The Future Of Bikepacking/Dirtbagging

This isn’t a post about some super new bike or gear that will make your dirty adventures better. This is a real post speculating the future of what we do, and whether it will be any longer.

We have “made it” through what is being called the First Wave of COVID-19, states are reopening and some of the small communities us dirt baggers rely on in our travels are beginning to welcome us into their towns. I have personally traveled through most of the southwestern states since the reopening began and it’s still really weird out there. It has an almost Andromeda Strain kind of feel at times, while other times it feels like nothing ever happened aside from moving some restaurant tables away from each other and a few masks here and there. Some states have required a Plexiglas barrier between cashiers and customers, probably a good move which should have happened years ago, yet some places are business as usual. No masks, no barriers, just people awkwardly trying to avoid each other, shooting some seemingly judgmental sideways glances. It’s good to be back to doing some travel, but at what cost?

There is a purported new wave of COVID-19 happening as you read this, credited to the activities of people during the reopening process. One of my neighboring states (and a state I travel through frequently), Arizona, had 4400 new cases in the last 24 hours. The streets of Sedona had the social distancing of a bee hive. It was slightly disturbing. I’ve see the same thing on the news in coastal cities. People were sick of being cooped up, so now they act like nothing happened. It’s a very human reaction: Not being personally harmed by a thing means it didn’t happen and won’t happen to you. The “freedom loving” people of the US couldn’t give up their freedom to go to COSTCO long enough to actually free us from a global pandemic. Thanks, Karen and Chad.

This NWOC19 (New Wave Of COVID-19) could cause the gateway towns that have reopened to once again close themselves off to us traveling types. I’m part of a group helping solidify a new route for Bikepacking.Org, and we are in a holding pattern waiting for word from pass through towns as to whether they are going to let people come through or not. The stretch I’m planning on doing is probably going to be way too hot to ride until fall, so personally it’s no big deal if we have to safely wait out Wave 2, but it also makes me very uneasy for any travel, period. It also makes me wonder if we of remote travel will ever get back any normalcy.

I suspect that we are in for a very long haul, possibly a permanent haul, when it comes to being limited in our bike travel. The Canada/US border closing has been extended, so the Tour Divide is off this year. Will it be back next year? Gravel races are going the way of ITT, and the country’s oldest and largest bike tour, RAGBRAI, has even cancelled. Clearly I haven’t had enough coffee to be either informative or funny, so let’s try to wrap this up.

What do you think the future holds for our brand of cycling?

Age Of Quarantine

I made a commitment to myself that this blog would never have one of those self-excusing posts explaining why posts haven’t been uh… posted. I am breaking that oath.

During this Time of Quarantine life was redefined for us all. The events of the last six months have most likely affected all ten of you reading this, so there is a level of mutual understanding of the situation. COVID-19 draped a cloak of chaos over the world while simultaneously fully exposing the full extent of the fucked up political and social climate created by the world’s leaders. The socio-political discord and feelings of uncertainty about the safety of my loved ones re-triggered mental health issues that had been recently put to rest. I felt the need to withdraw from society while society effectively was on pause for the foreseeable future. Again, I am sure that most of you can relate as we were all on the same boat for that cruise.

The chaos and strife resulting from poor leadership created this new norm where folks could work remotely. I’m still at odds personally about the double standards which put the lowest earning parts of the workforce (grocery and big box store workers) directly in harm’s way while the “professionals” were allowed/forced to work from home. I’ll save my discourse on wage/work/QOL disparity for another time, though. Some of you chose to rise above the situation and use this quarantine time to be driven creatives redefining yourselves, or just getting out all the stuff you didn’t have/take time to do before. Some of you may have lost people or your livelihood. I am sorry if this was the case. I chose to step back and try to enjoy time with my people, the writing wasn’t so important that it couldn’t stop for a while.

While the sickness is not eradicated, it’s time to step out of the fog and take my finger off the pause button. That’s right, I’ll ease back into writing stuff that you may or may not read. Super. I know you were crying for my return.

