Ride one bike

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The greatest asset that any cyclist can bring to a ride, except fitness, is familiarity with the machine– with the exact moment that the tire loses traction in a turn, the precise action to avoid pedal strike through rocks, and the best way to hide from the wind when the Cateye reads more than 20.  Riding one bike will foster a connection with the machine that is lost when multiple bikes are in play.  I’ve heard of riders with as many as five different mountain bikes who must know which trail the group is planning to ride to be able to select the appropriate machine.  There are such things as training bikes and racing bikes, and road bikes for paved roads and different road bikes for gravel roads.  There are true cyclocross bikes and cross-type bikes that are marketed as light-touring bikes and commuting bikes and hybrid bikes.   Yesterday’s downhill bikes are today’s all-mountain bikes, while yesterday’s cross-country bikes aren’t really even mountain bikes anymore.  Snow bikes have stable geometry at slow speed while trail-capable modern fatbikes are faster handling and feature higher bottom brackets.   This week, both a carbon fatbike and a titanium full-suspension fatbike have been released.  Every year, there are more bikes for more disciplines of riding.  Pick one.

Hybrid has become a dirty word, spoiled by uninspired comfort bikes with low-quality suspension and remarkably upright riding positions.  However, the concept of a hybrid bike signals a versatile machine that can find its way through a variety of conditions.  Historical hybrids such as the Trek Multitrack and Specialized Crossroads give credit to the genre, although few people realize the value of these older models.  The same bike with a drop bar would compete with a Surly CrossCheck or any off-the-peg touring bike, for a fraction of the price.  But nobody wants a bike that doesn’t claim to be great at anything. Fortunately, I demand a bike that is good enough at everything.

The ideal everything bike does not exist.  For some, knobby tires and suspension are essential tools.  Despite the admonishment of purists, riding around town on a mountain bike isn’t a real problem.  Others may require to keep up with an aggressive paceline on Saturday or to break away from the peloton, and a race bike can certainly ride to work on Monday.  I get passed by Cervelos and backpacks all the time on the bike path, and I’m a little jealous as I bump along on a fresh Nate tire on my Pugsley.  But the Pugsley can do things the Cervelo never dreamed– our needs are obviously different.  Many riders are well served by bikes disguised for touring or cross or comfort.  These are the workhorse hybrid bikes of our time and can participate in road rides with friends as well as long-distance travel on dirt roads, and sometimes even singletrack.  A highly specialized machine has long been the standard of an optimized bike, but it is easy to see how a specialized bike is quickly compromised in changing, real world conditions.  Optimization through generalization will ensure you are never on the wrong bike, even if it’s not the right one for the job.

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Hybrid is not a dirty word.  Neither is comfort.  Ride one bike.

The basis for a new bike

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The new bike will be built around a Velo Orange Campeur frame. I had imagined a proper rigid steel frame– non-disc and not suspension corrected– that would fit a 2.1″ tire and a fender. It does not exist, but in considering the available options with long forks and mountain bike geometries, I reverted to more traditional designs. The leading options for such a bike in a competitive price range are the Black Mountain Cycles Cross, the Surly Cross-Check and the VO Campeur. All satisfy my demands, but with slightly compromised tire clearances. However, as I envision fast riding with a lightweight load a narrower tire will suffice. Living in New Mexico for the winter, I will forgo fenders in trade for increased tire clearance.

Casey and Igor at Velo Orange tell me that the large frame sizes (59 and 61cm) will fit a 700x45mm Panaracer FireCross tire, barely. Given the aggressive nature of this tire and the tall side knobs, I am hoping that a smooth 45-50mm touring tire will fit. I do not enjoy fitting tires, fender and racks where they do not belong, although I cannot imagine exploring the rural dirt roads in this area without at least a reasonable cushion of air. As long as I have the Pugsley, aggressive traction is not an important feature of this bike, but a reasonable tire volume is.

