Geekery – Bikepacking Bags v2.0

After some funky attempts at a seat bag for the bikepacking setup, I finally managed to put together something that works. After a tough shakedown ride I’m pretty happy with the results.

Version 1.0 had some shape issues. Fabric pulling in funky directions.
Current Version made some changes to the volume/shape and how the straps support the bag.

I’m getting better at sewing, with fewer seams to tear apart and a faster construction. Still plenty to learn though. I used Dimension Polyant material for its light weight and durability. It seems to be the standard for bikepacking bags and many technical backpacks.

I also made some modifications to the handlebar bag I previously put together. Larger volume, better material, and packs everything I need. Next up is a second iteration of the fuel cell/toptube bag, and a frame bag.

Idyllwild Trip

With our scheduled departure from the Southwest, we decided we had to get out and visit with Brendan, Mary and Alexander. It was also a good time to get out of the oven and into cooler temps.

We rode, and rode and rode.

Ate, drank, prophecized earthquakes, fixed stuff and relaxed. A worthwile trip indeed.

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Phoenix Weekend Visit

While visiting Phoenix for the week for a conference, I had a chance foresight to bring by bike and get in some trail time. Still in the shoulder season between spring and full on summer, the mercury crept up to 100 (a first for the year) but we managed to avoid heatstroke.

Yuri took me to Phoenix perserve and trail 1A, A nice’n’steep trail that climbs up to a high point, which we happened to hit right as the sun dropped in the distance. It then descends through chunky cheese grater sections that demand precision and finesse. Yuri freaked me out a bit when he pulled armor out of his bag and dropped his seat…

Beers and food afterwards made for a fine, evening.

Harry and I were on dawn patrol out at SOMO on National Trail. Hard shadows well before 6am had us moving up the trail hastily for fear of getting toasted if we dawdled too much. We pedaled up and past Buena Vista, and across the catwalk, getting dropped off of singletrack and onto the road which we took back up to Buena Vista. The descent on National was outstanding although full of traffic, hikers, runners, and huckers alike. We managed to beat the heat and get back to the house to enjoy the still cool pool.

After Lunch with Harry, Claire, and Grace, Katie and I made a stop at the Phoenix Museum of Art before heading back to Tucson.

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Seven Cataracts Adventure

This adventure was sort of a last minute trip and substitute for something much bigger that we had in mind. I was a bit tentative to delve into the larger, previously planned trip because of my healing hip. This trip up to the top of Seven Cataracts and hiking/scrambling/rappelling down to Bear canyon was one that I had been told about for years and always wanted to do.

Mateo and Todd joined in on the adventure, Mateo being our guide as he had done the trip and brought the requisite gear. Todd has spent a very minimal amount of time on rock and dangling from a rope and I hadn’t been on a rope for a few years so Mateo’s skill and experience was much appreciated.

The hip, although I was cautious, performed beautifully and I haven’t had an issue in the past 5 or 6 days. A couple of acupuncture treatments seem to have done the trick (Thanks Dan), and I’m feeling healthy and rested.

The trip proceeded without a hitch, beautiful, cool canyons, Cold pools of water and some of the best company a person could ask for. We took our time, enjoyed the flora and fauna, ate great treats, and had a great chance to catch up with each other in the remote canyons of the Santa Catalina’s.

Only a few miles were traveled on foot and rope, but nonetheless, I’m tired from the day. Elevation drop was something between 1500′ and 2000′, we gained a thousand back getting out of Bear canyon back up to the Seven Cataracts vista where the the car and refreshments were waiting.

I think I get wrapped up in riding the bike so often, I forget how good some of these other things can be, hiking, climbing, swimming, running, etc. All acceptable forms of entertainment and I’m on a mission to get as much of it as I possibly can since the clock is ticking on our time here in the desert.

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In the shadow of Mercury Retrograde

While the official date of Mercury in retrograde is past, until the end of the month, we are still in the shadow of Mercury Retrograde which might explain the overwhelming number of WTF is happening moments on last nights ride into the Mountain park.

