Baja Fresh!

27 11 2009

Finally - I made it!

Well a new transmission, a new clutch, a new set of tires and 10 days on the road I finally pulled off the main highway and drove the last few kms to La Ventana.  I stopped in at Baja Joes to chat with the Elevation Kiteboarding School Gang from Lake Nihnat in BC and see if the free camping in the arroyo I had heard about was a good idea. They said it was fine and I rolled a bit further North and found a great spot in the second arroyo.  It was nice to see some familiar faces from Squamish at the arroyo as well as lots of other friendly folks.

My camp in the arroyo is pretty and has some bushes/trees for privacy, but it’s close to the main road, which is a bit noisy.  Happily the town goes to bed early so I haven’t had any issues sleeping.  Unlike my typical Baja trips that featured solitude and remoteness this one seems to be quite the opposite.  I can walk to some free showers, clean porcelain sit down toilets, wireless internet, multiple restaurants and bars as well as grocery stores.

On one hand It’s great to have so many services so close.  On the other it’s not a very quiet reflective sort of experience.  Given that I need to work on this trip having easy internet access is a good thing and if I wanted I could still stop at some of my more remote camp spots on the way back home.

Sun rise at La Ventana

I can see the Sea of Cortez from my camp and it’s a 60 second walk to the beach with my SUP or kiteboarding gear.  Some professional windsurfers from the US have setup a sun shelter right on the beach complete with a sectional sofa!  My first day here I sat down on the sofa, put my legs up on a stool and enjoyed several very cold beers.  Although kiteboarding isn’t as hardcore as bike touring the GDR it does come with several benefits like a beach front sofa and the tendency for bikinis to be present….=-)

Since I will be online daily Monday to Friday I guess I’ll be updating this blog a lot more than I had expected….


The fleet stashed out of the sun...



SUP Ladies?

21 11 2009

Pretty in Pink?

How to get your lady stoked about Stand Up Paddkle boards?  Get one in pink or it could be lavendar…lol…need to verify at the beach and let her know so she can bring the appropriate paddling outfit….=-)

You can even get a matching paddle!

I stopped by Stand Up Paddle Sports in Santa Barbra California for some SUP therapy.  They had a huge selection of boards and accessories…sort of like SUP heaven…=-)  I got a spare paddle and some leashes as well as a bunch of spare fins and accessories like locks and bags for my SUPs.  I also scored the pinkish SUP in the photos.  It’s an 11′ x 30″ Bill Foote SUP that will be a good match for the used Starboard 11’2″ x 30″ SUP I got from The Easy Rider in Edmonton.  So I’ve got two all rounders that my GF and I can paddle together [naturally she’ll want the pink one!] and I’ve got the 9’8″ x 30″ Starboard which is a dedicated surfing machine.

More pink SUP porn...=-)

I wish I had more time in Santa Barbara I would’ve liked a couple days of SUP surfing lessons.  I’ll mess around on my own in La Ventana and perhaps I’ll be able to fit some real surfing lessons in on my way home.

Note: all photos are from the Stand up Paddle Sports Blog

SUP Porn

20 11 2009

Photo: Unique Media and Design

There is some great SUP action photography here.

vikapproved [TM]

19 11 2009

Joshua Tree Hijinx

Update: for some reason I just don’t like the name change.  Maybe this blog has been called the The Lazy Randonneur so long it feels wrong to change it.  Oh well it was worth a try.  I’ll stick with the old name for now.

Since I’m taking a break from blogging I figured it was a good opportunity to change the name of this blog.  The Lazy Randonneur was a play on words when I was keen on riding recumbents in brevets.  Since that hasn’t happened in a while and although I’m still going to ride brevets when the mood strikes me the main focus of this blog won’t be long distance endurance cycling.  With my interest in water sports growing the topics discussed on this blog aren’t even strictly cycling anymore so it seems like a new name is in order.

