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.





Sharon’s First Bike Tour…

22 05 2013
Sharon on the move...

Sharon on the move…

After a lot of tries to get out on a bike tour the stars aligned so Sharon and I hit the road this past weekend for some bike camping. We fitted Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bags to her Surly Pugsley and head up the Galloping Goose MUP towards the Sooke Potholes Campground. This a 50km dirt ride which is challenging enough on a loaded fatbike to be interesting without being so hard it might deter a novice bike tourist from going on a second tour. The scenery is nice and it’s 99% car free.

Sharon carried her own sleeping bag, pad, food, water and clothing. I carried all the group gear [tent, stove, cups, tools, spares, F/a kit etc..]. I ended up using rear panniers on my Pugsley to carry the extra group gear. It worked just fine, but the whole time I wished I had Porcelain Rocket softbags on my bike. Riding rough terrain with panniers is not a lot of fun.

We stopped on the ride out for a bite to eat at the 17 Mile House Pub which is perfectly situated about an hour from the campground. I wanted to reinforce all the good things about bike touring so stopping to eat, drink and relax seemed important!

I was a bit worried that the campground would be full of party animals as it was a holiday weekend in Canada. Happily we found a whole section of the campground unoccupied and the rest of the campers were chill. Some hot tea, a campfire and a chill session rounded out the evening.

My 2 person bike touring tent is cozy, but once Sharon got the hang out climbing in a out she had a good nights sleep.

The next morning we fired up the stove for tea and oatmeal before checking out the potholes down by the Sooke River.

The ride back was pleasant if repetitive. – sadly there isn’t a good loop route from the potholes back to Victoria that doesn’t involve significantly longer distances and a lot of climbing. We stopped for some Thai curry on the way back – again to emphasize that every good bike tour is an excuse to eat well!

By the end of the ride Sharon had enough energy to beat me to the top of a few climbs while smiling. That was a great sign that we had picked an appropriate route for her first tour. I’ll post something about using a Pugsley as a touring bike separately, but let me say that if you own a Pugs and you want to tour don’t think you need to buy another bike or even another set of wheels.

All in all the tour was a success. I’m sure Sharon will want to head out again once she’s recovered from knee surgery over the summer. The trick will be to pick routes that offer the most smiles for the least gnarliness.

Trip photos are here.

Click for detailed map...

Click for detailed map…

Enjoying the sunshine...

Enjoying the sunshine…

Corn dogs?

Corn dogs?

My Pugsley...

My Pugsley…

Where is the pub?

Where is the pub?

Lazy pulling up the rear...

Lazy pulling up the rear…

Beer!

Beer!

Great reason to bike tour - no traffic jams...

Great reason to bike tour – no traffic jams…

Strait of Juan de Fuca...

Strait of Juan de Fuca…

Rest stop...

Rest stop…

Barnes Station Shelter...

Barnes Station Shelter…

We made it!

We made it!

Our camp....

Our camp….

Getting a fire going...

Getting a fire going…

Where are you sleeping?

Where are you sleeping?

Let's ride!

Let’s ride!

Where did the trail go?

Where did the trail go?

The mighty Sooke River...

The mighty Sooke River…

I think I can ride this!

I think I can ride this!

Bridge to somewhere...

Bridge to somewhere…

Back at the water...

Back at the water…

Let's get 'er done!

Let’s get ‘er done!

Still smiling...

Still smiling…

Watch out for falling rocks!

Watch out for falling rocks!

Almost home...

Almost home…





Sharon’s Porcelain Rocket Surly Pugsley…

20 05 2013
Sharon's Pugs in adventure mode...

Sharon’s Pugs in adventure mode…

Getting Sharon out on her first ever bike tour is one of our goals before her knee surgery at the end of the month. I got her a new seat and bar bag from Porcelain Rocket so she’s ready to roll. The white frame bag is the same one I use on my Krampus. It actually fits her Pugs better than the Krampus so Sharon will use it when we tour together.

PR seatbag...

PR seatbag…

The seat bag fits her bike great. It’s nice and tight. Plus it just clears that uber fat rear tire! Sharon will put her sleeping pad and extra clothes back here.

New design PR bar bag...

New design PR bar bag…

The PR bar bag has a new attachment system that seems to work well. The bag fits with the Titec H-bars great. Sharon will put her sleeping bag in the bar bag.

Looking good...

Looking good…

The white fabric on the frame bag is crazy expensive so I couldn’t afford to go all matchy-matchy!

Frane bag fits great...

Frane bag fits great…

This frame bag was designed to fit my On One Scandal. It slides right into the 16″ Pugsley’s frame.

Another seat bag view...

Another seat bag view…

Besides getting Sharon out on tour part of my motivation to get a second set of PR bags is so I would have some to share if I can rope somebody into coming on tour with me.

