Cleaveland Everything Bags

Carrying water bottles on the fork is standard bikepacking practice, and is familiar from touring bikes going well back. (My friend Ed Carman’s beautiful mid-1970′s Eisentrout Limited has a fork that is probably not the original but was drilled for bottle mounts in the early 80′s). I’ve secured two bottles to each fork leg with no grief.

I have also used Salsa’s Anything Cage to good effect on my forks, secured by a combination of hose clamps and the mid-fork rack mount. As long as the loads are kept reasonable and are roughly symmetrical, bike handling is only minimally affected. The concept is exemplary, but Anything Cages are fairly fragile. Salsa has promised a redesign.

Jeremy at Cleaveland Mountaineering sews up an alternative in the form of a cordura semi pocket with a closed bottom and a metal stiffener to bolt to triple bosses. Optional large steel band clamps are available for attaching it to an undrilled fork. The pocket has two straps with metal strap locks to secure diverse roughly cylindrical loads. Because the body of the pocket is soft and compliant, there isn’t a chance of damaging it from rough road shaking or laying the bike down. The pockets each weigh a bit more than an Anything Cage, so this is not a weight saving measure. Still, the bomber construction, ease of use and massive versatility absolutely gets the job done.

Rescued Photos talk by David Herlihy

David Herlihy—renowned cycling historian and author of Bicycle: The History and The Lost Cyclist (two of my favorites)—gave a terrific talk today on recently recovered images from the famous round-the-world trip by Allen and Sachtleben in 1891. The photos were scanned from negatives long buried in UCLA’s archives, and include samples from their time in Greece, Turkey, and Persia. This is part of the span that would provide the source material for Across Asia on a Bicycle (1894).

The cultural and social aspects of their journey fascinate the most, but looking at their strikingly modern bikepacking gear for broken rough roads is a treat, too.

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If you’re in NYC tomorrow (May 4th), head down to the Bike Expo NYC to catch a repeat performance at 4pm.

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Return of the Pugsley

My Pugsley had been in pieces since I returned from touring South America over a year ago. I left most of the drivetrain, the threadbare tires, and anything else that had reached its end behind in Argentina. Last Spring, I sent out the frame for a repaint and some mods. That work was done quickly, but I hadn’t bothered collecting replacement parts until recently.

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2010 Surly Pugsley frame with original offset fork drilled for a bottle cage and an Anything Cage on each leg, bottle mounts at rear dropouts (instead of hose clamps and yielding capacity for six bottles: two rear and four on the fork), downtube triple mount for Anything Cage. Canti posts removed. Matte black powdercoat.

Shimano SLX trigger shifters, SLX rear derailleur/ceramic bearing pulleys, 12-36 Shimano HG61 cassette, XT front derailleur, Mr Whirly triple ring crankset, Race Face bottom bracket, KMC X9 chain, original Large Marge wheelset (XT rear hub, Surly front), Larry tires/downhill tubes, Avid BB7 brakes, Thompson post and stem, Easton Monkeylite bars, Ergon GS1 grips, FSA headset, Selle Italia SLR XP saddle, MKS Gripking pedals, King steel bottle cages.

This is right now my go-to expedition cycling wheel.

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Tarps & Alcohol Stoves

I aim to bikepack light. The pursuit of it can, of course, become an obsession and a laughable absurdity, but, then again, such things are also the makings of a largely harmless hobby and an aesthetic. In an admiring nod to the Crane cousins, I went for one month in Ecuador and Peru where every day I got rid of at least one thing to drop my travel weight. “Things” could include tags on the inside of a jacket or lengths of overlong compression straps. It was an amusement and an inquiry, of sorts. Best not to take it seriously.

The promise is faster movement, longer distances, fresher legs to do and see and be more. Lifting the bike up, cracking down a techy descent, no Earthly pitch too steep. No doubt for some it’s an experiment in getting rid of possessions; it can also make some Europeans inexplicably righteous and angry. But light gear is often expensive, it can incur discomforts small and large, it can let you down if it’s fragile, or it can make it so that you’re less social, like when cooking only for yourself with your tiny mug or when you regretfully decline a ticket to the opera because your only trousers are ghastly stinking 3/4 cycling shorts.

And sometimes light stuff just irritates. Obviously, this is an expression of my own limitations. A few months ago I borrowed an alcohol stove from Nancy. The innocuous seeming bottle of harmless-ish fuel, the quiet operation, the existential relief of the parsimony of the design (it is, um, a cat food tin with holes in it): all of that was compelling. Night after night, though, I just scowled at the thing and its kind of warming my food performance. Inevitably it would run out of alcohol just short of an important milestone, like cooking. My companions were polite in not speaking aloud their moral judgment at my colossal lack of virtue.

