Friday, August 29, 2008

Colored Hemp Twine!

Whoa. For some reason I never thought that hemp twine came in other colors. This was submitted by a reader:

Just a head's up. You can get colored hemp twine from dick blick art supplies. I usually just use a little framesaver (technically linseed oil) to keep it in place make it semi waterproof. The longest i've had it on the bike like that was a year and a half (i like to change things up on a regular basis), but it help up just fine and took some effort to remove after that time.

Thanks Tavis!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Have bike...will travel

Laura and I are going for a little bike tour this Labor Day weekend. The itinerary is pretty open-ended. We'll probably start in Ventura and pass through Santa Paual, Ojai and up the 33 into the Sespe Wilderness or maybe go west into Matilla Canyon.

Not quite sure.

I have a feeling we'll decide when we get there. But that's the beauty of it all, isn't it?

We've never done any "free camping" so we might give that a try. The idea of it sounds really fun.

She's going back home to work before I do, so I'll have a day or two to just explore. Maybe I'll go north along the coast to Goleta or Refugio State Beach or maybe head for the hills and try to get to Cielo Camino, an unimproved road that runs along the ridge of the Santa Ynez mountains.

My only set appointment is that I have to meet my train at Carpenteria on Tuesday. Other than that, the central coast is my playground.

I'm bringing the Flip camera with me, so hopefully I'll come back with some worthy video to show you all. Anyway, I hope everyone gets to do some riding this holiday weekend.

On BIG RIDES and small rides...and YOUR small ride ideas?

Well, from the feedback so far, it seems like there is a big interest in S240s and 2-3 day tours. These are actually my preferred kind of trip, since you can do them more frequently and spontaneously without all the build-up and stress of The BIG RIDE. Why just do ONE ride a year when you can do it all year long?

There is something to be said about small nebulous trips. I've been bouncing it around with friends and aside from just time/money constraints, the nature of a small trip can be very emotionally and psychologically liberating. Instead of feeling the unseen pressure of going from Point A to Point B in a given amount of time, you can meander and explore and allow serendipity to be your guide.

For myself, on our first longish tour down the Oregon coast, in retrospect I actually found it a bit stressful. Everything was pre-planned and we had to be at EXACT locations at CERTAIN times. It took a little bit away from the "journey is the destination" feeling. I remember the urgency of "I HAVE to get to this place by 4:00pm..etc.,"

That said, I think it IS important to do a trip like that. By having it planned you don't have to worry about where you are going to sleep, eat, etc., It gives you a safe space to try out touring and refine your technique and feel out where your risk boundaries are.

Having done a few smaller and less rigidly planned tours, I find touring with a rough itinerary, a map and a sense of adventure a lot more enjoyable. You can change your direction and follow your curiosity. By keeping yourself open to serendipity, you allow the truly memorable moments to happen.

So let's hear it for the "small ride."

What are your favorite small rides? If you have photos and a map, send them in (you can post them to our Flickr group)! Let's start compiling different small rides!

(Send them to: russroca (at) gmail (dot) youknowtherest)

Some good riding techniques....

You may recognize the voice (and Carradice bag from the boat cleat tip) in these videos. Here are some videos that show some good ways to ride in traffic while on your epicurean cycling adventures to keep you safe. The 2nd and 3rd installment of the video show some nice advanced techniques (negotiating freeway on-ramps, using left-turn only lanes, etc.,). So be sure to watch them all :) It's a good series to watch (note classy 3-speed bike with swept back bars, full fenders, lights and Carradice).

Video Tutorial: Boat Cleat Quick Release!

I'm lucky to have met Chris Quint, a League of American Bicyclists instructor and long time tourist a few years ago riding down the street (he just got a Brompton and I had just purchased a Bike Friday and we were marveling at each others geeks). He's a wealth of information about touring, camping and sailing. He has probably shaped my view of bike touring more than anything I've read.

So when he's not out on his own adventures, I'm busy picking his brain. Here's a little video I made about his neat boat cleat quick release (he has a sailing background as well). QR's for Carradice bags are hard to find and when you do find them they're expensive. So here's a way to do it in an inexpensive and reliable way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What would you like to see in Adventure Cyclist magazine?

