Respro Hump Initial Review

30 09 2011

Hump details...

I received my Hump from Respro in the UK recently. Check out my initial post to get the lay of the land.

Small package - big visibility at night...=-)

Ordering was easy and the Hump arrived within a week with no customs charges or taxes. Shipping was free to Canada/USA.

No flash shot of Hump on my Ortlieb backpack...

The Hump I ordered is their highly reflective model made up of almost entirely reflective material. I love be reflective at night as it doesn’t need batteries and “activates” only when there is a car/bike behind you with their lights on. You never have to worry if it’s working or if you forgot to charge the batteries.

The Hump under flash power...

The Hump is a backpack cover. It has elastic trim and two straps with snap on fasteners at the ends. This makes it easy to install or remove from your backpack even with gloves on. It wouldn’t be easy to access your pack with the cover on so this is better for bike commuters than for folks running errands that require constant access.

My black Ortlieb backpack un-Humped...

You can move the Hump around between any backpacks you own that are ~15L-30L in size. That should work for most cyclists.

The same Ortlieb pack Humped...

The Hump comes in many colours including waterproof varieties and models with built in lights. The one I choose isn’t very bright in daylight which is okay as I am not looking to be a traffic cone, but for those who are there is a a Hump for you!…=-)

The other side of the Hump...

The Hump looks well made and durable. It should last many years. It’s thicker than the rain cover on my Camelbak Transalp backpack for example so it should be able to take some abuse.

Humping is a personal thing. Some choose to ump. Some choose not to Hump. If you do end up Humping send me some photos and a write up of your feelings about it…=-)

Update – Marcus commented and let me know there is a 25L-50L Hump as well…Let’s call it the Mega Hump. Fewer colour choices, but allows those who ride with big packs to Hump as well.Check out page 9 in this Respro Catalogue.

Patagonia Jeans

29 09 2011

Great fit - great fabric...

I wear a lot of synthetic climbing style pants from MEC & REI. I like the fact they are comfy and give me lots of freedom of movement in case I need to round house kick a pack of Zombies! The problem is they lack in the style department. Usually I don’t care, but when I go out with a group of my stylish peers I feel goofy looking like I am headed to Everest Base Camp. I do own some stylish fashion jeans, but they always feel constrictive so I put them on only when I must. I have had some baggy jeans in the past, but they fail the style test so I am no better off than wearing climbing gear. Long story short I found these Patagonia jeans and I love ’em!…=-)

What I love:

  • organic cotton
  • easy recycling program once they are worn out
  • produced in non-slave like conditions
  • waist available in 1″ increments [in my range of sizes 32″-34″]
  • long 34″ inseam available so I don’t look like I am ready for a flood
  • stylish enough for my needs
  • enough stretch in the fabric to feel like outdoors gear
  • I can afford them at $79/pair
  • lifetime warranty
Initially I tried on a 32″ waist which was a bit too snug for my tastes and then a 34″ waist which was a bit too loose. So I was faced with my usual dilema – do I look good or am I comfortable – since I often fall between sizes. Then I checked and to my delight they had pants in 1″ increments in my size range so I could buy a 33″ waist which fit perfectly. I’ve also given up on any pants that have a standard 32″ inseam. It’s just too short for me and after a few warm washes and the dryer I’m showing off my ankles. I was able to buy a 33″ waist with a 34″ inseam which was exactly what I needed.

Now in terms of cut I bought the Regular Fit version which is supposed to be their relaxed fit jeans – frankly they seem really narrow and straight to me and I have scrawny chicken legs. I tried on the narrower Straight Leg version, but they clung to me like Saran Wrap – which at my age is not attractive.

Anyways I was pretty pleased with how they fit, but what really rocked my world was a few days into wearing them I realized that although they were one of my tightest fitting pants I completely forgot I had them on once I left the house. They had enough stretch in the fabric to adjust to whatever I was doing that day. That means loose fitting climbing pant comfort with increased style for my urban adventures. Sweet!

