Vulnerability.

15 04 2018

The plan was to ride from Old Bridge of Tilt, north until the Gaick pass, follow this to Aviemore via the north part of Glen Feshie, head east to Glenmore Lodge and climb past Ryvoan and find a kip spot in Abernethy Forest. Next morning, wake up, head past Dorback, cross the river, hopscotch up Burn o’ Brown to Tomintoul and then follow the Avon to Loch Builg, and then head west to Glen Quoich, before either popping out in Glen Derry or taking the Slugain trail down to Deeside and taking Glen Tilt back to the start.

The weather looked good, though low snow was a possibility and the river crossings could be interesting, but all the info for the larger, close rivers from the SEPA folk suggested they would be average for season.

Park in Blair Atholl, like I have done many times before and start to get the bike ready. A local resident then came over and (short version) asked me to move or she would consider phoning the Police. I was a little taken aback. She said that was her parking space on the street and I could park further up the road or find another car park somewhere (none of which permit overnight parking).

Ok then.

Rather than cause a conflict, I moved. After just over an hour of pedaling, I was about to go past the point at which I could easily turn around. Normally, that is just a little mental step and on you go. However, the encounter with the local lady had me swathed in doubt. Was where I parked going to inconvenience or anger someone else? did I miss a sign suggesting it was resident parking only? Round my head it went.

I sat for a while, pointlessly trying to pick up a mobile network so I could phone and try and settle my head but it was to no avail. Stark choice: go on and potentially worry about it all the time, or turn around, go back, and sort something out.

I knew sleep would be fragile at best anyway and suspected that the additional, though un-objctive worry about what the outcome would be of my chosen parking spot seemed to have fractured my confidence.

Perhaps the map work, GPS based calculation and environment condition work had left me in a state of high alert and this was just a small negative occurrence that tipped me out of being able to go on, or perhaps there was some underlying reason that I have not identified.

Whatever, I bailed. By the time I got back to Blair Atholl, tried to find somewhere I felt sure would be ok, enough time had slipped by that my route was going to be additionally iffy.

It was like dominos falling over and I pulled the plug on the whole escapade.

I did head up to Aviemore with a view to a much shorter loop bookended by a bivi, but by the time I’d looped the lower lying areas, my mojo was completely blown and I came home late at night.

It feels like a waste. The weather window was there. The route is a good one. The bike was dialled. For some reason, my head wasn’t.

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Finishing the job.

2 04 2018

A few weeks ago, I tried to get to Inchconnachan Island, by bike and packraft. Read about it here.

Last weekend, I tried again – this time successfully.

It taught me a lot. At times, I was a long way from the shores of Loch Lomond and I also had to cross the main ‘waterway’ for want of a better word. There are big tourist tour boats that chug up and down the Loch and there are fishing vessels and speedboats too. The wake caused by these bigger and faster boats had me a wee bit freaked out when I was a long way from land. Nevertheless, with a bit of common sense, I was able to aim the bow into the incoming waves and ride it out.

Disembarking was a bit of a mess, as well. I pulled into a rusty, messed up micro-pier and immediately whacked my (carbon) forks onto a corroded and broken old metal girder. I was concerned there would be catastrophic damage, but I got away with a couple of scrapes. Lessons need to be learned and one is ‘detailed’ manoeuvring so I can get in to tighter circumstances with less chance of damage.

Some of the islands on the Loch seem to be primed for camp outs. The isolation is nice and I can see myself heading there for a S24O if the by-laws allow. Someone was already set up on Inchconnachan, in a sheltered wee spot. We’ll see.

I did jump out on Inchconnachan, though I didn’t see any wallabies. What I did see was a depressing amount of rubbish – broken bottles and the like. I guess that is the unwelcome cost of this area being arguably Scotland’s most visited outdoor area.

It is also a long way – around 7km where I crossed – and this is hard work if you are not used to the paddling. In all I spent around 2 hours in the raft and 5 and a half pedaling. I was pretty worked over by the time I got home – remembering that I had some cheese buried in my Gas Tank (secured with a DeWidget, I might add….) was a life saver!





Cold grip.

19 03 2018

Winter is still holding on with it’s icy digits. Snow on the ground, but today brought bluebird skies and warmer air than there has been recently.

I went off piste, grinding up steep slopes by relying on the low, low gears on Snow Job (my fat bike) and it’s bulbous tyres.

Hopping from tussock to frozen mud, trying not to let the boggy ground suck me down.