On the other hand, I recently had only a tarp for conditions which, if you’d told me about them in advance, I would have certainly brought my tent for. Yes, I got a little wet from windblown rain, I had to mind the edges of the quilt a bit more to keep in heat, I woke in the middle of the night having to deal with pooling water near my head. But the rectangle of nylon was brilliant and I couldn’t have been happier.

Evidently, to me finicky cooking is a pain in the ass but finicky sleep is just flat out great. Lightweight gear seems more like empirical introspection about the bizarre idiosyncratic things you don’t care about than it is about rational equipment choice. I’m okay with that.

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Arizona postcard

Superior, Arizona—Splay out gear in sunshine, cliché nylon and wool pennant prayer flags outside the Copper Mountain Motel room. We chisel cake off the mudders, treat ourselves to huevos rancheros, Circle K doughnuts, eye the sky nodding to ourselves the enough indigo for reset. Groceries. A short tour of town produces no new fastener for the axle, boys on bmx bikes guide us to the Sunday closed bike shop, but the ridiculous improvised solution is working well enough still. At least we get to see some of the streets and are entertained by earnest art festival hosts dressed in velvet and patent leather renaissance fair costumes.

Roll out toward the hills, see the deep and wobble of our last night’s tracks, this time with horizons and expanse from the heights. Maybe nothing is aglow like yesterday, but we can feel the loaded crackling potentiality rain ready for desert Spring in six weeks. Miss out on singletrack we’d planned, the LOST and the Picket Post new section of AZT that many have celebrated. The day is forgiving, with matte brown ochre greens rumples. For photographing, pointing off, for puddles riding and then ending in Box Canyon’s closing walls. Near the exit we find an easy sandy spot to camp, will be a short ride to Gary’s truck tomorrow in drizzling threat.

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Thanks to Scott Morris for sharing his explorations of the area and making following the route easy. And especially to Gary and Cass for the company. Check out Cass’s photos and words at While Out Riding.

Arizona Rain

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Wake in even rain, between a pour and a drizzle, flint chill. Blink across to where Gary is sorting gear under his tarp, no motion from Cass’s poncho, then tracing the geometer’s lines where my own tarp kept the dirt dry from saturated. We eat in three solitudes not remarking on the increases or ebbs, wisecrack this or that through thwat thwat thwat, slow pack. Gary sets off, then Cass, last me, brave from zipped cinched gore tex.

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Mud taxonomic dream of all the kinds that clump stick and grate, and ruts shearing collapsing or filling so the track’s cracks seem live tendrils. Happy to begin with a climb but the high point marks the fiercest pelting, we’ve shortened the distance between us and achromatic sky now firing point blank. Little cover so we pretend, and that it doesn’t suck to be cold and soaked through already in the first hour. Some weather you can feel its transience, this  storm says it has patience, ours lapses first, speedy flight fishtailing downhill to oscillate between focus and detachment over rollers through running arroyos skittering wet deflections sideways between boulders.

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A day when the mild ache and near shivering pedals you, eat lunch at four o’clock, when you try for a statue movement on the revolutions so cold clothes don’t shift and close a warm air void. Heavy sludge, stop to clear, push, clogged again, pedal, push.

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At least the cholla and saguaro are green halo luminous with droplets clinging to their spines and the mist roiling, greenshades rarely seen.

P1050066 The plan to resupply and maybe dinner in Superior keeps flipping modality from will to might to won’t and then ends on must. We reach the intersection of the AZT and Telegraph canyon just as it gets dark. Headlamp and Braille, I pinch flat in my zeal. My companions seem far in the flowing ink even if they’re not. We see the lights, it will be another hour and deep slippery ooze, brake squeal luge, fording washes and scooting under a chain that warns motorists not to drive through the knee high flooding before we’ll be eating Mexican food dinner and another hour later still before laughing drying out in a rented room.

Bikepacking resupply shopping list

Roll off the trail into a small town to resupply for, suppose, two full days and a half until the next one. So, three lunches, three breakfasts, two dinners, and trail snacks.

Shopping List

Instant oatmeal
Raisins
Coffee

Peanut butter
Tortillas
2 Avocados
2 Apples
Dried mangoes
2 Tomatoes
Salt packets
Block of cheese
Salted nuts

Butterscotch hard candy
Starburst or Skittles

Couscous
2 Vegetable soup packets
2 Carrots
Green beans

Whiskey
Cookies
Chocolate

Maybe some of these are staples and in the bags already, but they are indicated for completeness. Of course the list varies according to what’s available at that particular market. And this is for North America.

Feel welcome to share yours.