Rider's eye view of bar bag...

Rider’s eye view of bar bag…





Scott’s new Rick Hunter Fatty…

21 02 2013
This rig is headed to NAHBS...

This rig is headed to NAHBS…

Scott from Porcelain Rocket has made peace with moving to a city with winter by scoring a slick Rick Hunter custom fat bike. ;) It’s got fat bike wheels [Rolling Darryls and Big Fat Larry tires] with an extended mini-cargo bike wheelbase for stability and hauling power. Naturally it sports a sweet set of Scott’s custom bike bags. :)

This bike is headed to NAHBS so you’ll no doubt see many amazing photographs of it in the coming days.

The bike without bags...

The bike without bags…

Update: there are some nice photos of the bare frame/fork at Rick Hunter’s Flickr.





Bikepacking Packing…

27 07 2012

Scott from Porcelain Rocket has posted a nice video on his blog about how and what he packs his bikepacking bags. If you follow the link you can read his packing list as well.





A-Man’s 29er Hammock Ramble…

10 07 2012

A-Man on the move…

Aaron writes:

With all the adventures Vik & Scott have had bike packing I felt that it was high time that I figured out what all the fuss was about. Originally we had planned to get out together but various and conflicting schedules torpedoed our designs for a tour.  Now I was left with a loaded bike but no companions and no place to ride to. Still being keen to camp, and loaded with awesome equipment, I struck out for a nearby summit.

Taking a break along the way…

To provide some companionship, my colleague from work, Grant volunteered to ride to the summit with me and also shoot some photos. Grant has significant photography experience and produced some excellent photos from my humble Nikon. The two of us also happened to be riding on decked-out Moots titanium 29” wheeled machines from two different schools of thought. My bike, loaned to me by Tim Unger (my generous employer) was a MootoXYBB with front and rear (pivotless) suspension. Grant was riding his fully rigid MootoX. The difference in bikes could not have been more pronounced but we still cranked along the trails together and enjoyed the beautiful woods of the West Coast.

Loving those 29er wagon wheels in the forest…

The area that I chose to go camping is accessed by a multi-usage trail system that is open to both hikers and bikers. Typical of Vancouver Island, I saw neither all day. While you are allowed to ride and hike these trails (lets call it “Hill-X”), camping is a no-no. Guerrilla stealth camping was my other trip objective so I wasn’t concerned by this technicality, who was going to see me anyway? Compared to the fire roads & jeep tracks that Vik and Scott have ridden before, my route was way, way gnarlier. Steep single-track climbs, tight corners through the trees, and rock gardens made for a hardcore effort. If I can make it through this fully loaded I should be able to survive anything else. So was my thinking anyways.

Moots loaded for a bikepack…

Because I am new to bike packing (BP), I scrolled over and reviewed some articles on Vik’s blog to gain an idea of how to pack my steed. Besides experience, the other deficit I was working against was a lack of equipment. I possess no bike bags at all but was adamant that I not use a backpack. It is my belief that the bike is the beast and therefore it carries the burden. To my rescue flew my friends, I brought my bike to Scott (founder of Porcelain Rocket), he looked over my bike, thanks again Tim, and dug out an older model seatbag, as-well-as a barbag and small frame bag. The frame bag fit very well for not being designed for the Moots at all. During the ride I was still able to access my bottles and food was always within reach.

Seatbag…

Taking some cues from Vik I loaded the Moots as follows:

Seat Bag           

  • First-Aid kit
  • Fire kit, toiletries
  • clothes (thermo layer, spare socks,toque, & gloves)
  • Dinner food stuffs, & two beers
  • Lashed on top is a canteen & on the bottom is my rain jacket.

Frame bag…

Frame Bag            

  • Pump + tools & spare tube
  • Big bag of assorted candies & Clif bars

Bar bag…

Bar Bag           

  • Main compartment = sleeping bag & Hennessey hammock.

Auxiliary front bag (white) contained:

  • more energy bars & shot-blocks
  • camera & tiny tripod
  • phone
  • compass
  • headlamp
  • leatherman
  • Lashed between the two bags was a ¾ length sleeping pad
  • Secured on the outside was my camp axe & big knife

 

Cockpit view of bar bag…

For visibility I mounted battery lights on the bars and on the rear so that if it got dark on me I wouldn’t be in a bind. After a mild pavement ride out of town Grant and I reached the trailhead and the real riding commenced. Weighted against the roughness of the trail I was pleasantly surprised on how the bike handled. With no prior experience the positives of a 29” wheel were obvious. Riding out was done at a fast clip and many sections of trails were devoured by my big wheels.