I have had more reason to own a proper snow bike this year than in any year I can remember and it’s been fun. In saying that, I am looking forward to the cold, grasp of winter to be relaxed a little.





Inchconnachan Island.

26 02 2018

Stable, high pressure but a cold, cold wind blowing in from Siberia. Grabbed my bike and stuffed my packraft into my MLD Prophet and hit the trails.

Sped out west, with the help of the bitter easterly. The ruck sack – it’s first use – was notably stable, comfortable and there was no interference with my bike helmet, despite me stuffing my PFD haphazardly into the top of the bag.

The sun nearly broke free just shy of Loch Lomond, but it slunk behind the clouds again and I shivered as I inflated the Yak. Strapping the bike on to the bow, I eased myself into the water, taking note of the choppy conditions. A fishing kayaker warned me the wind was high and to be careful: I thanked him and paddled across the waves to Inchcailoch – the first of the chain of Highland Boundary Fault islands that span the width of this great Loch.

The aim was the 4th island over, Inchconnachan – where a colony of Red Necked Wallabies that were introduced by the land owner in the 1940s still thrive.

Unfortunately, as I rounded Inchcailoch, it was clear the conditions were too rough to cover the several miles of freezing cold water, what with the wind blowing so persistently.

A little disappointed, I headed back to my put-in and took out, tail between legs, but still with a smile playing around my lips. It is always fun to get in a packraft.

A couple of hours to get home and my legs would not respond in the sub zero temperatures. Indeed, snow began to flurry around my penitent head as I made the final few climbs back to base.

In the end, you always get there if you just keep trucking.





MYOG: a DCF double ended dry bag.

15 02 2018

With a Revelate Harness on the front of the bike, I have the choice of using an existing dry bag or random items packed in a roughly cylindrical fashion. The Sweetroll uses an integrated double ended dry bag joined to the bar mount, which I always like using. It is easy to load, adjust and get at your kit. Revelate offers a separate dry bag, called the Saltyroll which I thought about getting and Porcelain Rocket have the Nugget, which is a similar size as well.

However, I have had a hankering to make somethign from DCF (formerly cuben fiber) for some time and so I decided to bite the bullet and make a double ended dry bag. The downside is that if you screw up, the material cost per sqm is high. The upside is that it is really easy to work with. You need double sided tape, a good plan and a sharp blade, as it is surprisingly difficult to cut.

I used 34g sqm DCF, in black (more like see-through-dark) which is on the light side, compared to a Mountain Laurel Designs DCF dry bag for example, but should have enough abrasion resistance to last for a while.

The designs is a simple cylinder (rectangle with shorter seam joined by 25mm double sided tape) then the ends are folded and bonded around something that will provide some stiffness so the roll top will work. I used some 0.004″ shim stock plastic. Finally, you make strips (I used 5 layers of DCF, folded over) which were then bonded to the edges and simple plastic buckles. For these sections, I used 13mm double sided tape. I reinforced these with a ‘patch’ of DCF on a strip of wider, 25mm double sided tape.

Care should be taken so no join will be pressured in ‘peel’ – they should all be in ‘shear’. With this design, it is no great difficulty to avoid this.

Leave it to cure for 24hrs and then you’re good to go. Capacity is around 10L and it weighs quarter of a sparrows fart.

Questions? fire away!





Maxxis Rekon 29×2.6″

29 01 2018

Yet another tyre size. Why oh why? whats the point? Blah blah blah.

I, for one, like all the different choices we now have in wheel and tyre sizes. You can really pick the one that works for you.

About 18 months ago, maybe longer, I built a front wheel for my trusty race bike – Maul – that could take advantage of 29+ tyres or fit a ‘wide trail’ tyre. I used an Enve fork so that offset could also be adjusted. I wanted to see how it all worked and figured the increased offset may work well with the bigger diameter wheel than the bike was designed for.

It was ok. The big tyre helped absorb some shock at the Wilderness 101, though I was still beaten up and with the release of the 29×3″ Minion series tyres, it gained preposterous front traction. To the stage where I had to replace the rear tyre with a Tomahawk, to get back some semblance of balance in terms of edge and cornering ability. Basically, with the Ikon I was using on the rear, or even the Ardent Race, the Minion wrote cheques the rear could not cash.

The geometry was always a little funky, though, and with the news of the Rekon 29×2.6″ I figured that would be the sweet spot. It would also drop over 300g from the front wheel and still be a reasonably absorbent and grippy front.

