Currently, I’ve been setting up my Surly Bikes ECR for Winter bikepacking. This usually means really variable conditions, with lots of slop on the road and invariably on me. For that, I want fenders.
Fenders must be one of the most finicky accessories for a bike to set up correctly, and the thought of even finding fenders that would fit a 29+ (three inch) wide tire seemed fruitless. Let’s just call it what it is: somewhat of a niche market. There are a few fat bike fender/mud guards available, but they’re huge and heavy, and actually too wide – like these offerings from Portland Design Works, for what I want.
It’s rush hour. I approach the busy intersection cautiously. I’m in a bike lane, but my side of the road is choked with cars that want to make a right turn. Once our light switches to green, I feel it’s a race to get out in front, before I get side-swiped by someone that wants to make that right turn, crossing the bike lane I’m in. Then, I hear someone yell out their car passenger car window. My anxiety heightens:
“HEY! NICE LIGHT! I CAN ACTUALLY SEE YOU!“
My stress levels return to normal, and I’m relieved that the car besides me not only knows I’m there, but acknowledges my presence with a compliment! The light I’m using? The Magicshine MONTEER 1400.
As Fall turns to Winter, and a lot of my riding happens now at night, it seems fitting to investigate some lighting solutions I’ve been looking at. I’m willing to invest in a nice light, as my main form of transportation is my bike. My main goal is to see, and be seen. I’m usually either riding the streets at night, or riding trails bikepacking, but both scenarios need the following for a good bike front light:
Long Lasting and Dependable. For the majority of riding, I want a light that can be on for a long while between recharges. I want it to Just Work, to not fall off, to not turn on expectantly (while stored in a pack, say). Seems like an obvious wish list, but you won’t believe how many times this gets done wrong.
BRIGHT! If I want to flood my immediate vicinity, give me that choice. When I’m going Mach 5 down a winding road, I wanna see every piece of sand on said road. If I’m in a busy intersection, I want the light to scream: “Here I am“.
Rechargeable. Make it easy to recharge the batteries without making me carry half a toolbox of cables and chargers. Make it easy for me to swap out batteries with freshies if need be.
No Nonsense. I don’t want external battery packs and wires running all over the place – these just get in the way and get broken. External battery packs just hide the fact that the batteries inside are ones I can buy off the shelf cheaper than buying an entire battery pack.
There’s many different lighting solutions out there, including battery-free, dynamo-powered lights. The fact still remains that a battery-powered light is going to be brighter than a dynamo-powered light. A dynamo-powered light is also going to be more expensive. In the end, it’s convenience of not needing a external battery source (outside of the dynamo wheel, of course), may make it a fine solution. But, if you have more than one bike and you wanna fully invest in dynamo lighting, you probably need more than one of everything. With a battery-powered light, you can swap things out.
My usual advice for anyone doing a long-distance backpacking trip would be to pick a trail runner that you really enjoy, and find that you can wear all-day. The days of extremely heavy, overbuilt, inflexible, high top boots for backpacking are over (save them for special purposes, like full-on Winter conditions).
My pick for both my all-time favorite trailrunner and what I would usually pick for backpacking is the the La Sportiva Mutant. Sized correctly, they hit the sweet spot for me as a more than viable trail runner (I would run an ultra in these, without hesitation), kicks for fastpacking – like my time in the Weminuche, and even for a scramble a low/moderate pitch of alpine rock when the great majority of the time is on the approach – like the Maroon Bells traverse. I personally stick with low to mid height shoes, because of my ankles – I want the mobility that a lower shoe gives, as I want to keep my ankles constantly challenged by terrain – it’s the only way they became, and remain: strong. And believe me, I’ve had some serious challenges with ankle injuries.
But, all shoes exist on a spectrum and no one shoe will work for everything. For a wishlist, I would certainly want:
A more bulletproof upper. Off-trail hiking can cause a number on the uppers of a pair of well-ventilated trail runners.
A tough outsole. I’ll be carrying a lot more additional weight than I usually do – even when I’m on my own fastpacks.
Generally, I want to make sure that whatever shoes I use will last me until the end, and I’m not hobbled – I’m workin’ here.
The electronics gear kit list! Bringing any sort of gear – especially electronic gear, is a fine balance between the convenience of having the resource, and the burdens of carrying it all with you. Doubly so with electronic gear, as it all requires some sort of power source to charge it all up.
For the Tour of the Highest Hundred, I brought more electronic gear than on any other ultra racing/FKT trip in my life! It was a lot to manage, but I made all my choices after much deliberation.
5:00pm on Friday. Time to set off towards Estes Park. Although I would have like to take a more dirt route off the bat, the day was getting long, and I had some exploratory tracks to travel, so I took the express-way down Highway 36; it’s traffic known somewhat for its rep of severely injuring cyclists. I’ve never had a problem – but I usually ride it around 3:00 in the morning on my way to Longs Peak where the highway is desolate rather than filled with rush hour traffic.
I survived to Lyons in no time, and turned onto St. Vrain Canyon, which must be one of the prettiest canyons to slowly pedal up. Or so I’ve heard – I usually do this pedaling in the wee hours of the morning – the last time was during a snow storm with zero visibility, so today was somewhat of a rare treat for me to see the canyon in the waning daylight. Large pinnacles and crags shot up from the canyon floor. Loads of climbing adventure potential!
My objective this evening was a FS 82 near Meeker Park. Word has it that there’s National Forest access in the tight squeeze of private property, Wilderness, and National Park of the Tahosa Valley. Surprisingly, I’ve never looked around to see what’s around this road before. My friendly National Forest Service Ranger Station, which I live across the street from, supplied me with a Motor Vehicle Use Map of the surrounding areas accessible by road, which helps greatly in finding legal campsites off private property.
when an enormous box from Surly was delivered to my door, with instructions to do something cool with the contents: A medium Surly ECR, and a 24-Pack Rack! I was planning a trip to Breckenridge to say hello to my Brother who was becoming a year older, and I wanted to climb some mountains to train for the Tour of the Highest Hundred, so naturally, The Surly ECR entered into the thick of my plans.
In this post, I’ll go over the unboxing process, some of initial thoughts, and how I’ve set things up for a 5 day bike tour + mountaineering (bike-a-neering?) trip to Summit County. In a follow up post, we’ll talk about that trip itself.