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Messages - wildtoad

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Gear Talk / Re: Chair
« on: March 10, 2022, 03:36:42 pm »
I sometimes bring along my old Alite camp chair (I believe the company went out of business a few years ago) when I anticipate that camp sites on a particular trip may be short of comfortable sitting spots. It weighs very little and is decently comfortable. It's also quite compact. That said, it does take up space and as I've trended towards packing more efficiently and lighter overall, more often than not I leave the Alite behind nowadays.

General Discussion / Re: Wild fires disturbing your tour?
« on: July 23, 2021, 11:09:10 am »
Have had several outdoor activities (day rides, centuries, short tours, canoe/kayak overnights, backpacking trips, etc.) postponed or cancelled during the last several years in CA/mountain west due to wildfire smoke. For me, the biggest impact has not been the actual fire areas, but the far-reaching impacts of wildfire smoke which can cause very unhealthy air quality hundreds of miles away from a fire. Not to be overly dramatic, but I've seen smoke impacts during the last 2 years that I would describe as almost apocalyptic (e.g., last year's lighting caused fires near the Bay Area).  Don't mess around w/ bad air might think you are a picture of health, but being out and exerting yourself in that stuff is bad news all around.

A now critical component of my short/near term tour planning are the real time ground level smoke, cloud level smoke, and air quality maps available via various weather apps, etc. My favorite is what's available on the OpenSnow/OpenSummit apps, but I am already a subscriber to those apps as an avid skier (the OpenSnow forecasters provide the absolute best snow forecasts available IMO). I've used these maps several times this year to help navigate the current fire season and my cycling and canoeing activities in the Sierras. An essential tool if you are in the mountain west during fire season.

Routes / Re: Lake Superior
« on: June 26, 2021, 10:46:09 am »
Well, jamawani, maybe we crossed paths in Pictured Rocks back in 1989! During the summers of '88 and '89, during my college years, I lead week long self-contained backpacking, cycling and canoe packing trips for 13-14 year-olds out of a camp located in Western Michigan. The backpacking itinerary those years took us through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was two 21 year old guys leading 12 (mostly) well behaved campers! Great memories, beautiful place.

A cycling route around the Lake would be fantastic. Would love to go back to that area sometime.

General Discussion / Re: Stove and fuel for GDMBR?
« on: June 22, 2021, 10:43:41 pm »
Don't know re the availability of canisters along the GDMBR. But, in terms of canister stoves, I've had great experience w/ MSR stoves. Probably lots of reviews re those stoves on REI's website.

A note re alcohol stoves in the mountain West. My favorite stove is the Trangia...simple, durable, no canister waste, etc. However, I use it less and less nowadays. I live in California, and do much of my backcountry exploration in the Sierras. We are required to obtain a California Campfire Permit to use a stove in the backcountry. The permit effectively prohibits alcohol stoves when wood fires/wood stoves are also prohibited (i.e. most of the summer/fall) because (if I recall correctly) they do not have shutoff valves/switches and can relatively easily tip over and spill fuel (and, thus fire).

I do not know if CA-like restrictions apply to any of the jurisdictions that you will travel through on the GDMBR.  Definitely a research point for you.  But given the significant drought conditions in much of the mountain West...the Southwest in particular, and what I expect to be a potentially bad wildfire year, it's something to be aware of. 

Gear Talk / Re: Bike setup for the GDMBR
« on: June 22, 2021, 10:18:42 pm »
That's great, glad to hear that you found a bike (no small feat in the current environment). The Krampus will make a very good platform, no doubt. Fit and comfort are obviously just as important for long distance dirt as they are for long distance get those dialed in over a series of initial rides, and I'm sure you will be good to go w/ the rest of the specs on that bike for the GDMBR.

Re the Redshift stem...funny how things often go full circle in the bike world (and elsewhere, of course).  The stem seems well reviewed for gravel/all road bikes (at least in the online/YouTube influencer/reviewer world).  You will be rolling wider 29+ tires set up tubeless, and I expect you will probably get a good deal of "cush" from that. 

I did rock a Girvin Flexstem back in the early 1990s, and rode some bikes back in the day w/ the Softride stem as well.  They worked a little bit, but weren't a replacement for a good suspension fork (which really didn't exist until the Marz Bombers IMO). Anyway, maybe the Redshift is a little better than those old school versions...definitely lighter would be my guess, but overall, on a bike like the Krampus. I would go for a nice suspension fork as a complement/option to the rigid fork.  Modern suspension forks just work, and work well,  and your bike doesn't have the constraints re adding a suspension fork that some "gravel" bikes have.

