Liquid Force 2011 Envy 12m Review…

31 01 2011


I test rode a 2010 Liquid Force Envy 10m last season and liked it a lot. Bellingham Kiteboarding [aka Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham] lent me a 2011 Liquid Force Envy 12m kite to demo in La Ventana.

Super beefy wing tips for long life and no stress...

This worked out ideally as the wind dropped when I got the 12m Envy.  I don’t have a 12m kite I love in my quiver so having a big kite that rocks was perfect.  The 2011 Envy is even nicer looking than the 2010 model I tried last year. The graphics and colours work together well.  Some people don’t care what their kites look like, but I figure if I have to look at my gear for hours and hours I want it to be a pleasant experience…=-)

Kick ass bag...

The first thing you notice when grabbing the Liquid Force Envy as you walk down to the beach is the killer bag they provide.  It’s super burly and very comfortable if you have a long hike from your car to the launch.  Again some people don’t care about kite bags, but my kites spend a lot of time traveling from kite beach to kite beach and get thrown into my garage between trips.  Having a tough bag means I don’t have to worry about my kites getting damaged by something sharp or from UV.  These are the best bags I’ve seen in the kiteboard industry.

Leading edge protection...

Out of the bag these kites are extremely well made with an eye towards durability.  Many companies reinforce the edges of the wingtips, but Liquid Force uses uber beefy fabric for the whole wingtip.  Sewing and reinforcements including leading edge bumpers are all first class.

Pulley detail...

Pumping up the kite is easy with only the leading edge and 3 struts needing air.  I self-launched and self-landed the kite using a post on the beach.  Like the 2010 model this kite is very user friendly and doesn’t cause you any drama.

Leading edge bridle attachement detail...

On the water the 2011 felt a lot like the 2010 Envy.  That’s a good thing!  It’s easy to fly and very stable.  The light 3 strut construction means that the kite will just float back in the window if you ride under it.  If you have an epic crash you’ll come up and the Envy will be floating there waiting for you.

Inflate & deflate valves...

One thing I appreciate now that I didn’t in 2010 is that since I am more into riding a surfboard and cranking out turns on a wave it’s great to have a kite you can forget about and focus on your wave.  If you ride towards it too much it just floats back into position….nice!  It’s also great to have a kite that isn’t going to crash on you easily so that the chance for having an “incident” in the waves is way less than a nervous kite.

Single point inflate connector from leading edge to centre strut...

Like the 2010 Envy the 2011 model isn’t the fastest turning kite, but that buys you stability and confidence. I’d buy Envys for Sharon as her first kites because they are so user friendly for a new kiter and so I could use them when I wanted an idiot proof kite in the waves!

Click on photo for a video review...

Click on the photo above for a nice video review with more details about the Envy.

Here is the Liquid Force marketing spew for the Envy:

“Rock solid stability, directional float, pivotal turning and effortless re-launch highlight the Envy’s “beyond delta” design for all around performance.This ultra lightweight three- strut platform gives light, responsive bar feel with impulse pivotal turning.

The Envy’s flight characteristics blend to produce a distinct “set it and forget it” feel.This makes it the perfect kite for everything from progressive wave riding to kite low freestyle domination.

Land a jump a bit too hot, under run the kite in a bottom turn… forget about it! The Envy’s lightweight design allows the kite to float directionally, enabling you to forget about the kite and concentrate on the important issues: making grabs, spotting landings and reading waves straight into the pit.?

Got Ortliebs? Got Pockets?

30 01 2011

My LHT loaded on tour...

One criticism I hear frequently about Ortlieb panniers is the lack of pockets to organize gear.  I figured I’d share my technique since I never find myself unable to find something. First off I have an external pocket on each pannier plus a handlebar bag [most of the time]. That gives me 4 pockets plus the bar bag to keep small items or stuff I need to access fast.  I could add two more external pockets…one on the front of each front pannier for a total of 6 pockets, but I don’t feel the need.

Left Rear Pannier

  • holds all my clothes
  • I use mesh bags for small items like socks and underwear
  • I organize my stuff logically depending on what’s happening that day
  • if no rain is expected I’ll fold all my rain gear up and put it on the bottom
  • I tend to start the day wearing warm clothes and take them off as I warm up…these items are put inside the bag on top so if I cool off I can easily grab a warm layer
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold something I don’t need often, but want fast access to when I need it like a First Aid kit
  • I often hang a safety triangle from this bag to make myself visible night and day

Dusty Ortlieb rear panniers with external pockets...

Right Rear Pannier

  • sleeping bag in compression sack
  • thermarest air matress
  • sometimes a tarp
  • sometimes part of a tent with remainder on top of rear rack or shared with touring partner
  • this bag’s external pocket contains something I don’t need on the bike like toilet paper and hand sanitizer or stove fuel

Front Ortlieb with external pocket...

Front Right Pannier

  • contains my cooking equipment and food supplies
  • extra water bottles
  • this bag gets hung up at night in bear country or stowed in a metal storage locker at a campground
  • this bag’s external pocket contains snacks

Top view of Ortlieb's on my Pugsley...

Front Left Pannier

  • tools and spare parts like tubes/tires
  • a 6′ x 6′ piece of sil nylon to sit on at camp
  • extra water bottles
  • extra food if supplies are scarce on this tour
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold bear spray if I need it on a trip, but it’s not a high risk area [in that case the spray is ziptied to bars [like in photo above]

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers have an external pocket on the side...

Handlebar Bag

  • maps
  • wallet
  • camera
  • snacks
  • headlamp
  • knife
  • cell phone
  • GPS

Can you tell I love my Ortliebs?

Even though my load is a bit different for every tour by keeping this organized in a similar way for each trip it’s very easy to figure out which bag or pocket something is in. I load each bag or pocket so that what I’ll need most is on top and what I don’t need until an emergency or breakdown is on the bottom.  Where it makes sense I use mesh bags to organize stuff inside a bag.

Another trick I use to stay organized [day to day as well as on tour] is to always put stuff back in the same spot right after each use.  That way it’s always where I expect it will be.  If I’m camping for a while rather than pack and unpack my bags all day long I use a few dumping points for frequently used items like my tent’s pockets or my bar bag stashed in my tent. When I pack up camp everything from these dumping point goes back in its proper spot before the bike starts rolling.


