Beer Can Stove…

24 06 2013

Rivers pointed me at this stove. The simplest DIY beer can stove I’ve ever seen. ;)





Bikepacking Cooking…

28 05 2013
The cooking gear...

The cooking gear…

Here is the latest iteration of my bikepacking cooking setup:

  • 700 ml MSR pot w/ lid
  • Trangia stove
  • stove stand
  • MSR windscreen
  • spork
  • small lighter
  • 30 ml alcohol fuel x 2
  • 125 ml alcohol fuel
Carried inside pot...

Carried inside pot…

The stove, lighter and 60 ml of fuel fits inside the pot. The stove is typically wrapped in a small cloth that doubles as protection from the pot’s handles that get hot. For longer trips where I might cook regularly vs. boil water for a camp meal I would add in a small bottle of dish soap and a cut up scrub pad.

Weight with 60 ml of fuel...

Weight with 60 ml of fuel…

I’m not trying to go ultralight here. I just want the weight to be low enough it’s not a major burden and I also want the packed shape to work with my bike bags.

125 ml of feul...

125 ml of fuel…

Each 30 ml bottle will boil 500 ml of cold water. I carry two 30 ml bottles inside my pot and the Trangia can hold a lot of fuel in the stove body itself if you want to pre-load it before you pack it. If I need more than that I have a bunch of 125 ml bottles like the one shown above that I can carry.

Trangia and stand...

Trangia and stand…

I love my little Trangia stove. It heats water well. Is easy to use and very reliable. It can be used to simmer food unlike a lot of lightweight alcohol stoves. The stand is very strong and stable.

Stove ready to rock...

Stove ready to rock…

I use a MSR windscreen to keep drafts at bay. It’s a bit large and I’m going to downsize it a bit so it fits better and packs smaller.

Stove in action...

Stove in action…

With no moving parts and constructed of brass the Trangia is a bombproof piece of gear.

Ready to light...

Ready to light…

You can see in the picture above that 30 ml of fuel is just a dribble at the bottom of the Trangia. I purposely spill some fuel on the top of the stove to make lighting easier.

Let's boil some water...

Let’s boil some water…

I timed boiling 500 ml of cold tap water using the Trangia in 8 mins. The 30 ml of fuel burned for 10 mins before running out.

Pot inside my framebag...

Pot inside my framebag…

The shape of this pot fits nicely into my Porcelain Rocket framebag. It also works great in my bar bag or seatbag – just depending where I want to carry it.

Methyl Hydrate...

Methyl Hydrate…

I use methyl hydrate to power my Trangia because it’s easy to find locally. I’ve spilled this fuel in my bike bags and unlike gasoline or naptha there is no horror show. It just evaporates and no damage or smell occurs. I like that!





Downtube Water Bottle Cage…

16 05 2013
1.5L water bottle...

1.5L water bottle…

I wanted to see how well a downtube mounted water bottle cage would work on my Krampus. I didn’t love the fork mounted cages I tried on my Scandal 29er. Plus if the DT cage worked I could always add fork mounted cages later if I needed a ton of water on a trip.

Two bottle cages...

Two bottle cages…

I just used two hose clamps on the Topeak cage and them a velcro pant strap at the top of the bottle. It seems pretty secure, but only time will tell.

kb4

Stem mounted bottle cage…

Combined with the stem mounted bottle that gives me over 2L of water.

Just enough tire clearance...

Just enough tire clearance…

Here are a couple close ups.

The magic of hose clamps...

The magic of hose clamps…





Shimano Alfine 11 IGH Oil Change…

15 05 2013

It’s been over a year since I started running an Alfine 11 IGH. First off in my On One Scandal 29er MTB and now in my Surly Krampus. Shimano wants you to do an oil change after the first 1000kms and every year or 5000kms after that. I was putting off my first oil change since I hadn’t acquired the supplies I needed and I know oil change intervals are conservative.

Alfine 11 cleaned and oiled...

Alfine 11 cleaned and oiled…

On my last tour I made a poor decision to ride across a washed out trail which submerged my Alfine 11 at least partially. IGH seals are not designed to keep water out when the hub goes under so I assumed I had at least a little water in the hub. While I might push the limits of bike maintenance sometimes I also know when I am fooling with an expensive repair. Leaving water inside an IGH for any length of time can lead to a hub failure that could necessitate a total factory rebuild.

So I got my lazy ass in gear and figured out an oil change plan. Since I own a couple Rohloffs I have used several of that brand’s oil change kits. I kept all the old parts for re-use and they conveniently fit my Alfine 11. Stocking two separate sets of expensive IGH maintenance supplies seemed like too much of a PITA. So I decided to stick with Rohloff products.

The Fairfield Bicycle Shop kindly sold me 300ml of bulk Rohloff cleaning solution and Rohloff hub oil. You need 25ml of each fluid for an oil change so I’m good for 12 IGH services. That’s a lot of years of IGH maintenance.

Rohloff Bulk oil and syringe...

Rohloff Bulk oil and syringe…

Just for the IGH Geeks here is why Rohloff says you should use their oil:

“The SPEEDHUB requires a pressure resistant oil with the correct viscosity so as to ensure this works over a vast temperature range (making the SPEEDHUB suitable in all climates) whilst not increasing friction/decreasing transmission efficiency or escaping under the special seals. For this reason we insist that only original Rohloff oils be used.

It is incredibly important that the oil does not react with the hard-nylon components within the gear-unit. Our early tests proved that various different oils reacted with hard-nylon components within the gear-unit. These components would sometimes swell and increase friction to the point where the SPEEDHUB failed to operate correctly. The sheer number of different percentages and types of additives used in oils is so vast, that we were forced to produce our own oil so that we can safely offer and uphold a warranty on our products.

The use of non-original oils is easy to detect after opening a SPEEDHUB transmission and in every service case where this is apparent, we are unable to offer warranty repairs.”

Now it would be legitimate to ask why a Rohloff product would be good for a Shimano IGH? I don’t know that it is for sure, but I’m willing to take the chance that an oil safe for a Rohloff is safe for a Shimano hub. If something bad happens I’ll let you know! ;)

BTW – the Rohloff syringe and injection tube fitting work on the Alfine 11 perfectly.

Here is my Alfine 11 oil change process:

  1. clean outside of hub shell
  2. open hub via oil plug
  3. inject 25 ml of Rohloff cleaning solution
  4. pedal hub through all gear combos for 5 mins
  5. let drain for 30 mins
  6. suck out any remaining cleaning fluid and old oil with syringe
  7. inject 25 ml of Rohloff hub oil
  8. seal up Alfine and ride
  9. dispose of dirty oil/cleaning fluid responsibly

The oil change went without a hitch and took about 45 mins including the 30 mins of draining time for the old oil.

Dirty oil...

Dirty oil…

Tip – there is a tiny o-ring on the Alfine 11 oil plug. Don’t lose it! ;)

Here is what you need for an Alfine 11 oil change:

  • Rohloff 25 ml cleaning solution & 25 ml Rohloff oil
  • or 50 ml Shimano hub oil
  • syringe with injection tube and hub fitting
  • 3 mm allen key
  • paper towels
  • ziplock bag to collect dirty oil
  • electrical tape to attach ziplock to tube while it drains
  • 2 cold beers




Replacing Rohloff Hub Oil Seals…

9 05 2013
Leaky Rohloff...

Leaky Rohloff…

The Rohloff IGH in my Surly Big Dummy has been leaking oil for a while. This doesn’t really matter a whole lot as the Rohloff continued to work just fine, but I knew it was something I should sort out. So I collected the parts I needed and specialized Rohloff tools last year and finally got around to making it happen last week.

Most of what I needed...

Most of what I needed…

Here is what you need:

  • Hub oil seals x 2 = #8244
  • Tools for mounting hub seals = #8503
  • Paper gaskets = #8710
  • Loctite = #8347
  • Oil change kit = #8410
  • Sprocket removal tool = #8510
  • Rohloff instruction manual
  • Torx 20 driver
  • 3mm, 5mm & 8mm allen keys
  • large adjustable wrench
  • chain whip
  • paper towel
  • q-tips
  • rubbing alcohol
  • beer x 6
  • music

Before getting started wash your hub/rim/tire and let dry. You don’t want to have chunks of dirt fall into the open hub and it will be nicer to work with a clean wheel.

