Search This Blog

Monday, April 29, 2024

Better Coffee for Bikepacking

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea, and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!
The Java Jive, Ben Oakland & Milton Drake (1940)

Ready to make some hot coffee, somewhere out in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Enjoying a hot cup of good coffee in the morning can really start the day right, especially in the backcountry. However, bikepacking back roads and trails often leads to remote campsites far from a civilized coffee shop. What to do?

In my first two years of bikepacking, I went ultra-lightweight and tried instant coffee. I really tried. Over the course of 20+ overnighters, the Cloud Peak 500, the Black Hills Bounty, and many CoffeeOutside rides, I experimented with all kinds of instant coffee, none of which were very good. Admittedly, a couple of brands weren't altogether awful, if just for one morning. So, I settled on one for my 2021 ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. However, after a couple weeks, I could no longer drink it and eventually gave away the few remaining packets.

Since then, I've tried more instant coffees, to no avail. So, I looked harder for alternatives. 

AeroPress GO ready to make some go-juice.

I first backed all the way up to making fresh coffee from grounds with my AeroPress GO. No problem there. An AeroPress will make as good a coffee as the grounds you put into it and the care you give to the process. I love my AeroPress and will take it on Overnighters or TwoNighters. I just didn't love the idea of lugging it around on longer rides, even though the GO model packs pretty small (about 3.5" x 3.5" x 6"). This works, but there must be other options.

MiiR Pourigami ready for a pour-over into a 10 ounce camp mug.

Another fresh-coffee-from-grounds option is a single serve pour-over with some kind of frame to hold a filter and grounds over a cup. One such device is the MiiR Pourigami, which features three small, stainless steel sheets that interlock to form a triangular-shaped funnel. It disassembles into a 1/4" x 3" x 6" case.

For the experienced pour-over crowd, this may work great. I'm not particularly skilled or patient with pour-overs and, out in the backcountry, I always seem to spill a lot of precious water and too often knock over the entire setup. So, this one should work well, but doesn't for me, due to operator error. I'll keep working at it, but I'll also keep looking. And keep using the AeroPress GO in the meantime.

Of course, the traditional French Press is another option, both as an accessory to a cook kit and as an independent device. However, I'm not going that direction, as I prefer my results from the AeroPress GO over any straight up French Press.

Front & Back of Single Speed Coffee Roasters' single serve steeped coffee bag.

A promising concept is the single serve steeped coffee bag, which works somewhat like a tea bag. My latest experiment with a steeped coffee bag was the "Wake Up And Kiss Me" blend from Single Speed Coffee Roasters out of Flagstaff, Arizona. I enjoyed talking with the folks running their mobile coffee shop at the 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo mountain bike race and picked up a box there. 

Although a big improvement over instant, I found my results to be inconsistent, even when carefully following the instructions. Four of the eight bags remain from the Old Pueblo, so maybe I can make it better with more practice. If so, I may order some more from their website or simply try to fashion a steeped coffee bag of my own.

The "Coffeebrewer," from The Brew Company of Denmark.
On the left, unopened brewer. On the right, brewer opened for use and then re-used 6 times.

And finally, a possible game-changer. The Coffeebrewer from The Brew Company of Denmark. 

On its website, The Brew Company describes its "Coffeebrewer" as "an innovative and worldwide patented coffee product, designed as a crossover between French Press and pour-over coffee. . . It is designed and constructed as a kraft paper pouch, with an inner filter containing 20-22 grams of fresh, pre-ground specialty coffee, and a very thin, BPA-free PE base, allowing it to stand upright on its own while you're brewing your coffee."

From the outside, it looks like a paper packet with a re-closable top and a spigot. Inside lies a coffee-containing filter pouch surrounded by a thin plastic bag. Pour hot water through the top opening into the filter pouch and close it. Water slowly flows through the coffee and filter into the surrounding bag. At the desired time, pour the coffee out through the spigot.

Instructions on the back of the "Coffeebrewer."

Magnificent design and execution. I love everything about it. Makes very good coffee. Very easy to use. Very stable while filling, brewing, and pouring. Very lightweight and compact (paper and some plastic about 5.5" x 7.5" x maybe 0.5" thick). And the bonus - re-usable. Simply scoop/rinse out the grounds, add fresh grounds, and brew again. I've re-used a packet 6 times with great results.

This is a possible game-changer for my longer bikepacking trips. For my next week long ride, I think I could take one, but I'll plan to take two "Coffeebrewers" with enough fresh coffee grounds for the rest of the trip. I'll enjoy great coffee all week and carry practically no more weight than that of the grounds.

The "Coffeebrewer" won't replace the venerable AeroPress GO for everything else, but it sure looks to be a nice alternative for a 5-10 day bikepacking trip.

NOTE. I'm not a reviewer and certainly not an influencer. I occasionally share my experience with a product that works well for me. That is all.

The Java Jive, The Ink Spots (1941).

Friday, April 26, 2024

24 Hours In The Old Pueblo - What A 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race Feels Like (VC Video)

Push through the darkness, and the light will be so bright.
Tyler Pearce, aka The Vegan Cyclist of VC Adventures

What does a 24 hour mountain bike race feel like?

From responses to my series of posts of the 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo ("24 HOP"), I realized that many people, including endurance cycling friends, are not familiar with 24 hour mountain bike racing. It was a relatively small niche type of event that peaked in the early 2000's, then all but disappeared.