Vikapproved [TM] was the title of my now defunct personal blog over on Blogger. With the advent of Facebook that blog ceased to make sense so I killed it.  However, I always liked the title as it has been an inside joke amongst my friends for a longtime.  Since I spend the most time obessing over gear whenever my friends want to buy a new bike, tent or digital camera they ask me what’s currently Vikapproved and I give them my opinion.

So from now on this blog will be called Vikapproved and I’ll continue to post about whatever I’m into at the moment, gear reviews, trip reports, rants and raves, etc…

The Lazy Rando URLs will all still point here as will and

Thorn Mini Tour

18 11 2009

Thorn Nomad S&S

Bike touring hasn’t been a big part of my world in 2009.  Other than the CDN GDR tour my cycling was either mountain biking, snow biking, or utility/transportation riding.  I don’t mind as I really like to be on a bike no matter what the reason and bike tours are best enjoyed when the time is right – not when you try and make them happen.  The only trouble is I have a couple virgin touring bikes that I wanted to get on the road and try out.  One of them, my Thorn Nomad S&S, has seen lots of action about town hauling me and my gear, but that’s just not the same as bike camping.  So I picked a weekend in late September that Sharon had plans and decided to do an overnighter on the Bow Valley Parkway.

Geared up for some bike touring.

I left late on Saturday from Canmore Alberta so most of my first day’s ride would be in the dark.  I haven’t done much in the way of long night rides this year since I haven’t been training for or riding brevets.  I missed the solitude and quietness of late night rural highways.  The first stretch along highway #1 was quite windy and slightly uphill the whole way.  Since it’s so busy with traffic between Alberta and British Columbia you can’t really call it a peaceful ride, but it is in the Canadian Rockies and the scenery is spectacular.  By the time I rolled past Banff it was pitch dark and I had both my Dinotte 200L-AA lights going and had deployed all my reflective gear as well as a Planet Bike Superflash taillight.  I was happy to soon reach the turn off for the Bow Valley Parkway and leave the dense high speed traffic of the main highway behind.  As expected traffic on the Bow Valley Parkway was minimal and much slower.  Most of the time I just rolled along in my little bubble of light with only the noise of my tires on the road and the sounds of the forest for company.  As with previous night rides I found familiar climbs that are quite challenging in the day are much easier at night.  They seem less steep and less strenuous somehow at night.  I’m not sure why, but I guess it must have to do with the fact you can’t really see the climb or much of the road and that must make it easier mentally.  Although I also experienced a weird time dilation effect as well.  I didn’t have a bike computer on the Thorn, but I knew how far my camp site was and I knew roughly how fast I was going, but it felt easily like it took twice as long to finally reach camp.  Riding the same bike back in the daytime I didn’t have that feeling at all – strange.

My minimal camp at day break.

I rolled past the locked gate of the campground as it was closed for the winter and had my pick of over a hundred sites.  I grabbed a nice spot next to a creek and set up my small tent.  The forecast didn’t call for rain so I left the rain fly off.  I wasn’t cooking on this trip so I just had some snacks to stash in the metal food locker.  I’m not sure if bears were still active at that time, but I wasn’t taking any chances.  I settled snugly into my down sleeping bag and listened to the sounds of the forest.  It would have been a very peaceful night if I hadn’t been attacked by a giant spider inside my dark tent.  The only part of my body exposed was my face so of course that’s where I felt his legs!!  I flicked him off with one hand and got my headlamp out with the other.  Once I located him it took 3-4 direct hits with the heel of my trail runner to stun him and another 6-8 hits to kill him…that was one tough spider!!  Did I mention I don’t really like spiders???  I finally got myself sorted out and back in the bag ready to sleep when I felt rain on my face….that meant going back out into giant spider territory and putting on the rain fly…=-(  Oh well – there wasn’t much choice so I just got it done.  Happily with no further killer spider incidents and I enjoyed a cozy sleep in my tent with the sound of rain drops against my fly.

