholas Carman1 5002

Nicholas Carman1 5006

Nicholas Carman1 5039

Outdoor Dirt Demo

Nicholas Carman1 5043

Nicholas Carman1 5042

Nicholas Carman1 5044

Nicholas Carman1 5045

Nicholas Carman1 5046

Nicholas Carman1 5048

The new Surly Wednesday.

Nicholas Carman1 5050

Nicholas Carman1 5049

27.5+, full-sus, Nobby Nic tires=traction, lots of traction.

Nicholas Carman1 5051

18.9lbs, the new 9zero7 Whiteout Team Edition.

Nicholas Carman1 5052

The new Fatback Skookum.

Nicholas Carman1 5053

Icelandic Lauf forks, simple, light, maintenance free, and awesome.  They feel really, really good.  Best considered for gravel to light XC.  Think Tour Divide race bike…

Nicholas Carman1 5055

Nicholas Carman1 5054

The Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch, and the queen of eating sandwiches and sleeping in the dirt.

Nicholas Carman1 5063

Some bikepacking junk show at Interbike, for sure.

Nicholas Carman1 5066

Charlie Kelly talked me into buying his book.  He didn’t have to try very hard, especially with Joe Breeze just over his shoulder.

Nicholas Carman1 5067

Nicholas Carman1 5070

Big Adventures, and lots of Chinese carbon.

Nicholas Carman1 5068

Hey, it’s me!

Nicholas Carman1 5069

Vintage 1987 GT.

Nicholas Carman1 5071

Marin Pine Mountain 1 rigid 27.5+.

Nicholas Carman1 5072

Lauf leaf springs.

Nicholas Carman1 5073

John Lackey, meet John Lackey.  John set the Iditarod record to McGrath last year.

Nicholas Carman1 5074

Lael trashed a tire commuting around Las Vegas.  She borrow a Fatback Skookum for the ride home.  Rolling a fatbike through a casino in Vegas is fun.

Nicholas Carman1 5075

Each Advocate Cycle model features a different custom design, this is the new Lorax.

Nicholas Carman1 5080

New SP 150x15mm thru-axle dynamo hub for fatbikes.  SP hubs are now imported and distributed in the USA by Cycle Monkey.  I’ve also got the new top-cap mounted Sinewave Cycles Reactor USB charger to test on the Arizona Trail.

Nicholas Carman1 5082

Bikepacking junk show at the Giant booth.  The framebag opens from the rear toward the front, and without any tension it immediately jams up when you try to close it one-handed.

Nicholas Carman1 5084

Lael didn’t know these stickers existed.  She said, “that’s what I did all summer”!

Nicholas Carman1 5085

Adan Newman, the new editor of Bicycle Times magazine pretends to be a roadie for the new SRAM Red road wireless launch.

Nicholas Carman1 5086

This is Advocate Cycles, Tim and Odia Krueger.

Nicholas Carman1 5088

The Revelate Designs booth, while small, stayed busy for the three day indoor show.  During most of the show the booth featured a Jones+ bike, a Co Motion Gravel frame, and a Fatback Skookum.

Nicholas Carman1 5089

Interbike was a blasto  Off to ride the Arizona Trail.  Shipping the computer away for a while for a real vacation.

Adventure and photography from the HLC to the Tour Divide

Nicholas Carman1 4564

Lael arrived in Banff earlier this week, 19 days and 2140 miles from Anchorage, less than a month after arriving in Alaska from Israel, less than 2 months since the start of the HLC, less than a year since we left Alaska for Eastern Europe.   She will return to Alaska within a year, but twenty countries, twelve months, and 15,000 miles richer, for what it’s worth.  

Riding from the north of Israel back toward Tel Aviv last month, we prepared an evening event informally called Bikepacking Night in Israel.  I found a small printer in Tel Aviv named Panda Labs, so as to display a series of photographic clouds comprising “Three Months on the HLC”, hung from a broad section of agricultural netting.  The installation was assembled last minute, not exactly as planned, but as I should have expected it would happen when trying to plan a small art show and a presentation while traveling by bike in a foreign country.  Special thanks to Amir for offering such a spectacular garden setting in Kfar Sirkin, and for helping with all the logistics including the dusty pile of netting and box full of paperclips.  Photos were available for sale, and all HLC2015 riders were given a portrait from the event.  Klaus, you still need to send me your mailing address in Germany!

Following the talk a group of riders rolled into the nearby forest to camp, surrounding a campfire for several hours before sleep.  In the morning, the group rode back toward Tel Aviv, losing members as each found his way to home or work.  Ilan and Nir led us all the way back into the center of Tel Aviv.

Thanks to everyone that attended the event.  A special thanks to everyone that rode to the event, that camped in the forest and shared their bikepacking experience with others, that attempted or completed the HLC, and that brought beer to share.  Most of all, thanks to the trailbuilders and organizers of all the great trail resources in Israel, especially the IBT, the Adulam singletrack, and the Gilboa Mountain singletrack.  Thanks to all the camels that have beaten trails into the Negev and Judaean deserts over the years, and for the Sugar Trail.  Special thanks to Yaron Deri from Kibbutz Samar for his crew’s addition to the IBT in the past years, and for his fervent passion for long-distance mountain bike trails.  The Israel Bike Trail is a world-class resource and makes a trip to Israel especially worthwhile.  Thanks to Limor Shany for knowledge of “every stone in Israel”, and the associated GPS data which comprises the HLC track to connect Mt. Hermon and Eilat in the least direct way possible.  Thanks to Zohar Kantor for the extraordinary passion required to ignite the concept of the HLC, after returning from the Tour Divide in 2012.  Lastly, thanks to Ilan Tevet who is the premier social mechanic in relation to the execution of the HLC event and our time in Israel.  He first invited us here last October, he welcomed us on a ride around the Negev desert a week after we arrived, he has invited us into his home, to local rides, to make a public presentation about bikepacking, and to come back to Israel again some day.

Later that evening, after arriving in Tel Aviv with Ilan and Nir, we packed our bikes in boxes and caught a ride to the airport.  Within 48 hours, I was building a new bike for Lael in Anchorage.  In just over a week, she rolled out of town toward Banff.  Thanks to Eric Parsons of Revelate Designs for crafting some of the finest custom luggage for Lael, again.  The waterproof liner from my MacPack was recycled into a liner for Lael’s seatbag.  Eric, Christina, Tamra and I rolled out of town with Lael to Palmer, met by Stacy along the way.  From Palmer, we gave Lael a giant push toward Mexico.  She’s nearly halfway there, taking the week in Canmore to rest and prepare for the next phase of the ride.  Lael rode every single day from Anchorage to Banff.  In that time, I worked every single day at The Bicycle Shop, an apt and essential antidote to her ride.  We’re both working hard, hoping to be back on the bikes full-time this fall.  

