South Tyrol…

21 06 2013




Gotthard by Bus…

20 06 2013




Visiting the Queen…

19 06 2013




Ride Positive…

18 06 2013




Haute Route…

16 06 2013




Zermatt Switzerland…

14 06 2013




Ryan Leech – Just riding…

11 06 2013




Chris Akrigg – Five….

9 06 2013




Bronson Play…

7 06 2013




Knolly Chilcotin in the PNW…

5 06 2013

If Knolly builds a 650 Chilcotin it will certainly be on my short list for new mountain bikes.





JS’ AZT 300 Report…

4 06 2013
John Schilling & the AZT...

John Schilling & the AZT…

John Schilling posted an excellent AZT 300 bikepacking race report on his blog with loads of photos. If you like multi-day mountain bike racing this report is worth a read.





The Lazy Bikepacking Packing Strategy…

3 06 2013
The Lazy Rig...

The Lazy Rig…

My bikepacking setup has proven to be versatile and capable for my Vancouver Island adventures. I’m using Porcelain Rocket softbags attached to the bike plus a backpack on my body. Some people prefer to ride without a backpack, but I find it adds a lot of flexibility to the mix and if you don’t overload it there isn’t much comfort penalty.

Frame Bag

I use the frame bag for as much of the heavy stuff as I can. This keeps the weight centred and low on the bike in the bag that is most securely attached to the frame.

  • bike tools
  • pump
  • spare tube
  • paper maps
  • TP + hand sanitizer + lighter
  • F/A kit
  • pot + stove + fuel + spork + windscreen + stove stand

Top Tube Bag

I use little TT bag for small items I want easy access to and items that would get lost in the bigger frame bag.

  • chap stick
  • eye drops
  • water purification drops
  • power bar
  • headlamp
  • mini-leatherman

Bar Roll

The main bar roll carries light and bulky items.

  • sleeping bag inside a 10L OR dry bag
  • spare clothes stuffed on either side [items I don't generally want to access while riding]

Front Pouch

The front pouch is a where I put snacks I want to eat while riding and other items I want to get at during the day that would get lost or damaged in the frame bag.

  • cell phone [or in pack]
  • spare GPS batteries
  • snacks [nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, etc...]
  • tent poles carried between front pouch and bar roll

Seat Bag

The seat bag is also for bulky light items and I tend to stuff a jacket in there that I might use on and off during the day since I find accessing this bag pretty easy at a stop.

  • sleeping pad
  • tent pegs
  • tent body & fly
  • jacket [soft shell, puffy jacket or rain jacket depending what's going on]
Getting ready to camp...

Getting ready to camp…

Backpack

I use my backpack for carrying food primarily. I also use it for holding extra water on a particularly hot day or stretch where resupply is not easy. I’ll either carry a 2L folded up water bag for that purpose if I know it’s going to happen a bunch or I’ll just buy a plastic water bottle of the needed size at a gas station, used it and then get rid of it if the extra water is just needed for a portion of the trip.

Generally my backpack is not full and I try to keep the weight down for comfort. This means I have extra capacity if something happens or I need to haul more than I planned on for a bit. Since I carry food in the pack and sometimes extra water I know that this bag will usually get lighter and lighter on a trip.

When I camp I transfer all my food items from the frame bags to the backpack for the night and then do whatever is needed with respect to animal food safety. A backpack is great for this purpose.

If I end up in a town or want to go for an off bike hike I can transfer items from the backpack to the bike and vice versa so I have a daypack to use.

I carry my camera either in the pack [DSLR] and/or a point-and-shoot on the waist belt in a pouch which is uber convenient and keeps the camera insulated from a lot of the vibration a camera on the bike would experience. I also keep my money, cell phone, credit cards and ID in my pack. That way I can jump off the bike and not leave anything too valuable on it. I will sometimes pop off my GPS and stash it in my pack on these occassions.

I size the pack for the trip based on how much food/water I’ll need. If I’m carrying the DSLR I’ll upsize for that as well.

  • food [besides snacks for day]
  • extra water in water bag or recyclable plastic bottle
  • ID, cash, credit cards
  • cell phone if not using it for something during ride
  • extra stove fuel if needed
  • tooth paste + brush
  • any other toiletries [usually none]

Two benefits of carry food/extra water in a backpack are:

  1. your bike bags aren’t always over stuffed which makes accessing them and pulling out what you need easy. This is also kind to the zippers and other attachment points.
  2. when you have to hike-a-bike carrying some of the weight on your back is nice when the terrain is loose/steep/challenging.

