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!

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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.





Bulk.

18 11 2017

So this is a B-Rad 3 from Wolftooth components. They offer a range of adaptors to refit bottle cages in such a way that you can carry more on your bike. More bottle cages, straps and stuff.

Why am I interested in it?

Well, I don’t generally like carrying stuff on my person while riding if I can avoid it, but with the arrival of the Alpacka Yak and my plans to bike-raft and bike-pack-raft, I am going to have to deal with carrying more stuff somehow. This adaptor has slots which house the bolts to attach it to the frame and allows some movement fore and aft. The bolt holes on the adaptor itself can then be used for other things.

Most of my bikes have provision for an under-the-downtube bottle cage. The B-Rad is stiff enough to allow 3 bolt items to be added – with the proviso I don’t overload the 2 bolts into the frame. I will alter it to only have 3 bolt holes: 4 is overkill.

What that means is that my King Cage Manything cage (buy them from jelle at Justpedal.nl in EU) can be utilised with straps and a dry bag, or an Oveja Negra Bootlegger, which should be with me in around 4 weeks can be fitted.

This bag has an integral aluminium skeleton to give support and allow it to be bolted on to the frame (or fork). It is sized for Nalgene bottle, but because I am going to use it with 2 bottle cage bolts, I will use it to stow food or soft items, such as puffy jackets and/or wool longs.

It all adds up when you are bike packing and creative space and volume use is essential to a good experience. My Porcelain Rocket Charlene will work with a dropper post – utlising the Wolftooth Valais – and this should give me a highly versatile and all-mountain competent bike/packrafting set up with lots of well distributed bag-space. Porcelain Rocket kit is available from Ride Auburn in the UK

On account of the Bootlegger not being with me just yet (I am awaiting stock of the Classic multicam DPM version) I have used Oveja Negra’s own pics: visit their site and consider some of their kit – it is very well thought out.





4 years ago.

8 10 2016

Four years ago, I hatched a plan to bike pack a slightly ambitious route. Up Ben Macdui, bivi, then descend to Loch Etchachan (a trail that often generates wistful looks and knowing nods between the cognoscenti), then on down to Glen Derry to meet the crew who were intent on Beinn a’Bhuird then Ben Avon and after, I would return by dropping down to the river Avon and follow this to Tomintoul, cross to Dorback Lodge and the Braes of Abernethy to Aviemore.

It didn’t happen and I had quite a gnarly experience up Macdui. The Big Grey Man was calling my name.

I returned with this route in my mind numerous times over the subsequent years, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally managed to get it done – more or less.

Why less? well, I did not ascend Beinn a’Bhuird or Avon, instead I headed to the south side of the River Dee and ascended from Crathie, on the road, until Corgarff Castle where I took estate tracks to rejoin the River Avon at Inchrory Lodge, before heading north to Tomintoul and completing the route aforementioned.

I had been weather-watching intently because I had a 3 day window and needed 2 days to do the route. As the wet weather of recent weeks subsided, I knew that some of the boggier ground on my original route (including the classic section to Loch Builg) would probably be a bit miserable, but having ridden various alternatives in the past, it was easy to re-route and I felt that I had minimised any needless misery, but kept all the fun stuff in.

I overnighted near Loch Morlich with a view to an early start. The sun was shining and the azure of the sky brought a broad smile to my face when I finally made it out of my kipsack. Gear was stowed and checked a final time and I rode out the logger’s trail to Glenmore Lodge then up to the ski hill and on up Coire Cas.

Having fitted an 11-46 cassette recently, I was able to pedal the lion’s share of the climb and once up top the views opened out and I took a deep breath and drank the majesty of the Cairngorm in.

It really is an otherworldly environment and I always feel I have transcended my everyday life as soon as I am up there. I had hoped to ride the bulk of the descent from Cairn Gorm but some of the bigger rock steps foiled me as my Revelate seat pack forced my body weight to stay high and forward.

Scott at Porcelain Rocket is working on a dropper friendly bikepacking set up and I’ll be very interested to see how this progresses. Most often, one tends to avoid the more technical routes on a bikepacking mission, but there are occasions where it could prove indispensable.

