The curse of the Bike Geek.

It’s a perennial habit that I’m forever jumping between bikes (yet no two are ever complete at once). Parts migrate from frame to frame as frequently as I draw breath. I ride one bike for a few days, then cannibalise it to create another. It’s the curse of the bike geek and gear horder.

There’s 2 days to go before I leave for Peru to begin a 6 month journey… yet still I’m undecided. Ogre or Krampus or ECR? My friend Jeremy says: You’ll take the bike you’re riding the day before you leave.

And then, I tussle further: Carradice or Porcelain Rocket? Panniers or trailer? The truth of the matter, of course, is that any one of these capable bikes, with any one of a number of setups I obsessively concoct in mind, will take me to the places I yearn to go. Each may boast the subtleties of pros and cons – which, granted, make for enjoyable debate. But when the day draws to a close (and I’m tucked into my sleeping bag), any one of them would have done the same thing.

After all, it’s about the ride, not what you’re riding…

_MG_3479

Ogre + Double Saddlebag + Framebag. Mad Max-esque.

_MG_3486

The capacious Camper Longflap provides room and width for the all-important Macbook AIr. A lightweight Flash 18 backpack is easily attached, for days where there’s overflow.

_MG_3500

The Camper’s longflap can be unfurled to engulf tent and rollmat. Support comes via a relatively light Tubus Vega rack. This opens up options for panniers at a later date. Or surplus gear to be cinched on. 

_MG_3492

Porcelain Rocket framebag is empty, in anticipation of food.

Snacks, spork, knife.

Revelate Gas Tank: snacks, spork, knife.

_MG_3485

Carradice Super C provides waterproof sanctuary for clothes and sleeping bag. Which, in turn, provide a soft cushion for a DLSR. Jacket is cinched on top for speedy access. Voluminous pockets ideal for apples and mangos. The bag hangs off titanium handlebars, and is supported by a Nitto M18 rack.

Any thoughts or speculation?

Thanks to the inimitable Gypsy By Trade for saddlebag advice and more.

57 thoughts on “The curse of the Bike Geek.

  1. Pingback: Functional bikes. Not Porn not Anti - Page 85 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

  2. Jeff Wyman

    Hi Cass
    its funny how cycling is a suck it and see sort of thing ,having put many bikes together my self .Using all the available information reviews and blogs as a guide to spend my money just once .We assemble the bike and the initial smiles turn into I have to change this and this is not right a week later ,its back to the drawing board .I notice one component you never change or comment on is the saddle ?. I am running with a Nuvinci N360 hub, I like it because its like a dimmer switch with its smooth transition across its range (not for every one I know !) . What I do not like is having it on a bike with vertical dropouts, in the winter I will modify the frame to horizontal (half links, chain tensioner’s urghh ) .I ride a a Dialled Alpine 853 its nice because you do not see many this side of the pond and I used to live in Epsom Surrey .I see you have a new Carradice saddlebag they have dropped the metal plate in favor of embossed leather with the rose,is there much difference between this and the super C you have up front . Well all the best on your little jaunt !.

    Rgds Jeff

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Jeff,
      One thing I’m not fussy about is my saddle. I’m taking away a chromo-railed WTB Rocket V, which I really like. Budget saddle, works for me. One of my favourites was the Brooks Imperial, but I broke the rails twice on that so I figured we weren’t meant to be together.
      Have never had a chance to try a Nuvinci, the Rohloff is clunky, but I’m tuned to its quirks now.
      I really like the plastic buckles of the Super C (practicality over aesthetics), quick and easy to get into, long straps for spillover. But love the extra capacity of the Longflap. Shape-wise, there’s some differences, but not a massive amount. Certainly, the Longflap is HUGE – supposedly only 1L extra, but feels more. I do like the lightweight fabrics of modern framebags, and the svelte looks – but cotton ducks is so durable and repairable. And pretty much waterproof, with a sheep of plastic under the lid.
      I’m so used to the Knards that right now, 2.2 tyres feels a bit wimpy. But they’re faster on pavement at least.

