Making Continental Tires…

31 07 2012

Photo: Matt Wragg

If you are interested in how they make Continental tires jump over to Pinkbike and read a nice article by Matt Wragg.

Surly Long Haul Trucker Update…

30 07 2012

Where the LHT is at…

When I built up this 26″ Surly LHT it was going to be a test rig to see what I thought about 26″ & 650B wheels vs. the 700c LHT I’ve owned for many years. I assumed after a year or two of messing around I’d be selling it and going back to my trusty sage green trucker. Instead I’m loving the new LHT and its balloon tires while trying to tweak my old LHT to make me smile again. I didn’t see that coming which is exactly why you have to try out different options to really know what you will prefer. Assumptions based on your previous experiences often don’t hold true.

I’m still working on the 700c LHT, but I’ve done what I can without buying anything new and I think putting some fast supple rubber on the old trucker [Schwalbe 40mm Kojaks] is my next move. I don’t have the $$ to spend on that at the moment so until I do I figured it was time to focus on the LHT that I am stoked to ride and make it better.

Not pretty, but they work so well…

Although I like riding the black 26″ wheeled trucker a few items were bugging me. The most important of which was the classy silver platform pedals were too small and lacked enough grip to keep my feet in place. I don’t like cages or SPD style pedals so I went back to what works for me on most of my bikes – BMX platform pedals. Admittedly they are not pretty and they don’t match the beautiful Velo Orange cranks, but they work which is what counts. Plus when I am actually riding  this bike you can’t see them.

Old Man Mountain Sherpa front rack…

I’m using this bike for errand running and transportation in the city at the moment. For that role it’s surprising how often a rear rack and 2 panniers just isn’t enough capacity to haul what I need. The solution was to add an OMM Sherpa rack up front. These racks are light, strong and the platform is very handy if I am carrying multiple boxes. I’ve used OMM racks on most of my bikes for well over a decade and they’ve never let me down.

Matching OMM racks…

With an OMM Sherpa rack on the rear I think the front and rear racks balance out the bike nicely. They might even draw the eye away from my fugly pedals 😉

Plastic water bottle cages…

I had some lovely silver metal water bottle cages from Velo Orange on this LHT and although they were stunning they would catch on my capris and pants as I pedaled. I bent one out of shape so bad it went into the metal recycling bin. The other will be kept for use on another bike. I’ve got he same VO cages on my Boulder rando rig and love them there because I’m always wearing tights or shorts on that bike so no snagging. Like the pedals I’ve installed these plastic cages I am using fall into the ugly, but practical category.

Black goes with everything…

That’s all the changes for this summer. I have a 26″ wheeled dynohub and light I may mount on this bike. At the moment it’s light out way past 10pm so lights are really not needed this far north. I’ll reconsider come September. The 2.15″ wide Schwalbe Big Apples are faster than you would expect and very comfortable. For city use they are pretty much ideal – not to mention they are paid for! Having said that I am curious what this bike would be like with even faster more supple wide rubber like a 2.0″ Schwalbe Kojak. That would also allow me to swap the Big Apples into my Surly Big Dummy cargo bike – where a boost in speed and comfort would not be a bad thing.

LHT enjoying the summer sunshine…

What about 650B?

I haven’t forgotten about trying out this wheel size. I even have some shiny new Velo Orange 650B rims that have been hanging in my office for over a year. The trouble is that building some 650B wheels and buying new brakes is spendy when the bike is rolling along so well in its current state. Other more pressing bike related purchases always seem to get in the way. So for now that idea is being shelved. I have no doubt that a 650B trucker with Grand Bois Hetres would be a very sweet ride it will just have to wait.

If I was doing it all over I’d have gone with the 26″ wheeled Disc Trucker so I could share any 650B wheels I built between the LHT and my MTBs.

My cat likes the colour of the new LHT…

Bikepacking Packing…

27 07 2012

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

Surly Nate Tire Review

26 07 2012

Fat knobby rubber…

The Nate is Surly’s 4″ knobby fatbiking tire. It comes in 27tpi & 120tpi versions. I was shooting for the 120tpi tire, but ended up with the 27tpi model instead. Prior to this tire being released the only options for the Pugsley were the Endomorph and the Larry – both of which are smooth tread tires suited for soft conditions use. Of course a lot of fatbikers used the Endo & Larry for trail riding since they had no options. The arrival of the Nate last year sparked a lot of interest amongst fatbikers for new terrain that could be conquered with knobby traction.

The 27tpi Nates have a spec’d weight of 1730g with a wire bead and price of $90 vs. the 120tpi version at 1280g with a folding bead and a price of $150. I would definitely suggest you go with the lighter 120tpi Nates despite the high cost. Saving over 2lbs is worth it for bikes that are already on the portly side and more importantly the reduced rolling resistance because of the softer carcass will pay you back on every ride you do. I only have the 27tpi version due to an order snafu and if I could do it over I’d hold out for the 120tpi tire. Fattires last a long time so it’s worth the investment.

You should also be aware that riders have noticed hundreds of grams in variation between tire weights for the same model. So if you have access to a LBS with a bunch of fat tires definitely weigh them all and buy the lightest. The difference could easily be a pound over a set of tires at no increase in cost.

My Pugsley with Nates…

Even though I’ve had a fatbike for years I was taken aback by the sight of the Nate’s aggressive knobs and the heft of the tire. It’s sort of like bringing a chainsaw with you on a backpacking trip…you are definitely serious about your campfires or in this case traction! My experience with the Nates has been in Vancouver Island’s wet rainforest during winter and spring. That means slick rocks, slippery roots, mud, steep wet dirt climbs and moss. The Nates did not disappoint in the traction department. When inflated properly they’ll hook up on anything other than roots which are near frictionless when wet. Like all fatbike tires you have to get the pressure right to coax maximum performance out of these bad boys. If they are overinflated you’ll bounce around uncomfortably and wonder where all the traction is you read about online. Despite the big footprint and aggro knobs you do have ride with skill and finesse the bike even with Nates to get traction on steep slippery surfaces. The Nates give you a shot at stuff you wouldn’t have a hope of climbing with Endos & Larrys. You still need to bring your “A” game 😉

Descending Nates hook up well and let you ride your Pugsley much more aggressively in sloppy conditions that you could previously. The same applies to braking.

Fat + Knobs = Nate

The downside to the stiff, heavy carcass and big knobs is that the Nate is noticeably slower than the Endos & Larrys. I’ve done 140km days fully loaded on the latter tires. I wouldn’t even consider that with these 27tpi Nates. That’s okay in my books as I wouldn’t use the Nates if I didn’t need the traction they offer so when they are on my Pugsley I have no other choice and long days in the saddle are probably not in the cards. Although I’m sure the 120tpi version of Nates would be better in this regard I don’t think you’ll see me rolling around on any model of Nate just for fun. When it dried out here I pulled them from my Pugsley and they’ll sit in my garage until this coming winter.

