Field Tested: Paul Components 25th Anniversary quick release skewers

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Just like an inner tube, the lowly quick-release skewer doesn’t get much credit for contributing to a bike’s performance. I like to think of them as the all-important rhythm section, like the bass player and drummer, doing their duty while the lead singer and guitarist get all the attention.

In 1989—the year our sister publication Dirt Rag was launched—Paul Price sold his first product, a seatpost quick release mechanism, followed by quick release skewers for wheels. Hubs, brakes, cranks and other Paul components followed, and Price decided a QR facelift was overdue for 2014, so he went back to the drawing board and fired up the CNC machines in Chico.

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The main job of a proper skewer is to provide ease of tightening and loosening front and rear wheels, but provide ample bite so as not to loosen while pedaling. The 25th Anniversary cam-action skewers have orange 7075 anodized aluminum oval heads, stainless steel shafts, with stainless steel and aluminum handles with just the right amount of curve to make it easy on the palm of your hands to press against the fork blade or rear triangle. I especially like the orange O-ring on the nuts, which look cool and make it easy to hold in place when tightening or loosening. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Sizes available 100mm (standard front), 130/135mm, 170 and 190mm. Reported weights are 50g, 63g, 68g and 72g, respectively. Available in silver or black for $50 per wheel.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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Field Tested: Big Agnes Pitchpine SL and Air Core SL

I’ve known about the Big Agnes sleep system for years, but never had a chance to try it until we received this ultralight sleeping bag and pad. The key to the system is a sleeve on the back of the sleeping bag that slides over the pad. A thin strap goes around the bottom of the pad to keep everything in place while allowing for plenty of leg movement.

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Pitchpine SL 45 – $350

There are plenty of down sleeping bags on the market, but setting the Pitchpine apart is the Downtek water-resistant down insulation. Down is an amazing insulator, until it gets wet, and once wet it takes forever to dry. Downtek is a treatment that claims to repel water, absorb less water when wet, dry 60 percent faster and retain more heat when wet than untreated down.

Combine the treated down with a water-repellent, ripstop nylon shell and you get all of the positive aspects of down with much less worry about getting it wet and spending a cold night in the woods.

The Pitchpine is roomy enough for me to turn over inside without issue, but I do push the limits of the regular bag’s length, but that is my own fault, as looking at the sizing chart would have put me in a long if I was paying attention. The 5’10” max height recommendation is spot on.

In the name of weight savings, the Pitchpine has no hood, but there is still a drawstring and draft collar to prevent drafts. A nylon sleeve is provided for a pillow or rolled up jacket, and fabric loops inside keep a liner (sold separately) in place. The sleeping pad sleeve on the back can accommodate any 20-inch wide pad, from any manufacturer, so if you have something you like already, no need to upgrade.

Air Core SL – $100

The Air Core comes in both rectangular and tapered mummy shapes. I tested the regular length rectangular pad, and the extra leg support might be enough to keep away from mummy pads forever. Instead of the more typical long baffles, the Air Core uses a diagonal I-beam construction, which seems more supportive for me. This also makes the pad easier to deflate completely on the first try.

While this rolls up very small, once inflated it’s really quite thick, and my first night on it was one of the best I’ve had in the woods. While the sleeping pad is very comfortable, I’m sure the fact that the bag was attached and I couldn’t fall off in the middle of the night had a lot to do with it as well.

While expensive, there is no denying a 18 ounce sleeping bag that packs down small, resists wetness, and keeps you warm is worth spending some money on. Combine that with a sleeping pad that weighs the same and provides an excellent nights sleep, and I call this a winning combo for riders looking for a comfortable nights sleep while ultralight bikepacking.

For 2015, the Air Core SL is gone from the Big Agnes catalog, but is replaced by the similar Green Ridge pad, which is claimed to weigh the same, while being about $20 or so less expensive.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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Field Tested: Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion seatbag

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The $175 Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion seat bag system blends the stability of traditional rack and the low profile of a frameless bikepacking seat bag. The system has two parts: a bag, and a super simple rack. The rack—which is covered in a fabric harness and attaches to the seatpost by a custom machined aluminum collar—functions like the internal frame of a hiking pack. The bag has a roll-top closure and one piece of Velcro to hold it tight against the seat post. Two compression straps run from the rack harness to the saddle rails, and one hugs the rear of the bag.

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This configuration makes it easy to loosen the straps and pull the bag out of the rack when packing it up, which is super handy. Other seat bag designs have to be loaded while they’re on the bike, which inevitably leads to a bad packing job, and a fight to keep the bike from falling over. Unlike a traditional rear rack, the Mr. Fusion keeps the great mud clearance of a seat bag, and doesn’t get in the way when hiking the bike. The 13-liter bag is big enough for a puffy coat, sweater, change of clothes, and about two days worth of food.

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Since the rack is solidly bolted to the seat post, there’s absolutely no movement in the system. On the fast chunky trails in the Western Colorado desert, Mr. Fusion’s stability was seriously impressive, which allowed me to focus on riding instead of worrying about losing all my junk. On rough ground even with the best buckles, rack-less bags eventually work their way loose, and start banging the rear tire or swinging into the rider’s legs. Mr. Fusion stayed as still and quiet as a heavily medicated fourth-grader.

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The only downside to this 448-gram configuration is that each time the Mr. Fusion is installed or removed, the seat post has to be pulled. So for riders who mostly throw their big seat bag on for a quick beer run, a rack-less design is probably still the best choice. But for bikepacking on singletrack or rough dirt road, the extra stability is worth a couple extra seconds on the install.