Lovely Bow Valley Parkway Scenery

It was dry when I woke up, but it looked like some serious rain could fall so I packed up camp and hit the road back to Canmore quickly.  I managed to get most of the way back to Banff before the rain started in earnest.  I didn’t have full rain gear with me so I just threw on my rain jacket and made the best of it.  My Thorn has fat fenders on it so I wasn’t getting wet from the road and my clothes were warm enough to keep me comfortable despite the rain.  It also helped a lot knowing that a warm meal was waiting for me at the end of the ride.   I rolled into Canmore with my food radar on high and pulled into the first eatery that caught my eye.  After ordering 2 full meals I settled into my chair enjoying the warmth and dryness!

The end of an era?...=-)

Bike Notes:

  • I used front panniers on this trip mostly just because that’s what I had at hand.  My other panniers were at my GF’s and I was too lazy to go get them.  Like the Surly LHT the Thorn Nomad was designed to carry a rear only load or a load balanced front and back.  It doesn’t love a front only load.  It was fine to ride, but it didn’t show the characteristic truck like stability that it did when loaded in the rear.
  • The Thorn was comfortable and the long wheelbase/steel frame/fat rubber ate up the bumps and road irregularities nicely.  Given its strength this tour wasn’t much of a test for the the frame.
  • The Rohloff hub continues to roll along without needing attention.  The straight clean chain line is quiet and very aesthetically pleasing.  My placement of the shifter works, but as I noted in an earlier post I will move it to the right grip area for easier access.  This tour just confirmed that plan.
  • Ortlieb panniers were handy when it rained.  I didn’t have to do anything or worry about my gear getting wet.
  • Marathon Extreme tires worked fine, but are clearly overkill for a paved tour.  I don’t notice much difference between them and the same size XRs on paved roads.  I have since sold them.  My Thorn currently has some Continental Travel Contacts on it and I’ll probably try some 2.0″ Marathon Supremes in 2010.
  • Dinotte 200L-AA lights worked well and provided lots of light even on the fast descents.  They don’t last terribly long on high power, but my rechargeable batteries don’t get a lot of love so that’s not the lights’ fault.  I could have set them on medium or low power for the flats/climbs and turned them onto high for downhills.  One issue I had was the lights are not focused and throw a lot of light up into the eyes of on coming drivers.  In a city with lots of light this isn’t so bad, but on a totally dark road it’s blinding so I had to cover them partially with my hands when a car came along.
  • Brooks saddle – I’m always happy that I can now ride a bike without wearing padded shorts…=-)
  • Platform pedals – besides not having to wear bike shorts my second favourite thing is being able to ride in street shoes.
  • I’m really glad I got around to installing the stainless steel Berthoud fenders on my Thorn.  They went on much easier than expected and provide excellent coverage even without a front mudflap installed.

Slocan and Silver Triangle Tours – BC

18 11 2009

Slocan Triangle Tour BC

I’m stuck in Idaho waiting on vehicle repairs so I’m cleaning up my laptop and found the link to this Slocan Triangle Tour Report in British Columbia.  I tried to do it last fall, but my broken foot made me abort near the start…=-(  However, it’s on my radar for the early part of 2010. This route can be combined with the Silver Triangle Tour for a nice figure of 8 loop if you want more mileage.

Elevation Profile

Adios Amigos – Surf’s Up!

15 11 2009

Well everything for Baja is packed.  All my critical work is done and I’m heading south of the border Monday AM.  I hope everyone has a great winter, stays safe and enjoys the holidays.  I am not sure if I’ll be posting from Baja or not.  I may, but I don’t want to make any plans until I see how things work out at La Ventana.  I’ll be working on my laptop as it is for my “real job” so it’s hard to say whether I’ll be motivated to spend more time on a computer.

I’m really stoked to get a ton of hours on my kiteboard gear and learn to surf…not to mention rolling my Pugsley across miles of beach sand in search of cold beers n’ tacos!

Mother Flipp’n Bike Stealers!