Settled back into Anchorage life means evening rides at Kincaid with friends, an eclectic mix of bikes everywhere I turn, and the chance to be part of a place which I nearly call home.  The week after Lael left town, I helped a family of eight prepare bikes for a tour of the Great Divide route.  The group includes three Salsa Fargos, six framebags, two BOB trailers, and one rider that is only 11 years old.  We tuned the bikes, prepared them with luggage, and boxed all of them for the flight.  As of yesterday, they had made it to Fernie, B.C. and will be rolling across the border soon.  Whitefish, Helena, Butte!– look out for my crew from Alaska.  Tour Divide riders will rapidly catch them in the first few days of the race.

I was also able to attend Dan Bailey‘s presentation at The Trek Store about his new book Outdoor Action and Adventure Photography, published by Focal Press.  The book is a detailed 300 page crash-course in the technical photographic elements of outdoor action photography, professional considerations, and suggestions for more engaging creative imagery.  This is a text book that reads like spending hours with Dan around a campfire, which Jill Homer almost called a “page-turner”, almost.  Dan has been published in many places and has managed to make a living with the camera.  Purchase a copy of the book through Dan’s Amazon portal by linking from his site, above.  The book is especially recommended for all of the local Anchorage scenery, including snowy singletrack, photo shoots of Eric Parsons atop the Chugach Mountains, and creative perspectives of Amy doing just about everything, especially trail running.

Back to Israel. 

Nicholas Carman1 4580

Yinon, if you recall the rider with the broken rear derailleur hanger that arrived on the beach in Eilat, found a more reliable steed in this 25 year old commuter.  Every one of his kids have grown up on the back of this bike.

Nicholas Carman1 4581

Alternatively, everyone was excited to rub shoulders with local cycling celebrity Chanoch Redlich, who arrives in Calgary this week as the sole Israeli competitor in this year’s Tour Divide.  In our three months in Israel, everyone would ask if we know Chanoch.  Now we do.  He is riding a Trek Superfly hardtail.  

Nicholas Carman1 4583

BYO Zba Beer, the mountain biker’s preferred beverage in Israel.

Nicholas Carman1 4584

 Lael and Chanoch, an excitable pair.  They’ll be the center of attention among the Israeli bikepacking community this June.  Keep track of the Tour Divide through the recently formed Tour Divide Israel Watch Facebook page.  Should be some fun with Google Translate to decipher the Israeli perspective.   

Nicholas Carman1 4587

Shay provided a custom brew for the HLC2015, a gift to Lael.

Nicholas Carman1 4589

Shay rode the entire HLC route last year in 15 days.  I’m told there were two exciting rides last year, Chanoch’s record-setting win and Shay’s ride.  As others stumbled two, three and five days into the event, Shay steadily rode to Eilat and shared his experiences every night, inspiring many local riders.

Nicholas Carman1 4590

Anywhere you ride in Israel, the 4Epic community is well represented.  Endurance events are not uncommon, but the HLC is still an extreme concept to many riders.  It was nice to meet new people, say goodbye to old friends, and share experiences.  It was nice to see the images, like the simple printed pictures we once shared as families.  In a country so connected by smartphones and WhatsApp and Facebook, I am happy to provide tangible media to share.

Nicholas Carman1 4591

Nicholas Carman1 4592

Tangible media.

Nicholas Carman1 4593

Lael and Niv, two of the strongest riders at the HLC2015.

Nicholas Carman1 4594

Clean up, roll out, camp.

Nicholas Carman1 4596

Nicholas Carman1 4598

Teaching the young ones to crack a bottle of beer with an SPD pedal, an essential bikepacking skill.

Nicholas Carman1 4600

Nicholas Carman1 4601

Nicholas Carman1 4602

Amidst growing suburban central Israel, there remain small wild spaces, old limestone roads, and ruins.

Nicholas Carman1 4604

Nicholas Carman1 4605

Nicholas Carman1 4606

Nicholas Carman1 4607

And hummus, this local plate provided by the famous Gingi.  

Nicholas Carman1 4608

Rolling into town, the group dwindles.  

Dotan, the photographer, with his Surly Ogre.  He uses a Chariot trailer to transport his daughter, inspired by Cass Gilbert.

Nicholas Carman1 4609

Ophir, the tidiest bikepacker in Israel, who Lael and I nicknamed “Sylvester” on a series of rides before we learned his name.  When we told him he looked like Stallone he said, “but he doesn’t have my muscles”.  

Nicholas Carman1 4610

Singles into Tel Aviv.  For such a small country, these guys know how to make the most of it, like kids who know all the secret trails through fences, along the river, and under the highway

Nicholas Carman1 4611

Nir, the steady singlespeeder who crushed the last 32 hours from Mizpe Ramon to Eilat, poses for one last photo.  He almost resisted raising his hand to wave, his photobombing trademark.

Nicholas Carman1 4612

Tel Aviv is one of the most orderly and pleasant cities I’ve visited, much like the Netherlands, but with better weather.

Nicholas Carman1 4614

Nicholas Carman1 4613

Ilan shepherds us through the city to collect spices and dates to bring home.  The small markets on Levinsky Street are a good place to start.

Nicholas Carman1 4615

Nicholas Carman1 4617

The rapidly growing metro areas in central Israel feature world-class cycling facilities.

Nicholas Carman1 4618

30 hours later, over the Kenai Peninsula.

Nicholas Carman1 4637

Cook Inlet, Mount Susitna, and the Tordrillo Mountains; 11:30PM, May 4 taken above Anchorage, AK

Nicholas Carman1 4636

Christina is at the airport for the exciting reassembly of muddy bikes, and the chilly ride across town.  My chainring is damaged in transit, although I don’t realize until we pedal away at 1 AM.  A rock from the roadside takes care of things.

Nicholas Carman1 4619

By 10AM the next morning, we are unpacking a box with Lael’s name on it at The Bicycle Shop.

Nicholas Carman1 4620

Nicholas Carman1 4634

Late that night, the nearly complete build is finished.  Before leaving town, it is important to adjust the fit and ensure all the systems can solidly support 5000 miles of riding between here and Mexico.