All the fabric parts of Mr. Fusion are stitched together by Scott Felter in Calgary, Alberta. The steel rack is fabricated by custom frame builder Rick Hunter in California. The system requires six inches of exposed seat post and seven and a half inches of clearance from seat rails to tire, so small riders on 29ers may not have enough room for Mr. Fusion. A smaller version for those riders is in the works, and should be available soon.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

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Field Tested: Klymit Inertia X-Wave sleeping pad

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Klymit is a fairly new player in the outdoor goods market, specializing in inflatable products like sleeping pads, rafts and some lightweight packs. The $75 Inertial X-Wave pad is one of its smallest and lightest sleeping pads, inflated with good-old-fashioned air, and perfect for saving weight and space when traveling by bike.

Designed for three-season use, its three-quarter length saves weight by not extending to your feet, something I never considered necessary anyway. It inflates incredibly quickly with just a handful of breaths or the included squeezy inflator. Klymit’s body mapping design means that whether you sleep on your back or your side, the pressure points you exert on the pad are distributed evenly, minimizing that waterbed effect on traditional designs.

Because your body compresses the underside of a sleeping bag, the squished insulation doesn’t work well at doing its job of keeping you warm. The cutouts you see are the loft pockets, which allow those portions of your sleeping bag to remain poofy and insulate you from the cold ground. Some of Klymit’s other pads have even more aggressive cutouts. It looks crazy but it works.

Because the Inertia X-Wave is a thin and lightweight pad, the benefits of these technologies might not be as evident as on Klymit’s larger pads. It’s plenty comfortable for a good night’s sleep but it can’t match the comfort of larger pads, so if your trip is more than a few days you might want to accept some extra weight for something thicker.

For short or fast trips however, the X-Wave is ideal. The fact that it weighs only 347 grams, including its stuff sack, and packs down to the size of a beer can make it that much more desirable for bikepacking. Best of all, the price was recently lowered from $99 to $75.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure. 

 

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Field Tested: Magellan Cyclo 505hc GPS

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Bicycles and technology are becoming ever more intertwined, and Magellan is the latest brand to take on the Garmin juggernaut with a line of GPS units designed specifically for cycling. The 505 is a small, USB-rechargeable unit that offers pretty much every form of telemetry that you could want from a cycling computer, and maybe even more.

It starts with a 3-inch color touchscreen and simple menus that are easy to navigate. Unfortunately, like many touchscreen devices, it works ok with some gloves and not at all with others, and can be difficult to operate in the rain. The screen is always easy to read, with a backlight that can be adjusted to stay on all the time or automatically dim after a set time to save the battery. With it dimmed you can still read it in sunlight. There is one traditional button that functions as the on/off button and the “back” button in the menus.

Keeping the screen lit is a good way to drain the battery, so I have been using it with a dimmer set to 15 seconds. It is still legible, just a lot less bright, sort of like an iPhone. With this setup I’ve been able to get 4-5 hours out of a single USB charge, even with the navigation running.

With an included USA base map and crowd-sourced data from OpenStreetMap there is plenty of data for route finding. There are countless points of interest included, so you can always find your way to the nearest gas station, restaurant or hospital. It’s no Google though, so there’s no guarantee your favorite pub will be included.

One interesting feature is the Surprise Me! function, whereby you set a distance or time to ride and it will calculate three loop route options to pick from. It can do the same for one-way trips to a set destination. Looking for a new route home from work? This is the feature you’ll want to experiment with.

What I really enjoyed the most was the turn-by-turn navigation feature. It will plot a course from your current location to an address, point of interest or just a point on the map in only a few seconds. You can also upload a GPX track and it will prompt you with turns as you go on a clear, easy-to-read map.

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This is the “killer app” feature that I love about GPS devices and the Cyclo 505 does it very well. You can set it to prompt you with a distance to the next turn, time to the next turn, a map of the next turn and even an audible notice. Sometimes the unit can get confused though, for example when you start a ride to follow a track but you aren’t actually on it yet, it can get a little backed up as it tries to route you while you’re moving. It’s not nearly as fast at re-routing as something like the Google Maps on your smartphone.

While you’re riding the Cyclo 505 can track and display a dizzying amount of data, including info from a Shimano Di2 drivetrain via Shimano’s D-Fly transmitter, cadence info from Trek’s DuoTap sensor, and data from hundreds of other devices via ANT+, including power data. The standard Magellan Cyclo 505 is compatible with all of them, but the Cyclo 505hc we tested ships with a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor.

All of this data can be displayed in a series of “home” screens that are customizable. For example, I set one screen with a map and navigation info, one with the basics like time and distance, and a third with more detailed data like total feet of climbing, sunset time, even temperature. You can choose one to eight data points per screen, so prepare yourself to invest a few hours setting up your personalized dashboard.

Naturally it also records your ride, including all that data, and can upload it to your computer or Magellan’s own Cyclo website (magellancyclo.com) that can sync with Strava. It even works with Macs. The website works well enough, but I found it easiest to just plug the unit into my computer via USB to upload gpx tracks to the unit and download rides I had completed.

The Cyclo 505 ships with a few handlebar or stem mounts affixed by cable ties for different diameters, as well as the Out-Front mount that goes on 31.8 handlebars and can be positioned in front of the stem or back over the stem. It retails for $429, and the Cyclo 505hc is $499. As such it slots in between the Garmin Edge 810 and Edge 1000, with nearly all of the same features, including the same screen size as the larger Garmin. There is also a Cyclo 315 and 315hc series that forgoes the power meter data compatibility.

We haven’t tested the Garmin products extensively so I can’t make a recommendation on one versus the other, but the Magellan Cyclo 505 is an excellent piece of technology that can really expand your riding and potentially save your bacon if you get lost.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

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Field Tested: Rivendell Hunqapillar

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Rivendell Bicycle Works has been keeping steel real since 1994. It’s not about nostalgia or retrogrouchiness, but a true belief in the benefits and beauty of lugged steel and quality, sustainable component choices. This comes not just from appreciating the fine lugs and paint, but in knowing that your frame—and its components—will remain serviceable and repairable for many years.