9 11 2009

In one episode of The Flight of the Conchords HBO show our two stars are biking through town when some thugs try and steal their bikes.  Little do the bad guys know the can of rap whoop ass about to be unleashed upon them. I just figured this could be useful for some folks out there who might need some ideas on how to bluff their way out of a difficult situation.  Note the reflective safety vest being worn throughout.

Bike Friday NWT 1 Year Review

9 11 2009

My Bike Friday NWT

I rec’d my Bike Friday New World Tourist folding travel bike in early Jan 2009.  So It’s not really a year old, but I’ll be gone to Baja over it’s birthday so I thought it would be appropriate to share my thoughts so far about this bike:

  • This bike has lived up to the hype on the net about Bike Friday’s travel bike line up.  It’s a time proven design that is stiff and fun to ride with the obvious benefit that it folds when you need to store or transport it.
  • Does it ride like a full size bike?  Mostly.  I was impressed how stiff the frame is.  When I’m cranking out of the saddle from a stop sign or up a hill I don’t think for a second about the fact I’m riding a folder.  I just hammer and the bike goes forward.  The smaller wheels and short wheel base [for a touring bike] make it very maneuverable without any hint of instability.
  • My Tikit is a folding bike that’s awesome – my NWT is an awesome bike that folds.
  • The NWT fold is very useful for storage and travel, but unlike the Tikit I wouldn’t want to have to fold the bike multiple times a day.  The NWT’s fold is not effortless, but as a result you get a stiff frame which seems like a fair trade.
  • I haven’t toured on this bike yet.  2009 wasn’t much of a touring year for me.  Hopefully I’ll get out on this bike in 2010 for some loaded touring action. I have ridden the NWT around town on utility rides with loaded panniers and it handles very well with some weight on the frame.  My friend Amy bought a Bike Friday Pocket Sport [similar to the NWT] and went on her first ever bike tour [Lake Louise to Vancouver] a couple weeks later.  She cannot stop raving about how great her Bike Friday is.
  • The 8 speed Nexus 8 IGH drivetrain has been flawless.  I have it geared really low for touring and I should probably swap in a bigger chainring for about town use.  OTOH I can do 30kph+ on it at the moment and that’s pretty good for a city bike.
  • I should make special note of the JTek Shimano IGH bar end shifter.  This works very well and has been a great addition to my NWT.  I started with a gripshift attached on the end of a HubBub drop bar adapter.  It worked, but nowhere near as ergonomically as the JTek unit.
  • I’ve got the front derailleur and shifter on the bike even though I only have 1 chainring.  I’ll be dropping this extra gear, but I just haven’t been motivated to strip it off the bike and wrap the bars again.
  • Dynohub and LED headlight are a great addition.  I always have light without thinking and even run the light during the day as a daytime running light.
  • The Greenspeed Scorchers TR tires I love on my Tikit have proven to be a good choice on the NWT as well – fast, comfy and no flats so far.

So what’s not to like?:

  • a custom NWT isn’t cheap OTOH neither is a custom frame from any other US builder.
  • the Bike Friday front rack uses some plastic spacers to achieve the correct offset when mounting the rack.  This puts the mounting hardware into a bending moment situation vs. shear where they would be stronger.  This rack has been used lots by other people without issue so perhaps I’m just being picky.  I haven’t had any issues carrying groceries and such.  Time will tell.
  • small 406 wheels are strong, but you feel rough pavement more than you do on larger 700c wheels.  The Greenspeed Scorchers TRs go a long way to evening out the score on this issue.
  • the folded bike does not stay together very well unlike the Tikit.  Bike Friday does include a velcro strap that you can wind around the folded frame which does help a lot.  This isn’t an issue as long as you bought the NWT as a travel bike.  If you want to fold the NWT 5 times a day+ you’ll get frustrated.

I have quite a few nice bikes and it’s always interesting to see what sort of riding I end up doing on which bikes.  Since I didn’t get up to much bike touring the NWT mainly saw action as my about town bike when I wasn’t doing lots of errand stops.  It’s a fun nimble bike to ride and with fenders, racks and a dynamo light it’s always ready for whatever the day may throw at me.  If I was going to stop lots I’d take my Tikit instead for the hyper fast fold.