Well, I have a few hours on it now and its pretty good. It *is* light at sub 800g, but it doesn’t seem too fragile so far. The edge holds up and it certainly rolls fast.

I have 16 psi in it at present and doubt I want to go much lower.

It is in no way a plus tyre. That much is immediately obvious. The volume is just not great enough to make it behave in the way I have come to love with plus tyres in general.

The bike is back to its snappy, light, xc orientated ride and I’m happy about that.

As part of the project, I built a new Junglefox II 45mm internal rim onto a 100mm front hub. I have a notion to try the Minion DHF 29×3″ on the front of BA using an Enve fork. I feel that a ~50mm rim is ideal for true 3″ tyres. The bike is designed around a 120mm travel fork and normal 29×2.3″ wheel, so it might be just a wee bit steep at the front. We’ll see.

Interestingly, the build seemed much less tight than I am used to. Then it dawned on me that I hardly ever build with narrow OLD hubs any more! Still, 3x disk, 2x non, Sapim D lights and good balance and straightness should make for a decent wheel.





Banking.

27 01 2018

Ok. Every year – and I mean *every* year – I start crossing my fingers about now. Hoping that the weather is kind in spring and summer. I don’t go as far as autumn. Last year, things started ok ish, if memory serves. There was some nice weather early on, before it deteriorated into a wet, sloppy, crappy sort o’ late spring/summer.

The silver lining was that it finally prompted me to purchase an Alpacka raft from Andy at Backcountry.scot so I could join the watery element. Afterall, if you can’t beat ’em….

But again, this year, I am hoping…

As a result, with a *lot* of thought and consideration, I ordered a Prophet rucksack and Monk tarp from Mountain Laurel Designs.

This will augment my MLD FKT bivi to make a super light, cosy and roomy shelter when I am not using my MLD Cricket tarp/tent. The Monk is available in different materials and I opted for the lightest cuben in order to keep things as svelte as possible. I will pitch it as a half-pyramid, using a Z packs carbon pole. This will give me some added shelter for cooking and minimising precip, though I will need to be mindful of the midge.

The rucksack is a great shape for stowing an Alpacka. It is able to be packed quite ‘square’ with little volume protruding above the shoulder strap – which one needs to consider on the bike as a higher rucksack bashes continuously into the back of your helmet. The way different manufacturers describe pack volume is a bit of a minefield. In some ways, this pack could be considered quite voluminous, but the total includes the volume of the side pockets, full, and the top at its maximum roll-top volume. I will use it rolled over more times, in order to keep the pack low, below where it would interfere with my head. The rear and side pockets will fit the paddle, once broken down, and critically are made from robust material rather than just netting. This makes damage considerably less likely as the pole of the paddle will invariably get caught on someting while riding.

The material is Dynema X – a super abrasion and tear resistant, but lightweight, fabric. It can ‘wet’ as the PU coating is on one side only, which will add to weight, but I believe this worth the trade off given that cuben type materials are less tear proof: when you are jamming a raft into the bag, with the paddle, this is a serious consideration.

The materials used in superlight gear are well worth taking the time to learn about. I’d suggest starting with Bedrock & Paradox and follow the links to previous posts regarding materials, too. Dave Chenault builds and uses packs from many materials and offers excellent insight into the pros and cons of each design. I link to his blog from mine and I would thoroughly recommend taking a look, particularly if you do any MYOG stuff.

On that note, I finally ordered some cuben – or Dyneema Composite Fabric as it is now known. The CT2K.18 I ordered form extremtextil.de is 34g per square meter and this is certainly not the most robust weight that is made. I am going to make, with tape, a double ended dry bag to mount into my Revelate Designs Harness. Double ended dry bags are really easy to pack and I can decide on the perfect diameter of the tube I want. It will be my first time working with this material – cost and lack of abrasion resistance have stopped me in the past. I have had excellent use from my MLD and Z packs DCF stuff sacks and roll bags, for several years, so I decided to dive in.

I was also interested to see extremtextil now stock Dimension Polyant LiteSkin in two different weights. I have been seeing this showing up on various cottage makers instagram feeds for the last year or so. On paper, it has a lot of properties that should make it excellent for the type of bags I like to make. I might get some and see what it is like. In the meantime, here is an interesting video of some testing of different materials.

Anyway. Rabbit foot stroked, I’m banking on some good weather to put this kit into practice…