Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Meca of Fat-Biking

Stopped by my LBS this evening to pick up a few miscellaneous parts for my Travelers-Check build.
The pit in my stomach after paying far too much for cones and bearings to rebuild some old Shimano hubs was quickly abated at the sight of a shiny Ti fat-bike rolling through the door.

The pilot of this lust-worthy machine is Troy, who had recently arrived from sunny Australia on a fat-bike pilgrimage to the frozen white north.  Troy came to Alaska to give his new Muru  frame a full shake down and hone his own winter fat-biking skills at the 5 day ITI "Training Camp", learning the requisite skills to survive on a multi-day winter bike-packing excursion.  

This Bike was a beauty. The titanium frame from Muru Cycles was barely visible under a full kit from Revelate Designs, and had a top shelf build: Hope hubs, DuskerDu 120 tpi tires, XO drive train, Surly MWOD cranks.   The frame-set had super-clean welds and I was told it had ben made in China along side other notable titanium bike manufacturers. 
First of its kind, adventure ready titanium fork with six brazons to accommodate the Salsa 'everything cage': 
170mm symmetrical rear with ample clearance for bigger tires...  
It was refreshing to stand around and geek out on a bike like a bunch of kids; just getting excited about how FUN it is to ride a bike in the snow!  A stark contrast to this week's resurgence in all the Lance Armstrong hoopla.  Also great to see the developing ingenuity in the fat-bike niche and the growing world community of fat-bikers.  Hearing Troy's tales of urban adventures in biking around Anchorage since his arrival, gave some some perspective to the logistical intensity of winter-biking that has become part of daily routine.   I wish Troy all the best on his Alaskan adventure!

Midwinter Spring Melt

As the global warming hoax continues, temperatures reached the mid-40's in Anchorage  last week promptly melting what meager snowpack we had accumulated thus far into an icey wet mess.  These springlike conditions necessitated studded tires,  full fenders, and waterproof riding gear for the daily commute. So I reluctantly had to park the fatbike and hang up my wool sweater and dig some fenders out of the garage.

I had been saving a set of vintage steel fenders with an integrated old dyano tail light, and the unseasonably wet weather gave me the chance to mount them to the Long Tail Trucker.  Running the wiring from the dynamo hub was a snap thanks to a series of stainless steel strips lining the inside of the rear fender; just had to use a flat head sceew driver to pry open a small gap, feed the wire through, and the wires are now held securely in place and out of sight.

Surprisingly, the old bulb was still functional, but I will likely replace it with an LED bulb in the near future.

The white painted steel, and racing flag decals add a little vintage class to he cargo bike and work like a charm to keep the icey grime out of the drive train.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

DIY Bottle Insulator, in about 29 steps

Keep your water from turning to ice on those cold winter rides.
Handmade by you is better than made in China.  
The construction is basically a series of nesting cylinders consisting of an inner layer of Insulbrite material to retain and reflect radiant heat against the bottle, intermediate layer of synthetic pre-quilted polyfill insulation to keep the cold out, and outer-layer of rip-stop nylon for durability and water restiance.  This is similar to products offered by Outdoor Research and Nalgene.  The O.R. product uses closed cell foam as the insulation, but I had extra pre-quilted synthetic insulation from another project lying around so that's what is used here; Any sort of other insulation could easily be substituted.

  The O.R. case of similar size weighs 163 grams, and the final weight of the DIY case with the cheapo plastic zipper was 109 grams, so it's weight weenie approved.
Stay tuned for a controlled comparison freeze test of this case vs the O.R. Water Bottle Parka.  

Materials needed:
Water Bottle
Ripstop nylon
Synthetic insulation (like primaloft)
7" zipper
Colored thread
Sewing machine
Measuring tape
Chalk/ Marking

1.  Measure the outside circumference of water bottle, and determine desired height  you would like your zipper to be for the top/lid of the case.

