Everyday carry.

11 05 2015


Everyday carry is, I guess, a meme. It is an interesting concept. I got to thinking about it while I was preparing to head off for a short bikepack the other day. What is the essential everyday carry ? how does this sit beside what would provide a slightly more comfortable existence on a short bicycle tour? everyday-plus, if you will?

So, I decided to have a closer look at what I carried on a ‘heavy’ trip and perhaps dwell on the contents a little. Heavy is in inverted commas because I wouldn’t necessarily class the contents of my bags as heavy per se. But I most certainly brought some non-essential items (depending on your point of view. of course!).

So, here we go.

Let’s see, starting at the front, a Revelate small front pocket for a Sweet Roll. Inside, essentials I might need to grab at short notice or, perhaps, when it is getting dark.

Opinel, ti tent pegs (2 sorts for different ground conditions), Sinewave Revolution – an amazing gadget covering all my charging needs from the Son front hub, Steripen freedom, notebook, Snow peak ti spork, a dyneema cord with cord lock, fire steel and spare lithium batteries for the Etrex. Not pictured, a few notes and a bank card and my keys.

Under this, of course, is my Sweetroll (not pictured). In this, I have my tent (a Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket), a Patagonia nano puff, and a spare inner tube (varied with which bike I am riding – in this case a Bonty 2.5-2.8 26″) and a Z-packs UL carbon fibre tent pole (that folds down into a short 40.5cm packed size). Often, CF poles can be flimsy and if broken can pierce tents. In this case, the joins are reinforced with tyvek tape. It’s been solid.

Behind the bars, I use 2 Revelate feedbags.

In the right one, I carry food. Mike n’ Ikes, cheese, pork pies, clif bars, granola squares etc, whatever I pick up along the way.

In the left, I carry my cooking kit and some sundries in the outer pockets, in this case my toothbrush, paste and chamois cream.

The cooking kit consists of a ti mug from MSR and an MSR gas canister (for the MSR Pocketrocket I keep in the Wingnut lumbar pack). I use an MSR Mugmate for coffee – works extremely well. I also store TP and a few sheets of kitchen roll in bags to a) stop rattling and b) use.

Next, is the Gas Tank – again, food.

Lower down, on my 44 bikes fork, I have 2 water bottle cages.

The Steripen needs a hard water bottle for use, I tend to take at least 2 and in the other cage I use a Specialized Keg. This doesn’t contain beer, but it is a useful little ‘hard’ storage for (in this case) my Niterider head light, extender cable, some wipes (one thing that is distressing is the number of wipes I see discarded by the trails. They don’t biodegrade fast at all and this is making a huge mess in some well travelled areas) and cotton wool/vaseline for fires, if needed.

Next and also unpictured, is my Viscacha seat bag. In here, my sleeping bag (PHD), Thermarest Neoair, wool longs and a R1 fleece with hood.

Lastly, I have my Wingnut.

In this, I carry a 2 litre camelbak bladder, which I try to use minimally – basically to lessen weight on my back. I also carry my MSR Pocketrocket, Gerber essential utility knife, Lezyne mini pump, another tube, coffee, Patagonia Houdini, Niterider battery, camera stand, some whisky (in this case A’bunadh) and a midge head net. I usually take a freeze dried meal of some sort. The little, old Timbuk 2 bag is my tool kit.

In this, levers, folding chain tool and quick links, 7075 Paragon hanger, Stahlwille 12 point drive socket and driver for the ti bolts on the Paragon sliders, Genuine Innovations CO2 head and cartridge and also a tubeless repair ‘worm’ kit. In the ziploc bag I carry assorted bolts and a home made tyre-boot set – with sticky stuff and sail cloth and also quick patches. I also carry a small bottle of Squirt chain lube. Some of this is extraneous, but I tend to leave it as-is so I can grab and go no matter which bike I am riding.

Various items are stored in some MLD cuben bags.

For the real nerds, the weights (bag + contents, food items to use for 2-3 days included, water not included):

Viscacha – 2kg
Sweetroll – 1.55kg
Cooking Feedbag – 0.5kg
Gas Tank – 0.35kg
Food Feedbag – 0.6kg
Front Pocket – 0.85kg
Wingnut – 3.5kg

Total weight – 9.35kg.

It seems heavy, when toted up like this, but a lot can be pared away if I am prepared to have fewer creature comforts. The bike rides extremely well with this set up.


20 04 2014

Sun is out, bike is built. Bags packed – not too carefully: live and learn is the name of the game.

Out through the woods. Bone dry trails – as if the last 6 months of rain never happened. My cold doesn’t seem to be slowing me down too much. Game on.