Nicholas Carman1 4642

Lael spends the week planning and preparing for her ride, alongside running, doing yoga, and spending time with family.  Sadly, she just missed seeing Joshua on his Specialized Hotwalk which we bought before we left town last summer.  Joshua is ripping up and down the sidewalk, and confidently lifts both of his feet to coast down the local DH tracks (driveways).  He’ll be pedaling a bike later this summer. 

Nicholas Carman1 4708

The local CBS affiliate, KTVA-11, took an interest in Lael’s summer plans.  If you missed it, check out the segment on the KTVA website.

Nicholas Carman1 4631

Days before leaving, Eric traces Lael frame.  Lael has requested a few simple features which will keep her equipment out of the weather yet easy to access.  It is cool to see prototype tech come to production Revelate Designs product.  The new Ranger and Tangle framebags will use a narrow section of elastic soft-shell fabric, also waterproof, which stretches to reduce strain on the zipper and to ensure smooth operation.  Lael’s framebag for the last 7 months of touring featured two of these elastic panels– on either side of a large YKK zipper.  The slider operates more smoothly than any other framebag we’ve used, and it slides as well as it did on Day 1.  Keep your eyes on Revelate Designs for some significant advances in waterproof features, coming soon.    

Nicholas Carman1 4621

In usual fashion, Eric crushes the race to the finish and lays the last few stitches before leaving town.

Nicholas Carman1 4643

Eric and Becky study the rig before final departure.  These two comprise half of the Revelate team in Anchorage.  Zach and Dusty are the other two, although Dusty is almost always climbing mountains, it seems.  Revelate only recently moved out of Eric’s garage and into a larger commercial space in Midtown Anchorage.

Nicholas Carman1 4649

A quick stop at The Bicycle Shop to say thanks.  Mike Shupe has owned the shop since 1964, and built the current structure on W Northern Lights Blvd in 1974.  He once hosted Ian Hibell in his home at the end of his groundbreaking trek from Argentina to Alaska, back in the early ’70s.  During the summer months, Mike works seven days a week in the service department acting as the essential bridge between technical service and customer service.  He commutes nine miles by bike most days, riding a carbon Salsa Beargrease through the winter months.  Mike grew up with Lael’s uncle, and her grandparents would gas up their sedan at the service station which Mike’s family owned.  In Alaska, this is old-time history.  The earliest white settlements in the Anchorage bowl date to 1914, Alaska statehood was not a reality until 1959.

Thanks to Ray, Chris, and Mike at The Bicycle Shop for helping with all the pieces and parts, ordered while we were still in Israel.   

Nicholas Carman1 4652

The roll out with Eric and Christina on the Chester Creek trail.

Nicholas Carman1 4655

Waiting for Tamra.

Nicholas Carman1 4659

Cruise through Chugiak, Peter’s Creek, and Eklutna; Stacy meets us on the Old Glenn Highway along the Knik River, leading us to her home in Palmer for the night.  

My Hope hub, a year later, is making some horrendous noises.

Nicholas Carman1 4663

Still talking…

Nicholas Carman1 4666

Almost there, but not before a quick stop at the new Palmer pump track, on a Trek Madone.

Nicholas Carman1 4671

Thanks for hosting us Stacy and Scott!  You can see the Knik Glacier from their home.

Nicholas Carman1 4669

Kevin Murphy, a friend from Anchorage and long-time veteran of Paramount Cycles has moved out to Palmer to join the Backcountry Bike and Ski family.  A few other friends have left town in the time that we were gone.  Lael’s gone to find Lucas and Monica, who now live in Silver City, NM at the south end of the Divide.  

Kevin is a riding a newly built Surly Instigator with RockShox Pike fork, Hope hubs, Velocity Dually rims, and only one speed.  He cycles through new bikes faster than the seasons change in Alaska, and is already talking about a new full-suspension Evil, a titanium Kona Rove, a new 27.5 Trek Farley fatbike, and a custom build on the new Trek Stache+ frame (yes, the one with the 405-420mm chain stays!).  Kevin is a super rad rider and one of the greatest cycling ambassadors in AK, from downhill runs at Alyeska, 200 mile Iditabike races, and local group rides.  There is no limit to how much Kevin is willing to talk about bikes, which is great for me.

Nicholas Carman1 4676

Lael realizes the next morning in Palmer that she has forgotten her passport.  My Hope hub has decided after twelve months of use that it is finished and will no longer freewheel; the wheel wobbles dramatically from side to side.  A drive side bearing collapsed, after weeks of creaking.  We hitch a ride back into Anchorage to retrieve the passport.  Christina grabs a demo Trek Domane from the Trek Store where she works.

After giving Lael a big push toward Mexico, Christina and I turn back toward Anchorage. 

Nicholas Carman1 4673

Yeah, road bikes are fun.  The Trek Domane promises a controlled, compliant ride via a flexible seat tube design operating on the IsoSpeed decoupler.  It rides nice, but compared to a well worn Brooks saddle, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.  I’d be curious to compare it to the heralded Specialized Roubaix or the new carbon Diverge, or the new carbon Salsa Warbird.  Lael and I have a series of road rides planned at some point.  I’ll let her tell you about that later.

 Nicholas Carman1 4696

I’ve been working every day since Lael left town, although there is always a little time at the end of the day for a ring around Kincaid.  After a day indoors, it is never enough just to loop around the shaded wooded flow trails.  I really like to get up on the Bluff Trail to feel the open space of the peninsula.  Cait is rocking it on the sandy trail with her Surly Karate Monkey Ops, which packs an extra punch on custom built Velocity Dually rims and Nobby Nic tires. 

Nicholas Carman1 4688

Dan Bailey shares an evening at The Trek Store, with stories from almost twenty years as a professional photographer and outdoor enthusiast.  He once spent a lot of time climbing, shooting both rock and ice climbing.  More and more, his subjects are on two wheels.  He rides a new Salsa Fargo 2, purchased last summer.  

Nicholas Carman1 4690

Pick up a copy of his new book Outdoor Action and Adventure Photography.  Click through the Amazon links on his blog to purchase the book, that’s how he makes the most from the sale.

Nicholas Carman1 4692

In a perfect union of all of my interests and skills, a family of eight riders are planning to lay tracks from Banff to New Mexico this summer, over a period of ten weeks.  There are three Salsa Fargos with suspension forks, a Cannondale 29er, a Specialized Jett 29er, one Specialized Hard Rock, a Kona Lava Dome, and a folding Dahon hardtail.  All bikes are packed with Revelate Designs equipment, most bikes support a rear rack, and several bike are fitted with skewers to connect one of two BOB trailers which will be used.  The youngest rider is 11 years old.  Best of luck to the Todd family!  I heard from them the other day as they pedaled across the border from Canada back into the USA.

