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Messages - wildtoad

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Gear Talk / Re: Handlebar bag conundrum . . .
« on: February 26, 2021, 05:45:07 pm »
Just to add a couple of ideas, although I haven't used a GoPro on my touring bike.

Consider a smaller handlebar bag that offers you some adjustment re how high you mount it. My favorite handlebar bag of all time is the small Topeak Compact Handlebar bag.  Converts to waist pack if you want to off the bike. Great mounting kit that also comes w/ a round plastic insert for mounting your GPS, bell, etc.  Holds the important stuff that you should take w/ you when you leave the bike. Given it's size, can be mounted "pushed down" if necessary and doesn't interfere w/ cables.  In higher position, you can easily also run bikepacking style frontloader bag for tent, etc. underneath the handlebar bag. Drawbacks for's not waterproof like an ortlieb (comes w/ rain cover) and doesn't have clear map holder.  I don't care about the lack of either feature (YMMV).  Decent chance a stem cap mounted GoPro would clear...but you might have to change the stock mount that's on your Trek.  No guarantees :)  [By the way, my underlying bias is that I do not care for overly large handlebar bags for numerous reasons that are beyond the scope of this thread!]

If you are rocking a newer touring bike, you might be lucky to have many cage/accessory mount bolts up front on your fork, etc. Hopefully some are unused, in which case put on a Paul Gino mount (pricey) or Origin 8 Eyelet Stub (what I have) to give you more and often better mounting options.  So I run "anything" style cages on my fork nowadays instead of my former lowrider front pannier rack, so I  have free rack mount holes near front axle.  I installed an Origin 8 mount on outside of left fork leg, near hub and have my headlight there.  Simply fantastic field of light, and does not blind oncoming motorists, cyclists or pedestrians (as handlebar mounted lights often do...especially if they are designed for offroad riding).

General Discussion / Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« on: February 26, 2021, 12:24:52 pm »
Good stuff, I imagine a cooking rotation over a 90+ day trip probably stretches the limits of menu creativity a bit!  LOL. My ACA tour experiences have generally been in the 10-14 day range (I've done much longer trips on my own or through other venues). On the 10-14 day trips, you generally only have 1 or sometimes 2 cooking days per person (there is usually at least one restaurant night and sometimes 2 if the group does really well with the budget).

One additional thing I will point out is a difference between van supported and self-contained as far as ACA goes.  For self-contained, you generally use small backpacking camp stoves (since you are carrying all group gear on bikes), which can work well but sometimes pose a few constraints/challenges.  For van tours, you are generally using more of a "car camping" style set up w/ larger coleman style camp stoves that are transported in the van trailer.  So you have a little bigger/more user friendly setup for cooking in the van tour context.

General Discussion / Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« on: February 26, 2021, 11:00:41 am »
I've done a number of ACA van supported (and self-contained) tours over the years. You are in for a treat! Definitely don't worry too much about the cooking rotation...breakfast and lunch prep is easy peasy and a little formulaic.

For there still is an ACA "cook book" of sorts if I recall correctly. The tour leaders often pass this around during your initial orientation so you can get recipe ideas. But coming up w/ ideas in advance of the tour is always a great approach, especially if you have favorites (and being more prepared might reduce your anxiety).  Best approach is simple and nutritious, while having a flexible and relatively easy way to accommodate different dietary preferences.  One pot base meals are best, and prepare meat that can be added to the meal in a separate pot.  So a base vegetarian chili can be good and is generally very easy to make, and then you make a side of chicken, ground turkey, beef or whatever....along w/ condiments like cheese, et. al.  Cut up squash and red lentils can be a great base for all kinds of stuff as well. And nothing wrong w/ spaghetti or other pasta if you've got a good sauce and stuff to add to it (veggies, etc.).  Keep it simple.

So IME the most important part of your meal rotation is when you go shopping w/ your cooking partner.  On most of the van tours that I've done, everybody shops at the same time at beginning of the tour, and you store your food in coolers in the trailer and access it when it's your turn to cook.  That may vary a little bit depending on location of your tour and services along the route.  Anyway, you will have a budget to work with. Working within that budget, you will want to think about what "splurges" you can make that will make food prep easier and faster....e.g., cut up pieces of chicken breast instead of whole, pre-cut veggies, etc. 

Also, think a little about cleanup!  Yes, we had no choice but to prepare mac and cheese one buggy night in Yellowstone (self-contained tour). And me cleaning out that cooked on cheese in the bottom of the pot in buggy twilight was seriously unfun.