      Reply
  3. Philip

    It looks fantastic, I’m sure whichever option you take will work fine.

    Just a few questions I’m curious about – why are you using a rear rack that way? Surely a seatpost clamp would be lighter? Wouldn’t a pair of panniers be better since you have the weight of a rack anyway?

    And for the front, is that Super C supported by the rack or from the handlebars, or both?

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Well… This is my line of thought. The only panniers I have access to are big Ortliebs, and stuff just rattles around. The Vega is actually pretty light (600g) and takes most of the weight off the seat post rails – right now, there’s about 6kg in the bag. In an ideal world, I’d have something more minimal. This said, when Nancy and Sage join me, they can bring a set of panniers, and we’re ready to roll.

      Yes, the Super C hangs off the handlebars, and is supported by the rack. If I go for panniers, it makes bikepacking detours a little more awkward – at least, going on the kind of terrain I experienced last time. I prefer the lighter, sleeker bikepacking bags, but it just makes carrying the computer and my camera more of a headache. Hopefully, this setup can straddle the two.

      However, there’s still 48 hours to go before I take the train to Los Angeles…

      Reply
      1. Philip

        I was thinking along the lines of front rollers at the back, but I’ve looked at the websites to calculate the bag weight and to my surprise your set up has the same capacity but about half a kilo less weight – so it does make sense!

        Anyhow, I’m sure you are in the last stages now, best of luck on the trip, it sounds like another epic, I’m already looking forward to the photos.

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Baby Ortliebs would have worked too. That was my original intention, teamed with my PR seat pack. But mine are in the UK, stashed away somewhere, and I couldn’t bring myself to buying another set.

          I’ve only really had a few days to try out the setup, but I have to say, it feels really good. I tested the Carradice up front setup on the Colorado Trail, and that felt very secure. Fingers crossed… we’ll see.

          On the train to LA right now…

          Reply
  4. luis

    Hi Cass!

    I´m curious about the swap from the bagman to the tubus rack. I am carrying myself a fullframe DSLR and I am always concerned about its suffering while travelling off-road. Do you think that the rack+front saddlebag will cushion the vibrations better than the ortlieb bag? I am using ortlieb handelbars bag + drybag for additional support and cushion.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey Luis,

      Riding dirt roads is really hard on gear. I used to carry my DSLR in an Ortlieb bar bag, with a padded insert – against a roll bag hanging from the handlebar, similar to what you’re doing. However, my 70-200 f/4 lens won’t fit when attached to the body – and it’s a lens I really like to use, especially when I’m amongst other riders.

      The other issue I had with the bar bag was that the contents bounced around, unless I stuffed in clothing too, which made the camera more awkward to get to.

      The Carradice setup is an experiment. The camera sits on top of my lightweight sleeping bag (in its bag) and mesh clothing bag. It’s quick to get to, and when the lid is closed, it doesn’t move at all. I’m hoping it will provide both good protection for my camera gear, and speedy access to it. The downside is that it’s not as quick to remove as a bag bag.

      I’ve come to realise that there’s no idea solution really – except for not bringing the DSLR!

      Like you, I have a Bagman support, with struts. I’m planning on using a rear rack as the support, however, as I’m not convinced the Bagman will last a multi-month trip, given the weight I’ll probably end up squeezing in there, and the rough terrain.

      Reply
      1. Jeff wyman

        Cass
        re the taking of Dslr cameras on a trip . When you get back look into the CCS range of bags from England http://www.ccscentre.co.uk/ .The classic range has a similar bag to the Carradice (Photojournalist Holdall) which with a little finnagaling it could be hung of the front bars .Their bags are #1 with me having used them for the last 20 years ,and with the construction I would not worry about my camera on a bike on a bumpy road. The other alternative is to buy a Fuji X pro gives the Leica a good run for its money ,compact with function .