Rivendell is also about fit, comfortable fit; with a more upright position than your average racer-shaped bike, but also with varying wheel sizes to better fit the full variety of humans.

Rivendell’s range starts with the road-only Roadeo and progresses through the line—each bike with a bit stronger tubing, more tire clearance and thus becoming more dirt-worthy, until you arrive at the Hunqapillar, the strongest and most fat-tire worthy of the gang. All Rivendells include braze-ons for maximum versatility, and the Hunq has three bottle mounts, front and rear rack, fender and fork low-rider braze-ons. There’s even a pump peg under the top tube, plus a kickstand plate on the chainstays for extra stability when parked.

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My interest in this bike sprung from over a decade of riding my Rivendell Atlantis, a bike that has seen many a week-long tour and quite a bit of dirt. But I have become interested in something even more robust. That thought process pointed me to the Hunqapillar with its Diagatube, that extra tube you see in the photos. It adds strength and stiffness to the 58 and 62cm frames. Plus, for lug counters there are two more than any bike without a Diagatube. That’s two more lugs that Rivendell had to invest in castings for, and two more you get to look at.

Parts

The stock Rivendell component kit is based on functionality, serviceability, and longevity, with less emphasis on gram-counting. Highlighting this is a selection of parts from Nitto of Japan. Granted, handlebars, stems and seatposts are not usually singled out like this, but Nitto offers many bar and stems that provide a wide range of fit with top-notch finish, a pleasure to behold for many years.

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For drivetrain, Rivendell prefers mid-range Shimano stuff. Deore rear derailleur, Claris front, and Dura-Ace for the bar-end shifters. Let’s not spend too much time and money whittling the gram count, but instead pay attention to functional, long-lasting stuff. The cranks are from Sugino of Japan, another forged beauty fitting right in with the Nitto stuff.

Wheel-wise, Rivendell has been working with with Velocity USA and is now offering their 36-hole Sport hubs laced three cross to Dyad or (Rivendell designed) Atlas rims, topped with Schwalbe’s Marathon 700×50 tires, although I got the 50mm Big Bens as an upgrade.

For handlebars, I selected the Nitto Bullmoose Bosco with cork grips. The bullmoose style has been around since the early 1980s, and I was ripe to try them. I chose Paul Thumbies for old-school mountain bike-style shifting. 

Riding shakedown

Two thoughts came to mind on my first shakedown ride. First, “finally a bike that fits”. My 60 cm Atlantis was purchased a decade ago when I was only a mountain biker. I had thought the bike would be easier to handle on trails. True, but getting on this 62 cm Hunq has been a real eye-opener, giving me more space and opening my chest up for better breathing, especially when climbing.

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But while totally in love with the Bosco handlebars we had originally picked, I took the liberty of switching them out for Albatross bars from my Atlantis to get my position a little more forward. For touring the Albatross bars can’t be beat, as they provide a wide range of hand positions. Most of the time I ride pretty upright, but it’s easy to slide the hands forward for stand-up climbing. If only they had a little less sweep, but Nitto is unable to bend their bars in the way I’d ultimately want them.

More Mods

My first voyage was a weekend camping trip, so I installed a Pass and Stow platform rack on the front and a Bruce Gordon on the rear. Both are made in California: one in Oakland, the other in Petaluma. Two great locally made racks, baby.

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My first major ride was down a local San Francisco Bay path for a weekend of camping, which was mostly flat so I didn’t concern myself with how much I was carrying: four panniers, plus a bag on top of the Pass and Stow, due to large amounts of beverages and musical instruments. And a kite. The Hunq handled this well as I pushed it to its limits. Super solid, but not quite as stiff as a Surly Karate Monkey with its much larger down tube and smaller triangle.

In daily use with varying loads the Hunq was bulletproof. I would sneer at railroad ballast, curbs, drops, and most everything else. Its versatility is enhanced by the many positions of the Albatross bar, from weight-forward climbing to upright cruising.

My final test ride was on Groundhog Day, a 14-hour day including 40 miles of pave and 20 miles of dirt, some of the rutty, fire road variety found in the Marin headlands. This is where the touring and mountain bike personalities of the bike came to fruition. I had plenty of gears and traction on the way up the hills, and strength and stability and fat tires to conquer the ruts at speed on the way down. I did hanker for disk brakes on a couple of steep technical occasions, but I’m happy with the Shimano cantilevers 90 percent of the time.

The $2,000 frameset is made in Wisconsin, and includes frame, fork and FSA headset. You can get a standard build kit for an additional $1,350, sans pedals, seatpost and saddle. Mix and match as you wish from Rivendell component choices; look to spend between $3,600 and $4,600 on a complete Hunqapillar. Lead time is typically four months, but at any given time Rivendell may have your bike in stock. A huge bonus is that your bike will be lovingly built by the folks at the home office in Walnut Creek, California (well worth a visit if you’re in the ‘hood).

Carrying things has become very important to me, as well as a solid ride. And I want to run as fat a tire as possible, with or with out fenders. I want to hit the dirt. I want to tour. The Hunqapillar does it all quite well. It looks great while doing it. It attracts attention as well. And yes it is more of an investment than your average bike. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you wanted an average bike.

Key stats

  • Price: $2,000 (frame, fork, headset); $3,600 and up (complete)
  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 58, 62cm (tested)

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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Riding After Midnight

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Words: Jonathan Wolan. Illustrations: Stephen Haynes

When my buddy, Alex, first conjured up the idea of organizing a night ride during the last full moon of summer, I was a bit skeptical to say the least. Bikes and darkness don’t typically play well together, especially on our narrow New England roads. Road riding during the day can present enough challenges without the added danger of low visibility. So I mulled the idea over for a couple of weeks, but eventually let my sense of adventure get the best of me.