Axle side oil seal removed...

Axle side oil seal removed…

Like all Rohloff projects I’ve embarked on it was much easier than I had feared, but complicated enough that I ran into a couple glitches. Here are some instructions on how to replace the hub oil seals.

You will also need to read up on:

  • removing/installing the disc brake [assuming you have one]
  • removing/installing the shifting mechanism
  • removing/installing the drive sprocket
  • how to do an oil change

It’s worth reading all the way through so you can be sure you have all the parts and tools you need.

Staying organized...

Staying organized…

I started on the axle side where the shift box attaches. Pulling off the disc brake rotor and the shifting mechanism was easy. The hub oil seal was in pretty tight so it took me a few tries to get it out. It helps that you can destroy it in the process since it’s headed for the bin anyways.

New hub seal...

New hub seal…

With the Rohloff tool installing the new hub seal is dead easy. Just make sure you clean out the old seal mating surface before installing and don’t get crazy with the Loctite around the new seal. You don’t want to contaminate the hub.

Seal installed...

Seal installed…

Once the hub seal is installed just reassemble the axle side of the hub. It’s a bit fiddly so read the instructions first and then tackle it.

Paper gaskets...

Paper gaskets…

It was about this point that I realized I was missing 2 small paper gaskets I needed to reinstall my shift mechanism. I was a bit bummed because I didn’t think I’d be able to source them locally and figured I might be waiting 2 weeks for mail order parts to arrive. Happily I went down to the Fairfield Bicycle Shop and they had exactly what I needed in stock. Awesome! :)

It’s really nice to have a LBS who services Rohloffs in town. If I ever have questions I can talk to them and they carry the parts I need for any projects.

The video above shows how to remove the sprocket from a Rohloff hub. These sprockets are threaded onto the hub and continuously tightened by your pedalling action. So they are a bitch to get off.

I tried....

I tried….

I tried to loosen the sprocket at home, but failed. So I carried the hub down to the kind folks at Cycles West my neighbourhood LBS. They used their bench vice to hold the hub and spin off the sprocket with a chain whip. Thanks guys – you rock! :)

The video above shows how to replace the hub oil seal on the drive side of the hub.

SLX brake parts...

SLX brake parts…

I cleaned the brake rotor with rubbing alcohol to remove any traces of hub oil that may have gotten on to it. I sanded down the pads and then set them ablaze for a while in a pool of rubbing alcohol to clean them up as well. I probably need new pads, but I’m a bit lazy so I’ll use these for now until I get some freshies.

My Big Dummy repair stand... ;)

My Big Dummy repair stand… ;)

With the hub back together I pumped some cleaning solution into it as the first part of an oil change.

The video above explains how to do an oil change.

Time to haul...

Time to haul…

I needed to work the cleaning solution all through the hub so I figured I might as well go get some groceries.

Checking everything out...

Checking everything out…

The ride let me check that the hub was working correctly in case I had goofed something during reassembly. As it turns out the IGH was purring like a kitten! :)

My buddy Steve...

My buddy Steve…

I ran into my buddy Steve so we talked cargo bikes and he checked out the passenger deck.

Fresh oil...

Fresh oil…

Once home I let the dirty oil drain out and then I injected 25ml of the clean stuff and buttoned up the Rohloff.

See you in 5000kms...

See you in 5000kms…

Since my Big Dummy doesn’t see big mileage these days and lives inside I won’t be messing with this Rohloff for a few years.

Ready for summer...

Ready for summer…

Now that I have been through it all once I could replace a set of Rohloff hub seals in 1hr – assuming I had the parts and a bench vice at home. Sadly I’ll probably forget everything I just did by the time I need to do it again! ;)





Bike Condom…

3 05 2013

Kinda ugly...

Kinda ugly…

Hauling your expensive MTB around on the back of your car across the continent gets a little depressing when it starts to rain and your bike is coated in the nastiest road spray. Not only do you have to wipe the bike down just to ride it without getting filthy, but all that water and grit aren’t doing your components any favours.

So like they taught you in high school when in potentially dangerous territory protect what’s between your legs! ;)

Bikes ready for the drive back to Canada...

Bikes ready for the drive back to Canada…

We use whatever falls to hand readily. Usually garbage bags or plastic sheeting from Home Depot and duct tape to secure it. I only cover the drivetrain, brakes, saddle, suspension and handlebars. That leaves the wheels mostly open so cars following you can see you taillights.

One advantage to doing this beyond keeping your bike clean is it obscures your bike’s true value making it less attractive to thieves. 

bb2

Clean bike at end of road trip…

It takes about 10mins to wrap the bike and another 10mins to unwrap it. Not a huge deal, but I wouldn’t bother if I was just doing a day trip. I have used leftover mattress covers and bungee cord to cover bikes before. This has the advantage of being very fast. Just drop the cover over the whole bike and wrap with bungee cord. The cover can be removed and reused a few times. The downside is that the cover quickly gets dirty and obscures your taillights. I had a cop pull me over and make me remove the mattress cover for that reason. :( If you have a wide vehicle you might get away with it.





Mountain Bike Pack Load – Heavy…

2 05 2013
My MTB backpack load...

My MTB backpack load…

Some people worry about gaining or losing 100g off their mountain bike. I ride with the equivalent of a small child on my back and my bike is heavy as well! I just keep telling myself it’s a great training aid and some day this will all pay off when I am sponsored by Santa Cruz and living the dream. ;)

Rear view...

Rear view…

The pack is a 15yr+ old Camelbak Transalp. At the time this was heinously expensive and I had doubts about buying it, but once I actually started using it I fell in love and it’s only costs me a couple quarters a month to own.

Side view...

Side view…

I’ve tried a bunch of newer uber packs over the years, but nothing has displaced the Transalp from my regular rotation. It carries its weight well and is comfortable for all day efforts. It has something like 30L of capacity split up between a few storage areas and has lots of external temporary storage if I need to really haul a ton of stuff.

A little saggy in its old age...

A little saggy in its old age…

Despite loads of use it hasn’t let me down yet. There are some areas of minor wear and tear, but nothing that has compromised its functionality. Besides being a bit faded and dirty it still looks pretty good.

It can get sweaty...

It can get sweaty…

If I was going to complain about it I would tell you that my back gets sweaty and that the waist belt is unpadded. I’ve tried some of the new packs with mesh backs and space between the pack and my body to let airflow between them. I haven’t come across one that was comfy and that airflow space takes away from the pack’s storage space. The unpadded belt means this pack is happiest with a medium load. You can carry lots of heavy stuff, but you’ll know it’s there.

What you can’t see is a rain cover tucked into a small pocket on the bottom of the pack. Very handy when the rain starts to fall unexpectedly.

It's all about the DSLR...

It’s all about the DSLR…

The main reason I carry the Transalp on trail rides is so I can haul my DSLR. It’s bulky and a tad heavy so I need something bigger than your typical hydration pack to bring it along. The DSLR stays inside its padded case in the main body of the Transalp. That gives it a reasonable amount of impact and vibration protection.

I usually also carry a small point and shoot on the waist belt in a padded case. Sometimes I don’t have time to stop and deploy the DSLR, but I want to document something. I have fallen onto my small camera during some crashes. So far I haven’t broken one. **fingers crossed**

H2O and tools...

H2O and tools…

I use a 100oz Nalgene bladder for most rides. The Transalp can fit two of these bladders for epic camel capacity, but I can’t recall ever needing that much water.

I carry the following tools and spares:

  • Topeak pump
  • shock pump
  • multitool w/ chain tool
  • tire levers
  • patch kit w/ 2 tubes of glue
  • spare tube
  • tubeless tire plug kit

The ziplock bag holds an ultralight Patagonia wind shell and a LED headlamp for emergencies. I try to remember to recharge the headlamp batteries every 3 months or so.