2. Cut Insulbright fabric to demensions determined above, adding 1/4 inch in length and width to compensate for the seams.  

3. Wrap Insulbright material tightly around water bottle, pinning along vertical seam line. 

4. Remove water bottle from insulbright; straight stitch along vertical line, removing pins as you stitch.
Cut away excess material, reinsert water bottle to test fit.  

5. Keeping water bottle in the newly formed insulbrite cylinder to maintain the form,
 trace out a circle of insulbrite for the base.
 Make this circle a 1/4" larger circumference than outside edge of insulbrite cylinder.  
As seen below:

6.  Pin insulbrite circle to one open end of insulbrite cylinder, matching up the edges.

7.  Straight stitch carefully along edge, joining the circle to the cylinder, removing pins as you go. 

8.  Next create the insulation layer, with same methods described above.  Wrap insulation around water bottle with insulbrite layer to determine dimensions.  Pin along vertical seam line, and straight stitch.

9.  Trace and cut out circle of insulation, using the insulation wrapped around water bottle as guide; again making circumference of circle larger than outer edge of insulation cylinder by 1/4 inch.  

Then holding scissors at about a 45 degree angle towrard the center of the circle,, cut around the top edge of the circle of insulation resulting in the top edge being 3/4 of an inch smaller than the bottom edge.  
10. Pin circle into cylinder matching the edges as best as possible.  
11.  Straight stitch the circle of insulation to the cylinder, removing the pins as you stitch.  

Now create the outer most layer of rip-stop nylon, using same methods as first two layers.
12.  Measure outside circumference and height of first two layers, adding 1/4 inch to length and width of final dimensions.  Measure and cut rip-stop nylon.  
13. Pin nylon around bottle and first two layers to ensure a snug fit, remove cylinder, straight stitch along pin line.  

14.  Slide your new nylon cylinder over first two insulating layers, and trace out circle of nylon, again adding 1/4 inch to dimension.  

15.  Note: Make sure the vertical seam stitching is exposed (on the outside) for this step.
As before, pin the circle to the cylinder matching the edges carefully, then straight stitch, removing pins as you go.  Now turn this cylinder inside out, so all the stitching is hidden inside.  

16.  This is a good place to repeat steps 1-15, to create 3 cylinders for the top part of the case, the lid.
I left a little bit of room in my top part to house a chemical heat pack if needed.  

17. Now time for zippers!  Nest all the layers together and pin your zipper into place along the exposed edges of where the two halves meet.  

18. Put a zipper foot on your sewing machine for this step.  Remove the nylon layer and top stitch the zipper to the nylon, I used red thread for style.

(A happy coincidence was that the nylon cylinder fit over my sewing machine fine, allowing to top stitch, this may not be possible if you are making a case for a skinny water bottle)

You may now notice that there is an ugly open gap in the zippers at the back of the case.
19.  Mark off this area at the ends of the zipper with your chalk, and measure up 2.5 inches above and below the zipper line.  Measure out this rectangle and then cut out the same dimension in insulbrite.  Then cut two rectangles of nylon of with a 1/2 inch added to the length and width.  

20..  Top-stitch the insulbrite between the two layers of nylon.  folding the edges of the nylon over and top-stitching a second time.  
21.  Now take the the two outer-layers of nylon and pin this rectangle onto the open area between the ends of the zippers.  Then top stitch in black thread around the edges.  

For extra style points try to stitch with red thread in line with the zipper attachment stitches.  
If every stitch is crooked, people might think you did it on purpose.  

  Now to cover the exposed insulation with nylon.
22.  Trace two concentric circles on nylon: the inner circle with same circumference of water bottle; the outer circle with same circumference of insulated case.  I shaded the areas between the circles below.
23.  Cut out the shaded area to make a doughnut shape,
Repeat Steps 22 and 22 to create two doughnuts. The inner edge of the doughnut will be stitched to the edge of the insulbrite layer, and the outer edge of the doughnut will be stitched to the inside of the zipper.
See Step 25 for illustration of this. 