Luckily, Alex’s top priority was safety. To my surprise, he had several different lights for the occasion. When I got to his house at the early hour of 10 p.m., he and Paul were already adjusting their headlamps underneath their helmets. After a few minutes of fine-tuning and, more importantly, getting the smoker fired up for Alex’s famous wings, we rolled out toward the local state forest.

Despite our array of lights, it was the natural moonlight that did most of the heavy lifting. Without a cloud in the sky, the late summer moon provided an astonishing amount of visibility, especially as we moved further away from the glow of the town.

While there are myriad bike-specific headlights on the market, I was surprised at how effective our general purpose headlamps worked. These devices are no different than any headlamp available at Home Depot or Ace Hardware. I’m sure in more technical applications a bike-specific lighting system would be warranted, but our all-purpose utility headlamps did a tremendous job of guiding us safely on our trip.

We also fastened some basic blinkys to our seat posts that boasted a less-than-generic laser guide. The lasers projected a thin red line to the left and right of the bike—effectively creating a mobile bike lane. Several manufacturers have since jumped on this concept, making them widely available. Although we ended up passing only a few cars (at 10 p.m. on a Thursday), I’m certain the blinkys helped tremendously. Just from listening, I could tell that cars were slowing down upon seeing our lights.

Despite our array of lights, it was the natural moonlight that did most of the heavy lifting. Without a cloud in the sky, the late summer moon provided an astonishing amount of visibility, especially as we moved further away from the glow of the town. To see our typical road route illuminated by the moon was incredible. The familiar turned strange as we set out on our journey.

We lit our way down country roads toward Myles Standish State Forest, which is one of the largest conservation areas in Massachusetts. This park features miles of paved roads weaving in and out of cathedral pines, cranberry bogs and kettle ponds. In addition, there are dozens of fire roads and dirt tracks arranged in a grid throughout the forest. The majority of these roads, especially at night, are car free. It was the perfect spot for our nocturnal jaunt. In addition to being quite safe, the scenery was incredible. We climbed and descended through the hills, seemingly boundless in the night air. Silhouettes of pines stood perfectly still in the motionless night air.

From the start, the moonlight seemed to work some sort of magic on our pace. Without a spec of wind, our pedal strokes garnered instant acceleration. We periodically turned our lamps off and relished the absolute darkness while coasting along. As we got further away from town and lights, the views got better and better. Every pond we passed was a shining mirror casting the moon’s light back to the sky. Every tree stood steadfast with not a single branch moving. The whole forest seemed peacefully at rest.

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Of course, my camera was useless in trying to capture the incredible scenery. Each click only produced a black square. Even when I tried to capture the bright moon, the results were poor at best. While I wasn’t exactly surprised, I was at first disappointed and then relieved. Was the point of this ride to take pictures? Maybe the real value of night riding is to see things from a different perspective. We had been riding this route all summer, but usually on Sunday mornings. Yet, now, everything looked completely different basking in moonlight.

After riding a few laps around some of the major ponds in the forest, we hungrily headed back toward Alex’s place. We wended past horse farms and barns. Then, at roughly 1a.m., a dense mist descended just above the bogs. I had never experienced anything quite like it before. It was a surreal moment, to say the least. Even now, months later, I can’t seem to justly describe the scene.

At the end of the night as I collected my thoughts, I couldn’t believe I almost passed on the ride. I also realized that preparedness can reduce the risk of any ride, during the night or day. The lights Alex had were perfect and still get used on occasion. Riding at night can be safe if the proper planning and safety precautions are taken, just like any other ride. As cyclists, it’s the new and unfamiliar that keeps us going. In light and darkness, we seek the wonder of the world around us.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.

 

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Field Tested: Paul Components Gino light mount

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You’ve either taken up most of your handlebar real estate with a GPS, smartphone, or bell, or you’re the type who prefers an uncluttered cockpit. But, you ride plenty when the sun goes down or hasn’t risen yet, and understand the need for proper lighting. If your favorite bike has M5 threaded fork dropout eyelets, mid-fork braze-ons, and/or seatstay rack mounts or rear dropout eyelets, the Paul Components Gino Light Mount is just the ticket.

Made in Chico, California of anodized 6061 aluminum, the 30-gram, 26mm-diameter light mount installs quickly and easily with a threaded bolt, providing a nice attachment point to your battery-operated headlight. Like a car, you benefit from a beam cast at a shallower angle, revealing the true nature of what lies ahead as you pedal to your next destination. You can also attach another one of these $24 gems—which come in silver or black—on the rear of your bike to use your red battery-powered lights.

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You may have to replace your provided bolt for a longer one if you’re adding the Gino to an eyelet already occupied by a fender or rack stay, like I did on my wife’s daily commuter bike. She noticed the improved low lighting immediately. Some baskets (like the Portland Design Works’ TakeOut) have braze-ons for the Gino, something to consider if your fork or frame lacks proper fittings.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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Field Tested: Jamis Renegade Elite

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“Adventure” is all the rage these days, but the scope definition and scope of these adventures varies greatly from source to source. In this case, Jamis defines adventure with a heavy dose of performance and a side of versatility for their new go-anywhere, do-anything road bike.

The highly engineered Renegade joins a stable of staid and stalwart steel touring bikes in Jamis’ line of adventure bikes. Two Renegade models are available, the Elite reviewed here and a less expensive Expert for $2,399. Both models utilize carbon fiber frames, a slightly lighter high-modulus carbon for the Elite and a mid-modulus carbon for the Expert that saves dollars at the expense of a few grams.

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For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Renegade is Jamis’ approach to geometry. Jamis strives to provide consistent handling across all bike sizes, which is no short order for six different frame sizes ranging from 48 to 61. To accomplish this, Jamis produces forks with three different offset measurements and frames with three different chainstay lengths. As frame size increases, head tube angles steepen and fork offset decreases. Similarly, chainstay length grows with frame size too. This approach is admirable considering the added tooling cost of creating additional molds for two forks.