If I am going on a really long really remote ride I would add in some zipties and a small roll of electrical tape. Possibly a couple kevlar emergency spokes.

F/A kit...

F/A kit…

I carry a small first aid kit for repairing any human crash damage. I got to use it in Moab when one of the guys I was riding with punched a tree during a high speed crash and received a partially severed tendon for his trouble. The 4 ER doctors I was riding with didn’t have a bandaid between them so this kit came in very handy 2hrs from help [with a car pick up].

This all goes in the small pocket...

This all goes in the small pocket…

In the smaller pocket on the back of the Transalp I carry:

  • map
  • cellphone in waterproof case [assuming there is any hope of getting service to call 911]
  • some snacks
  • wallet [assuming there is any place to use it]
  • eye drops [if it's dusty]
Hauling the Transalp and smiling...

Hauling the Transalp and smiling…

Although I can’t say the heft of this pack is unnoticeable. It’s mostly when I pick it up after a rest break or photo session that I’m aware of how heavy it is. I can ride technical terrain with it and still smile and I never feel like I’m being held back terribly. The DSLR photos are so much better than my point and shoot cameras that I am always motivated to carry it after processing images from both types of cameras.





Yakima Fat Racking…

17 04 2013
Sharon's Pugsley and Yakima rack...

Sharon’s Pugsley and Yakima rack…

Sharon uses a Yakima Hold Up 2″ receiver hitch rack on her car. It’s an older version so not exactly the same as what’s shown on the Yakima site, but looks pretty similar. We had never used it for a fat bike until the Missing Link Tour.

Front wheel...

Front wheel…

The Pugs went into the rack with little difficulty with its 4″ tires. The front wheel was secured normally with the rack’s arm. I added a small bungee to the front wheel so it couldn’t move. It doesn’t sink as deeply into the rack slot as a skinny tire MTB would.

Rear wheel is fat...

Rear wheel is fat…

The rear wheel is too fat to use the rack’s ratchet strap. So I attached it with another bungee cord. It held fine like this for a short-ish drive to Lake Cowichan. For a longer haul or if I was going down some rough roads I would use something more robust to secure the rear wheel.

Krampus Fits Fine...

Krampus Fits Fine…

The Krampus dropped into the rack without any special accommodations.





DIY stem mounted water bottle…

4 04 2013
Water bottle on stem...

Water bottle on stem…

Last year I tried water bottle cages mounted to my bike’s fork for added hydration capacity while bikepacking. It worked, but I didn’t love it. They were always in the way when I would lean my bike up against something, they got splattered with mud/horse shit off the road/trail and I couldn’t access them while riding. So I thought I would try a stem mounted bottle and see what I thought.

Cage hose clamped to stem...

Cage hose clamped to stem…

I just grabbed a plain old aluminum bottle cage and attached it to the stem with a hose clamp. I used some electrical tape and a bit of old inner tube to avoid damaging the stem. The whole install took 5 mins.

The hose clamp is key...

The hose clamp is key…

I like DIY projects that I can source all the parts from my garage in a few minutes. This one was particularly easy.

Bottle in action...

Bottle in action…

So the important question is how did it work?

  • it was 100% secure….no movement or issues even with a lot of high speed dirt road pounding
  • having a bottle so close at hand was awesome….I drank on the move a lot
  • I’ll definitely use this setup again
Easy on - easy off...

Easy on – easy off…

Since I’m not bikepacking every weekend I like the fact this cage is very easy to remove when not needed. I pulled it off and threw everything into a ziplock bag for next time.

For the most recent trip I carried another water bottle in my framebag and a 2L water bag in my backpack that I left empty until I figured I needed a bunch of extra water [say before making camp]. That worked well.

I can always add water bottles to my fork legs if needed on a particularly dry trip as well as carrying more water in my backpack. Coastal BC riding isn’t particularly dry.





Catching waves with a SUP…

13 03 2013
Every wave is fun...

Every wave is fun…

I found a really useful article posted online that gives you some advice how to catch waves on a SUP more easily. I’ve tried the paddle like a MoFo technique and it works, but it’s tiring and lacks elegance! ;)

Click on the image above to read the article.





Pugsley 29er Wheels…

8 03 2013

I love my Surly Pugsley and I have considered building up a 29er set of wheels for it a few times over the years. The Pugsley has a 17.5mm offset of the rear wheel to the right so the chain clears the big fat tire. That works great with the wider fat rims out there as they have enough real estate to offset the hole over to the right so that the end result is a strong wheel with reasonably even spoke tension on both sides. My Large Marge rims [shown below] have the spokes offset ~13mm to the right for example.

Note offset spokes...

Note offset spokes…

With narrower 29er rims you can’t move the spoke holes over as much so there are some compromises to be made that are worth looking at.

What’s normal?

Standard rear MTB wheel...

Standard rear MTB wheel…

I like strong wheels with even spoke tension, but most mountain bikes roll along just fine on rear wheels that are tensioned at 100%/60%. So that’s worth keeping in mind.

Offset Fork + Zero Offset Rims

Zero offset rim in the rear of the Pug...

Zero offset rim in the rear of the Pug…

If you build a Pugsley a set of 29er wheels using standard zero offset MTB rims [spoke holes centred in the rim] you get the spoke tension shown in the images above and below.

The rear wheel uses a SRAM X9 hub and the spoke tension is 100%/45%.

The front wheel uses a Surly 135mm SS hub in the Pugs offset fork and the tension is 100%/30%

Neither of these options looks that great, but I know folks that have built up 29er wheels for Pugsleys using zero offset rims and they can work if the rider isn’t super heavy and/or the use is gentle [ie. road commuting vs. loaded dirt touring].

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork...

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork…

Offset Fork – 4mm Offset Rims

Velocity Synergy OC 4mm offset rims with SRAM X9 rear hub...

Velocity Synergy OC 4mm offset rims with SRAM X9 rear hub…

Nick over at the Gypsy By Trade Blog posted about building a Pugsley 29er wheelset using 4mm offset Velocity Synergy OC rims. As far as I know these offer the most offset in a “standard” 29er rim.

The rear builds up with a tension of 100%/62% – so that’s essentially the same as our “normal” MTB rear wheel at the top of the post. Although this wheel has slacker spokes on the driveside vs. the “normal” MTB wheel which has the slacker spokes on the disc brake side. I’m not sure if that matters a lot – anyone have a comment on that?

The front builds up with a tension of 100%/40%. A normal MTB front wheel is around 100%/70%. But the front wheel sees less abuse so perhaps this is just fine as long as you aren’t on the really heavy/rough end of the use spectrum. I’m keen to follow Nick’s blog and see what happens.

Surly SS hub in offset fork with 4mm offset rim...

Surly SS hub in offset fork with 4mm offset rim…

Offset Fork – 7mm Offset Rim

7mm offset rim in rear of Pugs on SRAM X9 hub...

7mm offset rim in rear of Pugs on SRAM X9 hub…

Surly has released a 50mm wide Rabbit Hole rim that takes 29er tires as well as their new Knard 29 x 3.0″ uber wide rubber. It has a 7mm offset and fits into a Pugsley frame/fork no problems. I wish Surly has pushed those spoke holes out another couple mms to get better tension with the Pugsely offset frame/fork. It looks like there is enough real estate on the rim to do that.

The rear builds up with 100%/78% spoke tension which is nice.

The front builds up with 100%/48% spoke tension which is better than the 4mm offset rims, but still quite a bit short of the 100%/70% tension of a standard MTB front wheel.

So you are getting a more balanced build with these wide rims, but they are heavier [~200g/rim compared to the Synergy OC rims]. OTOH – they are wider so if you want to run wide 29er rubber including 3.0″ wide Knards the weight penalty may be worth it on that count.

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork with 7mm offset rims....

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork with 7mm offset rims….

Zero Offset Moonlander Fork – Zero Offset Rims

Moonlander symmetrical fork with zero offset rim...

