One Relentless Life

Relentless Forward Motion

Tag: bikepacking

A Quick 300 Miles

You never know what’s inside of you until you test the rest of yourself. You can read all of the books, study all of the guides, read every blog, but until you have an experience first hand, you only have an idea. My training partner Indy and I have been training for months for our upcoming bikepacking race. We’ve spent lots of hours in the gym, on the bike, and meditating. We’ve worked on our mobility, reviewed tons of gear, and competed in a number of single day races. The real bread and butter however, is multi-day bikepacking races. So recently we set out to do just that; 3 days, 2 night, and 300 miles of self-supported bikepacking.

Friday night classes were winding down and my ride prep was done. I had my bike all packed excluding the Jimmy John’s I planned on buying across the street on our way out of town. I bought my sandwiches and Indy and I hit the bikepath as a light drizzle fell on our rain gear. We had about 15 miles of path and road until we left town and hit the start of our adventure.

As we turned onto the trail leading out of town, we stopped and took a break to eat. The wind was picking up and the rain was turning into sleet and snow. It was getting colder too. Nevertheless, we pushed on. Heading east with a wind out of the north, we were making good time but not as great as I had hoped; I planned on us making it 65 miles before midnight.

The further we went the more the wind picked up and the colder it got. The sleet started to burn the side of my face and neck. I stopped and put the hood up on my new Patagonia jacket, which was super comfy. We crossed county roads, small bridges, and pedaled through the sand, grass, and moss as we made our way. Indy asked me if the moss felt soft for it being that cold out.

“I don’t know, I guess so, maybe.” I replied.

A few minutes later and his tire was almost entirely flat. I sat with my back to the wind as Indy changed his tire. It only took a few minutes. We can still make it, if we ride a little longer than we originally planned.

Indy got his wheel remounted and we took off again. After a few minutes of pedaling we finally shook off the cold. I was getting used to the sleet. I almost forgot about it pelting me, honestly. I was really losing interest in riding though and I started to dream of my bivy and relaxing for the night. We had a big day coming up tomorrow. Then I heard the womp womp womp of Indy’s tire bouncing as it lost air again.

When we stopped I could heard Indy getting frustrated. It was only a little after 23:00, almost an hour before we planned on stopping for the night, but I was ready for sleep. Indy said he would fix his tube and set up his camp gear if I could find a decent site for us. I pedaled down the path about 100 yards and found a nice spot behind some brush that blocked the wind. I struggled a bit with frozen straps as I wrested my sleep gear out.

I was snuggled in my bag for 20 minutes and hadn’t heard anything from Indy. I wondered if he missed me tucked in the bushes and pushed on down the path looking for me. I sat up and looked back he was still in the same spot. When I climbed out of my bivy and walked down the path, the wind cut right through my clothes. It was getting brutally cold. When I got to Indy he had his mittens on trying to get his tire back on the rim. To me it looked like he was getting too much exposure to the cold and needed to get in his bivy and warm up. He agreed to call it a night and fix the tire in the morning.

I lay in my bag tossing and turning. I was trying out a new bivy sack but it wasn’t quite big enough. With me and my bag inside, I couldn’t close it completely; I could pull it pretty tight, but there was still a pretty large opening right over my face. Sleet hit me right in the face as I lie there. I tried pulling the hood of my jacket over my eyes and my buff up to cover the rest, but it quickly got soaked and uncomfortable. I rolled to my side. The wind was shaking the trees and howling just a few feet above the brush that was blocking our camp area. Whichever side I chose to put up, the wind quickly sucked the warmth right out of me. Tossing and turning, I couldn’t sleep. I decided to wake Indy up and move to a new spot.

I called to Indy to tell him we were moving. He had thought I was comfortably asleep and he welcomed the idea of moving. It was wicked cold getting out of the bag. The straps that held my sleeping pad on my bike had frozen solid. I shivered as I put my rain gear back on to block the wind. I reached out for my shoes and noticed that they had been a nice layer of sleet in the bottoms of them; I took a couple of deep breaths and slid my feet in. So cold! My hands were hurting and the wind was beating the shit out of them. As I slowly packed my gear I took a break every 30 seconds to warm my hands in my coat. Ice formed on my gear in just the few minutes that I had been out of it. Indy packed up and started to fix his tire.