I haven’t used Nates in sand, but I hear they kick up a lot of sand and don’t work as well as Endos & Larrys unless you are trying to climb some steep dunes. I’ve read mixed reviews on snow. For packed trails and steep snow climbs they seem to perform well. For floatation missions – especially rolling over a crust they break through more than a smoother fat tire. In slimy mud they shed the goo well, but in sticky clay-esque mud they’ll pack up and you’ll have to clean them out frequently.

Back when my Nates were clean…

The bottom line with the Surly Nate is you get great traction, but there are some downsides. If you can’t make your riding work with smoother fat tires this may be just what you need. On the other hand I think the Endo & Larry are better general purpose fatbike tires and for loose conditions riding.

Other options:

  • 45 North has come out with a tire called the Husker Du [4″] in a lightweight casing and soon a studded version. The non-studded Husker Du has smaller knobs than the Nate so it likely doesn’t have the same traction potential, but it rolls much better. I haven’t tried a set, but I suspect they’ll be a decent year round fatbike tire for folks that want 1 tire to do it all. The studded version offers traction on ice at the cost of weight and rolling resistance.
  • Surly has come out with 2 new 5″ knobby tires called the Bud & Lou – in front and rear specific tread patterns. I don’t know if they are going to prove significantly better than the Nate enough to make the massive weight gains worthwhile, but they will look awesome on your Moonlander 😉

The Amazing Pugsley…

25 07 2012

My best Pugsley “Blue Steel” look…

With new tire and rim options available for Fatbikes I thought it would be interesting to outline some Pugsley configurations for different biking missions to illustrate how versatile this bike is becoming.

Pugsley 29er MTB

  • add in some 50mm Rabbit Hole rims
  • add in some 29er rubber from 2.1″ to 3″
  • run rigid with the stock fork
  • run a 29er suspension fork [up to ~2.5″ tires and steering geo will change a bit]
  • can run SS/FG or IGH no problem

Pugsley Bikepacking Rig and Touring Bike

  • add in some 50mm Rabbit Hole rims
  • add in some 29er rubber from 2.1″ to 3″
  • run rigid with the stock fork
  • for bikepacking use some 29er MTB rubber
  • for touring maybe some Schwalbe touring rubber
  • use soft bikepacking bags or racks and panniers or add trailer

Pugsley Commuter Bike

  • add in some 50mm Rabbit Hole rims
  • add in some 29er rubber from 2.1″ to 3″
  • run rigid with the stock fork
  • add rear rack and panniers
  • add fenders
  • Schwalbe Big Apple or Marathon tires
  • IGH would be great for low maintenance

Pugsley Fat Trail Bike

  • Marge Lite rims
  • Husker Du or Nate  4″ tires
  • rigid fork or a fat suspension fork when the come out for 2013

Pugsley Sand/Snow Machine

  • Rolling Darryl 82mm rims
  • Big Fat Larry 5″ tires
  • I would use an IGH for this type of riding

One Pugsley To Rule Them All!

  • buy Necromancer Pugs with 82mm rims
  • use stock Larry/Endo 4″ tires for bikepacking and general purpose rides
  • add in a set of Big Fat Larry 5″ tires for snow/sand
  • add in a set of Husker Du or Nate 4″ tires for trail riding
  • add in a set of Black Floyd 4″ smooth tires for commuting or touring use
  • one wheel set and swap tires as needed

Pugsley Hacks

  • IGH + SS/FG gives bombproof, weatherproof low maintenance drivetrain with uber strong rear wheel
  • FG front wheel lets you try out a fixed gear bike without having to invest in a new rig plus it’s dead reliable as a backup to your normal rear wheel
  • SS/SS Marge Lite wheels lets you build a very light Pugsley with two different gear ratios that are easily swappable
  • OMM racks are my favourite on the Pugs because they are light, bolt on easily despite the funky offset front and back – plus they are crazy strong
  • add some plastic velcro on mud deflectors to the downtube and seattube with your OMM racks and you have decent fender-esque mud protection with no extra weight and no way to damage them or clog up
  • look for fat bike compatible suspension forks in 2013 & 2014
  • Surly has released 5″ knobby tires that will likely work on the Pugs…not sure ho much benefit they will be over 4″ knobbies give flotation isn’t key for that sort of tire and knobbies weigh a ton as tires get bigger.

Salsa FS Fatbike Update…

25 07 2012

Surly Moonlander vs. Pugsley…

24 07 2012

Surly Moonlander – click for specs…

With the release of the Surly Moonlander last year the Pugsley has fallen out of the fatbike spotlight and some people have questioned what’s the point of the Pugsley when you can have 5″ tires on 100mm rims? The truth of the matter is that the Pugsley is the better fatbike for most riders and the Moonlander suffers from hyper-specialization that renders it far less versatile than the Pugsley. I figured it was worth breaking down the differences between these two models so the choice was clearer for a prospective buyer.


  • 28mm offset drivetrain
  • horizontal 135mm rear dropouts
  • symmetrical front fork [starting 2013 the ML gets an offset fork]
  • uses front 135mm hub with a front disc brake mount
  • requires specialized crank
  • only 100mm rims work [narrower rims can’t achieve adequate spoke tension due to large offset]
  • max clearance is for 5″ tire on 100mm rim

Surly Pugsley – click for specs…


  • 17.5mm offset drivetrain
  • horizontal 135mm rear dropouts
  • offset front fork
  • uses rear 135mm hub with rear disc brake mount
  • wheels are swapable front to rear
  • can use any 100mm BB + crank
  • 50mm to 82mm rims work
  • max clearance is for 5″ tire on 82mm rim
  • smallest tire/rim is 2.1″ on 50mm 29er rim
  • note: Krampus 50mm rim + 3″ tire will fit [OD = 30.5″]

Remember when these were the biggest tires you could get?

What does this mean in practical terms?

  • the Moonlander can only use wide tires and rims making it a flotation machine
  • the Moonlander can’t be fitted with skinny 29er MTB rubber for trail use or even lighter Marge Lite 65mm/82mm rims with 4″ rubber
  • the pre-2013 Moonlander can’t swap front and rear wheels making it less reliable for expedition use. Starting 2013 you can swap wheels front to back.
  • the Pugsley can use skinny 29er MTB rubber on 50mm rims all the way up to 5″ rubber on 82mm rims making it versatile from summer trail use to floatation missions on sand/snow
  • the Pugsley can swap front and rear wheels allowing for a very reliable derailleur + SS/GF or IGH + SS/GF combo perfect for expedition use where a breakdown would have serious consequences

Why we ride…

Who should buy a Moonlander?

  • folks that are pushing the limits of floatation on sand, snow, mud or bogs
  • riders that gotta have the newest/biggest/baddest machines even if they don’t need ’em


Who should buy a Pugsley?

  • fatbikers that want to ride trails, bikepack and be able to ride sand/snow
  • riders that value versatility over the maximum in flotation
  • expedition fatbikers that can’t afford a drivetrain failure
  • riders that want a fatbike and 29er without having 2 bikes

Surly Necromancer Pugsley – click for specs…

What about the Necromancer Pugsley?

