Monday, March 25, 2013

Gear List Part III: Da Bike and stuff...

Gear List part III: The Bike and accessories.

Like most things in my life I was a late adopter to the idea of the snow bike.  When the Pugsley first came out I mocked them as “clown bikes.” Thus, it was a source of comfort to me that the legendary Pramann had set the Arrowhead 135 course record on a standard mountain bike.  The first three or maybe even four Arrowhead races were contested with the majority of the riders on either standard mountain bikes or on 29ers.  Even up in Alaska several of the top guyz were riding regular bikes across the barrens, legendary tough guyz like John Stamstad and Rocky Reifenstuhl come immediately to mind.  The fact of the matter is that I’d probably still be riding a std mountain bike had it not been for the fact that a friend of mine won a Pugsely frame at the pre-race festivities several Arrowhead races ago and generously gave me the frame as she maintained that she had no use for it as she was a committed endurance runner.  You can tell that she is still a committed runner because whenever I see her she is limping around injured with some kind of “I-band” or plantar injury.  It took me a few months to build up the Pugsley using old parts from other bikes.  During the summer I saved enough money and bought the wheels and tires.  Finally I took it for a ride and realized that it was a total blast to ride…I was hooked. 

I rode that bike for four years, in summer, spring, winter, and fall until the braking rims on the wheels wore through (I use cyclocross brakes on it).  Last spring (2012) my wife had given me the thumbs up on the Alaskan race so I started shopping around for a new set of wider 80 mm rims.  Of course I soon realized that not only would I need new rims and tires, but also I would have to switch the bike over to disk brakes and swap out the drive train.  I also learned that the Pugsely probably would not have enough clearance for the widest of the currently available tires. I did the math and figured that by the time I made the Pugs “Alaskan ready” it would not cost that much more to get a new Moonlander.  So, I bought the Moonlander from Ski Hut (up here in Duluth) and ultimately turned the Pugsley into a single-speed.  It was a wise decision, as I have grown very fond of both of these utilitarian bikes.

When I first got the Moonlander, I was thinking that before I went to Alaska, I would swap out the relatively low-end rear derailleur, but it worked great and it still works great.  I was thinking that I would swap out the cheap thumb shifters, but they worked great.  I was thinking that the chain ring configurations were not in line with the way I pedal, but I was wrong, the gearing on the Moonlander is spot on for the way I ride.  There is a lesson here somewhere? Essentially what I am conveying is that apart from swapping out the handlebar in favor of a wider one (and the saddle), I am riding the bike as it arrived to the store. I am doing so because the guyz at Surly put together a package that functions as advertised. Also, I did add a Shimano 18 tooth single speed cog to the front hub so as to allow me the chance to continue on down the trail (pedaling a single speed) even if my rear hub became incapacitated.   

Note: In my view and at my level of skill, the wider the wheel/tire combo the better.  I don't usually buy into the idea that guyz can tell the difference between a $30 aluminum seat post and a $180 carbon seat post, but CLEARLY in soft or sketchy snow conditions, one can tell the difference between a 100 mm rim and a 80 mm rim.  I am completely being honest here, no hype.  The difference is palatable and in loose snow allows the guy with the 100 mm the option to ride whereas walking is the only option for the 80 and 60 mm guy.  I am thinking that 120 mm might even be feasible and worthwhile?  You can spend your money on a new fancy carbon frame or fork, but I am saving my nickles and dimes for the wider rims...I bet they are on some one's drawing table...

The weight of the bike and gear at the start of the race in Alaska was approximately 63 pounds.  Those sixty-three pounds, in my mind, represent about as low as I could go and still deal with basically anything the weather or trail conditions could dish out.  I chose clothing in a manner that did not allow for any extras. In others words the set up was progressive in that as it got colder I would add another layer.  The upper body had four potential layers, the lower had three, the hands had three, and the head had three, the neck had two and feet had two.  Along with an old REI bivy bag, I brought a light, down sleeping that is rated to zero degrees and a pad rated to zero degrees as well. I know from experience that if I am wearing a light hat, my down jacket, a light wool under-layer, light wool socks, and wool pants, I can sleep in ten below very comfortably.  I suspect that if I was wearing everything that I had with me in that bag, I could stay warm in twenty to twenty-five below and not freeze in forty below.  Beyond that…it would be “interesting.”

I used a good solid rear rack where I packed all my sleeping gear plus my down jacket, and extra tube. On the front I used a Revelate handlebar thingies that allowed me to secure a front pack. It worked great and I highly recommend it.  On the front, I carried extra clothing and some extra food and an extra headlight.  I also had a Revelate frame pack where I kept my wallet, some tools, pump, extra batteries, food, camera, glasses, etc.  Finally I had two of the “feed bags” where I kept the majority of my food.  On the right fork I was able to carry a 40 fl oz thermos using a nifty Salsa carrying cage that is oversized and quite handy.  

Note: For an account from a guy that really know his stuff read Jay Petervary's Outside interview [ ].  Petervary is a very impressive man as is Jeff Oatley and the other top guyz that contested in this race... I count myself lucky to have met them...

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