Water

Running out of water is no fun, but carrying too much water is a heavy tiring mistake as well. Ideally I a carry just what I need between resupply opportunities plus a bit extra as a safety margin. I always ride with a water bottle on the stem. That is very easy to access so I drink when needed as I ride. I’ve got a 1.5L bottle attached to the dowtube which I decant into the stem bottle as needed. I will carry a water bag in my backpack or a plastic water bottle depending on what the specifics of the tour are.

I always have water purification drops with me and refill bottles as they empty and I pass a water source – usually a fast flowing creek. Cycling through my bottles allows the purification process to happen while I ride and I always have water that’s ready to go.

If I really need a ton of water on a tour I can attach water bottle cages to each fork leg and throw a 2nd water bag into the pack. At the moment I can’t imagine needing more than 7.6L of water between resupply stops.

  • stem mounted bottle [0.7L]
  • DT mounted bottle [1.5L]
  • water bag in pack [2L]
  • 2nd water bag in pack [2L]
  • 2 water bottles on fork [1.4L]

Of course I always use the water in my backpack to replenish the stem mounted bottle so the weight on my back decreases as fast as possible.

I haven’t toured with a hydration bladder in my pack. On a really hot tour I would consider doing so and using the bladder instead of one of the water bags.

OMM rack on my Krampus...

OMM rack on my Krampus…

Rear Rack and Panniers

I’ve got a trip planned for this summer that requires I carry food and stove fuel for a long stretch for myself and a few other people. My backpack strategy is fine for a solo effort, but doesn’t work so well when the load gets heavy. So for those situations I attach a rear rack and panniers.

There are downsides to using a rear rack and panniers, but the benefit is you can haul a lot of stuff on the bike easily. Since this extra weight is mostly food and stove fuel it will get lighter as the trip progresses mitigating a lot of the negatives of running with a rack.

In the picture above I’m test fitting an Old Man Mountain Cold Springs rear rack to my Krampus. I didn’t bother attaching the front struts, but they will go on no problem using p-clips on the seatstays. I’ll be using Ortlieb panniers with the OMM rack.

I don’t expect to use a rear rack much for bikepacking trips, but it’s good to know it works and is available when needed.





Santa Cruz Solo…

2 06 2013

125mm travel FS VPP 650B goodness… ;)





Vernon,BC…

1 06 2013
Time for some mainland biking...

Time for some mainland biking…

I’ll be in Vernon, BC 7-12 June and I am bringing my Nomad. I’ll be hitting up some shop rides and sampling the trails on my own. If anyone reading is from the Vernon area and wants to show me the trails that would be great. :)





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…





Knolly – Sunshine Coast, BC…

23 05 2013




Solo Shred…

17 05 2013
Spring has sprung...

Spring has sprung…

Sharon has become a bit of a mountain bike fiend these days. Part of that is as her skills improve she is enjoying each ride more and more and part of it is that she’ll be off the bike for 3 months this summer after knee surgery so she is trying to get in as much riding as she can.

Either way it means a car is going to Hartland MTB Park frequently and I hate to waste gas so I jump in with her whenever my schedule allows. I don’t like to mess up the all-girl-MTB vibe she has with her friends so we go our separate ways and arrange a time to meet up back at the car.

Riding solo has its benefits. I ride at my own pace and can get into a nice flow – especially coming back down the mountain. I’m not worried about riding as fast as possible, but I do like to clean everything on the trail and find a consistent rhythm. The longer I can stay in the same “zone” the happier I am. :)





Surly Krampus Fork w/ Anything Cage Mounts…

16 05 2013
Krampus porn...

Krampus porn…

Surly is selling a Krampus fork with mounts for Salsa Anything Cages. It’s something you have to buy separately from a Krampus and it will only be available in black, but if you really must have cage mounts on your Krampus fork a solution exists. This fork isn’t shown on Surly’s website yet, but I confirmed with Surly that it does indeed exist. Surly forks typically cost ~$100.

Here is a pic of it.

Construction and fork stiffness will be the same as the stock Krampus fork.





Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 2…

13 05 2013
Middle of nowhere...

Middle of nowhere…

Day 3 – Wrong Turn

I made a serious mistake on the last day. I didn’t question the Google Maps bike route enough. I was so close to PA I could taste the ice cream and I wasn’t thinking straight. I ended up paying the price.

How bad was it?

  • 2500′ and 3.5hrs of pushing my bike up Mount Horne
  • 30 degree C heat
  • limited water
  • not realizing it was a dead end until right at the top where I was expecting an awesome downhill run to PA
  • road down other side didn’t exist :(
  • 30mins of controlled falling down the mountain on my bike the same way I pushed up

I was totally crushed when I figured out the mistake in my route. I sat down and would have cried if I didn’t feel the need to conserve water! In my defence when I looked at the Google Maps satellite images it put a white line and road name for the imaginary roads. The white line looked just like a break in the trees which is what a logging road looks like. The only way you can tell the real roads from the fake roads is to zoom in uber close at which point the fake roads disappear and are replaced by trees. The real roads of course stay on the screen no matter how much you zoom in. Lesson learned.