  • this is a Pugsley with a Moonlander fork
  • you can run 5″ rubber on 100mm rims up front, but rear clearance is still limited to 5″ tires on 82mm rims
  • you can run 2.1″ 29er rubber on 50mm rims like a normal Pugs
  • you can’t swap the wheels front to back
  • the Necromancer comes stock with non-cutout 82mm rims and an upgraded parts spec vs. the normal Pugs
  • if you want a Pugs with nicer parts and don’t care about the swapping of wheels score this baby

Pugsley – not just for snow…

The Hot Ticket

  • buy the stock Surly Pugsley [if you don’t care about expedition reliability go with Necro for better spec and RD rims]
  • upgrade #1 – set of Nates or Husker Du tires for a knobby trail traction option
  • upgrade #2 – set of Rabbit Hole 50mm wheels with 2.4″ – 3″ rubber for trail riding/bikepacking
  • upgrade #3 – set of Marge Lite rims or Rolling Darryls [swap in for stock rims using existing hubs]
  • upgrade #4 – set of Big Fat Larry 5″ tires for flotation missions on your Rolling Darryls if you ride soft stuff a lot
  • this will give you 2 wheelsets plus a few tire options for dial a bike versatility from one frame/fork

My Green Machine…

Why my Pugsley rocks?

  • IGH is immune to weather and damage on trail from crashes, vegetation or during transport
  • IGH rear wheel is uber strong due to even spoke tension
  • Front fixed gear wheel can be swapped to rear for total backcountry reliablity
  • old style frame is larger for bigger frame bag
  • Jones Loop H-bars for all day riding comfort

My Pugsley setup for bikepacking…

Gravel Pimp – Railway Recon 1

23 07 2012

Sharon on her first recon mission…

JQ commented on my last Gravel Pimp Recon post that the E&N Railway might be rideable from the south end of Shawinigan Lake down into Victoria. If so it would be the most direct non-paved route you could ride so it seemed well worth a look.

Our ride in red – click on map for larger interactive version…

The E&N Railway line runs from Victoria to Nanimo and is currently not being used. There is some talk of reviving it, but the funding issues between Via Rail and the Provincial Government have not been resolved.

3 fat Gravel Pimps on the tracks…

Sharon has been keen to get some Gravel Pimping done, but she only has weekends off so this is the first time a recon mission and her time off coincided. I had reservations about taking her on this ride as I suspected it wouldn’t be the most pleasant one we’ve done, but in the end I figured the spirit of adventure would make up for some of the challenges on this ride. Sharon and I rode our Pugsleys and Scott rode his Jones. So it was a full-fat and semi-fat recon… 😉

It’s not smooth riding!

We started in the north where the E&N tracks meet Stebbing Road just off Shawinigan Lake Road. The thought was that the gentle down grade into Victoria would make up for some of the hassle of riding on the tracks. The elevation drop is ~300m and is a consistent rail grade so you don’t notice it too much, but I am sure it helped us along the ride.

Scott takes the easy path…

The riding itself was fairly brutal. Don’t let these photos fool you. I wasn’t in the mood to whip out the camera when I was been beaten up by the non-stop WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP of the tracks. We rode on the edge of the tracks when possible, but that was probably less than 40% of the time and often there was only a 4″ sloped gravel/dirt margin to ride. So you had to stay very steady or end up sliding down the slope into the ditch. Something I did more than a few times.

Sharon taking the hard path…

Sharon is new to the Pugsley and less confident about her riding skills so she stayed on the tracks more than I did to avoid the nerve-wracking riding on the edge and the inevitable tumbles down to the ditch. I felt really bad for her as she pounded down the tracks, but there wasn’t much I could do other than be encouraging. We aired down our fat tires as much as possible, but the reality is that they don’t help all that much in this situation. Having said that I’m really glad I wasn’t on a rigid MTB with 2″ tires.

Feel the bump! This was 5 out of 10 in terms of the worst bumpy sections.

Scott hustling down the tracks…

The scenery is nice along the route with a remote feel that is welcome especially when you consider the tracks run fairly close to the major island highway. It’s mostly closed in with vegetation on both sides, but occasionally the trees on the left disappear and you get some lovely views of the Sannich Peninsula.

Nice way to break in that Pugsley!

Of course you spend a lot of time looking down and concentrating on not crashing so you don’t get to enjoy the views quite the way you might hope to.

Railway spike…

The railway lines looked to be in great shape other than the overgrown vegetation that obscured the track in spots.

Team Pugsley – still smiling….

Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for bumping down the tracks make it sound like we had no fun. The adventure of exploring a new part of our island was keeping us stoked. Plus we figured the constant WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP action had to be firming up our butts making us hotter than ever! Hahahaha 🙂

Does this bike make my butt look fat?

I refused to judge Scott and Sharon’s “who has the better butt?” competition.

Police State…

It wouldn’t be a recon mission without encountering the red gates of doom blocking us from entering the Victoria Watersupply Area aka the DMZ. Thankfully this time they were perpendicular to our route and we weren’t forced to find a way around.

Cool tunnel…

We found one tunnel along the route.

Proof I was on the ride…

The tunnel was short so no lights were needed.

A very tall bridge…

There were 2 bridges on the ride.

Don’t look down…

I’m not sure how high they were, but it looked like a long long long way down!

Are we there yet?

After the first 10K I don’t think anyone was excited for more riding on the tracks and we started looking for a convenient exit.

A butt break…

Rest breaks were not for our lungs or legs – they were to give our butts some non-pounding time.

Plant Power!

The E&N kept us riding for something like 17 or 18kms before finally providing an exit onto paved roads in Langford.

The tracks are sinking!

The E&N’s few KMs provided some mud to keep us on our toes.

Sweet relief…

As well as some of the worst of the bumpy track sections, but also some of the nicest margin riding.

The end in sight…

I managed to ride over a wasp nest and got stung a couple times. That was painful, but it did take my mind of the bumpiness of the tracks for a while 😉

The big picture…

A few KMs on Goldstream Ave took us to the Galloping Goose Trail and on to Victoria. If you were enough of a glutton for punishment you could ride the E&N all the way into downtown Victoria – which is ~34kms.

On the plus side you can ride the E&N Railway and it does connect the south end of the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] to Victoria. On the downside it’s not a fun ride. In fact I would only recommend it as a hike – probably quite a nice one actually! If you want to ride the E&N just for kicks once go for it, but I doubt you’ll go back for a second helping. We rode unloaded bikes with big soft tires and it was okay. Fully loaded touring bikes [racks & panniers] would struggle and would probably have to be walked most of the time. I could coax my bikepacking rig down the E&N, but I wouldn’t want to. Although this is the shortest most convenient non-paved route between the TCT and Victoria I think the longer logging road routes to the west are a much better choice for enjoyable riding.

I’m glad we took the time to explore the E&N and see what’s what, but I won’t be going back on a bicycle!

Update: looks like trains will be running along these tracks in full force in year or so when the repairs are done.