I'm sure many of you are aware of Adventure Cyclist. They come out with a great magazine that is truly inspiring and are the makers of maps that tourists for years have been using. Anyway, I occasionally get a few photos printed in Adventure Cycling magazine (you may see my face pop up now and again). I've been bouncing a few ideas with one of the editors about different things they could cover content-wise.

I've been pitching the idea of more S24O stories or tours for the Everyman. "Gate-way tours" to introduce it to the masses but to also give ideas to those that don't have much time or resources to go for extended periods of time. Epic tours are great but so are shorter ones.

One of the greatest bits of advice I got from reading the Rivendell Reader (another great mag...worth the price of membership) was from a story on a tourist that also did RAAM. The most important thing about touring for him was to "just go." You can't wait for the perfect time, the perfect bike or a myriad other factors that have to align before you can go.

Or in other words: Go Small. Go Cheap. Go Now.

I may be able to give a little input in their next volume of the magazine, so to open up the floor for a second. What kinds of stories or topics would like to see in the next volume of Adventure Cyclist Magazine? I'm not making any promises that they'll implement them or anything like that, but I will pass on good suggestions to them.

So let's here it!

Campsite Gourmet - Spanish Tortilla

(Another great contribution from our Flickr Pool. You should join, the water's nice and the first round is free. Thanks to reader shanerh. )

It's a Spanish Tortilla
Here's my basic/simple recipe:

Olive oil
Dozen eggs
Two lg. potatoes
One lg. yellow onion
couple cloves of garlic
salt & pepper

heat olive oil Fry chopped onions for a couple minutes then fry diced garlic. When almost soft add thinly sliced potatoes. Cook until soft (add more oil and/or some water if need be). Meanwhile beat dozen eggs in bowl (or pot), add salt and pepper.
When potatoes are done let cool a bit then add to eggs. Optional- mash it up a bit and/or let the potatoes soak in the egg mixture awhile.
Pour the whole thing into the fry pan. Cook on super low heat (tough on a camp stove... might have to cook, take off, cook, take off, etc.).

When the tortilla is mostly cooked with still some runny stuff in the middle and it is brown on the bottom you get to the fun & tricky part- the flip. you'll need a plate, lid, or in this case a foil wind guard as big as the tortilla. Put the lid/plate/foil over the tortilla and flip it (do over something you don't mind getting some egg on). Now slide it back into the pan (gooey side down). Cook more on low until cooked through and brown on that side too.

Best served with mayo and/or salsa and a Tempranillo wine. Serve warm or at room temperature. Adaptions or variations would be to add mushrooms, zuchinni, chorizo, and whatever else you like to the mix but I like this traditional simple dish.
Makes a great leftover lunch too.

Guest Article: Carradice Barley

This article comes from reader Mike Henrick (thanks!). Like I mentioned in another post, I can't write about everything because I don't have the resources and time to try everything out. But I think collectively between all the readers, we can cover a lot of stuff. The offer still stands, if you have something you think would fit (gear, trip report, food, camping trick) and would like to write in, just email! russroca (at) gmail (dot) youknowtherest.

After a disastrous experience using an over-stuffed zip-up nylon saddlebag on a 200km brevet, I had to find something that would both be both eye-pleasing and big enough to not spill open and randomly drop important items. The carradice barely has filled that role perfectly, with more than enough room for any 200 or 300k ride, the ability to be overstuffed as well as to have a wet rain jacket strapped and dried on the outside via toestraps (not supplied with the bag). The size is such that short rides I can suffice with only my jersey pockets, but on anything where a rain jacket or extra food, clothes, and tools may be needed the bag is used. I tend to use it mainly for rides closer to century distances and beyond, riding in unpredictable weather, or if I simply want to ride to a distant park or coffee shop with a book. Because of this, it has also replaced an awkward and ugly handlebar bag that I had used previously. For cue sheets, a zip lock bag held with binder clips zip-tied to the handlebars works splendidly, and nutritious treats strategically placed in jersey pockets provide nourishment.