It is my impression that many of the Schwalbe touring tires that I adore (Marathon, Supreme, Dureme) are undersized relative to the advertised sizes, which is good news. Some of these tires labeled 47 or 50mm may reasonably fit the Campeur with some room to spare. On such a tire, on such a frame, I expect dirt roads to disappear under me. Rough doubletrack and some singletrack will be rideable at a passable, touring pace, and pavement won’t be a problem. With 47mm tires, this bike will be much like my Schwinn High Sierra, but with the benefits of a larger wheel. I expect the bike to tackle great distances at speed in rural parts of the state. I’m hoping that this will be a fast comfortable road bike for real roads, in both town and country.

The frame is not yet in the mail and most of the build is not finalized, yet I have found two foundational pieces at a local bike swap. A NOS 36 hole Specialized front hub cost $5, while the Deore LX bottom-pull front derailleur was $2. For an extra $2, I bought a similar front mech for Cass as well. Thus far, these pieces are the basis for the new bike.

See my post from Interbike about the VO Campeur, including lots of live photos.

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Cass has some Schwalbe Duremes that we can play with when the frames arrive. If they do not fit with a reasonable margin for a bent rim or some mud, I will look elsewhere. Here are some additional considerations:

Clement X’Plor MSO, 40mm (actual width, 38.5mm)

Michelin Transworld Sprint, 42 mm

Bruce Gordon Rock’n’Road, 43mm

Vee Rubber XCX, 1.75″ or 47mm

Santa Fe Lost and Found

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In Canada, cattleguards are called Texas gates.

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

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

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

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Lost and found– Cass consults the map.

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Interbike: The Velo Orange Campeur

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I was in love with vintage 80’s touring frames.  I owned a 1982 Miyata 1000, a 1984 Centurion Elite GT, a 1984 Trek 720, and a 1995 Trek 520.  A handful of capable sport-touring models also passed through my hands within a few years including two matching 1987 Trek 400 Elance bicycles, a Viscount that fit like a glove, a Motobecane Super Mirage and $10 Miyata 210.  I learned a lot from my years of tinkering, buying and selling bikes.  The 59cm Viscount fit better than any other bike I’d ridden, and the replacement steel Tange fork rode like a dream.  The top tube on the 720 was too long for Lael to ride comfortably with drop bars, although in retrospect she has never ridden comfortably on drops.  The ride of the 720 was exquisite.  The Centurion was capable but heavy, despite a refined exterior.  The pair of Trek 400 frames rode very nicely, and came at a fair price.  One became a singlespeed and the other, a touring bike.  The Miyata 1000 was a beautiful bike with a utilitarian simplicity, but the drive-side dropout cracked on an outing to Seattle a week before my first bike trip.  Luckily, I had the Trek 520 in waiting and swapped parts to my liking.  The Trek served me well over my first ten thousand miles on the road.  With a typical touring load, the Trek had a terrible shimmy at speed.   The solution was to carry less gear.  The Trek allowed a 38mm tire and a fender, and saw me through my first unpaved exploits on the C&O Canal and through the Lost Coast of California.  Although I advocate the use of old ATB’s as touring bikes and currently ride a clownish purple Pugsley, I love classic touring bikes.  If only I could blend my passion for classic steel bikes and big tires, I’d be a happy camper.

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Velo Orange released their new Campeur frame this past week at Interbike.  The features read like any touring bike– three bottle mounts, 46cm chain stays, cantilever brakes, rack and fender mounts everywhere– but the exterior is a cut above.  The Campeur accents its svelte stature and fine lines with metallic-flake grey paint, white decals, and a metal head badge.  A custom camping-themed design by cartoonist Dan Price adorns the top tube.  Chris Kulczycki, the owner of VO, reckons that after a year and a half of design, development and prototyping, they’ve gotten it just right.  For example, the curve of the fork blades required several efforts before the frame manufacturer was able to produce a consistent low-radius curve, as opposed to the common dog-leg style bends on many forks.  As well, the bike was tested with front loads and rear loads, as well as full loads and no loads to verify that the handling felt neutral in most cases.  While other VO frames are noted for their French classic low-trail geometry, the Campeur features a more moderate front end design, although it’s described as favoring the “low-trail” end of moderate.  Low-trail frames are ideal for front loads, although the Campeur is designed for multiple load configurations.