Surly Krampus – 29+…

20 07 2012

Surly Krampus 29+…


Photo: Saddledrive via Facebook

Here is some Krampus video action.

Krampus complete bike green – photo from MTBR…

and another video…

Too much stuff = Too few routes…

20 07 2012

My not ultralight Big Dummy Touring rig…

Following on from my You are carrying too much stuff post I wanted to discuss the unavoidable relationship between rider fitness/power + bike/gear weight and route selection. Bikes are human powered vehicles and every human has a limited amount of power they can put out during a bike tour. Some riders are very strong so this discussion is less important to them, but for most of us a loaded touring bike takes a lot of our energy to propel down the road.

This equation leads to a vicious cycle:

  • As we add weight to our bikes the distance we can comfortably ride in a day is reduced.
  • If the route in question involves a lot of climbing the distance we can comfortably ride in a day is reduced further.
  • If the route in question is a poorly paved road or a dirt road/trail our bikes take more energy to propel and the distance we can comfortably ride in a day is reduced further.
  • If the route is rough a heavily loaded bike has to be ridden slower so nothing breaks and/or you don’t crash which reduces the distance we can comfortably ride in a day further.
  • As we reduce our daily ride range we pass fewer and fewer services per day which means we often have to carry more [food/water or tools/spares] on our bikes.
  • now our bikes are heavier so go back to the top and start again!

The practical impact of the limited power to weight to distance equation is that riders simply don’t consider routes that are too challenging with their touring loads. It also means that the willingness to explore off the planned touring route is diminished because the effort is so hard and the range they can explore from their start point is curtailed.

That’s too bad because there are some really cool things to see once you get away from the beaten path.

My FAT fatbike touring setup…

My own touring setup has been getting more compact and lighter over the years and I didn’t fully appreciate the benefit in terms of route selection at the time, but looking back I can now see that each iteration of the process opened more and options for where I could tour. A lighter bike can tackle potholed or rough dirt roads without breaking anything and climbs become less of an issue expanding not just what’s possible, but what’s fun!

I don’t have a specific weight I’m shooting for nor do I own a scale. My goal is to keep my gear/bike weight down at a level that it isn’t my focus on the road or trail. When an interesting point of interest appears a few KMs uphill off my main route I want to be free to explore that without first groaning inwardly at the effort of pedaling my heavy bike upwards. I want to look at a map and know that if there is a trail through an area I can ride it with a smile on my face not look for most direct flattest paved road between two points.

It’s all downhill today – right?

Interestingly in the motorcycle touring world a similar phenomenon plays out even though a small motorcycle has a lot more power than a strong cyclist. The limiting factors in that case is weight vs. bike handling and weight vs. breaking the machine. You literally can’t ride an overloaded motorcycle down a challenging track for long before you crash, break the bike or both. The result is the same for those folks – most plan routes that are kind to their machines limiting where they can go. A few riders carry small loads and go wherever they want.

Ultimately there is no absolutely right one size fits all answer for all riders, but it’s an unavoidable reality that as we load up our bikes we reduce our realistic route options and/or we push ourselves to the limit reducing the smile factor. Everyone has to decide what’s best for themselves when planning their next tour.

Ocean Rodeo Prodigy…

19 07 2012

A new kite from Ocean Rodeo. Not much in the way of details yet, but the video has some fun kiting action to enjoy.

Mr. Fix It!

18 07 2012

Fixing a surfboard ding…

My surfboard was no match for some floating wood that I hit at 30kph! Luckily I had some 2 part epoxy repair putty on hand to sort out the problem. Some putty, some sandpaper and a quick hit of spray paint and the board is as good as new.

Sanding the epoxy putty…

Note – no Shoe Goo was used in this repair 😉

You’re carrying too much stuff…

17 07 2012

Hiro headed south…

I was speaking to a well traveled bike tourist recently who was indignant that anyone would criticize how much gear he carried on his bike – it was after all his bike not theirs. That’s a fair point to be sure. So let me qualify my post by saying that this is just my opinion which I am generalizing outwards  based on my own experiences and the experiences that have been shared with me by other cyclists. It may not apply to you.

I was a Boy Scout for a lot of years and even won a top scout award near the end of my tenure with the organization. Being prepared for what could happen on a trip was a key part of the Boy Scout philosophy. Which provided the motivation to learn valuable backcountry skills and hone one’s gear. The typical overloaded bike tourist I see huffing and puffing uphill reminds me a lot of my days in the Boy Scouts. They are clearly prepared for a lot of different situations with all the gear they are carrying. In fact in “mainstream” cycling touring culture being prepared is a key goal for an experienced bike tourist. A lot of the chatter on bike touring forums is around “what if?” scenarios.

When I was in the Boy Scouts and when I started bike touring this philosophy made a lot of sense. I mean who wants to be unprepared for a problem? Besides it can’t hurt to be prepared right?

My first inkling that there was a downside to being overly prepared was reading Yvon [of Patagonia fame] Chouinard’s book about alpine climbing. He notes that if you carry all the possible safety gear you can think of for every eventuality you might face – you will be moving so slowly that you will have to use it more often than a climber who is less burdened. Which amounted to saying that being too safe is actually dangerous. As an example if you are in the mountains and a storm is coming faster than anticipated a slow moving team with lots of gear can’t out run it so they have to setup a bivy and wait it out. The fast moving team with less gear can change their plans and descend quickly to safety and comfort below. If the storm is particularly severe the bivouacked team may not have enough supplies to out last it and need rescue.

How does this apply to bike touring? It’s not like cyclists are facing life and death situations regularly.

Here’s how carrying too much stuff affects a bike tourist:

  • carrying more weight uphill makes your tour harder so you cover less ground, have less time in camp at the end of the day and are more tired
  • detours or side-trips are not appealing because of the effort required
  • bike and gear must be stronger to carry the extra weight
  • breakdowns more likely due to extra weight
  • some items like tires wear faster
  • bike handles more like a dump truck than a bicycle reducing enjoyment
  • route selection is restricted by difficulty of riding a heavy bike [bumping down a very rough dirt road isn’t so appealing when your bike will likely break]
  • slow moving heavily loaded bike makes getting past dangerous sections on route harder so you are exposed to risk longer

Add into the mix the slow as molasses flat-proof tires that a lot of tourists are running and you’ve got yourself a bike that’s hard to ride and not nearly as much fun as it could be. Ironically it will be one that will likely have more problems to deal with than a lightly loaded rig so you get to use all the tools and spares you are carrying.

A smart quote I read on a lightweight backpacker/traveling site said “…we pack our fears and insecurities with us…” as an explanation why so many people carry so much stuff with them when they leave home. Shortly after reading this I was in India for 4 months traveling around with a  30L daypack. As I met other multi-month travelers carry expedition sized backpacks everyone wanted to know where my “real” backpack was – thinking this was just my sightseeing pack. On that trip I shared a room with a Canadian guy hauling a monstrous 100L pack around with him that he could barely lift onto his back. I watched with interest as he unpacked enough soap, toothpaste and shampoo for his whole 6 month trip. I couldn’t help myself and commented to him “…you know they do sell toothpaste and shampoo in India?…” 😉

Hiro heads out…

Assuming you are with me so far the obvious question is what is too much gear and what is just enough?