As far as durability goes I had an issue with my first pair due to some stitching which failed, but I returned them without a receipt no questions asked. I’ve had some unbelievably long service from a number of my synthetic climbing pants. I’m not sure these jeans can come close to that, but they’ll probably see less harsh use. As always I will report back with a review once I’ve had these in play longer.

BTW – if you are an outdoor slob like me who needs to look presentable socially or for work here is my secret weapon at the moment – Patagonia jeans or cords, Patagonia short sleeve button up shirt and Blundstone Chunks boots.It looks acceptable for anything short of mandatory suit wearing meetings. It’s comfortable and you can cycle in it. It’s not heinously expensive and you can wear all these pieces separately for your travels and other fun activities.


Giving Thanks!

28 09 2011

It's blue, it's new and shiny and it's ready to roll...

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up soon. We have ours early so we get to eat all the freshest juicest Turkeys and then we freeze and dry out what’s left over and sell them in the US when their Thanksgiving holiday rolls around…hahahaha…=-)

So I wanted to say thank you to:

  • Aaron Mankowske
  • The Fairfield Bicycle Shop
  • NRG [Canadian Surly Distributors]
  • The Surly Mothership

When we realized Sharon’s Surly Cross Check fork was bent after a moron rammed her on the way to work this summer we were bummed. Replacement forks are available, but only in black. That meant buying a new fork and trying to get it colour matched to the frame or getting both powder coated. Whichever way you slice it the result was going to be expensive and a hassle. I asked a Surly dealer [who shall not be named] if they could get me a blue fork to match Sharon’s frame. They made some calls and came back with a “…no chance…only black forks are available…” That’s what I expected so I asked Aaron to order me a fork through The Fairfield Bicycle Shop.

Aaron and Fairfield took the not insignificant step of calling/emailing NRG and Surly a number of times to investigate the possibility of a blue fork being obtained. I know this was a PITA for them and given the mark up on the fork not worth their time or trouble. On the other end someone at Surly had to listen to these requests and figure out a way to help us out. That meant getting NRG the Canadian Surly distributor involved. Keeping in mind everyone involved spent more $$$ worth of time on all this than they would make off selling a several complete bikes let alone the few bucks they’d make on a single fork.

The end result of this kindness and consideration is that Sharon has a brand new Surly Cross Check fork in the exact same Robin’s Egg blue as her frame. That means that she’ll be putting away her gnarly old commuter mountain bike and riding her kick ass uber Cross Check Commuter Assault Rig…=-)

Both Sharon and I say a sincere thank you to everyone who played a part in getting this fork to us…=-)

BTW – if you are ever choosing between buying something at your LBS or saving a few bucks by ordering online keep this story in mind.


27 09 2011

Sharon at REI...

Sharon and I took the ferry over to Seattle this weekend to celebrate her 40th birthday. We didn’t bring bikes and I didn’t mention it on the blog because I wanted to give Sharon as much time to do what she wanted while we were there. We stayed at a hotel downtown and walked around the center of town…as far as Volunteer Park. The weather cooperated for the most part and we enjoyed the wide variety of things to do/see downtown. Sharon said she was going to REI for me, but since she came out with a big bag of clothes and I didn’t buy anything I may have been duped…=-)

We were a little worried our stay in Seattle would be extended an extra day due to a big storm that was coming in as our ferry was due to depart, but we made it home just in time before the worst of the storm hit.

Inside outside at REI...

All in all it was a fun trip and a good way to celebrate. Sharon’s already talking about going back for a full on shopping weekend with a girlfriend – thankfully I am being spared that ordeal…=-)


24 09 2011

What an idiot!