Shivering, we climbed on our bikes and headed back to an overpass we had seen just a few hours ago. As we pedaled, I shook the shakes, and everything started feeling good again, other than my hands and feet. 20 minutes later we hit heaven; a dirty overpass blocking most of the wind. We leaned our bikes and sat back in between the pillars. Just having the wind off us was like taking a portal to a tropical paradise. I unzipped my jacket, took my gloves off, and had a good laugh with Indy. As we were sitting back we could see the waves on the canal pushing upstream, and hear the trees still shaking, but we were covered and comfortable. We ate a quick snack and decided to sleep until the sun came up to get some extra warmth. I laid out my sleeping gear and climbed in. Out of the wind, I didn’t even have to zip my bivy up all the way to be comfortable. My eyes were heavy and sleep came easy this time.

I woke up to Indy’s alarm going off. What the fuck? The sun isn’t even close to being up? I yell at him to turn it off. He yells back that it wasn’t his. I got my phone out and that wasn’t it. What is it? I yelled at Indy again, and he replied that it must be crickets. I was fairly certain that there aren’t crickets in winter in a 0 degree windchill. It was pretty rhythmic too. Half asleep I tried to sort out what it could be. A few more cycles of the sound and I remember that I set the alarm on my Garmin Etrex to see if it would wake me up. It did. I crawled out of my bag, walked over in my socks and shut it off. I climbed back in my bag and immediately fell back asleep.

The next time I woke up, I saw the reflection of the sun coming up. I sat up and looked over my shoulder at the crisp landscape and soul warming sunrise. There is safety in the light. Something mental changes when the sun comes up. You just feel more at ease. The wind had shifted a bit but it was still amazing to be a troll under the bridge. Indy and I packed up again and decided to back track to the gas station we had passed late last night. According to the GPS it was only 5 miles away. We took off riding into the wind.

As we pedaled we discussed where things had gone wrong and what we could do to improve for the future and the upcoming race. The wind blowing in our face sucked but it was only a short way to be indoors. My left shoe wouldn’t lock in straight and I figured the cleat had come loose.  As we pulled up in front people stared at us like we had something wrong with us which is debatable. I had been dreaming of foot warmers the whole way there. I leaned my bike, grabbed my wallet and headed in as Indy made a video to post. I cut a line for the foot and hand warmers. I grabbed them and made a circle by the counter to drop them off. The attendant looked at me like I was an alien. I made another lap of the store and grabbed a whole pile of food and a coffee.

Indy came in as I was sipping coffee and taking my shoes off to put the foot warmers on. As we ate we discussed the plan for the day. We checked the forecast for where we were headed up north. It was supposed to be the same conditions we had last night and 20 degrees colder. We went back and forth and ended up deciding it would be better to pull the plug and head home to fight another day than to push on and risk getting injured. We were to have another 250 or so miles in the loop or we could head back directly into the wind for 50 miles and learn from what we had done the previous night. 50 miles it was. We settled on a plan of riding the 35 miles to the next town and taking a break to warm up again.

Out the door and moving, my feet were warm and the sun was on my back and the wind was in my face. Nice and steady we paced around 7.5 mph. 20 miles in we stopped to eat a bit from our feed bags. I took a leak in the bathroom and sat down outside to eat a half frozen sandwich. I didn’t want to be in the wind. I went back in the bathroom and stood and ate my sandwich. I would rather smell piss and be out of the wind. Food done, we got back on the bikes. There was a guy getting ready to go fishing as we left. We joked about who was crazier. On we went.

35 miles down, 15 to go. We hit the next town, ordered the top notch $5 breakfast pizza and got some Gatorades. All warmed up we hit the road again. A mile down the road and I was thirsty again. Good news, I had 2 of the 3 liters of water left in my bag. Bad news, it was frozen solid. I considered stopping every time we passed a store. I also knew that I would be home in a few hours and all would be well. Slow and steady we made it back.

I walked inside my house to the greatest feelings; warmth and food. I ate until my stomach hurt, took my wet clothes off and showered. I napped on and off for the rest of the afternoon and slept all night.

There’s something to be said about getting out of your comfort zone. It makes taking it easy so much nicer. If I were to just wake up and get on the couch, I wouldn’t appreciate it. After a hard fought ride in the cold, sleet, and wind, my couch was one of the most amazing things in the world. We tend to take for granted the amazing things we have in life when they are available all of the time. Take a minute and be thankful. Thanks for reading.


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Call Me Crazy: Thought of the day

The Tour Divide starts next week. Muhammad Ali died last week. Those are two separate things. They are connected though. Ali made some of the craziest public statements about his success and his greatness. He said that it keep him hungry for improvement so that he would not look like a fool publicly.  So here is my statement.

In 2017 I will race the Tour Divide and finish in 15 days. Fifteen. That is 180~ miles a day. That is 50 percent more per day than I rode last year. I will do it. I have been training my ass off. I have been studying gear, nutrition, cross training, riding hill sprints until I am sick of my bike.

