ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
Here's a bit of info on the bike I rode on the Alaska trip a few weeks ago, along with a bit of gear talk for those that like to mentally tinker with their kit.
Preparing to depart the Clam Gulch campground on a beautiful morning. A bald eagle bid us farewell from a nearby pine which I took as a good omen.
As Jason mentioned in his post yesterday, we were each riding prototype Mukluks. He was on a prototype Mukluk Ti while I was on a prototype aluminum Mukluk. I'm not going to speak to all the differences between the frame I was riding and the production Mukluks but observant eyes will catch some things that I'm not going to call out or expound upon.
First, and probably the easiest thing to notice is that the prototype I was on had an anodized finish. In my mind, anodizing accomplishes three things. One, it provides a certain aesthetic that some prefer. Secondly, that aesthetic happens to be quite durable, though even anodizing will wear and can be gouged. Lastly, it removes weight (approximately a 1/4 pound compared to powdercoat paint). Yes, our 2012 Mukluk 2 will have a black anodized frame.
Post-beach ride beach ride to the most butt-kicking bakery in the world...Two Sisters, Homer, Alaska. Seriously, eat there.
Secondly, you'll notice a large gusset joining the headtube, toptube, and downtube. That gusset played an integral role in getting the 2012 Mukluk to pass EN testing as a mountain bike. In EN testing, which is very stringent, there are numerous categories of bikes, each with its own particular requirements. For example, road bikes, trekking or touring bikes, and mountain bikes each have their own standards. There is no fatbike standard currently. We are pleased to say that the 2012 Mukluks pass the EN mountain bike standards. Yes, that gusset appears on both the Mukluk 2 and 3 in 2012 and further legitimizes the 'second set of 29er wheels' concept for a Mukluk. One bike...with two sets of wheels...to rule all surfaces? Possibly.
Lastly, or at least the last item I will write about, is that the proto I was running has a chainstay-mounted rear brake. It is a bit harder to notice because I wasn't running a rear brake, and chose to use front only. My reasons for doing so are in alignment with Jason: There just isn't a reason to have two brakes on the beach, though I think one can be incredibly useful both riding and pushing a bike through big rocks...and the salt water and sand will destroy components fast than you can say 'Fatbikes make me happy'. The reason I chose to keep my front brake is that I'm running a 135mm rear hub with our 35mm Spacer Kit for use on the 170mm-spaced rear end. That Spacer Kit was designed for the brake to be positioned on the seatstay. While the brake caliper bolt holes and rear dropout all line up correctly, the slot in the spacer is moved to the wrong position, which means I currently have to remove my quick-release skewer completely to remove the rear wheel. Still works just fine, just upped the hassle factor so I decided the rear would be the brake to lose while on this trip. 2012 Mukluk 2 and 3 continue with a seatstay-mounted rear brake, not the chainstay-mount of this prototype.
Break time at Happy Valley. Looks like Pat wants an even fatter 26 x 12" tire!
On a side note, we did a 'dirt' ride enroute to meeting up with our beach ride posse on a trail called Resurrection Pass. We started out at the Coopers Landing trailhead and rode to Juneau Lake, where we had a snack, shot some photos, and celebrated our lot in life. That ride started with a nice climb. Well, any worries going up about descending it with one brake went out the window on the way down. Would I always run a fatbike with one brake? Heck no. But there is so much traction in the big tires that one brake can take remarkably good care of you if you don't ride like a knucklehead. More on that trail ride in a later post.
Jason and I paired up to share some gear on the trip. He's already mentioned the stove in his post, and he carried the fuel for that as well.
On the gear side of things I changed things up a bit on this trip. Last October in Alaska I ran a Minimalist Rack on my Mukluk (along with frame bag and seat bag) and it worked absolutely perfectly. This time I switched it up and used dang near the full Revelate Designs armory: Harness and Pocket instead of front rack, along with Frame bag, Gas Tank, and Seat bag. I'd actually say that both systems worked fine. The Minimalist Rack setup keeps the weight just a bit lower, but slightly more forward. Both were invisible while riding, meaning I never noticed a problem, or 'felt' them. Surprisingly, the Harness probably seemed less 'visible' when it came to picking a line and riding it. I'm not sure I'm explaining that too well. Bottom line: both systems worked.
Harness held an Outdoor Research dry bag that held a Marmot down sleeping bag and dry camp clothes, including a pullover insulation piece, baselayer top, hat, socks...and my rain pants. I decided to keep them dry once I saw that I'd be getting my nylon riding pants wet during the day on river crossings and such. Never needed the rain pants as we only had a few sprinkles and the nylon pants always dried fast enough that I just wore them the whole trip. I operate with the plan that the dry bag is never opened except when you reach camp.
A cacophony of colored synthetic fabric.