With these GoPro helmet cameras becoming more and more popular for just about every sport I’m forced to let you know that you look like an idiot with one on your head. It’s not your fault and there is nothing you can do about it other than to remove the camera from your helmet. Now if you are making a movie or doing a once in a lifetime stunt I get it and support the temporary goofiness. On the other hand if you simply wear it all the time and don’t do anything with the footage I feel obliged to make you aware that you look stupid. I’ve been there so I’m not calling you out on something I’m not guilty of as well, but friends don’t let friends make fools of themselves without a head’s up.

I’ve seen some good HD GoPro videos online – both of them…lol…sadly the thousands of these cameras people are wearing do not seem to be resulting in internet video awesomeness!…=-)~

What Off Season?

23 09 2011

Sharon on a borrowed Brompton...

The fall rains have started in Victoria. If we were living in Calgary it would be the beginning of the end to the cycling season. At least for most sensible people…=-) Here it means breaking out the rain gear and picking your riding days a bit more carefully. In some respects it actually means more cycling than in the summer. During the summer our weekends are pretty much dedicated to kiteboarding which cuts into our non-errand/commuter cycling time in a big way. We just couldn’t fit in a bike tour this summer and the couple times we tried we were aghast at how full campgrounds were on Vancouver Island. Living in a beautiful spot is great except once other people hear about it they come visit on their holidays and fill up the place! Last thing I want to do is fight for a camp spot at a busy campground with screaming kids and barking dogs. Now that the rains have started the island is empty of tourists – sweet! Of course we are no hardcore bikers. If it’s pouring rain we’ll do something else like go surfing. That’s okay because despite a reputation for wet weather heavy persistant rain isn’t all that frequent on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Most of the time it’s dry or raining lightly & intermittently. We are medium-core enough to handle that! If I can get Sharon out on our tandem for 1 or 2 overnight camping trips that would be great. I think bike touring would be right up our alley as a couple and now that we have a tandem we have the right tool for the job.

My other cycling goal for the winter is to keep up with my regular MTB rides. Practically I get out once a week on the trails. Twice a week would be bonus and although I don’t enjoy riding dirt in the rain there is always a dry spell each week that will let me ride. As well with weekends freed up from kiteboarding Sharon and I can do some MTBing together. If it’s raining we’ll go surfing and if it’s dry-ish we’ll MTB or get out on a mini-tour – sounds like a plan!

I plan to ride some brevets in 2012, but I’ll leave the rando stuff until 2012 starts. I know I don’t have the dedication to train in the winter until an event is on the horizon and that would likely be the Victoria Populaire in March.

Fiber Fix Spokes

22 09 2011

Fiber Fix emergency spoke...

On tours and brevets I carry a couple of these kevlar Fiber Fix emergency spokes. They are easy to use without having to remove your cassette if a driveside spoke breaks. They are light, cheap and reusable. You can ride on one just like it was a regular spoke until getting a replacement is possible. They will fit any bike so you don’t have to stock spare spokes of every conceivable length you might have in your bike fleet.

Instructions part 1...

Now I must admit although I’ve owned 4 or 5 of these spokes for 10yrs or so I have never used one. I don’t break spokes – due to my equipment choices, the amount of gear I carry and the fact I get my wheels built/checked by a professional wheel builder. Having said that it can and does happen. Even if it’s not my bike I want to be able to get a friend rolling as quickly/easily as possible. You never know when you might get a stick in your wheel and no matter how well it was built – if that happens some spokes will break!

Instructions part 2...

I have spoken to folks that have used these spokes in emergencies and reports have been favourable. I hope my luck continues and I am not able to review this product for you myself…=-)

Now that I am thinking about it I’m going to add a Fiber Fix spoke to my mountain biking tool kit!

Cat Stop!

21 09 2011

Ultrasonic Cat Deterrent...

I like cats. I have a cat. My cat shits in a litter box and I clean that up regularly. My cat stays indoors. So my yard should be free of poo shouldn’t it?

Sadly my backyard was becoming a favourite poo spot for neighborhood cats – not good…=-( When I had a dog I used to hate having to walk carefully around my backyard to avoid piles of dog shit. So my tolerance for having to watch out for crap is low when I don’t have an outside pet.