Another interesting frame feature is the 15 mm RockShox Maxle thru axle up front. The 15 mm thru axle has become standard in the mountain bike world, and is steadily working its way over to the road market due to the inherent stiffness and safety of the system. According to Jamis, the torsional stiffness of the thru axle allows them to engineer more vertical compliance into the fork.

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Also noteworthy are the hidden mounts for rack and fender eyelets. These eyelets thread into the bottom of the fork leg and the end of the chainstay. Additionally, a mount on the seatstay bridge accommodates a rear rack, but your rack and fender will have to share the single seatstay mount. The chainstay-mounted brake caliper greatly simplifies mounting these accessories. Attaching a front fender isn’t quite as simple as the eyelets are a bit further forward than most. The fenders I installed required quite a bit of modification and even then weren’t quite 100 percent. Best to plan on custom fabricating a fender stay that can reach down under the brake caliper and dropout then back up to the eyelet.

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I’ve been looking forward to sampling the latest crop of hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars, and dang, these Shimano units have far exceeded my expectations. The light and silky lever throw ramps up to firm lever feel that provides incredible stopping power when desired as well as the subtlest trail braking through a corner. I’m accustomed to using at least two, sometimes three fingers, when braking on modern cantilever and caliper brakes, but one finger is all that’s needed with these brakes. Every stop sign is an invitation to ride a big, long nose wheelie. I can’t say it enough, these brakes work awesome and inspire incredible confidence.

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Likewise, the Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain has been flawless. Shifts are smooth, crisp and authoritative, never missing a beat. For the Renegade’s intended use, the compact 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette provide a reasonably wide range of gearing. There’s plenty of top-end out on the road and enough low gearing for all but steep, technical off-road climbs.

One noticeable difference between the hydraulic and cable actuated STI levers are the length of the hoods. In order to house the hydraulic master cylinder, the hood is substantially longer. This certainly isn’t a bad thing as it gives you more room to move around on the bike.

Ride quality

Right out of the gate the Renegade’s personality is best described as spirited and eager. Thanks to the bike’s svelte weight, it leaps forward when you jump on the pedals, with not a hint of flex at the bottom bracket. Just look at that burly bottom bracket junction if you have any doubts.

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But, it’s not all about stiffness. Those dainty seatstays are shaped to take the edge off of impacts. Additionally, Jamis’ fork design incorporates some vertical compliance. Both of these measures were very noticeable on the road, particularly when paired with the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon fiber. The ride is smooth and fluid, with much of the high frequency road vibration damped out. On rougher, off-road surfaces, the Renegade does an excellent job of taking the edge off of bumpy terrain.

The Renegade’s handling is equally quick thanks to pretty aggressive geometry. Fork offset varies with frame size, but the 53 mm of offset on my test bike is more than average when paired with the 71.5-degree headtube angle. This translates to a very quick-steering bike that changes direction via subtle counter-steering pressure at the bars. This quick-handling nature feels incredible when you’re on you game and really attacking, but it also commands a certain amount of attention at all times.

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Of course, good tires with appropriate volume also help smooth out rough terrain. The stock 700 x 35 mm Clement X’Plor USH tires offer great comfort and versatility. These tires roll well on the road thanks to the siped center tread, and provide decent traction off-road thanks to the side knobs. All in, it’s a wonderful tire for gravel road adventuring. For rougher terrain, the Renegade will fit a 40 mm tire without fenders. It’s also worth noting the American Classic Argent wheelset is tubeless compatible.

Parting thoughts

The Renegade is a very enticing offering for those looking for an adventurous road bike that also offers a lot of versatility. It’s easy to imagine riding this bike to work during the week with a rear rack and fenders, then pulling off those bits and racing a gravel grinder on the weekend.

With a set of road tires, the Renegade does a pretty damn good impersonation of a road bike, too. I can easily see this being someone’s only road bike. With two sets of wheels you could quickly swap back and forth between hammering road group rides and weekend adventures on remote dirt roads.

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Bottom line; the Renegade is no one-trick pony. There’s a lot to like about this package if you’re looking for a capable and versatile performance machine.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $4,199
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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Letter From My Old Bike

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By Carole Trottere

Who knew that buying a new bicycle after 20 years could be so emotional? But it is. I feel like a married person who just told her spouse that I’m trading him in for a newer, younger model. I’m torn, yet I know it’s time. My original Cannondale R300, also known as The Green Hornet, is a part of me and a part of my history. As I effortlessly lifted my new Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105 5 onto the roof rack the other day, I imagined what my old bike might be thinking:

Dear Carole,

Who’s the Wicked City Woman on the roof? I need my Oakleys because she sure is new and shiny. What color is that? Looks like gloss jet black and berserker green. She certainly takes your breath away, doesn’t she? That bitch; I hate her.

Sure, my color was probably discontinued years ago and I’ve got some rust here and there. Who doesn’t get old after 20 years of use? You think you look the same as you did in 1994? Ha! You forget the view I have of your butt. Believe me, it ain’t the same. But okay, I understand that you felt the need for a new bike. Heck, I can honestly say you deserve it. But it hurts. I hope you’re not intending to put that new Cannondale right next to me in the garage, with her Shimano 105 5800 gear set. How would you feel standing next to a 30-year-old woman in a bikini? Exactly. Don’t rub it in my face. I’m aluminum. She’s carbon.

Boy, we sure did have some wonderful times together though, didn’t we? It would be hard to pick just one to reminisce about. Remember when we first rode together, and you clipped into the pedals for the first time and fell over at stop sign? You were such an idiot. But you learned. Then you did your first century with me in 1999. I got a flat in the last 10 miles, but I was just testing you to see if you had what it takes and you finished.