For most roads, the frame fits a 38mm tire and a fender.  Above, a 35mm Clement X’Plor USH tire fits comfortably under an aluminum VO fender.  Without a fender, a 42mm tire such as a Michelin Transworld Sprint will fit the frame, shown below.  The two larger frame sizes (59, 61cm) allow a 45mm tire such as a Panaracer FireCross, although it’s a tight fit.  A Bruce Gordon Rock’n’Road tire (700x43mm) would work nicely to extend the range of this bike in mountainous country.

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Some exquisite new stainless steel camping racks will soon arrive to complement the Campeur.  Personally, I’d fit a small Pass Hunter rack to the rear as a saddlebag support and simply strap a drybag to the handlebars.  While most touring bikes boast their ability to carry huge loads, the Campeur appears to share more with the refined tourers of the 80’s, such as the Trek 720 and the Specialized Expedition.  In fact, the Campeur’s paint is similar to that of the classic Expedition, and the fork bend is much like the 720 that rode so comfortably.  A steel fork with tapered blades and a classic bend can enhance the ride quality of a bike, dampening high-frequency vibrations from the road.   Like many vintage American and French touring bikes, Chris claims that the Campeur rides about as well unloaded as it does with camping gear.  That’s an advantage over some of the monster-truck touring bikes available today.  With a big tire and a small saddlebag this would be a fun dirt road bike!

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Velo Orange was also showing their 650b Polyvalent frame, designed as an urban or ex-urban transport bike.  Build it is a Porteur or a tourer, a boardwalk cruiser or a townie.

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To dress a Polyvalent or a Campeur, several new parts and accessories were shown. The Sabot platform pedals with sealed cartridge bearings and replaceable pins:

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Drillium chainrings:

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A prototype saddle with a removable leather top:

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The Plume Alaire chainguard:

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A range of handlebars:

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Hubs:

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Headsets and bottom brackets:

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And hand cut leather.

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Chris’ custom Pass Hunter frame featured a vintage ALPS handlebar bag.  Very nice.

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Real touring bikes: British Columbia

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More real touring bikes from the Alaska Highway, the Cassiar and the Yellowhead–most of these bikes are highly personalized adaptations of otherwise familiar bikes.  If you saw these in stores you’d think, “Sure. That’s a mountain bike, and that’s a road bike and that’s a hybrid”.  On the road, they’re all touring bikes.  A unique theme threads it’s way through these bikes: this is the Joe Murray edition of “Real touring bikes”.

This Basque rider was on a Giant Iguana, purchased in 2001.  His signage suggests he’s been on the road for fifteen years, and over 150,000 kms.  He was carrying two spare tires and a spare rim, amongst many other things assumed quite practical when away from home for part of a lifetime.  His Carradice panniers were well-worn and bulging, but holding together.  When asked why he had the extra rim, he explained that when he saw it in Calgary he had to have it, owing from some past experience.  In a thick accent he declares, “Alex rim (brand), very strong!”.

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The Swiss rider was on a closeout Voodoo Bizango sourced from a European distributor going out of business.  Fit with a Thorn Mt.-Tura fork (suspension corrected), he described his rigid ride to be quite capable, but that the fork soaked vertical disturbances on dirt roads quite nicely.  He shared with a hand gesture the appearance of the fork flexing, soaking washboard or rumblestrips.  Overall, a tidy bike; note the can of bear spray at his hip.  As well, the Thorn fork locates the v-brake mounts on the rear of the fork crown, presumably to make room for racks.  Voodoo Bikes are headquartered in Flagstaff, AZ and are designed by Joe Murray.  While riding through Flagstaff, this rider’s host insisted on taking him to see Joe.  Delighted, they shared a beer.

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A Kiwi on the Cassiar riding a Giant Sedona with a standard carry-on suitcase and a folding camp chair strapped to the rear rack.  To know that some real comforts are stored amongst his equipment is reassuring, as I sometimes cannot imagine what’s hiding in all those Ortlieb panniers.  A camp chair would be a real comfort.