Back to the trails….

I carried and rode over Stob Coire an t’Sneachda, enjoying the rocky, steppy trail, then dropped to the saddle before Cairn Lochan, filled the water bottle with the icy cold, clear water from the Allt Coire Domhain and continued south west to join the trail to Macdui.

A beautiful, clear view over to Braeriach and Cairn Toul was reward for the hard work and after a relatively brief carry over the rocky section, I took to the summit cone of Macdui, where I met Jamie Pierce, whose pictures of riding in various locations around Scotland are a great inspiration. A good chat, then up to the top and after a few pictures, I dropped to Loch Etchachan.

Please click to see original and see the trail, snaking into the distance...

Please click to see original and see the trail, snaking into the distance…

The technical track is fantastic. I had some concern over how it would ride loaded, but Snow Job took it all in stride. I filled the water bottle again at the brook that feeds Loch Etchachan and took on the trail beside the Coire Etchachan Burn, down to the Hutchison Hut. At one point, I nearly ass-over-tea-kettle’d into the burn as, again, my C.O.G was thrown by the saddle bag and I high-sided after a step down and careered off to the left. Serendipity was the only thing that saved me from a painful crash down the steep side of the banks of the burn.

The ride down Glen Derry, as the day began to grow old, was relaxing. The first hard section of the loop was done and I could feel some weight coming from the shoulders. Down to Linn of Dee, then east along the river – on the north side to Mar Lodge. Unfortunately, the bridge that allows forward progress, just after the Linn of Qoich, was washed away, so I turned tail, passed Mar Lodge and took Victoria Bridge over to the road and then ducked into Morrone Birkwood National Nature Reserve, where some steep forestry tracks (which I was interested to ride as they form part of the Deeside Trail route) delivered me to Braemar, cold and admittedly a bit tired.

A pretty iffy burger and chips at the ‘the Hungry Highlander’ gave scant warmth and I headed further East, towards Invercauld and took to the trails after the Bridge of Dee on the south side of the river. I knew the woods here, where there are efforts to regenerate ‘Caledonian‘ forest, would likely give me a good spot to pitch the tent and turn in for the night.

Overnight, the rain fell and at one point, after attending to natures call, I tripped over the front dyneema cord of the tent and broke it, leading to a collapse and some rain fall wetting my sleeping bag. After scrabbling around for the peg I had pulled out with my clumsiness, I eventually got everything ship shape and retired again.

Then the grunting started.

I suspect it was a stag and at one point it came very close to my tent. I was curious to see if it would come into sight but after about 30 minutes or so it must have wandered off somewhere.

Due to the broken nature of my sleep, I arose late and so it was 8.30am before I got going. Another reason for my lassitude was the rain, which had continued into the early part of the morning and I was loathe to get going until it stopped. It did and the smell of the woodland as I neared Balmoral was beautiful and invigorating.

The low cloud was beginning to rise and, taking to the steep road after Crathie, I climbed north, feeling that getting to Corgarff Castle represented the 3/4 point of the ride. It was interesting to see the estate track heading back west towards Loch Builg off the B976 and I nearly took it, but figured I would stick to my planned route. At Corgarff, I turned off the road and dropped to Inchrory Lodge and then sped north, beside the mighty River Avon, with cloud and rain at my heels. At Tomintoul, I bought a couple of sandwiches at the post office, answered some surprised locals questions about the fat tyres I was running, and made the turn to the west where the hop scotch down the Burn of Brown was considerably easier than in previous times due to the fat tyres.

Climbing over to Dorback Lodge gave an opportunity to refuel and I considered my strategy for crossing the Dorback Burn. At times, this can run quite fast and deep, but at lower Drum, I found the ford which has been created there to be rideable. Unfortunately, the rain had finally caught me and soon I was both cold and wet.

Unfortunately, the trail after the ford dead ended ~500m away from the trail to Eag Mhor. At this exact point the rain became considerably heavier. It is difficult to explain how hard the ground between the ford and the Eag Mhor path is to cross. Deep water filled clefts between Sphagnum moss clumps and huge tussocks of grass. Still, before too long I made it to what I consider the exit of the Eag Mhor, at which point the rain stopped and I climbed into Abernethy Forest, taking a stallar singletrack that wound through the trees and popped out at the Lodge, where I made the turn for Ryvoan, it’s famous bothie and the completion of the route.