And who can forget that fateful Easter Sunday morning when that new guy in the pace line went down in front of us? You went flying over my handlebars and fell hard on your shoulder.

I’ll never forget the time in 2001 when you shipped me from South Carolina to New Hampshire for that three-day tour. The second day we went 120 miles together and when we climbed the Middlebury mountain pass in Vermont, you and your friend Lynn sang songs from every TV show that you could remember. I should have given you another flat that day because the singing was unbearable. You got dehydrated at the end and had terrible stomach cramps! That was the farthest we ever rode in one day. You won’t have memories like that with your new Cannondale, because don’t forget, you’re 20 years older now!

Remember the ride across North Carolina you did with your three friends? I broke down one day and some bike mechanic held me together with chicken wire until you got back to camp. I was repaired and ready to go the next morning. If only you had picked boyfriends as reliable and resilient as me.

I know sometimes when you did those supported rides and saw all the other cool bikes that you felt a little inferior. You wished for a lighter bike; a more colorful frame; better gears, didn’t you? You were like Cinderella waiting for your pumpkin to turn into a coach, but it didn’t. I was always just a reliable, aluminum frame Cannondale that never let you down. I’m the indomitable Green Hornet! I’ve braved the wind and rain on your car roof, crossed the Long Island Sound on the ferry dozens of times and taken you along Old Montauk Highway and the North Fork of Long Island, passed wineries and lavender farms and up and down those killer hills in New Hampshire. I spent two years in South Carolina Low Country with you too, when you finally learned to actually RIDE me properly, thanks to your biking buddies who taught you how to shift gears and ride in a pace line. We pedaled past swamps and road kill, bob cats and hostile red necks who hit you in the head with Coke cans, but eeeh ha! What a time we had!

And who can forget that fateful Easter Sunday morning when that new guy in the pace line went down in front of us? You went flying over my handlebars and fell hard on your shoulder. I broke one of my wheels and scrapped my handlebars and brakes (which you never fixed and I had to be scarred for the rest of my life), and then you replaced the wheel with one that didn’t even match! Did I complain? No. In fact, we were more bonded together than ever after that spill. You still have the scar on your elbow and let’s face it, you were never really right in the head after that fall. Most of your friends are too kind to say anything about that. But I mention it in passing.

But now, in 2015, we have so much in common. I’m rusted in places, you’re rusted in places. Not all my parts are the ones I came with, and let’s face it: your parts aren’t looking pristine either. You’ve gained some weight since 1994. My aluminum frame, which you claimed was ‘so heavy’, hasn’t changed since then. Who’s so heavy now, hmmmm?

So I guess what I’m saying is, go ahead and have your fling with your sexy new Cannondale (high-priced hussy if you ask me). I’ll be here in the garage for those rainy days when you don’t want to get “The Princess” wet or dirty. I’m a workhorse. She can be the show horse. But I will always love you more because I know I was the reason that you fell in love with cycling.

Love,

Your original Cannondale

P.S. Did you know that the saddle bag still has some Tylenol in it from 1998? Please don’t take it or it will be your last headache.

Dear Cannondale R300,

I love you more than words can say.  If there was a Bike Hall of Fame I would put you in it. I know how you feel, because every time Billy Joel gets a new girlfriend who is 30 years younger than him I say, “Hey. You should be dating someone my age!” but of course he doesn’t listen. The heart wants what the hearts wants, but please know that you’ll always be my number one.

Love,

Carole

P.S. Has my butt really gotten bigger?


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.

 

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Bikepacking White Rim Trail—Moab, Utah

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“How far have we gone?” Colleen asks.

I cut off a big hunk of salami and set it on the red boulder. The sun just went over the top, and started its afternoon slide.

I look at the creased map printout. “Oh, looks like about 17 miles.”

“That’s it? Jesus. Are we going to make it?”

“Yeah, I think we’ll be okay.” I rip the seasoned meats with my front teeth. We’re on the 97-mile White Rim trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park at the end of January. It’s sweater weather, sunny, and we have the loop to ourselves. Right now, I don’t really care if we get to the camp I had in mind. Spending an extra day out here wouldn’t be terrible.

The White Rim is a classic backcountry Moab ride. From spring to fall, the trail is jammed with bikes and 4x4s, and camping permits have to be booked way in advance. Since there aren’t any water pumps along the route, most people organize a huge group expedition with support SUVs. Or riders top off the Camelbaks, and bang out the miles in one huge day.

Both of those styles are fine, but there’s an overlooked third option that involves a lot less planning than the first, and way less suffering than the second. The necessities are some light bikepacking gear, a weekend, and a way to treat water from the Green River.

We’re on the 97-mile White Rim trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park at the end of January. It’s sweater weather, sunny, and we have the loop to ourselves. Right now, I don’t really care if we get to the camp I had in mind. Spending an extra day out here wouldn’t be terrible.

A few hours after the salami stop, we are a little over 35 miles in and we’ve picked up the pace by taking less pictures (which is tough to do, since the White Rim probably has more views per mile than any dirt road route in the U.S.). Definitely not going to make it to the river tonight. I squeeze the water bladder in my frame bag. Probably still enough left to cook dinner though.

I stop to wait for Colleen and check the map again. Ten miles to Murphy’s Hogback. The Hogback, I like the sounds of that. Sleeping on a piggy’s back. Colleen’s tires are crunching up the road slowly. She hasn’t been on the bike much this winter, and she’s feeling it a little.

“Hey, Murphy’s Pigside campground is about a couple hours up. Think we can make it there?” I ask.

“Yeah, sure. I think so,” she says. She unclips a foot and sighs.

As the sun is close to setting, we start the climb up the the top of the Hogback. It gets steep, I’m off the bike, stiff shoes digging into the loose dusty road. She might not enjoy this.