I tried mothballs which worked for a month and then the local cats got used it and resumed Operation Poop! I couldn’t scare them away myself because they came at all hours of the day/night. I wasn’t prepared to get/borrow a dog since it resulted in the same issues as the cats – just in larger quantities. I was resigned to fencing in any areas of my yard that cats could enter, but when I looked at how much effort and $$$ that would take I balked.

What to do?

Well I asked Google for a solution and it suggested the Cat Stop motion detecting ultrasonic cat deterrent. Normally I wouldn’t trust such a gadget and assume it was a gimmick, but I was desperate so I bought one.

To my surprise it has worked. No more cat poo where I place the Cat Stop. Cats still come into my backyard – which I don’t mind. Heck I can tell they are still shitting in my yard, but now they are staying off the grass and doing it in the tree line/brush which doesn’t bother me as I don’t walk there.

I suppose I could get a couple more Cat Stops to keep cats out completely, but now that my grass is safe for walking, playing frisbee and drying out my kites I’m satisfied. I get several months per battery and the unit has survived our wet climate just fine.

If you have a cat poo problem I can recommend the Cat Stop.

Respro The Hump…

20 09 2011

Respro Hi Viz Backpack Cover...

This is a backpack cover that adds to your visibility when on the road. It attaches to your regular backpack so you can move it around if you use different ones. Never needs batteries plus you can ride around with the word “HUMP” on your back letting the world know exactly where you stand when it comes to gender relations. They are sold in the UK by Respro and the price includes free worldwide shipping – I assume they use the VAT [now at 20%] that non-UKers don’t have to pay to cover shipping costs.

There are many different colour schemes for every taste. I’ve ordered the version shown above and will review it this winter in Victoria. I like the fact I can deploy it when I feel the need for more visibility and then put it away or leave it at home when I don’t feel the need and want to look like a normal human again.

Partridge Hills

19 09 2011

A ride with a view...

Kurt and I explored a new mountain bike spot in Victoria this weekend called Partridge Hills. It was full of unmarked flowy single-track. Hard enough to be interesting, but not so much to wreck your rhythm. I think it’s my new favourite local riding spot.

Like Hartland – even though there are loads of mountain bikers in Victoria – Partridge Hill was empty on a nice warm weekend. I don’t understand that about Vancouver Island, but I’m not complaining! Maybe there are so many great places to ride local dirt riders spread out and don’t bump into each other. Whatever the reason it’s awesome!

There is a little pushing required...

The trails are above Durrance Lake so you have a nice swim/picnic opportunity post ride. You need to climb/push a bit to get up to the trails, but once there the altitude gain/loss isn’t big. We did run into a hiker who gave us the stink-eye so keeping your radar on and being considerate of other trail users is important.

Kurt in action...

If you are looking for more info about Partridge Hills and Vancouver Island MTBing you need this book.

Burning Man 2011

17 09 2011

Click on this image for more of Scott's awesome BMan photos...=-)

Sharon and I didn’t go to Burning Man this year. Our vague plan is to go every year there is a full moon during the event. That happens next in 2012 so we are starting to slowly get organized for another run down to Black Rock City. My pink Surly Pugsley was a success at the last event I attended so I’m going bust it out again, but with some upgrades…=-) Click on the photo above to see more awesome images from this year’s burn.

I'm thinking of a pink fun fur jump suit for me next year to match the bike...=-)

Bike Friday Tikit Redux

16 09 2011

Back and better than ever...

One of my favourite bikes got some love this year – my 4yr old Bike Friday Tikit had its worn out bits replaced and a new powdercoat. I was lucky enough to get a custom PR front rack from Lane at CETMA as well.