Like most interesting questions in life there is no simple answer. It’s easy to look at the extremes and find examples that are clearly over the top in either direction. My bikepacking setup is my lightest most compact touring setup yet, but I am sure there are folks out there who look at my packed bike and see a bloated whale of a rig and others who can’t imagine rolling out on tour with so little. I feel I’m on safe ground with this blog post’s title because I think 99.9% of us err on the side of too much. About day 7 of most long distance bike tour journals you read a very similar report of stopping at a post office and mailing a box of stuff back home. Frequently a couple weeks later that happens again and another box of excess gear is discarded. You rarely read about someone stopping at REI on day 7 of a tour and buying a whole shwack of stuff they realized they absolutely needed.

Why is that? Well when you are home war-gaming all the possible things that can happen on a tour and assembling a pile of gear that can deal with it all there is no downside to adding another item to the pile. When you are on the road having to haul, unpack, pack and pedal all this gear around – some common sense kicks in and you start to prioritize enjoyment and ease of cycling against the risk that you won’t have a clean shirt on day 7 or that you may run through 5 spare tubes without being able to restock.

The reality is that on the road you don’t need a lot to be happy and that a lightly loaded well maintained bike isn’t likely to breakdown.

So if you are thinking to yourself “…do I carry too much stuff?…” I’d ask yourself if that list of potential problems above is true for you or not. When you see a cool attraction 3kms uphill off route do you take it or do you skip it because extra climbing on your heavy bike is just not worth it? Do you plan routes looking for the easiest way through an area or the most scenic despite the poor roads and extra climbing? Do you worry about wheels and racks breaking on tour from all the weight they carry?

If you are unsure you can always try a riding with less gear on a short tour to see what you think.

Fully loaded and still unprepared…

Sounds great, but what happens when the unexpected strikes and you don’t have “X” with you? No matter how much gear you carry something can happen that you didn’t anticipate. In the photo above I was on tour in the Canadian Rockies when a heatwave struck and I was baking on my bike. I had lots of stuff with me, but no sun-shirt. Since I was on a paved road tour I rolled into the next town and found a shop that sold me the tan LS shirt I am wearing. Problem solved. If it had suddenly become bitterly cold I would have tracked down some warmer clothes to augment what I had with me. What’s the alternative – carrying gear for heatwaves and blizzards on every tour even though you expect mild temperatures?

For anyone on a paved road tour in the developed world – Canada, USA, Europe, Australia, NZ, etc… Just about anything you need is virtually at your finger tips. In the US overnight shipping of specialty parts makes carrying anything beyond the basics pointless.  Help isn’t far away either as governments don’t build paved roads unless there are cars interested in driving down them fairly regularly.

On the Big Dummy tour in the Yukon shown in the photo below I ended up with a hand injury that required evacuation down hundreds of KMs of remote dirt road for me and my cargo/touring bike. Yikes – that’s not a simple problem to solve with limited traffic and no cell phone service! However, I ran into the foreman of a rock crushing operation who was an avid cyclist and without hesitation he threw my bike into the back of his pickup truck and gave me a lift. Back at home there was no easy solution to a problem like this. When actually faced with the reality of my situation I found a way to sort things out.

Middle of nowhere in the Yukon…

Turning to more remote tours it seems like being far away from resupply makes carrying a lot of stuff essential – doesn’t it?

Not really.

If you are heading far from a bike shop or a post office and you asked me what spares/tools to bring along I would redirect your energy to reducing the risk of having a problem in the first place. That means taking a robust well maintained bike, not stressing it with unnecessary weight, riding it appropriately and then working out what spares/tools to bring with you.

For example using an uber strong undished Rohloff rear wheel that isn’t affected by weather and has no derailleur to be ripped off by vegetation or destroyed in a crash is a way to mitigate a lot of potential problems without needing to carry anything extra on the bike.

Choosing to get off and walk a steep rocky descent that’s on the limit of your abilities is a way to mitigate the risk of bike and body damage that would require a whole schwack of tools, spares and first aid supplies to deal with otherwise.

Combining spares/tools amongst a group and choosing to use similar equipment so less is required and more can be shared with other riders is smart.

The point I’m making is that reducing risk can be done without necessarily adding more stuff to your bike. Just like climbing in the mountains one way to reduce your risk of a problem on a remote tour is to travel lighter, faster and more nimbly.

Having said that if you are doing a remote tour in South America and you are on a 29er you might decided that carrying two spare tires is needed due to the lack of resupply options along your route and the length of your trip. That’s a rationale choice to mitigate the serious and certain problem that your original tires will wear out on the tour.

My 29er bikepacking setup…

If you are interested in touring with less stuff, but it just seems like everything you are carrying is essential and you can’t figure out how to reduce your gear load here are some ideas on how to get there:

  • If you are a 4 pannier, handlebar bag and stuff lashed to the top of the rear rack kind of tourist you can remove the front panniers which will force you to carry less since there is less capacity on the bike. If you prefer the weight distribution of 4 panniers you can line the bottom of each bag with several inches of folded bubble wrap to reduce bag capacity while keeping 4 panniers.
  • Track down some touring journals of folks who are riding with less than you. See what they are carrying and model your own kit after them.
  • What are the bulkiest/heaviest items you are carrying? Stuff like tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear can often be replaced with much lighter/more compact items without any loss of comfort/functionality.
  • Look at any items you are carrying multiple of [say T-shirts] and reduce them. One running t-shirt can be washed and dried in a couple hours so maybe you only need one on the tour? Touring in high tech camping [think Patagonia or REI or North Face] street clothes means you don’t need cycling clothes and street clothes on the trip. If you are carrying thermal underwear on a trip anyways you can wear them to bed and use a lighter sleeping bag.
  • Sharing a tent between two people instead of 2 friends each carrying their own can save a lot of weight. Same goes for tools, repair gear, spare parts, etc…
  • Look for items you rarely use or can do without. If you can start a campfire every night leave the stove and fuel bottle at home. If you typically eat a hot meal at a restaurant during the day maybe sandwiches and fruit at night work fine and you can ditch the cooking/eating gear entirely.
  • Spend your trip prep time ensuring you won’t have a problem on the ride rather than using it to amass all the tools/spares to fix problems. A well maintained well built bike is worth more than tools/spares.
  • Make a list of your gear and note next to each item why you are carrying it. Prioritize the list into 3 categories: 1) stuff that gets used every day 2) stuff that gets used occasionally 3) stuff that’s there for “what if’s”. Work hard on reducing the last two categories.

As you are going through this process don’t go overboard. It is a process. If you are a 4 panniers, handle bar bag and stuff lashed on top of the rear pannier tourist now you don’t have to be the ultimate ultralight bike tourist next time out. Maybe you’ll never get there. That’s not important. What’s important is that you have setup your bike to carry what you need in a way that’s as fun as possible for you on tour.