Carbon Belt Tikit is Ready to Roll…=-)

29 01 2011

Carbon Belt Tikit...

Bike Friday is selling their carbon belt drive IGH Tikit starting Monday.

Here are some specs:

Carbon Drive tikit with Alfine 11.
Polished aluminum mountain bike handlebars, sealed bottom bracket, Tektro V brakes, 118-tooth Gates Carbon Drive belt, Shimano Alfine 11 internal hub, Phil Wood front hub and Schwalbe Marathon tires. Price: $3,292

Gear ratios for the Alfine 11:
60 x 24 = 21″ to 86″
60 x 22 = 23″ to 94″

Carbon Drive tikit with Alfine 8, Nexus Red Stripe 8 or Nexus 8.
Polished aluminum mountain bike handlebars, sealed bottom bracket, Tektro V brakes, 118-tooth Gates Carbon Drive belt, Shimano Alfine 8, Nexus Red Stripe 8 or Nexus 8 internal hub, twist shifter and Phil Wood cog, Phil Wood front hub and Schwalbe Marathon tires. Price: $2,595

Gear ratios for 8-speed hub:
60 x 22 = 23″ to 71″

NOTE: For comparison to chain drive tikits:
Standard 8-speed tikit: 53 x 11-28 = 30″ to 77″
Capreo tikit: 53 x 9-26 = 33″ to 94″

This version of the Tikit looks very sweet for the all weather commuter who wants zero hassle with maintenance.

I’m excited!…=-)   I’ll definitenly be askling for a test ride on my way home for Baja!

The problem with mechanical disc brakes…

28 01 2011

Avid BB7's on my Surly Big Dummy...

I must say upfront that this post is a bit of a rip off from an article Jan Heine posted in Bicycle Quarterly.  However, it’s something I was thinking about before I read that article and I’ll add a bit to what Jan discussed.

All of my initial experiences with disc brakes were with Avid mechanical discs.  This was simply because they were popular and easy to work on at home since they used the same brake housing and cables I was used to.  That meant I could overhaul my bike at 3am without a visit to a LBS for help bleeding hydraulic brakes. To their credit these brakes work well. I find the stopping power of a set of quality v-brakes and Avid mechanical discs comparable.  In the dry I can flip my bike over with both and in the wet they both stop the bike well albeit not as well as when dry.

I won’t argue there is no difference at all between a good set of v-brakes and a good set of mechanical discs, but the difference has not been in the range that it matters to me one bit which I use.

One issue I’ve had with mechanical discs is that after the initial part of the lever travel that does stop the bike reasonably well there is a very mushy feel to the lever as you keep pulling that seems to have little additional braking effect.  It’s worse on the rear wheel although that wheel isn’t particularly important for stopping the bike.  Since they work fine it’s not something I’ve spent too much time worrying about.  Then one day Bicycle Quarterly published an article that explained why I was experiencing this.

If you imagine that a rim brake is really a disc brake with a very big rotor.  This gives it a lot of leverage to stop the bike.  So that generating the same braking force  on a disc brake bike takes more pressure on the brake pads than for a rim brake bike.  Just the same as if you used a long and a short pry bar to open a wooden crate you have to push harder on the short pry bar to generate the same force at the far end of the lever.  In some ways the higher pad pressure of a disc brake system is a good thing since this is what is supposed to give it better wet weather braking as the pads squeeze water off the disc rotor more effectively than the lighter pressure from the rim brake pads on the bigger rotor that is the rim.

The problem is that the housing used for the mechanical brake cable is only able to resist the compression forces of the brake lever to a certain point.  Before that point most of the power you put into the lever gets to the disc pad and squeezes the rotor resulting in good braking.  Beyond that point more and more of the extra force you put into the lever goes into compressing the brake housing.  This means as you double the force you only get a small increasing in brake effect at the rotor.  This explains why after some good initial braking the mechanical disc brake lever feels mushy and doesn’t seem to have much effect.  It also explains why you can brake effectively with rim brakes since they don’t require the same high forces. Rear disc brakes also tend to use a long full run of cable housing which exacerbates the problem.

So what can you do about it?

  • if you want to stick with mechanical discs use some high quality brake housing that resists compression better.
  • if you’ve got $$ to spend install compressionless metal cable housing like the one made by Nokon.
  • if you are buying brakes go with hydraulic disc brakes since they don’t have this problem
  • the cheapest solution is to understand the issue and use the braking your mechanical discs provide…when you get to the mushy part of the lever’s pull don’t bother squeezing harder since you know not much will happen.

Rain Jackets PT 2…

27 01 2011

Gore Bike Wear Alp X Jacket...

So based on feedback I’ve rec’d on my rain jacket post and some additional reading I’ve done online here are the contenders at the moment.  If you’ve had any experience with ’em good or bad let me know.

Gore Bike Wear Alp X Jacket [image above]:

  • the Gore products seem to get good reviews from cyclists
  • very breathable
  • durable
  • checking on fit
  • easily packable in a handlebar bag
  • average cost of a quality rain jacket @ $279USD
  • comes in a variety of colours, but nothing super bright
  • not a lot of reflective material on it
  • limited venting options [relies entirely on fabric’s breathability]
  • I can order this to a friend’s place in the US and confirm size before taking it home to Canada

MEC Derecho jacket...

MEC Derecho Rain Jacket:

  • confirmed that it fits me well
  • probably a bit less breathable than other jackets, but offers a ton of venting options
  • durable
  • more bulky than other options
  • can return if I’m not happy
  • high visibility colour option and decent amount of reflective material [could use more]
  • under $200 so a bit cheaper than Gore jacket

REI Novara Verita Jacket...

REI Novara Verita Jacket:

  • I can try this jacket on at a REI on way home to confirm sizing [I tend to fit REI brand stuff]
  • eVent fabric is highly rated by endurance cyclists
  • limited venting options [relies entirely on fabric to breathe]
  • cost is under $200 – same as MEC jacket
  • can return on next trip to US if not happy
  • hate the colour and this is only option

Rain Shield 3Flow Performance Jacket...