Nicholas Carman1 4689

Lots of cycletourists are passing through Anchorage this time of year, especially those foolhardy riders who plan to ride all the way from Alaska to Argentina.  I intersect this French couple on my way to Kincaid one night, less than a mile from the airport, where they had recently arrived from France.  I’ve met others this summer from Germany, Austria, France, Alabama, Montana, and Taiwan.

Nicholas Carman1 4695

It’s summer, so get out and ride!

Crossing the Judaean Desert, West Bank, Israel

Nicholas Carman1 4252

It is HLC season in Israel.

Nowhere else have we engaged the local bikepacking community as in Israel.  America is a big country and there are many riders, but there are miles and miles of trail for each rider to hide.  South Africa is a big country which claims a lot of riders, but most mountain biking seems to happen behind closed doors on private land tracts, only on the day of a race or scheduled ride.  Israel is a small country with a lot of people and a lot of public trails.  The people are active, organized, and committed.  Self-supported bikepacking is rapidly growing out of a foundation of mountain biking and hiking.

We receive the details of a plan on our small yellow phone to meet Ilan Rubinstein at Mitzpe Yeriho at 1800 hours.  We will sleep within the confines of the community, a Jewish settlement on a hill above the city of Yeriho (Jericho) in the West Bank.  We ride at 0600 hours.  Active, organized, committed.

We were first invited to participate in the HLC race last fall, via the blog.  By the time we crossed the border from Egypt I had received invitations for accommodation or conversation over coffee in places further north.  Facebook friend requests flood from serious looking riders, their names masked by Hebrew characters which I still cannot read.  We meet on the trail, partly by coincidence, and they know all about us.  I don’t usually recognize them by name, but we are friends.

The 1400km HLC was organized by a core group of riders in less than a year, and the first race took place in April 2014 from the southern flank of the tallest mountain in Israel, Mt. Hermon, situated at the junction with Lebanon and Syria.  Zohar Kantor, a Tour Divide veteran, conceived the event.  Limor Shany traced a line across the country from north to south, an extension of the week-long supported mountain bike tours he has been operating for years.  Ilan Tevet is the ever-convincing marketing man with a Swiss Army knife of skills to facilitate and promote the event.  He was the one to invite us to Israel and to the HLC last October.

Last year, the weather was hot in April, with two substantial heat waves during the HLC.  April is a month tightly sandwiched between cool wet winter and oppressively hot summers– the weather can go either way, but is most likely to be hot and dry.  The north of the country features a typical Mediterranean climate with wetter winters, while the south is consistently dry most of the year.  In almost any part of the country, substantial rain results in unrideable trails.  Limestone soils quickly clog tires and irregularly shaped limestone fragments– their exterior surface slickened by moisture– are hazardous when wet.  I’ve heard the complaints from last year’s heat, but Lael and I have spent enough time traveling this country during the rains to know which is worse.

The culture of the HLC isn’t entirely new, except for the essential details of being a week long self-supported race across Israel.  Israelis love mountain biking and regularly ride in groups, scheduled one day a week or more.  We’ve met many groups of riders who have been together for as much as a decade.  Ilan Tevet’s group rides very early on Tuesday morning and gathers for a stomach full of hummus at 8AM, before parting ways for their respective professional lives.  Some groups employ a more advanced rider to aid skill building and as a guide.  And the bikes!– we’ve seen more high-end bikes in Israel than anywhere in the world.  Spotting an Ibis, Turner, or Santa Cruz in the wild in America is uncommon, except in high-octane wealthy mountain towns like Crested Butte or Moab, or attached to riders with supreme skill.  Even in the middle of a suburban forest in Israel these bikes are not uncommon, and their association with skill is seemingly at random.  The impact of global marketing has also pressed enduro and all-mountain trends into the Israeli mountain bike culture.  Knee pads and other armor are common.  At the same time, lycra kit mated to Epics and Scalpels and Superflys are all part of the scene.  A few rigid singlespeeders keep it honest.  And on Shabbat, we ride.  Check out the Ben Shemen forest on Shabbat.  Only Marin comes close in my experience.

Bikepacking is growing thanks to the HLC and to the popularity of overseas events like the Tour Divide.  Bikepacking for fun, or mountain bike touring, seems to be missing from the current patchwork of Israeli mountain bike culture, to the point that when we describe to some riders that we are touring the HLC route, they are confused about how this is possible.  American riders often make the same mistake, failing to differentiate touring the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from racing the Tour Divide.

Coming from Jerusalem to Mitzpe Yeriho, we descend 2000ft on paved highways toward the Dead Sea.  We are the first to arrive and take a place at the picnic table outside the small grocery in the community.  Like many small planned communities in Israel, there is a gate surrounding the property and a structural steel gate at the entrance, often kept open during daytime hours.  But this is the West Bank, and even if only in my imagination, it is different here.  The shacks of sheepherding families line the roadside from Jerusalem.  But when we enter Mitzpe Yeriho, we could be in any other community in Israel, from the Negev to Galilee.

Ilan Rubinstein arrives first from Eilat, and quickly unveils a third of a bottle of Johnny Walker.  We’re sitting in front of half-empty pints of Tuborg Red and a tub of hummus, one half of our now-typical dinner.  Ilan serenades us with stories about the “spirit of the trail” and about the life-changing experience of racing the HLC.  It is inspiring stuff and Ilan is one of the greatest students and most sage instructors of the method.  But Ilan scratched from the HLC last year after a monstrous effort to Jerusalem.  The details of the end of his race are never made clear to us.  Despite countless queries, he avoids answering by chasing tangential trail philosophies.  He did the same thing last time we met him on the beach in Eilat.  There is something out there for him yet.  He arrives on a Specialized Epic with a combination of Revelate and Nuclear Sunrise gear.

Omri arrives next, a much younger man on a smartly packed Cannondale Scalpel with Porcelain Rocket gear.  He scratched even sooner in the race last year, but is quick to admit his mistake, with a smile.  The HLC is not like a short-source XC race, where he excels and where he draws much of his experience.  You cannot ride the same way, at the same intensity.  He recently spent several months in Ecuador touring Andean backroads, shadowing some of the routes he’d seen on Cass’ blog While Out Riding.

