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Messages - ericb

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Gear Talk / Re: Packing Thermarest
« on: June 20, 2010, 09:18:31 pm »
Ah yes, there is the Ridgerest. I have one and indeed it is waterproof. But for me it's terribly uncomfortable. The inflatable ones are not waterproof, which unfortunately I know from experience. They do dry quickly, but they'll absorb enough water to dampen a sleeping bag, which obviously isn't something you want.

Gear Talk / Re: Salsa Fargo - Lemon of the year!
« on: June 20, 2010, 12:57:25 am »
Worst bike for you. You keep saying "oh maybe it was defective" while calling it a lemon and the "worst bike"  you've ever ridden. These two things don't reconcile. I mean, ok, we get it... you had a bad experience with the bike. But you are seriously the only person I've ever heard of to say these things, while most other owners rave about it. Also doesn't reconcile. 

Incidentally, I now have a Surly Nice Rack on the front of my Fargo and the thing is even more stable with a load up front. About to head off for a 2 month tour.

Gear Talk / Re: Packing Thermarest
« on: June 20, 2010, 12:52:02 am »
Thermarests are not waterproof! 

Gear Talk / Re: Packing Thermarest
« on: June 13, 2010, 04:05:07 pm »
I use a 3/4 length ultra light Thermarest (I think equiv. to the Trail Pro) that rolls up very very small -- maybe 8-9" x 4" or so. So I always put it in the tall round-ish pocket on the back of one side of my Arkel panniers (with room to spare) where it is moderately safe from rain, but it will also easily fit inside if it's wet enough out.

If yours is the full-length variety, Thermarest does sell various stuff sacks or you can easily find one that fits at REI or similar store. In my experience these sacks are not that water proof and you are better off with a plastic bag. A dry bag seems over kill to me.

For making your Thermarest compact nicely, it works well to fold it in 3rds or 4ths with the valve open, and sit on it to get a lot of the air out. Close the valve, then I fold mine lengthwise and roll tightly. As I get near the end I open the valve again to get the remaining air out. If yours is an especially thick kind, you may need to or prefer to roll full-width. I keep mine rolled up with a rubber band. 

I mention this because if you are new to Thermarests, it may not be apparent just how small a size they can compact down to.

I think the case for 26" in certain parts of the world is a little too anecdotal. It seems reasonable and is probably basically true (I've lived in Asia, and you see way more 26" and odd 650-ish sizes than 700), but I have to wonder how true it really is in practice. Seems like half the travel journals I read on CGOAB describe having to order tires no matter where they are. When cheapo tires are picked up locally, they are often described as unsatisfactory and short-lived.

It would be really interesting to do a proper survey of tire use and availability in Asia, South America and Africa

Anyway, the issue didn't stop me getting a 700c (aka 29er) "expedition" touring bike.

Gear Talk / Re: Great Divide Tire Dilemma
« on: June 09, 2010, 12:51:38 am »
Also have the Salsa Fargo with the stock Vulpine 2.1 tires. On a recent off-road mini-tour they performed shockingly well. Except for some minor traction issues on very very steep and slippery descents I had no complaints whatsoever. In fact for my upcoming much longer tour I've decided to eschew the usual Schwalbe-by-default and stick with the Vulpines. I just think they are a fantastic combination of pretty darned fast on the pavement and very reasonable in the rough stuff.
I run a pair of 26x2-something XRs on another bike which I take on trails, and those positively suck in the dirt compared to the Vulpines, which is not something I'd have expected.

Just in terms of width for loaded touring off-road, I'm very happy with 2.1, at least with this tire.

Gear Talk / Re: Trek 520
« on: June 09, 2010, 12:42:29 am »
I think the best thing you can do is test ride them both back-to-back. The geometry of the frames is quite different and the LHT is available in more sizes. Ideally, take them for a long test ride, preferably with a load.

I've owned a Trek 520 since 2004. I got it mostly as a kind of sport touring bike, but frankly I don't like it! I only road an LHT once, and it was a couple sizes too small for me. But I still had a very positive impression of the frame and ride. The LHT has a longer wheelbase and slacker angles. And out of the box it's set up to give a more upright position. Even with a stem and handlebar swap, I've just never been that comfy on my Trek. And it's always felt far too twitchy in the front  -- in fact I've never much liked the handling... it's not a stable bike for long rides. To be honest, I think Trek is riding on the reputation of the bike while having changed out most of the good qualities to have broader appeal.

I actually would have probably bought an LHT to replace the Trek if I hadn't gone with the Salsa Fargo, which scratches the mixed road/trail itch. 

Gear Talk / Re: Salsa Fargo - Lemon of the year!
« on: June 03, 2010, 11:31:53 pm »
I'm glad we are in agreement that the failure rate is not 100% I've no doubt the success rate is not 100% either. No manufacturer has perfect quality control, and to be frank, at this price point I don't expect perfection, particularly in a relatively new model.  Frame alignment? Have you checked many other bikes lately? It's shocking how many aren't perfect.

