Bike packing bags.

17 12 2017

I have been subtly changing how I load the bike for bike packing. A little while ago, it became clear there are benefits to reducing the weight on the bars and reducing the volume under the seat – particularly if a dropper post is to be used.

As a result, a frame bag is needed to bring back the volume without loading it all into a rucksack.

So: a Porcelain Rocket Charlene (from Ride Auburn) which utilises a Wolftooth Valais dropper seat post guard (from MTBRiders) in order to give around 6l of storage that also still allows me 100mm of seat drop.

The Gas Tank and Tangle are essential and I also plan to swap in and out a full Revelate frame bag (all from Backcountry.scot).

The under downtube bag is actually a fork leg bag, from Oveja Negra – called the Bootlegger. I am mounting this to a bottle cage mount under the downtube with a Wolftooth B-Rad 4 plate I cut down to only leave 3 mounting holes. This reduces the overall unsupported length of the plate. It can also mount a King Cage Manything cage (from Justpedal.nl) if I want to use a dry bag instead.

The Revelate Harness, I have slightly modified to allow 4 point mounting to the Jones bars. This is so bomber that I am considering retiring my Revelate Sweetroll. We’ll see. The modification initially used the front ‘pocket’ straps, on which I unpicked the bar tacking I needed a way to utilise the webbing sewn to the Harness for a second set of bar mounts, with some extra foam spacers, but this was sub optimal, so I used some size 3.5mm locking oval carabiners. This also proved suboptimal on my recent overnighter – too much movement in the system. So I have changed it to use a simple wrap of double sided velcro with a Jones bar kit from Revelate and I am confident this is the way forward.

On the last overnighter, the Harness had my sleeping bag in a Mountain Laurel Designs cuben stuff sack (minimising the weight gain in using the Harness over the Sweetroll) and the Charlene had my wool longs and Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket Tarp/tent.

The Bootlegger held my Thermarest Neoair X-lite and some long wool socks and the frame bag held my tent poles (from Z-packs) Vaude ti tent pegs, MSR mini stove, a couple of large cuben stuff sacks to stow stuff overnight, an Opinel, a spare inner tube, another wool layer, a dyneema cord just in case and a wee bit of food. More food in the Gas Tank.

Everything else went in my Wingnut.

It all worked well and the bike felt lively, with plenty of stowage space.

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Deep freeze.

11 12 2017

Wind from the north, more or less, and stable pressure. But cold. Very cold. Overnight, where I was heading, was predicted to be around -6°c or lower and I was a wee bit nervous. It had been a long time since I had bivied out in really cold conditions.

Still, I was keen to sleep under the stars and I had a few new bags to try out. I have been changing the way I pack the bike – less on the bars, less under the saddle and using the lower, central ‘in and below frame’ positions to get back the volume.

I rode out on familiar trails with bright light and crisp conditions under tyre. I didn’t rush. I wasn’t going far. In fact I hadn’t quite decided where my ultimate destination would be.

In the end, I picked the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and left the West Highland Way as the sun was dipping below the horizon at around 4pm. From there, I climbed, then dropped rapidly into the forest with glorious views of the mountains of the Trossachs and the snow tinged with pink, then orange. My beard froze solid. Expired moisture and the rushing of cold air on downhills.

The temperature was dropping noticeably and I decided to stop earlier than I had planned as my fingers and toes were numb. I ended at Latitude 56.1738 North, Longitude 4.4646 West, more or less. A good spot.

Immediately, I needed to get into my sleeping bag and pull on all the layers I had brought with me. I had forgotten a hat, which was a mistake, so after a Firepot Chili Con Carne, washed down with a couple of cold cans of beer, I turned in at 6.15pm.

I had brought a book and a wee dram for the evening as I knew I wouldn’t be riding late into the night, but it was just too cold to do anything other than cocoon myself in down.

14 hours until daylight.

The night passed slowly. It was bitterly, painfully cold at times. I would wake, shivering and then move around, generate some heat and try to get back to sleep. How many times I awoke, I have no idea. At one point, I looked at the time: 2.56am. I knew I would make it, despite having considered a late night withdrawal just a few hours previously.

As the sun crawled above the horizon, I packed and got riding. No food, not even coffee. Too cold for that. It was amazing how much moisture, presumably from me, had frozen to tiny ice crystals on the inside of my tarp. I shook them out, mindful to avoid getting wet.

With the temperature still very low indeed, pedaling was a chore. I never seemed to generate any heat and my feet slowly and surely went entirely numb. My muscles were stiff and slow. But it will always end, you just have to keep going until it does, right?

The last trail.

Soon, home and the promise of some warmth. Food and coffee and the time to reflect. A deep frozen S24O. quiet, in the woods, the dark. Maybe for the last time this year.