Old and new wagon wheels…

After trying various techniques and watching my riding partner, Grant, I settled on the “Monster Truck” method. Every time a rough patch of roots or rocks came along I headed for the smoothest possible line and let the wheels flow over the terrain. Just attack the trail and float over. Climbs required a decent cadence to maintain momentum but if you kept on top of the gear then getting up at speed was a virtual guarantee. Another element that was an immense help was the titanium frame with the YBB addition. For those who don’t know “YBB” is Moots’ patented soft-tail design that adds a small amount of give in the rear frame triangle. Besides smoothing out the rough stuff, I detected that the frame actually gave me a bit of extra spring to spin up the hills. By compressing and extending in sync with my pedal strokes the frame assisted my efforts with a little extra forward nudging. No doubt the titanium’s flex characteristics also contributed. When Moots makes a bike in 650B with a YBB my wallet’s going to start to twitch. {editor’s note – Moots does full custom bikes A-Man so you can have your 650B Moots dream machine anytime you like… ;) }

Titanium bikepacking goodness…

Previously whenever I went on a bike camping trip I would utilize my racks and panniers to carry my gear. Adding these parts brought the weight up of my bike significantly, increased the complexity, and widened my trail profile. In contrast, bike bags are far lighter than a rack/pannier combo, much quieter over rough terrain, and I could slip through narrow obstacles at speed with ease. The added benefit of these bags is it keeps your amount of gear to minimum, which helps in keeping the weight down. I’ll never completely get rid of my racks or panniers but the next time I ride into the woods I hope to be using a compliment of Scott’s fine bags. Racks and panniers will still be used on my town bikes for getting groceries or running errands.

Top of the World…

After a brief rest at the summit, accompanied by some cold beers, Grant rode off down the trail whilst I remained to set up my camp. Many times I found a good spacing of trees that were the right thickness for the hammock webbing straps but they were all too close to the trail. Now camping is not allowed in this park and I didn’t want any hassles from the authorities or other militant park users so I hiked the Moots deep into the woods. Close to the edge of a cliff I found my little Shangri-La.

Time to hang out…

Close to the cliff edge so the view would be amazing, good Arbutus stands to support my hammock, and best of all, totally hidden from the main trail. Because I was a hammock newbie it took me a try or two to get the set-up correct. Luckily the instructions are printed on the stuff sack for the hammock. My knot skills did not include the type that’s recommended for tying off but I had an ace up my sleeve.  Because I was within cell range I pulled up YouTube and searched for instructions on tying the knots. Armed with my newfound knowledge I made short work of the set-up and was swinging in no time. Technology is at a very high level of usefulness these days. Total set-up time from un-bagging to stuffing in the sleeping pad and bag was just over 15 minutes. More experienced hammock campers are way faster than that.

Chillaxing with a view…

After setting up it was time to relax and explore my little slice of paradise. A small clearing near camp ended at a steep drop off but was clear of trees and offered a dense panorama of the Malahat Hwy., precipitous hills overflowing with trees, and a beautiful view of the beginning of the Saanich Inlet. I ate my dinner sandwich sitting on an arbutus branch overlooking this domain. After battling my way to the summit and then running around to find a spot to set up I was on low ebb. With the retreating rays I to retreated into my shelter to read a little with my headlamp before drifting way from consciousness.

Killer slug…

I must have been comfortable because when I finally awoke it was after 7am! The sun was up and the canopy was full of bird song. Squirrels roamed through camp but largely ignored me. After about two hours of dawdling about I forced myself to break camp and head for nearby civilization. On the way out I was having a bit too much fun on the single-track and managed to get quite lost.

Lost, but having a great time!

The one thing I can virtually guarantee when I go riding is that I’ll inevitably lose my way. Finally I emerged from the woods and commenced the paved/gravel stages that would bring me home. Because I was so close to home I decided to continue riding north, rather than south-east to my door, and hook up with the Lochside Trail for some gravel action. Another delightful section was the Saanich Centennial Trail, which breaks off in a couple of directions of various names. I took several sections before linking up to the Lochside and rambling home. After about 7hrs of riding and approximately 70-80kms I was home to rest.