The only upside was the cell tower at the top of the mountain meant I had 4bars on my phone so I could download satellite images and scope out a new route – very carefully!

After figuring out where to go next I had to head down the way I came. It was so steep I could barely ride safely and had to stop a few times to let my brakes cool.

Steep road...

Steep road…

and up...

and up…

thank God some water...

thank God some water…

my Sopranos look...

my Sopranos look…

Forgetting the climb for a second...

Forgetting the climb for a second…

at least the views are sweet...

at least the views are sweet…

and up we go...

and up we go…

My only reward...

My only reward an awesome cell signal… ;)

Back where I started...

Back where I started…

Day 3 – Heading to PA Finally!

4hrs of hard work and I was back where I started from. Bummer. :(

The safest option would have been to head back to the highway and ride to PA on pavement. Did I take it?

Hell no! ;)

I decided to stay dirty and recon a route around the bottom of Horne Lake on logging roads. This had some risks and since it was now the afternoon one more setback would mean another night of camping as I could run out of daylight. After tasting a bit of main road touring I felt the opportunity to ride alone on logging roads was the better way to spend my time.

Although I felt some trepidation passing another “Keep Out!” gate the road past the gate was pretty nice. Enough shade to help beat the heat and after hours of pushing uphill it was nice just to be riding my bike again. The road deteriorated rapidly and I feared it might dead end, but it kept going and I was rewarded with a connection to a well maintained logging road at the south end of Horne Lake.

I got a little cocky at this point and spotted a shortcut on the map if I was willing to hike-a-bike across a clear cut. It would save me a long logging road detour. So I went for it. As I rode up to the clearcut I realized it was really rough and uphill the whole way. Yikes! I just kept going. Looking back at the effort required to manhandle the Krampus up the clearcut I’m not sure it was easier than riding the long way around, but it was a unique challenge. After many hours of touring on this trip doing something new was refreshing even though it was really hard.

At the far end of the clearcut I thought all my challenges were over, but Google Maps screwed me one more time with a fake road. I thought I had a straight shot to PA. But when I showed up at the intersection it didn’t exist. A zoom way in on the satellite image revealed it was another faker. **sigh**

This time however there was a reasonable alternate route I could take so instead of an 8km ride to PA. I had to ride 14-16kms. Not the end of the world. I had been through enough that even though I was pretty burnt out I knew I would get to PA that night before sunset and be drinking a cold beer.

So I cranked down the last part of the logging road I was on and hit the Alberni Highway. I enjoyed a really long downhill that brought me to the PA city limits with barely any pedalling. I stopped for a sub, bag of chips and a cold Sprite. I was thrilled to be almost done the ride. Not knowing PA very well I didn’t realize I had some super steep hills to climb back to my friends’ house, but nothing could stop me now!

I rolled into their place at 8pm. I guess I didn’t make it for lunch! A shower, 3 beers and a hottub later I felt like a champion. ;)

Another gate...

Another gate…

Looking good...

Looking good…

What happened to the last guy that tried this route... ;)

What happened to the last guy that tried this route… ;)

Getting rustic...

Getting rustic…

and rough...

and rough…

and I'm golden...

and I’m golden…

Stunning views...

Stunning views…

more gates to ignore...

more gates to ignore…

One last challenge...

One last challenge…

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut...

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut…

IMG_5752

Halfway up…

Last section of gravel...

Last section of gravel…

The Alberni Highway...

The Alberni Highway…

Viktory!

Viktory!

The Mighty Krampus!

All Hail The Mighty Krampus!

The loop map - click for more details...

The loop map – click for more details…

Wrap Up

All in all it was a great trip despite the heat and the navigation challenges. I learned a lot about this part of Vancouver Island and about route planning with the tools at my disposal. The Krampus with Porcelain Rocket bags is a capable bikepacking rig.

I cleaned up the GPS tracks on Ride With GPS to remove any detours, backtracks or wrong turns so the routes are more useful to people that download them. Riding 200kms in 3 days doesn’t seem like much, but it was quite hard for me with a lot of pushing.

The great news is I know have ~400kms of dirt touring route mapped out from Cumberland to Victoria BC and I’ve covered a bit less than half of Vancouver Island so there is lots more to come! :)

Ride GPS data...

Ride GPS data…





Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 1…

13 05 2013
Bridge on the Log Train Trail...