        Rgds Jeff

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Thanks Jeff. I did have a CSS pouch a long time ago for a smaller camera, I’ll have to revisit their range. I’ve been eyeing up the XPros (and EX-1) for some time, amongst a couple of others. For financial reasons, I’m sticking with what I have for now, as to replicate the setup I have now (in terms of a wide-angle, plus fast long lens) would be very costly, but a move over to mirrorless would make a lot of sense.

          Reply
      2. luis

        Thanks for your explanation Cass.

        It´s always great to have feedback from other fellow riders/photographers. What you say makes sense. I was not thinking about a lens heavier than my 17-40mm, and lately I was going really light with my 50mm.

        Looking forward to read your ride reports and enjoy your photos!!

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Luis,

          This trip, I’m going for a 24mm, 40mm and 70-200 f/4, which should give a nice variety. The 40mm is tiny, so makes even a colossus like the 5dMk2 look smallish – better for street stuff. I have the plastic 50mm 1.8 too. I’ll see how I am for room. It’s super light, and nice for shallow depth of field stuff. But ideally, I’d like to keep to 3 lenses.

          If I didn’t own the 70-200 already, I might have been tempted by the Canon 70-300 f4/5.6, as it’s a lot shorter, and the reviews sounds good. But I’m sticking with what I know and own.

          Reply
  5. Kellie Stapletom

    Shave a few oz. with a Nitto Marks’s rack (by Rivendell). Can go in the front or rear of your bike, and accommodates all types of brakes. I use one for support with a Carradice Nelson Longflap.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I know you love your Mark’s rack! Actually, it’s pretty similar to the Nitto one I have up front. One at the back may well work, if I could get the height and angle right – but I’ve run out of time! (and, at $130, they’re a little pricey, without checking to make sure it works beforehand) One to check out for next time.

      Also, the Tubus, which is only 600g, will give me the option of running panniers further down the line, should I need it… perhaps to carry Sage’s toys…

      Reply
      1. Kellie Stapletom

        Well for the future know that the down rails are extra long and once you set up the horizontal rails just measure and cut the vertical (semi) ones. Oh and maybe you were looking at the wrong rack ’cause mine was a lot cheaper than $130 (<$100).

        Have a great trip!

        Reply
  6. Tim Macdonald

    Cases,

    Would love to hear a little of the itinerary. Also, what portion will your wife and son join you for? And most importantly (as the father of 3 younguns), how did you get away for such am extended trip. Pease share the magic!

    Good travels,
    Tim

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey Tim,
      There’s some complications… Without going into too many details, I have some visa conundrums which require me to be out of the country – and the return leg of a flight to Peru that needs to be used before the month is over. While travelling, I have work lined up, which I can do as long as I have my laptop. Nancy and Sage will most likely join me in Northern Argentina with the trailer. My plan is to ride spend some time in the Cordillera Blanca contributing to a guidebook, then ride there via Cuzco and La Paz. The bad news is I have to be away from Sage for a couple of months – just at a time when his character is really starting to shine through – which is going to be incredibly hard )-: To be honest, there’s still a lot to be figured out…

      Reply
  7. Justin

    Looks like a mighty fine adventure is about to be had!

    Two days on the road and you’ll stop fretting about your gear choices and just make do with what you’ve got.

    Further down the line stuff’ll happen that you could never prepare for anyway. (Keeps you on your toes and in the present!)

    I reckon you’ll take the Ogre. Old familiar.

    Hope you have a mind-blowing time, full of tasty avocados and breath taking (literally) views!

    Keep on trail-blazing, two-wheeled bro!

    Bring us back some glorious photos, a happy smile and a happy family!

    😉

    Reply
    1. Justin

      PS – Am curious, what tent are you taking? Black Diamond pyramid, a Six Moons’ design, single-skin or something more homely and twin walled? Whatever it is it looks like you’ve put it in a Revelate Sweet Roll bag, which gives you more luggage options for later. Intelligent thinking! Go well.