Rain Shield 3Flow Performance Jacket:

  • not sure about fit
  • gets good reviews online for breathability
  • not rated very highly for durability
  • low cost at under $100 so durability less of a concern
  • light and packs well

At the moment I’m leaning towards the Derecho for the great fit and decent breathability [fabric combined with venting].  The moderate cost makes up for the bulkier size and worst case this will be a decent commuter/touring jacket even if it doesn’t meet my rando needs.

If the fit of the Gore jacket looks good [thanks for checking Val] than I may go that route and suck up the extra cost for better breathability and lower cost.

I’m going to try on the REI jacket if it crosses my path and see how it fits and how F-ugly the pumpkin orange is in person.  It has an outside chance at the present time.  For now the uncertain fit and low durability of the Rain Shield jacket are keeping it out of contention, but if I ever see one in person I’ll try it on and if the fit is good I might grab one to try out.

Help I can’t stop!

26 01 2011

Rim brakes? they still make those?

I read with much amusement people posting online that rim brakes don’t work well when it’s wet out.  If you mention you ride a bike in a wet climate like the PNW or costal BC you are advised that you gotta get disc brakes.  Apparently rim brakes don’t stop your bike well and you’ll wear through your rims at an alarming rate.  Disc brakes on the other hand stop your bike on a dime and never wear through a rotor.

It sounds great – except for the fact it’s not true…

When I look around at 10 bikes I pass riding around the wetness of a Vancouver Island winter 9 out of 10 bikes I see use rim brakes.  These folks are stopping just fine. I haven’t seen anyone ram another cyclist for lack of braking power or plow through a stop sign while pumping their brakes furiously.  Keep in mind these are not all top notch bikes tuned to within an inch of their lives.  There are a lot of beaters out there who see very little maintenance.  Even these mediocre rigs stop without issue in the rain.

My two go to rain bikes are my Surly LHT and my Bike Friday Tikit.  Both have rim brakes.  Both stop fine in the rain.  I often carry cargo on my LHT and it still stops fine in the rain.  Not just fine as is in I am barely able to avoid a problem, but fine as in I don’t really think much about my brakes since I pull the lever and the bike stops when I want it to.  If they didn’t work I can assure you I’d be riding different bikes when it was wet out.

I own a number of bikes with disc brakes.  They work fine as well.  I can’t say that there is any practical difference between the two systems.  I don’t ride my Surly Big Dummy with hydraulic discs and think to myself “…this baby stops on a dime compared to my LHT…”

Both my LHT and Tikit are on their original rims.  I’m sure they’ll wear out – someday, but it’s hardly a major issue. I just checked my LHT’s front rim and there is no visible wear on the brake track.  This is my oldest bike that has seen a ton of Kms…many of which were loaded touring in the mountains.  My Tikit doesn’t see the mileage of my LHT, but it was my winter city bike for 2 years and has tiny 16″ rims which should suffer accelerated wear.  However, my Tikit rims are in excellent shape as well.  The Tikit’s drivetrain is worn out so I do ride it a lot and I have to brake a lot for city riding, but so far no rim wear issues.

When I contemplated building up Sharon a new commuter bike one of the issues was what type of brakes to use.  To be honest I started down the “…I guess I better use discs…” train of thought myself until I really thought about it point by point:

  • v-brakes are powerful
  • v-brakes are cheap
  • v-brake are light
  • v-brakes are easy to adjust
  • v-brakes are easy to examine [condition and adjustment]
  • v-brakes allow for a more vertically flexible comfortable steel fork
  • v-brakes work well wet or dry
  • rims don’t need replacing often even with wet weather commuting KMs

Sharon won’t be getting a new commuter bike for a long time after this so I wanted to make a good long term choice. In this case that was v-brakes.

So if rim brakes do work in the wet and rims don’t wear out in a few months of riding why is there so much pro-disc & anti-rim brake nonsense going around?

The two most basic reasons are:

  1. bike companies want to sell you new brakes, frames and bikes
  2. we live in a culture where new technology is worshiped irrationally

I won’t be shocked in 10 years when most bikes sold in a LBS have discs if we see bike companies tout the advantages of the “new and improved” rim brake.

I figure I’m pretty objective since I’ve lived all over Canada and ridden all sorts of bikes year round.  I own and like discs so I’m not a technology hater.  I ride rim brakes and discs back to back on the same day so I can compare them readily under the same conditions.

Now don’t get me wrong if you give me a free bike with disc brakes I’ll happily ride it.  If I want a specific frame [like a Pugsley] that only works well with discs I’ll use discs.  Good quality discs work great.  They stop your bike fine.  My only concern is that we don’t lose sight of the fact rim brakes work great as well.  Picking discs because they are a good fit for your needs is smart.  Picking discs because you think they are the only viable brake option is silly.

Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ Review

25 01 2011

The new board grin...

I’ve been riding a sweet Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ thruster fin surfboard down here in La Ventana.

This board is too good for me...

Let’s be honest it will still be a couple years before I’m a good enough kiteboarder to really get the most from this board.  So I won’t bother trying to tell you how this board will work for you – I’ll just let you know what I think about it and share some board porn!

Glamour shot...

I got this board from Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham.  They’ve got killer prices and have always treated me great.  I chatted with them about what directional board they recommended and I got a unanimous Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ from three different folks at the shop.


The Tyrant is big enough for me to surf unpowered.

The bamboo and carbon construction is lovely to look at...

Slingshot marketing spew:

“Cherry picking the favorites from our test boards and developing what is the best 6’2″ tri fin shortboard model to date. Fractionally thicker over the stringer under the chest with flatter entry for paddling, than last years BW Pro. The NEW TYRANT 6’2” has a much smoother blend of curve, bottom contour (single double concave) and outlines that harmonize for clean release and drive.

The all NEW incorporated WVS Bamboo construction and the only board with parabolic CARBON rails, delivers a more crisp feel and spring when loading and unloading the rail. WVS and the carbon rail also makes the Tyrant the most durable kite surfboard offered today to handle everything from hard lip smacking to aggressive ariel moves.

