Thursday, April 15, 2021

Riding Against The Wind

Against the wind,
I'm still running against the wind.
I'm older now,
But still running against the wind.

Against The Wind, Bob Seger (1980)

Life requires adversity. 

Over 30 years ago, a privately funded group built BioSphere 2, a three acre structure designed to study the viability of sustaining human life within an artificial, materially enclosed ecological system. In this tightly controlled environment, trees grew faster than in nature but collapsed before maturing, to the surprise and consternation of scientists. Eventually, they determined that the trees died prematurely due to lack of wind.

Scientists long understood that trees in nature are moved by winds of unpredictable and variable velocity, direction, frequency and duration. These forces stress the tree, causing it to grow "reaction" wood comprised of different chemical structures that strengthen the load bearing capacity of the tree. Over time, the reaction wood also positions the tree for protection from the wind and to receive the best resources, even if contorted into odd shapes. All trees in nature experience this, to some extent.

BioSphere 2 taught that the complete absence of wind resulted in trees growing too weak to survive long. 

So, the next time you turn your nose into the wind, know that it's not only making you a stronger cyclist. It's offering you the opportunity to be a cyclist.

Life requires adversity.

Against The Wind, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, live (1980)

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Black Hills Gravel Series - Season 5!

Right here, right now.
There is no other place I want to be.
Right Here, Right Now, Mike Edwards (1990)

Grass roots gravel at its finest. And it's right here, right now.

The Black Hills Gravel Series returns for Season 5, with a full slate of free rides this spring on Saturdays April 10, April 24, May 8, and May 22. More information is on and the FaceBook group Black Hills Gravel FB Group. Sign up at BH Gravel Series Signup.

Lucas Haan, out in the Hills, leading a group through some chunky gravel.

Lucas Haan, the force of nature behind the Black Hills Gravel Series, meticulously creates each unique, back country route, provides gpx files and cue sheets for self-navigation, and offers the empowering opportunity to ride self-supported. All of this free of entry fees, elitism, and pomposity. Just show up with most any bike, wearing most anything weather appropriate, and ride. Everyone is welcomed.

To be more accurate, at each ride, three courses will be offered, increasing in length and difficulty. They're named by color:  Green (10-20 miles, moderate elevation gain), Blue (20-30+ miles, moderately more elevation gain and difficulty), and Black (50+ miles, significantly more elevation gain and difficulty, likely with an added challenge). There truly is a course for every level of ability, experience, and ambition.

Sturgis 2017 - the first ride of the first season of the Black Hills Gravel Series!

This year, the Black Hills Gravel Series will not have a Group Start at a specific time. Instead, on the scheduled date, Lucas will be at the Start/Finish area from 7:30 am to 9:30 am to answer questions, talk you through the route, and to receive waivers, if you haven't electronically sent one to him. Start on your own at your own time, solo or in your group.

Lucas generally posts updated information on the FaceBook group Black Hills Gravel, but the best way to stay informed is to sign up in advance for the Series. Lucas then will send you timely emails, including waivers, gpx files, and cue sheets for each route. So, you just show up and ride.

Hill City 2018 - cyclists of all kinds ride into the back country at the Black Hills Gravel Series.

The Black Hills Gravel Series started in 2017 when Lucas created routes from 6 different start locations on 6 consecutive weekends. Folks showed up. Word got around. More folks kept showing up. See, A Six Course Feast. And it just keeps getting bigger and better.

The popularity and growth of these rides has not been fueled by local racers chasing prizes or enthusiasts chasing the latest trends. And it certainly has not been fueled by big production starts, finishes, celebrities, or awards, since there are none of the above. The Black Hills Gravel Series is simply a spring challenge to ride some unique back roads with like-minded folks in a low-key, social environment. And you know that the routes will be fun. Every one.

Spearfish 2019 - about 200 cyclists stream onto gravel at the Black Hills Gravel Series.

Enjoy these rides. Bring your family. Invite your friends. Be a part of our Black Hills cycling community. 

And thank Lucas for his tireless work to make it all happen. Again. Now, for the fifth year.

Piedmont 2020 - South Dakota social distancing at the Black Hills Gravel Series.

This is the place. Now is the time.

Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones (1990)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Keep It Simple - Food on the Great Divide

And be a simple kind of man,
Oh, be something you love and understand.
Simple Man, Gary Rossington & Ronnie Von Zant (1973) 

Sometimes, an answer arrives that is so simple, so elegant, so obvious, that you simply shake your head in disbelief. Really? That's it? How hard was that?

It's always easy to see it afterwards.

I've been deep into analyzing the caloric quandary for an undertaking such as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. How will I obtain, carry, and consume enough calories to sustain the effort of pedaling 50-70 miles and 4,000-6,000 feet of elevation gain on remote, rough roads every day for weeks? 

How much to rely on towns along the way? How much to carry? What kind of food to carry? Where to resupply? What food is even likely to be available? How does this work?

To further complicate things, the demands on carried food are high for such an endeavor. High in nutritional value. High in calories. Low in weight. Low in volume. Slow to spoil despite wide swings of temperature. Able to survive rough transport. Available at remote outposts. And even though I have the taste buds of a buffalo, it must taste at least OK.

I eventually realize that there are no easy answers to that quandary. There are too many variables stacked up over too much time. So, rather than a specific, structured schedule, I need to develop an approach.

Table for one. Anytime of day. Anywhere.

Here's the beginning of my approach. Each day, know what's ahead on the route and seize opportunities to eat during the day's ride. That is, eat in town what you can, when you can. For food on the fly and for those occasional 2-3 day stretches between towns, I'll identify some go-to foods to carry, recognize opportunities to re-supply, and stay flexible to carry what's available. 

On the first day of the ride, I'll carry my typical assortment of energy bars, gels, jerky and Peanut M&M's, along with some electrolyte drink and tablets. But it will only be a 2-3 day supply that must be replenished regularly at convenience stores and general stores along the way. That should be pretty straightforward. The bigger issue is obtaining more substantial food, both for meals on the fly and in between towns.

So, I need to develop a menu of go-to meals to carry. Ok, here's my simple, elegant, obvious start of such a list. Tortillas, peanut butter, and honey. Here's the result of an admittedly lengthy trip to a local grocery store.

Mission Tortilla Caseras, 12 count, 28 ounces, 2280 calories, $2.49
Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, 12 servings, 16 ounces, 2,470 calories, $2.89
Nature Nate's Raw Unfiltered Honey, 12 servings, 12 ounces, 970 calories, $5.49

Total for 12 servings = 56 ounces, 5,720 calories, $10.87

Each serving = 4.7 ounces, 477 calories, $0.91

That's a lot of hard working, portable calories in a small, readily available, convenient, inexpensive package. And I like it. I see this PB&H tortilla as a regular snack or light lunch, maybe eating 1 or 2 servings a day, when available. In a pinch, two servings could also serve as dinner, maybe with a hot chocolate chaser. I also see substituting the honey with local jams found along the way.

None of this is ground-breaking or game-changing. And it's not the only item that needs to be on my go-to menu. It's just a solid pedal stroke at the beginning of a long ride.

Keep it simple. Lynyrd Skynyrd shows how it's done.

Simple Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Bikepacking On The Jones 29+ Next Time

No need to ask
He's a smooth operator
Smooth operator, smooth operator, smooth operator
Smooth Operator, Sade Adu, Stuart Matthewman & Raymond St. John (1984)

Short break from cruising down a dry valley on Day 7 of the Cloud Peak 500.

Back in early 2018, I chose a Jones 29+ as my one mountain bike for single track and rough rides of all kinds, with both eyes fixed on loading it up for bikepacking. After a series of overnight and two night trips over two years, I took it out for 7 days along the Cloud Peak 500 route last August. See, Cloud Peak 500 Wrap - Feeling Good

The Jones 29+ for bikepacking? Smooth.

As a start, the Jones 29+ is a big bike capable of carrying big loads. With an assortment of Revelate Designs bags, I carried all my clothes, gear, and food for a week long ride without the requirement of re-supply, other than water. And I started each day with 5 liters of water, between the 3 liter bladder in the frame bag and two 1 liter bottles on the seat stays. I could have easily carried more gear and more water. See, Cloud Peak 500 - Gearing Up, Cloud Peak 500 - Packing Up,  Cloud Peak 500 - Gear List.

That big bike, with a limousine wheel base of 46.25 inches and monster truck 3.25 inch mountain bike tires mounted on 700c wheels, rode smooth as silk, floating over all but the largest obstacles and the deepest sand. For comparison, the popular Salsa CutThroat in a comparable size has a significantly shorter wheel base of 42.9 inches and clearance for 700 x 2.4 inch tires. 