Enjoy your new bike!

Gear Talk / Re: Bike setup for the GDMBR
« on: June 12, 2021, 10:42:16 pm »
A reason to build up a new bike is always a good thing! A few thoughts and tangents for you......

I haven't yet had the opportunity to ride the full GDMBR, but did ride most of the Montana section several years ago. For fun, I did that section on a Reynolds 853 steel 1990s hardtail, 80mm fork, v brakes , 26er x 2.1" tires, 3x8 gearing, etc. The bike performed beautifully, including the brakes. I did have an early version of the Jones cut bar on that bike at the time. Decent bar for that trip, but suboptimal for the few singletrack sections IMO/IME.

Front suspension is a fine choice. When I return to the GDMBR, I will probably use a rigid bike.

You appear set on the Jones bar, that's cool. I've moved on from my Jones was a good experiment and helped me fine tune what I like, at least when it comes to mtb control style bars. It may handle singletrack better on a Jones bike, or a bike w/ geometry more similar to a Jones than the 2 bikes that I tried it on.

Pedals, no feedback as I ride spd's exclusively for distance and dirt riding.

Wheels/Tires:  I have one 650b/27.5 set, Velocity Blunt 35s w/ 52mm actual Rene Herse tires.  Fantastic combo. No experience riding plus/ultra wide rubber and corresponding rims.   

Gearing: I would go 2x. I loved the 3x8 setup that I used on the Montana section...old school, perhaps, but it just worked and worked better than the trendier gearing setups used by my companions. Now, I really like the 1x setup on my primary hardtail, perfect for undulating single track in the Sierras, which is where I do 90% of my riding on that bike. But I wouldn't want to ride that gearing w/ a load on the GDMBR. 

Brakes:  I run mechanical discs exclusively on my disc-equipped bikes. Various reasons for that, including that I view hydro setups as "black box" style componentry w/ corresponding upsides and downsides.  I also like to build up my own bikes and enjoy fine tuning/perfecting the mechanical side of things.  Mechanical discs do reward good setup.   

TRP Spyres/Spyke:  My "adventure touring" bike came equipped w/ Spyres (which are the drop bar variant of the mtb Spykes).  Good overall brakes, but not out of the box IME.  I did not care for the stock pads, and noticed immediate and significant improvement w/ basic Shimano pads. Spyres are also sensitive to good cable setup (but housing is less important IME).  Use top quality cables like Jagwire pro series or better.  Running 160mm Shimano XT rotors. Prefer them to prior experience w/ BB7s.

My favorite disc brake setup is actually the front disc, rear v brake setup on my hardtail. The front disc is a Paul Klamper, rear V is the venerable Avid single digit 7. Ridiculously good braking and modulation w/ Avid SD7 levers.  Not advocating a rear v brake setup, of course, but the Klamper is superb.  Yes, very pricey, but I view it as a long term investment in a non-disposable bike component. Comes stock w/ great pads, and the easiest install and setup of any disc brake that I've experienced. Also super easy to keep pads in adjustment.  But a pair of Klampers might blow your budget...especially now when they are still relatively scarce due to COVID and commanding a premium in used market.  But they are the real deal IMO.

You could combine cable/hydro and use something like the recently released mtb variant of the Yokozuna Motoko. A fair amount of positive feedback on the drop bar variants of the motoko and the fancier 4 piston Ultimo.  But I still think that brake suffers from black box syndrome.  Most folks don't care about that :)

Rear rack:  Nothing but great experience w/ Tubus.  If you want something trendy w/ the bikepacking in-crowd, there is the Tumbleweed Mini Pannier rack, which can hold small panniers or cargo cages...which is pretty cool.  Sells out frequently.

Frame bags/bags:  So many good options now, we are in a golden age of bike bags.  I combine bikepacking gear w/ traditional touring gear for optimal setups IMO.  I like products from Revelate, Ortlieb, Roadrunner bags and Carradice. For frame bag, I use the top tube Ortlieb frame bag...brilliant because i can easily switch it among various bikes.  Don't care for full frame bags. Most important thing w/ these bags is to get optimal fit on your bike frame.  One of my favorite bikepacking style bags is my Revelate mountain feedbag and the similar co-pilot stem bag made by Roadrunner (I have the version sold through Velo Orange because I like the coyote color).  They look great and are just in the right spot for important things that you want to access while riding or not.

Have fun!