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An early Kona Explosif, designed by Joe Murray.  This watershed mountain bike established tighter geometries, sloping top tubes, and straight-blade forks for mountain bikes to come.  At least, Cass (who’s old enough to know) waxes endlessly of the virtues of the early Explosif.    As Kona literature explains, Joe didn’t invent sloping top tubes, but he’s helped make them standard in the best new bikes (c. 1991).  Lots of Charlie Cunningham is hidden in the important features of the Explosif, at least to my eye.  This one’s got a purple fork, Deore DX components all around, original wheels with Araya RM-20 rims, and a U-brake in the rear.  Victor, one of three Spaniards in the group, saved it from collecting dust in a garage for another decade.  I suspect it’s from 1990, cross-referencing the existence of the short-lived Deore DX group and the popularity of U-brakes and Rollercams in the 80’s.

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This couple from Buffalo, NY were riding newer Trek 520s.  If you go into a Trek bicycle store this is what they sell you for “touring”.  The male rider has had numerous problems with the stock wheels and warranty replacements.  I’ve ridden with other riders that have had similar problems with the wheels on a newer 520.  In a pinch, I’ve even purchased a wheel from a Trek store, similar to the ones specced on these bikes a few years ago.  It lasted only a week.  There’s no mystery to strong wheels;  what I’m suggesting is that Trek specs these bikes with crummy wheels.  They should know that people will load their possessions and ride cross-country on these bikes.  It’s no wonder they are losing ground to the Surly Long Haul Trucker which boasts a smarter frame, better tire clearances and stronger wheels from the start.  It’s cheaper too.

My first touring bike was slated to be a vintage military-green 1983 Miyata 1000, but the drive-side dropout broke a few weeks before the trip.  A 1995 Trek 520 was in waiting and carried me through my first year of cycletouring.  The 1985 Schwinn High Sierra replaced it, and was the gateway to my obsession with larger and larger tires.

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A French rider from Nantes, riding an upright Giant bike with 700 x 47mm Schwalbe Marathon tires.  He was in love with the concept of fat tires, and we exchanged information and e-mails.  I listed for him the names of the Surly Pugsley, the Salsa Mukluk, and a new French builder of fatbikes, Salamandre Cycles.  The giant yellow drybag holds two sleeping bags, both quite old and worn as I was told.  He wasn’t sure what kind of temperatures to expect in the great Canadian north– it was 90 degrees on this day.

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From Calgary, this woman attached herself to the French rider, although they travel together symbiotically.  She was teaching him English idioms and every time she wished to depart, she insisted that they “shake a leg”.  Home-stitched panniers and handlebar bar adorn this late-80’s Miyata RidgeRunner, which is an everyday rider back in town.

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Her method of chain lubrication is unique.  Upon reaching a critical mass of lube, the rear derailleur becomes a self-lubricationg system which lightly dampens the chain with each pass.  The chainrings do the same.  In fact, this wet accumulation is what dry or wax-based lubes are supposed to avoid.  She was having a great time, regardless of specific chain-lubing techniques, or lack thereof

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And this Surly Long Haul Trucker was wearing 700 x 47mm Schwalbe Marathon tires, vintage Campagnolo pedals, Nitto Randonneur handlebars, S&S couplers, and a custom aluminum front rack.  This Eugene, OR based rider borrowed the rack design from a Jandd Extreme front rack, but with a porteur-style top.  A local organization that teaches kids to weld bikes assembled the rack from his plans and materials.  Paul Thumbies are mounted on the tops of the bars, upside-down.  The rider has also owned a Bruce Gordon Rock’n’Road, which he loved; a Rivendell All-Rounder which shimmied uncontrollably, and was sold; and this Surly LHT, which fits the largest tires of all and seems to be up to the task of carrying some things.

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The Joe Murray trifecta:  these vintage Rock’n’Road tires date from as far back as 1988, back when Bruce Gordon’s 700c Rock’n’Road frame was pushing the boundaries of the 700c based bike.  Now recognized as an important proto-29er, the BG Rock’n’Road fit tires as large as 45mm.  This tire was designed by Joe Murray for Bruce Gordon, and was manufactured by Panaracer.  I wouldn’t have know anything about this tire three days ago, but it has recently been re-released and is available at Black Mountain Cycles (Point Reyes Station, CA and online), where I learned about it on shop owner Mike Varley’s blog.  Actually, he’s been talking a lot about 40-50mm 700c tires, which fit his Black Mountain Cycles cross frames and hook up well with assorted Marin roads and trails.  In theory, the rider planned to use these on remote dirt roads up north.