The bag is fitted to the bike by three leather straps. Two are threaded through the bag loops on the saddle (Velo-orange sells attachable bag loops for saddles lacking them) that also wrap around a wooden dowel to add internal support. The third wraps around the seatpost to prevent the bag from rocking back and forth. The leather straps fit snugly, and the size of the bag is just small enough to not need any extra support by means of a rack. A wine cork placed between seatpost and bag is enough to keep my thighs from touching the bag, but it's often not needed if the bag is not full. If you ride with a zero setback seatpost, you most likely won't need the cork. Attaching the bag to the bike takes two or three minutes, but it's a very secure attachment.

The opening of the bag is held closed in typical carradice fashion with leather straps, but a nylon drawstring closure adds and extra layer of security to prevent any small items from poking out while protecting them from the rain. The bag is not completely waterproof, but it hasn't shown any signs of leaking on the brief heavy showers I've ridden through with it. I think this is a combination of the cotton duck and position of the bag behind the rider, who tends to shield it from the worst of the rain. Still, I recommend using plastic bags for anything that cannot afford to get wet, such as cell phones or spare socks. Additionally, sewn onto the outside of the bag is a spot for a clip on taillight for night riding, as well as a large reflective square for added visibility.

Shown below are some photographs. In the bag I can carry enough foul weather clothing for typical Fall and Winter riding; a rain jacket, long sleeve wool jersey, space socks, knee-warmers, as well as my journal and tools for any mechanical problems. Please note that there is still room for a sandwich and maybe an apple.

(Anecdotal Aside: When I was emailing with Mike about the article he mentioned he had a Bilenky. When I asked which one, he sent me this link. I laughed out loud when I saw it, because I had been drooling over that exact bike many moons ago when I was contemplating ordering my cargo bike. What are the chances?!)

Two ways to make cork grips stick....

The first time I bought cork grips from the LBS they sold them to me for practically nothing. The mechanic handed them over and said something like "good luck....we could never get these to stick." Rather foreboding, but I was undaunted until I tried to get them to stick. I tried a few glues we had around the house (mostly craft glue, no JB weld or anything like that), but they would still slip and spin all over the place.

Then, I really looked at the grips and bar I was using at the time (Nitto Albatross) and found the problem was due more to the large friggin gap between the grips and the bar and not so much the adhesive. I tried a few more things to shim it until I discovered a solution that was almost stupid easy.

Tape. (Gaffer's tape to be exact...or any tape with a bit of grippy texture on the non-adhesive side).

Cut enough tape so that when you wrap it around the bar once(straight angle like when wrapping bar tape), the ends slightly over lap. All you need to do is wrap it once right in the middle of where the cork grips will sit. Then you slide the grips on! You'll notice that it will be some work to get them on and once they're on there's no way they are going to come flying off!

Another way is with glue and Rivendell has made a nice tutorial showing it here:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Raise your hand...

Just a quick poll. I'm infinitely fascinated about the diverse background people come from when it comes to touring. Personally, I have noticed a renewed interest in touring with people in my age group (late 20s-early 30s). Not quite the "next fixed gear" craze, but when I explain it to people they nod their heads like they're really interested. So, just a quickie poll on the left.

Apologies to precocious teenagers and octogenarians.

Does anyone else feel a renewed interest in touring or is it a case of "you see what you want to see?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

A good poem to know...

Many moons ago I was a literature major and read far and wide (within the arena of contemporary American Literature.) I read a lot of poetry, more than any regular person should be subjected to and still be expected to appreciate the manly pastimes of watching football and tailgating.

Anyway, here's a good poem to know. It's short, catchy and by Robert Frost.

And it's a good one to recite to yourself when your brand spanking new and beautiful bike takes a spill and you get that First Scratch which transforms it from a thing of ethereal beauty to "just a bike."

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Snobbery and Epicureanism...

Poking around the internets, it's good to see that Epicurean Cyclist is getting some good traffic and responses.

Mostly positive. A few disparaging remarks.

You can't please everyone.

Now a word about Epicureanism and how I'm interpreting it. I don't claim to be a philosophy expert here (though I almost majored in Classics...but any Classic Studies people can chime in here), but epicureanism was based on the philosophy of Epicurus (duh?). A few tenets of his philosophy: 1) he wasn't one for the after life 2)life's goal should be pleasure (not in a hedonistic sense though) 3)we understand things through our experiences/sensations.

