OR Rader Pocket Cap…

12 06 2013
My 50 Mision cap...

My 50 Mision cap…

Often I tour with just a baseball cap on my head – particularly if it’s going to be hot all the time. It’s light, comfortable and keeps the sun out of my eyes. Oh yeah it stops people from noticing my common bad hair days on tour! ;)

Skid lid...

Skid lid…

If I judge that the tour has higher than normal risks of crashing [ie. technical MTBing or I am riding with Scott] I’ll wear a helmet.

My trusty toque...

My trusty toque…

I almost always have a toque with me on tour. Canada gets cold at night and in the AM even in the summer. Plus they make everyone look so sexy [see image above]… ;)

OR cap...

OR cap…

A toque folds up and can be crammed in any nook or cranny. The issue with a normal baseball cap is where do you stash it in bikepacking bags when not in use? It’s easy to screw up the brim and then you look goofy. If you are a goofy looking guy like me you don’t want to go further in that direction.

So small...

So small…

One option is a packable cap like this OR Radar Pocket Cap. It folds down into a small thin package that can be carried in a bag pocket without coming back out looking goofy. It weighs 50g for the gram counters and is made of rugged quick dry  nylon fabric.

Blue Steel? - perhaps not!

Blue Steel? – perhaps not!

This cap is non-adjustable and although I would normally wear a large or XL hat I’m fine in a medium size for the Radar. So beware if you are ordering online. It’s best to try this bad boy on or go one size smaller than normal.

If you are in Canada MEC.ca sells these.

These caps come in black, bright blue and tan.





DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks…

31 05 2013
Short pants + long socks...

Short pants + long socks…

I like capris for riding and camping in because they are adaptable from hot to cool temperatures. When it gets really chilly I layer a set of running tights underneath. For less cold days I like long socks with my capris. There are lots of long sock options, but one I sourced locally at MEC.ca was these DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks.

Side view...

Side view…

They are wool, they are long and they are black. Thin enough not to be too hot and thick enough to be useful. Layering these with my running tights should be nice and they can be rolled down if it gets hot.

If you are into more snazzy fashion look for colourful ski socks on sale now that winter is over.

Here is the DeFeet product page for these socks.

They cost $25 & 1yr warranty.





Summer Bikepacking Shoes…

30 05 2013
On the move...

On the move…

I’m trying to figure out what shoes best meet my needs for summer bikepacking trips.

  • all day pedalling comfort with MTB platforms
  • reasonable grip biking through technical sections
  • able to hike-a-bike comfortably for 4-5hrs at a time over rough ground
  • excellent traction off the bike
  • breathable
  • fast drying after rain or creek crossings
  • need to accept my semi-custom insoles
5.10 Impact Low...

5.10 Impact Low…

My favourite cycling shoe is this 5.10 Impact Low model. They are super comfortable, very durable, grip the pedals like glue and have great traction off the bike. The only downsides are 1) they take forever to dry if they get wet, 2) they are pretty heavy/overbuilt for touring and 3) they don’t breath all that well. If they dried fast I could live with everything else.

I really hate riding in wet feet so these are not a good choice if I think it might rain and/or I would have to carry my bike through any creeks/rivers.

Montrail trail runners...

Montrail trail runners…

I love these Montrail runners. They are super comfy and work great on/off the bike for touring. Although they dry faster and are more breathable than the 5.10’s they are not great in either category. They are also on their last legs having been shredded on many previous adventures – soles are almost worn away at the heel, cushioning is compressed and uppers are starting to tear. I just repaired the uppers with shoe goo so I could use them on my last tour, but Sharon laughed at me and said it was time to let them go. I probably will have to do that, but not until the end of the year! ;)

La Sportiva trail runners...

La Sportiva trail runners…

I bought these La Sportivas to replace the Montrails above, but never loved them enough to actually part with the old shoes. There is nothing wrong with the La Sportivas. They do everything well enough, but somehow the fit/performance just isn’t as good as I would like. On the plus side they are light and breathe/dry well. I’ve worn them enough that they are starting to fail at weak spots, but some strategic shoe gooing means they be good for another full year.

At the moment these are the best bikepacking shoe I own and when I have to throw the Montrails out they’ll keep me rolling until I find a replacement.

In terms of bikepacking downsides:

  • raised instep not uber grippy on the bike pedals [not awful, but just okay]
  • not as stable during hike-a-bike as my other shoes
  • lightweight construction not super durable [I'm okay with this as a trade off for fast drying]
Merrel Gaulley water shoes...

Merrel Gaulley water shoes…

I bought these Merrells when I broke my foot and needed a soft stretchy shoe to accommodate my swollen foot. They are water shoes which means they breathe and dry very fast, but they are very flexible and don’t offer much support. I have toured in water shoes before with no issues, but those tours did not involved any hike-a-bike over rough ground which my current trips seem to feature. These shoes also have a fairly non-aggressive sole so I don’t know how well they will do walking/pushing on steep loose terrain.

On the plus side is they fit me, they accept my insoles and they are paid for! ;)

I need to try a hike-a-bike tour with them and see if they work okay. They would definitely be my choice for a trip that I knew would involved a lot of wet feet.