Bridge on the Log Train Trail…

With a dirt bikepacking route sorted out from Lake Cowichan to Victoria I was eager to push northwards. I know the logging roads from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni as I have driven them on my kiteboarding adventures. So I skipped that section and looked at how to ride from PA to Cumberland on dirt.

Route map - click for more detail...

Route map – click for more detail…

I have friends in Port Alberni so I decided to drive 2hrs north to their place and start the ride from there. I figured I’d just do it as an out and back or come up with some loop options once I had a feel for the terrain.

You can have a look a the trip photos here. I should warn you as a solo trip there are lots of scenery shots and not much in the way of biking action – sorry!

Me and the Krampus at the start...

Me and the Krampus at the start…

Day 1 – Port Alberni – end of the Log Train Trail

I got to PA around 1pm on the first day of the trip. Talking about my route with my friend Rob he suggested I should ride the Log Train Trail out of PA rather than the route I had planned. It sounded like a nice ride, but I would have to abandon my well researched GPS route and navigate on the fly. It sounded like a good idea given that I had some spare time in my schedule in case things took longer than expected. Before I could even leave Rob’s place my front tires went flat while we were chatting. Turns out a pinch flat I patched on the last Krampus tour had failed. Possibly as a result of running normal 29er tubes in the big 3″ Knard tire. I ripped off the old patch and applied a new one. which held the rest of the trip.

Rob took the photo of me and my bike at the start of the Log Train Trail above. The LTT was a fun dirt rail bed ride with quite a few rough spots and twists/turns. I got lost several times and spent a lot of energy backtracking and asking locals for directions. I had to ford a fast flowing creek where the trail had washed out and rode the Krampus through a mud puddle that ended up being deeper than the hubs/BB. :( I guess it’s time for an oil change in the Alfine 11!

The shoes and socks I was wearing were not designed to dry fast so I had wet feet all day which did not make me happy! I need to figure out some quick dry bikepacking footwear or carry a second set of lightweight footwear [ie. Vibram FIve Fingers for camp use and river crossings]. Since the day was extremely hot ~30 deg C at least getting wet was pleasant for its cooling effect. The LTT also had a lot of tree cover and I appreciated the shade very much.

I spent a lot of time covering the LTT. Much more than if I would have followed my planned route, but the riding was amazing and I was happy to have heard about the LTT from Rob. A quiet rough dirt track with a modest grade and some shade is bikepacking paradise!

Log Train Trail Map - click for larger...

Log Train Trail Map – click for larger…

flat Knard!

flat Knard!

Lovely countryside...

Lovely countryside…

Nice shade...

Nice shade…

Good landmark for navigation...

Good landmark for navigation…

Time for wet feet...

Time for wet feet…

Where did the trail go?

Where did the trail go?

Quiet riding...

Quiet riding…

Day 1 – From LTT to Camp near Pear Lake

Leaving the LTT behind I hit logging roads heading north towards Comox Lake. This was part of my planned GPS route so navigation was easy and the riding was fun despite the heat and general uphill trend to the terrain. I stopped at every creek to throw water over my head and refill my bottles as needed. The logging roads did not provide any shade due to the lack of big trees in most places. That meant a lot of baking for me. Although my late start also meant that by the time I hit this section it was the late afternoon and the temperature was heading slowly in the cooler direction.

I’m not a fast rider and I stop frequently to take photos, eat and generally check stuff out. That works well in the heat because I am not pushing myself too hard and I can sustain a constant moderate exertion all day.

As I was riding along I spotted a tiny clearing next to a beautiful little lake. I rode in to investigate and found a lovely campsite with a stool made from a chunk of log and some firewood ready to light next to a fire ring. I had another 90mins of daylight and wanted to push on, but I also wasn’t confident I’d find an equally nice campsite further on and I was tempted by the almost ready to go fire so I could dry my wet shoes/socks. OTOH – if I kept going I’d be a lot closer to breakfast in Cumberland the following day!

After 15mins of deliberating I sat down and lit a fire. An hour later I had dry feet, dry socks and dry shoes! Yeah! :) I had sandwiches and perishable snacks with me so rather than let them go bad I just ate everything I had that wouldn’t last in the heat. That let me skip my usual dehydrated camp meal. The campsite was really peaceful and I enjoyed a good long chill out session by the fire until it got dark.

Last tour I camped up high with my lightweight summer sleeping bag and suffered a lot. This trip I brought the same bag, but temperatures were high and my camp was much lower. What I didn’t realize was that there were about 1000 frogs in the lake I was camped next to and it was date night!!!!! I’ve never heard frogs that loud before – amazing. Happily I am a solid sleeper so I only woke up a few times, but every time I did it was a shock to hear them. Funny thing was when I woke up the last time and the sun was coming up the lake was silent again and I never did see a single frog!

