Saturday, September 24, 2011


Since it's just me and my youngest son today, we pried ourselves off the couch (not easy!) and went exploring. The Xtracycle with iBert combo was put into duty and we were off. With the high river levels all year, most of the bike trails that run alongside of it were muddy for the summer. Recently they cleaned up some of the trails, and we went to go ride them.

Unfortunately the Sertoma Freedom bridge, a walk/bike/ski bridge that crosses the Red River is still out of commission, but we found two other bridges to cross over from Minnesota to North Dakota in our ride today. Most of the trails weave through parks, are asphalt paved, and lined with trees. Some of the best scenery in the area, especially now that Fall is officially here. Squirrels gathering acorns, bright yellows and green trees, and the crunch of leaves under my tires. Amazingly it was 70 degrees today and with the amount of people out today, I think we're all thinking the same thing...that weekends like this aren't going to happen very often in the next 6 months, so get out and enjoy. I'm glad we made it out for a 12 mile ride today, the couch feels even better right about now.

Right before I posted this blog, I entered that 12 mile trip into, where I've been tracking all my trips. Today's ride makes an even 1700 miles for the year. Nice!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I dig this quote

"When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart."
– Diane Ackerman

That was posted on facebook by the good folks at 30 Days of Biking. Currently in Round 4, and the last round of the year, 30 Days challenges people to ride every day for 30 days. Simple enough right? Around the block, to work, running errands. Even though 30days of biking is a Minneapolis thing, someday I hope it'll spread all over. I'm doing my part around here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Of the 5 bikes currently in use in this household, the hardest one to change went flat. The rear tire on my Xtracycle "Truk" was dead flat, after a short run up to Walgreens on Sunday. Glad it happened at home and not out on the road, because it is a genuine pain the the ass to get that rear tire off, especially with the super fat Schwalbe Big Apple tires, fenders, and v-brakes. No speed records were set in the garage today!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We did it!

Finally sold my wife's car! My commitment to car-lite living and year round commuting just got a big slap in the face from reality. It's time to put up or shut up and do this. Saving a ton of money per month, have a lot more room in the garage, and a big headache cured. Since that car was hardly driven at all last winter, paying ~$450/mo on a garage ornament for 5 months hurt a lot. Now we won't have to worry, and the car found a new owner who loves it dearly.

It's time to get serious about getting some custom winter gear from and making sure Pugsley is ready for the snow battle, because we're going all in this year!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 9/11 Post, I'm celebrating

Since Facebook/CNN/the corner store is all abuzz with people's remembrances of 9/11/01, I'm celebrating 9/11/11. It's my son's second birthday, and I refuse to let the sighs and bad thoughts of one evil day in history put a bad mark on the date of my child's birth. We're going to make the best of it!

But since I'm on the subject, on 9/11/01 I was living with a roommate and sound asleep when my roommate woke me up "We're being attacked!!". Not knowing WTF she was talking about I reluctantly got out of bed and went to watch TV with her. By the time I was up, both towers were ablaze, albeit still standing. I didn't know what to think or feel. Nervous? Scared? Anger? I remember most news websites being down, and trying to get my little 3.5" travel TV to tune into something. Since I was in a capital city, especially one with a nuclear power plant nearby, I was a bit worried. Soon my fears would ease and live would carry on as normal. Well, not normal, but you know what I mean.

Remember how everyone had American flags and support ribbons and how Americans in general stuck together for a few months after the attack? What happened to that? People became their ugly selves again and started hating each other, and especially those with darker skin, or those whose faith didn't align with their own. Cowardly attacks upon innocent, kind hearted people who look middle-eastern or talk with a thick accent happened shortly thereafter. When I reflect on 9/11, I feel sad for the ugliness us Americans showed in the days, months and years following the horrible attacks. The fickleness of being a caring human being, the senseless attacks and hatred to those who were not understood. It was ugly and I prefer not to reflect on 9/11 for being reminded of those things. OK, rant over.

So I'm celebrating this 9/11, because as of two years ago, I actually have a reason to be happy again on 9/11. My baby boy is growing up so fast! And there might even be another part to be happy about, but I'm not gonna jinx it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oh really now

Surly's recent blog post that announced the 2012 products had a new tire called the Big Fat Larry. Rumored to be a 26x4.5" tire, actually release was a 4.7"! Even before the announcement the fat bike community was scheming of ways to get it into their existing bikes. Surly's blog post had this little tidbit: "Yes, it will fit into a Pugsley frameset on a Large Marge rim. HOWEVER, You will no longer be able to use your small ring or largest three or four cogs in the rear due to tire/chain disagreements."

To that I say, "Oh really now". It fits just fine with no disagreements in the drivetrain! Thanks to Big Mike at Paramount Sports for making the experiment happen so quickly. I asked him about ordering me some yesterday around 2:30pm, and they arrived today at 12:30pm! Tires were installed less than 24 hours after ordering, that's pretty quick in my book.

These fatter tires should give me a hair more ground clearance and a bit more float in the snow, as well as better traction due to the more supple tire casing. The bike also lost half a pound of rotational weight, so it should be a little faster as well!

Now if I could only feel better. Sinuses/allergies/cold/whatever this is that is draining my energy, make my throat scratchy, and make my nose run is really annoying. Sick day today coincided with new bike toys, but I wish I could go ride and enjoy them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bikepacking Cheap

When I first became interested in bikepacking, it was through blogs and posts from people with more free time and budget than I do. While I'd love to have the latest gear and a lighter "kit". I make do with what I got. The purpose of this post is to remind you that you don't need special equipment to go on a S24O or quick adventure.

Take Rivendell for example. They specialize in this type of stuff and are well respected in the cycling world. For good reason too. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've dreamed of going on a shopping spree at their site, they truly have some of the nicest stuff I've ever seen. In the articles section of their site is a portion about what to bring on an overnighter. Have a look, then come back here and compare.