Keep in mind the real goal is to smile as much as possible on tour – not to brag about how little you are carrying. A lighter load is definitely a help in enjoying a tour more and being able to explore with more freedom because you can take detours and ride challenging terrain easier. You can worry less about breaking a rack or some spokes and gnarly dirt roads suddenly become fun touring routes. However, if you are cold and miserable on a tour because you didn’t bring what you needed and your bike breaks because you used the lightest weight parts you could find than there isn’t much to brag about is there?

No road, no trail = no problem…

Despite a lighter is righter message in this post I don’t think being a weight weenie is useful in general. I don’t own a scale. I don’t weigh my gear or calculate how much my gear weighs on a particular ride. I don’t cut the handle off my tooth brush wear a girl’s thong cause it’s lighter or anything silly like that. 😉

I shoot for less gear and lighter overall weight on tour as a general goal, but I do so in a rationale way that balances weight and functionality with the needs of the tour. For example I found a 29er frame that was nearly 3lbs lighter than the one I was looking at initially with no other downsides so I grabbed it. During the build I spec’d an IGH and heavier wider rims adding some weight compared to a derailleur and less burly rims. This gave me an undished very strong rear wheel and an almost bulletproof drivetrain. It also gave me wider tire profile for better traction – important here on the Wet Coast of Canada! In this case adding weight lets me travel rough roads/trails with more confidence and less tools/spares so my enjoyment is high and my overall bike + gear weight is not any higher.

I do look at component/gear specs online before buying, but I’m looking for significant differences like 0.5-1.0 lbs. I only compare items that meet my functional needs in the same way. I don’t have a scale so if I can’t feel the difference between 2 items when I pick them up they are essentially the same to me.

You don’t need a scale to know that leaving stuff at home is going to give you a lighter rig. Being able to ditch a rack and panniers saves pounds of weight without any downside if you are able to carry the gear you need without them. Beyond weight savings having less gear with you means you spend more time on the tour thinking about your ride and less time thinking/dealing with your gear. Packing and unpacking gets easier/faster and you are more in tune with the world around you when you aren’t traveling with a kitchen-sink safety net strapped to your bike.

I don’t sacrifice my comfort to get my load down in size. So I always have a warm jacket to put on at the end of the day and I make sure I am warm enough in my sleeping bag to get a good night’s rest. On the other hand I don’t need a stove and a hot meal to be happy at the end of the day on most tours so I delete the cooking gear when I can. Touring in the wet cold winter I may go the other way and plan to cook a decadent meal in camp to keep my spirits up.

I don’t weigh food or water. I’d rather have too much of that than too little. Having said that I do take resupply opportunities into account when I plan. I always want to have some extra food or water, but if each day of the ride goes past a grocery store I don’t need to leave home with 3 days of meals.

I didn’t miss the front panniers!

I try and keep the big picture in mind when making choices. I have a suspension fork on my 29er bikepacking rig because it makes the bike more useful for me as an all around MTB and for bikepacking on rough ground. This isn’t absolutely necessary and it does add weight/complexity to the bike. I felt it was a good choice. Someone else might feel it’s not needed.  I use wide tires on my bike which are heavier and roll a tad slower than narrower rubber, but the traction and the comfort of the bigger tires is worth it to me. My parts choices and gear choices are not the ultimate lightest possible in a lot of categories. I didn’t go with the ultimate options because they didn’t make as much functional sense as something else or the cost was simply not something I could justify.

When I get back home I evaluate how the trip went and modify my gear for the next ride. Sometimes that means taking more items and sometimes that means leaving stuff at home. The big question on my mind when looking back at past trips and looking forward to new trips is what was the fun factor like and what will help me have more fun?

Sharon At Nitnaht Lake…

16 07 2012

Sharon showing the windsurfers how it’s done 😉

Gravel Pimp – Moto Recon 2…

13 07 2012

That’s what ~450kms and ~13hrs in the saddle of a KLR650 looks like…

It wasn’t what I had planned for my day on Wednesday, but I ended up on a long hot recon mission for that elusive bikepacking route between the Kinesol Trestle on the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] and the Galloping Goose Trail. I rode my KLR650 dualsport motorcycle which did a great job letting me cover ground fast and explore a number of possible routes. You can read my ride report here and you can see a larger interactive map of the ride here.

Straight of Juan de Fuca in the distance…

So what’s the score?

  • I found a nice route from the Kinesol Trestle past the Koksilah Provincal Park along Kapur Main and Jordan Main that spits you out just east of Jordan River on the Straight of Juan de Fuca. From there it’s a pleasant ~30km spin down the scenic Hwy 14 past the lovely French Beach Provincial Park to Sooke BC and the Galloping Goose Trail to Victoria BC.
  • It looks to me like both the Tugwell Main and Bulter Main route options will go as well since I’ve found well maintained roads at both ends that I’m pretty sure connect.
  • By riding the Butler Main option to Boneyard Main and then on to Leechtown and the Goose you can travel from Lake Cowichan to Victoria almost 100% on dirt.

Kinesol Trestle to Galloping Goose route options…

In the map above pink is the Jordan Main route I am 100% goes through from the Kinesol Trestle to the Galloping Goose Trail. Green is the all dirt route along Bulter Main to Leechtown. The red is the Tugwell Main route. I’m pretty sure the green and red routes work, but I’ll need to ride them to be absolutely sure.

Time to crank…

What’s up next?

The KLR was been a great help in letting me cover a ton of ground much faster than I could on my mountain bike, but I’d rather tour on a bicycle than a motorcycle if I have the choice. So it’s time to get back aboard my Scandal 29er and get some bikepacking done. I’ll probably ride the Bulter Main route to Leechtown to confirm the all dirt route. After that I have a promising dirt route going north from Lake Cowichan to Comox I want to check out.

Just couldn’t do it…

12 07 2012

My Surly LHT…

My garage is pretty cluttered with gear. The worst offenders are the bikes loitering in there. 😉 For various reasons I’m not ready to sell any bikes at the moment, but I did have what seemed like a cunning plan to pull out 2 bikes and put them into medium/long-term storage eslewhere. One of those bikes was my 700c Surly LHT. My thought was to strip it down of parts which would either get reused or put into my spares bin. The frame would be stored for the foreseeable future. To be revived at a later date when I had a need for it and the original LHT would be an even more classic bike to ride. In the meantime I’d just ride the 26″ wheeled LHT as I was keen to keep testing out that wheel size.

Tweaked LHT cockpit…

I hauled the 700c LHT from where it was hanging in the garage and clamped it into my repair stand for the tear down. Not surprisingly I procrastinated for a while. It’s summer so there are lots of things on the go eating up my free time. At some point I realized I had time to work on the LHT, but was just not happy about taking it apart. Not only it is my oldest bike with which I have had some great cycling memories, but it’s setup really well other than the cockpit that needed tweaking. I think if it was all beat up and in need of a major overhaul the process would have been easier.

