Theatre Thursday: Adventure Dispatch


In this episode of The Adventure Dispatch, we head out on an overnight ride with Sarah Swallow through the Humboldt Redwood State Park. Sarah is an expert when it comes to creative route planning, which is why we’re happy that she decided to share her methodology for sub-24-hour overnight riding (S24O). So take notes or just enjoy the scenery and get motivated, because you’re about to learn what happens when you saddle-up, slow down, and take notice of the world around you.

Keep your head (warm)


reblog from BearBones and a link to purchase:

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Depending which old wife you care to believe, you loose between 50% and 90% of your body heat through your head … no you don’t. Body heat is lost largely through radiation, so its loss is proportionate to area, can you imagine how big your head would need to be to radiate 90% of your lost body heat?

Although you don’t lose quite as much precious heat through your noggin as some people imagine, you certainly loose some and just like any other part of your body, it requires insulating. Wearing a hat (or maybe pulling your hood up) is the usual course of action and when Jack Frost’s sharpened his teeth, what better hat than one containing the best insulator known to man , the undisputed king of warm – down. I’m very fortunate to own two hats insulated with down. The first is handmade, filled with the finest down any amount of money can buy. The outer material is ultralight, the stitching show quality, it weighs virtually nothing and cost considerably more …. and I’ll admit, at times I’m scared to use it. My other down hat is this one. The down may not be of the same quality, it’s produced in a factory rather than a craftsman’s workshop, it weighs a little bit more but it cost an awful lot less, so I’m far less concerned about sticking it on my head while I roll about on a damp forest floor.

You just know she’s saying, “take the hat off, take it off now”.
In my opinion, the Montane Plume makes a fantastic adornment to the head of the potentially cold bikepacker. It contains 18g of 650fp HyperDRY down, that might not sound like much but trust me, it’s more than enough for a hat. Unlike the majority of insulating head wear, the Plume is a cap rather than the more common beanie style. While in the minds of some, a cap might not score quite so highly in the style stakes, I’ve found it to be much more practical. Firstly, the cap extends lower at the back and sides which results in more warmth and cosy ears. The stiff peak is a bonus and ideal for helping keep any midge netting off your face. Another nice touch which adds to the practicality especially when sleeping, is the removable elasticated strap … it’s a simple thing but obviously makes a massive difference to keeping the thing secure and in place while you’re tucked up in your sleeping bag. The outer material is something called FREEFLOW – although confusingly, mine says Pertex Quantum on the outside. Either way, it’s lightweight and water resistant. The combination of water resistant down and outer, means a bit of light drizzle or condensation won’t turn your fluffy, puffy had into a clumpy mess.
The claimed weight is 49g, the Bear Bones scales say 48g without the stuff sack but with the strap. That’s pretty impressive given the amount of warmth it provides. If you don’t want to use the supplied stuff sack, then the Plume will compress down to around the size of a satsuma, so finding it a happy home alongside your sleeping bag or whatever shouldn’t cause any issues.
The Montane Plume – warm as toast, cheap as chips. Available in black, blue or red for £25 or a few pounds less with a little careful shopping.

Dream Bike: Pink Meriwether on Gypsy by Trade


In a word … perfectlylovelyandpracticandyeysobloodygorgeous

GYPSY BY TRADE

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Everything I need to have fun and survive, all wrapped in pink.  Not shown here are a tent, computer, or a front derailleur, which broke after a year and a half of adventure.  For the AZT, we’re traveling without a tent.  The 11″ MacBook Air has rejoined the packlist and fits nicely in the Revelate Viscacha with a certain packing procedure (clothes and groundcloth packed first).

The basic details are that it carries everything I need to survive and have fun including 4 liters of water, clothing and camping gear, durable 2.4″ tubeless tires on wide carbon rims, a useful range of gears, 120mm of seriously plush front suspension, a wide handlebar, all time lighting and USB charging, and the same saddle which has adorned every bike I have ridden since 2009, likely over 75,000 miles of touring and commuting on its bent steel frame, still as comfortable as ever.

The important details are 434mm chainstays, a low but not too low bottom bracket, a long but not too long top tube, a portage handle, a 68.5 degree head tube angle, and the aforementioned 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork with 51mm of offset.  All other parts come directly from my Surly Krampus and are designed to be world touring friendly, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket and the option for standard QR wheels via replaceable Paragon dropout plates and of course, a different fork.  As always, the bike is designed for big tires and a ton of extra clearance.

The Meriwether handles singletrack better than the Krampus, descends better than the Krampus, climbs better than the Krampus, and pedals more comfortably than the Krampus.  But that’s only because I rode the Krampus for a year– and during that time it was a great bike– but I was paying attention and figured out how to make a bike better for me.  Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles is the catalyst and the confidence for this project who massaged my ideas into digital lines and degrees in BikeCAD, and manufactured our ideas in steel, willingly coating his handiwork in a pink blanket of paint.  Some call the color theft-protection, but honestly, it is the only color I wanted.  I did consider a muted lavender hue, but settled on antique pink, as I like to call it.

The bike easily finds the center of the trail, and doesn’t have the tendency to oversteer or understeer as other bikes I’ve ridden.  I can look further down the trail and know that my tires will take me there, not into the weeds.  On flowing serpentine trail, I sit down and position myself between the wheels, which are properly weighted for the front tires to cut a line and the rear tire to follow aggressively.  Riding this bike through corners– thanks, for certain, to the lower bottom bracket which I initially resisted– is like waterskiing.  The harder I dig, the harder it turns.

