11 03 2019

Well, I’ve been sewing again. a few days off and bad weather and this is what happens. Idle hands and all that,

First up was an ultra light bar harness, with 4 point mounting for either Jones Loop bar, or a Bar Yak Ultra. The benefit here is reduced weight and amazing stability for your Shredpacking adventures. This has a small carbon fibre tube integrated to give it rigidity on a lateral plane, whilst retaining light weight construction throughout. VX33 on top, in Camo and Gridstop dyneema for the underside.

To go with that I made a DCF Hybrid double ended roll top bag. this is light, waterproof and the perfect size for my shoulder season kit. I might make one with the lighter hybrid fabric as this at 170gsqm feels über robust.

I taped the seam, so this is waterproof – which makes packing it super easy. it is around 16cm diameter and 46cm long.

Lastly I made a bag for the Strap Deck. This is the latest ‘bagworks product and it is being a wee bit sluggish to catch on. I reckon because I have been ordering in low numbers, they are relatively expensive for what they seem to be. However, add a bag such as my custom version, or a Revelate Polecat, or even just a dry bag if you use Voile Straps and you can secure a heck of a lot of stuff even with the medium sized Strap Deck. I’m confident in time they will become a ‘go to’ item for ultralight bike packing. The bonus is that they are subtle when no bags are mounted, and they do not require straps around the frame to stabilise things unless significant weight is carried.

I am a huge proponent of splitting kit up and placing it around the bike in such a way that there isn’t too much mass on the front, or under the saddle specifically – keeping handling more ‘normal’. This helps if you bikepack Singletrack.

The bag is made from VX33 Camo, the same as the Harness and then it has a Liteskin LS 42 roll top closure on the portion that will see less abrasion. Its light and 11cm diameter 26cm long with 4 rolls and fits a medium Strap Deck beautifully.

It’s fun pushing things on a wee bit. Next is to actually get a weather and time window to go use the stuff!


Making things.

8 03 2019

A few weeks ago, we had amazing February weather. I rode day after day – not far afield, though F.B.R.O.T.Y happened. But, it is now back to the maritime rainy/windy pattern that is typical of West Scotland, so I have been making things.




With davechopoptions, a trail was born, then another and then another. This is likely in response to the foresting of my local riding woods. It is a real shame to see some of the trails I like riding the most over the last few years, disappearing. However, in fairness to the team who are harvesting, they are doing a stellar job of preserving what they can.

Goodbye, old friend. I have spent countless hours enjoying riding and sometimes just sitting with you.

I started sewing again – this time a special project – a top tube bag (gas tank bag) for my friend Mark Bentley. Admittedly, the first version was not up to scratch, but I was very pleased with version 2. Gas tank bags need a lot of extra work as the trick is to be able to use them one handed. As such, they need to have stiffening panels in the sides and to protect items stowed of a more delicate nature, padding on the bottom. trying to sew these in is a beast, but I settled on a process that allows me to get nice straight seams and the padding is in a separate sleeve that is held in by velcro and the cross velcro side to side reinforcement. Next up will be a very lightweight bar harness that I have been thinking about for a long time. It will have a carbon fibre cross member to gain stiffness and utilise 4 point mounting for either Jones Loop bars, or the Bar Yak system. Stay tuned.

The bag is a Liteskin LS 42 laminate outer with plastic shim stock sides and a x-Pac VX21 inner in white to aid finding things, like jam sammies.

One detail that is essential is the range of the velcro attachment to the top tube. The front is to marry up with a DeWidget, so that needs a simple webbing cross strap. but you need to have an idea of how big a top tube you will be attaching the bag to. You can of course use a long section of velcro, but I prefer polyamide webbing. Anyhoo, it turns out Mark’s Cotic has a 41mm top tube – exactly the same as the ultra rare Vertigo Cycles cowbell and bottle opener to make sure fit is perfect.

The other thing I want to make soon is a bag for the Strap Deck. I’ve been playing around with ideas – from a dry bag with integrated velcro straps, to a simple bag held by Voile Straps.

In some ways, Revelate have already made the perfect bag for the Strap Deck – the Polecat. But I’m going to keep thinking on it.

I’m looking forward to Singletrack world’s and the Bikepacking.com reviews – I love them for attaching anything a bit bulky, but not too heavy to the bike.

(click here to see a video – Vimeo being a bit strange…)

Lastly, I learned to cut threads on the lathe and made an aluminium version of the port DeWidget Mark made initially from Delrin, which can mount above the steerer, and act as a top cap. Highly versatile, it can run the ‘double dangler’ feed bag plate and of course, holds the gas tank absolutely rock solid while you go shredpacking.






26 01 2019

The margins of the year just ended and the new year begun. It’s been strangely mild, a wee bit of snow but not much. Snow Job – my fat bike – has been deployed and has gained a Fox Transfer dropper – a huge boon as I have been fully assimilated to ride with the ability to drop my C.o.G. I find bikes where I cannot drop the saddle nerve wracking nowadays.