A rocky road…

From the comfort of my favorite chair I was able to reflect on what worked for me, what I liked, and what didn’t do it for me:

Pros:            

  • Bags are lighter than racks & panniers
  • Much quieter than panniers being rattled around on racks
  •  Easier access to food and other items while riding
  •  Handling is much less affected with bags
  •  Forces you to pack smartly = no unnecessary stuff
  •  Bicycle profile remains narrow = good for tight trail sections & aerodynamics
  •   Versatile = Seat & Bar bags will mount on any bike
  • Hammocks pack very small & is self contained, no poles or extra parts, very comfortable to sleep in & great ventilation

Light is right…

Cons:           

  • Main frame bag is a custom fit & may not fit other frames as well
  • Storage is limited (but ultimately is that a con? Decide for yourself)
  • Points of access can be limited
  • A hammock requires two specific things to set-up, tree spacing & thickness of stock webbing straps (I saw many more spots where I could have just dropped a tent down)
  • Cramped for space & not possible to bring some gear inside with you to keep out of the elements

One of the best parts of a tour – the delicious meal at the end…





Craig Stappler – Tour Divide 2012…

21 06 2012

Craig’s Porcelain Rocket equipped bike…

The Tour Divide is a self-supported bikepacking race from Banff to the USA/Mexico border. It’s a long hard event with many challenges including snow in the mountains, rain, mud and long stretches without supplies. The pace the leaders are on is amazing. One of the two leaders is riding with a custom Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bag kit.

Leaderboard – click to jump to current update…

Scott told me I should watch out for Craig Stappler a Calgary based cyclist and he was right. Craig’s been leading the race right from the start and is closing in on the finish at a record setting pace.

Just ’cause they are racing doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a beer!

Craig is riding with a Kiwi named Ollie Whalley so it will be interesting to see if they cross the finish line together or if they battle it out in the home stretch for victory.

BTW – I stole the photos of Craig from this thread over at bikepacking.net. You can read updates about the race there.





Bike to Work Week…

18 06 2012

Victoria Bike to Work Week T-shirt…

Victoria’s Bike to Work Week took place in May. Sharon is our household bike commuter and she participated fully. I on the other hand have an across the yard commute I do on foot. I must say I miss my old bike commuting days and look forward to resuming that fun transportation habit one day when I have an office to go to again.

Scott and I at our bike to coffee get together…

Neither Scott nor I have a bike commute yet we wanted to support Bike to Work Week in some small way we decided to ride to a coffee shop downtown.

Scott at work…

Scott is a work-a-holic and is very popular with bike geeks around the world. So needless to say he brought a computer to our rendezvous so he could stay in touch with his biznatch!

Might as well get some stuff done…

Since I was downtown I took care of an errand or two on my Bike Friday Tikit cargo bike…:-)

Sharon our uber bike commuter…





On One Scandal 29er Bikepacking Mk2…

15 06 2012

My On One Scandal…

I’ve been honing my On One Scandal 29er bikepacking setup over the last while. Here are the recent changes:

Longer cockpit…

The longer TT is nice for getting low and fast when the trail allows for higher speed riding. It’s not bad for non-technical mountain biking, but I really didn’t enjoy the longer stem when riding the steep techy trails at Hartland. For the most part the Scandal is my bikepacking rig so that’s okay. If I press it into duty as a MTB I’ll have to swap in the shorter stem again.

Another view…

Having a frame bag that actually fits the bike is a beautiful thing. The zippers work more easily and it just makes me smile. That can be important when I am sitting on the ground sweating after reaching yet another hot/dusty route recon dead end…you need something to lift your spirits…;)

Fork mounted water bottle cage…

It’s lovely not to have anything on my back when riding hard so having a place to store water on the bike was a challenge. I sometimes stash a large bottle in the framebag, but in that location it’s competing with other important gear. So I used hose clamps to attach to standard water bottle cages to the legs of my Rock Shox Reba fork. They’ve been solid even over some crazy bumpy terrain and with a DIY retention cord my bottles have not jumped ship. I don’t bother taking them off the bike when not needed, but I could as the install/removal process is quick.

Scandal and Hunter…

Overall the On One Scandal 29er has proven to be a decent choice as a first 29er MTB and a bikepacking rig. For ~$400 it’s a great value in a versatile frame. I don’t think I could have done better for that price. For the time being I don’t see any more changes in the works.

If you are wondering what I have packed in each bag click here.





The Rocket goes Pimp!

27 05 2012

Scott’s new bar bag…

I guess my white Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bag bling was so hot Scott decided to make some for himself.

Scott’s pimped out Hunter 29er…

He works incredibly hard making bags for other cyclists so he deserves to rock some sweet gear himself. I think he’s showing some restraint by keeping his old black frame bag.

A lovely white seatbag…

Fresh bikepacking gear looks silly. Time to get that stuff dirty!





Porcelain Rocket Flickr Porn

11 05 2012

Santa Cruz Tall Boy bag set…

In case:

  1. you are a bike bag porn lover
  2. you didn’t know that Porcelain Rocket posts a regular stream of bag porn on Flickr

I’m letting you know!…=-)

Ben’s Porcelain Rocketized Surly Big Dummy…

Click on either image in this post to jump there.

Scott posts more than just bag porn. He’s got pics of his various bikes as well and the odd cute cat picture…=-)





Congrats to the Rocket Powered Stagecoachers!