One more statement- The Tour Divide will be the first race in my 10 thousand mile bike packing race project over the course of the following 12 months. I will do this. You have my word. When I am tired I will push harder. When I don’t have the motivation I will work harder to find it. This is what I am doing. This isn’t a dream. This isn’t words I am just typing and saying. This is a plan of action. I will die with my shield or on it. You have my word on that. You can call me crazy. People said the same thing last year when I trained for 14 week and left for 2800 miles of racing. I finished the race within the cut off. I am more driven now.

Stay focused on your goals my friends. You can do amazing things if you stay positive and get moving. I am not lucky or gifted. I am relentless.

Contact me if you want to sponsor me. I am going H>A>M!

Resetting your Lefty Fork

I spent hours searching the internet, watching videos, and reading technical specs about resetting the needle bearings in my Lefty fork. I was worried I was going to take it apart and ruin it. Truth be told, resetting it is one of the simplest repairs I have ever done. Less than five minutes, super common tools and a little brute force.

Most of the references I dug into, talked about the shock length for different travel forks. If you open it and the measurement is inside a specific range of errors, just reassemble it and let it be. That seems silly to me. If I put my tire pump on and the tire is 10% low, I am going to put the air in it while I am there. That is why I suggest that when you have your fork apart just reset the bearings even if it is only 10%. It takes an extra 30 seconds or less.

Another aspect that I realized it that you just slam the fork down and bottom it out. That is it. Give it a good whack. No need to make this technical. “With the traveling velocity of a common sparrow and end force of applied squares” Blah blah blah. Whack it hard.

Last step, adding air .Start with 3/4 of your weight in pounds. I weigh around 180 so that is 135 pounds. I actually ride at 140 pounds because I like a little stiffer ride. No rocket science of sag percentages, travel ranges, rebound speeds. Start with a good guess (Which is what the charts are anyway) and then adjust it to what makes you ride the best and feel the most comfortable. As long as you don’t add 1 billion psi or have in zero, if it feels good, it is good. It is that easy. Check out the video below and watch me reset mine in around 3 minutes.

 

 

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Sleep System

Excluding food and water, your sleep system will be the majority of your weight and bulk while camping or bike packing. Because of this, there should be a lot of consideration in which items you use.

The largest item will be the tent. I really like the Eureka brand of tents. There are several reasons for this; size, cost and weight. I have spent a lot of time balancing these all out in my system.

20160311_142807

My main tent when bikepacking is the Eureka Spitfire Solo. It has a very roomy foot print for a solo tent. I am over six foot and can stretch out fully inside with room to fold my clothes at my feet and have my back pack above my head. There is also enough head space to sit up and change with out struggling. It is a two part body and fly system with a nice vent at the top of the rain fly. I have used this tent from 20 degrees up to 100. Condensation has yet to be a problem. The few times that water has built up on the inside of the rain fly, it wasn’t much at all, and it hasn’t dripped through the bug netting. The waterproofing is top notch as well. I have over 50 nights in this tent and the only time I have had a problem with water penetration is a recent cold weather trip and I hadn’t reapplied the water proofing that wears out every so often.  I even had a night in the mountains where I had to bring all of my gear into the tent, excluding my actual bike, due to rain rushing down off the mountain side and under the tent a few inches deep and everything remained perfectly dry.

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Numbers you want to hear about- Cost of the tent full price is $140 here. I replaced the steel tent stakes with aluminum ones  for under $15  and cut out a half pound of weight. This brings the tent down to 2.2 pounds.

Next up is my sleeping pad. I use a Nemo Ora 20R sleeping pad. Unfortunately, it looks like this model is no longer in production, but you can still find them around. This pad is rated down to 15 degrees. This is another item that I have over 50 nights of use on and have had no problems. It is dirty and stained but, there is not a single patch on it and it has never had a leak. I originally purchased a Big Agnes aircore pad that failed within the first few hours I slept on it. It was a freezing cold night with no ground insulation. I then got the Nemo with the consideration that if the pad were to lose air in the night, I would still have the insulation to keep me warm even if not fully comfortable.

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Numbers you want to hear- Cost of the pad full price was $80 last time I saw it on Amazon. It packs down to 5 inches by 7 inches and weights 1.25 pounds.

Last is my sleeping bag. I have a Montbell Thermal Sheet Burrow bag. This bag is rated for a comfort rating of 50 degrees. I have used it down to 20 while wearing dry fit shorts, my Northface Thermoball Jacket and wool socks. It is very comfortable between 40-50 degrees for me when used with the sleeping pad. The bag has a spiral cut design that allows you to roll over comfortably and then removes excess air by spiraling back close to your body. There is no hood on this bag to save weight and bulk. Every one has a hat with them when they camp and bike pack anyway, and this also keeps moisture from being trapped in the bag. Good news, if the bag gets soaking wet, it is synthetic and will retain almost all, if not 100%, of its warmth.