I should mention the bear situation since Vancouver Island is home to a healthy population of black bears. I ran into a couple bears that were on the road during the first day of riding. I don’t carry any bear spray or bear bangers on the island. Black bears aren’t aggressive and they are well fed here. So I just holler at them with a Mr. T impression such as “I pity the fool bear that tries to mess with the Mighty Krampus!” It works every time and the bear scampers away into the woods never to be seen again. I keep my food away from my tent at night, but close enough I can hear an animal trying to steal it so I can get up and shoo them away. I’m actually more concerned with rodents as they’ll quietly chew through any bag to get at a snack and they are harder to notice than a 250lbs bear!

We also have cougars on the island. I don’t carry any anti-cougar safety gear either. A cougar you see isn’t interested in you and will run away every time. The first indication that a cougar wants to eat you is when its jaws are closing around your neck. You aren’t going to get bear spray out and do anything useful in that case. Since a cougar attack is rarer than a lightning strike I don’t worry about it.

Logging road...

Logging road…

Positive message...

Positive message…

Cool water!

Cool water!

Dusty and no shade...

Dusty and no shade…

Cell service 50kms from nearest people...

Cell service 50kms from the nearest town…

Nice campsite...

Nice campsite…

Dry feet... :)

Dry feet… :)

Chilling...

Chilling…

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

Breakfast...

Breakfast…

Day 2 – Camp to Cumberland

The next morning was nice and cool so I wanted to make tracks for Cumberland before it got too hot. The road went downhill a long way to the lake which actually got too chilly so I stopped to drink some hot green tea I made at breakfast and was carrying in my framebag. That really hit the spot and I was soon greeted with lots of climbing as the road around the lake was very lumpy!

I should have looked at the elevation profile more carefully, but I was expecting a leisurely cruise around the lake to Cumberland. Instead I got lots of steep ups and downs. The kind you couldn’t use your momentum from the previous downhill to get up. So there was lots of sweating and some pushing involved. Since my pace was slow it got plenty hot well before I reached Cumberland. There wasn’t much I could do other than to keep going and think about the cold drinks I could buy when I reached town.

On the plus side the scenery was really nice and I had the road to myself like I usually do when riding BC logging roads.

I did finally reach Cumberland and without thinking I pulled into the first gas station for an ice cold Sprite and a bag of salty chips! I sat outside and devoured them as fast as I could before heading into the center of town.

Early morning downhill...

Early morning downhill…

Comox Lake...

Comox Lake…

A message...

A message…

Getting warm...

Getting warm…

Nearly done!

Nearly done!

Mar's on Main = breakfast! :)

Mar’s on Main = breakfast! :)

Day 2 – Cumberland

Getting to Cumberland was great not just for the food and beverages, but it meant I now had ~400kms of dirt bikepacking route mapped out all the way down to Victoria. Almost half the island. Nice! :)

First thing I did was find the LBS which is Dodge City Cycles. I knew it was my kind of shop when I saw a Krampus in the window and a well used Moonlander leaning against the counter. Not to mention loads of sweet mountain bikes. Dan and Chris were very kind to me letting me leave my bike in the shop while I walked down to Mar’s on Main for a delicious breakfast.

After eating I bought a trail map from DCC and they let me drop my camping gear in a corner of the shop so I could do some unencumbered mountain biking. Thanks guys! I spent a couple hours exploring the trails closest to town and barely even scratched the surface of the riding potential in Cumberland. Their trail network blows my mind and they keep building more and more each week.

Eventually the heat and the knowledge I had more miles to cover today convinced me to head back to the shop. I chatted with the DCC guys a bunch and then I went over to the Waiverly Pub for some cold beer and shade while I figured out the route back to PA.

I could have gone back the way I had come, but I was really burnt out from the heat and the idea of repeating the hilly, hot and dusty road along Comox Lake did not appeal to me. Looking at Google Maps I decided heading to the coast for a spin down the old island highway made sense. It was flat-ish and would be 10 degrees cooler by the water. I waited until late afternoon to let the temperature subside a bit before heading out. In the meantime I caught up on stuff via my smartphone and watched some hockey recaps on TV.

Dodge City Cycles...

Dodge City Cycles…

My Krampus taking a break at DCC...

My Krampus taking a break at DCC…

Cumberland tech...

Cumberland tech…

A fresh Krampus at DCC...

A fresh Krampus at DCC…

Fat skinny...

Fat skinny…

Cumberland Trail Map...

Cumberland Trail Map…

Heading out of town over the new highway...