It started simple enough, a quick pedal after work into TMP. I headed towards Hidden Canyon as I haven’t paid dues there in a while and it was a blissful evening of cool temps. In short, I left the house at 5:45 and didn’t get back into town until 9:30. Distance traveled was a meager 17 maybe 18 miles of almost entirely pavement? A fussy tire, dropped my camera on the trail and had to go back down 7 switchbacks to get it, scrambled to the top of a peak, left my gloves up there, couldn’t get my wheel back on the bike, and now my pump is leaking Stan’s juice, one more flat heading into town and had to call for a ride.

It was a beautiful evening and I did manage to get a few flora pictures while the light was still good.

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Geekery – Bikepacking bags.

The past week has had me taking it easy, trying to get some healing done on the hip. A visit to the doctor got me a diagnosis of tendonitis and a prescription for physical therapy. Early in the week I took it very easy, not moving around too much and staying off the bike. During the day, my hip felt pretty good and I was steadily getting back some range of motion. Nighttime though has had me tossing and turning, dreaming of riding my bike and waking up to sudden shots of agony.

Heat, ice, stretch repeat.

Wednesday I decided to pedal into work and it worked out pretty well, no pain, and no aftershocks. Thursday I did the same and decided I had to get out to test the waters for a planned (and now delayed) big adventure on the calendar for the weekend. I pedaled up to TMP and set off to hike a bit in the park, Hidden Canyon, and into the Yetman trail. 20 minutes in to the hike and my hip was not happy.

One step forward, two steps back. Now, I’m getting into some core strengthening and some stretches for the psoas, keeping with the ice, heat routine.

In the meantime, I still can’t get the AZT out of my mind and I’m constantly dreaming of other big adventures. I’ve wanted to do some gear modifications and fabrication in the ‘on the bike storage department’ and Friday night, I sat down in front of my non-functional sewing machine and decided I was going to fix it. Take it apart, do some googling, and finally find the problem and solution, timing issues. After some trial and error, I was able to correct the timing and get the machine fully functional.Throughout the weekend, I tossed around some ideas, made some patterns, took apart some de-comissioned backpacks and put together two pieces. A fuel Cell for the top tube, and a handlebar bag for clothing etc. Both turned out a bit smaller thank I had planned and need revisions at some point but largely (considering I’ve never sewed more than a button on a shirt), I’ll give the effort a two-thumbs up learning experience.

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Both pieces are similar to current offerings in the bikepacking world although my craft leaves much to be desired. The fuel cell ended up smaller than I wanted, but still holds plenty of bars. The handlebar bag is similar to a Carousel Design Works bag, with roll top closures on each side. I like prefer this method over a harness/stuffsack combination as it gives me access to whats inside without taking the bag off the bike. It too ended up smaller than I would have liked but would be suitable for summer time bikepacking. The only thing i purchased for these projects is a spool of thread and $5 worth of velcro. I canibalized pieces from two backpacks, and a spare xtracycle bag. I had a few yards of silnylon laying around for some reason so I used it for pieces of both projects. It might be fine for the fuel cell but I think durability will be a big issue. Frame and seat bags are next.

AZT300 2010 p.2

148 miles and 18k of climbing over the course of two days.

6a.m departure from Tucson. Cold and lightly raining. The forecast shows cool temps but the rain was supposed to stop by mid day. By the time we got to Sonoita, it was full on snowing…

20 riders at the start line at Parker Canyon Lake. Photo thanks to SirenMary. Wet conditions forced a lot of pushing but made navigation through the Canelo’s pretty straight forward. Brendan and I settled into a good pace and after many hours we were able to refuel in patagonia and head back out towards our camping destination, another 30 or so miles down the road.

We rolled into camp sometime around 9pm where a few other riders also decided to stay. They all got up and back on the bikes at 1am as we kept snoozing. We woke up to flashlights in our eyes as border patrol decided that we might know about some  ‘aliens’ that might have been coming through…I’m guessing the aliens they were talking about were wearing spandex and riding 29ers.

Saturday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and drank hot coffee (yes HOT coffee) and headed up to Elephant head. The warm sunshine was nice and the singletrack was tasty into Proctor road then on to Madera Canyon where we sat, drank more coffee and refilled water.