Gear Talk / Re: What Happened to the "Adventure" Bikes?
« on: May 28, 2021, 12:23:53 pm »
Adventure/touring/bikepacking/gravel/hardtail mtb/drop bar mtb/et al. 

There are still several great options out there for bikes that fit the "adventure" mold. COVID has been brutal on supply chains, of course, and that has much to do w/ current lack of availability.  I would recommend expanding any search beyond the confines of Trek, REI and other mainstream brands, but if your heart is set on a Safari, ebay/craigslist will eventually deliver. 

There are several smaller brands that are putting out some great bikes in the category...but those that rely on outsourced production have been hit particularly hard w/ COVID supply...and they don't always have the sway of big brands ($$$$) to get in line for production.

Gear Talk / Re: Solar battery/charger?
« on: May 28, 2021, 12:12:30 pm »
I have been touring/backpacking/kayaking/canoeing with a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel hooked up to a Flip 30 battery for several years now. The fabric around the panel is super faded! But it still works great after all these years and a fair amount of abuse.  On the bike, I just put the panel/battery on top of rear rack. On a normal, relatively sunny summer day, the panel will fill up that battery every day.  Enough to charge iphone Xr, Garmin, lights.  No problem.  On longer tours, I also carry a slightly larger Anker powerbank that can charge iphone several times. It has usb-c I can quickly opportunity-charge the Anker at campsites, restaurants, etc. along the way as necessary.

This setup has worked perfectly, and I consider it pretty light weight. The solar panel is also fantastic while at camp or on off days when I can hang it on the tent and charge during the day. 

The success of this system is why I decided to pass on a dyno/usb charging system...just hasn't been necessary for my needs.  YMMV of course. If your are constantly touring in cloudy/foggy/rainy conditions, solar will be less than fabulous.  Or in the winter months w/ shorter days and sun lower in sky....doesn't work as well.

I have done several ACA tours, including the "self-contained" variety. RE the self contained trips, here are my thoughts on your questions:

1. There is no support vehicle. You carry everything on your bike. As to food, most often the designated cooks for the day are purchasing food at the end of the day at a market/convenience store/whatever relatively near the designated camping area. They are purchasing food to make dinner for that evening, for the next morning's breakfast, and lunch the next day.  All riders carry their lunch on the bike....although nothing stops you from stopping on your own for a "second breakfast" or lunch at a place along the road. 

On occasion, the group will "live it up" and have dinner at a restaurant.  Frequency depends on the itinerary and budget.

You will need to leave space on your bike to carry some "group" gear such as camp stoves, cooking utensils, pots, and usually left over group durable breakfast/lunch food items.

2.  Pack weight is highly variable re the individual obviously.

3. ACA will give you guidance re what kind of lock to bring. Typically they recommend light weight cable lock of some sort as opposed to heavy u lock/chain.  I have progressively carried lighter and lighter cables...most recently super light weight cable that I use to lock downhill skis.  Be aware of surroundings/where you leave bike, etc.  My approach would likely change if a tour will bring me through more urban areas on regular basis.

4. During a riding day, you are free to ride at your own pace and pretty much do your thing. There are no designated "rest stops" Some folks might be speed-oriented and want to get from A-B fast and chill at campsite.  Others stop constantly to go swimming in lakes/rivers or whatever. Some sightsee.  Some stop for ice cream.  It's not some overly orchestrated thing.  Chill and enjoy.

Note the leader usually rides "sweep" in case someone runs into mechanicals or other issues. That can vary.

5. Don't recall wake up time....there is no specific "bed time" LOL.  If you are on cooking duty, you will have to get up earlier in the AM to make breakfast.  No biggie, breakfast is simple.  But otherwise, break camp at a reasonable time.  Also, depending on trip/itinerary, you will have at least a couple/few "off days" where you can enjoy the surroundings, stay off the bike if you want to.  You can lounge and sleep in if you want on those days.

6. Showering schedule is highly personal. I typically do it sometime after arriving in camp in late afternoon/evening.  Plenty of time to get things done in evening and mornings, frankly.  Unless you are a sloth.

7.  Camp site arrival time is generally up to you and, of course, dependent on the mileage/difficulty of the riding day.  Highly variable.  And, like I said, depends on your approach and goals for the day.  So, if I am on cooking duty, I am motivated to ride faster and get in to camp earlier so I have time to set up, shower and go shopping.  On another day, I might enjoy a second breakfast, go swimming and generally take my time.  On another day, maybe just hang out riding with someone in the group.