Heading out of town over the new highway…

Day 2 – Cumberland to Roswell Creek Provincial Park

Riding to the coast I passed over the new Island Highway which is a 4 lane highspeed beast that sees most of the traffic up and down the island. That leaves the old 2 lane Island Highway on the coast much quiter for a bike tourist to enjoy! As expected the coast was much cooler than inland plus the fact it was late afternoon meant long shadows to ride in away from the burning sun. I was happy! :)

This section of the ride reminded me of my road touring days – for the good and the bad. The riding was easy with the Knards rolling well on pavement and there were lots of services along the way to fill any desire for food or drink. With people around to interact with the ride was a lot more social. OTOH – even this relatively quiet road had 1000 times more traffic than the deserted logging roads I used to get to Cumberland. The shoulder was wide enough that my safety wasn’t in question – just the difference between peaceful solitude and the hustle/bustle of civilization.

Given how sun blasted I felt I was happy to trade some remoteness for cool air, shade and the odd Sprite! ;)

I turned off the road near Roswell Creek Provincial Park [which doesn't allow camping] and found a secluded campsite nearby on some undeveloped land. It was a long hard hot day on the bike and I had eaten a sub an hour back. So I just set up camp. Drank a lot of water to fight off dehydration and went right to bed. There was no frog symphony that night to keep me up!

The old Island Higway...

The old Island Higway…

Enjoying a rest stop break...

Enjoying a rest stop…

Seals...

Seals…

Shellfish shells...

Shellfish shells…

Time to camp...

Time to camp…

Day 3 – Camp to Wrong Turn

Waking up in camp near civilization didn’t make me hungry for instant oatmeal so I packed up super fast and hit the road. I almost rode past the last cafe I would see all day, but something told me I better stop so I circled back and went to town on a delicious brealkfast. Little did I know this meal would be all that kept me sane during mistakes that would occur later in the day.

After eating I rolled inland and got back on gravel roads. I made it to Spider Lake no problem and figured I was a short 28kms from PA. I’d be there for lunch baby!

No I wouldn’t! :(

Then I hit a bunch of private roads around Horne Lake that were on my route. I just kept going and ignored the keep out signs. When I asked Google Maps for a good bike route to PA it suggested I ride over a 3000′ mountain on a gravel road. I thought it was a bold choice, but the route was short and seemed worth the climbing. I started to worry when I saw how rough and how steep the “road” was. I could barely get traction to push my bike uphill.

I should have known something was wrong…

To be continued!

Sandbar Cafe...

Sandbar Cafe…

Breakfast...

Breakfast…

Coastal beauty...

Coastal beauty…

Heading inland...

Heading inland…

Fight the giant robot for my bike!.. ;)

Fighting a giant robot for my bike!.. ;)

Spider Lake...

Spider Lake…

Private - keep out! - not...

Private – keep out! – not…

Really keep out!

Really keep out!





Surly Krampus Complete Problems?

11 05 2013
Photo: Gear Junkie.com

Photo: Gear Junkie.com

If you have bought or are going to buy a Surly Krampus complete bike in the next while you should read this blog post over at the Surly website regarding some minor issues that have cropped up. Nothing life and death, but worth being aware of.





Gravel Pimp: The Missing Link…

10 05 2013
On a recon mission...

On a recon mission…

At the end of March I rode the dirt connector route I’ve been working on for a while between Lake Cowichan and Victoria. I’ve since ridden another leg of the Vancouver Island bikepacking route that I am working on. But I’ve told myself that I have to do at least a minimal trip report for the first trip before I do anything about the second trip report.

Route map - click for more details...

Route map – click for more details…

You can see all the trip photos here and if you want to get the backstory on how I  found this route click here.

I like it! :)

I like it! :)

It all started with a killer spring forecast for a great weekend on Vancouver Island in March. I couldn’t resist getting out on my bike.

Sharon rocking the purple Pugsley...

Sharon rocking the purple Pugsley…

Lake Cowichan to Kinesol Trestle via the Trans-Canada Trail [TCT]

Sharon kindly drove me to the start of the ride in Lake Cowichan. That saved me the hassle of doing a car shuttle so it was much appreciated. She decided to ride the first 15kms of the TCT with me. We enjoyed the sunshine and easy riding on the TCT which is an old railway line. We stopped for lunch on a wooden bridge after about 15kms and Sharon turned back towards the car while I headed for the Kinesol Trestle.

She picked a good time to turn around because I ran into several sections of blowdown after I left her. One was particularly big and I got a chance to carry the Krampus and do some gymnastics. 15′ above the ground! Besides the fallen trees the riding continued to be fun and easy.

I spent half an hour checking out the Kinesol Trestle a huge wooden rail bridge that was recently rebuilt for hikers and bikers to enjoy. I wanted to make sure I ate and drank regularly to avoid low energy blahs as much as possible.