This board will blow your mind in good surf! Kiting or surfing reigning as a dominant force to be reckoned with, the NEW 2011 Slingshot Tyrant meets the needs of expert kitesurfers looking for all out hard core performance.”

Carbon rails...

The carbon rails and bamboo construction makes for a very strong precise board.  I knew it was tough, but what blew my mind was seeing several of the pro riders in the big air competition this past weekend riding Tyrants.  Landing jumps of 40′ and 50′ on a surfboard shouldn’t be possible without coming back with several different pieces, but the proof was in the pudding.

The Slighshot surfboard lineup for 2011...

The 2011 Slingshot surfboard lineup looks killer – something for everyone.

Checking out the Slingshot booth at the Kite Expo...

I was stoked to see a bunch of Slingshot boards at the kite expo last weekend.  I wanted to try the Dialer [2nd from the left], but was too busy riding my Tyrant to get down there when it was windy.

I like the Dialer quad fin on the right...

What I like about the Tyrant:

  • light and strong
  • infinitely adjustable foot straps
  • removable foot straps
  • large size provides lots of flotation so you can use a nimble small kite
  • turns on a dime and responds to your every input
  • looks great and is taking all my abuse without complaint
  • rides toeside with straps no problem
  • goes upwind well
  • very smooth on chop
  • big enough I can try paddle it into waves [I say try because I’m not a shortboarder!]

Carbon wraps around the whole board...

I’ve already managed to ram the nose of this board into the ground when I dropped it…doh!…, but the carbon tip was barely scratched and I just wiped it off and went riding.

Comfortable foot straps on a sliding rail...

Both the front and rear foot straps slide on a rail for infinite adjustability.  If you want to pull the straps Slingshot gives you some rubber inserts to plug the rails for comfy barefoot riding.

Riding on rails - literally...

I’ve got my front strap/pad adjusted almost all of the way forward to keep the board flat and fast.

Tri-fin thruster setup for a lot of drive off the tail and maneuverability...

The fins bolt in from the top with burly hardware so they can really take all the pressure you can load them up with when you drive the board with a ton of kite power.

Fin porn...

I need to find some spare fins for this board.  I would be crushed to destroy a fin on day 1 of a 2 week trip to a remote beach.

A record of the serial #...

I got the 70th Tyrant 6’2″ they made…=-)

Return if found!

I haven’t lost a board yet, but just in case I always put my name and email on them plus an offer for some $$$.  Giving some one $100 is way cheaper than buying a new board.

A little more porn...

Okay got go ride!

Bamboo baby!

BTW – KPS has these boards on sale at the moment for $569USD [ Feb 2012]

little vik – BIG VIK…

24 01 2011

little vik...

My weight fluctuates by 10-15lbs over the year depending on how much exercise I am doing, what I am eating and how much beer gets imbibed.  Since I’m reasonably thin that’s a significant amount of change and I used to struggle getting clothes that fit throughout the year.  I think seasonal weight change is normal and as long as it remains within a range that’s normal I don’t want to have to think about it a lot.  So what I did is buy two sizes of clothing.  I’ve got little vik clothes and BIG VIK clothes.  For pants that’s a 32″ & 34″ waist and for tops it’s a medium & large.  That way I always have clothes that fit me well and I know where I am in terms of my weight without a lot of thought.  If my little vik pants are hanging off me I can eat and drink what I want.  If my BIG VIK clothes are getting snug I know I have to moderate what goes in my mouth and exercise more. Between those two extremes I can pretty much do what I want as long as I am reasonable.

It’s a good system and doesn’t really cost more since I don’t wear out 2 pairs of jeans worn a bit each faster than if I had one pair wore them out and bought a second.  It also means I don’t have to own a scale or monitor my weight.  My clothes do that for me.

Margo the Mini-CETMA…

23 01 2011

Margo the mini-CETMA...

Lane at CETMA has a new smaller lighter faster version of his cargo bike he is calling the Margo.   I don’t have all the details on how it differs from the original CETMA that I have besides being smaller.  I do know that the back end is the same so you could order a Margo front end and have two different cargo bike configurations for way less than the cost of two bikes.

Margo in action!

Margo in Green with the original CETMA in white...

I’ll get the details from Lane about the Margo and post them to this blog. For now just enjoy the cargo bike porn…=-)

Two sizes of platform...

If you don’t haul fridges around and want a more mobile cargo bike the Margo might be a great option.  Lots of room up front for a kid and a week’s worth of shopping.

Is white right or are you green with envy?

I do like the green colour something fierce, but I’m glad I have the bigger rig.  My Big Dummy is a good medium capacity cargo bike while the CETMA takes over when things get stupid heavy.

Same back end as he original now standard with an EBB...

Since I can use the same back end I may have to get me a Margo front sometime and conduct some extensive comparative testing!

Eccentric bottom bracket...

If I had an EBB I could ditch my Rohloff’s chain tensioner…*sigh* next time…


Margo – the same great CETMA flavour – just less filling…=-)

New Rain Jacket…

22 01 2011

MEC Derecho...

I’m in the market for a new cycling rain jacket for Feb 2011.  The main use will be around town riding and rando events/training.  I went down to MEC and tried on their Derecho jacket as well as the Shower Pass Elite 2.0 jacket.  The Shower Pass didn’t fit me well so it got cut from consideration.  The Derecho fits well and has lots of venting.  Reading the reviews at MEC a Victoria Area randonneur gives it a reasonably positive review, but he would prefer a more breathable fabric.

I’ve got a bit of time before I need to pull the trigger so if you know of another option that is highly breathable with lots of venting let me know.  If I don’t come up with anything better when I’m back from Baja I’ll score the Derecho and get on with it.

Surly Troll

21 01 2011

Photo: Surly Blog

The Surly Blog has a write up and some photos of the new Troll frame and their cargo trailer.

Mr. Fix it!

21 01 2011

Sanded fins smooth after riding into some shallow rocks...

More rock damage to forearm...

Mostly healed rock damage on shin...

GPS repaired with the Goo!

Water jug leak fixed with the Goo and duct tape!

Ran out of Goo so had to use seam seal...not as good...

Got my harness repaired professionally - no Goo here...=-)

Even my Repair Kit needs a repair....=-0!

