Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

June 25, 2009

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

By Guitar Ted 

Nebraska: Yeah, you know….that “fly over” state. That state that everyone on I-80 wishes was about 399 miles shorter. That “Nebraska” is what most people think of when they are presented with the idea of bicycling there. Well, those who have been there, live there, and more importantly, have ridden there, know a lot better than that. I’ll admit, I’ve had my eyes opened to a new way of thinking about Nebraska as a place to ride off road, that’s for sure. 

My education in cycling in Nebraska started in 1995 while doing a tour on paved roads from my home state of Iowa. We traversed the northeastern corner of the state and I found it to be a beautiful country of rolling hills. That would be just a foretaste of what was to come much later though. 

Fast forward 14 years: I was invited by a Nebraska resident and friend, Matt Gersib, to try out some off road single track in the eastern part of Nebraska near Bellevue. I was to be staying with some friends and decided to take him up on it. So I took my bicycle with me to Nebraska once again. Only this time I was in search of some dirt. 

I wasn’t to meet with Matt until Friday, but on Thursday, I found some free time and looked up a local park to explore. Swanson Park, in Bellevue, turned out to be only about a mile from where I was staying, so I pedaled over to check it out. I was not expecting a whole lot, I mean, it is Nebraska, right? So I figured it would be a good little jaunt through a city park and that would be that.

 

Boy, did I ever get that wrong!

 

Swanson Park is a great piece of single track sweetness. I was really surprised by how well it was marked and kept up. I found out that the local trail maintenance group, T.H.O.R.(Trails Have Our Respect), was responsible for that and the upkeep of a few other trail areas in and around the Omaha area. Having a trail well marked, clean, and weed free is a big selling point for folks coming from out of state, and Swanson Park measured up on all fronts there

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But you have to have good riding too. That is important as well. Swanson Park isn’t a technically challenging trail by any measure, but what it lacks in technical difficulties, it makes up for with fast, swoopy, roller coaster like trails. Guaranteed smile inducing dirt here. I was also pleasantly

surprised by a nice ascent into some open prairie. This wide open section was filled with tall grass

punctuated by trees here and there, giving a distinctly different feel to the riding experience than you get in the thick canopy of Swanson Park’s wooded sections. I was told later by Matt that this particular section was a reclaimed dump area. That was just a great example of an eyesore turned into a beautiful green space that can be accessed by bicyclists and hikers alike.

 

 

Following the prairie section was a fast down hill around the volunteer fire department training area and back into the roller coaster single track hidden under the vast green roof formed by Swanson Park’s trees. It was such a fun loop, I did it twice! 

The following day, I met up with Matt and we searched out another little “gem” of single track in the area. Jewel Park is near the Missouri River, and a great, steep hill marked with several ravines was host to another fun single track here. Up, up, up we went on a switch backed trail on to the top of the hill. The tight, twisty trail that included several steep drops and climbs out of ravines, made for a very challenging experience, quite unlike Swanson Park. 

Now after having pegged my heart rate at Jewel Park, Matt had one more stop on our single track adventure planned for the day. Platte River State Park, which is just in between Omaha and Lincoln, was the destination. Here horse riders and bicyclists share the trail in a unique arrangement that allows the equestrians use of the trail in the early part of the afternoon until 4:00pm. Then the mountain bikers have the trails all to themselves for the remainder of the day.

 

 

“Platte River”, as the locals refer to it, or simply “Platte”, is an awesome network of trail that winds in and out of hills, ravines, and even some open prairie along the Platte River before it meets the Missouri. Matt guided me and another rider that day on the trails which were technically challenging, fast, swoopy, and most of all, a ton of fun. The single track here I would rate as good as or better than anything I have ridden in the nation. It is that good. Yes……in Nebraska! 

My conclusion after the two days of riding? I have to come back! I had a blast on the trails I rode on, and I would highly recommend them to anyone coming into the Omaha/Lincoln area. You will find the trails well kept, marked, and clear of blow downs. The access to these areas is easy, and one could feasibly hit all three areas I did in a single day, if you wanted to. I say that you should stay longer and savor each one. I know I wish I could have! 