His philosophy, from what I gather, was based on a very sensual/sensory existence based on the seeking of pleasure and avoidance of pain. It isn't a hedonistic sensibility though, because he extols the virtue of wisdom, understanding and moderation.

In contemporary terms, epicureanism has become synonymous with snobbery and gourmet food which is rather unfortunate.

For this site, I'm hoping to explore bike touring things that are pleasurable in terms of their aesthetics, craftsmanship and longevity.

I prefer things that are handmade with craftsmanship rather than something mass produced by an automaton. I prefer to buy something that will last a lifetime rather than something that will fall apart after a season. I prefer things that have been proven reliable rather than some new half-baked development.

In camera terms, I'd prefer a Leica or a Nikon F4 to a cheap digital point and shoot. In shaving terms, I'd prefer a nice Dovo blade, a leather strop and a badger hair brush to a disposable razor, or worse yet a vibrating Mach 3. In bicycle terms...well, that's what this page is about!

This site will no doubt be interpreted as snobbish by some, which is rather unfortunate because I really don't mean it to be. I just know that my life is short and I don't want to bother with the common and the boring. It would be like drinking Coors Light and never trying an IPA from Stone or any beer from Port Brewing :)

Let Bicycling Magazine tell you about the latest sub-10 lb. carbon fiber bicycle or new electronic shifting thingamjig (that will be no doubt replaced a few months later), or give you the "10 hot tips to make you leaner and faster, NOW!" This site isn't about that stuff at all.

It's about good handmade gear that will last longer than you, given reasonable care. It's about seeking experiences and adventures on two wheels and living a life less ordinary. It's about appreciating some nice things and good food because none of us are long for this life, and there's so many miles to pedal still!

Show and Tell: Carradice Camper Long Flap

I purchased a Carradice Camper Longflap a few months ago and I love it. It's like having a third pannier on your bike that seems almost infinitely expandable. Before Xtracycle's near perfect Free Radical bags, I'd say that Carradice Longflap and its smaller brethren were the epitome of bike luggage.

This particular model is a "longflap" because it's outer straps can expand to accommodate more stuff! Like a sleeping bag in this case. It also has handy D rings on the outside that allow you to strap things down (like a folding tripod chair, or say a sweater or a bottle of water).

I usually put things I would access fairly often on a tour. Things like food or a light sweater or shirt and some tools. I purchased mine from Peter White Cycles but you can also get it from Wallingford Bicycles. I've purchased things form both merchants and they have been great to work with.

Another train video..

I love this video and have posted it in the past, but I think it SO fits here.

Flickr Group

I've just started a Flickr Group for Epicurean Cyclist. If you've got some photos that you think will fit, please share! It's always tough to tell what stuff REALLY looks like from product images. We need some pics from the wild. The pool is not limited to just bike gear, but if you have some pics from some tours or S24Os, share those too.

Anyway, I've started the ball rolling. Here's the link:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

An Oldie but a Goodie

A narrated slideshow I made last year about my first long-ish bike tour down the Oregon Coast. Haven't finished it yet...I know, sometimes life gets in the way. But I thought some readers might appreciate it. Talks more about the train than bicycling.

Incorporating the train on bike tours is a great way to expand your range. It's relatively inexpensive ($90 from Los Angeles to Portland WITH your bike), it's civilized (you're not carted about like can take more than 3oz of fluids with you) and it can be quite picturesque. Much more enjoyable than sitting in a pressurized cabin or a car for 20+ hours.

Brew and Bikes

Just a short bit of video fun with the Flip. Grabbing a pint or two at the local pub (strictly Stone, epicurean cyclists know to stay away from the fizzy yellow beers :). You'd think this scene was out of Portland what with all the bikes, but it's actually in Long Beach, CA of all places.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wanted: Your Participation

Hey all, so far this site is off to a great start! We got some love from Velo-Orange, Eco-Velo and Cyclelicious! There are also lots of great encouraging comments and the little YouTube video of the Ostrich gear is getting hundreds of views!


Glad to know that there's an interest in all this stuff.