30 04 2012

Stagecoach 400 Results Map - click to see live map...

The Stagecoach 400 is a 400 mile unsupported bikepacking race in SoCal. You can read the FAQ here. Looks like a challenging event! If I got my facts straight 3 out of the top 5 finishers were riding Porcelain Rocket bag equipped bikes. Congrats to the racers for getting ‘er done and congrats to Scott for his role in building race winning gear…=-)

A special shout out to Rick Hunter for coming in #2…he not only builds sweet bikes, but can clearly ride the hell out of them as well.

I’m no racer, but during my challenging rides I know that if I have to think about my gear I’m screwed. I can only put out my best effort if everything works and I trust it 100%.





Brand-New Nomad…=-)

27 04 2012

Porcelain Rocket Edition Nomad...

My Santa Cruz headbadge fell off in Sedona so I replaced it with a new Porcelain Rocket badge…=-)





My 29er MTB Bikepacking Setup…

17 02 2012

My 29er On One Scandal mountain bike setup with Porcelain Rocket bags...

Okay first off I beter say that the frame bag you see here is from my Surly Pugsley and doesn’t really fit the Scandal properly. So don’t think if you get a framebag from Scott at Porcelain Rocket that it will fit so poorly. I just jammed the bag into this bike while I wait for Scott to build me a custom bag that will fit this frame perfectly.

The key to a great bikepacking setup is the ability to carry the gear you need on your bike with as little impediment to how it rides off pavement. You can fit panniers and racks to most mountain bikes, but they end up being the weak spot in the bike so you have to slow way down and ride cautiously lest you break something. Your handling is also compromised so that technical riding becomes hard to impossible. When Kurt and I rode our Pugsleys on the CDN GDR with racks and panniers we had fun, but I vowed never to bike tour on dirt with that setup again – unless there was some overwhelming reason to carry that much gear.

Same Porcelain Rocket bags on my Surly Pugsley...

You can see the same bags on my Surly Pugsley above and appreciate how well the frame bag fits the bike it was custom built for. This is a typical bikepacking setup and is designed to keep the weight securely attached to the bike as close to the center of mass as possible. The bags have a limited carrying capacity which forces you to load them with only what you need and the bike remains “thin” which aids in sneaking between obstacles and facilities the seemly inevitable pushing you have to do. If you are fast enough it also keeps wind resistance to a minimum.

So a word about why soft bags are such a great idea for a dirt road or mountain bike trail tour. Standard panniers and racks are stiff and heavy. They hard mount to your bike which means every bump gets transmitted very efficiently from your bike to the racks and then to the panniers. Eventually that will break something. Even if you are lucky and don’t break your gear you will spend your whole trip babying it always taking the easiest/smoothest path to reduce the beating your bike takes. With soft bags the attachment points to your bike are secure, but they can give a little which absorbs the shocks they see without stressing out and breaking them. The upside is that you can ride your mountain bike like a mountain bike while carrying food, water and shelter.

Seat bag...

Seat Bag:

  • thermarest sleeping pad
  •  bivy sack/tent [no poles]/hammock
  • jacket when not being worn
  • this bag acts like a fender when riding in wet conditions

Frame bag...

Frame Bag:

  • bike tools
  • pump
  • spare tube
  • food
  • stove/pot/fuel/lighter
  • mini first aid kit

Top tube bag...

Top Tube Bag:

  • bike light battery
  • camera
  • snacks

Front roll bag...

Front Roll Bag:

  • sleeping bag & spare camp clothes inside 10L OR dry bag
  • tent poles outside bag if you got ‘em

Front bag pocket...

Front Bag Pocket:

  • snacks
  • cellphone
  • wallet
  • headlamp
  • maps

Dinotte XML-3 bike light...

Front End Bike Stuff:

  • Dinotte XML-3 900 lumen light [waterproof enough power for full night at low/high power for fast downhill runs]
  • Ergon grips for hand comfort
  • bar ends for extra hand positions
  • 180mm disc brake to slow down on steep hills with a load
  • 100mm suspension fork to allow for faster speeds on rough surfaces
  • BMX platform pedals for lots of grip in whatever shoes I want to wear

The back end...

Rear End Bike Stuff:

  • red blinky for nighttime visibility on the trail and road
  • Alfine 11 IGH for wide range weatherproof drivetrain and strong undished rear wheel
  • wide supple 29er tires with enough tread for loose conditions climbing
  • wide strong rims
  • 160mm disc brake [more than enough braking at this end]
  • comfortable leather saddle

On the trail...

Stuff I need to add:

  • water bottle cages on fork [w/ hose clamps]
  • fuel bottle cage under downtube [w/ hose clamps] for longer trips only
  • GPS [w/bar mount] when needed

Backpack or no backpack?