Nebraska off road riding opportunities exists beyond this area as well. In fact, I will be attending a festival in another area of Nebraska in the fall that offers a great single track experience. It is called the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and you can come too. Check the website out here at www.bigwheeledballyhoo.com

 

The 411:The best off road trail information is available on the local T.H.O.R. webpage. There you will find directions and trail maps for all three of the trails mentioned here and others in the area. (Yes! There is much, much more.) Most of the single track I rode in Nebraska is all accessible from Bellevue, Nebraska’s oldest city. There are several motels and lodging choices in the area that you can base your operations out of. The Lincoln and Omaha areas are also a great place for restaurants, entertainment, and other recreational opportunities. Omaha and the surrounding area also has an excellent paved trail network as well, if you are wanting a more “civilized” cycling experience. More information on the Metropolitan Area Trails Network can be found here:. http://www.bellevuenebraska.com/Parks-Rec.aspx

More Information on Platte River State Park can be found here: http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=224

 

You can find out more about the great state of Nebraska and the things to do and places to stay at the 

official Nebraska Tourism site: http://www.visitnebraska.gov/

 

Simple Strap Goes On Tour

June 16, 2009

FOR RELEASE

Editor’s Note: Here is a press release from Simple Strap.

June 17th 2009 

Simple Strap:: Store on Tour 

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ByeKyle is taking the straps on the road. This “store” uses the Honor System and boasts lower price only available at the events. No person will be collecting money or watching for shoplifters. The only thing between you and a Simple Strap is…..yourself.  

The store is made from a repurposed board that held keys for a 1931 theater. It holds 26 Simple Straps and will be stocked with all the available colors.  

Store Tour 2009

6/20–Cowbell Challenge(Kenda Cup EAST) – Davidson NC

7/12–Walnut Creek Chimney Chase – Charlottesville VA

8/16–18 Hours on the Farm, Maidens VA

9/6—Shenandoah Mtn. 100, Stokesville VA 

For more tour dates go to www.ByeKyle.com

If you want Simple Straps at your event contact: Kyle@ByeKyle.com

Salsa Cycles Fargo: Conclusions

June 13, 2009

Normally after this long a period with one bicycle I would be giving a “Final Review”. The thing is- I’m not done with this bike yet. The Fargo is just too versatile a rig to put a final word out on it already. That said, I am going to give you readers my thoughts on the Fargo and tell you where I’m going with the bicycle after this point.

 

Two single trackin’ Fargo rigs.

The “Big Question”:  First of all, the Fargo elicits a strong reaction from folks. Often I get a “Just what is that bike for? Is it a______” (Insert any one of several specific bicycle types here.) The “Big Question” really should be the “Big Clue”. It means that the Fargo is, if nothing else, a very versatile bicycle that could do many tasks well. I can not possibly call out every one of the Fargo’s possible uses, but I can tell you what it is<em>really good at</em>. The other question about the Fargo has to do with its “drop bar centric” design. I’ve covered the drop bar thing in great detail, but if you have not seen any of those posts, you can check them out here: Part I Part II Part III Part IV  Part V.

 The Fargo blends in well, no?

The Off Road Fargo: The Fargo off road is a wonderful rig. It really is a fun single track shredder. One thing to remember though: The Fargo is a rigid bike with a non-suspension corrected fork that has a specific offset designed to work with the geometry of the frame. Okay, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you shouldn’t put a suspension fork on this bike. You really should stick with the stock fork as it comes with the Fargo. The good news is that this is a fantastic steel fork. The bad news is that this is a fantastic steel fork! The “rigidness” of the Fargo imparts a certain riding style and technique, a certain use that will not be suited to, oh let’s say…..<em> all mountain riding</em>. (Although, once upon a time mountain bikers rode all over the place on rigid steel rigs, ya know.) I think that the Fargo is best suited to buff single track to maybe some light technical trails. I rode it on several occasions where there were rooty, rocky descents, drop ins, and tight, twisty ascents. The Fargo can do this, and it shreds in fast, flowy trail settings. However; the Fargo has a lower bottom bracket height that may, or may not, be a problem for you. I liked it, and yes- I got ejected out of my pedals and struck things with the pedals from time to time.

 Designed in Minnesota, Made in Taiwan

The Back Roads Fargo: This is where the Fargo starts to come into its own. The Fargo absolutely shines on fire roads, dirt paths, gravel roads, and the like. Anywhere a road bike starts to become a liability, the Fargo starts to really make a lot of sense. Of course, if you are putting the Fargo to touring duty, and you have to traverse this sort of terrain, there are not many other choices in 700c wheels that can do what the Fargo can. One thing I found is that the heavier the load, the comfier the Fargo gets, just like a nice steel touring bike for the road. Gravel road riding and dirt road riding, for fun, adventure, or racing is tailor made for Fargo owners. Call it “multi-terrain”, or whatever, the Fargo is the right tool for the job here.