So here's the skinny. I don't know everything (my girlfriend will attest to that) and I don't have unlimited funds to buy all the neat bits I'd like to feature. So, if you've got something that you think would fit the site (rack review, bags, wool stuff, camping gear, some nice cheese, etc.,) and would like to take a picture or shoot some video or write about...send me an email.

We'll talk and if it works out we can put it up here. Contributions don't have to be limited to just gear though. Some food reviews, some neat camping tricks or even a journal entry from a recent ride you took would work.

Let's get cracking and keep the momentum going.


High Tea with a Trangia

I usually take a Trangia stove with me on my bike adventures. Works for me, might work for you too. It has its advantages and some cons. Mostly, I like it because it's so darn small and there's no moving parts to break. You basically fill it with fuel (denatured alcohol) and throw a match in the middle or light it with a lighter and that's it!

Sure, it could burn longer and hotter and faster, but for me it works. It's a quiet little stove and I sometimes carry two of them. Did I mention they're pretty cheap too. You can get them for as low as $25 depending on what it comes with. There are more expensive models that come with the "storm cooker" set up that go up to $100+. There's no proprietary stove canisters. As long as there's a hardware store (denatured alcohol...usually in the paint thinner section) or automotive store (I've used some stuff called HEET with good luck) you'll be able to fuel her up.

Rivendell sells a few versions of it, so check it out there (it's under the bike camping section).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A few more ride pics...

Hey, I am a photographer after all :) These are some pics from The Great Western Bike Rally. It's a yearly event where thousands of people come together, camp and go on rides. Nothing too organized. Just a bunch of rides you can do. This year it was in Paso Robles again, so I had the great opportunity to ride through some amazing rolling hills.

Oh. And you may see a few of these pop up in some Adventure Cycling literature.

Ostrich Pannier

Another quickie video tour of the Velo-Orange Ostrich Pannier...

-Looks darn classy
-Nice heavy material
-Good closures
-Some "overstuffability"

CONS (though not really deal breakers...but would be nice if they made some changes):
-A little too small for longer tours
-Not as quick to remove from the rack, like say with an Ortlieb pannier..but with practice you get pretty fast
-Wish that the lacing was more functional...unlacing would actually expand the bag

Just some pretty photos from a solo-tour...

Not quite an S240 because it turned into a 3-day tour, but sort of in the same spirit. The point was to get out and just do it. I usually travel with my girlfriend but she's busy as all heck and couldn't come out to play so I pushed off solo.

It was my first solo trip and the thing I learned is that left to your own devices, it actually only takes about a day and a half before you start talking to yourself :)

In all seriousness, solo is a different type of trip. Very internal and retrospective. Good for clearing out the cobwebs in the heard, finding your self, etc.,

You can see the rest of the Flickr set here.

Anyone else have insight on touring solo?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to Twine Stuff

Here's a video of one way to twine your handlebars. The twine I'm using is made from hemp and you can get some from Rivendell if your local crafts store doesn't have it.

What can you twine?

Well, I usually do my handlebars (where the tape ends). I've twined my top tube where the brake levers would hit if the bars spun. You can use twine instead of a chainstay protector. You can even use twine to cover up dents in paint, looks nicer than electrical tape. Skys the limit. I'm planning to twine a frame pump when I finally get a hold of one.

If you learn better from pictures and text, check out this excellent tutorial here.

Video Review : Velo-Orange Ostrich Handlebar Bag

Yay! It's my inaugural review and it's of a great product. I love this handlebar bag. Super classy and super functional. I used it to carry my DSLR while on tour to give me access for some nice shots. So here's my video review (using a Flip Ultra).

Some shots of it on a bike:

Welcome to the Epicurean Cyclist

Is this site for you?



If you prefer wool to polyester, twine to electrical tape and friction to index shifting, then there's a good chance you might like this site.

I'll be writing about bike camping and touring and talk about some of the things I like. It's not for everybody. You might think some of the stuff is outdated, quaint or over-priced. That's fine too.

This site won't be perfect and I won't be able to tell you everything about everything that's out there and I may get some things wrong on occasion, but I just want to talk about some stuff I've used that I like and would recommend to a good friend.