My Bike Friday New World Tourist photos.

How to size a SUP Paddle?

7 11 2009


When you get your first stand up paddle [SUP] board you’ll need a couple things to get out on the water.  The most important of which is your paddle.  SUP paddles come in a wide range of sizes so it can be confusing when deciding which length to get.  Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up online for sizing your first paddle:

  • for surf get a paddle 6″ – 8″ taller than you are
  • for flat water get a paddle 8″ – 10″ taller than you are
  • turn the paddle blade up and where the blade meets the shaft should be about eye height
  • raise your arm straight in the air.  Measure from the ground to your wrist.  That’s the length of paddle you need.
  • keep your paddle shaft long and secure the handle with electrical tape or shoe goo so it’s removable.  Use it and cut it down an inch or so at a time until you find the ideal length then epoxy it in.
  • buy an adjustable paddle like the C4 Stendy shown in the video above.  Use it  until you settle on a length  you like.

I think the best idea above is to get an adjustable paddle first.  This lets you figure out your preferred paddle length before you invest in a fixed length paddle.  Since you may want a longer of shorter second paddle depending what you mainly do – surf or flat water – the adjustable  can fill that role and be a backup paddle in case you break your main paddle.  You’ll also be able to lend your SUP to a friend and size them with the adjustable paddle so they can have a comfortable experience. The downside with this approach is that a decent adjustable paddle costs as much as a high quality fixed length paddle so you’ll have to spend twice the $$ the first time unless you know a friend or a SUP dealer who might lend or rent you an adjustable paddle.

Back from the Dead

5 11 2009

Sierra Designs Halfmoon Tent

I bought this Sierra Designs Halfmoon tent around 1991.  It was my first kick ass lightweight backpacking tent.  I loved it a lot and we had many adventures together.  Then two unfortunate things happened:  1) I dumped a whole pot of turkey stew in it on one dismal evening when I decided I’d eat in my tent  2) a few years later I broke a few pole sections during a storm at a paragliding site in Utah.  Living in Western Canada having a tent that smells of turkey is not ideal.  Bears are a real problem and they like turkey stew!  The broken poles just pushed me over the edge and I gave the tent away to some friends who needed a small tent with the understanding they’d fix it and use it.

I was just pet sitting at my friends’ place and noticed they still had the tent and it wasn’t repaired.  Since they hadn’t used it in nearly 10 years I figured I’d ask for it back.  They didn’t mind and don’t plan on doing much camping in the future regardless.  I dropped by MEC and they very helpfully got me some replacement poles I could cut down to size.  Not only did the lady at the customer service counter go out of her way to find me the poles she felt bad they weren’t the exact length I needed and was willing to spend a whole bunch more time rooting around in their spares area looking for a better match.  So not only did they give me the poles for free this wasn’t even a tent MEC ever sold!  Great store!…=-)

Once I got home it was just a matter 15 mins of cutting and reassembling the poles until I had a tent again.  I’m not sure if a bear could still smell the turkey stew after a decade plus, but I do lots of camping in the SW US and Baja deserts were there are no large omnivores that are trying to eat me.  So this tent will get used there.  I may even leave it with some friends in LA so I have a tent when I fly in to town.

I must say that I am a tent snob and own 3 super sweet tents from Marmot and Big Agnes.  I was really surprised how well this nearly 20 year old tent has stood the test of time.  It’s light, strong and has lots of usable living space inside.  It’s showing a bit of wear and tear from some hard use, but nothing tragic.  I imagine that I could get another decade of moderate use out of this tent if I don’t do something silly again like pitch it on an unprotected ridge during a crazy windstorm.