The Kinesol Trestle marked the end of an easy 35kms of riding on the TCT. Next up I turned onto the logging roads near Koksilah RiverProvincial Park.

Team Lazy...

Team Lazy…

Roadblock...

Roadblock…

Typical TCT goodness...

Typical TCT goodness…

Kinesol Trestle...

Kinesol Trestle…

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it...

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it…

Koksilah Park to Camp Day 1 below Mt. Lazar

The riding took a definite turn for the remote and the climby. In fact the majority of this leg is the climb up the slopes of Mt. Lazar on logging roads. The sunny weather was nice much of the time, but when I was cranking uphill at 5kph I started to bake. Happily there were many creeks to refill water bottles from and pour cold water over my head.

Eventually I got up top onto the rolling terrain of the mountains. It was beautiful riding with no signs of human life other than the road I was on and the occasional clear cut. I started seeing snow and had to ride through sections of the white stuff, but they weren’t sustained. This section of the ride had been reconed with my motorcycle and I recalled it being easy and fairly short. I remembered badly! It took a long time to ride and involved a lot of climbing. At least it was cool as the sun started to set.

I expected to camp down low on the far side of the mountain, but the setting sun meant I had to call it a day right on top after 40kms. Which was fine except I was carrying my light summer sleeping bag. I cooked up a camp meal and a cup of hot tea before bed. I drank my fill of water so I wouldn’t start the next day dehydrated. I enjoyed a brief campfire for some relaxation time and vainly hoped I could store some heat for later in the evening.

I woke up way early freezing my ass off. I had put on my thermal undies, long socks, toque, neck warmer and puffy jacket before going to bed. They helped, but didn’t solve the problem totally. On the upside I got an early start on the day’s riding! ;)

I knew I'd have the roads to myself after this...

I knew I’d have the roads to myself after this…

Long hot climb...

Long hot climb…

I look stupid, but I'm nice and cool for at least the next 5mins... ;)

I look stupid, but I’m nice and cool for at least the next 5mins… ;)

Clear cut...

Clear cut…

Early season mountain riding...

Early season mountain riding…

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

Yikes - cold night...

Yikes – cold night…

Riding with all my clothes on in the chilly AM... ;)

Riding with all my clothes on in the chilly AM… ;)

Day 2 – Riding to Boneyard Main

Riding down the mountain towards Boneyard Main was freezing and I kept my puffy jacket on most of the time. The Krampus loves to bomb downhill fast and the big wheels gave me tons of confidence that I could handle whatever came my way at speed – deep gravel, rocks or potholes?….no problemo!

This was the section of the route I had not actually scouted so I was not 100% that it went through. I had two route options 1) the high probability ride down the mountain to the start of the Boneyard Main logging road and 2) a shortcut along the hard to find Leech Main logging road. As I suspected  the later option didn’t exist on the ground even though it was on all the maps!

I didn’t mind going the long way since I was stoked the route was going to work after so many recon missions.

When I finally reach the start of the Boneyard Main logging road after a nice 25kms of downhill riding I took a long break in the sunshine and hit my food bag hard!

Stopping to warm up...

Stopping to warm up…

This is logging country...

This is logging country…

Prime Gravel Pimp terrain...

Prime Gravel Pimp terrain…

Lazy Krampus action...

Lazy Krampus action…

Boneyard Main...

Boneyard Main…

Boneyard Main to Leechtown

Although I had a lot of riding left to do I was really happy at this point because I had scouted the rest of the route on various previous occasions so I knew it was going to work. I just had to turn the pedals. The ride up Boneyard Main was a bit of a slog as it climbed the whole way. The road followed the Sooke River which I was tempted to ford several times to cut off some distance, but I not only had to get my bike across the river I also had to climb up the far bank to the Galloping Goose MUP. I decided it was best to just ride to Leechtown and cross where the river was uber tame.

I got my first Krampus flat on this section hitting a large rock at speed and getting a pinch flat. The huge Knard tires provide nice traction and floatation, but this is still a rigid bike so you can only slam into rocks so fast before you get pinched. I patched up the tube and ate a snack.

It was getting really hot again so good time find a reasonable ford for the Sooke River. Getting across was no big deal. I just carried the Krampus on my shoulder. I did get wet shoes/socks which I hate, but going barefoot and falling or cutting my feet didn’t seem like a better option.

Once across I was on the Galloping Goose MUP which is familiar territory. I rode down to the Sooke Potholes and hung out at the red shelter we’ve camped in a few times on previous rides after ~122kms of riding. I ate a big snack before pushing off for the roll towards Victoria.

More big logging toys...

More big logging toys…

Dang a flat! :(

Dang a flat! :(

Scouting the Sooke River...

Scouting the Sooke River…

Leechtown baby! :)

Leechtown baby! :)

Wet feet...

