Sunday, January 22, 2017


One of the current activities in cycling with a lot of “traction” is bikepacking. I think the earliest forms of bikepacking were practiced by mountain bikers wanting to do overnight trips via single track. They needed to carry their camping gear in a different way than traditional bike tourists. Bike tourists generally carry their gear in bags hung from racks that straddle the front and rear wheels. But the early bikepacking adopters could not ride narrow, tight single track trails with bags hanging off the sides of their bikes. So they developed bags to carry their gear that fit in the gaps of their bike frames and were less likely to snag branches and such along the sides of a trail.

Today, bikepacking has morphed into many things. I think my definition will be that bikepacking is to traditional bike touring what ultralight backpacking is to backpacking. Today, you might see road tourists or gravel road tourist using bikepacking bags as well as single track mountain bikers. It is a simpler, lighter camping setup than the traditional tourist who might “bring the kitchen sink.”

Bikepacking is about shaving off grams and square inches from your camping overhead. So let's look at the spaces on the bike and what we might put into them.

Generally, nothing is placed straddling the front wheel (like the front rack and panniers on a traditional road touring bike) because a mountain bike often has a front shock which moves up and down.

Starting in the front, we have the space traditionally occupied by the handlebar bag stuffed between the sides of dropped road handlebars. But on a mountain bike the handlebars are wide and don't limit the width of a bag. It turns out to be a good place to put the largest of items, which usually is your sleeping bag, pad or tent or maybe all three. Often, a small bag is also attached on the outside to store quick-access items like snacks.

Behind the stem or on the stem or hanging from the inside of the bars are a variety of little bags designed to stuff something small into. Same going back to the seatpost. Behind the seatpost is a long thin seatbag which is often used for clothes.

The center piece of bikepacking storage is the frame bag. The trouble with a frame bag is that the space in the inner triangle of a typical road bike or mountain bike can very greatly in available room and the shape of the bag. Some mountain bikes have rear shocks that protrude into this space. On some bikes the only water bottle cage locations are in this triangle. Some small frames just don't have any available space here at all. So although you can buy most bikepacking bags off-the-shelf many riders get the frame bag, at least, custom made to fit their bike.

One nice thing about the beginning stages of a new thing like bikepacking is that the big boys, i.e. corporations, have not gotten into the game yet. This is a time of innovation when lots of small players are making their bid for success. Unlike more established aspects of bicycling, there are lots of people currently making custom bikepacking bags. It is a wonderful time to get something made by hand, just for you, that is made by a craftsman rather than a big machine in the far east.

I did some research on the web and found a post on the forum for “Bikepacking and Bike Expedition” titled “Bikepacking gear bags - who makes 'em?.” This post turned out to be a permanent list of bikepacking bag makers and their contact information:

I studied the list and went to some makers' websites. I was looking for someone who did custom work and might be open to using fabrics I picked out and would let me suggest some attachment ideas I had.

I chose Rockgeist in North Carolina owned by Greg Hardy. I was lucky. Greg turned out to be responsive to queries, willing to listen to my crazy requests and a consummate craftsman. He produced very high quality bags in a month and was willing to incorporate some of my requests. The cost was no more than production bags. I highly recommend him at

The first time I looked at a set of bikepacking bags I could not believe anyone could get  enough camping gear in the bags for a weekend let alone a longer trip. But when I switched my thinking from “camping” to “ultralight backpacking” I began to see the light. When I was a kid I went backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains and in Colorado when ever I could. Even though I went “light” my pack often weighed in at 50 lbs. Nearly a half century later I can't carry that kind of weight on my back anymore. So I found out about ultralight backpacking which allowed me to continue to do something I loved at half the weight.

You do have to be willing to change your thinking about what is necessary and certainly do away with the word convenient.  I can't talk about ultralight backpacking techniques anywhere near as well as Mike Clelland of Falcon Guides. I really like his gear tutorials on, like his “Ultralight Tips”

One nice thing is he talks about many inexpensive solutions for ultralight touring and they are all applicable to bikepacking. There are also some new very high tech solutions from the typical manufacturers.  I use a MSR tent named the carbon reflex which is lighter than a simple tarp with room for three.

Using ultralight backpacking techniques you can indeed design a system for bikepacking that is comfortable and will fit in your bikepacking bags. It will allow you to explore some spectacular, out of the way places on your bike.

Like the Colorado Trail.

Some great resources online are and .

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bike Fit is everything - Carver custom bikes - Gnarvester

Of all the aspects of cycling I have come to conclude that nothing, not frame materials, components, what some racer won some race on, nothing is as important as fit.

I became interested in the cycling activity known as Randoneuring. It is a french word roughly meaning to wander. After World War II in France people often had to search for food outside the big cities. Because there was no fuel for cars they rode bicycles. It was a way to escape the bombed out cities and enjoy the countryside. But it required them to ride long distances. Up to 300 miles a day.