Guyline repaired after midnight call of nature trip damage...

My tarp ripped out at one spot so I repaired it with a stick...

Ripped tent stuff repair feasible this got trashed...

Drunk idiot tripped on my tent fly and ripped it good...=-(

First I Goo'd it with red repair tape...then stitched the end where it sees the most stress...


Goo'd tent repair from last year in Baja...

Pugsley chain was last oiled in Baja a year ago...this year it gets the slack removed... lucky bike...

Something is wrong with the beer bottles down here...they start full, but quickly leak out and are empty???

How randon-ize a cross bike?

20 01 2011

Thank god cross bikes are so versatile...

If I am going to ride any brevets in 2011 I have to get some training KMs into my legs in early 2011. The best bike in my fleet for the job is my Bow Cycle BBC 24 cross bike. It’s light and responsive while still having room for fenders along with sensible rubber.  The wide range gearing is useful for when I am tired and steep climbs are in my way.  The powerful canti brakes will stop me fast in rain or shine.

Here’s how I’ll get it ready to rando:

  • adjust fenders [they got tweaked over the last couple years]
  • fit 30mm Grand Bois Cypres for a fast, but comfy ride
  • buy a Brooks road bike saddle [my existing saddles don’t work well for bars below the saddle]
  • add GPS mount and GPS for navigation
  • add a Dinotte light [with glare reduction DIY hack] upfront
  • add a Planet Bike Superflash at the back end for a rear light
  • add a tailrack bag for extra storage as needed
  • add a Road Morph pump to frame

Then I just have to ride that sucker!

Am I too lazy to be a randonneur?

19 01 2011

I have the jersey!

What does it take to be a randonneur?

Ocean Rodeo Mako 150 Review

19 01 2011

Mako 150 & Mako 140...

I got to try out an Ocean Rodeo Mako 150 board for a few days courtesy of Bellingham Kiteboarding.  The Mako 150 is the model right between the Ocean Rodeo Mako 140 I’ve been riding for a year and the Mako King that I rode at Lake Nitnaht this past summer.

They are both nice looking boards...

The Mako 150 is shaped the same as the Mako 140 with an extra 5cm at each end.  This extra length takes the edge of the board and gives it some of the cruising vibe of the Mako King without the weight and massive size. The Mako 150 was sort of the best of both worlds…when I wanted to charge hard I could rip turns and jump with it nearly as good as my 140, but when I wanted to take it easy it had a chilled out character and great upwind ride that’s not available on the Mako 140.

Ocean Rodeo favourite kiteboard line up!

Would I give up my 140 and only ride a 150?  I don’t know.  When I’m in the mood to rip the smaller size and lighter weight of the Mako 140 is pretty sweet.  I think if Sharon wants to ride a Mako we’ll get a 150 to compliment my 140.  We can ride both depending on conditions and our moods – that would be perfect.

One situation where I’d take a Mako 150 over a 140 or a King is for travel.  For 2011 Ocean Rodeo has setup the Mako 150 so it can be ridden in mutant TT mode like the Mako King with surf straps and 3 fins at the back end and one fin on the front.  That would give you an airline friendly board that can really do everything.

Love that Mako concave...

If you haven’t ridden an Ocean Rodeo Mako you need to give one a try.  They give you a super smooth ride in the chop and carve turns so well.  The only problem is you may have trouble going back to a square twin tip!

Click here for my previous Ocean Rodeo Mako review posts.

BTW – big thanks to Bellingham Kiteboarding [aka Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham]…putting out a ton of demo gear is expensive and a hassle, but it’s the only way for people to know what gear is right for them. Kiteboarding gear is expensive so being able to validate a choice before you buy is key. The fact they have the lowest prices I’ve found and great customer service is totally bonus.

Engel AC/DC Fridge…

18 01 2011

Engel high efficiency AC/DC fridge...

A lot of Baja campers have these Engel fridges run off solar panels/batteries. I’m thinking of doing the same thing for my truck camping setup.  Anyone reading this have one or know of a better camping fridge option?

What I like about this one:

  • freezes stuff [ice on the beach ya!]
  • high efficiency for use with solar power setup
  • runs off AC or DC for times I have grid power [ie. can take it in a cottage]
  • sized big enough to be useful and small enough to fit in truck
  • available in BC Canada
  • lots of folks down here in Baja use them and they seem to work well

Wall Art…

18 01 2011

Mural outside Russ Hayes Cycles - Victoria BC...

Baja Camp Tour…

17 01 2011

Bird's eye view of my camp...

Here is a shot of my camp in La Ventana Baja Mexico.  The square silver shed to the right isn’t mine it belongs to a windsurfer who keeps his sails and boards out of the sun inside.  I’m just using it for privacy and a bit of a windbreak.  Of note is the fact I can walk to the Sea of Cortez to kite in 30 seconds!  Very key…=-)

More exciting detail...

My camp consists of:

  • Big Agnes Big House 4 person tent + vestibule
  • living room [chairs and coleman table]
  • sun-shelter
  • kitchen [under sun-shelter]
  • Mazda truck

Living room...

This is my living room.  The ideal place to enjoy a cup of tea in the AM as the sun peeks over the edge of the rise behind me.  Note my competing reading material – project management study guides and Bicycle Quarterly back issues!

These chairs from REI are great and have lasted several years of 100+ days of camping not to mention all the bumping around in my truck.  The mesh breathes well, is durable and when it rains the water just falls through so it dries fast.

I love these Coleman tables…my oldest is over 10yrs old and is going strong. I’ve tried other camp tables, but nothing has made me as happy.

My kitchen...

This kitchen looks modest, but I can crank out a 4 course meal no problem.  I have a large BBQ sized propane tank fueling the stove for 2 months at a time.  I use a teflon grill for almost all my non-liquid cooking needs and love it.  I use a MSR teflon cook set for the boiling water, cooking rice/pasta, etc…  It’s big enough for 2 people everyday and 4-5 people for a meal or two.  I keep everything in a small rubbermaid box so it’s always ready to roll. I’m pretty carefully to make a note when I lose, break, run out, etc… of something so I can replace it.