Nir deboards the same bus as Omri, a relative novice mountain biker (in time, not skills, since starting to ride three years ago) and a first time HLC racer.  He rides a singlespeed Kona Unit packed with Revelate Gear.  Nir is comfortable telling Ilan when he is overthinking, which amuses us greatly.

We’re just along for the ride.

Nicholas Carman1 4197

Nicholas Carman1 4222

Awake before dawn, above Jericho and the Dead Sea.  How else could you convince men to wear tights and sleep on plastic house wrapping on the ground in a park?

Nicholas Carman1 4199

Leaving Mitzpe Yeriho, we pass several small homes with large flocks of sheep and goats.  These poor Arab families are increasingly a minority in Area C of the West Bank as Israeli settlements grow at an extraordinary rate.

Nicholas Carman1 4201

A climb ending in a steep hike downhill sets the tone for the day.

Nicholas Carman1 4202

Nicholas Carman1 4203

Searching for trails etched by sheep and camels over decades and centuries.

Nicholas Carman1 4204

Unlike many of the official hiking and cycling trails and 4×4 routes we have been riding, this trail likely predates the state of Israel by many years.

Nicholas Carman1 4207

A nearby mountain bike route called The Sugar Trail passes from the hills above Jerusslem to the Dead Sea, once a popular trade route now a popular shuttle run.

Nicholas Carman1 4211

Singlespeed and happy, Nir keep an even keel and an even cadence.  The sign on the front of his bike indicates that he is riding the HLC to raise money and create awareness for Asperger’s syndrome.

Nicholas Carman1 4212

Nicholas Carman1 4215

There are a series of wells along the first part of our ride, which makes carrying 7L of water feel a little silly.

Nicholas Carman1 4213

HLC training.

Nicholas Carman1 4214

The Judaean Desert is never this green, locals say.

Nicholas Carman1 4218

Mountain bike traffic– luggage and water uphill, full-face helmets downhill.

Nicholas Carman1 4269

Nicholas Carman1 4219

Continuing to the south, the desert becomes increasingly green.

Nicholas Carman1 4226

Nicholas Carman1 4225

Nicholas Carman1 4227

Nicholas Carman1 4228

Nicholas Carman1 4229

Short steep hikes punctuate much of the first part of the ride.  Following GPS tracks up and down steep hillsides within sight of rideable trails is amusing, but the resultant ride is absolutely worth it, making connections one would not have seen from afar or from available basemaps.  The combination of local intel and a GPS are irreplaceable.

Nicholas Carman1 4231

A donkey would be a better tool than a bike up here.  Sage is in season, easily identifiable by smell from several meters away.

Nicholas Carman1 4233

Nicholas Carman1 4235

Nicholas Carman1 4236

Camels and green grass.

Nicholas Carman1 4238

Nicholas Carman1 4239

Nicholas Carman1 4237

Some flow, some chunk, some hiking, and some technical descents if you choose to ride them– HLC training.

Nicholas Carman1 4240

Nicholas Carman1 4241

Nicholas Carman1 4243

Nicholas Carman1 4244

Ilan, the bikepacking poet from Eilat.  Ilan is well-known to provide hospitality to passing cyclists and has met many riders connecting distant parts of the globe, coming through Israel from Jordan and Egypt.  He has arranged for us to sleep in the aquarium in Eilat on several occasions, where he works as an accountant (with seemingly endless vacation time to go bikepacking).

Nicholas Carman1 4245

Nicholas Carman1 4246

Nicholas Carman1 4247

Nicholas Carman1 4253

Nicholas Carman1 4255

Still over 2000ft above the Dead Sea, Jordan in the distance.

Nicholas Carman1 4254

Metsokei Dragot, water refuel.

Nicholas Carman1 4256

Mostly doubletrack from here to the end of the day.

Nicholas Carman1 4257

Nicholas Carman1 4258

Nicholas Carman1 4259

Morning above the Deas Sea, cool air reminding us that we are here in the right season.  This place is an oven in the summer.

Nicholas Carman1 4260

Our track crosses a series of deep wadis which drain to the Dead Sea.  We can ride into these canyons, but not out.  Local Palestinian 4×4 clubs are out enjoying the day, bumping Arabic electro tunes.

Nicholas Carman1 4261

Nicholas Carman1 4263

Lael judging form.  Looking good guys.  Good luck at the HLC!

The race starts from Mt. Hermon on Thursday morning at 7:00.  Follow along on the HLC 2015 Trackleaders page.

Nicholas Carman1 4264

Nicholas Carman1 4265

We eventually arrive at an important junction where we can continue toward our planned destination at the Aravah Junction, or ride toward Arad and end the day at a reasonable hour, before dark.  Before the decision is made, minds wander to cold beers and obligations at work the following day.  We finish our crossing of the desert in Arad, where regular bus services take Omri, Ilan, and Nir back to their lives.

Nicholas Carman1 4266

Nicholas Carman1 4268

We reconnect with the HLC track in Arad and begin riding north for a second time along this section.  If anyone asks, we live on this off-road artery across Israel, on the HLC.

Nicholas Carman1 4267

The Art of Bikepacking: July 16, 2014 in Anchorage, AK

Screen Shot 2014 06 28 at 8 58 21 AM

Join us for an evening event celebrating bikepacking, photography, and travel.  Ride your bike to The Bicycle Shop on Dimond Blvd. on Wednesday July 16, 2014 at 7PM.  Pack the bike as if you were going on a big trip or a little trip, or a trek across town.  We’ll have things to talk about.  This is the week after the Fireweed 400 and the week before Singlespeed World Championships, so leave a little room in your schedule and invite out of town visitors.  

The evening will commence with food and drinks and conversation.  The program includes a diverse range of presentations including visual displays, stories, and expertise on routes, packing, planning, and photography.  Our personal bikes will be on display, packed for adventure.  As well, we’ll have an array of Salsa, Specialized, and Surly bikes packed for touring, commuting, and lightweight bikepacking.  Free food, beer, and gifts.  

Eric Parsons will share a personal history of Revelate Designs, including experiences from the trail, and from his years designing gear that works for himself and the rest of us.  Eric’s business has grown from a one-man custom operation to a rapidly expanding Anchorage-based company which supports adventurous and accomplished riders across the globe.  

Dan Bailey will share his expertise as an Alaskan adventurer and professional photographer.  His images inspire readers in magazines and commercial media, including recent credits in the Patagonia catalog and advertisements for the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. 