The bike climbs.  Shorter chainstays result in a more direct power transfer to the rear wheel, even through Whit was concerned that his drive-side half yoke would be flexible.  It is not.  The low bottom bracket changes my relationship with only the tallest, most menacing obstacles while climbing, resulting in more frequent pedal strike on technical trials-like climbs.  In all other situations, the 60mm BB drop is a feature, and within a week, pedal strike is minimized through experience.  I might adjust the BB drop to 55mm if I had the chance to do it again, but that is a very personal consideration because I love climbing chunky stuff.  But the bike doesn’t try to tip over backwards on steep climbs and the shortened top tube allows me to approach long ascents in a seated position, while out of the saddle efforts are directly rewarded.  I recently spend much of the Highline Trail in Arizona either hiking alongside my bike, descending behind the saddle, or ripping climbs in a 34-34 gear combination.  It is a stand-up and hammer gear combination on any steep mountain bike trail, but chain retention is good and it forces me to hit the gas.  Sometimes a little extra gas is what you need for the next ledge or rock in the trail.  Soft-pedaling through challenging trail usually results in walking.  And yes, the portage handle is awesome.  I now have three useful hand positions for hauling the bike, each for a different kind of hike-a-bike.

Descending is unlike any hardtail I have ridden.  The Krampus gave me much of the confidence I sought over the classic geometry of the Raleigh XXIX and its 80mm fork.  Add to that more modern geometry, including the 68.5 degree head tube and the 51mm fork offset on a remarkable 120mm fork, and this bike is seriously confident going downhill.  Again, a little lower bottom bracket helps to keep my center of mass behind the front axle, reducing the feeling of going over the bars on steep trails.  I’ve taken to descending almost every section of trail I can find, save for most of the Pipeline Trail off the Mogollon Rim and a couple rocky drops on the way into Pine.  But, I rode most of the last section of the Highline into Pine at dusk, and loved it.  Happy to be on 2.4″ Ardents, for sure.  And the Pike, get a Pike!  To be fair, I’ve ridden some MRP Stage forks which also feel phenomenal, and some other modern RockShox offerings have impressed me on test rides, including the new Revelation and SID forks.  But for the same weight as a Revelation (which has 32mm stanchions) and the same price as a SID (yes, kind of a lot), you can have the Pike which boasts 35mm stanchions with premium RockShox internals.  The concept of using more fork offset with a lower head tube angle results in a bicycle with improved descent characteristics yet which preserves mechanical trail and handling on neutral trail sections and on climbs– it descends better without any drawbacks.

Contact Whit Johnson at Meriwether Cycles if you have any custom bicycle needs.  He specializes in mountain bikes with character, built for adventure.  He likes short chainstays, fat tires, and extra attachment points.  He has recently built several gorgeous custom forks for internal dynamo wiring to accompany custom frames and has pushed the boundaries with his fatbike and plus-sized bikes for the past few years.  I really enjoyed working with Whit on this project.  He quickly understood my ideas and converted them to numbers, into visual impressions of a bicycle, and ultimately into a sweet ride.  Check out Meriwether Cycles on InstagramFlickr, and on the Meriwether Blog.  He is located in Foresthill, CA and has relatively short lead times.  Pricing starts at $1200 although a frame similar to mine would cost about $1500.

If you are interested in stock bicycles with a similar character to my pink bike check out the Advocate HaydukeJamis Dragonslayer, and Marin Pine Mountain.

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Build details:

Meriwether Cycles custom steel frame for 29/27.5+

RockShox Pike RCT3 120mm, 15mm TA, 51m offset

Chris King headset and BB

Shimano Deore crank, 34/22T rings

Shimano SLX direct mount front derailleur with Problem Solvers clamp, XTR GS rear derailleur

Shimano XTR 9speed rear shifter, front friction thumb shifter on Paul Thumbie

Shimano XT 11-34 cassette and SRAM PG-951 chain

Specialized 75mm stem

Race Face SixC 3/4″ riser carbon handlebar, 785mm wide

Ergon GP1-L grips

Brooks B-17 Standard

Avid BB-7 brakes and levers, 160mm rotors

Derby HD 35mm wide carbon rim to Hope Pro 2 Evo rear hub

Light Bicycle 35mm wide carbon rim to SP PD-8X dynamo hub

Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ EXO tires, tubeless

Redline Monster nylon pedals

Supernova E3 Triple 2 headlight, E3 Pro taillight with custom brackets

Sinewave Reactor USB charger, top cap mount

Revelate Designs custom ziperless framebag, Viscacha seatbag, Gas Tank, small Sweet Roll and small Pocket

Salsa Anything Cage HD and 64 oz. Klean Kanteen

Salsa stainless bottle cages on fork attached via hose clamps, 32 oz bottles

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Thoughts of a new bikepacking rig – reblog Bike Check: Skyler’s trail Krampus, Panthea’s B-Side, and more Tech Talk


…This time, Skyler forges on with the opinions on a subject worthy of his opinion – his own bicycle… In the previous instalment of this Tech Talk business (which I guess is becoming a ‘thing’ now), I wrote about a few of the good people that have inspired me to forgo the old cycle touring […]

http://offroute.ca/2015/09/08/bike-ckeck/