 Back roads are the Fargos forte’

The Pavement Fargo: Here is where maybe some folks will have a harder time justifying the Fargo as a viable choice, but they really shouldn’t. Put on some nice, voluminous street rubber and the Fargo becomes an urban pot hole eating machine. That burly steel frame, the rider position bred from off roading, and the way the Fargo’s steel frame gives in that classic way that only steel can makes it a great choice for the urban-bound rider. Add in the fact that it can be decked out easily with fenders, racks front and rear, and any assortment of bags one could desire, and you have a sleeper of a commuter rig. Not only that, but you could spend about a half an hour and swap out rubber, remove some of the urban trappings, and be mountain biking on your favorite secret inner city trail. Going real skinny with the rubber will cause you to have a bottom bracket height that may be an issue though, so if high speed city travel or spirited club riding is in your cards, their are far better rigs for those purposes. (Perhaps Salsa’s own Casseroll model?) However; don’t discount the Fargo as pavement bike. It is a suitable heavy city cruiser capable of carrying a big load and laughing at rough city streets.

 Urban scenes are Fargo territory too.

The Fargo From Here To…: The Fargo here at Twenty Nine Inches is now going to be set up as a light tourer in more of a “bike packing” vein. Think minimalistic gear, lighter weight than full bagged touring, and capable of going off road. The adventures will wait until I can assemble the proper satellite gear, but when I do, I’ll be back with some reports.

 Going far? Go with a Fargo

The Bottom Line: The Fargo is not only a very unique 29″er, it is a very unique bike- period. It is capable of pulling off mountain biking, and doing a decent job of it. It can shine as your “multi-terrain” steed, or it can pull duty on city streets with the best commuter rigs. Is it the one bike for everything? Well, the answer to that question is “no” of course. Here’s where I stand on the Fargo: If I had to get rid of all my bikes but one, the Fargo would be at the top of my list of choices to keep.

Thanks to Salsa Cycles for providing the Fargo for review. Stay tuned for some “adventurous” updates soon.

Chris King To Host “Gourmet Century” In Oregon

June 7, 2009

 

From the lovely state of Oregon comes news of Chris King’s plans to host another event involving food. (For those of you that don’t know, Chris King is a food afficianado of the highest order, and a pretty dang good cook to boot!)

 Chris King will host his first Gourmet Century in Oregon on October 17th of

this year. Registration for the event opened Monday June

1st and is limited to 350 participants. Chris King would  enjoy having you attend the event and ride the

fantastic roads of his beloved home state of Oregon.

In previous years, The Gourmet Century has hosted riders with themes

such as Italian Cucina, Salsa!, Greek, Country French and Pacific

Rim. This year’s theme, which was  revealed on Monday, the opening of registration,  celebrates the

cuisine and culture of Spain. The event also benefits the Livestrong

Foundation.

Check out this link for more information:

http://chrisking.com/events/events_gc_mmddyy

Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy

May 10, 2009

Editor’s Note: This report is filed by chris_geotec from Italy. Enjoy!

Garda Bike Festival – Riva Italy: 

Hi there all you US citizens. Briefly after you have had your Sea Otter Classic we here in Europe are having our own cool bike festival – the Garda BIKE Festival. Situated in Riva at the north shore of the famous Lago de Garda (where all the freeride legends love to ride all out) we had our cool festival with a huge array of activities ranging from marathons, tons of guided tours at all skill levels, and a huge (that is for European standards) expo area with most major players present. They all had large numbers of test bikes for everyones taste from XC racer to DH. To me the most interesting things were the smaller companies, many of which haven´t touched the US market. So if you should find your dream bike within the next lines – you better make some good friends here in Europe real soon. If even you get a chance to bike here in Europe, the north of Lago di Garda sure is one of the most challenging and best riding spots here in Europe.

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After a full 5 days of rain just in time for the festival, the weather cleared up and it was gorgeous throughout all the 4 days from 30th of April to 3rd of May.