WG

Dirtbaggers’ Guide To COVID-19(Boredom) Survival

We have all been gifted some time to dream sweet adventure dreams and plan for the next big trip, assuming the world doesn’t erupt into a fiery deathcano in the next few weeks, thanks to COVID-19. Here are a few helpful ideas to help you navigate through the Coronapocalypse…

  • Follow all WHO and CDC Guidelines regarding the COVID-19 virus. This is a good starting point. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Drivetrain Cleaning Time! It seems like no matter how often it happens or how thorough you think you have cleaned your drivetrain, there is always some more grime hiding in there somewhere. Check to see if you need new cables, or if your rear derailleur jockey wheels are in need of service or replacement, pull apart and clean your cassette, put some fresh grease upon all the greasy spots. Time to lean, Time to clean (your bike).
  • Rig Picture Time! Unpack your entire dirtbagging rig, lay it out, and take one of those “here’s all my stuff I take on trips” pictures. I’ve always meant to do so, might be time for that.
  • Gear Inspection & Cleaning Time! While you have your entire bike unpacked it’s a perfect time to inspect everything and see what needs to be cleaned, serviced, or replaced.
  • Gear Prioritizing Time! What has been hiding out for years in your bags that has never seen one use? Do you need it? Could that space be better used for something else?
  • New Gear Time! Have you always wanted some custom bags made? Now is probably a great time to start talking to one of the many bike bag makers out there about some custom jobs. I’m certain they would welcome the work, times are tough all over.
  • Trip Planning Time! We all dream about the next adventure, start putting it on paper. Selecting actual dates may be a little difficult at this time, but you can still look up routes or use an app like ridewithgps to make your own (or link a few together).
  • Start A Blog! No, really. You should have your own personal blog site in which to keep a record of your dirtbagging adventures, and to share with your friends. Don’t worry about followers or analytics or anything like that, just register a free blog site at WordPress or Blogger or something similar and start writing the story of your travels.
  • Help Out Your LBS Time! Get ahold of your LBS, many are doing curbside pick up sales and maintenance. Now is the time to send your bike off to the shop for some TLC if you don’t feel like tearing everything apart your own damn self. 2020 Pro Tip: you can now tip your mechanics in beer OR toilet paper. They are equal in value.
  • Be Safe Time! Most of all, please be safe and considerate of others in this contentious time.

There you have it, a few helpful ideas to help you pass the time. More on some of these too, I’m being summoned to go hike some rocks or something.

DC

Pandemic Revelations

Fellow Dirtbaggers, the world is a very weird place right now. You know this, as nobody is exempt from the mounting madness engulfing the planet. For those who have spent years prepping for the worst, we could be closing in on that day when your perceived paranoia reveals itself to be the one true way. For those who live day to day or have to rely on others, things are potentially very bad. For those of us who are moderately prepared to go camping in the wild for any length of time, it’s been looking like a pretty sweet moment to bust out the gear and break those rusty cages of civilization and ride.

But is it time to spread your wings and fly?

My personal advice to you all is this:

  • Follow or exceed all current CDC guidelines for distancing and sanitation
  • Do your best to isolate yourself from any risky business
  • Support your local businesses if you can, the hospitality industry is basically screwed at this point and we will definitely see an epidemic of businesses being permanently shuttered during the course of this situation if no help is provided, be it from the public or the government.
  • QUIT BUYING ALL THE TOILET PAPER, WATER, AND PERISHABLES. If you are sitting on a year’s supply of fresh eggs or milk, you’re doing it wrong.
  • If you decide to travel, remember that many of the resupply stops along your way could possibly be closed. You need to prepare for this
  • Remember that tap water is better than no water, break out your filtration systems if you need to.
  • Just because you are in a “low risk” category doesn’t mean you can’t spread it to someone who is at risk. Take the proper precautions.
  • Help your neighbors if they can not make it to the store themselves.
  • This isn’t a Partisan Pandemic, and to those still pushing that angle: STFU, look around you, and maybe do something to help rather than troll the internet comment sections. Seriously, don’t be a dick.
  • Of course, make sure you are properly washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces during all of this…and really all the time. There is never a bad time for good sanitation.
  • It’s really up to us as individuals to survive and move past this moment in time.

Ok, now get out there and avoid people. I’ll be spending some of my down time writing more reviews and articles here, and I’m sure in your boredom you will be waiting on pins and needles (from sitting down too long) for more DirtCylist goodness.

But in all seriousness, please be safe in whatever you choose to do.

DC

Total Genius: Stormchaser from Salsa Cycles

Holy shoot! In a (gravel) world gone technology mad and drunk with power(meters), Salsa Cycles makes a curiously courageous move:

They have introduced an Aluminum Single Speed Gravel Bike.