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I hit the top right as the sun paints low-angle golden light across the dick-rock spires in the Needles, the spaghetti like tangle of canyons in the Maze, and the high rock walls of the Island is the Sky. That climb was way worth it. I unpack the tent while Colleen rolls into camp.

“Wow that hill was a bitch,” she says, her face matching the red rocks. “Oh, but this is sweet.”

“It’s pretty ideal.” I rock smash the last tent stake into the hard ground, and unscrew the top of the flask of bad whiskey (cheapest fifth in a glass bottle). The sun drops behind a mesa, and then everything fades from gold to purple.

Need to know ahead of time

Route: Splitting the loop into two 50-mile chunks makes a perfect weekend trip, and since the terrain and route finding aren’t very challenging, the loop is a perfect introduction to bikepacking.

Water: The Green River is accessible 65 miles into the loop (going clockwise). Bring a UV filter or chemical treatment- silt from the river will clog a pump filter.

Terrain: The White Rim Road is easy riding on a mountain bike with rack-less bikepacking gear. A hardtail 29er is the best choice, but a touring rig with fat tires could handle the route under an extra studly rider.

Permits: $30 per night, per site from nps.gov. Book pretty far ahead of time. Or go in the off-season and exercise your right to experience your public land without asking for permission. I won’t confirm which option we chose.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.

 

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Ask Beardo: What should I eat while riding my bike?

Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at [email protected]—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.


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Beardo,

I’ve begun adding distance to my weekend rides, and I’m having a hard time finding food that doesn’t upset my stomach, but can still be eaten on the bike. Any ideas?

Barry Gronouski

Barry,

The first thing I gotta ask: why eat on the bike? The allure of pre-packed snacks is obvious, but the idea of eating on the bike has always struck me as something done by racers and those training to race. If that’s you, it might be a good idea to set aside some of your budget and experiment with the various options on the market. Gels, powders, bars, pills, fizzy lifting drinks, lots of options for the many types of bodies, metabolisms and activity levels.

Personally, I neither race nor eat what most people would consider pre-packed sports snacks. Not because I have anything against either thing; I think it might have to do with all the formaldehyde I was exposed to while hauling stage props as a roadie for Slayer, but ever since then I’m on a pretty strict diet of canned meats and white rice. Children’s vitamin supplements have kept the scurvy at bay to this point, but man, some days all I want to do is eat an orange and take a nap on the beach.

Potted meat is surprisingly easy to find at many supermarkets, and modern pop-tops make it possible to eat while riding without needing to carry a can opener. But why bother? I find it much more enjoyable to find a proper lunch spot, crack open a can of preserved meats, slurp the layer of fat off the top, and take a breather while chewing contemplatively on unknown muscle groups.

I’ll hazard a guess that my dietary oddities aren’t shared by many other riders, but I’ve found most other people enjoy stopping, getting off the bike, and taking on nourishment like a civilized human. Sitting down to eat with friends is a custom shared by many cultures, and regardless of how many gels you’ve sucked down while in the peloton, there isn’t really time to discuss world politics or what it smells like when you drop a glass jar containing a pig fetus of unknown age.

Some of my favorite big rides have been planned around a new or favorite lunch spot. Eat a big breakfast, pack a proper lunch (canned meat and rice soup is a favorite, and travels well in the Thermos), and enjoy the break as much as the ride. Even racer types might find this a welcome respite to the frantic consumption of plastic wrapped goodies. A nice sandwich—eaten between intervals—might make for a more motivating training ride.

—Beardo

Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes


This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.

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Field Tested: Velo Orange Camargue

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The Camargue from Velo Orange is a bike designed to extend the ride beyond where the pavement ends. Named after an ancient French horse breed, the Camargue is as rugged as its wetland-dwelling namesake and capable of taking you on adventures both near and far and in a style normally reserved for bikes with much higher cost of entry. 

The Bike

This steel beauty has subtle refinements that give the impression of a custom steed, without the price tag. From swoopy front fork to a lovely paint scheme and the ability to set it up in myriad configurations, the Camargue is hitting above its weight in terms of visuals and bang for your buck, but what about the rest of her?

My test rig is equipped with smattering of Velo Orange bits and a drivetrain comprised of a 38/42 Shimano Deore crankset and a 11-36 cassette with Deore front and rear derailleurs, all which perform as you would want them to: confidently and without flaws. The beefy Onza Cannis 29 x 2.25-inch tires are a nice complement to the drivetrain, and lend some serious traction to the wide range of gearing.

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You may have noticed that there are only cantilever brake bosses on the front fork and seat stays; this is by design, as part of the aesthetic the crew over at VO is going for. It’s also a practical decision says Igor Shteynbuk, Purchasing Manager for Velo Orange, “If you’re on tour in South America, or someplace remote, the chances are much greater of being able to fix a set of canti brakes than a modern disc set up.” Plus, it all feeds back into the overall aesthetic. Canti-brakes, though slightly less performance oriented, are more in line with the design of the Camargue, it could be argued.

The Ride

The Camargue ride can differ depending upon how you choose to set it up. My test bike has a comfy upright ride, utilizing VO’s own Casey’s Crazy Bars. This works out well for me, as the bars are pretty close to the Jones Loop H-Bars I ride on my own bike, plus the two time-trial style bars out the front work great for lashing things like sleeping bags and offer a few more hand positions. That said, you could set it up with standard mountain bike bars or drop bars to suit your needs or preferences.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


The Camargue frame comes in six sizes from 47 to 62cm and employs 26- or 29-inch wheels depending upon the frame size you order. My size 56cm tester uses 29-inch wheels and is the cutoff for the larger tire; everything smaller employs 26-inch wheels. The larger wheel size was great and helped keep me spinning over and through most everything in my way.