My 10 yr+ old Coleman table gets kitchen duty because it’s a bit beat up and gnarly looking. The large Coleman cooler does a good job of keeping my beer and supplies cold. It’s big enough for 2 people for a week.  I want to move to an electric fridge in my next iteration of my truck camping setup.

The large box under the table is full of dry and canned food from home…including spices and curry packages.


This sun-shelter has been to Burning Man and is a good design for withstanding high winds.  It’s heavy and bulky, but for truck camping that’s not a huge deal.  It’s nice to have some shade even in the winter.  It does occasionally rain in the desert and by strategic placement of a tarp, truck and that guy’s shed I can get a lot of privacy.  I use the shelter as a place to hang wet gear.

Big Agnes tent and huge vestibule...

Camping for a month or two at a time requires a comfy tent that can withstand a lot of wind. This Big Agnes Big House 4 is a great choice – especially with the optional vestibule.  It’s light and compact for it’s size so it can fit into a limited sized vehicle.  I’ve camped in low cost department store family tents and they don’t compare at all in terms of quality, strength and durability.

The vestibule is sized nicely for my kites and boards...

I love the vestibule for my gear.  It’s too low to use as an entrance, but for gear it’s ideal and if I had to cook in the rain it would also be ideal.  Note that I leave $5000+ of gear unlocked all day and night in Mexico and none of it goes missing.  I love this place!

Kite gear for two...

This is my Baja quiver for Sharon and I:

  • Naish Code 9m & 12M
  • Naish Cult 6m
  • Ocean Rodeo Rise 8m & 10M
  • Ocean Rodeo Mako 140cm
  • RRD 144cm x 47cm twin tip
  • Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ surfboard
  • Liquid Force Kitefish

The sleep zone...

I don’t spend much time inside my tent since the weather is so nice all day and into the evening.  I have a queen sized double high air mattress for when Sharon shows up, but for myself I use a more spartan setup.  I started with an ultralight thermarest and then added a Exped Downmat 9 air mattress on top of it.  That’s been fine for me.  The exact air pressure in the Downmat is critical….too much feels like a rock and too soft is like sleeping on a waterbed that wants to spit you off.  I need a bit more air in it and it should be perfect.

I like the fact that I can stand up inside this tent and that the colours are bright and cheerful.

Truck and bike...

My trusty Mazda hasn’t moved since I got down here.  It acts as a windbreak and privacy screen.  It also gives me something to lock my bike to and provides storage.

My closet...

Since I don’t drive it I use the cab of my truck as a closet for stuff I want to keep out of the sun and sand/dust, but need frequently.

Charging station...

One upgrade I’m stoked about for this year is adding a deep cycle marine battery to my truck camping setup.  This lets me charge my laptop and small AA/AAA batteries.  I will get a boom box and some external lighting when I get home.  This way I can use as much power as I like without killing my truck battery.  That small red Honda generator is quiet and efficient for a weekly recharge of the battery.  I’ll get a solar pannel or two this year so I can ditch the generator.

I store my surfboard and extra gear in the back of the truck...

The back of my truck is used for extra storage of stuff I don’t use a lot or stuff that needs to stay cool/out of the sun. I can never keep it organized!  Maybe I’ll work on that today.

Hoop and fuel!

These are the supplies for my flaming hoop act for Burning Man in 2012….=-)~

Grand Bois – No, but Honjos – Yes…

16 01 2011

LHT with Grand Bois Cypres tires....

I gave up on my tire rolling resistance test as my methodology was flawed so that I couldn’t get repeatable results.  I’ll have to get some help to ensure each run starts the same and also get some help taking the measurements.  Doing it all by myself was not working.

So I put the Grand Bois Cypres on my LHT and used it for a couple days.  The tires are fast and comfy, but the more I rode them the more I came to the conclusion I really want them on my Bow Cycle cross bike so I can log training KMs for my 2011 brevets.  I’ll put the Marathon XRs back on the LHT and it can stay in hauling mode rather than trying to be a go fast bike.

Hammered fenders...

However, as I was messing with the tires I came to the conclusion that my aging SKS fenders could use replacing.  They still work fine [although the back one is a bit short], but they look awful. I think I’ll get some hammered metal fenders to dress up the LHT.  I’ll take the opportunity to clean the frame and do any drivetrain maintenance it needs.  I bought a leather mudflap to match the tan Brooks saddle.  I’ll order them so they arrive as I get back from Baja.  It will be nice to roll around on a minty fresh trucker that looks sweet.

Custom Rene Herse...

My LHT won’t look as lovely as the custom Rene Herse above, but you get the idea…=-)

Rob’s Pretty in Pink Speeding Tikit…

15 01 2011

Pink Speed...

I found these 1 year old photos of Rob English’s Speeding Tikit on my HD in Baja.  Not much to say – just enjoy the Bike Friday Tikit porn…=-)

Pretty exciting bike!

I like the two colour paint job...

Custom steerer/stem combo...

Not as pink crazy as his sister...

This folder thinks it's a roadie...

Lovely shifter bling...

Crank bling...

SRAM Rival...

SRAM Rival brakes...

Ti mmmmmm......=-)

I'd use a Brooks...

More Rival...

The Man on a Mission...

Got room for fat rubber and fenders?

14 01 2011

Surly LHT with 30mm rubber and Berthoud fenders...

One thing I read online over and over is someone trying to fit bigger rubber and fenders into a frame not designed for them.  It’s particularly sad when someone buys an expensive performance bent/DF and realizes narrow high pressure tires aren’t as well suited to their needs as wider rubber, but the frame can barely accomodate 23mm tires without fenders so they are stuck with narrow rubber and either have to hack up a DIY fender solution or forego them entirely.

My advice is if you are buying a new bike – especially an expensive one – make sure you can fit at least 30mm tires and full coverage fenders on a 700c and 40mm tires and full fenders on a 26″ wheel frame.  If you don’t need or want anything bigger than 23mm for now no big deal the extra room doesn’t hurt, but you’ll have options for down the road.

Road bikes need fenders as well...