My kit is as follows (see previous post for a picture of the Pugsley loaded up):
Outdoor Research 15L Drybag ($15 from REI)
-Contains Thermarest Sleeping Pad ($20 from craigslist)
-Contains HiTec 1 man Backpacking Tent ($25 from Big5)
This Drybag is strapped to the handlebars using the Coleman camp straps ($2 for a pack of 2)

Deuter Framebag ($16 from TreeFortBikes)
-Contains Bike Tools, Flashlight, Lighter, Knife, First Aid, Etc.

Rack is a Planet Bike Eco Rack ($5 from Craigslist, but about $25 new)
Nashbar Daytrekker Panniers ($25 from Nashbar)
Left Side contains clothes (camp shirt/underwear/shorts/shirt for ride home) with room to spare.
Right Side contains emergency plastic rain poncho, a 8' piece of paracord, and food (more on that later).
Strapped to the top of the panniers/racks using the Daytrekker straps is a HiTec Tioga sleeping bag, 30degree ($20 at Big5)

Camelbak Blowfish ($30 from an AZ LBS sale, but you probably have one already)
-Contains 100oz water, chapstick, mountain money (TP), food. toiletries

Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag ($15)
-Contains Camera, Phone, Map.

For Food I brought 2 PB Sandwiches, 3 or 4 mini Clif bars, Fig Newtons, Laffy Taffys!, and a couple Gu gels. The gels have caffeine. Something my body has decided is quite important. Also, they taste pretty good and make for a decent "treat" at a quick stop. Not exactly their intended use, but that's how they work for me. I also knew my route passed by a couple gas stations, so breakfast coffee/donut was bought there in the morning. I have an alcohol stove that I made (google "super cat stove") but I didn't feel like cooking anything, so it didn't come along.

Most of my stuff is cheap, but it works, and at the prices I paid, the weight is pretty respectable. Of course if I were going on a long tour or anything longer than 3 or 4 days I'd surely be making some upgrades. First thing I want is a new tent. I like to be able to sit up inside, and that isn't possible in my tent. Something waterproof would be nice as well. But considering how cheap this tent was, I'll get a couple more nights out of it before it becomes a play tent for my kids.

So if you've ever thought about bikepacking, take a look around and see what you can use first. Odds are you'd have most of what you need right at home.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


This morning, I woke up to the sound of tapping and scratching on the side of my tent. There was just enough sunrise light to show the silhouette of a frog, trying to jump up and climb the side of my tent.

Earlier this week I had the idea to go bikepacking again, just a simple S24O (Sub 24hour Overnight Bicycle Tour) to get away for a while. I got out all my stuff and loaded up my Cross Check to see if it was feasible, then started checking out Google Earth to find a route. I found a spot about 35 miles east of here near Lee Lake. I then used Google Maps Cycling directions and noticed it suggested mostly all gravel roads. Normally I don't mind gravel on the Cross Check, it's more than capable on most surfaces, but the map had suggested a road I've attempted to ride before. It's just too loose and soft for those skinny (700x38s are skinny?!) tires. Not seeing any good alternate routes, and excited by gravel, I chose to stick with the Google route, but changed to my Surly Pugsley.

Bikepacking on a Fatbike = Fatpacking. The 3.8" wide tires have zero issues with gravel, so I knew I'd be able to enjoy riding my bike, and not worrying about what "line" I took in the gravel, or whether or not I'd be able to follow a car track. I could space out, talk to myself, look around, take pictures, etc...all without a care in the world. Since my destination was only 35 miles away, the fatbike made sense. It's much slower. It's no slug, but it's slower. More time to enjoy the ride. Not for a second on this trip did I regret taking the Pugsley, but there were several times I was incredibly thankful I didn't attempt this trip with the Cross Check.

I didn't take hills into consideration, and the Cross Check's gearing isn't low enough, especially when loaded with stuff. I would have been walking a lot. Walking sucks. The Pugsley's super low granny gear allowed me to spin my way up everything. The low gearing also allowed me to spin comfortably against the massive headwind that haunted my return trip.

As for the trip itself, I left Friday after work, about 5pm. Within 15 minutes I was away from civilization and I had miles and miles of gravel to grind before reaching my destination. I stopped and took some pictures, had a few snacks, and generally tried to enjoy my ride and surroundings without a time limit. So often my rides are limited by work, availability, or riding with others and trying to hold a pace. This was nice, I knew that I should end up at camp by 8pm to avoid setting up my tent in the dark, and I made it just in time.

The tent went up quick, and I was settled for the night. Tossing and turning before finally getting to sleep, only to be woken up by raindrops around 1:30am (my tent isn't waterproof). I dealt with it and finally got a few hours of decent sleep (using my Camelbak as a pillow) before Mr. Frog's feable attempt at scaling the side of a tent that brought my slumber to an end.

The ride home was a repeat of the ride there, except with a hell of a lot more wind. 10-20mph headwinds gusting to 28. Damn near constant. I certainly burned some extra calories riding 30+ miles into a headwind on a 60lb loaded bike. Even as demoralizing as headwinds can be on a bike, it didn't get me down today, it just wore me out quicker and delayed my arrival at home to around noon.

I was stopped a couple times by people wanting to know more about the bike and how they'd never seen tires so big. I sincerely don't mind. Plus I was rarely seeing people or cars on my route, it was nice to socialize a little (besides talking to myself). The sight of the bike makes kids and adults alike say "whoa" when I ride by. Same way I felt when I first saw one, and the novelty hasn't worn off. This bike truly makes me feel younger. That sentiment has been shared by other fatbike owners too. It's magical.

The fountain of youth is pedal powered. Go ride somewhere.