The 29-inch tires may say mountain bike, but geometry of the Camargue is closer to a classic touring bike than a modern off road machine. With a 71 degree head tube and 73 degree seat tube—combined with relatively long 18-inch chainstays—the bike feels solid yet responsive, especially weighted down. While the Camargue comes in at 30-plus pounds before you start adding gear to it, the extra weight is handled well enough not to be overly taxing, making the Camargue among the best offroad overnight bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding. 

Some have said the bike resembles early production mountain bikes, a thought that isn’t wholly lost on the folks over at Velo Orange. Before we poo-poo that notion as being outdated, we should review the positives; the bike is solidly constructed making it great for everyday commuting, grocery getting, world touring, bike overnights, etc. It’s stable, yet nimble, making it easy to strip down and take it on your favorite mountain bike trail without fear of  having too little bike. It’s also fashionable enough to upstage the scenesters at your favorite coffee shop or watering hole, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Parting Thoughts

Overall the Camargue was a treat to ride. It’s the type of bike I really enjoy (albeit slightly more fancy than what I’m used to riding) in that it doesn’t expect much from you. What I mean is, there isn’t any pressure to look, act, feel or perform a certain way that other bikes tend to impart on their riders. To me, it seemed that this bike was simply happy to be ridden, which fits in perfectly with what Velo Orange is aspiring to, creating bikes that are meant to be ridden. Whatever that means to you.

If that sounds like it hits the nail on the head for your next bike, you should look into the Camargue. Give the folks at Velo Orange a call and they can help you source a build kit from their own goods, or ship it to your local bike shop and have them suss out a build that’s right for you.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $620 frameset; $2,125 complete
  • Weight: 8 pounds, 3 ounces (frame and fork); 31 pounds complete
  • Sizes: 47, 50, 53, 56 (tested), 59, 62 cm
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Where’s Bixby? A man and his dog take a cross-country bike tour

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Mike Minnick, 38, and his 5-year-old border collie mix, Bixby, have visited more than 50 animal shelters during their yearlong adventure, pedaling 8,000 miles and counting. The Texas man is riding his bike across the United States with his dog in a grassroots campaign to support nonprofit animal shelters and urge pet seekers to avoid puppy mills.

“There are so many beautiful dogs desperately in need of a home and friendship,” says Minnick, who adopted Bixby from a shelter in his former hometown of Austin, Texas. “If you love animals, donate to your local shelter. Puppies should not be a for-profit commodity.”

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Minnick’s journey across America on two wheels with Bixby has a secondary goal: to inspire Americans to bicycle for fun and fitness. The former smoker took up cycling as a way to lose weight and kick his cigarette habit. “I used to get in my car to drive two blocks to buy cigarettes,” he says. “Now I’m in the best shape of my life and happier than ever.”

Minnick, Bixby and their cargo bike loaded with more than 100 pounds of camping gear, dog food and a dog bed mounted to the rear rack attract crowds wherever they stop. Most long-distance bicyclists choose lightweight bicycles and carry minimal gear. That wasn’t an option for Minnick, who chose a cargo bike. “I won’t set any speed records. We go slow and steady and enjoy the views.”


Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


Minnick’s journey began in September 2013 in Lubec, Maine. From there they pedaled the East Coast to Key West, Florida, before heading to New Orleans and Texas. From Texas they headed northward through Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to Washington before spending the winter in California. Minnick has no plans to stop pedaling.

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“When I walked away from my life in Austin, I had a nice home and great friends but I was in a rut. My life was flashing before my eyes. Now I wake up every day excited. This is the most fun, challenging, rewarding and adventurous thing I’ve ever done. We live in one of the most geographically amazing and scenically beautiful countries in the world. Bixby and I get to see it, meet its people and pedal it under my power, using no gasoline and living like kings for next to nothing.”

Follow Minnick and his cause at wheresbixby.com.

The Bike

“We’re pedaling a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. After 8,000 miles carrying nearly 150 pounds of gear, a 50-pound adorable rescue dog, plus a human, our bike is as strong as the day we bought it. With a steel frame and sturdy components, this machine has never let us down. The motorcycle-inspired center stand is one of our favorite features.  No need to find something to lean your bike on, and plenty sturdy for loading groceries or pets or children without the bike falling over. When riding with friends, we use our bike as a bike rack and everyone can lock their bikes to ours.

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We also really enjoy the frame-mounted front basket that doesn’t move when you turn the handlebars, thus throwing off your balance. This is a smartly engineered machine. The panniers made for the bike are huge, durable and waterproof. Ours took more of a beating than most people will put theirs through, yet remained functional and waterproof.”

 

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Bicycle Times Issue #34 is here

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Bicycle Times Issue #34 has mailed to subscribers and will be available on newsstands soon. In this issue we feature bikepacking in Bolivia and Moab, plus staff picks and reviews to help you on your next adventure.

All this and more, now available through paper and our digital editions. Print subscribers should start receiving their copies next week. You can always visit better book stores and bike shops to buy a copy, or order one online now.

What’s inside

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A Man and His Dog: 8,000 miles on a Yuba cargo bike promoting pooches with his pal Bixby.

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Bikepacking Staff Picks: From Platypus, Princeton Tec, Topeak, MSR and Starbucks.

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Riding After Midnight: How turning off the daylight sharpens other senses behind bars. By Jonathan Wolan.

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Fatpacking Bolivia: Bolivia is an incredible and extreme land. Where simple, everyday living is hard. At over 13,000 feet in altitude, breathing is often labored. And the riding is awesome. Words and photos by Cass Gilbert.

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Funnies: Enjoy the latest from our ace cartoonists Julie Green, Henri Boulanger and Shawn Granton.

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The Grind review: Jamis Renegade Elite, by Justin Steiner.

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Parting Shot: Trek has added two new adventure touring models alongside its popular 520. Read our exclusive First Impressions here.

Plus: reviews from Rivendell, Velo Orange, Paul Components, Magellan, Porcelain Rocket and more!

 

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