Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Crossing Washington On The JWPT - Our Gear

I thought I'd interrupt the day-by-day trip accounts with a brief post about our equipment.

. . . was riding a Trek 29er hardtail, and towing his new BOB trailer. He'd been out with it a few times for short trials, but the tour was its first real test. He plans to use it after the trip for general errand running (at least that's how he justified it to his wife!) and he chose the non-suspended Yak over the suspended Ibex. I haven't had a chance to talk to him in any detail since the trip, but my impression was that he was pretty happy with the way the bike and trailer performed on the trail. The only difficulty I ever noticed was through hike-a-bike sections, where the trailer became a little unwieldy, but in those cases he would quickly and easily uncouple the trailer and carry the bike and trailer separately. No big deal. With 70 lbs of capacity, Scott was able to carry almost all his gear on the trailer.

For those items he needed frequent access to, he used a compact handlebar bag. Smart.

Two features of his system I was genuinely jealous of were his kickstand . . .

. . . and his extra bottle holders.

. . . broke out his Surly Troll for this trip. He acquired it from the legendary Tom McFadden, who if I understand things correctly, had enough of it because it was your typical Surly tank and Tom got sick of lugging it up and down the stairs at his apartment building. Probably an over-simplification, but totally understandable, I can almost feel the pain after a few years of wrestling my Karate Monkey in and out of my four-staired basement. But the Troll was pretty appropriate for this trip. Eric tailored it to fit him and his style. A coupla interesting features are a dynohub light system for the tunnels and a double chainring, but no front derailleur. His reasoning was that since we'd be riding railbed, with it's controlled 4% max grade, there wouldn't be a need for a wide gear range and if there was a need to drop into the small chainring, he could "shift" by hand.

His bar-mount bottle holder is sweet. I may have to work on that if I do another trip of this type.

Crocs. A man after my own heart.

Here again, the handlebar bag made total sense.

I might start getting emotional at this point . . . that's how much I loved this bike on this trip. It's pretty tough to put into words, but there is a sense of comfort and control and confidence when I'm aboard this bike that is unlike anything I've ever felt with any other bike. I'm not saying it's everything to me or everybody or every road or trail; on the contrary - it has some definite shortcomings in different scenarios. But for this trip, well, it was just fantastically suited.

I ran the tires at around 22 psi for most of the trip. Ideally, I would have adjusted the pressure along the way according to the surfaces we encountered, but that's a lot of fussing and fiddling, and mostly the vibe of the trip was that we needed to keep moving to cover the ground that we needed to cover.  This pressure made for a harsher ride than I would have liked at times, but it kept my rolling resistance down, which was important, for the aforementioned reason. With this tire (Surly Black Floyd) at this pressure, it rolled surprisingly well. Amazingly, actually.

Some cargo details . . .

The bike, as pictured here, weighs 100 lbs. Insanity, man. The whole package didn't come together until late into the night before the trip and I honestly believed up until that point that I was in the 80 lb range, delusional as I was. And then I put it on the scale. HOE. LEE. HELL. At that point it was too late and I was too tired to do anything about it. But it occupied my thoughts all night and honestly, really worried the shit out of me.

As far as what's what and what's where, the left front pannier carried all my food and cooking gear (lightweight stove, Ti cup, plastic spoon), while the right one carried my clothing and sleeping bag. Above that is the blue bag affixed to my front rack and a worthy contributor to my weight problem - it's like the drawer in your kitchen that holds batteries and rubber bands and scotch tape and pens and potholders and gum and mints and scissors and screwdrivers and every other damn thing that doesn't fit anywhere else and that you want to get off your counter.  Problem is, the blue bag holds an incredible amount of krap, and I took advantage of every last cubic mm. Vik made a comment on a previous post to the effect that people pack extra stuff on trips to compensate for their insecurities and I believe that 1) this is true, and 2) I am loaded with insecurities. Ha! I had so much garbage in there that it was a pain to find anything I needed.

Right above the blue bag is my camera bag, a converted and re-purposed Topeak TourGuide Handlebar Bag, which was a major success and which I'll talk about more in a minute. Right behind that, attached to the stem and top tube is a Revelate Gas Tank. It's cool, but I never fell in love with it because I could never dial in what I was supposed to carry in it. The stuff I thought I wanted in it was too big to get the zipper closed over and I don't know . . . the space inside is kind of weird-shaped, for lack of better description. It's a very well built bag and I'm not ditching it or anything, I just need more time to figure out how to use it.

Moving to the rear, the orange thing on the left side is my tent, inside a lightweight silnylon-type dry bag, and lashed to the rear rack. Let's just take a moment here to talk about lashing . . .

John is all about the idea and wants to build a lasher rack, but the timing to do that just hasn't worked out yet. I have also found the concept highly appealing so when I built the racks for this bike and this trip, I incorporated the beta testing features. Lasher R&D, if you will. Downstream of this trip, I can tell you with complete and utter conviction that lashing is the total shit. I've figured out some definite dos and don'ts, but in general, lashing eliminates bags and allows for super organized access and quick on-off's. Plus it looks cool.