Finally, you never know, your cooking partner might just be a culinary whiz and you will just go along for the ride :)  Regardless, you will have a wonderful experience...and the cooking part usually ends up being a lot of fun.

Gear Talk / Re: Tubeless tires -enligthen me.
« on: February 25, 2021, 12:47:02 pm »
Good discussion all, thanks for the perspectives.
I think tubeless will eventually hold a lot of promise for touring. It's not there yet across the board for everyone (but great for some), but improving.  It think it helps that the big tire manufacturers are now putting a good amount of resources/development into the roadie/racing tubeless market. That will likely lead to more improvements for both road and, by extension, road touring tubeless....mainly re standards and compatibility, and just better products.

For road touring, my benchmarks for going tubeless:
1.  Tire/rim combo w/ hassle free installation, including seating the tire w/ regular pump. Not interested in tire/rim combos that require a compressor to seat. I know of anecdotes that go both tire w/ compressor and all is good going forward, seat tire w/ compressor and constant trips to bike shop to reseat.  Blah.  For touring it's gotta be easy install/reinstall.

2.  Tubeless rim that is not outwardly hostile to installing a tube in case of severe sidewall damage. Some first hand anecdotal experience w/ this on 29er rims. It can be a bear to put tubes on certain tubeless rims out there. You might never have to do it, but if you do it will already be a less than fabulous situation. Why fight it.  There are already plenty of tubeless rims out there that work fine w/ tubes.

3.  Good variety of sealants that are appropriate for wider variety of pressures, etc.  Not all lower pressure mtb stuff.  This has already improved quite a bit, but can add to the learning curve for some folks who don't want to spend time geeking out on reading bike product review sites!

I do plan on trying out road tubeless for the first time this year.  I am fortunate to have 2 wheelsets for my roadie, one fully tubeless ready.  The other traditional clincher/tube.  So if that trial run goes well, I expect I will transition the touring bike to tubeless for 2022.  My rims are already good to go on that front.


Gear Talk / Re: Marathon supreme width for full pack touring . . .
« on: February 25, 2021, 11:50:42 am »
26 x 1.75" is a decent size for 26" wheels.  I toured for many years on 26x1.6 and 2.0 tires; both were good, I preferred the wider tires (an important consideration in smaller wheel sizes IME/IMO).  And that was on notably narrower rims than what you will find prevailing on newer bikes today; zero issues w/ rim width. 

Haven't used Conti Ride Tours. Plenty of experience w/ other Conti tires. They make some gems and some duds, IME. In many respects, it boils down to you get what you pay for, LOL.  For many years, I toured w/ the Conti TopContact II tires in 26". I was reasonably happy w/ them at the time, typical overbuilt German touring tire, long lasting, zero flats over many tours. The compromise was heavier weight and mediocre ride quality. That was okay for my purposes then. But my preference re tires has changed.

So if you look at reviews online for the Conti Ride Tours at sites like BikeTiresDirect, they appear to be good value tire that folks seem to like most for urban use. They appear pretty darn heavy and I would speculate are a bit lacking in the ride quality department. So, for a long distance tour like TransAm, yeah, you could probably do better.  But no reason not to give them a try this Fall.  Maybe they will be fine.  Sometimes its good to ride what you've got and wear them out, unless you absolutely hate them.

If you decide you want something else, Panaracer Paselas w/ the Protite puncture protection in 1.75 width will be a solid, relative value option.  I have very good experience w/ older Pasela TourGuards in 700c size.  Or a more spendy option would be the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes in 26 x 1.6 or 2.0 widths.  Those are the only tires in the Marathon line that I would recommend.

Gear Talk / Re: Marathon supreme width for full pack touring . . .
« on: February 24, 2021, 07:27:02 pm »
Congrats on your new 520.

A quick glance on the Trek website and a few newish review articles of the latest 520 indicate that your 520 will likely have clearance for up to 700x50mm tires (without fenders).  Trek apparently recently upped tire clearance on the line w/ so many newer bikes in general. So 40mm Supremes should be no problem w/ your fenders, but it's always good to confirm once you have the bike.

Based on my general preferences, I would pick the 40mm variant of the Supremes for touring, without question.  I don't see a meaningful downside and you will gain a little bit should you encounter variable conditions.  Point of anecdotal reference, my 2017 touring bike came stock w/ 700 x 40mm tires, the well regarded Clement MSOs.  Good, stable setup, particularly for typical road touring.  I did encounter some variable conditions on my tours w/ those tires (e.g., dirt, gravel and muck)....some planned, some not...and the bike handed quite well, although there were a few instances when I would have liked something wider.

