Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My ride, pimped

Date: Feb. 11
Mileage: 20.5
February mileage: 179.8
Hours: 2:00
Temperature: 34

I went for one last ride on the Pugsley yesterday, fighting rapidly rising temperatures and a proportionally deepening layer of slush. When I came home, I was thrilled to find a small package from Eric at Epic Designs. Inside: The Complete Snow Bike Racing Kit® (just kidding. That's not really trademarked.) I had a mere three hours to play with it this morning, which is what I did rather than break my bike down like I was supposed to be doing. It took me more than one of those hours just to get the front bivy bag figured out. But once I did, I still managed to get my entire, not-so-conservative winter kit - minus a few small items - stuffed in these bags. And that was without much planning or thought. With a little more time, and a fair amount more practice, the remaining items (a few more packages of food, chemical warmers, ice cleats, goggles, first aid kit) should slide right in. As it is, the frame bag still has quite a bit of space. And I am already planning my Camelbak pack for the myriad small things I want quick access to, such as knife, flint fire starter, sunglasses, chap stick, batteries, bike tool, pump, etc. I am planning to mount my fuel bottle in a water-bottle holder on the fork, with my Outdoor Research bottle holder on the other side. This kit could work! And, it seems, racks are completely optional (front and back!)

This is the gravity-defying "Super Twinkie" seat post bag. I stuffed it as obnoxiously full as possible, and then some. It only grows higher and more rigid the more full it becomes. It even has straps on the bottom, which my small frame doesn't allow any clearance for, but I figured out how to cross them in order to mount a thin, tent-pole-type bag to the side (I used a rolled-up fleece jacket to test my theory.) I think such a bag would be a good quick-access carrier for socks and liner gloves. It will probably also give me just the extra space I'd need to get my top insulation layer in the seat post bag if it happens to be 25 degrees or warmer.

The good 'ol frame bag with an add-on "gas tank" above the frame. I didn't take a picture of the top of the gas tank, but it has a double zipper that can be easily opened and closed with big mittens for quick access to food while on the bike. Just for testing purposes, I stuffed it with six "teeth-shattering" Clif Bars, one fruit-and-nut Trio bar, two Pop Tart packages, and 10 fruit leathers. Room to spare! The frame bag is mostly a depository for food, but with this new set-up, it also will need to hold my stove and pot, my spare tubes and chemical warmers. Seems like that can be easily done and still have room for the ~9,000 calories I was hoping for. I pedaled this a short distance and there's plenty of clearance for my knees. Standing up involves some minor brushing against the gas tank, but how often do you stand up on a snow bike?

This is the bivy burrito, a handlebar bag that is currently resting on a front rack, but wouldn't necessarily have to. I had quite a struggle with it this morning - most of that time just trying to figure out all the details - but it will take some practicing before I can say for sure whether it is right for me and my obnoxiously large sleeping kit. But believe it or not, inside is a -40 degree Marmot CWM sleeping bag, a full-sized Ridge Rest and a Black Diamond bivy sack. You can take your whole sleeping bag set-up as is - inside the bivy and everything - roll it up and wrap the sack around it, hence the burrito name. You use a row of compression straps to cinch it all together to a workable mass, although I have to say that down in the sleeping bag really, really wants to escape. I obviously didn't perfect it this morning - you can see some spots where the sleeping bag succeeded. But two handlebar straps and a removeable stem strap help secure it to the bike without the necessity of a rack. I need to take that rack off for shipping tonight, so hopefully I'll have time to test just how good the clearance is.

So there you have it - completely outfitted by Epic Designs. If I wasn't so new to this winter bicycle touring scene, I'd probably be even more impressed than I am. But I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Everything's sleek and gray and matched perfectly to my Pugsley - like a real racing kit. It's especially tasty compared to the sloppy, haphazard randomness of my kit for last year's Susitna 100:

Or even worse, 2006, when I actually had a seat post rack, a loosley-packed non-compression stuff sack on the handlebars, and a Wal-mart-purchased handlebar bag stuffed in the tiny triangle of my frame between the down tube and the rear suspension of my Sugar:

You can see why Epic Designs bags are a thing of beauty.


  1. You've come a long way baby!

    I wish you had had more time to practice with all those straps in the field but I guess there's nothing like being thrown in the fire...

    Good luck Jill. I assume you won't be able to make posts during the race? What will be the best way for us to get updates during the i'rod?

  2. Don't forget to pack some pepper spray in case those huskies get out of line.

  3. Jill,

    Looks like you have thought it all through.

    One bit of advice: depending on the air temperature and the temp of your water when you put it in your Nalgene(and OR bottle holder), it may still get slushy or even freeze on the outside of your bike.

    You might conider carrying it inside a jacket pocket, keeping it warm next to your body.

    And warmer water is always easier to drink and easier on your innards than nearly frozen water.

    Good Luck!

  4. If you're not using your chem warmers & you know you'll make the next drop bag; use them to warm the food in the gas tank (might save a tooth or two) and it saves having to carry dead weight.

    Epic Eric is a sewing machine isn't he (pun intended).

    Well organized rig… now all you have to do is worry about being able to sleep... oops sorry.

    When I had to use my Allan Tool, I had to dig it out of the bottom of my bags more than once to do a simple drive train adjustment and to tighten a loose rack bolt). Some things should be easy to get too (cash, tools, food, water).

  5. Well that's a nice late addition! Always nice to get some testing time in before the event, but this might simplify your setup enough to be moot at this point. Sweet!

    Best of luck!

  6. Low...ri...der don't use no gas, no!

    Lookin'k good, Jill!

  7. My legs hurt just thinking about pointing that thing uphill. :-) Looks like one helluva a survival rig for some winter racing though! Good luck out there!

  8. Just a note to let you know we're rooting for you, down here in Denver. Good luck and, mostly, have fun!

  9. not to be rude, but you're CRAZY


  10. Just got linked over to your blog. You've heard this from others, but what a great blog. Love the pics, and the pimped pugsley is indeed a thing of beauty.

  11. When are you getting the spinerz for your rimz?

    Good luck Jill!

  12. So awesome!
    Crazy biker chick on pimped out phat bike...me likey.

    Good luck and enjoy the ride.

  13. All this talk about Super Twinkies and bivy burritos has made me hungry...

    Sweet ride! All the best, Jill!

  14. "Go that way, very fast! If something gets in your way, turn!"

    Thanks so very much for sharing your inspiring journey with us.

    I hope the race goes well.

    BE SAFE.

    Portland, OR

  15. Best of luck, Jill! And how do I get the picture CDs?

  16. Awesome--
    Jill, do they make fenders for your pugsly? Would they work? Maybe keep you and your gear dry?
    Since I live in Tucson I can't really test that theory out me-self!


  17. yeh biking is great in all weather i do alot out in the western states where i live and do alot especially at midnight when the temperature is negative 20

  18. Jill, I really like the gas tank bag. I was eyeing up Lance Andre's Epic gas tank bag during the AH 135. It would have been nice to have so I could have continued to eat without stopping.

    It's amazing how many times someone can re-think their packing for an event like this. I was still changing things right up until race time.

    Pugsley looks great all outfitted with the Epic packs!

  19. Hey crazy lady, you sure motivate me to want to do something besides yoga when I get to Juneau. Good luck girlie, and to the crazy runner, Geoff. I gave you props on my blog (and I am not even a cyclist) My only advice, because I know nothing about bikes is keep your bootie and toesies warm. Make sure to keep us posted and show us pics.

  20. Swap the Clif Bars out for Lara bars, they won't freeze.

  21. Wow, you sure do have some tires on that thing. Then I guess you would!


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