Modern Randoneurs are a hearty bunch who try to duplicate the long rides of the French. I was impressed that reading about what Randoneurs use for equipment is not the who's who of lightweight equipment. They are focused primarily on fit. Every little thing that is an irritant on your 40 mile ride is going to be a big problem on your 200 mile ride. So it is more important to them to have a heavier bike that fits perfectly than a modern plastic rocket.

Modern manufacturers working in carbon and aluminium make even fewer sizes than the age of steel. It was not uncommon to have every size from 50 to 62cm in half sizes during the steel age but now customers are lucky to get a choice of small medium and large. If you happen to land in the exact size of the "average customer" then you might luck out. But many people don't.

There are three places we touch the bike while riding. The handlebars, seat and pedals. Each point of contact can be adjusted to accommodate fit. The stem can be replaced with a shorter or longer offering, fairly inexpensively. The seat can slide back and forth on it's rails and the seatpost can move up and down. The cranks come in varous lengths for a very small change in leg reach.

But when these options are not enough to adapt the small medium or large frame offerings to you a custom frame is in order. There is a surprisingly vibrant steel handmade bike business in the US with many young framebuilders joining the ranks of the skilled craftman and artisan builders. But custom steel frames, although many times are beautiful works of art, are expensive. Most custom steel frames start at $2500 and many more start at $4000 on up. There is also a long wait time, with some popular builders having wait lists for years.

I spent a lifetime trying to get a good fit following the advise of so called experts. After I started to get numb hands quickly after the start of any ride I started to get serious about figuring out what my problem was. I first realised that frame designers have stretched the top tube, or the reach between the seat and handlebars, over the years making typical bikes longer and longer. In doing research  I found that frames made in the 1970's had much shorter top tubes. I  finally bought a number of old steel road frames off Ebay and built them up and rode them until I found my perfect fit. It made a huge difference for me.

I have had the same problem with mountain bikes and now that I know what the right fit is for me I decided to get a mountain bike made to order. I could not afford the price of a custom steel frame so I went searching for an alternative.

I found Davis Carver in Woolwich Maine. Davis has a bike shop and online webstore called He also developed a relationship with a frame shop in Asia that works in titanium. He offers stock frames for many different purposes from Road to Mountain but also will do custom work. For a simple change in standard geometry, like I needed, he charged a $200 up charge from the standard $1400 cost. He also claimed he could get the frame finished in 8-12 weeks.

I have had a number of custom frames made over the years and never had a frame builder meet their stated delivery time. With some builders it was off by months. Even so the shortest time I have gotten delivery was 6 months. I simply did not believe Carver could deliver in 3 months.

But he did.

I ordered a 29+ frame he calls the Gnarvester. I had him shorten the top tube considerably from stock. It is a beautiful frame with sliding adjustable rear drop-outs, great welding quality and a nice brushed finish. Davis was really responsive to deal with and was a big help. The built-up bike fits great and really feels so much better than my old MTB bikes.

If you find yourself needing a custom fit you might give Davis a call and see what he can do for you.

Carver bikes

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pinarello Dogma MOST 55mm bottom bracket adapter converts to 68mm threaded english BB.

The last time a metal bike won the Tour de France was 2006 when Oscar Peiero was awarded the winners jersey after Floyd Landis was stripped of his win. Peiero rode a Pinarello Dogma made from Deda AK61 magnesium. This frame came with a unique Pinarello proprietary 55mm press fit bottom bracket. Looking back it is an offering that failed the marketplace. This makes these frames a bit of a difficult item to support and maintain. I see a lot of forum posts asking about alternatives.

In doing research I found the US distributor Gita has an adapter that converts the Pinarello MOST 55m bottom bracket to a standard threaded 68mm english BB. I am very thankful that Pinarello did not abandon this generation of frames and provided a route to keep these frames maintainable.

You remove the original axle and bearings and install the very simple adapter.

Another possible solution is the

Carver Bikes Eccentric Bottom Bracket.

Carver's unique nylon sleeve eliminates the creak associated with EBBs. Machined aluminum body with nylon sleeve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Marinoni the Fire in the Frame

Every collector of steel bikes knows that Giuseppi Marinoni is one of the best. He has been making frames, since he emigrated to Canada from Italy, just outside of Montreal for decades.

The story of his life and effort to set the cycling World Hour Record for the 75 year old age group, cycling for as far as you can in one hour in a velodrome,  is the subject of a new movie.

It will be shown in Hayward, Wisconsin at the Park Center Theater as part of the annual Bicycling Film Festival Saturday May 28th at 7:30pm.