Moonlander symmetrical fork with zero offset rim…

If you have a Necromancer Pugsley you have a symmetrical Moonlander fork that takes a 135mm front hub. I don’t have the specs on Surly’s 135mm front disc hub so I used the same Surly rear hub as the other examples. It gives you a pretty good idea where things are headed although the spoke tension with the front 135mm hub may be a bit worse since the right flange doesn’t have to make room for a cog.

For a zero offset rim I got 100%/89% spoke tension which is great. You could use 4mm or 7mm offset rim to get an even stronger wheel.

Pugsley 100m Symmetrical Fork – Zero Offset Rim

100mm front hub in Surly Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork...

100mm front hub in Surly Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork…

Surly sells a 100mm symmetrical fork for the Pugsley at a cost of ~$99. That would allow you to use an existing standard 29er MTB wheel which you may own or can buy pre-built for a lot less than a custom wheel build. You can also swap this wheel into another MTB you own. The spoke tension is 100%/70% – which what most MTB front wheels would be.

Note this would be the same result as using a 29er suspension fork with your Pugsley.

IGH + Pugsley Offset – Zero Offset Rim

Alfine 8 in Pugsley offset frame with zero offset rim...

Alfine 8 in Pugsley offset frame with zero offset rim…

If you are like me and want to use an IGH with your Pugs you find out that it’s a challenge with 29er wheels. As you can see from the example above of an Alfine 8 in the rear of a Pugs with zero offset rims the spoke tension balance is poor at 100%/30%. It’s essentially the same as the tension achieved with the Surly SS hub in all the examples above so your best case using a 7mm offset Rabbit Hole rim is ~100%/50% tension balance.

Some Other Ideas

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • a wider flange to flange spacing will make for a stronger more stable wheel all other things being equal
  • it may be possible to drill new spoke holes on Surly Rabbit Hole rims further to the right than the stock ones
  • you can use two rear cassette hubs in your Pugs to avoid the funky spoke tension you get with a SS/FG hub up front

So what should you do?

The very first thing I would do if you are going down this road is to evaluate how tough you are on wheels. That will let you know how important getting strong wheels should be to you.

  • how much to do you weigh?
  • how much gear do you carry?
  • how rough is the terrain you ride?
  • are you a finesse rider or a smasher?
  • how much do you ride?
  • how well do normal MTB wheels last under you?
  • how much attention do you want to spend on your wheels?

Next up you need to consider some of the other factors like:

  • how frequently do you plan on swapping wheels?
  • how far from help do you ride?
  • do you have an existing 29er front wheel you could use?
  • do you want to ride narrow 29er rubber? [less than 2.4"]
  • do you want to ride uber wide 3.0″ 29er rubber?
  • do you want to use a suspension fork?
  • what is your budget?

There is no set answer.

  • The more abuse you will dish out the stronger your wheels need to be.
  • If you want to swap wheels once a season a fork swap is no big deal.
  • If you want to swap wheels twice a week swapping forks will get old fast.
  • If you own an existing 29er front wheel you like getting a $99 Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork is a great idea.
  • If you ride far into the backcountry you won’t want to take a lot of risk.
  • If you are never more than a few miles from the car you can afford to have a wheel failure.

Don’t use a Pugsley

If you haven’t got a fatbike and using a 2nd set of 29er wheels is important to you than you may well be better off buying one of the symmetrical rear end fatbikes being sold. Without the offset rear end you can build up some 29er wheels without much trouble although you will need the correct size hubs for your frame so an off the shelf 29er wheel set won’t work.

What would I do?

Well I’ve talked myself out of a 29er wheelset for my Pugs. Using an IGH doesn’t get me a good wheel build even with a Rabbit Hole rim. I don’t feel like swapping wheels and the fork every time I want to run 29er wheels either. So that sort of leaves a whole bunch of not so great options on the table.

I think the better plan for me is to have a dedicated 29er MTB and leave the Pugsley on fatbike rubber. I have a garage and I have the existing 29er parts to outfit a frame at a cost that wouldn’t be much more than a custom set of wheels.

Having said that if I was a one bike guy and owning/storing a second bike was out of the question I’d switch my Pugsley over to a 1 x 9 derailleur drivetrain and use a Moonlander fork upfront. I’d run Rabbit Hole rims because I’ll either run a 2.4″ or 3.0″ tire. I like wide rubber.

Comparison to my existing Pugsley wheels…

Alfine in Pugs with Large Marge rim...

Alfine in Pugs with Large Marge rim…

Since we are going to town on wheel calcs the images above and below show my current Pugsley wheels. The rear Alfine has a spoke tension of 100%/92% with a Large Marge rim that has 13mm offset [same offset as Rolling Darryl rim]. The front Surly FG hub in my Pug’s offset fork has a spoke tension of 100%/69%. Both ends are pretty strong in theory and that’s backed up by a lot of abuse with zero issues.

It’s nice to be able to ride your bike as hard as you can without having to give a second thought to your wheels.

Surly SS rear hub in Pugsley offset fork with Large Marge rims...

Surly SS rear hub in Pugsley offset fork with Large Marge rims…





Inspecting my Shimano Alfine 8 IGH…

12 02 2013
My Alfine 8...4yrs old and never maintained...

My Alfine 8 IGH…4yrs old and never maintained…

With some new Surly Rolling Darryl rims ready to be built up for my Pugsley I couldn’t put off inspecting my Alfine 8 IGH any longer. I bought it new over 4yrs ago and have never opened it up. To be honest I was a little worried what I would find inside and I was prepared to buy a new hub rather then spend the $$ building up a wheel set with compromised parts

A filthy Pugsley ready for some love after 9000kms on the back of my truck...

A filthy Pugsley ready for some love after 9000kms on the back of my truck…

Here is an outline of what my Alfine 8 has been through:

  • 6 months on the beach in Baja
  • 2 Canadian winters
  • bikepacking
  • winter mountain biking on Vancouver Island
  • 1 trip to burning man
  • 5 chains
  • 1 set of trashed Phil Woods BB bearings
Disc side of Alfine...

Disc side of Alfine…

My plan was to inspect the hub myself at home and then take it to the Fairfield Bike Shop for any maintenance it needed. If the hub was not worth a new rim I’d keep it built up with the Large Marge as a spare for our Pugsleys and buy a new hub.

I found the following useful guides for overhauling an Alfine 8 IGH:

Ready for surgery...

Ready for surgery…

Taking the IGH apart is straightforward – about a 15 min job taking your time. You’ll find the instructions in the links above.

This video will also walk you through it.

My Alfine 8 internals...

My Alfine 8 internals…

I was ready for all kinds of badness when I pulled the internals out. This hub has been used hard and didn’t owe my anything. So you can imagine my shock when the damn thing looked perfect.

Looking good...

Looking good…

And I’m not kidding about that when I say perfect. No rust. No dirt. No water. The factory grease was still clearly in place.

The empty hub shell...

The empty hub shell…

I was very impressed and changed my plans. I didn’t see any point in going through the cleaning and relubing process when the original grease was in such good shape. The oil lube promised even better hub efficiency, but when I thought about it ease of maintenance and reliability was more important to me than slightly easier rolling. Plus I can always strip the grease and relube with oil later now that I see how easy opening the hub is.

Non-driveside bearing race/inner lock nut...

Non-driveside bearing race/inner lock nut…

I cleaned the cones on both sides and made sure they were looking good. Everything was running great so I didn’t see the point in trying to break the hub down further. With my luck I would screw up a perfectly good hub trying to make it “better”!

Time to grease and reassemble...

Time to grease and reassemble…

I should have cleaned the driveside of the IGH before I cracked it open. Since I didn’t I was careful I didn’t contaminate the internals.

Alfine porn...

Alfine porn…

The only lubing I did was adding some grease to both outboard bearings to help keep water out of the hub.

Dropping the internals back in...

Dropping the internals back in…

I sealed the Alfine 8 IGH back up and ensured the locknuts weren’t too tight.