Backpack?

I ride my mountain bike with a hydration pack when on the trails. I used a slightly larger daypack for the ride out to the Sooke Potholes to carry water and some spare clothes. In general I think it’s better to keep the gear off your back and on the bike. Firstly it forces you to be ruthless with what you are carrying and secondly it’s much more comfortable. Plus it means that for specific trips where you need to carry a lot of food, water or clothing you have an option that isn’t already full of stuff.

I’ll be adding water bottle cages to my fork legs so I don’t need a hydration pack for fluids. I’ll be a bit more efficient about the clothes I bring and carry any spare clothes I am not wearing on my bike – either in the front roll bag or the seat bag. That will mean I can skip a backpack for most trips and if I really do need some extra cargo capacity I can add in a pack at that point.

Stylish and comfortable...

Clothing

It’s hard to be too specific about clothing since so much depends on where you ride, what time of the year it is and what the forecast is for. Here is a sample of what I might bring on a ride here on Vancouver Island:

  • toque [never leave home without it]
  • buff neck warmer
  • sunglasses
  • fleece gloves
  • rain jacket [as breathable as possible means less sweat and you can wear it most of the time]
  • wool top [maybe 2 if it's cool so I can layer]
  • synthetic capris
  • wool 3/4 tights
  • wool leg warmers
  • wool socks
  • shoes
  • rain chaps and rain glove covers




Gravel Pimping…

16 02 2012

The Gravel Pimps at Oak Bay Bikes Westshore...

Scott and I have been talking about getting out and doing some bikepacking on the south end of Vancouver Island, but life has been getting in the way. So we decided to make a break for it when we saw a window of good weather Monday. With both of us busy with work our departure got pushed back until 4pm. In December that would have meant a 100% night ride our first day, but just a few weeks later we still had nearly 2hrs of daylight to enjoy from the saddle. We stopped in at the Westshore location of Oak Bay Bikes just to say hi and check out what they had on the floor.

What else would I rock for bags?

It got dark soon after we left OBB on the Galloping Goose Trail. We both had about 900 lumens of LED firepower at our disposal which we didn’t use at full-power given the easy terrain and our sedate cruising speed.  We wanted to hit up the 17 Mile House Pub on Hwy 14 for beers and burgers so I stopped a few times to check my iPhone. I don’t like riding with a GPS on my bars unless absolutely necessary so I had to stop and retrieve my phone each time.

Scott warming his hands...

During one of these stops I found myself at the top of a set of stairs [click here for a photo from the next day's return trip]. Scott wisely backtracked and went down the trail. I of course had to do a stupid human trick and decided to ride down the stairs. Now normally this would be no problem, but at night with a new bike loaded for the first time with gear and backpack, my weight distribution and inability to get back off the saddle because of the seatbag resulted in an over the bars endo/vault. Thankfully not very fast, but nevertheless I ended up with two sore palms and a bashed up elbow/knee on the left side of my body.

**sigh**

It’s been years since I’ve been even moderately hurt on a MTB so I don’t feel hard done by, but what a dumb way to get banged up. No heroic story of a 6′ drop off a skinny wood bridge while being chased by a cougar…just operator error!

Got gravel?

Luckily I was able to find a hand position on my bar ends that wasn’t terribly painful and we cranked along the rest of the way to the pub. Several pints of beer and many dead chicken wings later I was feeling better. I climbed back on my bike gingerly and we cruised the rest of the way to our destination for the night.

A room with a view and no doors!

I had spotted this shelter last time I was up this way biking with Aaron. Since only crazy people go camping in early February on Vancouver Island we had the place to ourselves and simply ignored the no camping signs. Yeah we are bad asses!

Low rent, hardwood floors and indoors bike parking - score!

The shelter was spacious and clean with great protection from wind and the inevitable rain that was to fall that night. Bikepacking bags only let you carry the bare essentials so we didn’t get up to much upon arrival beyond setting up our sleeping bags and munching on a few snacks. When it’s dark and cold I find myself very quickly jumping into a down cocoon! I told Scott he could yell and kick me if I was snoring too loud and with that I passed out.

Black and white On One Scandal 29er...

I woke up in the middle of the night and did a quick inventory of my aches and pains. Everything was feeling pretty good except for my left hand which was very tender and swollen. Not great, but at least I knew I could bike home with 4 out of 5 contact points on the bike feeling decent. Back to sleep I went.

Rohloff'd Hunter 29er...

I wish I had a watch in my sleeping bag as I got up at 6am [according to Scott] to pee and went back to bed because it was still dark. Had I known it was 6am I would have probably made a move to get rolling. After a certain point sleeping on a hard surface with a thin thermarest doesn’t provide much additional benefit.

It's alive!