I had hoped to get out on a bike packing or maybe a bike/raftpacking mission at some point, but time seems to have evaporated. Instead, I have explored the local trails with a closer eye and even foraged for trail-side food at times.

The dRj0n bagworks project has been fun – I just put an order in for more of the stem/feed bag adaptors for the original DeWidget and along with more DeWidgets, 2 sizes of the Strap Deck. Logan at Bikepacking.com has a full ensemble on test and I hope to get access a wider market as a result of his (hopefully positive!) review. There has also been some work on a Garmin or Wahoo 1/4 turn top hat adaptor for the DeWidget. We will see where that goes…

Next up is a handlebar harness designed to utilise the Bar Yak Ultra…more soon.

Metal work has not happened, but I have been researching how it is best to machine titanium because I want to make some Ti thumbscrews. We’ll see ti is sticky and the swarf is a real fire danger.


Strap Deck.

8 12 2018

I’ve been interested in alternative ways to carry stuff on my bike – rather than on me – for a while now. Once you have tasted the freedom of unencumbered riding, you can’t give it up.

Bottle cage bosses and adaptors have been a focus, as have the straps offered by Backcountry Research.

I like the concept of the King Cage Manything, but don’t have a bike with a triple boss and also don’t have much need to carry as much as a Manything will take. As such, once the DeWidget rolled off the 3D printer, I got around to reviving an idea I had back in 2013. Basically it is a double bottle boss bolt cage for bags.

The use of Voile straps has been an eye opener. When you get into Packrafting, you can’t help but love the wee buggers! the stretch and tackiness is perfect for mounting a bike (or anything, really) to an Alpacka raft.

In time, the 2 things seemed to coalesce in my mind and the Strap Deck was born. The plate, which in time will be available in 2 lengths – one with 4 slots offset, one with 5 is not) take the full size straps and will also work well with the soon-to-be-released smaller straps for lighter loads.

Mark of Bentley Components was, again, absolutely on it with prototype construction and advice. I am truly indebted to him for his help and advice on all of my current projects. Go buy one of his carbo loading devices – they make awesome gifts.

The straps allow you to mount pretty much anything to the cage though I would urge caution with the weight. The M5 bolts ( I suggest button head bolts – such as these from Pro Bolt) are not really strong enough for large, cantilevered weights) are sunk into the cage to reduce friction on the load and the rubbery straps grip whatever item you choose to mount. When not in use, pull the straps and it is unobtrusive.

There will be an initial very limited run available from Backcountry.scot to test the water.

EDC/bike tools.

3 11 2018

Stashing tools inside the handlebar has been intriguing me recently. I have already made a dyna plug inserter (that holds a spare chain link) inspired by Joel Dunkl.

Next I made a bar end cap that also acted as a 1/4″ bit driver and has a tube of bits attached to it too.

Then I got my mitts on a Clever Standard Chain Barrel and made a different sort of bar end plug that will adapt to different id bars and is carbon safe, also.

I’m not sure where I am going with all this but it’s been fun.

Surviving the Marji Gesick ~ psychological elements.

15 09 2018

According to Wikipedia, Psychology is the science of behavior and mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought.

You are going to have a lot of behaviour, phenomena, feeling and thought going on over the at least 10 hours of the Marji Gesick.

It is 7 days until the 2018 version starts. I wish I was there. Truthfully. But it has taken many months before I can say that with no underlying doubt in my mind. That’s a thought: doubt.

Actually, doubt is also an emotion.

For many hours during the 2017 Marji, I had doubt. I was far from sure that I could keep on going. It became substantially worse when the sun went down and the woods became the silkiest, deepest black. Even with powerful lights, making my way on the tech, slippery trail was difficult.

You will, I am sure, know that dotted around the course, there are little signs saying ‘Blame Todd’ or ‘Blame Danny’. Todd and Danny know their psychology. The signs at once denote a more technical or difficult section of the course, but also remind you that if you are actually blaming Todd or Danny for your predicament, you are already half way to quitting.

*You* got yourself into this and *you* need to get yourself through it: that is lesson number one of the Marji Gesick. Self reliance. Self belief and the ability to deal with and over come self doubt. Suck it up, buttercup. It *is* going to hurt.

The next thing I would advise when it comes to tackling this monster is to break the task down into small parts. If you try to fit too much into your mind at any given time after the reverb from the Star Spangled Banner fades, you are in trouble. The initial trails are cross country ski trails and they allow the bunch to start to string out and some passing, to-ing and fro-ing after the initial Le Mans run.

Goal number one. Be honest with yourself on the pace you will carry and settle into it. At no point will you bottleneck. There is no need to rush unless you are truly at the pointy end of this. Relax, settle, feel your body function, breath and let the white noise in your mind dissipate.

The next goal might be north trails. Perhaps give yourself some hydration and feeding stages to go through. Maybe the next will be the connector between the north and south trails, the last section where you will be able to roll without too much effort and sort yourself out for the increasing work you are going to have to do.