Back in Calgary I got some strange looks when I put road tires and fenders on my Bow Cycle 24 cross bike.  In Victoria everyone has fenders on their road bike.  Using a cross bike as a road machine is smart because there is lots of room for fenders.  Not only that, but I’m going to replace the 23mm racing tires with 30mm Grand Bois Cypres [instead of putting them on my LHT] since it will make a better rando bike for me.  On most road bikes there is no room for anything more than 23mm tires while on this rig 30mm tires and fenders will play nice.

Grand Bois 30mm tires installed - just needs a mudflap...

Garmin Vista Cx Repair…

13 01 2011

Just add a beer to steady the hands...

The glue holding the rubber moulding onto my Garmin Vista Cx failed due to overheating.  I considered keeping it as an inside the car unit, but when I looked at what I could replace it with for brevets and other outdoor use [sea kayaking, hiking, bike touring, etc…] there was nothing that seemed like it was worth the upgrade except the Delorme GPS/SPOT unit and I balked at the cost since I spent too much $$$ at Christmas. As critically I didn’t want to learn a new OS/mapping system when I got back from Baja.  So I decided to try and repair the problem.

Funky glue needed cleaning off...

I assembled the necessary stuff to complete the repair:

  • rubbing alcohol
  • scrubby [turned out to be useless]
  • paper towel [very useful]
  • cold beer and limes [very useful]
  • seam seal & freesole

Step one was to clean off the old glue.  I used the alcohol and paper towel to remove it.  It came off easily. Took about 1 beer to get both the unit and the rubber moulding clean.

GPS cleaned...

There was some clear material under the rubber moulding over the button holes.  I ensured it remained in place.  Hopefully that will keep things waterproof regardless how well I glued the moulding back on.

Rubber moulding mostly cleaned...

Once everything was clean I gave the alcohol some time to evaporate before I glued things back together.  Waiting about 1 beer seemed to do the trick.

Two kinds of goo...

I fix everything with shoe goo.  Seam Seal is runny Shoe Goo.  Freesole is Shoe Goo sold in a small tube.  You only get to open the tube once and after that the goo glues the cap on so you resort to punching small holes in the tube at various spots.  Eventually the whole tube gets hard and you throw it away 50-70% full.

Looking at my options I grabbed the Freesole since it wasn’t as runny and I thought it would be less messy.

First application of goo...

I goo’d the rubber moulding on with an initial application of Freesole.  As you can see from the photo above there were some gaps and areas of poor coverage, but until the initial goo dried it’s hard to know how much more you need so I let it sit overnight.  You can add goo on goo anytime so better to go slow and apply it a few times than to go nuts the first time and wish you’d used less.

GPS goo'd right good...

I let the second goo application dry and checked the unit.  It works fine and seems like it will stay together for the rest of the natural life of the unit.  I’ll test it out when I use it on brevets this spring.  I get no awards for a neat job, but that’s lack of patience and dexterity!  It doesn’t affect the use and nobody will want to steal my GPS…=-)

You can probably do better…=-)


Wheel Building…

12 01 2011

Adjusting a little bit at a time...

I can build a bike wheel if I have to, but I don’t build my own wheels. Why not?  The difference between building an okay wheel and a great wheel is significant and only happens with years of experience under your belt and many sets of wheels rolling out the door. If I built my own wheels I’d probably build one or two sets a year – enough to be competent, but not enough to be great at it.  Add in the fact wheel building is cheap at $30 – $50 a wheel and it makes a lot of sense to use an expert for your bike wheels.

A well built wheel with parts selected sensibly should never need any major attention unless you have an accident or ram a deadly pot hole at speed so it’s money well spent.

The building blocks to a bike wheel...

Even though I don’t build my own wheels in general I have built two wheel [front and back] just so I understand what’s involved.  That allows me to make good judgement calls on a wheel I’m looking at and should I need to do some on the road tweaking after an incident I have the skills to get my wheel back into rolling shape.  If circumstances demanded I could build up a wheel for my bike and keep a tour going.  Of course if an expert bike mechanic was close by I’d just drop off the parts with him and go find a pub to kill some time!  It’s good to have options.

If you’ve never built a wheel find yourself a cheap used wheel that’s in okay shape.  Borrow a truing stand and tear the wheel down to its basic parts and rebuild it.  There are lots of tips on how to build a wheel online and Jobst Brandt’s book shown above is a handy reference.

Proper tension is key...

Bike tourists in particular fret a lot about how burly their rims are and how many spokes they have in each wheel. I think this worry is often illogical.  If you are concerned about the strength/reliability of your wheel it’s far more important how it was built than the parts used.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t care about the parts used, but that should be secondary to proper wheel building practices.  I’d much rather ride a well built 32H lighter duty wheel set on tour than a poorly built 40H heavy duty wheel set.

If you are riding machine built wheels.  [If you don’t know who built your wheels they are machine built wheels.] Take them to a wheel builder and have him adjust the tension.  This will be the best $10 you ever spent and will make those wheels last much longer and head off any problems before they happen.

Customizing the RRD for Sharon…

12 01 2011

Tweaking my big twin tip for Sharon...

Sharon will be using my big twin tip RRD Placebo board when she comes down to Baja.  It’s easy to ride and provides lots of lift making it easy to get out of the water and stay planning even if you don’t fly the kite perfectly.  That’s why it’s smart to learn on a big board and keep it around for light wind days and for new kiters to use.

Installing an Ocean Rodeo GoJoe...

The nice folks at Bellingham Kiteboarding let me swap out Sharon’s all black Ocean Rodeo GoJoe for one with some orange on it for better visibility – thanks!  As a new kiter you lose your board a lot and body dragging back to it all the time gets old fast.  The GoJoe keeps your board a lot closer to you by acting like a sail so that it’s easy to spot in the waves and easier to get back to.  Definitely a worthwhile investment.  Even when Sharon is past the learning stage we’ll keep the GoJoe around for tough conditions where losing your board is a real risk.

Adjusting pads...

You’ll notice the lower pad is closer to the heel edge [left side of photo] than the top one.  I moved both pads in to the centre as far as possible and towards the heel edge so that Sharon [who is a lot lighter than me] has some help putting weight on the heel edge.  That’s the edge she’ll be riding 90% of the time and with small feet and lower body weight it’s not as easy for her to  load up that edge as it is for me.  A narrower stance also makes sense with shorter legs.

