Monthly Archives: March 2013

March 2013

I guess its been a full month of thoughts and little else regarding touring. The last bit of winter into spring. but spring is still cold and not spring-like yet. Being in the house too much. not getting out of the city at all. Thinking about things i miss. Traveling and photos of people and new places.

I’m going to call this the month i decided that i will def go on another bike tour. A shitty January and February might have had something to do with it.

The ideas might have roots in the further past but this month has been thoughts of a custom built touring frame. This was solidified just this week after completing a task i was given and compensated for nicely. That would never have happened if not for the recommendation of my friend, who happens to be a frame builder. So i think I’m going to take a little of my winnings and commission him to build me a frame. Win win.

As for tour duration, I want to aim for a year + a season probably starting end of summer, prob not till 2014.

Also i don’t really put much thought into where to go specifically really just the wanting to go. No lines drawn on maps. Maybe some dots though.

A new idea is to pick a charity so if i can point attention of well meaning people i might meet to it, all the better. Not picked one yet, my thoughts are kids or the homeless.

Something to focus on for myself as i travel around is to locate people and businesses of different sizes that have a made in USA ethic and make a photo series out of that. People and the things they make here in North America.

I think this will be a solo trip but I’m open to riding with another bikers.

A worry, how to make money while on tour.


MSR MugMate

mugmate for bike touring

A small, light, infinitely reusable, coffee and tea filter with lid. I might ditch the lid and  also drill a hole in one side of the handles so i can attach a key ring & mini carabiner.

After some tea and coffee testing ive learned this works really well with tea. Using this for coffee is good but attention to the grinds coarseness is at least a little important. I drink coffee because it is coffee not because i care much about what kind or style it is. So if this thing is light weight and durable but doesnt  correct for variations in grind fineness or coarseness, well i can live with that.

On a short bike tour it might make sense to just buy $2 coffee whenever. On a longer tour saving a few cents or a buck on each cup will add up to something. And with that, the trip could be a extended little longer.

– after some use.. boil water, add grinds into pot, let sit and stir lightly, pour thru the mugmate into coffee cup(s). Most of the grinds stay in water pot. Can make as much or as little coffee as needed in one go.

Weight 1 oz
Cost: $16
Made in Germany

Touring Bike – 2013 Bianchi Volpe


Today I was riding home and saw a guy riding one of these and chatted a bit. He said he just got it from Bianchi because he had a much older Volpe and kinda put it through hell. After writing a long winded letter about a cracked drive side chain stay drop out Bianchi sent him a new one. Must have just been the frame only because all the parts look different than this.

This is just the reason I want to get a new touring bike. As good as a bicycle is new, after years of miles on the road, loaded touring and being up & down coast lines the frame wont last forever. I worry that if I went out on another long ride the my frame would be the most likely to fail. Probably the drive side drop out because that spot endures the most stress.

I’m thinking about going the custom frame route and swap most of my parts over. But if i didn’t have a bike to tour on this would be the one I’d want to buy.

Argus C3

Argus C3 35mm rangefinder camera

An Argus C3 is not my first film camera but this is the camera that made me want to shoot 35mm film regularly. Unfortunately, the copy that got me hooked was only a loaner and I was again taking pictures with my only camera at the time, a Canon DSLR.

At some point I figured out that my DSLR lenses would fit onto an older Canon SLR, so i found a used Canon EOS 3 to shoot film again. Auto focus, light metering and auto film advance is all good but there is something really nice about a 60 year old, all manual rangefinder.

I did finally find an Argus C3 for sale on the street in Brooklyn. I knew what to look for to be pretty sure it worked. The seller was asking $20 but took $15.

Mine has a 50mm f/3.5 lens. All of them are really heavy. I like having black and white film in this camera.

Pros: 35mm film, no batteries, 50mm lens, made in US, conversation starter(rare-ish, looks cool), low cost, very tough build, the feeling of shooting thru a 70 year old lens and getting rad pictures back.