Vibram Five Fingers...

Vibram Five Fingers…

So far I haven’t bothered with a second pair of shoes on tour. Wearing trail runners on my bike means they are comfy for wearing around camp and BC has barefoot friendly campsites [no thorns or sharp rocks] so I can just go without shoes if I need to air out my feet. However, I started to think that maybe carrying these Five Fingers wouldn’t be a bad idea. I could wear them during creek crossings to keep my main shoes/socks dry and they’d be fine in camp if I didn’t want to go barefoot. I could even ride or hike in them if I needed to. Plus they are also paid for! ;)

Most bikepackers who carry a second set of footwear seem to favour flip flops. Presumably for their lightweight, easy packing and low cost. That makes sense – except flip flops are pretty useless in a raging rocky creek or for anything more demanding then chilling in camp.

I’ll test the Five Fingers out this summer and see if they are worth hauling along or not.

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners...

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners…

I’ve got troublesome feet so I can’t simply order some shoes out of a catalogue and have much success. I’ve got to try on every pair that interests me and see what feels okay in the store. If I am hopeful I’ll buy a pair and wear them at home for a couple days to see what problems crop up once they are on my feet for several hours at a time. If that seems promising I start wearing them outside and give up any hope of returning them for a refund.

My success rate even with this sensible systematic approach is pretty grim. Shoes my feet really love are few and far between. I have given away quite a few pairs of shoes over the years that I thought were winners until an extended trip where their comfort was lacking. Which is why I’m starting to think of this now even though I can keep my La Sportivas going through to summer 2014. It could easily take that long to find a worthy successor! :(





Continental Trail King Tires Review and Renew…

27 05 2013
Fresh rubber...

Fresh rubber…

I love my Continental Trail King tires. I’ve used my first pair for over a year and had zero flats, burps or other issues. Just great traction and reliable performance.

So when I started to uncharacteristically spin my tire on steeper looser climbs I checked my rear tire and it was worn badly. Time for new rubber.

The new tires say Rubber Queen on them because that’s what Trail Kings are called in Europe. Different name, but same tire. I bought the UST version again. They are heavy, but I love the traction and how great they are to setup tubeless. I chose the 2.4″ size a second time because I love how the large diameter tire rolls over roots and rocks. Skinny tires aren’t faster if you get hung up in every tech section.

I’ve heard some good things about the Schwalbe Hans Damf tire, but I figure why mess with success?

I really can’t say one bad thing about these tires. I hope Continental makes a 650B version when I get a new mountain bike.

She's hefty...

She’s hefty…

I kept the old front tire as a spare...

I kept the old front tire as a spare…

The rear was toast...

The rear was toast…

The Stans sealant in the tires had dried up...

The Stans sealant in the tires had dried up…

Letting the tires seal...

Letting the tires seal…

I used CO2 to seat the tires...

I used CO2 to seat the tires…

My Nomad waiting for the new rubber...

My Nomad waiting for the new rubber…

No more slipping on climbs...

No more slipping on climbs…

Ready to ride...

Ready to ride…

Time to shred the new tires for another year...

Time to shred the new tires for another year…





Vargo Triad Stove Review

24 05 2013
Looks sexy...

Looks sexy…

These Vargo Triad Ti stoves look sexy, but work like crap. Don’t waste your time buying and returning it! =( I tried one of these out in 2008 and was disappointed. I figured they might have improved it since then so I bought another at MEC.ca.

I filled it with methyl hydrate which is the easiest alcohol fuel for me to source. Lighting it was no problem, but even with a windscreen and inside my garage it was unable to boil 2.5 cups of water that I typically need to rehydrate a camp meal. The water ended up warm, but not boiling.

With my usual Trangia burner I can boil that much water for a meal and if I am lucky boil another cup for tea.

Too bad!

Too bad!

I’ll go back to using my trusty Trangia and try some of the DIY beer can stoves for an ultralight option. This Triad is going back to MEC and I won’t waste my time trying them again.





Surly Krampus Build…

16 04 2013
Krampus in action...

Krampus in action…

I’ll hold off on a full blown review of this bike until the end of the summer so I can do it justice. Here is the build list for my Krampus for those who enjoy geeking out on such things.

Surly Krampus

  • medium frame [ST = 16.75" Eff TT = 24"] & Krampus fork
  • sparkly bass boat green
  • Race Face Evolve 100m 6 deg stem
  • Race Face Atlas AM bar [730mm 6 deg rise 9 deg sweep]
  • FSA Orbit Z headset
  • Ergon grips
  • Alfine 11 shifter
  • Shimano SLX brakes [180mm/160mm]
  • Thompson Elite seatpost
  • Brooks B17 saddle
  • Shimano Deore cranks w/ 32T Race Face chainring
  • NRG Slabalanche pedals
  • SRAM 9 speed chain
  • Stan’s Flows rim + Hope Pro2 hub
  • Stan’s Flow rim = Alfine 11 IGH
  • Surly Knard 120 tpi tires + 29 x 1.75″/2.5″ tubes
  • weight = 31.5lbs

The medium framed Krampus has a long TT and short ST. That makes swinging a leg over the bike easy, but limits the size of framebag you can fit inside. I’m used to MTBs with less standover clearance [like my Pugsley] and I’ve never injured my man bits. ;) I debated getting the large frame and using an 80mm stem to get a bigger frame triangle, but I decided the trade off of a longer wheelbase wasn’t worth it for our tight forest trails.