The first day I went on a guided freeride tour just to see whether I could keep up with those guys and whether I (coming from a rigid ride and with the experience of only short travel bikes) could manage a downhill bike enough to enjoy mayslef. I got equipped with a spanking new Scott Gambler DH and while I never really felt at home I managed quite well never kissing the dirt (unlike many of my freeride riding partners). With a bit of adrenalin circulating in my veins ( and an 10 mile flat ride on my DH bike, ughhh) I took on myself to conquer the expo area and test what I liked the most. Off we go for round two – the expo highlights: 

I stopped by the Geax booth and taking a sneak peek into their van searching for news and prototypes. While I cannot disclose all (and rest assured there are some really cool things coming your way in the seasons to come, 26er and 29er alike), I can say the following: Geax has taken up the ball from Italian standard of slim MTB tires to larger volume and will be offering some current and some new treads in various sizes. Hurray for us who like big tires. I got a spy shot of this new tread which will fall in as a very fast rolling but grippy XC to AM tread, called the AKA. Also they have worked on their largely successful tubular line and will be enlarging it by up to two new tires.  

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The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

 

 

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The GEAX "AKA"

The GEAX "AKA"

 

 

 Another cool, if not spectacular feature, was seen on some Kenda tires mounted at the Trek booth. These tires had a reflective sidewall that looked almost ordinary with just a tad of sparkle at standard conditions but when illuminated (see the picture with flash) were giving a strongly reflective surface. I like things that contribute to my security and don´t look geeky. 
 

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

 

An all time favourite company of mine – Liteville – has just recently received the first production run of the new 901 DH frame that claims to be covering the full range from tourer to competition DH bike. In Europe Liteville already has a very good name for its debut bike the Liteville 301 (a XC to Enduro fully with 130 m travel) and its Liteville 101 hardtail. Both bikes received raving reviews and by my own riding experience are very good bikes.

The Liteville 901

The Liteville 901

The south Germany based company is known for its love of 120 % function, sometimes taking elaborate and unconventional approaches to smaller drawbacks of other designs – their X-12 rear axle, rockguard rear derailleur protection, or unconventional sizing (by length rather than height), or the Tuned Chainstay Length (TCL)  being only a few among many. They are constructed oversized and the 901 is no exception.

The frame looks and feels stiff. With a rear travel from 170 mm to 200 mm (depending on the shock mount) the bike is clearly gravity driven. At a frame weight of only 2700 gm you´d think differently and Liteville even advertises the 901 as a Dh bike that can be toured. After my experience with the Scott Gamberl (that clearly cannot be ridden uphill) I was curious to see and I first took it on a 1 hour climb up Monte Brione. Without lockout or Pro Pedal the bike remained neutral and stable at any cadence and climbed admirably well. Were it not for the broken TALAS feature on the 36 model Fox fork, it would have taken me up even the steepest sections without hesitation. On the downhill the bike certainly shone proving the potent 36 fork to be clearly to faint for the rear. Were it not for the slack head angle of 66° that felt awkward on slow technical sections but delivered confidence on the faster sections – I would crown this bike to be the closest to a do it all frame (only problem there is no fork to match the rear that can be locked out or lowered yet). Much like its smaller brothers the 901 had every detail of the frame thoroughly designed and built to such close specifications that it took close to 3 years before reaching production stage.

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

One of my personal favourites was a small company called PRONGHORN Racing from Denmark (no they do not only have flat lands). Their claim to produce some of the most sophisticated and thoroughly thought out bikes and components had me tempted and so I grabbed their most prestigious Carbon XC-Fully (1,7 kg for the frame) to the test. The CEO and founder of PRONGHORN racing himself Kenneth Daalsgard had the bike set up for me (see picture). The bike features a unique linkage that is supposed to eliminate bobbing but deliver a smooth ride (don´t they all say that?). Another cool design gadget is that all tubes have the exact measurement written on the tube directly, for you to see.

“Remember, this bike is best when ridden all out on a race track” were the words Kenneth sent me out with. Unfortunately my legs don´t take me to such levels but during my 2 hour test ride I put the bike through all imaginable paces and I was surprised. Unlike many race oriented fullies the Pronghorn did really deliver a plushness that was surprising. While the DT-Swiss shock had a lock-out I refused to use it and the bike was working continuously at a minimal level that could only be noticed by looking. But when hitting any obstacle it went through the travel very willingly. Would it bottom out on the rough? I pushed the bike hard on the partly very challenging and technical downhill sections ( that I had ridden on the Liteville 901 before) and was surprised how its progression kept it from bottoming out, while retaining a plushness surprising for the short travel of 115 mm. The frame´s looks can be discussed ( I liked it for its business like appearance) but its function is on par with many full suspension race bike with attributes that make it suitable for a wide range from fast XC-courses to rough endurance races. 