Cons: heavy, very small viewfinder, difficult to focus, max shutter speed is 1/300th, no light meter, must wrap up to carry or it will win in a backpack fight with whatever it rustles around with (they dont call it “the Brick” for nothing)

Made in USA

Wind Map

Wind Map

This is fun to watch and one of the few instances I’d agree that it makes sense to omit the rest of North America and still be a map worth looking at.


Samsung Galaxy SII


As of today if i was to go on another bike tour i would do the same as I did last time regarding phones. Almost the same. Take a phone device, that has no phone service, to use apps and have music and get online at wifi spots. But this time drop the iPhone 3G (that I quit using as a phone in mid 2011) and take the Galaxy SII(that i bought used late 2012). The SII is no longer the best phone out there but it does a lot.

  • Better camera w/ flash
  • Bigger screen
  • More storage
  • Swype will make Touring notes easier to do
  • I don’t like the music player as much as iTunes

None of this matters though. It’s gonna be a while before I do any tour long enough to cancel my phone service for. And by time that happens who knows where I’ll be phone-wise. I guess this is just me daydreaming about gear and travel. I keep looking at touring sites and photos online, imagining that I’m in my tent when really I’m really just trying to sleep in my bed. Today I weighed my two different tire lever sets to see the actual weight difference. 2 Park levers are .8oz (24g) and 2 Pedros levers are 1.4oz (42g). My passport weighs 1.1oz (34g) for comparison, and my SII is 4.7oz (134g) w/o charger.

Previously: iPhone (no phone plan)

Advice on Touring Bikes

I think just about any bike could be used for bicycle touring. If lots of parts and bits are that important and need to be specific, then you can do what you need to get all those parts and bits. Some of the ones that may or may not be obviously important to a person new to touring are the frame, the wheels, the drive train, and the contact points.

There are millions of bikes out there. It is not crucial that you buy a Surly Long Haul Trucker or any other complete off the shelf touring bike, new or used. But one does need to start somewhere.

A steel frame that is about the right size for your body is the best place to start. New or used, a “touring” bike or just a bike that is a bike, anything in good condition will do. Having a frame made of steel is going to be best because Aluminum is too difficult to repair, Ti is too expensive, and carbon is too expensive and pretty much can not be repaired. If it’s not a pure racing bike there is probably a way to get a rack on it. If it only has 2 bottle mounts that’s fine. Mine does have 3 but i carry peanut butter in the 3rd. And if there were no 3rd cage mount i’d carry that peanut butter in a pannier. Besides that, pipe clamps will do the trick to add bottle cages where there are no mounts.

Wheels. For basic touring, generally people want a bike with either 700C wheels or 26″. Keeping it simple, and speaking about average size riders, 700C will be more efficient and good if more than 90% of your riding is on paved roads. And 26″ will be stronger and better for riding on unpaved conditions. 26″ is also OK for paved roads but will be heavier and a bit slower. This is all important because the frame is made for either 700C or 26″. So this is a choice to make when looking for a bicycle or a bike frame.

My first tour was with an off the shelf touring bike. I wanted to ride across the county so I bought a touring bike. It had the stock, 700C factory built 36 spoke, with a 3-cross lacing pattern. I had not too much stuff but was fully loaded and about 650 miles later my rear wheel broke a bunch of spokes and i could not ride. I was in the middle of nowhere and had to deal with a lot of unexpected to get back to riding.

With that, I do not recommend touring on factory built wheels. Regardless of the wheel size or how many spokes, my best advice is hand built wheels from someone who is reputable and a 4-cross lacing pattern.

It is not only important that the wheels spin true, but also that the tension in the spokes is even. A spoke that is too tight is doing more work than the ones next to it. And a spoke that does too much work will break. And then the ones next to it will be doing too much work. It’s like falling dominos in slow motion. Ask someone you know who has broken a spoke, if they kept riding I’ll bet they broke more than one. So having hand built wheels is a good place to start because the builder should watch the tension to keep it even. And as for the 4-cross, it means the stress of the wheel is sent to a broader area on the hub. Think of it like this, carry a heavy backpack with skinny straps, or carry it with wide straps.