Lael and I have prepared stories and a series of printed images from our exploratory summer of bikepacking in Europe.  This event happens less than a week before our return to find new routes (and food) in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe.  Come say hi, and goodbye.

Thanks to our event sponsors, we will be giving away a load of awesome gear from Surly, Salsa, Adventure Cycling, Revelate Designs, Velo Orange, and Bunyan Velo.  So far, there are steel touring racks, a winter wool cycling cap, lightweight luggage, water bottles and cages and socks and t-shirts and hats and stickers, and a complete Great Divide map set to give away.  I will also throw in some maps for the new Idaho Hot Springs Bikepacking Route from Adventure Cycling.  Ride your bike to the event for a chance to win!  

Finn says, get riding over to The Bicycle Shop, Dimond on July 16! 


Photo: Eric Parsons

When that day comes

Nicholas Carman1 81

As Jeremy would say, “you’ll take the bike you’re riding the day before you leave”.  A friend from our time in New Mexico, Jeremy has gained the wisdom of an old man from years in railcars, on the road, and on a bicycle.  He’s barely thirty years old, but he’s right.

This spring, I’ve enjoyed a greater period of bike building and planning than ever before.  My Raleigh XXIX was purchased used in Santa Fe less than a week before leaving for Amsterdam last summer.  My Surly Pugsley was fit with a variety of wheel, tire, and handlebar combinations in the days leading to my departure from Anchorage in 2012. In 2011, I developed my first Carradice-based rack-lite touring system for my Schwinn High Sierra in the final week before departure from Annapolis, MD.  In late 2009, I built our first dynamo wheels and lighting systems the week before leaving Tacoma, WA to ride south to Mexico for the winter.  Back in 2008, I had built my dream bike from a vintage Miyata One Thousand frame.  The frame broke with a few weeks to go and I swapped parts to a mid-nineties Trek 520.  I remember the first ride with empty Ortlieb panniers attached to touring-grade Jandd racks.  It was awkward and exciting.  I now think that riding a bike with racks and panniers is awkward, but not exciting. All of these bikes are documented on my webpage entitled “Touring Bikes”.  

When the day comes, we’ll leave on whichever bikes we are riding.

Over the past month, I’ve experimented with wheels and tires on the Salsa Mukluk.  A suspension fork and a trail-oriented parts ensemble including 45mm Velocity Dually rims graced my red fatbike, before opting for a purpose built machine.  Enter the Surly Krampus, which makes all the improvements I was searching for last summer, without compromise.  I really enjoyed the Raleigh last year, but often asked for a few more things, including greater tire clearance and longer fork travel.  While the 29.1mm Stan’s FlowEX rims served me well, I also thought a slightly wider rim would be more appropriate for the 2.3-2.4″ tires I prefer.  To do all of this without adding significant heft to the machine is the trick.  Over the years, the goal has been to create a more capable bike, without gaining weight.  Oh, and the rims must be genuinely tubeless ready.    

Why not the Mukluk?  Well, it works fine, but considering the amount of pedaling I expect to do before I need a fabike again, a standard width bottom bracket will be nice for my knees.  I’d not had any issues riding a Pugsley for over a year in the past, but this winter, I gained a few creaks in my knees which I was unable to explain.  In retrospect, I attribute my discomfort to excessive riding and challenging conditions (snow).  Some more stretching may have helped.  Mostly, my legs felt great once the snow melted, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.  

In all, the Krampus and the Mukluk are more alike than they are different.  The frame dimensions and angles are nearly identical, although on paper the Krampus features a slightly longer top tube.  Thus, I moved into the Krampus frame knowing that it was almost exactly what I wanted.  If you own a newer Mukluk, know that it also makes a capable 29er mountain bike.

As the day nears, these are the bikes we will ride, mostly.  Lael seriously considered buying a full-suspension bike, as a nod towards our trail oriented aspirations.  Instead– convincing herself she didn’t need that, not yet– we’ve made some improvements to her bike.  Come late July, I will be leaving town on a completely new bike for the first time, ever.  

Oh yeah, we’ve got plane tickets to Vienna on July 22nd.  Vienna, like Amsterdam, seems like a fantastic place to begin a bikepacking trip.  We hope to be gone for close to a year.   

Nicholas Carman1 66

Surly Krampus

Fox Talas 32 factory fork (120mm-90mm adjustable travel)

Race Face Sixc 780mm carbon handlebar/ Specialized 75mm stem/ Cane Creek 40 headset/ Ergon GP-1 grips

Salsa Regulator titanium seatpost/ Brooks B17 saddle/ Surly seatpost clamp

Shimano Deore 38/26 cranks/ Shimano XTR 9sp GS-cage rear derailleur/ Shimano Alivio 11-34T cassette/ SRAM PC-951 chain/ SRAM X5 double front derailleur/ Problem Solvers FD clamp/ Redline Monster pedals

Paul Thumbies shifter mounts/ Shimano 9sp bar-end shifters

Avid BB7 brakes and rotors/ Avid FR-5 brake levers

SP 15mm thru-axle dynamo hub/ Light Bicycle 35mm tubeless carbon rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ skinwall tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

SRAM X7 rear hub/ Stan’s FlowEX rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ skinwall tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

Wanderlust Beargrass top tube bag/ Randi Jo Bartender bag/ Revelate Viscacha seatpack

Notes: A 35mm wide carbon Derby rim has arrived, which will be laced to a Hope hub in the rear.  Tires, pedals, and luggage may change.  Lighting and charging devices, yet to be determined.

Nicholas Carman1 69

35mm Light Bicycle rims, light and strong.  Tubeless set-up is a breeze.  Pop, pop– the sound of a tight fitting bead.

Nicholas Carman1 70

29×2.4″ tires, the heart of the system.  In place of Maxxis EXO casings, which are unavailable from most distributors at the moment, I’ve chosen the skinwall Ardents.  They’re not quite as tough, but are a little lighter.  And, they’re gorgeous.

Nicholas Carman1 72

Carbon AM/DH bars, Ergon grips, mechanical disc brakes, and thumb shifters are not the usual mix of parts.

Nicholas Carman1 73

The Brooks B17 rides high, after more than 40,000mi.  The Salsa Ti post isn’t as plush as expected, but the build quality is very good.  And, it is gorgeous.

Nicholas Carman1 74

Tire clearance is good all around.

Nicholas Carman1 75

Nicholas Carman1 76

Room for mud, and when the time is right, 29×3.0″ tires.  Dirt Wizards?