Already there are some nay-sayers out there who haven’t given this a real think-through. Here we have a single speed bike (no shifty bits to break) made of aluminum (no corrosion), with beefed up tire clearance (for the muddy parts), and all the bosses to mount all the cages and racks and fenders you want. It even comes with a derailleur hanger drop out JUST IN CASE you want to ruin the thing with gears.

Personally, coming from a land of ice and snow, wind, rain, and mud, I feel this is a completely genius move on the part of Salsa. It makes me wish I needed one. Forget that I’m a kind of a “Salsa Guy” and take my opinion here as unmarred by fandom.

I’d give you all the specs and story, but you can read it on the Salsa Blog for yourself. Have a great weekend and good skill to all those at The Mid South!

Introducing Stormchaser; Salsa Cycles’ single speed gravel bike designed for the days when dirt turns to derailleur-breaking, ride-ending mud.

— Read on salsacycles.com/culture/introducing_stormchaser

Lil Bits: REI Junction Water Bottle Cage First Look

Recently I’ve been on the hunt for a new set of water bottle cages for fork mounting on the ole trusty Fargo. A seemingly easy task, you quickly find out how complicated it can be to find a water bottle cage when adding a few more parameters other than “does it hold a water bottle” and “does it match my bike.” Here are those parameters:

Fork Mount Water Bottle Search Parameters

  • Holds a water bottle securely in rough terrain
  • Matches my bike (of course)
  • Can possibly hold a Kleen Kanteen or fuel bottle
  • Inexpensive. I did not want to spend $65-$90 on three bottle cages
  • Durable finish
  • Has space for a frame bag strap to fit beneath

The REI Junction house brand comprises a range of cycling products from rain gear to bike bags, and now this alloy bottle cage line. I’ve found that their house brand offerings across the board are very durable and a good value, so I’m going into this review with that trust. There is also the trust that if these cages do, in fact, fail that REI’s warranty program will replace or refund for these on the spot. It’s the simplicity of this warranty/exchange/return program, paired with the earned annual dividends, that has made me a lifetime REI customer for most hiking/camping supplies. I generally buy bike things only from local bike shops, but in this case I was in an REI and discovered these beauties first hand. I was hoping that they had a few Lezyne Power Cages, which were on clearance at REI for dirt cheap, lying around, and the bright orange powder coat caught my eye.

You’re welcome for the terrible photography

The Junction Cage is made of one piece aluminum and comes in five different powder coat finishes: Black, Dark Gray, Green, Red, and Orange. The Dark Gray would match a peen shot finished Titanium frame like a Moots almost perfectly, the Green is more of a “Safety neon yellow” to my eyes, and the Orange is a perfect match for the Crank Brothers Stamp 1 pedals I’m currently cranking on. At a claimed 55 grams each, they are about the expected weight for a cage of this construction, and at $9.95 they are just the right price if you are on a budget and need to purchase multiple cages

Installation was super easy, the shape of the “wings” gives plenty of room for my bear paws to get the screws started, and for turning a 3-way or multi-tool without having to bend the cage out of shape. It was an easy, fast install with only one complaint: there is no room for a strap to be pulled beneath the cage. My frame bag strap is curiously positioned right between the two down tube mounting bolts, so now to remove that bag I will need to remove the cage. This will be solved with a few spacers next time I get to Ye Old Local Hardware Store, and bag removal will be back to its normal level of velcro-fighting difficulty. It’s like fighting a velcro octopus. (Do a search for velcro octopus if you have time, it’s kind of fun)

My first impressions are very positive, and as there are no reviews of this product to be found anywhere I’m going in with no preset expectations other that this will be my next favorite dirtbagging bottle cage. I’m pretty excited to get out and do some rides to see if these bad lads will drop bottles all over the craggy terrain of the SWUS.

REI Co-op Junction Water Bottle Cage

  • One piece aluminum construction
  • Easy installation
  • 55 grams each
  • 5 Powdercoated Colors for all you color matchers
  • $9.95 available at your local REI store or REI.com
Getting Matchy Matchy… might be time to bring back the orange bar tape

The Color Out Of Place

Have you ever been in the midst of a killer bike build and get stuck on one particular piece of the rolling pie simply because that part doesn’t come in just the right color? It’s a modern day horror story. For instance, maybe the purple anodizing on that cog doesn’t match that sweet purple ano chainring on your single speed build or the hot pink accents on your saddle clash with that dope Pepto-pink powdercoat on that new all-road frame? Do your oranges not match? Is the “right part” the only one that doesn’t actually exist in our current reality? Does it exist and is prohibitively expensive? Does the dizzying array of greens make it difficult to make one cohesive colourway?