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Real touring bikes: Yukon

Don’t listen to my advice about selecting a touring bike, as I’m hefting a purple snow bike around the continent.  As for good advice, maybe these bike have something to offer.  This will become a regular feature; as I see them, I’ll share them.  From $200 to $4000; 32mm or 94mm tires, 26″ or 700c; carbon and steel;  racks, bags, rafts and plastic totes, these bike will do it.  This is the antidote for all those pictures of shiny new touring bikes on the internet– these are real bikes.

First, Matt’s Surly Pugsley with fat tires, coruplast fenders, vintage EPIC Designs framebag (from Eric Parsons, of the renamed Revelate Designs), and Alpaca packraft.  Matt lives on a sailboat in Juneau, having sailed north though the Inside Passage from the Puget Sound.  This is a true Alaska bike, especially with the raft.  I spotted Matt’s name in the logbook at the cabin on the Trans-Canada Trail from Braeburn, dated from 2010.  Surly Racks support Ortlieb panniers in the rear and the raft up front.  Titec-made Jeff Jones-designed bars, Ergon grips and Paul Thumbies are standard on sensible upright touring bikes.  Endomorph tires are mounted front and rear at 30 psi for paved stretches.

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The odd couple:

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Ela’s recent purchase of a used Kona Fire Mountain made my day.  She leads mountain bike trips in Skagway for a local company, but found some time to look around up north.  I love her “system”– a plastic tote on a standard rear rack, a couple stuff sacks and an NRA lunchbox-turned-handlebar bag.

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And of course, Dave and Sarah’s custom Robin Mather tourers.  Hopefully, I’ll run into them again to catch a better look.  Next time I see them Dave will be riding without front panniers, and with a new Porcelain Rocket frame bag.

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And these old guys from Juneau left me half a cinnamon roll in Braeburn, which I blame for my muddy wanderings on the Trans-Canada Trail.  While enjoying and ruminating over the roll and a cup of coffee, I spotted the trailhead behind the Braeburn Lodge.  They ride matching Bruce Gordon BLT (Basic Loaded Touring) bikes.  These are the Petaluma, California bikes, not the Taiwanese BLT bikes offered more recently.

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Adam has attempted an Argentina-to-Alaska ITT, but relaxed when he reached the northern part of South America due to muscle strains.  Still only 103 from Ushuaia, he is within two weeks of Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay.  He was missing one chainring bolt entirely, and the other was replaced with standard stainless hardware store fare.  The hash marks on the seat tubes signify the number of days on the road.  A Trek TT bike was used on purely paved portions.  The ride supports autism.

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This French rider was on a 1986 Alex Singer, built with Reynolds 531 All-Terrain tubing.  With a small pair of rear panniers and a Gilles Berthoud handlebar bag he was quite proud of his minimal load, communicated despite poor English and my basic French.  The frame has ridden PBP twice and has been repainted by paintbrush recently, seemingly with standard house paint.  The bike features Campagnolo derailleurs, Stronglight cranks and headset, 3TTT stem and bars, Schwalbe tires on a Mavic Cosmos wheelset, and a Gilles Berthoud saddle.  The brake levers were the only Shimano bits to be seen.

I would ride this bike without the racks, and with a huge framebag.

2695WP

2697WP

2698WP

This father and son pair from San DIego and Mexico City were on skinny-tired cross bikes.  They laughed when I asked if they planned to ride those tires to Inuvik, on the gravel Dempster Highway.  Of course not, they were also packing (or had shipped) 32mm knobby tires.  They’re a long way from the paved stretches of southern California, and they remarked that they’d rather be riding tires like mine even on the “sealed” roads.  Even a 32mm tire is narrow to me, especially with a full load of panniers.  The son was on a Bailey AL/carbon cross frame, while the father was on a steel Kelly cross frame.  Incidentally, the lightweight steel frame was said to be “wobbly”; no complaints about the other.  Both were riding skinny Continental tires on the road with front and rear Ortlieb panniers.

2725WP

2726WP