Read all the blog posts this week and work out how to split things up in your mind, tick off each stage you achieve and make sure to add in some reflective self care though them. ‘I will hydrate and eat this much by such a time’ ‘I will recharge bottles (hopefully) by here’ ‘I will assess my energy levels by here’ ‘If I reach here, I know I am 75% through’. Whatever, but split this sucker into parts.

The last thing I would suggest for finishing the Marji is to not at any stage accept that you are going to do anything but finish. It isn’t even a question in your mind. Indeed, it is the only definite about the day.

Re-read that and come up with some sort of mantra you can repeat to yourself in the cold and dark when all you want to do is to lie down and sleep.

Stop moving.
Stop hurting.
Just stop.

For me, it was a strange little thing that made it’s way into my mind. My daughter, Daisy, made me a wee folded paper puppy dog head before I left the UK and said she would like it if I took it with me during the race. I did this and sometimes when I grabbed something from my hip bag I would see it. The night before the race Daisy told me she believed in me: ‘I believe in you, daddy’.

I do not know how many times I repeated this to myself during the 17 or so hours I was out there. But it was deeply, emotionally powerful. If she believed in me I could damn well believe in me.

Do not underestimate the power of this race. Scratching is the norm. To finish is to overcome, to transcend and I cannot overstate how much shaking hands with Danny on the finish line can elevate your self belief.


Go to it.

I believe in you.


15 09 2018

Over the last few years, the number of available choices for tyres has …. well, ballooned.

Different tread designs, casings, tubeless readiness, anti-puncture layers etc. I tend to choose Maxxis tyres or occasionally Bontrager. I find the tread patterns excellent for the terrain I ride and the tyres are durable and reasonable in terms of weight.

(enlarge that pic by clicking on it and check out the front tyre deformation -defo doing it’s job!)

My most recent bike is a mountain bike. Sort of an ‘all-mountain’ type hardtail, I suppose. It has slack angles, lowish bb, plenty of seat post drop and a pretty good amount of fork travel. It is the bike I can ride fastest on rough or steep terrain.

As I have become more proficient with it, my usual tyre choices have had to be slightly modified.

My usual plan is to use a robust, big and knobbly front tyre with a slightly less aggressive rear tyre. With this 27.5+ bike, the initial tyre choice was a Highroller II 27.5×3″ Maxx terra (grippy), TR (tubeless ready), 3C (three compounds in the tread rubber) 120 TPI (supple), EXO (puncture resistance layer) on the front and an Ikon Maxx speed (faster rolling) TR, 3C, 120 TPI, EXO on the rear.

I have punctured two rear tubeless Ikon tyres on this bike badly enough that they have had to be replaced.

Basically, I had to face the fact that although the rear was both fast and light, affording surprisingly good traction for the way it looks even in mud, it was not durable enough for me.

I have other bikes that use different sizes of tyres and this sometimes helps me make choices for new rubber. I have Maxxis Chronicles, 27.5×3″ – again in 120 TPI, 3C, EXO and a Tomahawk Maxx terra, TR, 3C, 120 TPI, EXO but 29×2.3″. The latter has been great, with a good edge and is durable, but the bike is rigid, and even with a 29×2.6″ Rekon Maxx terra, TR, 3C, 120 TPI, EXO on the front (which is sub 900g and perfectly suited to the bikes raison d’être) I will never achieve the speeds the Plus hardtail can live with.

The Minion DHF 29×3″ Maxx Terra, TR, 3C, EXO I have has been unreal. Traction and cush for days and durable to boot. A monster.

What with it rolling so well, I decided to go with a Minion DHF Maxx terra, TR, 3C 120 TPI EXO 27.5×2.8″ on the rear of the plus hardtail. This thing is a beast. Nearly 1000g, it soaks up abuse despite low pressures and has allowed me to ride in a entirely different fashion. I can charge into rocks and roots with abandon and it just keeps coming back for more.

It has noticeable drag on tarmac, but who cares? The grip in muck and loose is phenomenal and the heft is entirely acceptable for the shit-eating grin the tyre will bring.

Recently, Maxxis released a new tyre type: it has all the monikers repeated ad-nauseum up there, but it adds yet another one. Silkshield.

This is a second puncture proof layer in addition to the EXO that wraps the full width of the tyre, bead to bead. The tyre available for 27.5+ at the moment is a Rekon and it adds 80g over the ‘normal’ Max terra, TR, 3C, 120 TPI, EXO tyre – taking the weight up close to 900g.

This promises to be a ‘Goldilocks’ rear tyre. Light, fast, grippy, durable and able to be run at pressures low enough to take full advantage of the ‘plus’ platform. At some point I’m going to have to prise the Minion off the bike and try the Rekon. But it might take me a while to get round to it.

It is interesting to note that as my tyres have become larger and run at lower pressures, and with an increase in speed, the meats have had to become that bit more aggressive. The added weight and drag is accepted so that I am not left limping home from the trails with a repaired and thus sub-optimal and anxiety promoting tyre.

Choose your tyres appropriately.