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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Better Coffee for Bikepacking Update - The FinalPress

Something not right,
Something not right,
Something not right and I don't know what it is.
Something Not Right, Glen Alfred (2019). 

In April, I posted Better Coffee for Bikepacking, a summary of some of my experiments making coffee when out in the backcountry on a bike. Many folks responded with favorite methods and suggestions, which I appreciate. Bikepacking buddy Paul Brasby of North Platte, Nebraska even forwarded to me a link to a device that I had never seen. The FinalPress. I had to try it.

FinalPress awaiting hot water to brew some coffee.

The FinalPress is a stainless steel cylinder with mesh filter sides and a threaded top, which secures to a top cap with a spring loaded plunger. The cylinder is light and relatively small, measuring about 1.5" in diameter and about 2" high, while the plunger extends another 4" off the top. 

The instructions say to add 14-16 grams of coffee into the cylinder, place the cylinder into an 8-10 ounce mug of hot water, swirl for 10-30 seconds, steep for 2-4 minutes, lift the cylinder out of the coffee, and press the plunger. 

So, the FinalPress essentially works like a steeped coffee bag with rigid sides and a mechanical, French Press squeeze at the end.

My several attempts yielded inconsistent results, much like my experiments with steeped coffee bags. I wonder if the coffee grounds confined by the rigid walls of the cylinder are inherently, significantly exposed to the hot water unequally. That is, the coffee grounds exposed to hot water form a cake, where the grounds around the exterior of the cake would seem to be exposed to more hot water longer than the grounds packed into the interior, creating variable extraction. I don't know. Stirring probably helps initially, but the cylinder then just sits in hot water for a few minutes. I don't know. It may simply be operator error. Something makes it less than ideal.

My best, most consistent results with the FinalPress were with moderately coarse ground coffee filling about one third of the cylinder, with regular stirring for about 2 minutes and then squeezing the plunger several times while still immersed. That worked better, but still less than great. This will not replace the CoffeeBrewer or the Pourigami, and certainly not the AeroPress.

The FinalPress is marketed as a coffee and tea brewer. In operation, I'd call it a tea brewer that can make coffee.

FinalPress on the road.

Addendum. Join me at #CoffeeOutside-Rapid City sometime and you're welcome to try it. Last week at the park, I brewed a cup of coffee with the FinalPress, with OK results. Immediately afterward, I brewed another cup with the same grounds but using the Pourigami pour-over. Very, very good. What a difference.

Something Not Right, Glen Alfred (2019)

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Black Hills BIkepacking 101 - A Brief Report

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day.
I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash (1972). 

Earlier this week, the Black Hills Bike Hub hosted "Bikepacking 101," a gathering of local cyclists looking to learn more about bikepacking, remove barriers for newcomers to start, and build our bikepacking community. Lost Cabin Beer Company graciously provided space, Black Hills Bicycles and Acme Bicycles kicked in, and Hermit Crafts Bag Company (successor to Dirt Bags) added to the festive atmosphere. A moderated panel of kindred spirits shared thoughts and experiences, along with visions of future rides, with an enthusiastic, engaged audience. A palpable buzz filled the air.

Not my bikepacking setup. Nor that of anyone else.
Just a fun picture. (unknown origin)

Black Hills Bike Hub Directors Weston Neiffer and Evan Walterman hosted the event, moderating a lively discussion amongst the panel comprised of seasoned bikepackers Heather Heynen, Perry Jewett, Michelle Stampe, Jason Thorman, and me. The energetic crowd then peppered the panel with questions and media wizard Eric Clayborn recorded the event for an anticipated future video presentation. 

After an hour or so, the panel dispersed into the audience and bikepacking discussions continued well into the evening. Not surprisingly, the loaded bikes brought for a "Show & Tell" generated much interest and many additional questions. A few people even pedaled around the parking lot on my 65 pound Jones 29+, fully loaded for a multi-week ride. 

The crowd filters into Black Hills Bike Hub's "Bikepacking 101" gathering.

The true measure of the value of "Bikepacking 101" will emerge over the next few months, as the Black Hills Bike Hub will be hosting a series of group bikepacking rides. The first is Saturday June 29 - Sunday June 30, with three different routes all starting from Sturgis Brewing Company, ending at a group camp site at Alkali Creek Campground, and returning to Sturgis. Something for everyone. BHBH Bikepacking Overnighter Series - Round 1

If you're anywhere near the Black Hills on that last weekend of June and would like to join, go to the Black Hills Bike Hub website or FaceBook page for more information. 

Kudos to the Black Hills Bike Hub for their efforts to break down barriers to entry, mentor newcomers, and build our bikepacking community. Hope to see you out there.

Perry Jewett, Heather Heynen, Craig Groseth, Michelle Stampe, Jason Thorman.
2024 BHBH Bikepacking 101 panelists.
(image by Weston Neiffer)

Here is some of Eric Clayborn's work to help make Bikepacking 101 happen.

And finally, a little Johnny Nash to brighten the day.

I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash (1972).

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Disappointment Turns to Gratitude

All my words fall short
I got nothing new
How could I express
All my gratitude?
Gratitude, Brandon Lake (2021)

Kicking around ideas for the emerging BackBone Double Grande route and possible future Black Hills Bounty rides, I mentally wandered out to northeastern Wyoming to seek an interesting route to Devil's Tower National Monument from the north, west, or even south. 