Now, not to get too off track, but there are occasions when I like to use my touring bike in a more bikepacking/"adventure" type orientation for short overnight/weekend trips. In that context, I found the stability provided by the wider 700c tires to be a bit of a minus, and was looking for some more lively handing.  I eventually found a great deal on a decent 650b wheelset and put some good 650x48mm tires on the bike.  Really excellent and provides more nimble handling as it has effective circumference similar to 700x28 road bike.  But, overall, the stability provided by wider 700c can be an asset for typical road touring, which I think is your primary usage.

Bottom line, I would advocate against downsizing from your stock size, and instead upsize by a couple mm.

Either way, have fun and I hope you enjoy your new ride!


Gear Talk / Re: Better components?
« on: December 23, 2020, 01:26:27 pm »
I agree with DaveB re the brakes, those ProMax brakes are so-so at best in my experience. They can be made to stop okay, but can be unnecessarily difficult to keep in adjustment over the long term.

I run TRP Spyres on my touring bike, with Shimano XT rotors and Jagwire Pro cables/housing. Overall, I'm happy with the setup. I never cared for the stock pads that came with the Spyres, however. I eventually replaced them w/ relatively basic Shimano resin pads, a noticeable improvement all around. Re cables/housing and mechanical disc brakes (Spyres, Paul Klampers, Promax and others), I have found that top quality/high end cables are more important than compressionless housing. YMMV.

As to the rest of your build, I concur w/ the prevailing input to just ride until you wear the components out.

I've been running solar panels on the bike for about 10 years (early adopter).  The first was a SolarMio, a fantastic, super light little product w/ certain limitations (light weight = small battery and 2010 era tech). The company is no longer around, but the panel/battery is still going strong. It's been replaced by other products for my touring, but it still sits in the back yard every day and powers my apple watch.

Last 5 years, I've been using a Goal Zero panel w/ Flip 30 battery.  Works brilliantly, plenty of power daily to charge iphone, garmin, watch. I just strap it on the top of the rear rack. While there are optimal angles for solar panels, it's not necessary to stress out about that. The battery will more than fill up after a decently sunny day on the bike, even if strapped flat on top of the rack.  And I can generate power while in camp after riding or on those all important off days (a dynamo won't).  Of course, if you are treated to copious quantities of crappy weather, then you have reached the limitations of solar.

More recently, I've supplemented the setup for longer, more remote tours w/ an Anker powerback. It's the size of an iphone and holds a ridiculous amount of power for size. Not too heavy, 2 usb charge ports, and can be filled up w/ regular usb or high speed usb-c.  So I bring that along on longer trips, and opportunity charge it/fill it up when I'm around a plug. But most days, the Goal Zero setup handles all of my power needs.

Power banks are and will continue getting smaller, cheaper, lighter, faster AND more dense. For many folks, a decent power bank is all they will ever need on tour.

For power banks and solar panels, my advice is to buy the good stuff from reputable brands. They go on sale frequently enough.  But there is a lot of hot garbage out there in the realm of cheaper batteries/panels. Not sure those will hold up great in the camping/tour context.

Dyno hubs are awesome, at least the better ones are, and almost mandatory for the hard core commuting and rando crowds (for lighting). I almost took the plunge on a dynamo and sinewave charging setup last year, but realized it just wasn't necessary for me and how I tour. But if I were going on a very long expedition style ride w/ long stretches of nowheresville, then I would run both a dynamo and solar setup. In that context, I think they are complementary, not competing, approaches.  Each has their strengths/weaknesses, and are not perfect.

I really like the cloth mask made by Maloja, a European cycling wear company.  I believe it was recently featured in Adventure Cyclist magazine.  By far the nicest, most comfortable mask I've worn. It apparently has some anti-viral/microbial treatment in the cloth, not to prevent COVID or anything like that, but to minimize how often you should wash it. 

It has a good retention system...better than most, so it's easy to slide off your nose/mouth if you don't need and and then pull it up when necessary.  I have it with me at all times while on the bike, including on remote dirt trails in the Sierras as often there is insufficient space for the 6' rule unless you want to go over a cliff or something.

Shipped from Germany.

Gear Talk / Re: Mechanical or hydro?
« on: August 28, 2020, 06:52:41 pm »
Another option to Gevenalle in the super-nichey world of alt brake shift levers is the IRD Power Ratchet levers. I picked up a pair a while back at a good price and they look good, but I've not mounted them on a bike yet.  I originally thought I was going to use them to replace the bar ends on my newish touring bike, but I've realized after some mileage that I really like the bar ends on the  wide, flared drop bars that came with the bike.  My prior dislike of bar ends may be linked to more traditional, narrower, non-flared drops.