Click for Surly Krampus info page...

Click for Surly Krampus info page…

This is essentially the build kit from my On One Scandal 29er MTB transplanted to the Krampus. Surly very wisely didn’t go off the deep end with an obscure frame standard that would require parts nobody had on hand. Instead they made sure that if you have a 29er MTB you can swap your parts over to a Krampus and get rolling.

Ready for building up...

Ready for building up…

The main changes for the Krampus were a wider set of 710mm Race Face bars and a longer stem to dial in the fit. Even though the 650mm bars I used on the Scandal felt fine on it as soon as I sat on the Krampus I knew I wanted wider bars on this bike. The 730mm wide bars feel perfect.

The Stan’s Flow rims have an internal width of 22.5mm. They aren’t an ideal match for Surly’s 3.0″ wide Knard tire, but they are paid for and in my garage so I’m going to use them. So far they’ve been fine. I’m running tubes for now, but will switch to tubeless down the road when I move to some wider Rabbit Hole rims.

Enjoying the ride...

Enjoying the ride…

Click here for more Krampus photos.





2yrs of Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL Riding…

29 03 2013
Sharon eager to ride...

Sharon eager to ride…

It’s been a little over 2 years since we took home our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL. It’s 20″ wheeled travel tandem that packs into a suitcase and a half for travel or storage. This is our first tandem bicycle so our opinions are based on lots of Bike Friday riding, but near zero “normal” tandem rides.

I’m going to tackle 3 issues that were of concern when I was doing my pre-purchase research for this bike and discuss them now that we have some time under our tandem belts. If you want to read my previous tandem posts just click here and my tandem Flickr photos are here.

Maintenance

When I asked around in tandem forums about Bike Friday tandems I had several people tell me they required tons of maintenance to stay functional. That the shifting and braking would go out of whack and the frame needed to be checked and adjusted frequently. I’m lazy and I wasn’t super excited to spend a ton of time working on this bike. Since it’s a tandem it often sits all week and then gets pulled out last minute on the weekend when we decide to do something in town. Not having a reliable bike we can just jump on would curtail a lot of our tandem riding.

I’m happy to report that the tandem has been utterly reliable for us. I built it up following Bike Friday’s owner’s manual. It was my first Bike Friday build as my other Fridays came professionally assembled from the factory. So this bike was built up just like anyone who landed at a touring destination would build up their new tandem. The only maintenance I’ve done to it so far was adjusting the tension of the timing chain last week before the Victoria Populaire. That took 2mins and I took care of it outside a coffee shop while Sharon procured some java.

Handling

I was prepared for a significant learning curve when I got the tandem. I didn’t want to crash and kill Sharon’s tandem stoke. So I had a bunch of Sunday empty parking lot training sessions planned to ease into it. Our enthusiasm got the better of us and we ended up spending 3-4hrs on our first ride going into downtown to run errands. Perhaps it was my years of cargo bike experience, but the tandem was a no brainer to ride. We mixed it up with heavy car traffic that first ride with total confidence.

This spring we dusted off the tandem after a 3 month layoff and the first few pedal strokes were tentative, but after 30 seconds we felt right at home and started bombing around at full tilt. That gives us a lot of confidence when starting off a 100 person group ride in the middle of the pack where holding your line and reacting to other riders’ goofiness is a requirement.

Performance

Having owned a number of small wheeled recumbents and folding bikes I know that small wheels don’t equal slow, but that said they don’t automatically equal fast either. Combine that with the unknown performance just due to the fact it’s a tandem and I had some concerns we wouldn’t be satisfied with the bike’s performance for demanding rides.

As it turns out our speed over a significant distance [50-100kms] is a respectable 20kph which includes traffic lights and stop signs, etc… That’s with no training and we definitely have some extra power we could generate by syncing our pedal strokes better. During groups rides we end up right where we should be in terms of the riders and bikes we finish with. For a fully equipped touring bike powered by some middle age recreational cyclists our Bike Friday tandem isn’t letting us down.

For comparison my solo high performance rando bike average speed is ~25kph for longer rides.

I have no doubt that we could design and build a performance oriented tandem that would be faster, but for our current needs the ease of storage and touring capabilities of our Bike Friday are a better fit than a tandem designed to ride faster. We could also do more targeted training to get faster, but we prefer to blame any lack of speed on the bike, hills and/or wind! ;)

Seems like we have a winner...

Seems like we have a winner…

Sharon has been through a number of stoker bar options on the tandem. She couldn’t adapt to drop bars and she tried some flat bars with better results, but not total satisfaction. So we are now using some Thorn comfort bars with Ergon Grips that have built in bar ends. So far Sharon’s been happy with them and I think we’ll be sticking with this setup for the foreseeable future.