Time to deal with the external bits...

Time to deal with the external bits…

Next up was a quick clean up of the external parts of the hub.

Just a little bit dirty...

Just a little bit dirty…

Baja wasn’t kind to the drivetrain.

Time for chain #6...

Time for chain #6…

The cog and the chainring show some wear, but I figured I’ll get another year out of them. The chain on the other hand is trashed – another year – another $16!

Chain KIA - the rest is fine with some love..

Chain KIA – the rest is fine with some love..

I didn’t bother reassembling the hub 100% as its next move will be to a truing stand for the Rolling Darryl rim swap. Once clean I bagged all the small parts so they wouldn’t get lost.

The disc rotor looks good...

The disc rotor looks good…

For a final test I threw the rear wheel back in the frame and gave it a spin. It rotated for a long time confirming the axle wasn’t overly tight and that the new grease didn’t cause any significant drag. I also checked the hub for lateral play- loose is bad.

Back whens he was new...

Back when she was new…

I expected this mission to end with some saddness and possibly some $$ being spent on a new hub. I’m still amazed the internals are in such good shape. Perhaps not good as new, but certainly worth transfering over to the rebuilt wheels.

Nice one Shimano! :)





How to back tack…

14 01 2013

another video not quite as good, but every little bit helps…





Fixing a kite with Tuck Tape…

31 12 2012

This poor kite got shredded…

So we pulled out the Tuck Tape…

Throw a roll in with your kite gear…

All this tape got the kite flying again the next day…

Time to ride…





Surf Shorts Repair…

22 12 2012
Iron on patches to the rescue...

Iron on patches to the rescue…

I managed to burn a couple holes in a pair of surf shorts I love. Don’t ask how! ;) I used a couple large iron on patches to fix them on the inside. I figured the large patches would be less noticeable against my skin than smaller cut to fit patches.

Smaller patches on the outside...

Smaller patches on the outside…

I used smaller patches on the outside just to make the holes less noticeable.

Looking good up front...

Looking good up front…

After the repair the shorts are still comfortable to wear next to my skin for hours at a time. I’m starting to like iron on patches nearly as much as I like Shoe Goo! ;)

 

 





Strapless Kiteboarding…

10 12 2012

Toeside jibe…

I’m really digging riding my kiteboards strapless. Of my 5 kiteboards 3 are dedicated strapless, 1 is used both ways and 1 is a dedicated strapped in board. I like the straps to jump and I like jumping a lot, but for days that are lighter wind or for any wave riding I’d prefer to be riding strapless.

Without the straps you aren’t locked into a specific position on your board. The ability to move your feet all over the board feels great and allows you to tweak the way it rides very subtly.

To stay on the board without straps you have to balance the force of the kite through your body against the board which pushes into the water. If you are out of balance you’ll be pulled off the board right away. This results in a wonderful feeling of connection between your body, the gear and the water. At it’s best it’s like dancing with your kite, the wind and the waves.

I’ve posted this video before, but I can’t help myself I never get tired of watching it. This level of kitesurfing is attainable by anyone who wants to learn. You don’t have to be a superstar athlete and the video captures the flow of strapless riding really well. It’s so much fun that it’s really hard to come back to the beach until you are so tired that you are literally falling off your board. :)

Here are a couple websites dedicated to strapless kiteboarding:





Making a Brompton…

22 11 2012




Mountain Bike First Aid…

9 11 2012

Mini-Medical Kit…

On my recent trip to Moab one of the group had a serious hand injury and was bleeding like a stuck pig. There were 4 ER doctors with us and not one had a band aid. Luckily I had a small first aid kit and they used it to stop the bleeding and dress the wound.

What’s in it…

I’ve been sporadically carrying a small first aid kit on my MTB rides, but I use two different packs and sometimes the kit gets thrown in my bikepacking frame bag and forgotten so I don’t always have it with me. To remedy that I bought a second FA kit at MEC and I’ll have one in each MTB pack I use so I don’t have to think about it.

I’lll also put the following in each pack:

  • headlamp [check the batteries once a month and recharge as needed]
  • cell phone in waterproof case
  • space blanket
  • energy bars x 2
  • ultralight windbreaker

It’s not much, but it will be useful if we have an injury on a cold dark night 30mins ride or a 2hrs hobble back to the car.





Iron Mend Wetsuit Repair Kit Review…

7 11 2012

My Promotion wetsuit…

I’ve been using this Promotion wetsuit for 4yrs of kiteboarding. It has seen better days for sure. I haven’t found a good local option for wetsuit repairs in Victoria BC. I can send this suit back to Promotion who will do a great repair at a reasonable cost, but the $25 shipping each way makes even a small $20 repair costly.

A tear starting on the right sleeve…

In general this wetsuit has been wearing evenly and has served me well so I hope to get another full year out of it before retiring it. I recently noticed a tear starting at one sleeve which is a high stress area every time you put the suit on or take it off. I wanted to fix the problem before it ripped all the way through and made matters more challenging.

Iron Mend repair kit…

I saw a $10 wetsuit repair kit at MEC.ca called Iron Mend and decided it was worth trying out. It’s basically a large iron-on patch with some heat shield paper to protect the wetsuit.

Patch cut to size and instructions…

The repair process is very simple:

  1. cut patch to size
  2. heat iron [not too hot]
  3. place patch over area needing repair
  4. place heat shield paper over patch
  5. 2 x 10 second applications of iron with firm pressure
  6. check patch
  7. apply iron again if needed

My iron didn’t have any temperature indications so I started low and bumped up the heat when the first attempt wasn’t gluing the patch down properly. You can keep applying the iron as many times as needed if it’s not hot enough, but you’ll ruin your wetsuit in one attempt if it’s too hot. So err on the side of too cool.

Patch applied…

The repair seems solid and unlike my usual ghetto Shoe Goo repairs it looks almost professional! ;) I’ll report back after 20 sessions in Baja and we’ll see how it holds up to daily use. I only used 1/8th of the kit so there are several more repairs left in it. I’m optimistic I can keep this suit rolling for at least another year.





Disc Rotor Shims…

30 10 2012

Syntace disc rotor shims – click for product info…

I didn’t know these existed until recently. I’ve had some funky disc caliper to rotor clearance issues in the past due to manufacturing tolerances. It would have been nice to have some shims on hand to tweak things back into the center of the adjustment range. Jenson USA is selling an 8 pack for $12. I’ll probably score a package next time I’m ordering bike supplies.





How to pack for a trip…

29 10 2012

“Anyone seen the tent???”

Getting out the door on a trip with everything you need is harder than it seems it should be. I’ve ended up out on the road or trail more than once only to find I or one of my party has left something vital back at the ranch. That can be just inconvenient or it can be a trip killer depending on what it was. I think we’d all agree that it’s best to just take everything you need with you and head out the door with confidence. Here’s the only way I’ve come up with to do that.

Santa’s hot the only one with a list…

Make a List

Every significant adventure I go on starts with a list of what I need to bring with me and any key tasks I need to take care of before leaving. I keep my old trip lists in a computer folder so I can hack and paste. I’m currently working on packing for a couple months in Baja this winter and I just modified a list from two year’s ago since a lot of the stuff I need to bring is the same.

Once I have the list mostly ready I print it and put it on my desk in a clipboard. That way I can grab it any time I want to spend a few minutes packing and I can make notes on it for things to add or delete.

I mark up the list in three ways:

  1. pink highlighter means I found the item and placed it with the other similar gear in its category
  2. black sharpie through the item means it’s no longer needed
  3. green highlighter means I need to buy it
  4. pen through the highlighted items means they are packed in a box/bag

The truck gets packed one box at a time…

Pack a Box/Bag/Pannier at a Time

I’ll be taking a lot of gear to Baja for a multi-month trip with kiteboards, surfboards, kites, bikes and SUPs. I need all the camping and cooking items to have a comfortable beach camp. Trying to deal with all the stuff I need to pack in one go would drive me mental and I never seem to have a free block of time before I leave on a trip.