24.  Pin  inner edge of nylon doughnut to open edge of insulbrite, carefully matching the edges, then straight stitch removing pins as you go.  

25.  Nest the insulbrite layer back inside the lofted insulation and nylon layer, taking outer edge of nylon doughnut and pinning it to the inside of the zipper.  Straight stitch carefully removing the pins as you go.  

26. Create 2 inch extension cylinder to overlap inside of zipper.
Now take a 2 inch wide piece of insulbrite and cut to a length equal to circumference of water bottle.  Straight stitch the 2 inch ends together, creating a short cylinder.
27. Place this small extension cylinder into the top of the lower insulbrite layer, overlapping 1/4 inch, increasing the height of lower insulbrite layer by 1.75  inch.  DO NOT STITCH TOGETHER YET.  

28.  Taking the second nylon doughnut, place it over the 2 inch insulbrite extension cylinder that you made in Step 27.  Pin the inside edge of the doughnut through both layer of insulbrite (existing bottom cylinder and 2 inch exetnsion cylinder).  Top stitch all three layers together, removing pins as you go.  

29.  Pin the outside edge of the nylon doughnut to the inside edge of the zipper of the lower part of the case.  Stitching carefully, removing pins as you go.  

I like to burn off my excess threads, but I do not recommend this as materials used are highly flammable. 

BOOM!  You're done.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

14 hours, 20 below.

The Iditabike (Iditarod Trail Invitational race/ ITI)  is a 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, akin to the would famous Iditarod dog-sled race.  The ITI also has a "short course" 350 mile route from Anchorage to McGrath.  This is an awe-inspiring endeavor to undertake.

A few weeks back, I got a call late in the day Friday to tag along on an ITI training ride, so I raced home to frantically throw together my winter camping gear that had been packed away since last year.
I was excited to spend the night riding with some of these racers and hear about their past experiences on the Iditarod Trail, and see if I could keep up...


My impulsivity got the better of me and I made a game of packing as much gear as possible onto my bike; resulting in a rig weighing somewhere north of 65 pounds (because that's where my scale stops).  But I had an avalanche shovel, two sleeping pads, french press, hatchet, coconut water, spare batteries, extra headlamp, change of clothes, and flask of booze so I was well prepared for any apocalyptic eventuality.

The ride commenced in just after 10:00 PM out my back door onto the Chester Creek trail to rendezvous with the group.  We warmed up around town, following several of Anchorage's urban trails, then worked our way up into Chugach State Park and of the front range.  My riding companions were all on 27 pound Linsky welded titanium Fatbacks with minimalist gear, so I felt a little over prepared for the evening, and was cursing the weight of my hatchet and shovel during the extended climbs out of the Anchorage bowl.  

The lack of recent snowfall and sub-zero temps had left the trail conditions packed, frozen, and fast.  A surface well suited for their Fatbacks with the standard issue fast rolling Surly Larry Tires.  My Surly Moonlander  on the other hand, equipped with the fattest, knobbiest, tires available, had me spinning hard just to keep pace as the others coasted effortlessly through any section of trail with a moderate decline.  I won the prize for most calories burned.

There is something about biking in -20 degree weather that seems to suck the energy right out of you, so we paused frequently to adjust layers, snack, hydrate, and check one-another's faces for frostbite.  

Somewhere around 4:00 AM, we bed down just off the path to take an early morning nap; and after a bite of chocolate and a shot of syrupy vodka to take the edge off the caffeine infuse energy gels, my bivy never felt so inviting.

Emerging from our frozen cocoons a few hours later, we were greeted by first light, warm coffee, and a promise of a fast icy technical single-track decent back to town.  

Home by noon. Dehydrated, exhausted, frosty, happy, and thankful for a wild Friday night.
Covered about 50 miles with a taste of what the race pace for an ITI would be like.
Definitely not going to sign up this year.