Elephant Head singletrack through the Ocotillos

The next section was big and open, riding through box canyon and onto AZT singletrack by noon. We ate lunch, talked to a tucsonan that was out for a standard saturday ride on AZT and got moving again. This section on the East side of the Santa Ritas was simply amazing. We ended up riding singletrack from that point almost completely through to the end of Colossal Cave just outside of Tucson. Along the way we ran into a few guys shooting BIG guns right across the trail, thankfully they held off for long enough for us to clear out…

Somewhere out there, I said to Brendan, “It would be cool if we ran into Lee Blackwell out here somewhere. I knew he was  somewhere nearby but not sure where. Not 5 minutes later, he came right up behind us out of the blue. The three of us had an excellent time riding back into Tucson. Collectively we were able move at a good pace taking turns and have a good time on some primo singletrack.

We crossed under I-10, refilled water in the Colossal Cave picinic area, and headed out for the final section of singletrack for the day. Lee said something about a Subway sandwich shop at Broadway and Houghton and that put all of our minds towards the emptiness in our stomachs. We got to watch an amazing sunset in the Rincon valley and did a bit of ninja training on the final 4 miles of singletrack before getting on the road.

Dinner was tasty and after stocking up at the Safeway for the next few days, we made camp near Broadway. Unfortunately, this was the end of the road for me as my hip was bugging me all day and in the middle of the night it decided that my time was up…

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Amazing few days with good friends and miles of Sonoran desert. Next time….

AZT300 2010 p.1

A few days off the bike after my effort on the Arizona Trail and I still don’t know if I’ve got a recap fully constructed in my head. In short, I spent two days in the desert pedaling, pushing, eating, and dreaming. 148 miles and almost 19,000 feet of climbing says the GPS. Those miles were hard earned and thoroughly enjoyed and I plan on gnawing them for a long time to come. Late Saturday night/early sunday morning I was forced to pull out by an extremely aggravated hip flexor on my right side. I couldn’t lift my leg, couldn’t walk unaffected, but riding seemed to aggravate it the least. Unfortunately I knew that simply not walking wasn’t going to be an option and that more time on the trail just meant more injury.

The last two days, I spent many hours thinking about what I ‘could’ be doing right now rather than staring at the computer, namely riding a bike. It really started to affect me when I started looking at the splits and times from the trackleaders page. In my mind (and backed up by the replays and splits from the spot units), Brendan, Lee and I were moving at a very good pace on Saturday. We were within a hour of some people that left from the same spot we camped 6 hours before us. I felt strong, healthy, and well fed, looking forward to more miles but the hip wasn’t having any of it. Now I’m watching Lee’s spot tracker get closer and closer, cheering him on, and wishing that I was out there with him.

Happily though, I cannot wait for next year. The difficulty of this trail exceeded expectation and happily, I was able to keep my mental and physical focus pointed in a positive direction,  chomping away mileage, and thinking about what to do next. Exodus from the route/race only entered into my mind as I was literally frozen stiff on the ground with my face in the dirt and in agony. Thankfully, Brendan, Dave, and Lee were nearby to help me safely get out of that situation and back home.

I was extremely happy with the bike and choice of gear throughout the race. Only a few small things would change if I had to do it again tomorrow (believe me, I would if I could). I’ve thought a lot about little changes and have  a laundry list of projects to get cracking on.

Mapping and navigation also worked very well. I spent a lot of time staring at maps, studying the track and cues and it helped immensely to have internalized the route a bit. I ended up laying the information from the cue sheets down on the track as waypoints so that at every turn or direction, I had a visual cue on the track. I was able to trust the track and spent minimal time route finding.

Nutrition and hydration kept the machine fed and working pretty well. I took the approach that robot food was going to be my friend and it didn’t let me down. I’m guessing it helped me to make up for a bit of the lack of fitness by keeping the tank topped off and operating smoothly. I was worried about water in the weeks prior to the event but the weather made for cool temps that helped to keep water consumption reasonable.