Pocket held odds and ends including headlamp, headnet, bug juice (I had no idea if would be necessary on this trip, at this time of year, and it wasn't but I'm glad I had it just in case), Aqua Mira water treatment drops, mountain money, wet wipes, lighter, matches, spoon, toothpaste, tooth brush, etc. Having a 'Pocket' is very handy, and I'd be hard pressed to find a reason not to use one. It just keeps stuff easily available.
The Pocket also sandwiched the tent pole and my rain jacket against the dry bag.
Gas Tank held everything to be eaten that day between breakfast and dinner. At times it also held my point and shoot camera, as the waterproof backpack I was wearing had no external pockets.
Frame bag held an old 1.5L MSR Alpine pot and lid with a spare Surly tube stored inside it while riding. I actually hadn't checked to see if I could get this pot into the frame bag on my medium Mukluk before the trip, but it went in just fine. Any bigger and I'd have needed to find a new place for it. We also weren't sure if we'd need to boil water for many others so brought that big 1.5L size pot. In the end, we could have just brought something much smaller like my MSR Titan Kettle and that's what I would (will?) do next time. The firepower of Jason's XGK stove was nice too, but an alcohol stove would have taken care of business just fine as well.
Frame bag also held a superlight Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which happens to be one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear. Disappears when scrunched up, but so useful for a bit of warmth and dries ridiculously fast. It is what to wear if the rain is going to pass quickly and the temps will allow you to dry out fast. Tools, including a mini pump, two tire levers, and a multi tool also went in (and stayed in!) the frame bag.
Seat bag held our shelter: a GoLite Shangri-La 3. They call it a 'Flysheet'. I call it a floorless pyramid tent. I'd also call it a 2-person shelter, not a 3-person. Floorless tents can be fantastic things. If you haven't tried one, I'd encourage you to do so. They are lightweight, easy to set up, and can be quite protective and stable. Here in Minnesota we almost always have stakeable ground. We used stakes for set up in the campground before starting the beach ride, but once on the beach used some superlight stuff sacks I'd brought along. We'd fill them with rocks, of which there was no shortage, and it was quick work to set up on non-stakeable ground. Driftwood pieces put through the stake tie-down webbing, and then weighted with sand and rocks was another workable solution, though not as 'elegant'.
Not a bad place to call home for the night.
Seat bag also held those stuff sacks, a PAC Outdoors non-insulated sleeping pad, and piece of plastic for a ground cloth.
Two Anything Cages on the fork legs held Nalgene bottles inside Granite Gear Aquatherm bottle holders. While these are insulators that wasn't the point here. Rather, they were just bottle keepers that make it easy to have the bottle holder tight to the Anything Cage, and allow you to slip out the bottle only when you want to take a drink without having to mess with loosening and then re-tightening straps, etc. One other nice thing about the Aquatherm bottle holders is that they don't use zippers. That means less to go wrong, especially in gritty sand and sea water.
I did use a backpack on the trip for carrying camera gear and food. That PAC Outdoor Rejkayavic backpack is lightweight, pretty minimal, and 'waterproof'. It wouldn't keep your stuff dry if you submerged it for a long time as it uses a zipper for closure and has a hydration port, but I'm convinced it will fend off any rainstorm. I placed my food stores on the bottom of the pack in a plastic bag, then set my camera gear on top of it to elevate it in case any water would find its way into the bag. Camera-wise, the backpack carried a Nikon D90 with three lenses: 20-35mm, 28-105mm, and an old, beat down 200mm that may soon become a paperweight. It also held extra memory cards and batteries for that system and a Panasonic Lumix LX3 point and shoot. It also had a bear bell attached that was useful on the trail ride we did.
My on-the-body-gear was pretty darn simple. Nylon pants over bib shorts, a wool short sleeve base layer with long sleeve synthetic zip-tee over that, lightweight wool socks that were long enough that I could tuck my pants in, some Keen Voyageur mid-top boots that have mesh vent/drainage holes and dry reasonably fast, and a fine cap that I purchased at a lunch stop on day one to try avoid sunburn.
There really isn't a whole lot I would do differently the next time. Perhaps I wouldn't bring the tent pole as I suspect a beach search of a mile or less would probably always yield a suitable driftwood pole, but it was plenty convenient to just pull it off the bike and set up. As mentioned above, I'd bring the smaller cook pot and an alcohol stove, though my thoughts on that could be different had it been 35-degrees and rainy the whole time. I'll have bear spray with me next time in Alaska. We didn't see any while riding, but I got closer than I'd liked to one on a day hike and frankly, I heard enough bear stories sitting around the campfire to make me want to carry it in Alaska. And I am going to attach some lightweight guy lines to the shelter. I've always been a bit lazy in that regard, but they could have helped knock down some flapping from the onshore breeze at night...
Good morning Alaska.
...not that I had a hard time sleeping listening to the ocean, and breathing that good fresh sea air.
Hope this info has been of some help to you. Happy to answer any questions you might have.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.