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Cycling, for better or for worse, involves gear and frequently copious amounts of it. Even the most Zen bike riders among us are wardens of small arsenals; parts, clothing, tools and other necessary accoutrements. Of course all play a role in keeping the wheels rollin’. The trouble can frequently be keeping this ‘stuff’ accessible and ready for action. Enter the bike room, workshop, garage, closet, corner, truck bed – bike space. Anyone who really rides bikes has one. Some are better than others and we have all had many different types, each with their own endearing traits. Especially those of us who rent our places of habitation.
The past year has been a tumultuous time for the workshop of Velo Exploration. For the good part of two years the operation was housed in a snug single car garage complete with custom made work bench, large wired speakers, insulation (in 2 walls) and even a retired bottle cage beverage holder. All this five feet from the kitchen. The occasional blast of winter spindrift under the gap in the door and clandestine mouse drop from the neighbor cat were a small price to pay. This was as close to bike workshop Valhalla as I have known. Then, like all good things, it ended. The setup was hastily condensed to the back of a pick-up truck and ultimately onto a matt in the corner of a 3rd floor white carpeted apartment 3000 miles away. Painful. Needless to say this configuration did not last. The next stop for this traveling velo outfit would be a slightly bigger corner of a slightly smaller apartment with much browner carpet. This was home for a while until what should present itself but the ultimate: a large, detached shed!
But like many things in life, this fine four walled out building was not without its strings. Upon opening it’s ancient whitewashed door in quickly became apparent that owner of said structure had a vastly different view than the cyclist as to what proper use of a shed entailed. Piled precariously to the rafters was all manners of flotsam and jetsam spanning generations. Old doors, lawn mowers, a soiled mattress and empty paint cans unceremoniously teetered across the dreams of a half dozen bikes and a space deprived mechanic.
At the time of this writing some progress has been made. A portion of the shed has been liberated from the rubble and dedicated to the Velo Exploration “workshop”. It is functional but sure has a long way to go. There is hope that more rounds of negotiation with shed owner will yield further progress in restoring the dignity of this stout, slightly eastward listing structure. A day may come when a fully appointed shop is realised inside these walls. Until then the cranks will continue to turn as they always do and memories of those dark days in the white carpeted apartment corner will slowly drift out through the knot holes in the leaky room of the new bike space.
Spring in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies is a tumultuous time for the region’s cyclists. We start to get restless. Months have passed since the alpine has permitted us entry on two wheels. Winter months spent on trainers, if you swing that way, or riding the plains under layers of fancy fabric are starting to pay dividends for some. Legs are getting restless for the big climbs and minds dull from the flatlands.
Spring has a tendency to offer a string of balmy, still days tempting rides high into the hills visiting terrain not ridden since last fall. Then with ferocity winter is back in one massive upslope storm dumping feet of wet snow all over thoughts of summer.
While engaged in the singlespeed tuck on a recent decent of a favorite mountain road, during one of these peaceful weather interludes, I was reminded what it is about spring in this part of the world that I like so much. The anticipation of a new run of adventure on the bike. Winter certainly is a time for two-wheeled exploits but these are of a different genus and an entirely different story best told when gold comes to the Aspen leaves.
Back to the promise of summer; Looking off to the South West the speed blurred view of my riding territory opens up. Memories of summer rides out the back door flood back with a glimpse of a thawing ridgeline and the smell of water-logged plant matter newly released from the melting snow pack. These windows of pristine weather allow the mind to wonder back to the routines of summer riding and to look back on the disappearing dark season with satisfaction of another one passed comfortably in the saddle. Pulling the fenders and studs off the commuter and giving it a thorough cleaning under warm spring sun is for me the symbolic end to the season. Another one in the books, it was a hell of a time but bring on the alpine ramblings.
Back down into the neighborhood and off of the mountain decent the warm Chinook wind blows hard in my face re-affirming the weather report I read but promptly dismissed as lies on account of ‘it’s spring damn it!’
The snow will be back at least once more before winter recedes for another edition. Though with each passing morning of carbide studs crunching on asphalt, days of pine laced singletrack, and wide open alpine speed draw ever closer.
“the Practical Pedal is a magazine, a website, and a blog or two for anyone who thinks bikes make great transportation.”