The yellow thing on the right side is my new, rad sleeping pad. Next trip out I will have a dry bag for my sleeping bag and then all my sleeping gear will be lashed, leaving the front end just for food and clothes. Just above the tent is my camp chair, which I should have left at home. Just fore of the sleeping pad is a compact GorrilaPod tripod for my SLR that I was certain I needed and used exactly one time. Dopey.

And then there's the rear basket. Another catch-all that sorta made sense but that just caught too much.  The tubes for these tires are super bigass - you don't just stuff them in a seat bag. So they landed in the basket. And some blue closed cell foam that acted as cushioning against the wire frame of the basket and doubled as a sit pad. O2 rain jacket and pants. MSR gravity filter. Garbage, as it accumulated. A couple 24 oz cans of beer, on one or two occasions. I think you can see what I mean . . . have basket, will fill.

Coupla other things, I guess. Thudbuster. Yes. Brilliant, on my part. And that's a super lightweight cable lock coiled up on the side of the blue bag. The most minimal security, just enough to keep someone from grabbing and running. Used it on numerous occasions to mitigate my insecurities.

This is a total crap picture, but here's my cockpit. Garmin Oregon 450 GPS on the left, standard-type cycle computer on the stem. Just below that is a StemCAPtain thermometer. I thought it might be kind of informative to know what the temperature was at different times, and so it seemed like a good, albeit novel idea. Trouble is, it was so inaccurate that is was useless. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained. (Absolutely nothing gained, in this case.) Just to the right is a canister of bear-spray. My only external self-defense mechanism of any kind against animals, humans or aliens; also a small and unnecessary boat anchor brought aboard due to insecurity. Ergon grips, which are wonderful and upon which I consciously made an effort to regularly switch hand positions in order to avoid compressed nerve problems but which I still didn't avoid and which, based on past experience, will take a few weeks to overcome. If I had it to do again, I'd go with the even nerdier GP5's for a coupla more hand positions.

I've got one major success story to report though, and that's my camera bag. This guy protected both my DSLR and P&S through lots of big-time bouncing, while at the same time allowing super-easy access. I could literally stop, unzip and have my SLR fired up and ready to shoot in about 5 seconds, and then powered down and stowed and be ready to go again in about the same amount of time. Which made me super-annoying, just ask my riding partners. The point and shoot was in the right side auxiliary pouch and was super easy to grab and shoot while on the move. The bag came with a cover that I could and did throw over it when rain started falling. Sweet setup, if I do say so myself.

I've gone on and on, I realize. I'm a freak, I know. But if you're reading this, you're still here. I'd call that a you-problem, nerd.

Don't let it bug you, man, we're in this together. I'll get back to trip-recounting next time and we'll both feel better.


Michael said...

I'm really digging hearing about your tip.

I have a bag like your Gas Tank, but a little smaller & made by Topeak. Fits my wallet, keys, phone, and nothing else. I dig it.

mechBgon said...

Good to see Ye Olde Trolle found its calling. You heard right, I was struggling with its weight on the stairways at both ends of my commute. Particularly with weight in the front panniers, which makes it nose-heavy and particularly unwieldy.

These reports are great, I look forward to hearing more!

Andy D. said...

Thanks for providing us gear junkies with a satisfying fix, Pat. If you're up to it at some point, I'd be interested in an exhaustive list of what made up that 100 pounds, including the things that worked and the things that could have been left at home.

mechBgon, I take it you were the previous owner of the Troll, correct? If so, is that a 22" frame? Just curious.

Unknown said...

I use my gas tank style bags for:

- P&S camera
- snacks
- chap stick or eye drops

One trick I've learned that is very effective at reducing gear on a tour is to select your bags first and make 'em small. Then you can take anything with you that fits into the bags. It forces your to prioritize and leave a lot at home.

I've enjoyed the tour reports so far. Keep 'em coming.

safe riding,


mechBgon said...

Andy: that's right, it used to be mine and it's a 22". Interesting bike, I've still got the photos up at http://mechbgon.com/troll/ if you want to see close-ups.

Unknown said...

yeah, I think I'm a gear-nerd too. I think you might have sparked something here...now I'm starting to dream of a 29er I can make some lash-racks for and join you on a trip...hmmmmm...another hobby born? The wifey will be thrilled...

Pat S said...

Micahael, I'm used to using the size bag you described, for the type of items you listed. But when I put those in this bag, they rattle around like marbles! Still trying to figure out how to fill it out . . .

Tom, one very nice thing about selling a bike to Eric is that you know it will be put to good use!

Andy, these post are beating me up, so not sure I'll ever get to the comprehensive gear post. If you have any specific questions, though, bring 'em on. Here, or email me at pat[dot]sprute[at]gmail[dot]com.

Vik, excellent tip. And one I totally violated with the blue bag. ;-)

Phil, you negotiated a lot bigger stuff past Joyce . . . this latest shouldn't be that bigga deal.

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Unknown said...

is that a 907?

Unknown said...

is that a 907?

Pat S said...

Indeed it is, Dan.

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