The upright body position and swept back bars remove most all of the weight from the hands, relieving pressure from hands, wrists, arms and even up to the neck and shoulders. I experienced no pain or other problems in any of those areas, even riding rough roads 8-10 hours on the loaded bike, every day for a week. That positioning does shift more weight to the saddle, but I experienced no saddle soreness, either. The Jones 29+ is exceptionally comfortable for the long haul and I'll change nothing to the basic setup.

Rolling up Red Grade Road early on Day 2 of the Cloud Peak 500.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

As an aside, the first 3 days I experienced soreness in both hips. Several times I stopped to micro-adjust saddle height, but that clearly was not the cause. I think the up and back positioning demanded pedaling mechanics different enough from that which my body was accustomed, causing soreness over the course of long and difficult days. I know that the upright position made pedaling feel much more like I was pushing pedals forward and backward, rather than up and down, which made climbing different and more difficult. Leaning forward helped a little with adding power and with relieving the soreness, but it just wasn't the same. I never felt on top of the pedals, but always behind them. In any event, by Day 4, the soreness disappeared and I felt stronger every day afterward. To take the Jones 29+ on long bikepacking trips on gravel/rough roads again, I need to ride it on more 8-10 hour days.

I was very happy with my decision to stick with a front derailleur and build this bike 2 x 11, with 24/36 chain rings and an 11-42 cassette. I certainly used every bit of those low mountain bike gears on the long, steep, loose climbs on that loaded bike and never wished for a higher gear. I'll keep this range and spacing of gears.

I was also very happy with my decision to use simple and proven brakes. I installed new pads on the Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes before the start, checked them on Day 3 before the long, steep, technical descent of Dude's Downhill, and just rode everything without a problem. Afterward, the pads were still good and they're still working great, now 7 months later. There's much to be said for simple, reliable, and durable components.

As for the funky bar ends, I installed them just outside the shifters for additional hand positions, but rarely used them. However, I did like my wrist positioning when wrapping my thumbs around the base. So, I cut those bar ends down to about 2 inches and left that much on. I even installed a pair of dummy road bike hoods on those stubby bar ends for awhile to try yet another hand position. But I did not like how close and high my hands sat on those hoods, so I took them off.

The Jones H-bar offers several hand positions, but I added those stubby bar ends for another.

The only real negative with the Jones 29+ for gravel road bikepacking was my choice of wheels and tires. I built this bike to be an all-everything mountain bike and chose 3.25 inch wide, knobby tires mounted on 50 mm WTB Scraper rims for that type of riding. And it rides great on single track, unloaded and loaded. For all but the roughest roads, however, that's a lot of tire for me. On good gravel and decent dirt roads, it's just painfully slow.

On the Cloud Peak 500, those wheels/tires were simply too heavy and slow rolling for everything except the 8 mile descent of Dude's Downhill and occasional soft, sandy stretches. In other words, I lugged around significantly excessive tire capability for well over 90 percent of the trip. In comparison, buddy Paul Brasby rode great all week on his Salsa CutThroat with stock Taravail Sparwood 2.2 inch tires.

For my next gravel bikepacking trip, I will change to a much faster rolling tread pattern, on much skinnier tires, mounted on much lighter rims. Yes, I bought a second wheel set and 2 sets of new tires for the Jones 29+. Next time, I will ride Bontrager XR2 tires (either 2.60 or 2.35) mounted on 30 mm RaceFace ARC Offset rims. In addition to being faster rolling, this second wheel set with the 2.60 inch tires drops over 3 pounds from the original combination. With the 2.35 inch tires, it drops almost 3.5 pounds.

I think either the 2.60 or the 2.35 Bontrager XR2 tires will be more than enough tire for my planned Black Hills Bounty in June and even for an eventual Great Divide Mountain Bike Route tour. I'll try both this year. In the meantime, I'll definitely keep that original wheel set, with those mammoth 3+ inch tires, for riding all kinds of single track and rougher surface bikepacking.

Vee BullDozer 700 x 3.25 inch tire mounted on WTB Scraper i45 rims (left).
Bontrager XR2 700 x 2.35 inch tire mounted on RaceFace ARC Offset 30 rims (right)
Same diameter wheels, but different rim and tire widths.
I'm hoping to roll better on gravel on the skinnier set.