I like to ride on roads, i don’t want to have to work any harder than i need to, and i don’t want problems with my wheels. A lot of touring advice out there says 36 spokes are more than enough. I will agree that a wheel might do fine with just 36 spokes but I know that a wheel with 48 spokes will definitely do much better, and with only a small weight penalty. I said something about spoke tension. A strong wheel with 36 spokes has more tension than a wheel with 48 spokes. With 48 each spoke does less work(because there are more of them working) so the tension does not need to be as high. Or think about it like this, tandem bikes have a lot of weight on them right? Two riders on one bike with just two wheels. How many spokes do tandem wheels have? I don’t want to carry 150 lbs. of gear, but i could. And if i did my 48 spoke hand built 4-cross wheels would be just fine.

Drive train. This is simple. Have a wide range of gears, a new chain (maybe not the cheapest one there is) and if it all works good before you depart, it should work to get you a couple thousand miles before anything major needs replaced. Although if you have to lay you bike on the ground I’d say lay it with the chain side up so your derailleurs dont have the weight of your bike on them.

Contact points meaning saddle, handle bars/grips, and pedals. Unless you have a Brooks saddle already, you should get a Brooks. I know it sucks to look all over the web looking for advice on gear and seeing nothing but LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks, LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks, LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks. They all get a lopsided amount of gushing reviews, mostly by the less experienced. I don’t give a shit about LHT or Ortlieb, but getting a Brooks is a good idea. And preferably one with springs. I’ve done 4 tours, each 2, 3 or 4000 miles and only on my most recent one did i ride with a Brooks. It can be done without one. But after I got one I don’t want to do a long ride on anything else. As for handle bars i think wider is more comfortable with good cork bar tape. And pedals, think about clipping in. It’ll let more of your muscles do work. Or,,, it means a few of you muscles wont have to do all the work.

Ok, any steel frame that fits, strong well built wheels, a sound drive train, learn about Brooks now or later, comfortable handle bars, and efficient pedals. After all that you can think about what stuff to take(clothes, tools, camp set, cook set, notebook, camera) and what to carry it in. Good luck.


PowerFilm USB+AA Solar Charger

PowerFilm USB+AA Solar Charger

I’ve only just seen this on the web. But could look like something to get before my next tour.

Some info from MEC site. They say it’s made in USA but they are not always accurate with that info. I do know that Eneloop batteries are made in Japan.

PowerFilm Solar USB + AA Solar Charger

Product Number: 5024-540
Made in USA

Weight: 215g

This flexible solar charger is foldable and packable, so you can bring it wherever you’re bound. Under full sun, it charges the included 2AA batteries in about four hours. You can then use the batteries to charge other devices when no sunlight is available.

  • Panels are made of amorphous silicon which captures a broad spectum and works well in sunny or cloudy conditions.
  • USB port for direct charging of most micro USB devices, like cell phones, smart phones, and iPods®.
  • Battery charging current is 400mA at 3.6V.
  • USB charging current up to 1A at 5V.

Drift HD Action Camera


I have one of these and only use it a little bit. But if i wanted to take a wide angle video camera on a bike tour this would be the one, versus a GoPro or one of the lesser brands.

I like the Drift HD for three main reasons.

1. It has a dedicated screen. Some of the others are catching up on this point but they are add-ons. Or phone apps that have a time delay. Drift got it right early on.

2. The lens can be rotated. There are so many places a camera this small can be mounted. And many more if it need not be mounted level to the horizon or even right side up. The sensor rotates with the lens. So if i mount this at an odd angle i can look at what I’m getting on the screen and rotate the lens until im getting the shot I want.

3. It has a standard 1/4″ tripod mount. I have no idea why, other than selling more plastic crap to their customers, any camera would NOT have a 1/4″ tripod mount. GoPro does not have this so theirs must be mounted with their shitty plastic mounts that break and fail all the time.

I mount this to just about anything with a nano clamp and mini ball head

The battery life is good. The video quality is good. The sound is good. Its size is good. It charges with a common cable. It costs about the same as its competitors. Its weather resistance is good. And Drift sells replacement parts, if you were to crack the lens cover.