It started to just get light at 8am so I got rolling. I fired up the stove and made a random dehydrated meal I found at home and some green tea. It was less than gourmet, but it hit the spot.

Minimal, but effective...

Water is plentiful in the rainforest so dehydrated meals are very handy if not the most delicious thing you can eat…=-)

Clean well stocked toilets...

Although we didn’t make much use of the campsite infrastructure there were lots of tables, water and clean toilets close at hand. Nice to see tax payer $$ going towards something I cared about instead of fighter jets!

Sooke Potholes Regional Park...

There was an old mining town a few KMs north from us and I had hoped to spin up there and check it out, but my hand was really sore and I decided it was best to make tracks for home, painkillers, ice and beer!

Scott loading my bike bags...

With one bum hand I was having issues loading my gear back into my bike bags. Scott was kind enough to help me out. Lucky for him I hurt my left hand otherwise I would have needed some assistance in the toilet as well….hahaha! =)

One last look back at our hut...

The scenery up this far along the Galloping Goose Trail is stunning something you can’t appreciate riding it at night.

Pointing our bikes down the map back towards home...

I was sad to miss the mining town, but it will be there next trip. This run up the Goose is our entry pass into a vast network of forest service roads. So unless we drive our bikes to a different starting point all our bikepacking rides will pass this way.

One of the many wooden bridges on the Goose...

My left hand wasn’t terribly happy, but as long as I lifted it off the bars before any major bump was encountered I was able to tolerate light pressure as I gripped the bar end.

Scott keeps it in first gear...

We rode down the Goose slowly in a light rain. Scott kept his back brake on the whole time just to get a better workout…=-)

Yo - check the Pimp rig...

Happily the wide 29er tires rolled well over the gravel/dirt trail surface making it an easy task to spin back towards Victoria.

Another killer view...

The spectacular views helped me keep my mind off my aches and pains!

My bike not looking so clean...

I was happy to roll into my yard and pop a couple Tylenol as I took a swig from an ice cold Corona! Despite my stupidity it was still great to be out on the bike on the South Shore of Vancouver Island. This ride let me figure out some things about my bike and how to best pack it for future adventures.

Nothing a quick hose down can't fix...

The Alfine 11 IGH and the 29er hardtail bike is proving to be a fun versatile machine that’s ideal for lots of different adventures. I’m going to take a few days off the bike to let my left hand rest and then I’ll be back hard at work wearing out parts…=-)

BTW – in case you are wondering about the title of this post we decided that “Gravel Grinding” sounded too boring for a couple wild and crazy guys like us – hence we coined the new term “Gravel Pimping”. You have our permission to use it as you wish!





Scott is a God!

8 02 2012

Life ain't fair...=)

Loaded these photos on Flickr at the same time. I throw a HUGE wheelie and get 6 views…;-) Scott “The Bag Man” Felter pops a tire off a rim and gets 38 views!!! Sadly that’s just life when you hang out with a Rock Star…=-)

Note to self: next time you upload a photo dropping a 5′ ledge of death don’t put it next to a photo of Scott adjusting his hydration pack……hahahahaha!





How to make a frame bag pattern…

5 02 2012




An Inside Look at Porcelain Rocket..

10 01 2012

Photo: Cass Gilbert

Cass Gilbert of While Out Riding Blog fame took some great photos of Scott making a frame bag in his Porcelain Rocket lair. Click on the image above to see the goods!





Merry Christmas to myself!

28 12 2011

Porcelain Rocket bling - that's how I roll!

Scott’s blog has the details…=-)





Surly Big Dummy Frame Bag #2

1 12 2010

My Big Dummy with a new Porcelain Rocket frame bag...

I’ve been using my triangular Porcelain Rocket Big Dummy frame bag [lower bag in photo above] since April and loving it.  It fits my bike perfectly and provides a very useful amount of storage for smaller items I want to grab during the ride.  The obvious question is do I really need more storage on a cargo bike?  The answer is yes – for small items.  The back end of a Big Dummy will swallow a huge box and another bicycle at the same time or 200lbs of dog food, but it’s not a great place to try and keep your cellphone, wallet and snacks.

Porcelain Rocket frame bag porn...

The new frame bag Scott [the man behind Porcelain Rocket] made for me attaches on top of the Big Dummy’s chainstays and only about half is visible when mounted.  Looking at the photo above the left half of the bag is actually out of sight under the Xtracycle deck and the bag is internally divided in half.  This gives you some semi-secret storage for valuable items or stuff you don’t need often.  I’ll be using this hidden storage for tools, tubes, a $20 emergency bill and my Pinhead locking QR key.  The upper compartment [to the right above] is a great place to stash stuff like a windbreaker, gloves, energy bars, etc…

A fully bagged Surly Big Dummy...