In summary, I love the Jones 29+ bike for bikepacking. After a week long trip, the only significant change I'll make results from my own mistake in choosing big mountain bike kicks for a gravel/dirt road tour. The second wheel set and tires should solve that. Then, I'll plan to ride more long rides on the Jones 29+ to better adapt to the different body positioning. That's it.

I see many memorable miles ahead bikepacking on my Jones 29+.

For earlier posts about the Jones 29+, go to Riding The Jones 29+ LoadedJones 29+ The Build, and  Jones 29+ What It Is.

And now, Sade, the smoothest Smooth Operator.

Smooth Operator, Sade live (2011)

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Packing Gear Next Time

I tried everything in my life,
Things I like, I try 'em twice,
You got that right,
You sure got that right.
You Got That Right, Steve Gaines & Ronnie Van Zant (1978)

In August 2020, I rode 7 days in and around the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming along the Cloud Peak 500 bikepacking course on a Jones 29+ bike outfitted with Revelate Design bikepacking bags. Here's a summary post of that trip, with links to daily ride and logistics reports.  See, Cloud Peak 500 Wrap.

I loved the capacity and versatility of my Jones 29+ bike, the combination of Revelate Designs bags, and the assorted gear that I carefully accumulated and tried over the past few years. See, Cloud Peak 500 - Gearing Up, Cloud Peak 500 - Packing Up,  Cloud Peak 500 - Gear List. But there's always room to improve. 

Here's a link to my prior post on the planned changes to the gear I'll carry on my next multi-day bikepacking ride. Gear List Next Time. I've heard from racers who identify things on my list I could leave home and I've heard from tourers who identify things not on my list I could bring. I appreciate the input and will continue to experiment on short trips this spring. For now, that Gear List strikes my balance between weight/volume and comfort/convenience for my approach to riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. See, Bikepacking the GDMBR.

This post focuses on how I will pack that gear next time. Although I've been working on possible changes for awhile, I finally assembled all the gear on my updated Gear List and packed it all into bags to determine the right combination. Here, after explaining the changes, I reproduced how I packed for the Cloud Peak 500 in normal type, followed by my planned change, if any, in blue. As you will see, I don't plan to make many changes.

 Well into Day 7 of my ride along the Cloud Peak 500 route in August 2020.

Before going through packing, bag by bag, here's an overview of my planned changes.

1. I'd like the ability to very quickly set up shelter in unfavorable conditions, without dumping other gear into the rain, wind, cold and/or dark. That means moving the tent into a bag that is easier and faster to access, without removing much of anything else.

My solution is to pack the tent in the left Fork Truss bag, which is very accessible and also puts a little more weight down lower in the bike. To do so, I must then move my sleeping bag and rain jacket out of that bag, which results in a series of other small changes.

a) I'll pack the sleeping bag where the tent had been, which was in the middle of the Salty Roll bag on the handlebars. That opens up some more room in the Salty Roll bag.

b) I'll pack the rain jacket in the lower part of the Frame bag, which is still quickly accessible, where I had the water filter, camp shorts and camp shirt, all of which will move to a handlebar bag.

c) The tent leaves a little room for something else in the left Fork Truss bag, so there I'll pack a small stuff sack with extra layer things (liner gloves, ear band, skull cap, buff).

d) Moving that extra layer things stuff sack opens up room in the right Fork Truss bag for a sleeping bag liner, which I didn't carry at the Cloud Peak 500.

2. Most any other trip for me will be colder and wetter than the Cloud Peak 500 in early August, so I'll add rain pants, shoe covers, arm warmers and leg warmers in a stuff sack easily accessible on the Terrapin seat post bag. All other clothes still fit in the Salty Roll handle bar bag.

3. In addition to the Mag-Tank 2000 top tube bag, I'll add a Mountain FeedBag for food to snack on during the day. As Paul Brasby noticed quickly and noted repeatedly during our Cloud Peak 500, I need to eat more on the bike.

4. For the Cloud Peak 500, I used two ill-fitting 32 ounce water bottles in conventional cages on the seat stays. I will replace them with the marvelous Soma Further Bottles, which are quality, standard diameter cycling bottles long enough to hold 38 ounces of water each. Better bottles and more capacity.

