Entries Tagged as Gear Review

A Primer on Camping Stoves

What makes a good stove for bicycle touring? First, the stove has to be small and light. I've seen some stoves that weigh a ton. For the most part, they work great, but mostly disqualify themselves because of the weight. Next, fuel has to be available. If a stove runs on canisters that you can find only in certain large cities, that's not going to do you much good. The most readily available fossil fuel, automotive gas, isn't very good for your health or for your stove, so try to stay away from that as an option.

Go Far and Go Anywhere on the Fargo

My plans for last summer were to bicycle the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) from Bannack, Montana, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While I did manage to ride from Bannack to Steamboat, a fair amount of the trip ended up taking place on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail instead, a result last year’s monster snowpack in the western Wyoming mountains. In other words, it was a hybrid ride composed partly of dirt/gravel and partly of pavement. As it turned out, it was an ideal route for testing out the bicycle I was aboard.

Gear Review: The BOB IBEX Trailer

As I wrote about in my Biking Without Borders column at the Adventure Cycling blog on July 18, I spent a little over two weeks this past summer bicycling a hybrid route made up of parts of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. It was the first time I’ve taken a longish ride hauling a trailer, as opposed to carrying panniers on racks. The trailer I pulled was a single-wheeled BOB IBEX, the shocked version -- featuring three inches of adjustable suspension travel -- of the standard BOB YAK trailer.

My impressions? Great on the flats and downhills, whether paved or dirt (it was easy to forget I was even pulling the trailer a lot of the time); okay on the uphills, though I felt more sluggish than when carrying a similar amount of weight in panniers; and not so good in heavy crosswinds. In fact, I found downright terrifying a stretch of U.S. 20 I was forced to pedal from the Idaho-Montana border at Targhee Pass, about 8 miles into the town of West Yellowstone. Strong crosswinds were compounded by 1)heavy tourist and truck traffic and 2)brutal rumble strips that I had to skirt either to the right (think steep drop-off over nasty, angular boulders) or to the left (think previously mentioned truck and tourist traffic). I was getting blown around so much that I actually dismounted and walked a couple of miles through the worst of it.

To be fair, I’m not sure how much better -- if at all -- a set of front and rear panniers would have performed in similar conditions.

Other impressions:

*The trailer, which ships in pieces, was quite easy to assemble.

*Parking the long and wide bike-trailer rig, which you do by angling both the trailer and handlebars 90 degrees to the bike frame, was no problem after some practice. Because I was in remote areas for the most part, parking space was not a concern; it would be if you were in a town with crowded sidewalks, because this baby takes up a lot of room. 

*Packing the dry sak suits someone like me, who tends to throw things in rather than being neat and organized. For the rider who likes everything in a certain place, that’s much easier to accomplish with a set of rack packs than it is with the single-compartment dry sak.

*The trailer is quite easy to attach and detach from the bike, once you get the hang of it. This is a real advantage over panniers. For this reason, I would also say that a trailer like this is good for a quick bike overnight: just throw in the tent and everything else, hook the trailer up to your bike, and hit the road or trail.

*The locking/cotter pin is vital to keeping the bike and trailer safely attached to one another. Their elastic attachment, I found, is easy to break. Once that breaks, it’s easy to lose the pin, so I was glad I had spares along.

Because I was riding a 29er Salsa Fargo lent to me by the company (a bike that I’ll plan to review here at a later date), I had to opt for purchasing the IBEX 28, specially designed for 29er mountain bikes and road bikes with full-wrap fenders. I’ll probably find out next summer if there’s any problem fitting this longer-reach trailer to the standard 26-inch wheels of my Jamis mountain bike.

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Gear Review: Sleeping Bag Selection

Fully-loaded riderIf you're in the market for a new sleeping bag for an upcoming tour, the wide array of options available can be really intimidating. A sleeping bag is an important peice of equipment to have along if you plan on camping, of course, but not worth getting hung up on for days on end. To help you make your ultimate decision, here are three factors I take into consideration when looking at sleeping bags.