A closer look at the cockpit…

I was fine with keeping the LHT in service, but if I was going to do that I had to get the saddle & bars adjusted so I was comfortable on the bike again. I can’t explain how my preferred riding position changed so much, but it did. I ended up raising the saddle a touch and dropping the bars 1.5″ which also moved them forward 0.5″. I rotated the bars forward a bit and moved the brake levers forward on the drops. It’s actually a pretty radical adjustment given that the LHT’s previous setup had worked for me for many years.

What’s important is that when I climb aboard this bike now my body immediately feels at home. I’m not going to cut the steerer tube until I’ve ridden the bike a while just to be sure I am confident of the change.

Got Goo?

11 07 2012

My Five Ten Impact Low mountain bike shoes…

I bought these 5.10 Impact Low mountain bike shoes when I got my Santa Cruz Nomad. Their sticky soles and platform pedals are a match made in heaven. They stay planted 100% right up until I want to jump off the bike and then they release instantly. I can walk in them all day – including getting traction on some seriously heinous hike-a-bike terrain. Given the amount of abuse they’ve sustained I am impressed they are still in reasonable shape and look to keep rolling for a few more years at least.

Old repair on toe box…

One thing I’ve done to prevent their early demise is to catch & fix any problems ASAP [like the sole detaching at the toe box above] and repairing them while the problem is small. Of course I use my favourite repair solution – the mighty Shoe Goo! The repair above is at least a year old and is holding up great.

Huston we have a problem!

After a recent ride I noticed the sole was coming off the shoe body at one outside edge.

Shoe Goo deployed…

So I hit it with Shoe Goo before I went on my next ride. Thanks to 5.10 for making such a great shoe and thanks to Shoe Goo for such a versatile repair adhesive. 🙂

A-Man’s 29er Hammock Ramble…

10 07 2012

A-Man on the move…

Aaron writes:

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

Taking a break along the way…

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

Loving those 29er wagon wheels in the forest…

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

Moots loaded for a bikepack…

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


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

Seat Bag           

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

Frame bag…

Frame Bag            

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

Bar bag…

Bar Bag           

  • Main compartment = sleeping bag & Hennessey hammock.

Auxiliary front bag (white) contained:

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


Cockpit view of bar bag…

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

Old and new wagon wheels…

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

Titanium bikepacking goodness…

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

Top of the World…

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

Time to hang out…

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

Chillaxing with a view…

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

Killer slug…

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

Lost, but having a great time!

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

A rocky road…

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


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

Light is right…


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

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

Stay on top of the maintenance!

9 07 2012

Not good!

My Santa Cruz Nomad normally shifts like a champ so I was a bit surprised when it started grinding gears on my last ride. stopping for a second to check the rear derailleur I was a bit horrified to see the far end of cable housing was heavily mangled. I had a pretty gnarly crash a few weeks ago and I guess never paid attention to the full extent of the damage. I was able to tweak the shifting back into line and finish my ride, but I could just as easily been stuck a long walk from the car with a bike that wouldn’t shift.

Fresh cable and housing….

Mountain bikes live a hard life so it’s important to take the time to inspect your ride as often as you can. Especially if you ride someplace where you can be several hours walk from help if your bike self destructs! I installed a new cable and new housing before the next ride. It was a bit sad I couldn’t find a reason to use any Shoe Goo though… 😉

Double red…

My Nomad is aging well, but even though it hasn’t required very much in the way of repairs or maintenance the older it gets the more likely something will fail unexpectedly. Before I take off for any long MTB road trips a thorough inspection will be a smart idea to deal with any problems at home where it’s as easy as possible.

The year of repair…

7 07 2012

Toughen up!

It could all be in my mind, but I feel like I’ve been repairing gear a lot so far this year. On one hand I’d rather spend my time doing other things…on the other hand gear needs repairs when it used a lot. Lots of use = a good thing.

So I when I noticed the stitching on my kiteboarding impact vest was coming apart I put my Mr. Fix It hat on and grabbed my Shoe Goo! 😉

Better nip that in the bud…

I briefly considered a Shoe Goo only repair, but then thought I’ve got mad skillz with a needle and thread – time to bust out another facet of my gear repair kung-fu!

Bam – that ain’t coming undone!

I used a randomized lock-stitch technique. It’s great because the seam doesn’t know what’s hit it and just gives up and stays closed.

Finally some Shoe Goo…

The inside part of the repair rubs against my kite harness and wetsuit so I figured some Shoe Goo on top of the threads would protect it nicely. Perhaps not absolutely needed, but I love the smell of solvent in the morning… 😉

Seam Seal on the outside…

The outside stitching sees less abrasion, but I want to forget about this repair and never have to deal with it again. Shoe Goo is too ghetto for my uber cool kiteboarding image so I pulled out the Seam Seal. This is Shoe Goo’s thinner and more runny cousin. You can do a more refined repair with it as you can see.

Looking good and ready for the water!

The finished repair looks reasonably discrete and is very burly. I’d call that success! 🙂

Kurt goes tubeless…

6 07 2012

We don’t need no stinking tubes…

We converted Kurt’s Santa Cruz Nomad to tubeless recently. He seems to suffer considerably more flats than I do so he’ll hopefully benefit from the switch significantly. We used Stan’s yellow tape  and Stan’s valve stems with some environmentally friendly Blue Seal tubeless tire sealant we are testing out. Kurt’s Chunder Control tires are tubeless ready, but his Mavic rims are not made for a tubeless tire. Regardless setting them up was reasonably painless with the use of a CO2 cartridge to get the bead to seal [floor pump didn’t work and I don’t have a compressor]. So far they are holding air pretty well. I’ll be posting a tubeless update at the end of the summarizing all of our experiences running mountain bikes without tubes. Thus far I have no regrets!

Fighting Murphy’s Law…

5 07 2012

Mostly my bike works great!

I don’t suffer mechanicals very often on rides. For that I am eternally grateful to the Bike Gods. However, it seems that the vast majority of the times when I do have a problem I have left the necessary tools/spares at home. This would serve me right except for the fact I carry tools/spares almost all the time so the fact the problems happen only on the rare occasions when I don’t have the stuff I need to fix things seems perverse!

Frame mounted repair kit…

Case in point. I typically carry a pump and full set of tools + patch kit and spare tube on my Santa Cruz Nomad. Since I ride my Scandal 29er and Surly Pugsley as well I have a second set of tools, pump and patch kit/tube in my hydration pack. Scott usually carries a full set of tools, pump and patch kit/tube as well. So on a given ride it’s not unusual for us to have 3 complete sets of emergency repair equipment for 2 bikes.

Where are the tools?

Last week Scott had front tire problems that required a spare tube and a patch kit or a second spare tube. We were a bit horrified to realize that I had taken off my bike mounted Porcelain Rocket frame bag when I took the bike in to have the fork serviced and moved my second set of emergency repair items to another hydration pack. No problem we’ll just use Scott’s stuff! Yikes – Scott also managed to come on the ride without his tools/pump.

This repair kit is back on my Nomad…

We were only saved from a walk out by Tom’s pump and patch kit. Luckily we had a guest from Australia on the ride who brought some repair gear all the way to Victoria!

