Review: Kelty Ignite DriDown sleeping bag

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When you’re camping out in winter, your sleeping bag is one item you do not want to skimp on. The Ignite Dridown 0 bag makes use of Kelty‘s new DriDown coated down, which helps retains the fluffy features’ loft and warmth. While I certainly didn’t sleep out directly under the rain, I did get it plenty moist on some rainy nights to be convinced that DriDown works. Another bonus: if you’re on an extended journey, it also dries more quickly, which is essential when you have limited opportunities to dry your gear.

Read our review.

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A journey to the Conch Republic

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By now you’ve read all kinds of good advice in Bicycle Times on riding your bike through harsh winter conditions, but sometimes the best strategy to deal with it is to escape. I’m not ashamed to admit that during the second of… oh what, three? four?… polar vortices, or dips in the jet stream, or whatever ridiculous weather patterns we’ve had here in the Northeast, I escaped to sunny southern Florida, courtesy of the Adventure Cycling Association. It was the second of its three annual Florida Keys tours. And it was fabulous.

Read about the trip here.

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Review: Jeff Jones ATB

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Jeff Jones is something of a mad genius, putting his impassioned theories about the ultimate bike ride into practice with fantastically swooping custom built frames. We’ve been fans of his iconic Titanium Spaceframe mountain bike since riding one for our sister publication, Dirt Rag, six years ago. But as with most geniuses who are drawn to bicycles, Jones believes in sharing his discoveries as widely as possible, so he’s expanded his business beyond custom frames (for which there is a lengthy waiting list) and into factory-produced versions.

This “ATB” bike is so called because it’s intended for all terrain: city, path and mountain. It’s based on Jones’ steel Diamond frame, which started life as a mountain bike. However, with some parts-swapping, this “mountain” bike makes a good commuter or comfy long-distance touring bike as well, with far fewer compromises than your average knobby-tired steed trying to change its stripes. Jones is fond of saying that he only makes one bike—a “high-performance non-suspended bicycle”—that can be used for a variety of riding styles.

What’s the secret to this chameleon nature? It’s in the geometry. Jones frames have a more relaxed seat tube angle and shorter chainstays, putting the rider’s weight further back over the rear wheel. The bottom bracket is settled low between the wheels to add stability. Combined with the Jones Loop H-Bar, which places your hands at a relaxed angle, the resulting position is fairly upright, yet efficient in pedaling and confident in handling rough terrain. Add to that the frame’s huge tire clearance, and you have a bike that can attack just about any situation or riding surface.

Our model was built with the steel Jones Unicrown fork, which has a 135mm hub spacing (wider than the normal 100mm); this stiffens up the front end, particularly useful for loading front panniers. (It also means that you could fit a “fat” front rim and tire, up to 26×4.7, for off-road adventures.) The bike came with 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tires—Jones is a believer, along with Schwalbe, that bigger-volume tires are actually more efficient on the road due to less rolling resistance, as well as being safer and more comfortable. Tubus racks and Planet Bike fenders round out the build. Jones also sent a set of Ortlieb front and rear panniers and trunk bag, and a frame bag made by Revelate Designs, to provide plenty of options for bikepacking or touring.

A group of Bicycle Times staffers took turns riding the Jones in a variety of ways. (Another benefit of the geometry is that one available size easily accommodates a fairly wide range of heights.)

Read all of our thoughts about the bike here.

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Second World Cycle Race starts March 1

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There are a lot of races that bill themselves as the “toughest”, but none can hold a candle to the World Cycle Race, a wild ride around – you guessed it – the entire planet.

The 18,000-mile (or more) route is entirely up to the rider, and contestants can choose to ride east or west from the starting point in London. There are no stages or checkpoint. The route is entirely up to you. There will be a small ceremonial ride through London before racers toe the line for the official start at noon.

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While countless men and women have circled the Earth by bike and set numerous records along the way, the first mass-start World Cycle Race was held in 2012 with Englishman Mike Hall taking the win in 107 days, setting a record for unsupported circumnavigation. Only three of the nine starters completed the ride.

Brooks of England is hosting a pre-race celebration at its B1886 boutique in London tomorrow night, February 28, and a few racers, including Hall, will be on-hand to answer questions and inspire your own tour. There is a good chance several of the riders will be riding Brooks saddles, and the brand released a special edition World Cycle Traveler for the 2012 edition of the race.

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Want to get in on the action? The 2015 edition starts April 4, 2015. You can sign up now. Maybe I need to clear my calendar…

 

 

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Adventure Cycling releases maps for new 518-mile off-road route

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The Adventure Cycling Association has release a new two-map set that guides cyclists through the breathtaking landscape of central Idaho. Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route (IHSMBR) offers a spectacular 518-mile off-pavement route, offering four substantial singletrack options, and featuring access to more than 50 hot springs in the Gem State.

The route is the first from Adventure Cycling that includes backcountry singletrack options, said Cartographer Casey Greene. “It’s also something that our members have been asking for, and with the innovative new bikepacking gear and techniques that have surfaced over the past 10 years, it seemed like the perfect time to develop this kind of route,” Greene said.

