More Bike Changes …

In my quest to tweak/tune my bike to be just right, I’ve gotten really close, except for one area. I have hands with an ulnar nerve very close to the surface. While I’ve stuck with regular drop bars for the variable hand positions (and the aesthetic), I’ve decided to try some experimentation.

First up, I tried a mustache bar.  I’d read/heard that you can get a lot of good positions and that they are comfortable.  Maybe for somebody.  For me, they sucked.  I tried and tweaked, but I simply could not find a place that my hands ever felt good.  So, I scrapped that and went back to drops.

But, I really needed a solution.  So, I ordered-up a nearly flat MTB bar, some brakes, and some Ergon grips.  The Ergon grips create a platform for your hands, as opposed to a round bar.  I put them on tonight and took some pics.  My bike is seriously in danger of looking commuter-bike-dork-hybrid, as opposed to sex-beast-monster-cross, but I need to get over it and get more comfortable.  Well, on the trial rides around the ‘hood to get it dialed in, I was really comfortable!  The proof will be in my commute tomorrow, but the more upright position and the grips seem to really help.  And, the aero bars fit just fine (for the next tour). More to come!

 

From Flat Bar Road Bike

From Flat Bar Road Bike

From Flat Bar Road Bike

S24O

Sorry for the terrible delay, but I’m finally getting around to posting about the S24O that Marcus and I did in June (!).  We did an S24O (Sub-24-hour-Overnight).  We rode from our houses to meet-up at Minnehaha Falls, had lunch at Sea Salt (where we were surprised by a bonus platter of calamari – can’t let any of that go to waste!), and from thence to Afton State Park.

This was the route, more or less.  I say “more or less” because I got us kind of lost in St Paul, and we ended-up running into Holman Field … Anyway, it wasn’t a bad trip, except for the low-speed low-side wreck in Lilydale due to really slippery mud washed over the trail.  With the additional wandering around in South St Paul, it was about 40 miles from my house to the Park.  As we got closer to the park, the terrain got hillier and the ups were harder on us tired old men.  But we made it to the park around 5pm.  And the road inside the park is pretty hilly too …

The camp site was nice, and the views were great.  We had a nice campfire, and ate freeze-dried food.  After hogging down all the fried goodness at Sea Salt, my gut was pretty bad.  But, Marcus the Prepared had a Pepcid in his kit and it worked wonders!  I gotta remember the Pepcid in the first aid kit!  I forgot the s’mores fixins again, so we had to rely on Marcus’ stash of scotch for the evening’s entertainment.  I had packed pretty light and was only using a tarp for shelter.  And I was packing so light that I didn’t have a pillow (that’s the cool way of saying that I forgot it …).  I set the Tarp up with the bike as a support for one end.  It worked OK, but I had the tarp too close to the ground and the condensation was like rain inside the tarp.  Ugh.  Coupled with the not-so-flat ground and no pillow, the night was actually awful.  I think Marcus was pretty snug/smug in his hammock.

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

The morning was cool and pleasant, and we had breakfast, and broke camp quickly, thinking that we were going to stop for coffee someplace along the way.  We kind of forgot that “along the way” meant Woodbury for a long ways – a desolate suburban wasteland of golf courses, giant high school sports complexes, and row upon row of basically identical tract mansions.  The first coffee we found was downtown St. Paul.  Argh!  Well, we had coffee, and made it home by 1pm.  All in all a good trip and a good first effort at S24O/touring/etc., and I’ll definitely do it again.

Gear-wise, I had the bike (of course) a rack and panniers, a Revelate frame bag, and a Maxpedition bag strapped to the aerobars in the front.  I got the weight down pretty well (although I wish I’d had a pillow) and it was pretty evenly balanced, front-to-back.  Marcus had everything in the back in panniers and on the rack, so he was a little rear-heavy.

 

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

 

From BikeCamping_Afton2011

Tangle Bag Mods

Per the last post, the front velco section of the tangle bag overlapped the front cable bridge, causing some unsightly bunching.

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A little creative scissor work solved that nicely, and the cable bridge is cleared fully. FYI, this Tangle bag is a really nice piece of kit.
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EDC

I’m a fan of a few of the EDC blogs out there. I think it’s interesting to see what folks carry around in their pockets. So, I thought I’d post my own little pocket-dump. First, some preamble. I work in an office, so of course I stick to understated gear. Because I work in an office, and wear a suit, I do have more pockets to work with than folks with no always-on-jacket. Additionally, I commute via bike (as you probably know as a reader of this blog). As a result, my commute is in bike garb, with all my regular clothes in a pannier (or bag on a rack). If I left all my pocket contents loose, they would settle to the bottom of the bag, become inaccessible, and likely scratch each other up. So I put all my pocket contents in a Maxpedition small pocket organizer to keep things sorted in my commuter bag.

Here are the contents:

  • Bertucci A2T watch. Nothing fancy. Tells the time and date.
  • Fallkniven U2 modded with a pocket clip. This is a nice, civilized looking knife and the FRN scales make it very light. (This has actually been replaced with a Boker Cox)
  • TI Embassy Pen. Just ’cause. The pen and the knife are often side-by-side in my right rear pants pocket.
  • 4Sevens Quark Mini. This is a potent little light in the CR123 config and small enough for pocket duty. I would like a clip for it, however. (This has been replaced with a LeatherMan Serac S2 – a very under-appreciated light!)
  • HTC Evo. My brain on the go
  • Car-house-bike lock keys
  • Saddleback Leather slim billfold
  • Smith Threshold sunglasses. Since I’m often commuting in the pre-dawn light, I swap out the lenses for the clear ones, and then swap back in the tinted lenses for the ride home. The little cloth bag in the middle of the shades is the lens sack.
  • On a second split ring is a Exotac nanostriker, a whistle, a pill fob with dryer lint, and a Leatherman Squirt PS4. The dryer lint is very flammable and will take a spark from the nanostriker easily. So, there’s a bit of “preparedness” gear in there as well.