 

The Ibis Tranny

The Ibis Tranny

 

 

One of the cool bikes that I got to throw a leg over was the IBIS Tranny with its extremely sexy carbon frame and adjustable chainstays. This bike to me really put hardtails to a new level by looks and design. The quick ride I had on a bike just previously raced on the Garda marathon made me want to spend more time on the frame. The sale reps were really giving me a full tour of the bikes specifics, which I won´t bother you with; just let me say it really is a one-of-a-kind design. One of the first questions on my mind when seeing the bolted rear triangle of the Tranny was: “What if you could not only adjust the chainstay length (for SS use) but could swap into a 29er?” So I asked and while not confirming anything I was told that this issue head been raised and was not denied up to this point. So folks, if you think this would be cool to have a 29er Tranny or even be able to interchange,  then write to Ibis and tell them about it. I sure will. 

 

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

 Rocky Mountain was also there showing their full line-up, including a new 29er Vertex and a 29er Altitude prototype. Even after multiple requests to ride I was always denied because it was a prototype. When I already had given up I met Randy McGinnis, the Rocky international sales manager, who after some chatting would willingly let me take it for a ride. Later I found out I was the only one on the entire 4 days to ride it – thanks Randy.

Despite it being only a short ride with no real mountainbiking I could feel how capable the bike handled. Unfortunately the front and rear were not set up properly and so the bike felt unbalanced. But the geometry immediately made me feel “at home”, seating me very much in the frame and providing a quick but neutral handling. This bike would be so much fun riding in technical sections or longer rides, not to mention all the cool design features from tapered head tube to, hydroformed tubes and the proprietary “Straight Up Geometry.”. To date it was not decided whether the 29er lineup of Rocky Mountain will ever be for sale here in Europe … bummer. (Anyone in the US want to be my friend?)

Unfortunately here in Europe 29ers are catching on much slower than in the US. Some say it never will but I will remain optimistic telling everyone how great they are to keep momentum and smooth out  a the terrain.

One more good news is that Niner bikes are now available in Europe, too. They have been for a while now in Italy, where I was told some shops were now even selling 29er bikes exclusively (26ers only for trade-ins if you bought a 29er), but since February this year there even is a German distributor (Revolution Sports), who had a lot of Niner and Titus bikes, as well as the Niner carbon fork (in prototype models) on display. 

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?

Bike Packing: Going Long And taking It With You- The Series

April 29, 2009

Join Southern California’s own Grannygear as he explores what it takes to set yourself up for the latest in bicycle touring – “Bikepacking”, or otherwise known as lightweight, minimalistic backcountry bicycle touring. Granny will go over how to get bags and gear set up, and later on will share one of his bikepacking adventures with us.

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Check into this series by clicking on any of the links here:

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part I

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part II

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part II

April 29, 2009

Bikepacking part 2: Measuring, ordering, and fitting the packs.I

In order to bikepack, first you need a bike. What kind of bike? Well, what is it that you ride normally? That bike will do, most likely. OK, maybe not an 8” travel DH bike or something very niche like that, but your basic mountain bike will be fine. Whether it needs have any kind of suspension or not depends on you. If you are used to riding full rigid or hardtail, then ride that. If you plan on riding a lot of rocky trails just like you do on your FS, take that. Most any 4-5” travel mountain bike will do fine. It makes sense to have low gears at the ready, but I have seen singlespeed rigid bikes all decked out for overnighters. So for the most part, you are likely already riding what you need, but if not, it does not take a ton of cash to get something suitable for bikepacking. XTR, Ti this or that, carbon bits, etc, do not really need to be part of the deal. Keep it simple, keep it basic, and keep it practical. Nuff said.