8. Average speed...up to you and I usually don't pay attention to it on tour.

9.  Read the various info that ACA sends out with the tour info after you sign up.  Plenty of good stuff in there...handbook and specific itinerary.  You will also be made part of online group/email list and you can always pose questions to others in group or tour leader(s) prior to the trip.


Hope you are able to make the trip w/ your daughter. You've received some great advice in this thread.

So Spring is rapidly progressing in the High Country of the Central Sierra.  I have a mtn cabin in Upper Hwy 4 area (closest to Ebbetts Pass, which you won't use leaving Yosemite). Did my last ski runs of the season last week at Bear Valley and, indeed, the snow pack is rapidly disappearing. Latest local info is that Caltrans has commenced snow removal ops for both Ebbetts Pass (Hwy 4) and Sonora Pass (Hwy 108), which generally indicates a near-term opening of both.  Don't know about Tioga/ will be later and there is the NPS factor and COVID-related restrictions at the park....but I would expect it to be open by late May.  Check the Park website, etc. for status updates.

There is the possibility of a decent late season snow storm this weekend, but I don't think it will delay the seasonal openings much if at all.  Now, there is always the chance for a late season snow storm during May (we had a big one Memorial Day weekend couple of years ago).  But once the seasonal pass closures are lifted, any subsequent closures are pretty limited/brief. Temps warm quickly after storms in May, and the sun angle is high, so new snow on pavement melts quickly.

Have fun.

General Discussion / Re: Southern Illinois Gravel Ride (video)
« on: April 09, 2021, 04:43:37 pm »
Great video...both the production and, of course, the ride itself!  Really enjoyed watching it, thanks for posting the link.

Gear Talk / Re: Kickstand love it or leave it?
« on: April 05, 2021, 09:03:46 pm »
Forgot to mention, I have also used the same Click Stand on my road bike and hardtail mtb for van supported tours.  Again, it's super easy to carry depending on what kind of bags you have.  Frame dimensions are not the same as my touring bike, but it's close enough that the same stand works across different bikes.  So the value proposition is definitely there IMO.

Gear Talk / Re: Kickstand love it or leave it?
« on: April 05, 2021, 08:57:13 pm »
I have a double kick stand on the bike that I use around town for errands, groceries, etc.  It's fantastic but super heavy and I would never consider putting it on a touring bike. And I'm not a fan of traditional single kick stands for various reasons.

For touring, I use a Click Stand that I purchased for my then touring bike about 10 years ago.  It works great and is light as it's mostly just a folding tent pole.  It was made for the dimensions of the touring bike that I had back then, which has since been retired.  But the click stand works fine for my new touring bike, even though top tube height is not the same.  There is a margin of error.  Anyway, a quick check of the site indicates that they have a few more models nowadays to account for different frame types/materials and setups.  I generally run a mix of bikepacking gear and panniers, and have several places where I can store the folded click stand and access it quickly.  Note that for the system to work you must apply the included "bands" to both of your brake levers when the stand is in use!! If you forget that step, it won't end well. The bands store easily on your handlebars and stay there so easy peasy.

I do agree that in many situations you can lean a loaded bike up against something nearby and don't need a stand.  But in my experience, there is a significant minority of occasions where that's not the case, and the Click Stand is handy and totally worth it for those scenarios.

I recommend ditching whatever pedals you have and buying some quality pedals, new or used.  If you like SPDs, it's hard to beat the quality, durability and usability of Shimano pedals. I have A600 road, XTR mtb, ancient 520 mtb, and 2 touring A530 variants in use across different bikes. They've all been perfect and just go and go w/ minimal maintenance.

If you don't care for SPD and just want regular platforms, MKS brand pedals are also fantastic.  Great experience w/ them.

There are just too many very good and affordable pedals out there to be fooling around w/ unreliable brands/models.

Gear Talk / Re: Solo, securing your bike
« on: March 06, 2021, 12:06:01 pm »
If I will pass through more developed (i.e., crowded) campgrounds or towns along the way, I usually bring a slightly thicker cable lock; relatively short and not that heavy duty, so relatively light weight.  If I will be more remote w/ just a few stops in slightly developed areas, then I bring the thin, super light cable lock that I use for downhill skis. 

Both locks are, of course, used in combination w/ situational awareness. And, generally, I do what I can to keep my bike as close as possible. 

If I will be away from my bike for any amount of time, I always take the really important stuff w/ me (e.g., what's in my handlebar bag). A good idea to have very easily detachable bag that's easy to carry (on hip, shoulder, whatever). 

This approach has worked very well for me.

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