Somehow, over the years, 24 HOP not only survived, but thrived. And, now, here's a video race report that captures the essence of what it's like to race a mountain bike solo at that venerable event. It's great fun.

At the Friday expo with Tyler Pearce, vlogger and film maker VC, aka the Vegan Cyclist.
(image by Tyler Pearce)

Tyler Pearce, aka Vegan Cyclist of YouTube fame, recently published his story of racing solo at 24 HOP. In about 33 minutes of narrative and quickly paced video, Tyler describes the race concept, course, venue, vibe, and experience from his saddle as a first time solo racer near the tip of the spear. His take is informative and entertaining, with lots of footage flying around the cactus infused course.

As a solo racer at the same event, but at the other end of the spear, I really enjoyed this video. His description of the physical, mental, and emotional challenges and rewards could have been mine, and likely most other solo racers. We all were wrung out, passing through the same wringer at different speeds.

With a plan sounding eerily familiar, Tyler rode steadily through the afternoon and into the evening, pacing for a 24 hour race and forcing himself to take regular breaks to recover. Then, in the deep of the night, he "got a little arrogant," pushed too hard, and cracked. In the pre-dawn bleakness back at camp, Tyler concluded his race was over and fell asleep. An hour later, his son woke him and, somehow, in "the hardest one minute of my life," Tyler got up and back on his bike.

Ultimately, he completed 16 laps to finish 5th in the Open Solo Men category. Afterwards, Tyler addressed the question of what it feels like to race a mountain bike for 24 hours.

"It feels like everything. You feel the happiest you've ever felt. You feel the worst you've ever felt. You feel connected to nature, but you also are connected to nature (showing image of cactus stuck to his arm). You go through every range of emotion. You fight with every excuse. Everything goes wrong. Everything goes right. You live an entire lifetime in those 24 hours." 

As for 24 HOP specifically, Tyler simply says "the 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo is gotta be the best 24 hour race on the planet. I can't recommend it more highly."

I know that I hope to return in 2025. If you're considering it, know that registration opens on October 1 and last year filled in 2 hours 10 minutes.

What A 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race Feels Like.
(link to video by VC Adventures)

Links to the 5 part series of my experience at the 2024 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo. 24 HOP-Back At It24 HOP-Sticker Smiles24 HOP-Race Report24 HOP-Whiskey Tree24 HOP-People Make The Place.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Grass Roots Gravel Returns!

The mountain is high, the valley is low
And you're confused on which way to go
So, I've come here to give you a hand
And lead you into the promised land
So, come on and take a free ride
Free Ride, Dan Hartman (1973)

No shortage of primo gravel roads in and around the Black Hills of South Dakota.
(image by Paul Brasby)

Grass roots gravel returns to the Black Hills! 

Not one, but two community gravel ride series this spring! Wowzer!

Leading off, the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association is hosting a series of four free gravel "Social Rides" in the spirit of the wildly popular Black Hills Gravel Series. For our riding pleasure, Lucas Haan of Black Hills Gravel once again hand-crafted a series of unique routes over a mix of county gravel roads, minimum maintenance roads, Forest Service dirt, and perhaps even a smattering of two track. Every route is a gem.

As always, there's something for everyone. Each ride will offer three different routes, increasing in length and difficulty, for each start location. They're named by color:  Green (10-20 miles, moderate elevation gain), Blue (20-40 miles, moderately more elevation gain and difficulty), and Black (50+ miles, significantly more elevation gain and difficulty, likely with another challenge). A route exists for every level of ability, experience, and ambition.

Saturday, April 6 (9 am) - Gravel Social #1 (Sturgis)
Saturday, April 20 (9 am) - Gravel Social #2 (Spearfish)
Saturday, May 11 (9 am) - Gravel Social #3 (Custer)
Saturday, May 18 (9 am) - Gravel Social #4 (Hill City)

Updates will be posted on the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association FaceBook Group, with links to GPX files and cue sheets. Of course, Black Hills Gravel has a group on FaceBook, Strava, and RideWithGPS, where one can find additional information and links.

There's more. There's always more to ride out here.
(image by Paul Brasby)

But wait. We've only just begun.

Rushmore Bikes of Spearfish is also hosting a series of four free gravel rides on different dates over different routes. Here's their announcement of the Rushmore Bikes N(A)R Classic Spring Series, which includes links to more information and maps:

"Join us for the NAR Classic (Not (A) Race) Spring Series, a one-of-a-kind cycling event that's all about the joy of riding and the camaraderie of fellow cyclists. At Rushmore Bikes, we believe in creating a family-friendly atmosphere where riders of all ages and skill levels can come together to celebrate the beauty of cycling."

Sunday, April 14 (10 am) - N(A)R Classic #1 (Whitewood)
Sunday, April 21 (10 am) - N(A)R Classic #2 (Belle Fouche)
Sunday, May 12 (10 am) - N(A)R Classic #3 (Spearfish)
Sunday, May 19 (10 am) - N(A)R Classic #4 (Beulah)

Our gravel cup overfloweth! 

Enjoy these group rides. Bring your families and friends. Thank these folks for making this happen. Support the businesses that provide our start/finish facilities. 

This is our Black Hills grass roots gravel community. What a treasure.

Free Ride, Edgar Winter Group (1973)