So I work on one box/bag at a time. Today I grabbed my box of cooking gear [pots, back up backpacking stove, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, etc...] I made sure everything was there and in good condition. I checked stuff off my list and since I had everything I closed it up and put it in a corner of my garage where I’ll be storing Baja gear until I am ready to load the truck.

I never pack a bag until I have everything that needs to go inside. That’s a sure way to forget stuff and you either have to unpack it to double check or go from memory. The list should be accurate, but it never is 100% so the best way to ensure you have everything is to confirm it all at once and then load up your box/pannier.

Piles work…

Piles are for Stuff that Needs Work

When I’ve got a bunch of stuff that needs to be packed together and I know items need cleaning/repair or need to be purchased I get the ball rolling with a pile. A pile says “I need some love!”. I either can keep adding to it or I can take care of items that need some work.  I can see most of the stuff in a pile which is handy for getting a quick idea of where I am at with a glance.

I’ve been cleaning and repairing my kiteboarding gear [harnesses, wetsuits, gloves. booties, etc...] lately. They got piled up in a corner of my office and when I needed a break from work I’d deal with something in the pile. If I was in the garage and noticed an item that belongs with my kiteboarding gear I’d grab it and move it to the pile in my office. Since I see the pile 20 times a day it reminds me I need to buy a wetsuit repair kit when I go to MEC for example.

At some point I’m close to having everything I need in the pile and I check stuff off my list and throw it into a box.

You can’t ride [comfortably] if you’re naked! ;)


Prioritize Based on What’s Mostly Ready

I don’t want to have a million piles of gear laying about so I try and prioritize by starting with groups of items that are mostly ready to be packed. That gets things done efficiently and frees up space for what needs to be dealt with next. Of course that means I’ll end up dealing with more and more time consuming items that need to be fixed/cleaned/bought. That’s okay as gear gets packed and the trip gets closer it’s easier to get motivated to knock down the To Do List.

“No seriously – you packed the tent right?”…

Don’t Mess with a Packed Box/Bag

Ideally don’t go and open a packed bag to use something out of it. It’s way too easy to forget you need to put that item back in. If you absolutely must plunder a packed container than move it back to the area where you have piles and bags being packed so you know it needs attention. I often put a sticky note on top to remind me what’s missing

I love it when the food gets packed…

Get a life!

If you are saying to yourself that this sounds incredibly anal – you’re right. I’d prefer to not bother, but it’s the only way I’ve come up with to ensure when I am down in Mexico I don’t go to setup my tent and realize I didn’t bring it along! ;)





Sharon’s first 2012 Commuter Flat…

22 10 2012

Sharon taking off her front wheel to fix a flat…

Sharon got her first flat of 2012 and first flat in well over 12 months. Not bad at all. She’s running Grand Bois Cypres 700 x 30mm tires. These are fast, supple and comfortable tires with no flat protection. The benefit is she gets the maximum benefit from her pedaling effort and a comfortable ride. So far the Grand Bois are getting less flats than her previous tires that had some designed in puncture protection.

Trouble with getting so few flats is Sharon doesn’t get much practice fixing them. So she tackled the repair in my office so I could provide some advice. She only used tools she carries with her on her bike to ensure field repairs would be possible.

Sharon fixing her own bike…

Sharon located the hole in her tube and used that information to narrow down the search for the culprit in her tire. We found some glass that had cut her tire. It didn’t quite go through the casing. We discussed the pros and cons of using this tire vs. replacing it. She had a spare Grand Bois sitting around just for such a circumstance. She decided that since it was a front tire she wouldn’t take any chances and she’d replace it. She kept the old tire and will use it as a rear tire if needed at some point with a patch on the inside. Likely this tire won’t ever see action again as we’ll buy a spare from the Fairfield Bicycle Shop.

Small cut across tread…

It sucks to lose an expensive tire that’s nearly new, but given how little maintenance Sharon’s Surly Cross Check takes to keep working well as her commuter rig this is no big deal.





30T BCD 104 Chainrings…

14 09 2012

Exralite 30T – 104 BCD chainring…

I’ve been wanting to move the gearing on my Santa Cruz Nomad down a touch from the 32T x 11-34T range I use most of the time without having to bother with the 22T granny ring. I found 2 options for 30T chainrings that are 104BCD.

Andersen’s Machine 30T BCD 104 chainring…

Click on either image to jump to the vendor’s site. I’ll update with impression from whichever I end up using, but I thought I would share these rings with anyone out there who would like something slightly smaller than 32T on the front. of their 104 BCD cranks.





MBA How to Manual Guide

2 08 2012

Click for PDF document…

I found this really detailed guide explaining how to manual a mountain bike.

Here is a video on the same topic.





Making Continental Tires…

31 07 2012

Photo: Matt Wragg

If you are interested in how they make Continental tires jump over to Pinkbike and read a nice article by Matt Wragg.





You’re carrying too much stuff…

17 07 2012

Hiro headed south…

I was speaking to a well traveled bike tourist recently who was indignant that anyone would criticize how much gear he carried on his bike – it was after all his bike not theirs. That’s a fair point to be sure. So let me qualify my post by saying that this is just my opinion which I am generalizing outwards  based on my own experiences and the experiences that have been shared with me by other cyclists. It may not apply to you.

I was a Boy Scout for a lot of years and even won a top scout award near the end of my tenure with the organization. Being prepared for what could happen on a trip was a key part of the Boy Scout philosophy. Which provided the motivation to learn valuable backcountry skills and hone one’s gear. The typical overloaded bike tourist I see huffing and puffing uphill reminds me a lot of my days in the Boy Scouts. They are clearly prepared for a lot of different situations with all the gear they are carrying. In fact in “mainstream” cycling touring culture being prepared is a key goal for an experienced bike tourist. A lot of the chatter on bike touring forums is around “what if?” scenarios.

When I was in the Boy Scouts and when I started bike touring this philosophy made a lot of sense. I mean who wants to be unprepared for a problem? Besides it can’t hurt to be prepared right?

My first inkling that there was a downside to being overly prepared was reading Yvon [of Patagonia fame] Chouinard’s book about alpine climbing. He notes that if you carry all the possible safety gear you can think of for every eventuality you might face – you will be moving so slowly that you will have to use it more often than a climber who is less burdened. Which amounted to saying that being too safe is actually dangerous. As an example if you are in the mountains and a storm is coming faster than anticipated a slow moving team with lots of gear can’t out run it so they have to setup a bivy and wait it out. The fast moving team with less gear can change their plans and descend quickly to safety and comfort below. If the storm is particularly severe the bivouacked team may not have enough supplies to out last it and need rescue.

How does this apply to bike touring? It’s not like cyclists are facing life and death situations regularly.

Here’s how carrying too much stuff affects a bike tourist:

  • carrying more weight uphill makes your tour harder so you cover less ground, have less time in camp at the end of the day and are more tired
  • detours or side-trips are not appealing because of the effort required
  • bike and gear must be stronger to carry the extra weight
  • breakdowns more likely due to extra weight
  • some items like tires wear faster
  • bike handles more like a dump truck than a bicycle reducing enjoyment
  • route selection is restricted by difficulty of riding a heavy bike [bumping down a very rough dirt road isn't so appealing when your bike will likely break]
  • slow moving heavily loaded bike makes getting past dangerous sections on route harder so you are exposed to risk longer

Add into the mix the slow as molasses flat-proof tires that a lot of tourists are running and you’ve got yourself a bike that’s hard to ride and not nearly as much fun as it could be. Ironically it will be one that will likely have more problems to deal with than a lightly loaded rig so you get to use all the tools and spares you are carrying.