Nicholas Carman1 77

Finally, this fork is a dream.  It feels great.  I can adjust the travel from 120mm to 90mm on the fly.  The C-T-D compression settings are useful when alternating between climbing and descending, and for a controlled trail setting.  The fork technically clears a 29×3.0″ Knard, barely.  

Nicholas Carman1 78


Nicholas Carman1 80

Raleigh XXIX

RockShox Reba SL, recently converted from 80mm to 120mm

Answer 20/20 720mm carbon handlebar (20mm rise/20deg sweep)/ Specialized 50mm stem/ Velo Orange headset/ Ergon GP-1 grips/ King Cage top-cap bottle cage mount/ Specialized bottle cage

Syntace P6 Hi-Flex carbon seatpost (not pictured)/ Cannondale Hooligan saddle/ Salsa seatpost clamp

Race Face Ride 32/22 cranks with bash guard/ XT 8sp GS-cage rear derailleur/ 11-32T cassette/ Shimano XT front derailleur/ SRAM PC-830 chain/ VP-001 pedals

Suntour XC Pro shifters

Avid BB-7 brakes/ Avid FR-5 brake levers

Hope Pro 2 Evo hub/ Light Bicycle 35mm carbon rim, DT butted spokes and alloy nipples/ Specilaized S-Works 29×2.3″ Renegade tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

SRAM X7 rear hub/ Stan’s FlowEX rim/ DT butted spokes and brass nipples/ Specialized S-Works 29×2.3″ Renegade tires/ Stan’s tape and sealant

Revelate Viscacha seatpack/ Revelate framebag

Notes:  Tires, worn drivetrain parts, and broken saddle will change.  Luggage yet to be determined.  Rides good; she won a race the other day.  Not bad for a touring bike.

Nicholas Carman1 89

Nicholas Carman1 86

Nicholas Carman1 87

Nicholas Carman1 90

Nicholas Carman1 88

Return to Resurrection Pass, Alaska

NicholasCarman1 1543

All week, I told everyone I know that the riding on Resurrection Pass is perfect.  “Right now, you gotta go now!”  Lael listened to it over and over, and as she scanned photos, she asked questions about the cabins and the trail.  By Friday, it seemed that I was destined to return with her.  A few piles of equipment come together on the floor in preparation for our early departure on Sunday morning.

We promptly depart mid-afternoon.

On the trail only a few hours before sunset, we roll upstream without a plan.  Clear skies, exactly like our trip last week, are an assuring sign.

NicholasCarman1 1578

By now, the sun passes over the valley onto the far hillside.  Temperatures are cool, but nothing a little uphill pedaling can’t erase.  A fresh inch of snow over last week’s ice is both a blessing and a curse.  Fresh snow improves traction in some situations; elsewhere, it conceals hazards.

NicholasCarman1 1577

NicholasCarman1 1579

Fresh ice pours from the hillside in a few places.  Lael has about 250 Grip Studs in her tires.  A few early-season bruises convinced her that studs are a good thing.

NicholasCarman1 1580

Only a few tracks are found on the trail, including one tire track and several boot tracks.

NicholasCarman1 1581

Crossing Resurrection Creek at sunset, seven miles from the trailhead, we start thinking about shelter.  There are three cabins along this section of trail: Caribou Creek, Fox Creek, and East Creek.  Cabins are available for rental throughout the Chugach National Forest.  Without a plan, and with the option to bivy outside, we continue on the trail for another hour.

NicholasCarman1 1583

At dusk, we poke our heads into the Fox Creek Cabin.  No one is here.  We start a fire and unlace our shoes.

NicholasCarman1 1584

Nearing the equinox and 12 hours of sunlight, officially, we already count more than 12 hours of usable light.  Twilight lasts forever, and grows longer by the day.  Later this week, our days will be longer than yours (unless you live in Fairbanks!)

NicholasCarman1 1591

Dinner is mostly taken from the depths of the refrigerator and freezer at home.  A couple of hot dogs roasted on a stick are gourmet fare when away from a kitchen.  Toasted corn tortillas, melted cheese, and avocados round out the meal.  A sip of whiskey and water to wash it down.

NicholasCarman1 1590

I am excited to sleep outside, but a fire is a nice feature.  The cabin is warm through the night, as outside temperatures remain in the 20s.  Past midnight, a woman’s voice breaks my sleep.  Two dogs come rushing into the cabin, and the energy of a late night hike is quickly part of the cabin.  Two boys enter.  We exchange names as an official gesture, I forget them immediately, and Lael and I rearrange ourselves to make room.  The boys are quick to retreat to the top bunk, and to sleep.  The dogs are restless for a time, and Carolyn is ready to share stories of the trail.  She has been hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing this trail in winter for nearly twenty years.  Partway through the story of another year’s adventure, I fall back asleep.

NicholasCarman1 1593

By morning, Lael and I fetch water from the stream for coffee and pack our things.  Cabins are nice, for a time.

Overnight, clouds have rolled in.  Snow falls.  Wind overhead teeters treetops.  Today is a whole different world.

NicholasCarman1 1648

NicholasCarman1 1649

Lael is excited to explore.  This doesn’t look like the honeymoon ride I shared with the guys last week.  She couldn’t be happier.

NicholasCarman1 1650

I’m always curious to find what she hides in her bags.  She fills her new Wanderlust top tube bag with a shaker of sea salt, formerly a plastic container of decorative cinnamon cake toppings.  A 5-Hour Energy signals a return to her old touring habits of caffeine-loading at gas stations.  The three yogurt-covered peanut clusters I’ve offered her as sustenance in the last hour have disappeared into her bag.  I also spot an espresso flavored energy gel, also caffeinated.  I promise, her framebag is filled with real food.  Apples are on Lael’s menu all day, every day.

NicholasCarman1 1651

We ride up into clouds, snow, and sun, barely.

NicholasCarman1 1652

In contrast to our ride last week, this is a whole other world.

NicholasCarman1 1653

Cresting mounds of glacial gravel, rising above treeline, the wind presents itself in full.

NicholasCarman1 1655

Nate and Bud and Lou have been fossilized in the mud from last week.  The ground is rock solid and windblown.

NicholasCarman1 1656

NicholasCarman1 1647

NicholasCarman1 1657

Riding uphill and upwind, we stop at each major gust.  At twenty, thirty miles an hour, it challenges us to remain upright on the bikes.  At forty, fifty miles an hour, we stop and bow our heads.

NicholasCarman1 1607

A good time to be wearing a snowboarding helmet, I think.  This was my little sister’s helmet 15 years ago.  Somehow it has made its way from NY.