Anyway, if anyone is interested in an depth comparison b/w the IRDs and Gevenalles, check out the website for Analog Cycles.

The one potential drawback of the IRDs and Gevenalles for touring is cable/housing interference w/ handlebar bags or bikepacking style handlebar harnesses.

Gear Talk / Re: A must item
« on: August 28, 2020, 03:23:46 pm »
If I'm touring in a dry season area, my plastic mallet for tent stakes. Maybe not truly essential but saves lots of unnecessary drama!

Cheap mesh bag to hold eating utensils/cup/plate...keeps everything together and stuff will dry in the bag after washing.

Wipes/hand sanitizer

Gear Talk / Re: Tents Designed for Bike touring
« on: August 28, 2020, 03:14:30 pm »
It's been a while since I've been in the market for a tent, but for touring I've always used backpacking tents and they work out great. With bikepacking being all the rage, maybe there are some specially designed tents that make sense, haven't looked. But in the past, some "bike touring" tents have struck me as pretty flawed from a design standpoint.  YMMV.

I've been using my current NEMO tent for 9 years now. It's been awesome, rock solid, zero issues.  It has a great vestibule, came standard w/ nice features that are often optional (e.g., gear loft), weight is decent, and the 2P size is pretty perfect for a solo bike tourer.  The specific model that I have has been discontinued.  But I've been very impressed with design/durability of the tent, and will definitely consider another NEMO when it comes time to replace.

Gear Talk / Re: Brooks Flyer Seat Bag Recommendation
« on: August 27, 2020, 06:06:09 pm »
When I put my touring/adventure bike in bikepacking mode, I use a Carradice Barley saddlebag w/ a Brooks Professional saddle.  Great combo; I like mixing/matching classic and modern stuff w/ the overriding requirement that things just work and work well without hassle (and look good too!).  The Barley along w/ a 1/2 frame bag, handlebar mounted bikepacking style tent carrier, Revelate feed bag, cargo cages on front fork and rear rack/panniers when/if necessary looks the bomb and works great.  I will admit that I am generally not a huge fan of bikepacking-style saddle bags from either a functional or cosmetic standpoint.   


General Discussion / Re: Flats while touring
« on: May 10, 2020, 12:00:02 pm »
On the tube quality issue/failure around valve my case, I have had good experience with both Continental and Schwalbe tubes. Screw on grommets and replaceable valve cores are a plus for those as well. (I have damaged a couple of valve cores w/ sloppy, overly robust use of frame pump!)  I cannot recall a valve seam failure on either brand of tube...I have some Conti tubes that have been in service for ages.

In the more distant past, Michelin and Specialized tubes have been fine as well.

Terrible/miserable experience w/ more than one "off brand/private label" line of tubes. While I have had good experience w/ many REI branded products, their past Novara branded tubes were horrendous IMO. Valve seam failure almost like clockwork. A couple other brands almost as bad, but I don't recall the names.  Anyway, I don't buy cheap tubes any more (although even "cheaper" tubes have huge markup nowadays).

So, go w/ a name brand perhaps, and do your best to minimize stress on valve when pumping, installing, etc.

General Discussion / Re: Flats while touring
« on: May 08, 2020, 07:46:37 pm »
Flats on tour:  Well, I'm going to curse myself here and potentially end my lucky streak, but I've not had a flat on tour during the last 7 years. Now, I have not done an epic tour during that time, mostly 14 day-long or so tours, 7 or 8 of them during that 7 year period time. Across my riding more broadly, maybe a flat ever 1200-1500 miles or so on pavement. I haven't ridden in thorn country, and I'm pretty on top of replacing tires proactively.

Tubes: I carry 2 tubes for self-contained touring, one tube for all other riding (plus patch kit). Bad experience glueless patches. Great results w/ the Rema patch kits, but do make sure your cement is not dried out!!  I will check out the Tear Aid product mentioned above, never heard of it but always open to potentially good stuff.

Spare tires: Never carried one. It's been a couple of decades since I've torn a sidewall on a road tour, and I think I fixed that w/ the old dollar bill tire boot.  Again, I've not done an epic long tour in ages. If I'm gonna be in nowhere land for a very long time, I might well bring along a folding tire.

Patch or replace:  Both. Generally, replace on side of road, patch at home (day ride, bike overnight)/campsite (tour).

Extra Tire Protection:  I carry a Park tire boot in toolkit for all of my bikes.  That's it, no liners and no sealant in the tubes.

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