Maps and satellite imagery looked promising, with a handful of county gravel roads connected by dirt and two track roads of all kinds. Over the winter I sketched out a few routes to investigate and ventured out for a long day of scouting. After more time and study, I recently returned for another look.

Promising public road west of Devil's Tower.
Unfortunately, it dead ends at private property about 1.5 miles later.

What a disappointment. I spent two days searching in vain for USFS Low Standard, or even Secondary, Roads. They do not exist out there. Some good county gravel roads wind through the hills and valleys, but I found no rough little connectors. That is, all those promising dirt and two track roads were ranch roads on private land.

Although Devil's Tower itself is a public National Monument, the land beyond for many miles is practically all private. Pockets of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management pop up like dandelions all over on the right maps, but they are small and mostly unmarked on site. There simply is no contiguous tract of public land out there large enough to connect one county road to another. 

(For a stark contrast, see the large section of Buffalo Gap National Grassland where the BackBone Grande route travels on rough two track for about 12 miles. BackBone Grande - Right Vibe Right Away).

My sorry map after two days of scouting

Ultimately, I stopped at Devil's Tower to assess all the new data over lunch. OK, "lunch" was a double dip huckleberry ice cream waffle cone. It was a frustrating day.

I first ruled out a route circling Devil's Tower to enter from the south due to 11 miles of relatively busy traffic on pavement at the end. Also, much of that route skirted the forested hills on the adjoining prairie. I prefer to be up in it. 

That left three unpaved alternatives to climb into the hills. Each worked on paper, but when viewed from the ground, they clearly divided into good, better, and best. Following that "best" road, I then stumbled onto a 5 mile connecting public road marked "Impassable When Wet." How did that happen? This route was now making itself.

At the end of the day, I put together a fun county gravel road route, with a smattering of dirt, from Alzada, Montana to Devil's Tower. This will become an appropriate section of the BackBone Double Grande.

On the drive home, my initial disappointment with this area turned to gratitude for what I have in the Black Hills. From Devil's Tower, I'll be routing through the Bear Lodge Mountains to Sundance, Wyoming and then southeast to enter 12 million acres of Black Hills National Forest. With all that National Forest land ahead of me, I have access to practically unlimited miles of public back roads and near-roads of all kinds. 

All that in my back yard. Sweet.

Gratitude, Brandon Lake (2022)

Monday, June 10, 2024

Black Hills Bikepacking 101 Social

Bikepacking can be a daunting prospect, even to an experienced cyclist. The list of unknowns quickly piles up:  what bike, what gear, how to carry all that gear, food, water, shelter, where to go, etc. It is very easy to simply let all that prevent one from starting.

In short, just pack up a bike and go. Ride a bike you have, use camping stuff you have, pick a fun spot to camp, and ride. The distance can be very short. First trips are about learning from the experience.

For inspiration, here's a post I wrote in 2021 about a mom, her young daughter, and her daughter's friend on a three day, self-supported bikepacking ride of the Mickelson Trail. Talk about just packing up and going for it. Gumption and Grit.

To help the curious and to build our local bikepacking community, Black Hills Bike Hub (formerly known as the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association) is hosting "Bike Packing 101," a social gathering for everyone interested in bike packing. They assembled a panel of local bikepackers, who will bring their loaded bikes for a "Show & Tell" and answer questions from moderators and the audience. Feedback will chart the course for potential group bikepacking overnighters this summer and fall.

This panel brings a deep and wide variety of bikepacking experience to the table. Pavement, gravel, dirt, snow, single track, no track. Overnighters, week long, months long. Racing, touring, scouting, wandering. Events, large groups, small groups, solo. Something for everyone.

June 18, 2024. 6p-8p. Lost Cabin Beer Company. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Here's the Bikepacking 101 Social announcement from Black Hills Bike Hub:

"Join us at Lost Cabin to learn about bikepacking from some of the local legends of the sport! Bikepacking is both an extremely rewarding and humbling way to adventure by bike. You can expect to hear some great insights on what draws people to this type of riding, how to approach packing, what to bring with you, and many other tools to break down the barrier to entry into the world of adventure riding!  Even if you are an experienced rider who has many trips under your belt, join us! This will be a great opportunity to build a community amongst your bikepacking peers!

Schedule of Events

6:00 PM - 6:30:  Show & Tell - Loaded bikes set up around the patio so people can chat with panelists and get ideas for questions.

6:30 - 7:30:  Panel Discussion - Informal moderated panel discussion and open Q&A.

7:30 - 8:00:  Social/Continued Show & Tell - Give the audience a chance to catch up with panelists they want to hear more from on their own.

After the event  BHBH will send a survey out to the event sign-in list and through social media.

Evan Waterman
Weston Neiffer

Craig Groseth
Perry Jewett
Jason Thorman
Heather Heynen
Emily Brown

We will also have a handful of local riders bring their loaded bikes to give attendees the opportunity to see different setups. Feel free to bring your own loaded bike to show off! If you are new to bikepacking, feel free to bring your bike and get gear/load out recommendations!