Learn more and see map.

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‘Bike. Camp. Cook.’ serves up delicious recipies for the road

One my favorite things to do when long distance riding or bikepacking is consuming mass amounts of food. Tara Alan, author of “Bike. Camp. Cook” and I have this in common. While Tara and her husband spent two years traveling on bike from Scotland to Southeast Asia, she was determined to cook from scratch and she put all her tips, tricks and recipes into this book.

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My husband and I try our best to travel as light as possible. This means often sacrificing my husbands healthy, home cooked meals to eat from freeze dried packs, gel packets or gas station junk food. I was excited to get my hands on this book in hopes to school myself on a little from-scratch, camp cooking.

Keep reading.

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Love adventure? Apply to become a Blackburn Ranger

To paraphrase a famous Army cadence:

“I wanna be an Blackburn ranger / I wanna live the life of adventure”

Sponsorships for the non-racers out there can be rare. Blackburn is stepping up into that gap and offering support to the adventures out there with the Ranger brand ambassador program.

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The main criteria for Ranger-hood is a commitment to ride either the Pacific Coast bicycle route or the Great Divide mountain bike route. Of course, Rangers will be responsible to share their adventures via the various social media platforms. In return Blackburn will outfit Rangers with Blackburn gear (including prototypes!) and a small travel stipend to help defray the cost of your adventurous undertaking.

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Also in the perks category: Ranger Camp at the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Arizona, paid for by Blackburn. I don’t know about you, but I’d be down with missing out on some spring showers to hang out in Arizona April 25-27. The application process involves submitting a short essay, a few photographs and uploading a short video to YouTube. Best get busy!

Learn how to enter here.

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Excerpt: ‘Travel on Two Wheels’ by Jeff Commissaris

Jeff Commissaris is an author, musician and world traveler who has ridden his touring bike all over the world. He sent us this excerpt from his book “Travel on Two Wheels” documenting his adventures through the United States and Europe.

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I handed the officer my passport, where he took it back to the police car for computer examination. A few minutes later, the officers came back and they told me that I could not ride on the highway anymore and I had to take a detour. I would have not ridden on the road if it had not been the only choice available and the one that the nice Swedish couple had recommended to me. From head to toe, I was drenched with a thick rain.

“Where are you riding to?,” one of them asked.

“Paris,” I told him.

“Paris?!”

They pointed me to a trail just off the highway that seemed to just run around in circles. “You can ride there,” they told me. “This might take you to Paris.”

They handed me back my passport after making it clear that I couldn’t ride on this particular road anymore and drove off. An hour later, I realized that the trail was definitely not going to take me to Paris and I was more or less riding around in circles. Also, the weather situation showed no signs of turning for the better, still. The highway seemed like the only way to get there, but it wasn’t an option anymore.

I took shelter in an abandoned barn for a few minutes. There was a huge hole in the top of the roof, and all around me the skies were grey, lighting streaked in the distance.

An hour or so later, the sun finally decided to peak out fromt eh clouds a bit. I started riding through the farmland into the city area. The small villages in northern France were like ghost towns; I rode past empty parks and houses stood still with often times no trace of life whatsoever. It was like time was at a stand still. One could only assume that the people were indoors spending time with their families on this dreary Sunday day.

I stopped at a boulangeries (French pastry shop) and got some bread. I started talking to the store owner and he told me that he was also a lawyer but had opened the store so that he could “create jobs for his family.” After buying a few pieces of bread, he added a few extras and said,” These are for you my friend. I wish you safe travels and welcome to France!”

It wasn’t too long until I ran into a German guy who was bicycle touring for a week through the French country side. He was taking a week vacation off his job to fullfill his dream of cycling France. He was upbeat, and he spoke English well—much better than my lack of German. I made an executive decision and decided to purchase a train ticket to make it to Parist and bypass some of the bad weather.

So the German guy and I rode about five miles into the central area of Donkurque together, passing by parks and businesses that the locals would call “home.” That’s one of the great things about cycle touring—you can meet up with another bicyclist and immediately make a connection based on the simple passion of biking. We both enjoyed our ride together, and after the ride he headed off towards the direction of the campsite he was staying at that night.

I opted for the five-star stay underneath a bridge along the river. I woke up around nine o’ clock, bought some local food and was well on my way to Paris.

To read more, pick up a copy of Commissaris’ book, “Travel on Two Wheels” for only $6.99, and you can read more of his adventures on his blog.

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Bina’s Tour d’Afrique – Chapter 1, What to pack?

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By Bina Bilenky

By the time you read this my husband and I will be heading to Africa for the 2014 Tour d’Afrique. We will be staff members for the four-month, 7,500-mile cycling expedition that starts in Khartoum, Sudan, and wraps up in Cape Town, South Africa. There is a lot to do in preparation for the trip including ironing out the details for the fifth annual Philly Bike Expo at the end of 2014!

If you’re not familiar, the Tour d’Afrique is a test of mind, body and bike that winds its way through 10 countries along the Nile River, past ancient temples, across the Equator, past Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls and finally to Cape Town.

Read more about Bina’s preparations here…

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