"If you think it is just another film about the career of a frame builder, kind of like the Ernesto Colnago saga, you are wrong.   It is a film about the life of a man, his youth in Italy, witnessing the horrors of WWII, his early racing career, coming to Canada to race in 1965, and emigrating there, and a 40 year career making some 20,000 lugged steel frames, mostly by himself.   It includes many people from his life, including his wife, old friends and family in Italy, his Canadian sponsor - an Italian restaurateur in Montreal who is still a close friend - plus Francesco Moser, and especially Jocelyn Lovell, whom he had not seen since his tragic disabling accident in 1983, and who had never had an interview with the press, much less been in a movie.   The movie got Marinoni and Lovell back together!   That part is a real tear jerker.   It's all you never knew about Marinoni and more.   A thread throughout the film is Marinoni's training for and attempt at a new hour record on the track for age 75, which happened in 2013.   I won't spoil it for you and tell you whether he gets a new record.  You will just have to see the film to find out.   But it is entertaining watching him train, and they keep the suspense going until the attempt.   The bike he rode was Jocelyn Lovell's bike, the one he won all his medals on.   Lovell gave it back to Marinoni when he retired.   He talks about how he sweated red for two years when he started to ride again after 20 years of not riding.  Red rust, from polluting his body for all the years making frames.  Finally he sweated it all out.  He is extremely fit now and rides 8000 km a year.   I am going to try to get him and the film to come to Eroica California next year!  I think Marinoni would really enjoy riding in it.  He is a hardcore cyclist from the old days."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pugsley to 9zero7 upgrade finished with a Vee Rubber Bulldozer

I have enjoyed working on the Pugsley to 9zero7 upgrade. But I have the lingering thought that I still need greater floatation. The trouble is that to gain clearance for wider tires you need a bigger frame and when I started this project I was not thinking way up to 4.7/5.0" tires I was still trying to improve the original 3.6", which I did. But the snow is always whiter on the other side of the trail right?

The problem is that it is a big jump to gain the clearance for real 4.7" tires. If you go to a wider spaced frame you need to get all new wheels with wider axles. It really becomes not cost effective to try and upgrade a frame with 135mm rear spacing to one of the newer frames with 170mm spacing or 195mm spacing because you just have to change too many parts.

But I do have the advantage of not using a derailleur for my drive train. Using a planetary hub means the chain does not move in closer to the center of the hub and back out during gear changes. This gives more clearance than a deraileur equipped bike because the chain is always as far outboard as possible.

When I tried the Vee Rubber Snowshoe XL it gave me the increased width I wanted, over the standard Snowshoe, and extra floatation but the side knobs where just to far out and could touch the frame depending on how I inflated the tires. So they were just a hair too wide for my 135mm frame.

Then Vee Rubber came out with the Bulldozer. Also claiming a width of 4.7" but with side knobs that were not quite as aggressive. I decided it was worth a try and see if I could get a bit more floatation. The volume of a sphere goes up as the cube of the radius so every extra bit of width really does make a big difference in the volume of air in the tire.

Here I put all three tires together in the same image.
Left to right the Vee Rubber Snowshoe XL, standard Snowshoe, and Bulldozer.

It is pretty easy to see the difference in clearance between the three tires.

Unlike the XL the Bulldozer does not hit the frame under any inflation and it is a good .25 inches bigger than the Snowshoe that I was running. Hence the Vee Rubber Bulldozer is a winner for me in the frame clearance game. It will allow me to get more life out of my 135mm frame.

Part two of this article: Pugsley-to-9zero7-upgrade-part-2
Part one of this article:Budget-pugsley-fat-bike-upgrade-to-9zero7

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Great Bike Shops

When I think of the great bike shops I've visited, I don't think of modern concept shops filled with glass and chrome. Vast spaces with perfect lighting and a small heard of 20-somethings who are neat and polite. By definition, they have not been sizing people on bikes for 20 years. They just don't have the experience yet. No, I'll take the small crowded bike shop with pros who've made a career in the bike business. The guys and gals who know Campagnolo as well as Shimano and Sram.

When I think of some of the great bike shops, I think of cities like Milano, New York, Paris and Fountain City. Fountain City? Yes, Fountain City, Wisconsin. There, in a town of 1000 people along the Mississippi River, you will find Brone's Bike Shop and World Cup Coffee.

When you step through the door you will be surprised to see a large offering of multiple high-end brands. Pinarello, Scott, BMC, Basso to name a few. And not just one frame on the wall but a good selection so you just might find a good fit.

Like a few other shops I can think of, Gary and Mark created Brone's. What I mean by that is they developed not only the shop but the clientele around it. But they are not elitist either. They are just as happy to sell a kid's bike to the next generation racer.

There is no way such a shop should exist in such a small out-of-the-way town. But over the years they have made such a commitment and made enough customers happy to keep them coming back. A shop like this gets known by word of mouth. This is a shop people drive to and where they hang out in the coffee shop and talk about the latest gear and join the Thursday night rides.

 Shelli, Mark's wife, runs World Cup Coffee. She makes a great cup of coffee, too!

So, when you come to Buffalo County, Wisconsin to ride the incredible small, quiet country roads... I did tell you about that didn't I? Could have sworn I did... Next blog entry. Best riding this side of Europe? Epic climbs, ridge riding and great views.

Well, be sure to drop by and check out what Gary and Mark have built. Maybe the next time you have that build list for your dream bike you might give them a call and see what they can do for you.

Brone's Bike Shop 
615 S Main St, Fountain City, WI · (608) 687-8601