The bag mounts in seconds with generous velcro straps and fits the Dummy perfectly.  It looks like it belongs there and makes great use of otherwise wasted empty frame space without affecting my access to the cargo end of the bike.  The rear water bottle cage mounts are not obscured so you can carry a bottle back there.  My Big Dummy can still carry 3 water bottles with only the middle cage mount obscured by my triangular Porcelain Rocket frame bag.

Top notch construction...

Scott is a highly skilled craftsman and this bag exudes quality and robustness. It matches the lower frame bag perfectly using burly ripstop nylon and waterproof zippers with red pulls for a touch of flare.  My previous bag looks like new after 7 months and I expect this bag will last as long as my Big Dummy is rolling.  The fabric is waterproof as are the zippers.  The bag ins’t seam sealed so in an extended downpour it might let some water in at the stitching.  The triangular bag hasn’t leaked yet, but it is a bit more protected from rain my the frame.  I’m going to see what happens and if I get any water inside I’ll take the 30 minutes necessary to apply some seam sealant.

A peek inside...

The interior features a yellow lining so you can find stuff easily and a rigid plastic frame sheet for stiffness. There is a small mesh pocket on the right side of the bag to keep keys and coins from getting lost. The bag has an interior divider to keep the upper and lower contents separate.  The elastic loop on top will accept many brands of small pumps.

Upper velcro straps...

From the images above and below you can see that this bag isn’t going anywhere.  The 3 underside velcro straps take some effort to located and undo which should stop a lazy snatch and grab thief.  So far nobody has messed with my triangular frame bag on this bike when I have left it unattended.

Lower velcro straps under bag...

As you can tell I’m pretty stoked to have this new bag for my Big Dummy.  I’m a fan of high quality gear and getting something custom made for my bikes is a real treat.

The business end of my Dummy...

Scott does fully custom bike bags so no matter what make/model of bike you ride or what your needs are he can make something beautiful and functional for you.  Contact him through his Porcelain Rocket website.





Porcelain Rocket

23 11 2010

Photo: Cass Gilbert

Scott from Porcelain Rocket has been busy riding his bike down in the Southern US with Cass Gilbert recently.  The trip must have really fired up his creative engine because he came back with all sorts of great bike bag ideas.  I hope to get my hands on 3 new custom bags for my Big Dummy, my Santa Cruz Nomad and for Kurt’s Nomad. I’m excited!

Scott's personal bike all tricked out to bikepack...

I’ve been using the bag Scott made for my Surly Big Dummy on every trip I take with it.  It adds a lot of useful storage for small items that I can get to even if my Dummy is fully loaded and has survived all my abuse without problems.  Scott is gearing up for a busy winter so if you need any bikepacking bags for winter racing or for a tour down south of the equator drop Scott a msg through this website.

My new Porcelain Rocket Big Dummy bag...

Here is a sneak peek at my new Big Dummy frame bag.  I won’t say much more at this point, but it will be another nice addition to one of my favourite bikes…=-)

My first Porcelain Rocket frame bag...





Big Dummy Frame Bag

8 04 2010

Porcelain Rocket BD Frame Bag

Scott from Porcelain Rocket made me this awesome frame bag for my Surly Big Dummy.  It fits in the triangle behind the seattube that previously was only used for a single waterbottle cage.  With 4 bottle cages on a Big Dummy I can certainly give up one to get some useful storage.  Now you might say with all the storage available on a Big Dummy why do you need more?  Well the storage options at the back are limited to pockets in the Xtracycle Freeloader bags. They work and are useful for items not needed a lot like extra tie down straps, pump, etc..  The problem is when you have your Freeloaders loaded up it’s hard to get access to these pockets without having to mess with your cargo.

Left side of bag with two pockets...

That’s where Scott’s bag comes in…by adding some easily accessible storage behind the seattube you can carry smaller items like your wallet, camera, snacks, cell phone and get to them anytime without messing with your cargo – that’s ideal.

The workmanship on this bag is top notch.  The materials used are very durable and essentially waterproof everywhere, but the stitching and zippers.  A bit of seam seal could make the bag virtually waterproof if I desire.  It fits perfectly and looks great on the bike.

Left side of bag with a single waterproof cellphone pocket...

The left side of the bag is reinforced with a removable stiff plastic insert so the bag doesn’t hit the chain.  There is also a small waterproof pocket for a cellphone or camera.

Inside the waterproof stash pocket...

Scott did such a nice job I’m getting a custom frame bag for my Santa Cruz Nomad so I can carry tools/pump/etc on the frame not on my back.

Scott personal bike with seatbag and barbag...

Scott will tackle custom jobs as well as making a production set of bike packing seat bags & bar bags like the ones shown above.