The final touch...

Once I had it all setup I cleaned it off and personalized the board for Sharon…=-)

Island Shaper Custom Longboard…

10 01 2011

Jason and Sharon discuss longboard options...

To be honest I wasn’t sure how much interest Sharon would have in surfing:

  • it’s the hardest sport I’ve tried to learn
  • the season around here is fall/winter
  • the Pacific Ocean is cold
  • she has circulation problems that tend to limit her cold weather exposure
  • it’s physically exhausting like nothing else I do

So I have to say it’s awesome that she loves surfing and with the right wetsuit seems fine in the cold water.  I bought her an inexpensive surfboard [8’4″ Bic Surf] from a surf school in Tofino so she’d have something to ride when she came out occasionally.  She ended up wanting to surf at every opportunity so we sold that board to a friend who needs a low cost way to get into the sport and Sharon decided to reward herself with a new longboard better suited to her needs and developing skills.

I figured we’d keep looking around for a deal that fit her reasonably well and jump on it when one crossed our path.  I was a bit surprised when we chatted with Jason at Island Shaper as I dropped off my Walden for repair that he would make Sharon a custom longboard for $625cdn.  That includes custom hand made graphics as well as a length and shape made to order.  Give I paid $900+ for a production board that’s a deal.

Sharon is working on her board’s graphic design while Jason shapes the foam black for her.  If all goes well when I get back from Baja Sharon will have a sweet new board of her own to ride. Besides being better suited to ger than the school board it’s cool that she’ll be on a board made by a local Victoria BC area surfer.

Jason specializes in longboards and SUPs so one of these days I’ll probably get my own custom board.


Pixie Hoops…

8 01 2011

Sharon styled up for a hoop session...

Sharon’s keen on learning to be a super duper hula hooper. There is a local hoop troop called the Pixie Hoops. They offer lessons and sell gear such as the travel hoop that collapses in the image below.

Pixie in pink...

This video shows the ultimate goal.

I'm lazy so I hoop on my back...

Since Sharon was game to learn how to kiteboard and surf I figured some payback was in order.  I went with her to a Pixie Hoops workshop and gratefully accepted the pink travel hoop shown above as a Christmas present.  I did draw the line at the pink mankini + tutu though…=-)  You can’t say I’m not a team player.


Memories of Baja 2010…

7 01 2011

Fatty with a flaty...=-(

My last job before I hit the road to Baja was loading my Surly Pugsley. I noticed it had a front flat so I figured might as well fix it in Victoria.

I found 20+ thorns in both tires...

I was surprised to find a lot of thorns in both tires.  They could only have come from Baja last winter.  Some how they survived all year including a fair number of winter rides.

I got 'em all - I hope!

I broke out my mini-pliers and worked my way around each tire pulling all the thorns.

Amazingly I only found two holes in the front...

I used a tub of water to locate the holes.  Amazingly I only found two in the front tube.  At least that was at moderate pressure.  It’s possible there may be some additional pinholes. I patched the two and put the tire back on.  If it’s still holding air when I roll into La Ventana on Sunday I’ll know I got ’em all.  If not time for a six pack and some hunting!

So sad....=-(

As I worked on my Pugsley I couldn’t help, but noticing how rough she looked…=-(  This bike takes a beating and gets almost no maintenance.  So far she hasn’t let me down!

West Coast Trail…

6 01 2011

Blisters and Bliss...

Sharon hiked a 3 day section of the Juan de Fuca trail which is fairly close to Victoria.  She enjoyed it and has been talking about hiking the popular West Coast Trail this year. I bought her the guidebook and agreed to go with her on two conditions 1) we pack ultralight and 2) we move fast.  I’m not much for slogging along at a slow pace with an expedition pack on.  It’s not fun and all the luxuries you can carry along are more than offset by the suffering they cause.  Cruising along in running shoes and daypacks sounds like a whole lot more fun and as a bonus it will take up less of Sharon’s limited annual holidays.

I won’t be pushing for this trip so it will be interesting to see if Sharon feels like putting in the effort to organize this adventure.

First Friday of 2011…

5 01 2011

First bike ride of 2011...

My last bike ride of 2010 was on my Bike Friday Tikit so I suppose it’s fitting that my first ride of 2011 was on my Bike Friday Tikit.  Sharon and I were headed into town to meet Kurt for some Thai food so naturally we rode folders because then there were no hassles locking up our bikes outside. This was Sharon’s first ride on the Dahon I brought back from my mother’s place in Toronto.  Her impression was the same as mine – rides well [especially because it fits her 5’6″ frame], but no fun folding her.

Tucked away inside safe from bike thieves...


Garmin Vista Cx Failure

4 01 2011

Bought in early 2007...died in late 2010...

I bought the Garmin Vista Cx shown above at the start of Jan 2007 and when I went to use it yesterday and noticed the rubber seal around the perimeter has come unglued.  The unit is still functional, but when stuff starts to fall apart it doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling about it’s reliability when the chips are down.  I thought about pulling the trigger on the Delorme Earthmate GPS with SPOT beacon.  It looks awesome and I like the idea of being able to send msgs via satellite when I am away from cell or net service.  But, I need to keep my budget in check by focusing on the stuff I really want/need.  I’ll try and make the Vista Cx work through my brevets in 2011 and then it can live out its life in my truck.  That will give the Delorme folks a chance time to run through one more product cycle and when I do get a new GPS it will be even more function – hopefully!

Rubber case has come unglued...

I’ve owned quite a few Garmin products and this is my first failure so I’m not going to totally give up on them, but the Delorme GPS with SPOT does offer something Garmin doesn’t and this failure certainly makes me more open to switching brands and learning a new OS/software.

BTW – Kurt is going to lend me his SPOT messenger beacon in 2011 since he isn’t using it much.  I’l buy the subscription to their service and get to use it most of the time.  If he needs it he’ll take it back for a specific trip.  That way we both get SPOT functionality without buying something new.  It won’t give me the satellite messaging service that the Delorme GPS w/ SPOT will, but it’s a reasonable compromise until I have to buy a new GPS.