  • new powdercoat
  • new Greenspeed Scorchers
  • new chain
  • new cassette
  • new cables & housing
  • new one piece stem/riser
  • custom PR front rack

The rack doesn't mess with the awesome fold...=-)

Bike Friday did all the work for me less the front rack. The drivetrain and tires were in need of replacing, but the paint was fine. I was just in the mood for something other than stealth black. It was fair chunk of change to upgrade my old bike. I considered just getting a new 2011 Tikit. Having ridden a 2010 Tikit extensively there have been some definite improvements over the years, but at the same time my old bike is one of the original Tikits made and it rides just fine so I decided to keep it and show it how much I loved it…=-) If you have an older Friday and want to hit the refresh button give the nice folks in Eugene a call and see what they can do for you. Best to get the work done in the winter when things are less crazy at HQ and you could probably work out a better deal than in July.

Custom CETMA PR rack...

The front rack was a one off from CETMA. I don’t know if Lane would be willing to make another as the whole folding bike thing was a hassle for him to deal with and he has a ton of standard production racks and cargo bikes to build. Bike Friday is considering adding a front platform rack to their product line, but they aren’t sure about demand so if you want one drop Walter at BF an email. If he gets enough you’ll get your rack. The other option is going full custom which is no problem, but expensive.

Side view of the fold...

Naturally the front rack doesn’t mess up the sweet Bike Friday Tikit hyperfold. I haven’t tried it, but I assume the showercap won’t go over the bigger rack, but it might work partially as a protective shield from rain/dirt rather than totally camouflaging the bike underneath. I haven’t used the new rack much yet so I’ll save a discussion of how it’s working for another post. It will certainly make carrying bulky items easier an I’ll probably keep a light sturdy cardboard box handy so I can use it for smaller loose items as well.

The Ortlieb O-bag...

My hope was that this Ortlieb bag would mount to the new front rack via a bolt on QR block. That didn’t happen, but I think if I am happy with the rack I will find a welder locally to help me mount it as a PR rack plus a QR waterproof office bag is in my mind the knock out punch for Tikit’s usefulness and versatility. I’m stoked to be partway there.

My Session 2…

15 09 2011

The folks in this video are the ones that run our local kiteboarding school [Elevation Kiteboarding] at Lake Nitnaht as well as one in La Ventana Baja during the winter. Sharon learned from them. I love the fluid strapless action – something I aspire to….someday…=-)

Petzel e+lite 5 Month Review

14 09 2011

Small light with powerful kung-fu!

I bought a Petzel e+lite this spring to use on brevets so I could read my cue sheets and as an emergency light to effect repairs in the dark. It saw use on a 300K and on a few training rides. Since then it lives in my office and has been used as a convient light for more mundane activities like finding my keys when I drop them under the deck at midnight! Click on the image above to read my original post about this light and for basic product details.

Lots of options...

What do I think so far?

  • attaches securely to the visor of my Bern helmet
  • very lightweight so does not affect my neck on long rides
  • easy to operate with cycling gloves on
  • red light is nice as it doesn’t kill my night vision
  • provides sufficient light to read a cue sheet and to act as an emergency “be seen” light if you main light fails
  • quite bright for its size
  • easy to change where the light is aimed while riding and it stays in place even on bumps
  • very robust – I ran this light through my washer/dryer in the pocket of my pants and it works like new
  • I don’t like small coin type batteries, but I am still going strong on my originals so it’s not awful

Ideal for a visor or baseball cap...

Overall I’m pleased and would buy this product again. My only gripe is the type of battery it uses and it would not be possible to have such a small form factor with a couple AAA rechargeables in there so it’s something I can live with for the benefits of the weight/size. As Rando season approaches it will start to live on my Bern’s visor again.

In case I’m ignoring you…

13 09 2011

I've been busy!

The last few weeks have been crazy busy. If you emailed me or left a comment in need of a response and I haven’t replied I’m not ignoring you. I probably lost your message in the shuffle so please resend and I’ll get on it.

My superpower…

13 09 2011

Got poison ivy?