It’s first mission will be to come with me to Baja.  My main tent down there will be a 4 person Big Agnes Big House 4. The Big House lives up to it’s name and provides an excellent stand up shelter for a long term camp like I’ll have in Baja for 8 weeks.  What it doesn’t do is setup easily or quickly so when I stop my truck at midnight and just want to roll into a tent with minimal hassle the Halfmoon will get the call as it sets up in a flash.  The Halfmoon will also give me a backup shelter in case the Big House gets damaged.  The last tent I broke was on my 2008 4 week trip to Baja so I’d like to prepared for that possibility.

Big Dummy Frame Clearance

4 11 2009

Surly Big Dummy

Mike let me know that Tree Fort Bikes is clearing out Surly Big Dummy frames for just over $600USD. Their online store is showing all sizes in stock – although that could be incorrect.  Anyways if you are looking to build up a Big Dummy this is a sweet deal.

MEC Bikes

4 11 2009
MEC bike

MEC 1971 Bike

MEC has started selling bikes.  As Canada’s largest outdoor retail operation [similar, but much smaller than REI] MEC has a lot of muscle power getting products to Canadians.  At first glance the bikes they are offering seem like decent machines at reasonable prices. At the same time nothing much has jumped out at me as being particularly amazing.  Having said that I’m happy to see that more folks will be exposed to some decent bikes.  It can’t hurt.

Interestingly I spoke to the manager of a small high end bike shop a few blocks from MEC and they were optimistic that bike shoppers would be drawn to the area by MEC, but may end up buying nicer rides from shops like theirs.

I’m busy getting ready to head to Baja so I won’t have time to check these bikes out in more detail until early 2010.

Surfboards for Kiting

3 11 2009

Kiteboarding the surf....

If you are looking for a surfboard to use with your kites you’ll find this article handy.  With the speed and power kites can generate you’ll want something built to take a lot of abuse.  With strap inserts and sized for your weight.  If you are going to ride powered up all the time you can go for a shorter board, but if you want to ride unpowered you’ll need something bigger.

Naish has some great options for kite specific surfboards.


A shortboard with straps designed for kiting....

Josh’s Big Dummy For Sale

3 11 2009

Josh's sweet Big Dummy

Josh is selling his gorgeous Surly Big Dummy cargo bike.  Details are below – pls contact Josh directly about this sale as I am not involved in this transaction beyond helping a friend out with some coverage of his sale.

Surly Big Dummy 18″

Please contact Josh at joshmaus “at” gmail “dot” com if you are interested.  He is located in the Boise Idaho area.


Custom pianted Xtracycle parts look awesome.

New Tikit Seatmast

1 11 2009
tikit handle

The new Tikit Seatmast & Rolling Handle

My Tikit is back at home from its vacation at Bike Friday HQ.  My bike received a new seatmast as part of a warranty repair.  I was happy that the repair itself took about a week with another week for shipping back and forth.  I was expecting it to take something like 4 weeks.  As I noted earlier the absence of my beloved Tikit was really the only downside to the cracked seatmast my bike suffered. I appreciate Bike Friday working quickly to get the bike back to me.

The new setamast has been redesigned to avoid cracking under use.  Part of the solution was to change the rolling handle design from the one below to the one shown above.  You’ll notice that the bottom of the seatmast is a handle that joins both ends of the seatmast assembly together.  This acts as a brace reducing stress on any one joint of the seatmast assembly.

I’ve only used the new rolling handle a few times so far.  My initial impression is that it’s quite comfortable and I feel like it gives me more rotational control over the folded Tikit when rolling.  I’ll try out a back to back test with the Season Tikit’s old style handle and see what I think.  The only complaint I have of the new handle is that it’s bare metal which isn’t particularly comfortable to hold and is quite cold on the hands.  I’ll be adding some black cloth hockey tape to the handle shortly to make it nicer to hold.

tikit foot dr

Old style unbraced seatmast.

I haven’t gotten around to reattaching my Tikit’s racks and fenders.  That’s on the menu for this week.  I might as well take the opportunity to swap out the slick Greenspeed Scorcher tires for the stock Schwalbe Marathons.  Having a bit of tread is a good thing in the winter.

Welcome home Tikit…=-)