While checking out the latest offerings from Cetma Cargo the other morning I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a link to the Practical Pedal. How I am just now finding out about this publication I do not know but I highly recommend checking it out. Started by Wiley Davis the Practical Pedal addresses a variety of topics all stemming from the promotion of the bicycle as a practical and viable mode of transportation. Unique in this budding era of online only publications and zines Davis provides his offering to readers either via PDF through Issuu or in an actual newspaper format (yes it still exists). Readers can subscribe to the print edition at any of five nominal fee levels: free, $3, $7, 9$ or any amount. But why offer a print edition? Davis addresses this question here in the most recent issue. He talks about the inherent benefits of the printed page in presenting analytical content vs. news. Getting the publication and the resulting “cycling goodness” into the hands of someone who would not necessarily seek it out on the web is another reason behind the print edition. The Practical Pedal even gives supporters the option to receive a bulk shipment of the newspapers for only the cost of shipping for personal distribution in their area.
Another unique and interesting aspect of the Practical Pedal is what Davis calls the “Incubator“. Through this process The Practical Pedal presents topics for articles to appear in the upcoming issue. Followers of the site are then invited to post their thoughts and comments on the subject at hand. This provides a multi perspective discussion which eventually culminates in a published article. A pretty cool idea if you ask me.
Certainly check out the site if you have not already. The current issue contains an entertaining and cleverly written review of the Surly Big Dummy and the Madsen cargo bikes as well as a cool little piece of fiction. Keep up the good fight Practical Pedal and may your readership grow. Anyone who feels the need to publish a review of Paul Thumbies is obviously on the same page as VeloExploration!
Situated in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness 13,221 foot Mt. Audubon is visible from many parts of Boulder. One of these areas happens to be a large stretch of what was my morning bike commute for the past two years. During the winter I have seen it’s summit scoured by high winds sending ribbons of snow off into the sky. In the summer I have struggled to pick it out behind the ripples of heat flowing above Boulder. In the past two years I have stood on it’s summit three times and hiked and skied many miles on it’s flanks. At some point during one of my commutes while looking up at the peak I hatched a plan to ride my Bike from my house in Boulder to the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary, hike to the top of the peak and then ride back home. Bike assisted peak bagging.
With only a few days left before departing Boulder for California and a high pressure system firmly planted over the Front Range I decided it would be a good time to see if I could pull this off. As frequently happens, my “alpine start” turned into a mid-morning start. Normally I would have been worried about getting shutdown on the peak by afternoon thunderstorms but forecasts called for almost no chance of storms this day. So off I went.
I decided to ride up to the Peak to Peak Highway through the old mining town of Gold Hill. This route, while steeper than the main alternate Left Hand Canyon, is nearly all on dirt which, in my mind, beats riding my knobby tire shod singlespeed up a long gradual road climb. At Gold Hill I stopped to take in some food and snap a few pictures. I have ridden this route countless times and know the topography between Gold Hill and the Peak to Peak Highway well. I settled into the climbing at hand while reminding myself that I was planning to climb a peak at the top of this road not just descend back to town like usual. Energy conservation would be my mantra for the day. After over three hours of climbing from my front door I reached the Peak to Peak highway. From here it was a road burn slightly uphill to the town of Ward where I turned left on the access road to Brainard Lake Recreation Area, the gateway to the Mt. Audubon portion of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
“Are you watching the Tour? What do you think of Lance’s comeback? Wow, you cyclists sure are tough.” This burst of rapid fire questions and exclamations came from a kind southern accented gate attendant at the entrance to the Brainard parking area. As my oxygen starved brain struggled to catch up with her I couldn’t help but marvel at what Lance Armstrong has done for our sport as far as bringing it closer to the mainstream, but that is a different story. After bidding farewell to the gate attendant I headed up to Brainard Lake to re-fill my bottles and fill my 100 oz. bladder for the hike portion of this little endeavor.
Upon reaching the Mt. Audubon trail head the elapsed time on my watch read four hours exactly. The mosquitoes were swarming after a late, wet winter so I wasted no time in the transition. I stowed my bike, shoes and helmet under a fallen pine bow just above the parking lot. I traded bike shoes for trail runners and helmet for hat. I also took a moment to inhale a peanut butter and jelly burrito and an large amount of Redvines. My favorite endurance food.
The trail up to the summit of Audubon is four miles long and reaches tree line just about a mile and a half in. I figured I could reach the summit and be back down in less than four hours. It being a Thursday the traffic on this normally packed trail was light. Just the way I like it. I cruised along through though the cool pine forest keeping an eye out for the black bear mother and cub the gate attendant told me had been spotted here recently. Soon I found myself at tree line looking back down into the brown smog cloud filling the Boulder Valley on this hot windless day. With not a cloud in the sky I continued up into the alpine past the first of the Pika colonies along the way. I have heard that due to rising winter temperatures Pikas are being forced to move their colonies up in elevation. Sure enough this first colony that I have seen bustling with these rabbit like creatures on several occasions was silent. Farther up the trail I heard the familiar Pika squeaks coming from the scree fields a good one hundred feet higher in elevation. Continuing up the rocky trail toward the summit I couldn’t help but think about cars, gas, global warming, and the idea of fossil fuel free recreation.