First up, the “all spread out”:

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And here’s how things lay out in the Maxpedition organizer.

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More on the Vargo Wood Stove

A little while back, I referred to the Vargo Titanium Wood Stove. To wit, I’d bought one. Well, this weekend, I gave it a test drive in the backyard. The pictures look a lot like all the other ones on the web.

Setup:

Fuel – I used a modest pile of collected sticks from my backyard for fuel.

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Lighter – my trusty Light My Fire, some drier lint, and the lock release button on the back of my Fallkniven U2.

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Pot – a GSI Ketalist for the pot. I filled the pot (about 1L) with cold water from the garden hose.

Stove – the Vargo.

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Operation:

I lit the tinder and put it in the stove, and piled on a little birch bark and some Honey Locust twigs, broken up by hand to about 3 inches. It started to catch and I put on a few more. Total fuel collection process was about 10 minutes. Total lighting process was about 4 minutes, including fiddling around. Once I had the fire going, I put the Ketalist on top of the stove. Everything seemed pretty stable, although I didn’t try the “kick the stove test”. Flames licked up around the pot from the vents in the top of the stove, so I knew there were BTUs getting pumped into the water. FYI, birch bark, while great for starting due to the volatile oils, also burns with a really oily smoke, which deposited a kind of nasty, gummy residue on the bottom of the pot. Beware of cramming it back in the pack without proper wrapping.

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Anyway, I waited. Fire burned. I added fuel. Fire burned some more. Lots of smoke (the bark on the Locust is pretty smoky). Roughly 16 or 17 minutes later, I had a boil. Granted, I was boiling a whole litre, but it did seem like it took a long time. I will need to experiment with the vent door – too closed (I thought to direct the heat up) and it kind of starved the oxygen. Too open, and it seemed to diffuse the heat. It WAS certainly hot – the sides of the stove were quite discolored to a deep blue color.

In any case, I got boiled water off of lawn debris. I also got a sticky, gummy mess on the bottom of the kettle, and an appreciation of how to meter oxygen into a fire.

Bottom line? Not bad, but a cheaper version in steel would not be that much heavier and would cost way less. Still want to experiment with an AL stove in the Vargo as a windscreen for maximum versatility.

Stove Options

I like food. I like being in the backcountry with no civilized amenities. So, those two things in combination mean that I’m frequently thinking about my mess kit, or how I make food in the back country. Generally, I’m kind of a lightweight person, so I’m usually just boiling water for freeze-dried pouch food. Easy, light-ish, and the only thing to “cook” is heating water. There are times, however, when I actually want FOOD, not a chemistry experiment. So, I try cooking over a stove and over a fire. For the stoves, here’s what I use. Context – the pots in this tale are Evernew 700, 900, and a GSI Ketalist – a pretty nifty approach, if your focus is just boiling water.

I used to use (and still own) an MSR canister stove. The weight of the stove wasn’t too bad, but the canisters were heavy, and you packed out nearly the same weight that you packed in. For cooking however, the canister stove simmers nicely … 😉

So, I started looking at alcohol stoves. I read a whole bunch of stuff about DIY, and even joined BPL in order to get access to articles on it (which turned out to be unnecessary). I was a little leery of the DIY approach initially, which explains why I purchased the Great Brass Boat Anchor, aka the Trangia. But the brass base stove is pretty heavy. I did have it on an outing and it did successfully boil water, but not without some effort and supplementary wind screening with my pack. Note to self – pay attention to windscreens.

After that, I started to see the virtues in a lighter format, so I started researching the DIY options. I decided on a SuperCat, mostly because it’s easy. I also picked-up a small roll of aluminum flashing to use for windscreen material (see – I DID learn something!). The SuperCat worked well with the Evernew 900 and 700 pots. I had a windscreen set-up that was directional, and light. I didn’t have a base for the stove, but I am capable of paying attention to where I put the hot stuff. The SuperCat was very light, to the astonishment of my friends on a BWCA trip in the spring of 2010 – they were pretty impressed that a cat food can with some holes performed on-par with their $50 canister stoves. 😛

Like everybody, I did observe the fuel issue. To wit, you still need to carry it. But it’s light, it’s enviro-friendly, and you use it up and the bottle is light weight (unlike empty steel canisters). Sometimes, however, you might run out of alcohol, or spill it or some other travesty. So I started researching wood fuel stoves. You might see a pattern here. My family refers to it as an “illness”, but I prefer to refer to it as “curiosity”. I thought about a Caldera Cone, but, frankly, it’s big-ish. I’ve seen one in action, and they are certainly a nice set-up, but still bigger than I wanted. Still pondering, I came across the Vargo TI Hexagon. So, I had to pick it up. It works remarkably well for such a simple device. And it seems to work fine as a base for a pop-can AL stove. So, it can do double duty. Then I noticed something else – the folded Vargo is the same size as the bottom of the Ketalist. Eureka! I store the Hexagon under the Ketalist in the Ketalist’s sack, with a pop-can stove inside the Ketalist. Pretty slick – I have a system that boils water, and can use AL or wood fuel, all in a package no bigger than the kettle! In theory, a decent system. Next, to try it out …

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