Prototype.

11 06 2019

Well, the first prototype was ok, but by the time I was nearly finished, I was pretty sure I could make a better version. So it goes with prototypes.

Rewind. The need. Bikepacking with a bar harness, over the years, has been made much better by efforts to make the harness have 4 points of mounting. The potential problem: some handlebars don’t like having clamps beside the stem clamp, either because of the material (carbon bars occasionally need metal reinforcement at the stem clamp and the manufacturers won’t allow clamping to non reinforced areas). or because of the shape (alt bars, I’m looking at you). The solution: make a steerer mounted clamp that will deliver an auxiliary bar, ideally below, the handlebar. Boom, 4 points of mounting.

If the mounting points are fairly spread and wide and the load is not too heavy you could get away with a very light clamp as the secondary, non weight bearing part.

Fast forward to prototype 1: aluminium steerer spacer, 20mm high, 2 acetal rods and a carbon fibre tube. Can mount below or potentially above the stem. Issue? fugliness. Other issue? amount of steerer real estate.

Prototype 2 will be considerably more svelte. This is achieved because a lightbulb went on and I realised I could make a strap system between the handlebar and the auxiliary bar that means it doesn’t actually have to have any inherent rigidity, other than a slight offset to clear the head tube.

Some initial sketches gave way to lots of beard stroking about how I was going to make the offsets. Initially i’d thought to mount a carbon fibre tube ahead of the steerer and make some straps that would have a carbon fibre strip sewn into them, then around a second carbon tube.

In making the initial aluminium steerer spacer, I decided to change tack and instead of bolting a carrier to the front of the steerer spacer, bolt to the side, slightly offset with spacers and have 2 metal struts (in this case I will be using a downhill, direct mount ‘riser’ kit). these will then have the auxiliary bar attached, though again, I’m not absolutely 100% sure how so far.

Getting there…

 

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Making things.

8 03 2019

A few weeks ago, we had amazing February weather. I rode day after day – not far afield, though F.B.R.O.T.Y happened. But, it is now back to the maritime rainy/windy pattern that is typical of West Scotland, so I have been making things.

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With davechopoptions, a trail was born, then another and then another. This is likely in response to the foresting of my local riding woods. It is a real shame to see some of the trails I like riding the most over the last few years, disappearing. However, in fairness to the team who are harvesting, they are doing a stellar job of preserving what they can.

Goodbye, old friend. I have spent countless hours enjoying riding and sometimes just sitting with you.

I started sewing again – this time a special project – a top tube bag (gas tank bag) for my friend Mark Bentley. Admittedly, the first version was not up to scratch, but I was very pleased with version 2. Gas tank bags need a lot of extra work as the trick is to be able to use them one handed. As such, they need to have stiffening panels in the sides and to protect items stowed of a more delicate nature, padding on the bottom. trying to sew these in is a beast, but I settled on a process that allows me to get nice straight seams and the padding is in a separate sleeve that is held in by velcro and the cross velcro side to side reinforcement. Next up will be a very lightweight bar harness that I have been thinking about for a long time. It will have a carbon fibre cross member to gain stiffness and utilise 4 point mounting for either Jones Loop bars, or the Bar Yak system. Stay tuned.

The bag is a Liteskin LS 42 laminate outer with plastic shim stock sides and a x-Pac VX21 inner in white to aid finding things, like jam sammies.

One detail that is essential is the range of the velcro attachment to the top tube. The front is to marry up with a DeWidget, so that needs a simple webbing cross strap. but you need to have an idea of how big a top tube you will be attaching the bag to. You can of course use a long section of velcro, but I prefer polyamide webbing. Anyhoo, it turns out Mark’s Cotic has a 41mm top tube – exactly the same as the ultra rare Vertigo Cycles cowbell and bottle opener to make sure fit is perfect.

The other thing I want to make soon is a bag for the Strap Deck. I’ve been playing around with ideas – from a dry bag with integrated velcro straps, to a simple bag held by Voile Straps.

In some ways, Revelate have already made the perfect bag for the Strap Deck – the Polecat. But I’m going to keep thinking on it.

I’m looking forward to Singletrack world’s and the Bikepacking.com reviews – I love them for attaching anything a bit bulky, but not too heavy to the bike.

(click here to see a video – Vimeo being a bit strange…)

Lastly, I learned to cut threads on the lathe and made an aluminium version of the port DeWidget Mark made initially from Delrin, which can mount above the steerer, and act as a top cap. Highly versatile, it can run the ‘double dangler’ feed bag plate and of course, holds the gas tank absolutely rock solid while you go shredpacking.

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The latest run of DeWidgets in stock at Backcountry.scot…

16 05 2018

But, they are selling fast.

The sun has been in the sky for a few days now and the HTR 550 is coming up. The South Lakes 100 (aka Jennride) and the Welsh Ride Thing have just finished.

Basically, it’s bikepacking season. But even if it is just a local ride long enough to need a few snacks and a tube, a DeWidget combines with a Gas Tank top tube bag, keeping things super snug when a velcro strap wrapped around that on-point stubby stem leads to annoying slop and flop.

Go to backcountry.scot and grab one now before stock runs out. More will probably be made but why wait?





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.





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!





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…





DeWidget – update.

22 01 2018

Ok folks.

New fangled 3D printed #DeWidget, left, old skool cool proto, right

So the DeWidget has seen a little update. Mark has been kind enough to put the design on Shapeways. You can see them here and here. You would need one ring and two ‘top hat’ parts to make a complete DeWidget. The price is a little more, due to the addition of another company in the chain, but – IT NOW COMES IN COLOURS!

I have a black one in hand that has a slightly textured feel, but this in no way harms function. The white is also a textured surface whereas I believe the coloured ones are ‘smooth’.

Shapeways have a facility in the Netherlands and one in the USA, so if you are ordering abroad, it should actually work out pretty good.

Do pass this info on if you wouldn’t mind, cheers.