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.