My point boils down to this: calling the Fargo "Lemon of the Year" is alarmist and unfair.

Clearly quite a few people have had the problem.

Really? Can you count them? I read this whole thread twice. I read dozens of other threads on half a dozen forums before taking the plunge myself and the worst I heard about was some problems with the alignment of the disc brake tab in the 2008 or 2009 model, which was easily corrected and addressed by Salsa.

If you are citing second-hand info about threads on, be aware that that is one person (Neil). He experiences shimmy on every bike he buys. I have no idea why and I'm not saying it's bogus, but that discussion did not deter me from buying the Fargo. I know from long experience that type of rack, how you load panniers, and half a dozen other factors can have a very large impact on handling. It is this point that Tim from Salsa essentially makes. You can't load a bike willy nilly and expect it to behave 100% of the time. Every bike has it's own load-handling characteristics. If you can't work within those, then clearly that bike is not for you. That doesn't make it a lemon.

My Trek 520 is borderline dangerous with a heavy and high load on a fast bumpy descent if I don't load the front at least 60-70% (and to some extent even if I do). But I'm not saying it's a lemon, I'm just saying I have to pay attention to how I put the weight on it. Same as any bike.

Gear Talk / Re: breaking spokes
« on: June 03, 2010, 05:40:08 pm »
If they are custom wheels built by your bike shop, you should get a full refund and go elsewhere.

But most likely it's not the dealer's fault -- I assume these are machine built wheels that came with the bike. Sad but true, this is the state of machine built wheels on mass produced bikes these days.

Gear Talk / Re: Camping Tent
« on: June 03, 2010, 05:35:06 pm »
Another Big Agnes Seed House (SL2) user. I've toured and back packed with mine extensively, in all kinds of conditions.

For some reason it is often on sale, and I think at the sale price it is a great deal. I think I paid just under $200 for it in 2008.

Pros: Light, very fast to set up, very airy so condensation is rarely an issue. Seems pretty durable so far. Spacious for one person + gear. I did the Sierra High Route with it and was very very happy.

Cons: Because it's open, it is really a 2.5 season tent. It handles wind very well, but if you are wind+snow, you're going to be unhappy (speaking from experience here). With misty sort of rain or heavy rain + wind, it's possible to get moisture coming into the tent from under the fly. You really have to stake out the fly properly to not get condensation and to have it handle wind properly -- which is a small extra hassle. Tight fit for two people.

Gear Talk / Re: Salsa Fargo - Lemon of the year!
« on: June 03, 2010, 05:18:50 pm »
Came across this topic and felt compelled to balance Galloper's alarmist posts.

I've owned a Salsa Fargo for about three weeks now, and I couldn't be happier. Ok, maybe a little... it's not a perfect bike, but for the price it's fantastic. In this time I've put more than 500 miles on it, with a good mix of long-ish mixed trail and road rides and plenty of commuting, hauling groceries, etc.

Absolutely the only complaint I have about the bike is that the quality of the wheel building is rather poor. But that doesn't come as a surprise and is par for the course for machine wheel built wheels and in this price range.

This past holiday weekend I went on a mini-tour that was about 50% trail with lots of killer climbs, riding through creeks and bombing down washed out fire roads -- a big loop through Henry Coe State Park in California, for those of you who know it. In terms of terrain this little test ride is sort of on the extreme end of what I plan to do with the bike, which is mixed touring with plenty of back roads exploring. The bike handled and performed beautifully and I didn't have a single problem.

Now I admit, I haven't yet got the front rack on the bike, so I was touring only with an overloaded handlebar bag and two rear panniers. Also, not much gear as it was only three days.

Normally in this configuration -- with weight high on the bar and mostly in the rear, I'd expect some squirelliness. But this is an extremely stable bike that handles beautifully on road and off. I'm very keen to get panniers on the front, but there is nothing to suggest to me that the handling would be anything less than solid. If I experienced shimmy I'd immediately reconfigure my load and if that didn't help start checking frame alignment and what not.  Of course I'd have already considered if the frame was simply too small for me.

I would not call this a light touring bike. In fact that's a pretty ridiculous comment. A Trek 520 is a light touring bike, and feels like a wet noodle compared to the Fargo. And any bike can shimmy and/or be dangerous if it's not loaded in a way that is right for that bike. To just say "oh, I had these same racks on another bike no problems" is ignoring the very obvious: every bike is different and racks and the load will ride differently on every frame. Just as importantly you will ride differently on every bike.

I think it's a pity that one person's bad experience would cast a great bike in such a negative light without considering that there are many happy Fargo owners who have nothing but good things to say about the bike or Salsa. It's not really fair. And personally I'm impressed with the way Salsa employees represent themselves in forums and have been responsive to questions and concerns. Ever talk to Bruce Gordon? How about Grant Petersen?  You'd spent twice as much or more for a bike that's maybe 30% better, but with half the level of personal commitment from the manufacturer.

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