Fire and ice.

1 02 2015

What a beautiful day! Arctic winds have kept the temperature very low since the last snow fell, so everything is crunchy with very little standing water. After a grim but brief cold, I was feeling pretty human today. Out the window, the sun was glinting off the ice covered trails and so I took off to mess around in the woods.

Recently, I have been trying to ride the singlespeed as much as possible – as a strength building exercise. I used to ride singlespeed exclusively, so I notice the lack of torque I can produce since dabbling with shifters again. Today, on account of being a snotty mess so recently, I reached for T.N.T with it’s super low ratios.

It was interesting to ride a full 29+ bike after spending the majority of the last few weeks aboard a 27.5+/fat or 29+ hybrid. I am sure in time I will come to more concrete conclusions on the whole thing. I used the opportunity to scope out some newish lines in the woods and I also took along my fire steel and knife with a view to a mid-ride fire to warm the cockles.

It escapes me if I have mentioned this previously or not, but over the last few months I have been practicing making fire with a fire steel and natural, found tinder. The purpose originally was simply to acquire a potentially useful ‘backcountry’ skill. Lighting a fire with natural tinder is pretty easy when everything is dried out, but considerably more difficult when all I can scavenge is sopping wet kindling, old man’s beard or bark. Unfortunately, this is likely to be the case when I might be most in need of a fire

Practice, practice, practice though, eh? I forget – is it 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert? Ray Mears has a unique style of presenting, but you cannot fault his ability to raise some flames when needed. I have tried and failed several times on account of wet silver birch bark and not using a stone under the tinder to stop it drawing up moisture from the ground. Toady, it lit with the 3rd strike of the fire steel and due to diligent prep with my Mora, I had plenty of kindling to keep the bugger going. warmth was welcome, today, indeed.

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2 responses

13 02 2015
Bryan

Hi Jon, Just wondering what your thoughts are for a bike packing bike – 29+ front/rear or 29+ front/29 rear or 29+ front/650b+ rear. Just thinking about comissioning something but haven’t had the chance to ride 29+ on the back yet…

15 02 2015
velopest

bryan, overall i really like how ‘plus’ tyres take out trail buzz. i think that can help reduce fatigue on very long rides. the flip side of the coin is there is an inevitable weight penalty for having more tyre/rim. this can be mitigated somewhat with carbon rims etc, but it will still be more. although once you load a bike with bike packing kit, water, food etc the weight is relatively less, i have found myself struggling to hold the bike aloft on stream fords etc and all the grams add up. in a perfect world my bike would be as light as possible (whilst remaining durable). a route with a lot of carry or HAB with a heavy bike hurts. Recently I worked out how much my bags and kit weighed (pre HTR 550 bail) and also decided to put 35mm carbon rims on the 44 bikepacking bike to lose some rotating weight. this worked very well, the whole enchilada is much more nimble feeling and even though it was only 6-700g, this is noticeable and welcome.

as for wheel size: again, the 29+ rolls over stuff with minimal deflection. this reduces fatigue in the long run i think. there is (although i’m sure some study or other tried to debunk this) the feeling of a gyroscopic advantage to the bigger hoops. this can be a good thing for bikepacking IF the route isn’t super tech. i can imagine a lightweight/S24O over Macdui/etchachan being better on smaller wheels with the slightly more sprightly feel of a 29er or 27.5+ being an advantage, for example, but this is a very particular sort of ride and not the usual bikepacking trip.

looking at it from another angle: do you lose anything going from 29+ to 29 or 27.5? in the first scenario, you lose the low pressure advantage and in the second you lose the roll over advantage but in both you gain fit in a ‘normal’ frame (without having to get a krampus/ECR/genesis longitude or custom) and can keep a short back end, playful bike design.

hope that helps!

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