A smart quote I read on a lightweight backpacker/traveling site said “…we pack our fears and insecurities with us…” as an explanation why so many people carry so much stuff with them when they leave home. Shortly after reading this I was in India for 4 months traveling around with a  30L daypack. As I met other multi-month travelers carry expedition sized backpacks everyone wanted to know where my “real” backpack was – thinking this was just my sightseeing pack. On that trip I shared a room with a Canadian guy hauling a monstrous 100L pack around with him that he could barely lift onto his back. I watched with interest as he unpacked enough soap, toothpaste and shampoo for his whole 6 month trip. I couldn’t help myself and commented to him “…you know they do sell toothpaste and shampoo in India?…” ;)

Hiro heads out…

Assuming you are with me so far the obvious question is what is too much gear and what is just enough?

Like most interesting questions in life there is no simple answer. It’s easy to look at the extremes and find examples that are clearly over the top in either direction. My bikepacking setup is my lightest most compact touring setup yet, but I am sure there are folks out there who look at my packed bike and see a bloated whale of a rig and others who can’t imagine rolling out on tour with so little. I feel I’m on safe ground with this blog post’s title because I think 99.9% of us err on the side of too much. About day 7 of most long distance bike tour journals you read a very similar report of stopping at a post office and mailing a box of stuff back home. Frequently a couple weeks later that happens again and another box of excess gear is discarded. You rarely read about someone stopping at REI on day 7 of a tour and buying a whole shwack of stuff they realized they absolutely needed.

Why is that? Well when you are home war-gaming all the possible things that can happen on a tour and assembling a pile of gear that can deal with it all there is no downside to adding another item to the pile. When you are on the road having to haul, unpack, pack and pedal all this gear around – some common sense kicks in and you start to prioritize enjoyment and ease of cycling against the risk that you won’t have a clean shirt on day 7 or that you may run through 5 spare tubes without being able to restock.

The reality is that on the road you don’t need a lot to be happy and that a lightly loaded well maintained bike isn’t likely to breakdown.

So if you are thinking to yourself “…do I carry too much stuff?…” I’d ask yourself if that list of potential problems above is true for you or not. When you see a cool attraction 3kms uphill off route do you take it or do you skip it because extra climbing on your heavy bike is just not worth it? Do you plan routes looking for the easiest way through an area or the most scenic despite the poor roads and extra climbing? Do you worry about wheels and racks breaking on tour from all the weight they carry?

If you are unsure you can always try a riding with less gear on a short tour to see what you think.

Fully loaded and still unprepared…

Sounds great, but what happens when the unexpected strikes and you don’t have “X” with you? No matter how much gear you carry something can happen that you didn’t anticipate. In the photo above I was on tour in the Canadian Rockies when a heatwave struck and I was baking on my bike. I had lots of stuff with me, but no sun-shirt. Since I was on a paved road tour I rolled into the next town and found a shop that sold me the tan LS shirt I am wearing. Problem solved. If it had suddenly become bitterly cold I would have tracked down some warmer clothes to augment what I had with me. What’s the alternative – carrying gear for heatwaves and blizzards on every tour even though you expect mild temperatures?

For anyone on a paved road tour in the developed world – Canada, USA, Europe, Australia, NZ, etc… Just about anything you need is virtually at your finger tips. In the US overnight shipping of specialty parts makes carrying anything beyond the basics pointless.  Help isn’t far away either as governments don’t build paved roads unless there are cars interested in driving down them fairly regularly.

On the Big Dummy tour in the Yukon shown in the photo below I ended up with a hand injury that required evacuation down hundreds of KMs of remote dirt road for me and my cargo/touring bike. Yikes – that’s not a simple problem to solve with limited traffic and no cell phone service! However, I ran into the foreman of a rock crushing operation who was an avid cyclist and without hesitation he threw my bike into the back of his pickup truck and gave me a lift. Back at home there was no easy solution to a problem like this. When actually faced with the reality of my situation I found a way to sort things out.

Middle of nowhere in the Yukon…

Turning to more remote tours it seems like being far away from resupply makes carrying a lot of stuff essential – doesn’t it?

Not really.

If you are heading far from a bike shop or a post office and you asked me what spares/tools to bring along I would redirect your energy to reducing the risk of having a problem in the first place. That means taking a robust well maintained bike, not stressing it with unnecessary weight, riding it appropriately and then working out what spares/tools to bring with you.

For example using an uber strong undished Rohloff rear wheel that isn’t affected by weather and has no derailleur to be ripped off by vegetation or destroyed in a crash is a way to mitigate a lot of potential problems without needing to carry anything extra on the bike.

Choosing to get off and walk a steep rocky descent that’s on the limit of your abilities is a way to mitigate the risk of bike and body damage that would require a whole schwack of tools, spares and first aid supplies to deal with otherwise.

Combining spares/tools amongst a group and choosing to use similar equipment so less is required and more can be shared with other riders is smart.

The point I’m making is that reducing risk can be done without necessarily adding more stuff to your bike. Just like climbing in the mountains one way to reduce your risk of a problem on a remote tour is to travel lighter, faster and more nimbly.

Having said that if you are doing a remote tour in South America and you are on a 29er you might decided that carrying two spare tires is needed due to the lack of resupply options along your route and the length of your trip. That’s a rationale choice to mitigate the serious and certain problem that your original tires will wear out on the tour.

My 29er bikepacking setup…

If you are interested in touring with less stuff, but it just seems like everything you are carrying is essential and you can’t figure out how to reduce your gear load here are some ideas on how to get there:

  • If you are a 4 pannier, handlebar bag and stuff lashed to the top of the rear rack kind of tourist you can remove the front panniers which will force you to carry less since there is less capacity on the bike. If you prefer the weight distribution of 4 panniers you can line the bottom of each bag with several inches of folded bubble wrap to reduce bag capacity while keeping 4 panniers.
  • Track down some touring journals of folks who are riding with less than you. See what they are carrying and model your own kit after them.
  • What are the bulkiest/heaviest items you are carrying? Stuff like tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear can often be replaced with much lighter/more compact items without any loss of comfort/functionality.
  • Look at any items you are carrying multiple of [say T-shirts] and reduce them. One running t-shirt can be washed and dried in a couple hours so maybe you only need one on the tour? Touring in high tech camping [think Patagonia or REI or North Face] street clothes means you don’t need cycling clothes and street clothes on the trip. If you are carrying thermal underwear on a trip anyways you can wear them to bed and use a lighter sleeping bag.
  • Sharing a tent between two people instead of 2 friends each carrying their own can save a lot of weight. Same goes for tools, repair gear, spare parts, etc…
  • Look for items you rarely use or can do without. If you can start a campfire every night leave the stove and fuel bottle at home. If you typically eat a hot meal at a restaurant during the day maybe sandwiches and fruit at night work fine and you can ditch the cooking/eating gear entirely.
  • Spend your trip prep time ensuring you won’t have a problem on the ride rather than using it to amass all the tools/spares to fix problems. A well maintained well built bike is worth more than tools/spares.
  • Make a list of your gear and note next to each item why you are carrying it. Prioritize the list into 3 categories: 1) stuff that gets used every day 2) stuff that gets used occasionally 3) stuff that’s there for “what if’s”. Work hard on reducing the last two categories.

As you are going through this process don’t go overboard. It is a process. If you are a 4 panniers, handle bar bag and stuff lashed on top of the rear pannier tourist now you don’t have to be the ultimate ultralight bike tourist next time out. Maybe you’ll never get there. That’s not important. What’s important is that you have setup your bike to carry what you need in a way that’s as fun as possible for you on tour.

Keep in mind the real goal is to smile as much as possible on tour – not to brag about how little you are carrying. A lighter load is definitely a help in enjoying a tour more and being able to explore with more freedom because you can take detours and ride challenging terrain easier. You can worry less about breaking a rack or some spokes and gnarly dirt roads suddenly become fun touring routes. However, if you are cold and miserable on a tour because you didn’t bring what you needed and your bike breaks because you used the lightest weight parts you could find than there isn’t much to brag about is there?