5. For the Cloud Peak 500, I started with 8 days of food in the Terrapin seat post bag, which was food for the entire ride. Next time, I'll probably carry 3-4 days of food and plan to resupply along the way, as needed. That leaves room for any number of things, including spare inner tubes, extra fuel canister, a collapsible water container for extra water capacity, rope to hang a bear bag, and the other Adventure Cycling Association maps not then in use. 

6. Everything else will remain the same.

That's it, for now. As you can see, I don't plan to make any major changes. And, as for the Cloud Peak 500, each bag has some extra room remaining, so I have some flexibility to change on the road, as needed. 

Here are the details. 

Truss Fork Bags (fork):  In addition to being light and strong, the Jones truss fork provides a built-in structure to support a pair of bags. Recognizing this potential, Jeff Jones and Revelate Designs created these bags, each offering nearly the capacity of a seat post bag. I pack the left side bag with a sleeping bag and a rain jacket. I pack the right side bag with a down jacket, sleeping pad, pillow and a stuff sack of extra layers (liner gloves, head band, skull cap, buff, arm warmers, leg warmers).

    Pack the tent and small sack of extra layers to the left side bag. Pack the down jacket, sleeping pad, pillow, and sleeping bag liner in the right side bag.

Harness + Salty Roll (handle bar):  My small tent occupies less than half the volume of the Salty Roll. So I stuff it into the middle, leaving more than a quarter of the bag remaining on each side for all my clothes.

    Pack the smaller sleeping bag into the middle of the Salty Roll, leaving even more room for all clothes, except a stuff sack of extra layers (more readily accessible in the left side Truss Fork bag), a stuff sack of rain pants, shoe covers, arm warmers, leg warmers (more readily accessible on the Terrapin seat post bag), and a rain jacket (more readily accessible in the bottom of the frame bag).

Egress Pocket (handle bar):  Strapped to the Harness and atop the Salty Roll, the Egress Pocket holds my camera, wipes, toilet paper, paper, pens, and sunglasses/glasses.

    No change.

Adventure Cycling Map Case (handle bar):  This map case is sized for the Adventure Cycling maps (like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route), is water-proof, sits atop the Loop Hole H-Bar bag, and doesn't move at all in use. Perfect.

    No change.

Loop Hole H-Bar (handle bar):  This bag is not visible, because it's under the map case and tucked into the space between the lateral tubes of the Jones handle bar. It is bigger than you think, is a great use of space and is on the bike full time. It holds a pump, first aid kit, sunscreen, lip balm, aspirin, Tums, and insect repellant.

    Move water filter into this bag.

Mountain Feed Bag (handle bar):  Bear spray. Yes, this bag is big enough for a large water bottle, but instead holds a large canister of bear spray a few inches from my right hand. Quick draw.

    Add a second Mountain Feed Bag on the left side to carry more and different on-the-fly food and, in an outside pocket, a Spot X Satellite Messenger/Tracker.

Mag-Tank 2000 (top tube by the handlebar):  This handy bag holds 2,000 calories of on-the-fly food and gels.

    No change, other than a resolve to eat more food and eat more often.

Jerry Can (top tube by the seat post):  This sneaky little bag holds an entire tool kit, including a patch kit, tire plugs, CO2 cartridges, extra sealant, chain lube, extra chain links, bolts and cleats, spare derailer hanger, mini-tool, and LeatherMan.

    No change.

Terrapin (seat post): This modular setup comprises a harness that attaches to the bike and a 14 liter dry bag that easily removes from the harness. I pack this dry bag with food, so I can readily remove it for overnight storage away from my sleeping area. Think grizzly. As shown, this bag contains breakfast, lunch and dinner for 8 days without re-supply, as well as kitchen utensils.

    Reduce the amount of food carried. Add two spare tubes, extra fuel canister, 34 ounce collapsible water container, rope to hang bear bag, the Adventure Cycling Association maps not then in use, a stuff sack with rain pants, shoe covers, arm warmers, and leg warmers. 

Frame Bag (main triangle):  The frame bag is divided into top and bottom compartments. The right side of the top compartment holds a 100 ounce water bladder and easily holds more. The left side of the top compartment is a relatively thin sleeve that holds maps, wallet, car keys, phone and mud scraper. The bottom compartment holds spare tubes, water filter and rain pants.