NicholasCarman1 1550

NicholasCarman1 1549

After pushing and riding for a few miles, we decide to turn around just short of the pass.  We consider running up and over the next small hill to see it, but the triviality becomes apparent as the wind gusts once again.  Lael is still smiling.  Not much will erase that.

NicholasCarman1 1610

Of course, unrideable uphill trail is blazing fast in reverse, both downhill and downwind.  Gusts propel us through drifts.  We pass two hikers on the way down.  They watched us push into the wind a few minutes ago.  “It is a little easier in this direction”, I offer.

NicholasCarman1 1612

This section of trail, with a healthy tailwind, ranks high.

NicholasCarman1 1658

Lower, the trees provide shelter.

NicholasCarman1 1617

We stop into the East Creek cabin to look around, and to warm our fingers.  As blood returns to our digits, the world begins to defrost as well.

NicholasCarman1 1614

NicholasCarman1 1555

After lunch and a nap a few miles further down the trail at the Fox Creek Cabin, the two hikers arrive just as we are leaving.  We pass the warm cabin to them.

NicholasCarman1 1619

A fresh layer of snow makes any landscape more beautiful.

NicholasCarman1 1620

NicholasCarman1 1628

NicholasCarman1 1621

NicholasCarman1 1624

NicholasCarman1 1646

NicholasCarman1 1627

Back down to the bridge, we look forward to a quick ride out to the trailhead.

NicholasCarman1 1629

This week, I’ve revised my luggage.  We only have one well-worn seatpack between the two of us, so I attached a drybag to the underside of my saddle.  I’m thinking I’ll stitch some straps to the bag to make a permanent seatpack out of it.  For just more than the price of the bag (13L Big River Dry Bag, about $30), it presents a cheap solution to lightweight packing, especially in conjunction with my preferred Sea-to-Summit compression drybag (size S/10L) up front.

Same as last week, I also packed a Porcelain Rocket framebag, Revelate Gas Tank and Williwaw pogies, and Randi Jo bartender bag.

NicholasCarman1 1631

Lael uses a Revelate framebag, Viscacha seatpack and Williwaw pogies; Randi Jo bartender bag, and a Sea-to-Summit compression drybag (size XS/6L) up front.  She loves her Salsa Mukluk.

NicholasCarman1 1632

NicholasCarman1 1633

She is also using her new Beargrass top tube bag from Wanderlust Gear out of Missoula, MT.  The design features a single zipper down the center, and is almost the exact same size as my Revelate Gas Tank.  Always creative with her words, she’s calling it the Beargrasstank.  The Bunyan Velo “Get Rad” patch is sold out for now, but new patches have arrived.

NicholasCarman1 1637

NicholasCarman1 1639

The snow accumulates, and the riding changes.  Ice is no longer a hazard, and steering is a little less precise in fresh snow.  For now, only a few inches pile up and the riding is great.

NicholasCarman1 1640

A few hazards are hidden under the snow, but the landing is softened.

NicholasCarman1 1642

The snow becomes very wet further down, and waterproof layers come out.

NicholasCarman1 1641

NicholasCarman1 1643

Across Resurrection Creek one last time.

NicholasCarman1 1644


WP001 68

A few days away, finally.  Three, now only two days out of town.  Overnight– on a very familiar bike.  Since last time, the Pugsley has a new chain and cassette, tubeless tires, and a full luggage system from Revelate Designs.  I use a large Carradice Camper saddlebag for longer tours as it offers twice the capacity of the Revelate Viscacha seat bag, and also fits my MacBook Air.  But this seat bag rides nicely, and is lighter.  Up front, I typically us a compression dry bag for my sleeping gear, but I opted to try this large handlebar stuff sack called the Sweet Roll, paired with my Revelate Pocket accessory bag.  The Pocket makes a great mini-messenger bag when not attached to the bike.  The included shoulder strap is always attached, and provides daily use over the shoulder.  I bought all of these bags last May directly from Eric in Anchorage expecting that Lael would use them over the summer, but she didn’t have enough gear to necessitate so much space.  Mostly, she used the seat bag and Gas Tank top tube bag on her Hooligan.  Without a computer, I could easily pack for long distance excursions with these bags alone– another nail in the coffin of racks and panniers.

WP001 69

WP001 70

WP001 71

WP001 72

WP001 73

WP001 74

Charlie at Two Wheel Drive is an invaluable resource for local route planning.  Over that past decades he has ridden everything in this part of New Mexico, and beyond.  Over the past few weeks, TWD has become the fatbike shop in NM.  Coming soon, monthly fatbike rides– arroyos, snow, forested trails, and the moon!

WP001 67

A couple of Hooligans

WP00001 80

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I ordered a pair of 20×2.20″ Maxxis Holy Rollers for Lael’s Hooligan.  She insisted that she wear out the current tires, 1.5″ Kenda Kwest slicks, but once the tires arrived I couldn’t resist.  I admire her resolve to wear through tires, but these Lil’ Rollers are tons of fun.  They add to the diverse absurdity of the Hooligan.  The current build incorporates comfortable stylish parts from Velo Orange, some lightweight Revelate Designs bags for daily commute-packing, and these little Maxxis beefcakes.  Anymore, Lael loves Maxxis tires.  She likes upright handlebars, lightweight camping loads, and chunky rubber.

WP00001 71

WP00001 74

Some fun LED lights light up the night.  Thanks to Linda and Lanny for these fun holiday gifts.

WP00001 73

Velo Orange Tourist handlebars offer a classic look in a practical dimension.  For a round town bike, the rise and sweep on these bars is perfect.  Also, VO cork grips.

WP00001 67

WP00001 65

The tire rolls well, although it is marketed as a BMX/Dirt Jump/Urban Assualt tire.  For Lael, it’s a versatile commuting tire that can hit the trails in a pinch.

WP00001 70

Some comfortable Clarks and large platform pedals make for happy feet.  These new Velo Orange Sabot pedals are buttery smooth as they use a series of sealed cartridge bearings.  Rounded pins improve traction.

WP00001 72

Neo-retro– a Velo Orange Model 3 saddle and a Revelate Viscacha seatbag.

WP00001 79

WP00001 78

Of course, every practical bike must have a bell.  This is my favorite way to mount one.

WP00001 82

Some cheap Bell sunglasses and a Giro Reverb helmet round out the Lael’s specialized commuting kit.

WP00001 69

A couple of Hooligans.

WP00001 81

Jetsam and flotsam


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)


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.