Fitness is where I would have liked to perform a bit better. On the bike, I generally felt good but I know I could have felt better. I think I might have been able to avoid the hip troubles if I were more disciplined about cross training and working muscle groups besides those needed in cycling. My hip injury doesn’t prevent me from riding in the least, but walking/hiking/pushing is severely effected. I’ve got to get back to stretching, yoga, and who knows what to help balance everything out.

I can’t wait to get back out in the desert. Exploration into new lands is right at the front of the brain at the moment. Tick, tock….

AZT 2.0 – Bikepacking

With the AZT, as with any other self supported, multi day events comes the logistical game of what to carry and how. The following setup is adopted and adapted from many similar setups that can be found at

Start off with this, Siren John Henry with constant radius toptube, tried and true geometry and mix of durable and well performing parts.

Then add everything else you need for multiple days on a bike. Its amazing that with everything we carry around and have in our daily lives, that it can be reduced to a few pounds of elemental things.


  • Siren John Henry, Semi-custom with extra bottle mounts, and stronger downtube.
  • Stans Wheels, tubeless
  • Sram X9 drivetrain
  • Avid Elixer Brakes
  • Ergon grips and barends for multiple hand position comfort

On the Bike

  • Carousel Seat bag (with extra mojo from SirenMary as she used for her Tour Divide run)
    • 40 degree sleeping bag
    • Bivy
    • Aircore sleeping pad
  • Jandd Frame bag in front Triangle
    • Tool kit including:
      • Multi-tool
      • Leatherman
      • Patches
      • Tire boot
      • Tire Levers
      • Chain links, zip ties, miscellaneous bolts
      • Chain lube
    • Two tubes
    • Small Stans bottle
    • Pump
    • Sunscreen
    • Chamois lube
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Ibuprofen, allergy meds, vitamins
    • Maps/Que sheets
  • Handlebar mounted stuff sack
    • Spare shorts
    • Long Underwear
    • Long Sleeve shirt
    • Wool Socks
    • Light Jacket
    • Hat
  • GPS Unit GPSmap 60CSx
  • 2 Water bottles, 1 HEED, 1 Perpetuem
  • Most likely will add a food carrying/easy access type of bag to mount on the handlebars, or the toptube/stem junction.


  • Osprey Talon 22 (bikepackers standard)
  • Wools socks: 1 thick, 1 thin
  • 6 Liter bladder
  • Camera
  • Lightweight hat with full bill for sun protection
  • Cook kit; titanium mug, esbit stove, fuel tabs, lighter, rag, utensil
  • Tooth brush, tooth paste
  • First Aid kit
  • Spare batteries
  • Spot Unit
  • Food, food, food

On Me

  • Helmet
  • Princtontec Eos Light
  • Glasses; dark lenses, light lenses
  • Shorts
  • Jersye
  • Arm warmers
  • Leg warmers
  • Gloves
  • Wool socks
  • Shoes

I’m pretty confident and comfortable with this setup; It’s balanced very well on the bike and the accessibility/access to the things I use/need is pretty well engrained in my brain

Start and end with desert plants

Special Delivery

Thumbing the refresh button on the UPS tracker for the past few days in anticipation of the arrival of the latest goods from Siren World Headquarters. Brendan pulled out something special for me in the fit and finish department. I’ve put in plenty of hours on Trauco’s generation 1 and 2 and even use the one-of-a-kind XtraSiren as a daily driver. All of those bikes take a beating and show their age. Trauco #2’s powdercoat job looks like it was dragged around through the desert (it was) and I have been itching to try something new.

We’ve had some heated debates about color choice and this hits the mark as something we were both really excited about. The Brown truck showed up late yesterday afternoon (damn late delivery) and I stood patiently outside the truck as I listened while the driver fumbled around through what seemed like the entire truck (he was in there long enough to make a few phone calls and answer some email?) Carefully unwrapping and eager to finally see the end result, the final product is pretty fantastic. A clear green powder over phosphate treated raw tubing. Weld areas shown through the candy green. Jolly Green John Henry was ready to get decked out in dangly bits. I ended the night one shifter cable, and a front derailleur shim short of complete. A quick trip to the LBS and trail time first thing in the morning.

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Ride photos to follow