The job site I just came back from was packed with poison ivy and many of my co-workers were affected. The ones that didn’t have any problems were very careful about what they touched and kept their gloves away from their faces and other sensitive regions. I was a bit worried at first, but after I while I just stopped taking all precautions and despite tromping all over the site to the tune of 40kms+ of walking I didn’t have any issues. I may be immune to poison ivy! I would prefer to be able to turn invisible, have x-ray vision or be able to fly, but heck I’d rather have any superpower than none at all…=-)

Ghetto Ergonomics…

8 09 2011
Doing the best I can…

I seem to be cursed when it comes to hotels on my travels for work. Poor internet connections, noisy rooms, overactive heat or AC, etc… On this trip I’ve been moved 3 times in less than 2 weeks. My lastest room has no desk so I had to push aside the coffee maker on a low table and try and setup something I could work on for a few hours at a time. It’s primitive, but it’s good enough to carry me through to the weekend. I should be home on Monday afternoon. I’m looking forward to it….=-)!

Long Way Round Trailers…

4 09 2011

I dug around and watched these trailers for Long Way Round and I can see how the TV show format would be a lot more entertaining than the book I reviewed.

Andy Warhol was right…

4 09 2011

The usual...

Along with the normal stuff I do on most projects this time around we’ve got a TV camera crew on site documenting things for an upcoming show. I’m not allowed to say too much yet, but when I give up blogging to become a reality TV superstar don’t be surprised!

Lights, camera , action~!

I’ve been trying to sell them on the idea of a bike blogger sitcom, but so far they can’t wrap their heads’ around the concept. They also laugh when I suggest Will Smith play me on the show. I’ll keep trying…=-)

The Schwalbe Marathon XR is back!

2 09 2011

Welcome back XR!

My favourite touring tires are back! Thank God! I haven’t worn out my existing XRs so I can just get some Schwalbe Marathon Mondials when they do. The new name it a stupid mouthful compared to the simplicity of the previous name – XR, but that’s a small price to pay…=-)

Click on the image above to read the press release. Thanks to Richard for letting me know…=-)

Long Way Round Book Review…

1 09 2011

Charlie and Obi Wan...

My hotel in Ontario had [I guess still has] craptacular internet so I grabbed a couple books to read including this one. In theory I should have loved it as I like Ewan McGregor, I love dual sport motorcycles and round the world [RTW] bike tour reports. Sadly this book is as crappy as the internet that forced me into a reading binge.

Some surprising things:

  • there is very little motorcycle content in this book’s 365 pages
  • there is very little travel content in this book
  • Getting 1.3 million dollars to fund your RTW bike tour is a bummer
  • Camping in a tent is scarey

So if this book isn’t about a RTW motorcycle tour what is it about? Well mostly it’s about how rich famous privileged buddies who are totally out of touch with the real world deal with their fame and wealth. In that respect it’s actually reasonably interesting. You get to hear how Ewan feels about attention from fans and what he does in various situations when he is recognized.  If you love Ewan and/or are fascinated with how stars interact with their public this book might be right up your alley.

OTOH if you like RTW motorcycle trip reports you are going to be disappointed by a lack of motorcycle and travel content – except in the simplest and most rudimentary sense. Beyond that the writing itself is mediocre and the level of expression is 1st year university level – very simple and basic.

I couldn’t sympathize much at the descriptions of how tough it was to cross borders with only three chase vehicles and 4 support staff including a doctor and a local facilitator. When they explain how harsh it was to set up a tent and sleep on the ground away from 5 star accommodation my eyes rolled back in my head.

We just got paid to ride motorcycles round the world!

I haven’t seen the DVD/TV episodes. I suspect they would be more entertaining since I could geek out on the dual sport motorcycle riding bits. I already have their second book Long Way Down about their ride across Africa. I hope it’s better and I’ll give it a shot, but I am not optimistic.

If you want to read some truly entertaining RTW reports for free just jump over to the ADV site. Real people riding their bikes and dealing with what comes on their own with a budget of a few thousands of dollars and no support staff to take care of stuff.