Wet feet…

Hunting for the Galloping Goose...

Hunting for the Galloping Goose…

The famous red shelter at the Sooke Potholes Park...

The famous red shelter at the Sooke Potholes Park…

Sooke Potholes to Victoria

I’ve ridden this section so many times I kind of dread it even though it’s quite pleasant. Rather than repeat a description of this part of the ride here is a previous report you can read.

Got her done - yeah! ;)

Got her done – yeah! ;)

I’m so happy to get a dirt touring route up island sorted out. This section from Lake Cowichan to Victoria is ~175kms long with less than 1km of paved roads. Best of all I wrapped up the trip on my birthday. Nice!

Next up the section from Cumberland to Port Alberni and on to Lake Cowichan. That will bring the route up to ~400kms of dirt bikepacking goodness. Here are some photos from the PA to Lake Cowican section that I just completed.

Keep ‘em rolling! ;)





Krampi have landed!

7 05 2013
Surly Krampus complete...

Surly Krampus complete…

I just noticed that The Fairfield Bicycle Shop has 3 Surly Krampus complete bikes in stock [small, medium & large] if you are Knard curious and on the island. The complete bikes seem very nice. If I was doing it over I’d be tempted to buy a complete rather than build a bike up from a frame to take advantage of the OEM cost parts.

I got my Krampus frame/fork and tires from Fairfield. They got my order sorted out quickly and the price was competitive with the US mail-order options.

The Krampus is proving to be a very fun bike to ride and Surly has managed to tweak the front end geometry so those big tires don’t suck the life out of the steering. In fact you very quickly forget you are riding an unusual MTB and just enjoy the great traction and comfy ride.

These bad boys are worth a test ride if you are in the market for a rigid 29er. :)





Partridge Hills Hot Box…

6 05 2013
At the top of a hot sweaty climb...

At the top of a hot sweaty climb…

Sharon in the groove...

Sharon in the groove…

and on the move!

and on the move!

Did I mention it was Africa hot?

Did I mention it was Africa hot?

Hunting for a breeze...

Hunting for a breeze…

Enjoying the zero crowds...

Enjoying the zero crowds…

Where did we leave the car?

Where did we leave the car?





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.





Santa Cruz Bronson – Don’t Feed the Trolls!

1 05 2013

If you want to experience some anti-650B Trollism – just head over to the MTBR.com Santa Cruz forum and settle into a Bronson thread with a beer. ;)





Rocky Mountain Bike Music…

1 05 2013

I owned a Rocky Mountain Instinct many years ago. Back when they were all 26ers and nobody would have conceived of rolling through the forest on road size rims.





Sedona – The Last Ride…

29 04 2013
The Three Amigos ride one last time...

The Three Amigos ride one last time…

For our last ride in Sedona we picked a short loop close to the hotel so we could hit the trails early and get back in time to shower before we had to check out.

Sharon enjoying a cool AM ride...

Sharon enjoying a cool AM ride…

We rode Krusty, Grand Central, Jordan up to the sinkhole and then Adobe Jack Trail back down to the car. This area used to be called the Secret Trails when I first came to Sedona to ride in 1997, but now the trails are well maintained and signed – not so secret any longer!

Do we have to go home?

Do we have to go home?

It was a bit sad to know we were so close to the end of our trip. I managed 15 rides in 11 days without missing a day on the bike. Sharon got in 12 rides in 10 days with just one rest day. I’m happy to report zero crashes and no serious mechanicals. Just lots and lots of smiles – thanks Sedona! :)

Sharon with her red rock grin!

Sharon with her red rock grin!

After the ride we dropped off Sean and Deanna’s Ibis Mojo HD rental bikes back at The Fat Tire then checked out and enjoyed on last meal in Sedona at Sally’s BBQ before starting the long drive back to Vancouver Island via LA.

Time to drive...

Time to drive…

Everyone one had a great time in Sedona so I am hoping it won’t be hard to convince them to come back next year for a repeat performance. ;)





Sedona – Broken Arrow Trail…

26 04 2013
Dirt girlz...

Dirt girlz…

Sean...

Sean…

Deanna...

Deanna…

Sharon...

Sharon…

Sean charging Chicken Point...

Sean charging Chicken Point…

Sharon on the rocky drop...

Sharon on the rocky drop…

S&D...

S&D…

Desert singletrack...

Desert singletrack…

Sharon on her own...

Sharon on her own…

Going for it...

Going for it…

Did it...

Did it…

Deanna wants some too...

Deanna wants some too…

Heading for the last turns...

Heading for the last turns…

Next stop the Bike and Bean for coffee....

Next stop the Bike and Bean for coffee….

Back at the hotel...

Back at the hotel…