A block of cheese and a handful of Mike-n-Ikes saved me from a bonk and I dropped to Glenmore Lodge with relief to have covered the ground and having enjoyed some classic trails, superb views and another rewarding Cairngorm loop.





M.Y.O.G

21 07 2013

Make your own gear. I don’t have any qualms about modifying components if I have the ability to do it well and I believe it will make the part better. The most successful modifications I have made were to my XTR M985 trail pedals and to combine several chainguides to allow for a wider chainline on the Maul. Rewarding, educational, absorbing.

Recently, I have been bikepacking a bit more and – as is my want – I have been messing around with my set up to get it as functional and light as possible. As important as ‘light and functional’ is, encumbrance must be considered if you are tackling rough trails. If you need to pick up/carry the bike, or drop a loose rocky descent, the balance of the bike needs to be as unaffected as possible by your kit, in addition to it being lashed solidly so it does not swing around or come loose at a critical moment.

There are many brands of bikepacking bags on the market now. My very first bikepacking bag came from Wildfire Designs, Alaska, in about 2005 if memory serves. A simple frame bag. I augmented this with some Epic Designs (as they were named at the time) custom Old Man Mountain rack top bags that Eric christened ‘trunk turtles’. Those bags served me well for a number of trips, but as I became both braver and more organised, I needed to pare everything down and the OMM racks in themselves are heavy.

By this time, Specialized had thrown their toys out of the pram about somebody using a word for their company name that they felt they had trademarked or some such rubbish, so Eric’s Epic Designs became Revelate Designs and his highly evolved products were again top of the shopping list.

If you need to carry a full bikepacking set up I strongly recommend checking out Revelate kit, now available at Backcountry Biking, or Scott Felter’s excellent Porcelain Rocket bags. Incidentally, Scott is on the Canning Stock Route in Australia – talk about product testing!

However, what I lack is slightly smaller bags that allow me to carry the kit needed for variable weather, 12-ish hour, backcountry riding. Keeping weight off my back is a priority.

As I looked around, assessed others’ set ups and tried to work out what I might want, it became clear that the bags would need to be highly personalised to the bike I ride and the kit I carry. The next step was a small one, but it felt like a light bulb had been lit – I needed to learn to make my own bags.

I did a *lot* of reading around. The internet gives easy access to a lot of information. Specifically the backpackinglight.com community are incredibly forthcoming with their experiences and advice.

My wife, Trina’s, sewing machine has been pressed into action and I have used various shops (I will do a supplementary post soon, with a list of links and resources I have used) for materials. I have made a total of 5 items so far. The first was an iPhone bag made of waterproof, ripstop, nylon. Then I made a camera bag from the same stuff. The iPhone bag was poorly made and I decided to re-make it with improved seams and more durable routing for the elastic closure.

The next bag was made from X-pac VX07 – the white sail cloth that is waterproof, light, abrasion resistant and has a slight stiffness that keeps a shape well. I had thought of making a smaller ‘sweet roll’ double-ended roll top bag which could fit tubes, extra clothing and perhaps some tools and or a mug/mini stove. Unfortunately, I made a bona fide school boy error and, when cutting the material, I didn’t let Pi get in the way of my calculations, thus the roll came out just a wee bit on the small side. Still, I learned a lot and the bag fits a tube, a waterproof, a midge net and a mini tool easily, so it will be used.

The latest bag is an UL feedbag. It was a struggle to think through the placement of the velcro and I am still not giving myself enough material overlap, but sewing the oval bottom panel in was less horrendous than I thought it might be and the 160D cordura baffle worked well. Overall, I am learning fast and I am really enjoying the process.

I have also had excellent guidance from my wife, my mother and mother in law and Kris at 44 Bikes. I have wholesale copied Eric at Revelate Designs bags where I have been able (if you are going to learn, copying a master craftsman is a pretty good start) and it has given me an entirely different perspective on just how cool his (and others) bags are.

More on this as it happens.