      Reply
      1. Cass Gilbert Post author

        I’ve settled on my tried and tested Tarptent Moment. It’s pretty light, 800g-ish, singleskin and full bug protection. It’s in a bag I had made in Peru – as you say, can be strapped to the bike if need be to free up more space.

        Reply
      1. Justin

        And all green and black with red trims…it’ll go well with the plant life! Have a rockingly good time Cass, you lucky man you! Bonne chance. :)

        Reply
  8. Outtherekids

    We like rear racks, paired with Alpkit’s Airlok XTra dry bags. The 20 liter bag holds sleeping bag + pad + clothing with space to spare, and I’d feel safe slotting a MacBook Air in there too. Interferes minimally with riding; zero dangle.

    Anyways, have a great ride! And thanks for all the inspiration!

    Reply
  9. ryan

    hi cass,

    i’m writing to offer my support and congruence with your set up! i’ve personally used caradice bags, the camper and the nelson longs, on the back and front of several back road bikes. i’d suggest altering yours only to the point of making them easier to remove, from either handle bars or seat posts, by way of nylon webbing and plastic buckles either looped through the provided holes, or more securely, stitched to the bags themselves. their ‘stuffablity’ i find perfect for dirt touring especially when supported by very small racks, much akin to randonneur style supports. i believe your set up will prove very useful for what you like to haul. i know you intend to use your dynamo for charging rather than lighting, and though you desire to travel by day in the south, don’t yet loose the desire for a nice cool, well lit, night ride.

    safe travels,

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Just took mine to the local gear repairer for some modifications… Extra loops have now been added (-:

      Reply
  10. Old Man Wilson

    Vaya con Dios, Young man ! Have fun , come back safe to your young family . Tell us all about it. You Inspire , Rock your world !

    Reply
  11. Arctos

    For more rear capacity I have long used a 35L dry bag inside a durable DIY cordura shell on top of the rear rack. Three sewn on straps compress the shell bag tightly to the rack. Clothes, pad, quilt, shelter and down jacket fit well. I prefer this to having a pack on my back.
    Light and narrow too.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Definitely with you in terms of not riding with a pack on my back. One reason I like a saddlebag is that it makes access to gear during the day really easy – though it sounds like the gear you pack in your dry bag is only needed once you’re camping. I like the idea of the Cordura shell.

      I’m hoping my backpack will only be needed on the odd occasion. We’ll see how the capacity works out once I hit the likes of Bolivia, where more water and food are needed.

      Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I was lucky enough to try a pre production frame for a bit. Unfortunately, it was missing rear rack eyelets, and I was slow in trying to source some replacement Knards (mine are toast). Otherwise, I’d have been really tempted to take it away.

      Reply
  12. Tony

    I’m a fellow bike geek (and gear geek) – for me there is enjoyment in fussing over all the details. The right gear is nearly invisible when it is the right gear – it does not burden you, it’s just there when you need it and tucked away when you don’t. I can imagine that the great explorers of old also fussed over their kit. My wife is always baffled by the amount of gear I have stowed away in my corner of the garage, but for me it is gold. I have used every bit of it more than once !
    I hope your trip is better than you imagined it could be – enjoy…
    Ps. I just scored a complete Rohloff/Schmidt equipped bike at a pawn shop for $1000.00. I will need a bigger frame, so I will be looking into a Surly Ogre based on your positive feedback – thanks….

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Tony – that’s a great deal! For the routes I like to ride, the Ogre feels like the sweet spot. I miss fatter tyres – a la ECR/Krampus – for some terrain, but for the most part, a 29er tyre is about ideal.

      Reply
  13. Matt

    Hi Cass,

    Currently thinking about adding a 29er or, indeed, a fat bike to the stable and had been pondering the use of Carradice bags with a frame bag as per your photo.

    I’m a huge fan of Carradice stuff. Not only is it manufactured up-the-road-and-round-the-corner from where I live, but their after-sales service is excellent too. I recently had a rivet pop on my trusty Super C panniers while riding the highlands in Iceland. No biggie and was able to bodge a repair on the road.