No road, no trail = no problem…

Despite a lighter is righter message in this post I don’t think being a weight weenie is useful in general. I don’t own a scale. I don’t weigh my gear or calculate how much my gear weighs on a particular ride. I don’t cut the handle off my tooth brush wear a girl’s thong cause it’s lighter or anything silly like that. ;)

I shoot for less gear and lighter overall weight on tour as a general goal, but I do so in a rationale way that balances weight and functionality with the needs of the tour. For example I found a 29er frame that was nearly 3lbs lighter than the one I was looking at initially with no other downsides so I grabbed it. During the build I spec’d an IGH and heavier wider rims adding some weight compared to a derailleur and less burly rims. This gave me an undished very strong rear wheel and an almost bulletproof drivetrain. It also gave me wider tire profile for better traction – important here on the Wet Coast of Canada! In this case adding weight lets me travel rough roads/trails with more confidence and less tools/spares so my enjoyment is high and my overall bike + gear weight is not any higher.

I do look at component/gear specs online before buying, but I’m looking for significant differences like 0.5-1.0 lbs. I only compare items that meet my functional needs in the same way. I don’t have a scale so if I can’t feel the difference between 2 items when I pick them up they are essentially the same to me.

You don’t need a scale to know that leaving stuff at home is going to give you a lighter rig. Being able to ditch a rack and panniers saves pounds of weight without any downside if you are able to carry the gear you need without them. Beyond weight savings having less gear with you means you spend more time on the tour thinking about your ride and less time thinking/dealing with your gear. Packing and unpacking gets easier/faster and you are more in tune with the world around you when you aren’t traveling with a kitchen-sink safety net strapped to your bike.

I don’t sacrifice my comfort to get my load down in size. So I always have a warm jacket to put on at the end of the day and I make sure I am warm enough in my sleeping bag to get a good night’s rest. On the other hand I don’t need a stove and a hot meal to be happy at the end of the day on most tours so I delete the cooking gear when I can. Touring in the wet cold winter I may go the other way and plan to cook a decadent meal in camp to keep my spirits up.

I don’t weigh food or water. I’d rather have too much of that than too little. Having said that I do take resupply opportunities into account when I plan. I always want to have some extra food or water, but if each day of the ride goes past a grocery store I don’t need to leave home with 3 days of meals.

I didn’t miss the front panniers!

I try and keep the big picture in mind when making choices. I have a suspension fork on my 29er bikepacking rig because it makes the bike more useful for me as an all around MTB and for bikepacking on rough ground. This isn’t absolutely necessary and it does add weight/complexity to the bike. I felt it was a good choice. Someone else might feel it’s not needed.  I use wide tires on my bike which are heavier and roll a tad slower than narrower rubber, but the traction and the comfort of the bigger tires is worth it to me. My parts choices and gear choices are not the ultimate lightest possible in a lot of categories. I didn’t go with the ultimate options because they didn’t make as much functional sense as something else or the cost was simply not something I could justify.

When I get back home I evaluate how the trip went and modify my gear for the next ride. Sometimes that means taking more items and sometimes that means leaving stuff at home. The big question on my mind when looking back at past trips and looking forward to new trips is what was the fun factor like and what will help me have more fun?





Got Goo?

11 07 2012

My Five Ten Impact Low mountain bike shoes…

I bought these 5.10 Impact Low mountain bike shoes when I got my Santa Cruz Nomad. Their sticky soles and platform pedals are a match made in heaven. They stay planted 100% right up until I want to jump off the bike and then they release instantly. I can walk in them all day – including getting traction on some seriously heinous hike-a-bike terrain. Given the amount of abuse they’ve sustained I am impressed they are still in reasonable shape and look to keep rolling for a few more years at least.

Old repair on toe box…

One thing I’ve done to prevent their early demise is to catch & fix any problems ASAP [like the sole detaching at the toe box above] and repairing them while the problem is small. Of course I use my favourite repair solution – the mighty Shoe Goo! The repair above is at least a year old and is holding up great.

Huston we have a problem!

After a recent ride I noticed the sole was coming off the shoe body at one outside edge.

Shoe Goo deployed…

So I hit it with Shoe Goo before I went on my next ride. Thanks to 5.10 for making such a great shoe and thanks to Shoe Goo for such a versatile repair adhesive. :)





The year of repair…

7 07 2012

Toughen up!

It could all be in my mind, but I feel like I’ve been repairing gear a lot so far this year. On one hand I’d rather spend my time doing other things…on the other hand gear needs repairs when it used a lot. Lots of use = a good thing.

So I when I noticed the stitching on my kiteboarding impact vest was coming apart I put my Mr. Fix It hat on and grabbed my Shoe Goo! ;)

Better nip that in the bud…

I briefly considered a Shoe Goo only repair, but then thought I’ve got mad skillz with a needle and thread – time to bust out another facet of my gear repair kung-fu!

Bam – that ain’t coming undone!

I used a randomized lock-stitch technique. It’s great because the seam doesn’t know what’s hit it and just gives up and stays closed.

Finally some Shoe Goo…

The inside part of the repair rubs against my kite harness and wetsuit so I figured some Shoe Goo on top of the threads would protect it nicely. Perhaps not absolutely needed, but I love the smell of solvent in the morning… ;)

Seam Seal on the outside…

The outside stitching sees less abrasion, but I want to forget about this repair and never have to deal with it again. Shoe Goo is too ghetto for my uber cool kiteboarding image so I pulled out the Seam Seal. This is Shoe Goo’s thinner and more runny cousin. You can do a more refined repair with it as you can see.

Looking good and ready for the water!

The finished repair looks reasonably discrete and is very burly. I’d call that success! :)





Kurt goes tubeless…

6 07 2012

We don’t need no stinking tubes…

We converted Kurt’s Santa Cruz Nomad to tubeless recently. He seems to suffer considerably more flats than I do so he’ll hopefully benefit from the switch significantly. We used Stan’s yellow tape  and Stan’s valve stems with some environmentally friendly Blue Seal tubeless tire sealant we are testing out. Kurt’s Chunder Control tires are tubeless ready, but his Mavic rims are not made for a tubeless tire. Regardless setting them up was reasonably painless with the use of a CO2 cartridge to get the bead to seal [floor pump didn't work and I don't have a compressor]. So far they are holding air pretty well. I’ll be posting a tubeless update at the end of the summarizing all of our experiences running mountain bikes without tubes. Thus far I have no regrets!





Fighting Murphy’s Law…

5 07 2012

Mostly my bike works great!

I don’t suffer mechanicals very often on rides. For that I am eternally grateful to the Bike Gods. However, it seems that the vast majority of the times when I do have a problem I have left the necessary tools/spares at home. This would serve me right except for the fact I carry tools/spares almost all the time so the fact the problems happen only on the rare occasions when I don’t have the stuff I need to fix things seems perverse!

Frame mounted repair kit…

Case in point. I typically carry a pump and full set of tools + patch kit and spare tube on my Santa Cruz Nomad. Since I ride my Scandal 29er and Surly Pugsley as well I have a second set of tools, pump and patch kit/tube in my hydration pack. Scott usually carries a full set of tools, pump and patch kit/tube as well. So on a given ride it’s not unusual for us to have 3 complete sets of emergency repair equipment for 2 bikes.

Where are the tools?

Last week Scott had front tire problems that required a spare tube and a patch kit or a second spare tube. We were a bit horrified to realize that I had taken off my bike mounted Porcelain Rocket frame bag when I took the bike in to have the fork serviced and moved my second set of emergency repair items to another hydration pack. No problem we’ll just use Scott’s stuff! Yikes – Scott also managed to come on the ride without his tools/pump.

This repair kit is back on my Nomad…

We were only saved from a walk out by Tom’s pump and patch kit. Luckily we had a guest from Australia on the ride who brought some repair gear all the way to Victoria!

My 2nd backpack repair kit…

In reaction to the recent incident I’ve reattached the Porcelain Rocket frame bag to my Nomad and put together another tool kit so each hydration pack has one. In theory this means we can never be without tools/spares on a MTB ride again – right? Sadly Murphy always finds a way to make it happen! I do think we are probably good for the rest of the summer though. Until I go to service the bike in the fall and pull the frame bag and maybe I need to get a repair done on my hyrdation pack and forget to reload it with tools… ;)