As I reached the final push up the steep boulder field to the summit I cranked my Ipod to fend off my increasing faigue. Looking back down at Boulder far bellow I began to feel pretty satisfied at the distance I had covered under my own power. From the summit ridge I was treated to an amazing view of Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park to the north and the pyramidal ridges of Paiute Peak to the west. At just about the six hour mark, according to my watch, I reached the summit. After searching in vain for the summit register I took a seat in one of the half circle rock shelters. The warm mid-day sun and amazing views out over Colorado’s eastern plains began to lull me to sleep. I shook myself awake with the realization that there was no car waiting for me back at the trail head and that while it was 8,000 + feet down hill from here to my house the journey was really only half done.
Back on my feet I downed a Gu and some Redvines, admired the view one last time and began to pick my way carefully down the boulder field. After reaching the relatively smooth trail I was able to get into a good downhill rhythm and reach my bike in just under 3 and a half hours elapsed time from when I first stowed it. Climbing back onto the bike I struggled to change gears from hiking to steering a bike down a steep traffic filled mountain highway. With the singlespeed geared at 32×20 this would be a long, slow coasting decent. Upon reaching the top of Lefthand Canyon I assumed the aero singlepeed downhill tuck and before I knew it I was back down in the 90 degree heat of the valley cruising down Colorado 36 on the final leg towards home. As I reached my morning commute route I looked up at the peak nearly hidden in smog and heat. Knowing I had finally reached the summit under my own power gave me a great feeling of satisfaction and I assured myself this would not be my last bike assisted peak ascent.
I rolled into my backyard at just over nine hours elapsed time. A log day at the office for sure! I opened the door to a worried girlfriend, a delicious dinner on the table and a copious amount of cold hoppy bevrages in the fridge. Life is good!
What do we carry with us when we ride? No two cyclist’s gear lists are exactly the same and for that matter most riders have multiple gear configurations that vary with the season, route, the type of ride or even personal mood. In my experience those of us who ride a lot develop what I will call “go-to kits”. These kits are generally self-contained and are ready to grab at a moments notice allowing for minimal ride prep. resulting in more time spent in the saddle.
I have always been intrigued by what gear others carry and why. I occasionally stumble upon discussions and sometimes pictures addressing this topic. I find this type of information invaluable as I refine my own kits over time. I also feel these types of gear discussions provide interesting insight into an aspect of everyday cycling that is often overlooked. No one wants to be stranded on a dark highway shoulder on their commute home because of a broken chain or left shivering high on a mountain pass because of inadequate clothing. It is to avoid these scenarios that we all put at least some thought into what we carry. For me this is one small element that helps make up the fun of the cycling experience. So without further rambling here is the first installment of “What are you carrying?”
This is my “go-to kit” for most of my commuting which usually involves some sort of lengthening of the ride home. I also use this configuration for longer off-road rides in backcountry areas. Everything is carried in an Osprey Stratos 24 pack. I have found it to be very stable and perfectly suited for riding. I chose the 24 liter size over the 18 liter version so as to be able to fit clothes and other bulky items that I usually have to carry on my commute. I think the Stratos 18 would have been better suited for most of my rides but the 24 just adds to the pack’s versatility without adding much weight. A wealth of compression straps keep the pack stable even when nearly empty.
Osprey’s Air Core back panel creates a gap between the back and the pack allowing for good air flow. The zip mesh pockets on the waist belt are great and allow me to keep food easily accessible for on the fly fueling. In the past few years Osprey has started incorporating stretch fabric pockets into their packs. These are really sweet. The Stratos 24 has a large one on the back panel which I usually keep a wind shell in. It also has two side stretch pockets which work well for bottles, food or glasses and can easily be accessed while moving. This pack works well for my purposes and I frequently use it for non bike related activities as well. This one is a keeper.
The following image depicts the items that I always keep in this pack. Obviously the tube changes based on which bike I am riding and I sometimes carry a bigger pump when weight is not really a concern. Not pictured are a set of arm warmers and a wind shell that generally live in the outer stretch pockets. During the rainy season I always have a pair of rain pants in the main compartment. Clothing, food and water are added depending on the ride.
This base kit has served me well and I have used it on all types of rides from my short daily commute to a W.R.I.A.D ride. Versatility is key for me and this setup is exactly that.
Hopefully someone will glean some useful info from this write-up. I would love to feature other’s setups in the future. Let Velo Exploration know what you are carrying and we’ll post it up here.