Take the well worn trail, along the West Highland Way. Too busy with walkers for the technical Conic Hill decent, around instead.

Then along the bonny banks. Not sure if I will go north or cut east. Take it as it comes.

Struggling to eat, energy is now coming hard. Llamas save the day, at least for the moment.

Snot is making me choke, still not eating. Water from a waterfall is reviving, but there are not many calories in H2O. Decide to head east, around Loch Katrine and instead of bivi’ing out, make for home to lick my wounds. My estimate makes it 100 miles by the end of the day. I’m ok with that.

In to Queen Elizabeth forest to wave at all the rough campers beside the wee lochs. Beautful day for a bbq and a beer. It just about makes my mouth water.

The dust is amazing. Forest trails slip by easily. As the sun begins to dip, the temperature does likewise.

My ‘disaster style’ packing left me with no arm or knee warmers. Shivering is on the horizon.

My Sinewave revolution has charged my light, just in case but I think I’m on for home just after sun down. Cut it close. Keep it tight, but loose.

With the sun gone, my mind flips to the negative. My left 4th toe is dead to the world again. I’m concerned about the fact it hasn’t got better over the last few weeks. My left knee feels a bit tweeked too.

I run over gear choices and thoughts. The new packing system – frame bag ditched, smaller pocket from Backcountry biking on the front of the sweet roll and two feedbags in place (cooking kit one, food in the other à la Paul Errington) – is much better and it feels lighter, but it is still heavy, in some ways. 5.5kg on the bike (bags and food included, water not).

I’m struggling to see how this can come down, although an Ermine on the way and my occasional-use-only cuben sweet roll will knock off a few hundred grams.

Home, pizza, beer. 95 miles in the end. 10 hours. Done for today.


15 03 2014

I finally got around to wiring up the Sinewave Revolution to the SON front hub. It was not difficult at all and within a few minutes of the shrink wrap cooling I had power from the rotating wheel to my iPhone.

Interestingly the dynamo seems to click on and off depending on speed. I have no idea if this is an accurate appraisal of what is going on, but as speed of rotation builds you can almost feel a clicking – which I assume is the mechanism that generates the power coming into effect.

So, here are some photos of the process.


27 02 2014

Photo’s are from Kris flickr, again. There are some more there as well.

I built up the front wheel. I was a little trepidatious regarding this build as the flange of the SON 28 front hub is 58mm and it is nearly symmetrical. This means that it is ideally built offset at the rim, side-to-side. The rabbit hole drilling is 7mm offset from center. this means there is not a great deal of triangulation on the spokes. Good, even tension will be critical for longevity.

It went ok though…good tension around 90kgf with 10% variation and <0.1mm lateral and radial. Fine for the rabbit hole rim.

Next step for me is to wire up the Sinewave Revolution to the hub and get all 1.21 giga watts…more soon.

And another thing: what on earth are folk using as a jig for building 190mm or wider rear hubs? answers on a postcard, please.


22 02 2014

So, the 29+ from Kris at 44 bikes is coming along nicely. The next few pics are from his flickr account, which I would suggest checking out…my build is going to be super sweet, but there’s plenty more to see there.

Probably time to fill in a few gaps about this bike. It will be a short stay, super fun, tech-able, long-haul-happy, bikepackable beast. The fork is coming from Drew at Engin, with a Paragon tapered steerer, and a bottle cage mount on each leg.

The wheels will be a SON 28 front hub dynamo, 100mm OLD, built into a Rabbit Hole rim (DT comps, alu nips) and the rear is a DT Swiss 350 150mm wide hub, laced again to a Rabbit Hole with comps and alu nips. I like the whole enchilada of the 3″ tyres and the 50mm rims. The rear wheel is over with Kris to allow final checking of clearances – getting a 29+ bike with the rear end this short is far from straightforward – I think this route is the best having ridden extensively on an 83mm bb bike. There is some discussion of this issue over on MTBR, here, with some good points and thoughts from Walt of Waltworks.

Why the SON hub? well, the dynamo will work with the Revolution I very gratefully received from David Dean at Sinewave to test. This tiny, clever unit allows any electronic device that charges with a USB plug to be run from the dynamo. So my iPhone and iPod, my steripen, my niterider and headtorch can all last the distance when going for extended, backcountry rides. Sweet, eh?

The rear spacing on this frame is 150mm, but it will use Paragon sliders. Initially it have 150mmx10mm normal vertical drops, with a direct mount hanger for a shimano rear mech. However, the beauty of the sliders is that they are replaceable. In the future, this bike may well be converted to 157mm thru, either with a shimano QR skewer or a DT rws – ideally, still with the direct mount for the mech. Ti 12 point bolts natch.