Numbers you want to hear- The full price cost of the bag is $109. It packs down to 5.5 inches by 11 inches and weights 1.25 pounds

This brings the total full price cost of my sleep system to $344. The sleeping pad can be found for $10-15 off almost everyday and you can find the tent for between $100 and $115 most day with one quick Google search. The sleeping bag I have never found on sale. If you shop around you can get the whole set up for under $300 shipped to your door.

The weight of the tent is 2.2 pounds with the aluminum stakes, the pad is 1.25 pounds, and the bag is another 1.25 pounds. Giving you a full tent, pad and bag, that weights under 5 pounds.

Bonus- It all fits in an 8 liter bag. I put it in a 12 liter for ease of packing.

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Additional note of interest- I do have a Borah Gear bivy sack coming which is the size of a softball and weights under 13 ounces. This will cut almost a pound and a half off my system. I will keep you updated on the system when it comes in.

Day 15- Tour Divide

Read Day 14

The morning is perfect. The sun is rising and slowly warming up the field I slept in, and the dew smells sweet. If my butt cheeks didn’t hurt so much I would think I died in my sleep. The sunrise is absolutely stunning. I am not quick to pack up and get going.  All of this has put me in a chill zen place, where everything is just flowing. As I get my gear together, I munch on some food and turn on some tunes. Nature calls and I walk out further into the tall grass and answer. Then it’s back onto the bike and get moving. As I roll out, I look out and see a nice looking lake, held in place by a large dam. The morning still feels pleasant.

Large lake on the Tour Divide

The houses are spectacular in this area too. I am zigzagging around the lake parking lot looking for the trailhead as it gets increasingly sunny. I need to get my sunglasses off of my helmet. Damn it.

Mike Kinney on the Tour Divide

Oh well, no sense taking yourself too seriously.

Then I discover that they’re missing. Gone. I’ll squint until I make it to the next gas station, I guess. The sun is getting hotter as I ride into town, and I’m glad I made it in time to get glasses before my eyeballs melt out of my head. I’m not particularly hungry for anything. I am eating but nothing is really good. I’m just sitting outside eating a couple cheeseburgers and wishing that I would have loaded more music on my phone. A few hundred songs is plenty when you have access to the radio and Pandora, but it doesn’t take long for those hundred to get repetitive when you listen to them on a loop. I decide to take a break from music for a bit.

Beautiful views on the Tour Divide

I head back out on the road and as I leave town and start climbing again, I start feeling lonely. I haven’t really seen anyone today. I haven’t really seen much of anything; there are beautiful mountains and wilderness but I think I’m starting to get a little jaded. Halfway up the ascent, I see a guy parking at a view point area. Since I’m lonely, I decide to stop and see what he’s looking at, hoping that he might talk to me. The view is just a big drop off, but the guy is pretty interesting. He is the supply truck for his wife and friends, who are are section riding the Continental Divide. Five years ago they started in New Mexico and they ride three weeks a year. We chat for a bit, but I’ve got to keep rolling. I head back on up the hill!

More Tour Divide Views

I pedal into the evening and grab a spot to call it a night. I’m not feeling incredibly enthused though…  guess I will wake up and ride tomorrow. I bet the leaders are done already. Shit.

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Montbell Versalite Rain Suit Review

I’ve been waiting to write a review of these until I used and abused them more thoroughly, but after the amazing performance of them in a recent rainstorm I cannot wait to tell you how awesome my Montbell Versalite Rain Suit performed.

Montbell Versalite Rain Suit

I caught the very beginning of a huge rain storm the other day and tossed these on. I biked the rest of the way comfortably. I really liked the feel of the pants. They fit nicely in the crotch and it didn’t feel like I had restricted leg movement or a diaper on. When I got to my destination, the sky unleashed the fury.

I stayed perfectly dry. For the next few hours I was in and out of the building carrying heavy bags. By the time that I got home a few hours later, the sweat from riding there had even dried.

I am very happy with this rain suit. The pants and jacket have a combined weight of 11 ounces and pack smaller than a Nalgene 1 liter bottle. The cost for the quality is very reasonable as well; it was $85 dollars cheaper than the Marmot Super Mica jacket that I had as my last ultralight.

versatile rain suit

I will keep you updated on the durability and longevity, but so far so good. You can check them out here- Jacket and Pants


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