    Add battery charger in the left side thin sleeve. Pack rain jacket in bottom compartment.

Down Tube Cage:  Strapped to the Salsa Anything Cage on the down tube is a stuff sack containing my Jet Boil MiniMo stove, fuel and cook pot.

    Substitute Voile flexible straps for the standard nylon straps.

Rear Axle Cages:  Bottle cages near the rear axle hold two large water bottles. I use one for an electrolyte drink and one for extra water.

    Substitute Soma Further 38 ounce water bottles, reinforced with a tie around the top third.

In addition to the bags and their contents, I mounted a Cateye head light and tail light, a Cateye cyclocomputer, and a Stem Captain compass. I also mounted some old, odd-shaped bar ends near the levers on the Jones handle bars for some really different hand positions. The crowning touch is the Slow Moving Vehicle sign strapped to the back.

    Cut the bar ends down to about 2 inches and angled them a little more forward.

Next up - What changes, if any, to the Jones 29+ for my next remote bikepacking ride?

You Got That Right, Lynyard Skynyrd, live (1977).

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gear List Next Time

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

My Favorite Things, Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rodgers (1959)

Riding seven days with Paul Brasby on the Cloud Peak 500 bikepacking route in August was my cycling highlight of last year. See, Cloud Peak 500 Wrap - Feeling Good. In addition to a memorable experience, I learned valuable lessons to prepare for future bikepacking rides, like a possible ride of the 2,500 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route ("GDMBR"). SeeBikepacking the GDMBR.

So, to stoke the fires and to be better prepared, I've been reviewing my bike, bags, and gear with a critical eye toward future rides. I think everything worked pretty well on the Cloud Peak 500, but I know there's always room to improve.

This first post focuses on my Gear List, i.e., everything I carried on my bike on the Cloud Peak 500 and currently plan to carry on the GDMBR. Below in normal type is my Cloud Peak 500 Gear List, see, Cloud Peak 500 - Gear List, followed by my planned change, if any, in blue. As you will see, I don't plan to make many changes. The biggest addition is selected clothing for the likelihood of at least some colder, wetter weather and the biggest subtraction is the number of days of food packed.

My Jones 29+ (left) and Paul's Salsa CutThroat (right) almost 100 miles into our Cloud Peak 500.

Sleep Kit:  Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 Bikepack tent, Brooks Range Mountaineering Alpini 30 sleeping bag, ThermaRest ProLite pad, Outdoor Vitals UL Stretch pillow, SeaToSummit Reactor Extreme liner. 

    Although the SeaToSummit Reactor Extreme liner was on my posted Gear List for the Cloud Peak 500, I left it in the Jeep due to the hot weather forecast. I will take it on the GDMBR. No other change.

Clothes:  2 Voler bib shorts, 2 Voler jerseys, 2 pair SmartWool socks, 1 SmartWool top base layer, 1 SmartWool bottom base layer, 1 Voler wind jacket, 1 Showers Pass Refuge rain jacket, 1 Marmot hooded down jacket, 1 SmartWool camp shirt, 1 nylon camp shorts, 1 pair Pearl Izumi liner gloves, 1 pair Marmot over gloves, 1 Pearl Izumi head band, 1 Voler skull cap, 1 SmartWool stocking cap, 1 buff.

    Add clothes for colder and wetter weather, namely, Showers Pass rain pants, Showers Pass shoe covers, SmartWool gloves, Voler arm warmers, Voler leg warmers. Substitute SmartWool head band and SmartWool skull cap. No other change.

First Aid/Hygiene/Personal:  Ace bandage, gauze pads, large & small band aids, butterfly band aids, alcohol wipes, Neosporin, hydrocortisone, sun screen, lip balm, insect repellant, aspirin, Tums, wipes, toilet paper, zinc oxide, hand towel, tooth brush/paste, soap, sunglasses, bear spray, phone, wallet

    Add Spot X satellite tracker/messenger, Anker PowerCore charger, Timber bear bell. No other change.

Tool Kit:  Lezyne Alloy HV Drive pump, Lezyne SV-16 multi-tool, Lezyne Tubeless CO2 Blaster tubeless tire repair kit, extra sealant, 2 spare tubes, Park Tool patch kit, tire irons, LeatherMan Skeletool CX tool, Jones derailer hanger, chain links, quick links, chain lube, duct tape, zip ties, mud scraper

    No change.