My 2nd backpack repair kit…

In reaction to the recent incident I’ve reattached the Porcelain Rocket frame bag to my Nomad and put together another tool kit so each hydration pack has one. In theory this means we can never be without tools/spares on a MTB ride again – right? Sadly Murphy always finds a way to make it happen! I do think we are probably good for the rest of the summer though. Until I go to service the bike in the fall and pull the frame bag and maybe I need to get a repair done on my hyrdation pack and forget to reload it with tools… 😉

Kite Pump Maintenance…

3 07 2012

My old Naish kite pump…

Kite pumps fill a critical niche in our sport. They efficiently inflate our kites many times often in very harsh environments. You need to look after your pump if you want it to keep working for a long time. You can’t cost effectively fix a trashed pump so your choice is to maintain it or keep buying new pumps every season.

Inside of a clean pump body…

Step 1 is to pull the pump apart and clean out the body with soap, water and a scrub pad.

Pump head…

Step 2 clean the pump head with soap, water and scrub pad. Take your time as there are lots of nooks and crannies to clean up.

Pump ready to rock…

Step 3 lube up the pump head and shaft. I used olive oil. I’ve read about other lube options, but had olive oil handy so I went with it. So far it’s working fine. Don’t get too crazy with the oil as any excess will end up in the kite bladder eventually.

Filter building supplies…

The best way to keep crap out of your pump is to build a DIY filter. All you need is a chunk of open cell foam, shoe goo and a large pump nozzle – plus some scissors.

Cut a hole in the foam…

Cut a hole in the foam about the size of the nozzle.

Fat pump nozzle…

Goo up the nozzle generously.

Jam goo’d nozzle into foam…

Stick the pump nozzle into the foam. The only way you can screw this up is to let the goo flow down into the opening of the nozzle which will seal it off and stop the pump from working. The goo is thick so as long as the nozzle is firmly pressed to the bottom of the foam you’ll be okay.

Goo dried and ready to pump…

Let the goo dry for a couple hours. Then it’s ready to install.

My pump setup with a filter…

The filter will keep the pump nice and clean inside from sand, dirt and bits of grit. I find the filters last about a year until the foam comes off the nozzle. It can be easily replaced.


3 07 2012

Bright colours make for vibrant photos in the trees…

Taking nice mountain bike photos in BC’s gloomy rainforest can be a challenge.

A little red sure helps…

One thing that can really help and doesn’t cost a lot of money is having riders wear bright coloured clothing.

A bright bike doesn’t hurt either…

A brightly coloured bike doesn’t hurt either. Obviously you can’t readily change the colour of your ride just for a photo shoot, but if you live somewhere that’s dark and want to take photos on rides it does make sense to keep this in mind when the time comes for a new bike or a new paint job is in the works.

Our bikes are easy to spot in the forest…

We got lucky as both our bikes are pretty brightly coloured even though back in Calgary this aspect wasn’t nearly as important for taking MTB photos.

White is right!

Compared to Scott’s black Jones my Nomad shows up much better in the forest. I also wear a white helmet and white gloves to improve my visibility.

Spot Sharon….

Sharon’s colourful top and pink grips pop in this photo.

Sharon trying to stick to the high ground…

If you do have a dark bike you can help it pop with contrasting accessories like grips, cable housing, rims, fork, bars, etc…

Sharon happy to pop!

When Sharon saw this jersey at a shop she wasn’t sure she’d like it. I don’t normally get involved in clothing advice issues [I’m too smart for that!], but I did mention that it would show up nicely in photos. Once she saw some photos of herself in the jersey she was stoked to have bought it since it really brightens up each frame.

Even a bit of colour helps…

Aaron isn’t into wearing hot pink, but even the small detail of some red trim on his shirt really does help make him stand out in the photo above.

Kurt knows the score…

Kurt was smart about this subject before I even clued in how important it was. I came to realize his MTB photos always turned out better than mine and finally it occurred to me he wore a lot of bright colour coordinated clothing when he rides.

Maybe I went a bit too far?….;)

Now if you are thinking mountain biking is supposed to be about riding the bike not some sort of fashion show in the forest I don’t blame you. We spend a lot of time snapping photos on our rides. It’s just what we do and it’s not something essential. In fact it gets in the way of the riding to some extent, but we often have experts, intermediates and beginners on the same ride so stopping to session a tech section and photograph it gives the hardcore folks more riding time while the newbies can rejoin the group and catch their breathe. It also allows the less skilled riders to see what the hot shots are doing and try some stuff they’d skip if they were already 5 minutes behind the group.

Bright colours are helpful even when you can see the sun…

The BC rainforest makes bright colours really important, but even in the desert where there is a ton of light wearing bright contrasting colours still helps the subject pop in a photo.


Santa Cruz Nomad Porn…

2 07 2012

Freshly overhauled Fox Float 36…

She looks clean from this distance…

Continental Trails King 2.4″ tires setup tubeless…

Fox DHX Air 5.0 freshly rebuilt last fall…

I’m thinking about an upgrade to a low stack headset next year to steepen the HT angle…

DT Swiss EX 5.1D wheels…

Some red cable housing bling…

Dropper post remote + SRAM controls + Ergon Grips…

Selle Anatomica saddle + 5″ Kind Shock dropper seatpost…

NRG Slabalanche pedals have taken a beating…

Shimano SLX crankset…

Using up pretty much all the tire clearance…

SRAM derailleur and chain…

Avid Elixr CR hydraulic brakes…

The Bicycle Nomad Shreds Hartland…

1 07 2012

Tom “The Bicycle Nomad”…

Scott’s place is a hub of who’s who in the bicycle travelling world. So I wasn’t shocked when he casually mentions that Tom from the Bicycle Nomad Blog has stopping in for a few days to hang out.

Scott and Tom on Little Face Trail…

They asked me if I wanted to go for a ride at Hartland Mountain Bike Park. It would be my 4th ride in 5 days so I was a bit tired already, but I don’t own bikes to look at them so of course I said yes.

Wait for me – here I come!

Of course these young fit riders put the hurt on my aging and tired legs… 😉

Tubeless & tube failure…

I caught a break when Scott’s tubeless front wheel decided not to hold air any longer.

Tom waits to shred the Jones…

I caught another break when Scott pinch flatted and had to patch his sealant covered tube. I don’t think I would have made it without those breaks.

Scott concluding 2.1″ just ain’t enough any longer…

It was great to meet Tom in person and get to ride with him. His touring legs powered him around the trails with ease on Scott’s Jones Spaceframe rig.

Jamming to catch up with the guys…

Tom and Scott kept talking about some crazy expedition touring ideas. I just pretended my hearing aids fell out so I couldn’t be roped into anything arduous! 😉

Forest panorama…

If you are interested in bike touring Tom and his wife Sarah’s blog is well worth a visit. – check it out here.

“Anyone seen two riders come this way???”…

BTW – any photos of me in this post were taken by Tom Walwyn