I have tread upon that glass path of bike building many times. Years ago the LBS mechanics would rib me about this penchant for matching parts. In fact one time it was properly used against me while impatiently waiting out a delay for my holy grail road bike build, a baby blue Salsa Ti Colossal with Sram eTap, to be completed. They had to order another front derailleur hanger in because “we have one at the shop, but I didn’t think you’d want a Shimano branded hanger on your SRAM derailleur.” Touche. He knew me well, that would have been grinding my gears until it was replaces. Speaking of that Salsa frame, I still to this day hate that they added a red pinstripe to the fork. I almost bought a new raw fork and had it painted to match the frame so that I could do a baby blue/pink theme aka the “Gender Reveal Color Scheme.” This thankfully didn’t happen, I went with all black components and it is a fine steed indeed, even with the one tiny red offset which I can clearly not move past years later. I did build a pink Twin Six Standard Rando after that, so I got my pink bike fix eventually. I get that the shop ribbing was all out of fun, although reading back through this paragraph (and thinking back through my past color match neurosis), it was funny because it was true. Maybe a few of you reading this now can relate. All of this was before the Modern Era of Matching Parts.

The Modern Era of Matching Parts, or MEMP, has been sort of like the Industrial Revolution for us hobbyist bike build fanatics, except without all the cholera and brown lung disease. Paul Components, Wolf Tooth Components, Industry Nine, Supacaz, Hope, and so many other now offer a dizzying array of blinged out colors for everything from levers to bar end plugs to mounting bolts. Paul periodically releases full sets of limited edition anodized parts, one of the more recent was an entire gold set. My New Belgium Urban Assault partner and I were planning on building all-gold fixies to use for the third or fourth running of that event and this would have been perfect as many of the gold parts available at the time were kind of sketchy Chinese knock-offs. I’m sure they would have been just fine, but today this would have been as easy as a few searches to order parts and waiting for delivery.

MEMP is a great and glorious thing, and with more options it means you have a much better chance of matching those colors on your dream build. I guess that is my point today: it used to be a PITA to match parts, if you were so inclined, but now it’s pretty simple if you have the $$$$ to fork out.

I will expand on this discussion in the future, but for now, as it is time to leave on my bike ride to parts unknown, I leave you with this:

What is your most painful moment of bike build color matching?

Lil Bits: WTB Riddler 45 For Bikepacking?

There are a few individuals out there in the internet land whom claim that the WTB Riddler 700x45c tire is a “bikepacking tire.” Upon reading these reviews/claims, I set forth on my Fargo, rims clad in Riddlers, to find the answer to the question: Is the WTB Riddler 45’s a good bikepacking tire?

I’ve spent many hours traveling on the Riddler 45, hitting everything from pavement to some things in the desert which could only be described with a question mark. They performed very well on the things you would expect them to, like the aforementioned pavement, hard pack dirt, decent gravel (tough to find in the SW, evidently), and if run at a ridiculously low pressure (that would be better run tubeless) you can get through some pretty rocky stuff.

During my last run of the first section of the Plateau Passage Route, the Riddler 45’s were mostly a blessing, but when they weren’t, they really weren’t. The Riddlers rolled super fast until you ran into sketchy loose-rock downhill sections (Overton to Mesquite was one of the most time consuming and punishing short sections I’ve ever done and I’m not sure what tire would have made it much better), when it was safer to hike a bike than risk eating desert dust, or the Sorlac-inspired deep rock sections north of Valley Of Fire which would probably swallow you whole if given the chance. These were small parts of the route overall, but it left me wondering if a tire more suited to the rougher parts would have made the trip time faster/easier overall. I will need to run the route again with the current 2.1’s to test that out.

Overall I would rate this, as of now, a good tire for bikepacking if you are riding light, traveling mainly pavement/maintained gravel/some double track. They aren’t particularly durable and the flat protection is minimal, but they do roll fast and will get you places that aren’t super difficult to reach. I would not recommend the Riddler 45’s for more technical mountain trails, nor the rock gardens that are passed off as “gravel roads” here in the South West.

Keep on dirtbagging!

Wiz