Navigation:  DeLorme hard copy maps, cue sheets, Stem Captain compass, CatEye cyclocomputer, CatEye head light and tail light, Mountain Miser thermometer, Gideon's pocket Bible

     Substitute Adventure Cycling Association hard copy maps and cue sheets. No other change.

Documentation:  Olympus TG-4 Tough camera, paper, pens

    Substitute bound journal and add pencil. No other change.

Hydration:  100 ounce CamelBack bladder, 2 one liter bottles, MSR Trail Shot water filter, iodine

    Substitute 38 ounce, standard diameter cycling water bottles for the ill-fitting one liter bottles and add a 34 ounce collapsible water container. No other change.

Food (8 days):  oatmeal/coffee (breakfast), nutrition bars/peanut butter/jerkey/gels (during the day), freeze dried entree/hot chocolate/bars (dinner)

    Decrease to 3-4 days for main meals (no change of menu), increase amount and variety during the day. Overall, I'll carry less food and re-supply as needed. No other change.

Kitchen:  JetBoil MiniMo stove and fuel, matches, salt/pepper, SeaToSummit collapsible bowl/cup, XL spoon

    Add an extra fuel canister, Pony Express titanium spork, rope for bear bag. No other change.

As you can see, I'm not making many changes to my Gear List. I think my Cloud Peak 500 kit worked well for me, probably because I developed it over several years of shorter, local rides. 

Next up - How I plan to pack all that gear next time.

Here's the 1960's classic rendition of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound Of Music.

My Favorite Things, The Sound Of Music featuring Julia Andrews (1961)

For the 21st century crowd, here's a steam punk, Alice In WonderLand version of "My Favorite Things."

My Favorite Things, Pentatonix (2020)

For an evening around the fire, here's jazz legend John Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things."

My Favorite Things, John Coltrane (1961)

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Wandering Wide From Potter's Pasture

He hath need of his wits who wanders wide,
aught simple will serve at home;
but a gazing-stock is the fool who sits
mid the wise, and nothing knows.

Havamal (The Words of Odin) - Wisdom for Wanderers & Counsel to Guests, v.5, Snorra Edda (anc.)

Slugging up another hill on my single speed Torelli cyclocross bike at the 2013 Odin's Revenge.
(photo by Mark Stevenson)

The Buffalo Bill Rough Rider Gravel Grinder is a new event out of North Platte, Nebraska that looks to be an instant classic, with its historic setting, unique backcountry roads, and community-focused event directors and volunteers. Although the event is new, it ventures onto remote roads that enter the ancestral realm of the legendary Odin's Revenge. See, Knock, Knock, Knockin' On Odin's Door. That takes it to a whole nother level.

Just the sight of those dusty hills in a Buffalo Bill Rough Rider promotional piece resurrects a flood of memories from the race that sparked my passion for gravel riding. Back in 2013, 2014 (The Mud Year), 2015 and 2016, I cranked, pushed and dragged my bike almost 68 hours of official race time to reach 4 finish lines at Odin's Revenge. That leaves a mark.

Although beautiful, the course was relentlessly brutal. Hot, rutted, loose steeps clawed up to rolling ridge lines, before plummeting into the next canyon. Roll a bit, then back up again. Roll a bit, maybe, then down again. And again. Odin's Revenge extracted a continuous physical, mental and emotional toll, all day and into the night.

I loved it. Everything about it. The roads, the country, the event, and especially the people. I would have loved to continue that journey in 2017 and beyond. But Odin, as he is wont to do in his endless search for wisdom, wandered away from his realm and has yet to return. There's been a hole in the gravel scene ever since.  

SeeThe End Of Odin's Revenge2012 Odin's Revenge - Seeking2013 Odin's Revenge - Eureka2014 Odin's Revenge - Mud Year2015 Odin's Revenge - Gettin' After It2016 Odin's Revenge - Back In The SaddleOdin's Revenge - Team DSG.

Really? Why did Odin have to plow through that hill?
Well out there somewhere on the 2016 Odin's Revenge course. 

But it's not all gone. I kept secure my paper cue sheets from those four years at Odin's Revenge. I can go back, with or without the grumpy old man, anytime. 

But time passes and I don't. Sure, I think about it, especially on Valentine's Day, which Odin called Gravel Lovers Day to mark the opening of post card registration each year. But I don't go back. More time passes.