Moving on, the bb is an 83mm shell to help keep the stays down to 425mm, and a Zee crank will be plugged in, mounted with a wolftooth drop stop ring.

Old favourites such as the wide Jones loop bars, ESI grips, XT brakes and shifters, selle san marco zoncolan and modified trail XT pedals and either a thomson post and stem or perhaps an Eriksen post, maybe a Syntace stem. King cages to finish it off. Oh, Chris king inset 7 and bb.

This bike has been in my mind since I first got the Krampus. I believe it is the perfect evolution of the 29+ platform. I think it’s going to really thread the needle of super fun trail bike and bikepacking beast of burden. Kris has been great to work with – I really recommend him, as do other considerably more well known clientele.


22 01 2014

I cannot remember if I have mentioned lining up on May the 24th 2014, in Tyndrum, for the start of the Highland Trail 550. This is a 550 mile, self supported, bikepacking race around some of the better trails Scotland has to offer. For more information please see the official website, here, or the Bikepacking.net forum topic, here.

Four months out, I am already losing sleep over this. Not in a particularly negative way, more because I need to take some decisions now that will potentially have large ramifications for the week more or less I will be riding.

I decided to purchase a Revelate Designs ‘universal’ frame pack from Backcountry Biking (whose own Andy Toop will be racing in May) and on receiving the full frame pack, I realised that there had been so many updates and improvements, that I needed to update my old saddle bag also. These bags are amongst the best: please check out Backcountry Biking as they actually hold stock in the UK.

Next was the sleeping bag. Over the years, I have messed around with various set ups. To be honest, most of these have been used on shorter trips, where the risk of persistent damp is less of a factor. I have used 1000g über cosy bags and sub 400g shiver-inducing, barely-there bags. Over the course of 7 nights in May in Scotland, you could be burnt to a crisp by a powerful sun and relish in the after dark cool, or you could be depressed by dreich conditins for the entire time. I decided to turn to PHD for a custom sleeping bag: not dissimilar to a drishell minim 400. This should keep me warm to -2 degree c with the water repellent outer and my add-in VBL meaning the more compressible down should stay efficient and lofty and the system versatile with minimum clothing needed.

The next thing I have turned my attention to is lights and gadgets. I have never used a gps, being a paper and pen sort of chap. Or maybe envelope and Ikea pencil is more accurate. But I have decided that I would like to use a gps for easing any navigation issues I might have (I hope to have ridden 100% of the route by the start) and also to aid some poking around in the less well known areas of Scotland in the future. Seems a sensible thing.

Then all hell broke loose. Bike choice for this venture is not decided yet, but a SON dynamo hub, +/- a dynamo powered light was my initial thoughts. This probably was inspired by Mike Hall (who, incidentally, will be on the start line also) who used a dynamo and Exposure Revo light to great effect in last years astonishing Tour Divide win.

I had in my minds eye already wired up the SON 135mm front hub, to an e-werk, plug or a Sinewave Revolution with separate wiring to a Revo and all the while bopping to tunes from my iPhone.

Being as much of a doofus about electronic stuff as I am, I referred to Cass’s blog, frinds who know more than me and the internet forums at large. Slowly it became apparent (as a good friend had, in fact, pointed out right at the very start) that disposable batteries may actually hold an advantage for this sort of endeavour.

However, I don’t need 8000 lumens, I need more like a 10-100 range. I need the gps to be bomber reliable with no messing around. I probably (hopefully) don’t need the iPhone and I certainly don’t need to attain a doctorate in electronics in order to do this ride!

So: batteries. Of course, the Garmin etrex 20 (compass on my Suunto) is the top choice and with lithium batteries (another learning curve – more stable at temp extremes, lighter and more longevity) plus a spare set should see me through. The headlight was a bit trickier, but having all but discounted the expensive bike brands, I started looking in climbing forums, caving forums and the like. You can spend a lot of money on a Scurion or a Kavelight, but again, with a spare set of lithium batteries I suspect something more akin to the Black Diamond Icon will be ideal.

All the while I have not been ignoring the fact that by May I need to be physically ready. The kettle bells are back in the swing of things, I have been knocking out 30 minute sessions on the ergo and I have even been riding my bike. Unfortunately, several crashes due to the ridiculously sloppy conditions and my innate inability to avoid interesting trails have led to a couple of bad (for me) crashes. I’m back walking without pain and haven’t lost too much ground so overall, OK for now.