I have two bikes I could use but only one has gears, that being the Lenzsport Leviathan 3.0. Easy choice. So now that we have a bike, we need packs. There are only a few makers of bikepacking bags at this point in time, but I am sure more will be popping up as this gains popularity. I chose to order from Carousel Design Works (CDW) , based out of Northern California. A pioneer in the bikepacking industry, Jeff Boatman, the owner of CDW and master sewer of seams, is highly regarded as a purveyor of high quality packs for some demanding clients. In fact, Jeff’s packs have seen harsh duty on the bikes of top flight ultra endurance racers from Canada to Mexico, Alaska to Arizona. I figured if it is good enough for that level of rider/adventurer, it is good enough for a hack like me. I spoke to Jeff quite a few times on the phone and he was very patient and informative. I knew I wanted a full suite of packs: saddle pack, frame pack, fuel tank, and bar bag. There are quite a few choices as far as materials, sizes, options like extra pockets, roll top closures, etc. It actually is quite daunting, so I left a fair amount of this up to Jeff. I trusted his judgment based on his experience and feedback from customers.

The saddle pack and the bar bag are not truly custom in the sense that they are not unique to the shape, fit, etc of my Leviathan. But, the frame pack and the fuel tank are built specifically for my bike based on measurements I provided Jeff. In order to do this, I followed his instructions on how to make a template of my bikes main triangle.

Take a sheet of poster board large enough to cover the area that the bag will occupy plus a bit more. Place it behind the frame as shown in the pics and trace out the details that matter, basically the inner dimensions of the main triangle, the location of any suspension components, water bottle brazeons, cable stops, etc. Also, the diameter of the downtube and toptube were noted. The tracing may be hard to make out in the photo, but it is a simple matter of tracing the shape of the inner space onto the paper. Be careful to keep the pencil parallel to the ID of the frame or you will enlarge or shrink the proportions out of scale, so keep the pencil or marker level as you trace.

    Making the template.

    Making the template.

    Template and notes

    Template and notes

    From there, I sent in a deposit to CDW, took my place in the queue, and waited. And waited. In many ways, this is like ordering a custom frame. The bags are made for you, one at a time with love and attention to detail. So this takes a while. How long will vary, so ask about the time line involved. It would be wise not to have an imminent deadline for a planned trip, race, etc.

    In good time, this arrived from Fed Ex:

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    .As you can see, I had, beginning at the bottom and going clockwise: A bar bag, saddle pack, frame pack, and fuel cell. One of the first tings I did was weigh the packs to see how they compared to my last set-up:

    Front and rear Blackburn racks with hardware and Jandd panniers : 3000 grams

    CDW packs: 1200 grams.

    That is a savings of 1800 grams or very nearly four pounds and we have not even started packing! Nice!

    So, let us take a minute to look at each pack.

    Beginning with the bar bag, it is a medium sized bag with roll top ends and nicely placed rubber patches where the bag would typically rub on the stem. Also, you can see a ladder of loops sewn into the bag to allow for fit adjustment to the head tube strap. I found it to be tricky to get the bag in place and work around all the cables and brakes hoses. This is to be expected, but I believe I came to a reasonable arrangement that prevented binding or any issues when steering the bike. I had no problem with brake lever interference, room for fingers, etc. I tried to fit a pretty good sized Big Agnes foam core pad and the rolled diameter of the pad was too much for the bag. It easily swallowed a ¾ length Thermarest pad, my one man tent poles rolled inside the pad, and still had room for more things. A sleeping bag would fit in here if it were a lightweight one and newer sleeping pads designed for ultralight backpacking would likely allow a full length pad to fit in the medium bar bag. It also has pockets sewn into the front of the bag, but I am not sure exactly what I would use them for. They curve to fit the stuffed bag and they are not all secure enclosures so we shall see.

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    The frame pack was the most custom piece of all and it fit very well indeed. Notice how the bottom downtube strap sits between the water bottle brazeons? That is part of the notes you make on the traced template, so details like that are important. The frame pack has outside mesh pockets on each side and two inner zipped pockets, one larger than the other. Very nifty. I can see keeping this on the bike for long rides to keep a smaller hydration pack in play as it could carry tools, extra tubes, food, etc.

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    The fuel cell was next. Now, I would have loved to have had this for the last endurance event I did. GU packs, snacks, glove liners, and whatever could be kept at arms reach without the need for reaching around to jersey pockets or removing a pack to get to them. I am not sure a camera or GPS would be a good idea unless you padded the more fragile items. Still it is a great piece of stand alone gear and worth having all by itself.