Then last fall I road-tripped to Marysville, Kansas for the Pony Express 120 Bikepacking Adventure created by cycling buddy Paul Brasby. SeePony Express Bikepacking Adventure. On the drive home, I stopped for a few days to check out his stomping grounds at Potter's Pasture, a sweet private park with publicly accessible trails and campgrounds set deep in the rugged hills of west central Nebraska. See, Potter's Pasture FaceBook Page

While the trails were cool, I remembered Potter's Pasture as a check point each year for Odin's Revenge, which started and finished in nearby Gothenburg. From a ridge line vista along a Potter's Pasture trail, my eyes wandered to the rough roads meandering into the surrounding backcountry. My thoughts drifted.

Back in 2015, Race Director Chad Quigley surveyed the realm of Odin's Revenge.
(photo by Wally Kilburg)

Revelation. These remote roads are calling me back. And Potter's Pasture is delivering the invocation.

Now, months later, the Buffalo Bill Rough Rider photographs prompt me to dig out my old cue sheets from the 2014 Odin's Revenge, the infamous "Mud Year." Because only 6 riders finished that year, Chad Quigley repeated that course in 2015 so more could enjoy it. It was my favorite Odin's Revenge course. I'd love to ride it again.

To stoke the fires, I use those old cue sheets to create a new digital map of that 2014/2015 Odin's Revenge course, with a new start/finish at Potter's Pasture. Yes, that would change the experience a bit, but I think every ride out there is a unique experience. To see the route, go to Wandering Wide.

Daydreaming of a weekend spent riding that course and camping at Potter's Pasture, I realize that some folks might really enjoy this course, but maybe not in a single, long day. So, I create two loops out of Potter's Pasture that together cover the entire 2014/2015 Odin's Revenge course. The loops are about 100 miles each that one could ride back-to-back during a single weekend. Half and Half of Wandering Wide.

First checkpoint at Mile 47 of the 2014 Odin's Revenge (The Mud Year), 6+ hours after the start.
Mark Stevenson in the Pirate Cycling League kit encourages me, while calling his day over.
Paul Brasby in the WhiteTail Racing Team kit walks behind me, looking for a mud stick.
(photo by Race Co-Director Merrie Quigley)

Now, we're rolling. I think of the many riders at Odin's Revenge that chose a short course option of about 60 miles. Then I think of newcomers looking for a taste of Odin's, rather than a royal feast. They'd all probably enjoy a weekend at Potter's Pasture riding these roads, too. I need to make some shorter routes. 

Rather than try to adapt the prior Odin's Revenge short courses to a Potter's Pasture start/finish, I simply create four new routes with Each of these new routes is a 40-50 mile loop on surrounding rough roads and include some portion of the 2014/2015 Odin's Revenge course. I think these routes look fun from satellite images on a computer while I'm sitting far away in South Dakota. However, before riding them, I'd look for input from local cyclists with first hand knowledge. That's you Paul Brasby, Jeff Caldwell, Ben Cooper, Bobby Lee Denny, Luke Meduna, Lane Bergen, Amy Smith and Randall Smith. Let me know if you'd change anything. Potter's Pasture Gravel Loops.

Early group at the 2013 Odin's Revenge.
(photo by Scott Redd)

With the maps created and the day dreamt away, all I need now is to carve out some time and commit to a long weekend at Potter's Pasture. However, my June, July, August and September 2021 are already booked pretty solid, so maybe early spring or into the fall later this year. Or, more likely, next year.

One weekend, or another. One way, or another. I'll be back, wandering wide.

The last finisher at the last checkpoint at the last Odin's Revenge.
Race Co-Director Matt Bergen and me at the 2016 Odin's Revenge.
(photo by Paul Siebert)

Here's The Wanderer, by U2 featuring Johnny Cash on lead vocals.

The Wanderer, U2 featuring Johnny Cash (1993).

Here's a screen shot of my route of 2014/2015 Odin's Revenge course, but with a Potter's Pasture start/finish.

Here's a screen shot of my collection of two century loop routes from Potter's Pasture that together cover the entire 2014/2015 Odin's Revenge course.

Finally, here's two screen shots showing a collection of four separate, 40-50 mile loop routes that cover at least some Odin's Revenge roads and start/finish at Potter's Pasture.