8 10 2017

Have you ever really reached? I mean *really* ?

I’ve spent the best part of 24 hours distilling my thoughts about the Marji Gesick in to what I hope will become a magazine piece.

I am turning it over and over in my mind.

I have no doubt, given more sympathetic weather and gained knowledge, that I could trim a few hours off my time but what do I want here? a buckle? is that achievable in reality? I don’t really know if it is or if I can commit the resources it would require to find out.

But that damn buckle.

Is it even a possibility?

Am I in that deep?


Marji Gesick.

26 09 2017

Done. 17 hours and change. 103 miles (ish). 12000+ feet of up, though it felt like more. Much more.

The weather threw a curve ball with thunderstorms dropping a reported 45mm of rain in 2 hours the day before, leaving everything slick as, despite the 31-32°c temps. Yep, it was humid in the woods.

Nearly 13 litres of water and or electrolyte and a coke and 2 gatorades. No where near enough food.

A lost pair of Oakleys in the dead of night and scaring up a couple of elk.

Tales to be told. but for now I just need some rest.


Not junk miles.

3 09 2017

At least I hope not.

A mangrunt deluxe, fast. A trip to the Cairngorm. A blast along the canals to Edinburgh to see my bros Chris and Marty – on the anniversary of SSWC 2007, which we organised.

It is all money in the bank for Marji Gesick. The legs are straining as I push as hard as I can for as long as I can. Yeah, I’m still in the 7.30 – 10 hour bracket. It is way less than I expect to be out for in the Michigan woods, but it will have to do.

The weather has not been kind since I returned from Vancouver Island, but you have to make do with what you have.

The Cairngorm loop was a highlight, in terms of terrain. 2 hours to ascend Cairngorm, drop down and then up Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, before tackling the boulder field on Macdui, hitting the top at hour 3. Then dropping the amazing trail to Etchachan and on into Derry. I found myself challenging the steepest drops faster than usual on Kraken and paid the price with a tubeless puncture at the bead edge which made it’s presence known at dusk as I followed the Geldie towards boggy Glen Feshie on the return.

The midge were gathering in unprecedented numbers and I used the Dynaplug to fix the tyre well enough to get back to base. On later inspection the anchovy was holding air except when the casing was compressed – insufficient beef in the tyre wall at the bead edge for it to bind to.

I also smacked the crank pretty hard off a rock, leading to a gouge in it (and my leg). I fixed it later with some black carbon/epoxy repair mix. Prices worth paying for tackling one of the best loops in the country. 9.30 hours in all.

Then it was ride-to-the-ride along the canals between Edinburgh and Glasgow to meet good friends and ride the steep hills of Edinburgh. The 4 hours of graft on the way through were rewarded with good times and good trails with my Telly Savalas brothers for another 4 or so hours of singletrack and big skies before taking the train home after a beer or two.

No reason training has to be dull, right?

How to fit a DeWidget.

23 08 2017

Ok, how *I* fit a DeWidget – I am sure there are a number of ways!

First, you need some double sided velcro. This has a multitude of uses for the bikepacker. I usually keep a few wraps around bars and whatnot for use when out and about: temporary attachments; to insulate the frame or components from abrasion; tying down flyaway straps etc.

Anyhoo. You will need about 6-7cm 1cm wide and 7-8cm of 2cm wide. If you are struggling to find some, you can get it here. Search around for different widths and trim with scissors or a craft knife. In my experience it does not need ‘heat sealed’ on the edges.

Then, mount your top-tube bag to your frame, loosely, near it’s final desired position. Mount your DeWidget to the steerer.

1. thread the thin portion of velcro through the daisy chain on the front of the top-tube bag.

I then remount the foam spacer – I would recommend this if you have one.

2. mount the 2cm section of velcro to one side of your 1cm velcro.

3. fold the 1cm section back on itself, on top of the 2cm section.

4. thread the 2cm velcro through the slot on the DeWidget.

It doesn’t matter if the bottom section or top is longer…

5. attach the 2cm velcro to itself in a loop as tight as desired.

The velcro has inherent stiffness that helps keep the mounting absolutely solid, even if there is a fair distance between the bag and the stem – which may be desirable given stem hardware.

The other thought I had was to use a sternum strap split bar buckle and attach it to the daisy chain, thus presenting a ‘bar’ in ‘phase’ with the slot on the DeWidget, but velcro has worked so well I have never tried…

You can get them here, not very handy, but I have used this shop for many parts and materials for MYOG projects and can recommend them. I have not found the same buckles in the UK yet.