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    The saddle pack was last. It has well thought out rubber material in the area of the seatpost and saddle rails. Compression straps will allow for a tidy bundle. There is also a bit of shock cord sewn under the bag as a place to carry something that you don’t mind getting dirty and muddy from what ever the rear tire would kick up. Before I mounted it, I tried stuffing in my lightest sleeping bag, a down filled Blue Kazoo North Face bag. No go. It actually did fit, but I could barely roll the ends over to close the pack so it was just pushing the limits too far. Bummer. Actually, I kinda’ expected that and my options are to get a smaller bag, carry it somewhere else, or sleep in the open, wrapped in native grasses and shrubs. Pick one. Since the bag did not fit, I took my one man tent, a REI Chrysalis, and easily stuffed my main tent canvas and storm fly in the saddle pack. Nice!

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    To add to this, I purchased a moderate sized backpack at a good price on clearance. So now I have my Deuter pack, a Camelbak HAWG, or this pack to choose from depending on how much I need to carry.

    I rode the bike around a bit as best I could with a still healing left wrist from a recent crash. It all seemed very stable, but that remains to be tested more completely.

    The saddle bag did not seem to get in my way when I slid back to simulate where I would be for a steep downhill. That is good. I did forget it was there when I dismounted and my leg hit the bag as I swung it past the saddle. That is bad till I get used to it. I would not suggest a lot of weight in any saddle pack. It is pretty high and behind you and could feel like the tail wagging the dog.

    The next step is to sort out my gear and make some decisions on how I want to travel. I want to be able to scale up or down with gear needs based on the trip and the environment I will be passing through. Things I am looking into are tent-less options like tarp camping, bug bivvies, and or course lighter sleeping bags and pads. I have plans to make my own penny stove and all kinds of fun things. And, I plan on bringing you all along for the journey.

    That will take a while, so in the meantime, in the next article we will pause for a moment and spend time with Jeff from Carousel Design Works. We will hear what he has to say about this bikepacking thing, where his inspiration came from, what fuels his passion, and any advice he has for you to make your next trip a success.

    Stay tuned for more bikepacking related goodness coming your way.

Bikepacking: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part I

April 26, 2009

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new series on Bikepacking. Grannygear is setting up one of his personal rigs as a bikepacking rig. Here he takes us on his two wheeled adventure. Let’s join in………

If you have traveled the country side enough, especially in the summer months on the family vacation, etc, you likely have seen someone on a loaded touring bicycle pedaling along the highway. That vision typically looks more like the first pic than the second one. The average touring bike experience involves racks, panniers (saddle bags), and lots of stuff. Obviously the first pic shows an individual that is trying to be very self sufficient in a very uncertain environment, hence the spare tires, etc. But still, even the average touring bike can be pretty well buried in gear, and venturing off road with a bike like that is not an easy task. Singletrack? Maybe, but all that hangy-down and sticky-out stuff will be impaled, caught, bashed and pummeled into submission on a technical trail. Forget portaging. And, even if you could do it, and folks have of course, it would not be anywhere close to the free wheeling and fun experience that piloting a mountain bike down a great trail can be.

This is not bikepacking

This is not bikepacking

This is bikepacking

This is bikepacking

Bikepacking is all about less ‘stuff’, no racks, no panniers. Specially built softbags are used to carry a minimum amount of supplies and gear, and when combined with a large hydration pack or a small backpack, enable a radical transformation for the adventuring cyclist. Singletrack is still fun. The bike remains a nimble conveyance, not a beast of burden. The rewards of being lighter and sleeker are obvious. What are the downsides to this approach? Well, carrying less means having less: Less clothes, less kitchen-ware, perhaps less comfort. How much less is acceptable? Are we all supposed to camp on Tyvek sheets and pads of bubble wrap cut to fit our body shape like some crime scene chalk outline? Does bikepacking mean we travel like the Spartans on a road trip?

We are going to be taking a look at this relatively new approach to getting off road overnight on a bike. We will speak with a founder of the genre, see where he got his inspiration from, and get a bike fit for a set of custom bags. The adventure will continue as we get our gear set up, see what works and what does not, and take some overnighters under the stars.

Stay tuned. We are going bikepacking.

Links:

http://carouseldesignworks.com/

http://www.epicdesignsalaska.com/

http://safebag.blogspot.com/

http://www.backpacking.net/

http://www.bikepacking.net/

http://www.the-ultralight-site.com/

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/index.html