12 06 2017

The early part of the Spring-Summer period was stellar. Sunny, warm, dry and no midge. June has been moist to say the least. I had plans to get a big ride in yesterday – getting miles in the legs is becoming important. But after descending from Beinn a’Bhuird from low cloud, into 35-40mph winds on exposed, trackless ground and portaging down a loose, slippery steep slope to the Allt a’ Coire an t Slugain, then getting absolutely drenched in an hour long downpour, I called it after 5 hours.

It isn’t long enough, though I was heartened by my progress: I rode the entire climb and from the south to the north top with 2 dismounts for stone steps on the track.

The contrast to a few weeks ago on Carn a’Chlamain is sharp. As I sit looking out at the incessant downpour again this morning, I can only hope that things clear a little soon.

They must, right?

Project next.

4 06 2017

It’s on my mind a lot. Entry is in. Flights booked. Coach, put me in the game.

Here’s another, for good measure…

Kit notes.

13 05 2017

The ride from Blair Atholl to Montrose was the first bikepack I have done without a ruck sack. I usually would take a wingnut of some size. This time, I rode with just a hip pack.

There were several considerations in order to achieve this: one, I had less water carrying capacity and two, I had less room for kit on my person.

It was absolutely fantastic to not have a pack on my back. Even the smallest wingnuts give you that sweaty back, encumbered feeling. My normal set up is Sweetroll, small or medium, either a Gas Tank, or some Feedbags and a saddle bag – sizes varying with how much I need to bring. Lastly, I have a wingnut.

The trade off to lose the back pack was use of my old Revelate Designs ‘Tangle’ partial frame bag. My worry here was river crossings, as I tend to grab under the seat tube end of the top tube to portage. In the end, I had no deep crossings, so it was a none issue. I brought a thin climbing sling that I planned to loop around the bottom bracket tube and act as a handle.

On disembarking the train, I tried to arrange my kit for the initial ride. I had a couple of cans of Dale’s Pale ale and I chose to just stuff these in either end of my (small) Sweetroll. The effect on the steering was immediately noticeable. Normally, I stuff my sleeping bag in the Sweetroll and perhaps my sleeping wools. The added weight of the beer was detrimental to steering. This is not a revelation – various sites advise minimising the weight and indeed width of a bar roll as much as possible. In order to do so, you need space elsewhere. My cuben Ermine seat pack is not huge, I have a Viscahca that is bigger, but I tend to use the smaller pack if I can.

In the framebag, I carried my tent poles, cooking kit, food, an inner tube and the seat pack took a puff jacket, shelter and inner tube.

The front pocket had tent pegs, the sling, my Steripen, hip flask and a dyneema guy rope. Also stuffed in there was a Voile strap and my mini Petzl headtorch. Oh and on this trip, I brought a wee lock – soon to be replaced with an Ottolock, when it arrives.

I carry large cuben stuff sacks, used to stow my lid and pack and maybe even shoes if it is inclement overnight.

I use Z packs carbon tent poles and this trip allowed me to try the new, 80cm pole for the front of the MLD cricket. Previously, I have used my handlebars, sticks or tied it to a tree. The shelter requires this to tension the ‘tarp’ outer. The inner midge net hangs from the outer and is given shape by pegs.

I had made a pole jack as I felt that the long 132cm Z packs centre pole could do with being a wee bit longer. In this case I made the pole 2.5cm longer with the jack and it was great. The question is if I now order an MLD custom pole the correct length: they can be made multi section in order to fold very short.

I also rode with a Wolftooth, reverse dish oval ring. It feels a little like you are hurrying through your pedal stroke but I liked it a lot. It did not remind me of when I used biopace rings way back in the day, interestingly enough. Overall, a keeper.

The most enlightening thing, after I had repacked in the am, was how much better the bike felt with less weight in the roll and saddle pack. Generally, over the last few years, I have avoided using a frame pack because I can get everything I need into a roll and seat bag, meaning I dont have to carry the extra weight of a third, big bag. But – the weight distribution in using the thrid bag made it entirely worth it! As a result, I have sold some old bags and invested in a newer Tangle Pika and a full Ranger frame bag to move towards this new packing method.

The Gas Tank had food, and I used various Backcountry Research straps to attach tubes and whatnot to the bike. I also use their Tülbag for tools. These things absolutely rock – if you are thinking about getting some, I would thoroughly recommend pulling the trigger. Cylorise int he Uk stocks them.

Ok, I think that covers things. Any questions, fire away.