    I sent it back to the factory for repair and it was returned, with a new back plate too, within a week. No charge. The bags are five years old.

    All the best for the trip… look forward to reading about it.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Matt, I’m a big fan of Carradice too. It’s only the weight of the bags that’s an issue – but as you say, the upside is great build quality, durability and repairability.

      I’m report back on how things go when I get riding.

      Reply
  14. Isaac

    Have a blast back down in America sud! Super jealous, but hope to get back down there soon. Thanks so much for the information and inspiration!

    Reply
  15. Logan

    Hey Cass. I have been looking around for 29er touring tires (prepping for a trip in mid-November) and noticed you were running Smart Sams. How are these on pavement? Do they roll fairly well? I am sure they aren’t as wear-proof as Mondials or XRs, but would love to hear how they are holding up for you… Thanks!

    Reply
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  17. Bobby DK

    Hey cass, I was wondering what front racks you have used with your ogre and did you need to modify application for your bike? Im curious whats the front rack your using in this post? thanks a lot buddy and I really enjoy what your posting. Very inspiring!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hi Mr Dixon. The front rack is a Nitto M18. I bought mine from Planet X years ago. They seem to be rather more costly in the US, at around $120. The strut felt a little weak, so I replaced it with one made from beefier stainless steel. I haven’t used any others, as I normally just have a rollbag or Carradice up front. On my Troll, I used an Old Man Mountain, which worked fine. From what I remember, there’s a version with longer mounting points designed for 29ers.

      Reply
      1. Wayne

        The strut IS more than a little weak. I used mine for about 1200 miles and with the bouncing 20L dry bag above it encasing about 15lbs of gear it suddenly snapped today. Supported by two long arms from the axle area of the fork, the whole shebang pivoted in front of my wheel in a split second, hit the ground and I went down like a sack of potatoes. Luckily I was only going a couple of mph or I shudder to think what would’ve happened. So please, for your safety, replace it with something tougher like solid stainless steel as suggested, go with a REAL front rack (ie one rated for more weight) or use a handlebar harness.

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Sorry to hear that! Figuring it looked a bit puny, I replaced my strut with one made from stainless steel before setting off to South America. Several years on… and it’s still going strong despite being used on some long and challenging off road trips. Once replaced, it makes for a far lighter (and packable) option than many others on the market, that’s been more than able to handle my often overloaded saddlebag (DSLR camera, lenses etc..) Handlebar harnesses are great, but I like the convenience of a saddlebag (whether mounted at the front or at the back).

          Reply
  18. mick

    Hi Cass

    just a quick note and one you may like, the Rabbit hole rim and a 3″ Knard tire fit in the Ogre fork, its what i ride and works great. A bit of extra squish on the front for the trips

    Reply
  19. Przemek

    Hi Cass,
    I’m searching for a right saddle bag/rack to accomodate my quite big and heavy photo equipement and was wandering how your Carradice Super C bag did douring the trip. I’d prefer not to use standard racks and just go with a saddle rack like Bagman Q/R and SUper C bag or Super C SQR Tour, but I’m not sure if it will do for 6 kg of equipement even both are rated for 10 kg. I’ll travel dirt roads and forest tracks with only some regular roads. I’ll appreciate your opinion and advice.

    ps.
    Enjoing your website a lot! There is much to learn from your experience. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      My Nitto and Carradice Super C (mounted up front) have both been great – but I’m not sure I have as much as 6kg in one place. I carry a DLSR body and up to 3 lenses (with hard drive, cables, charger etc… packed elsewhere. My gear probably tips the scales at round 3kg+
      It takes a bit of figuring out the best cable routing and straps (depending on bars and height of rack/steerer) to keep it all stable, but once you have the system going, it’s super secure, and as good as handling as you can hope for, given all the extra weight up front. Until I crack and move to a lighter camera system, it’s the way I’ll be travelling.

      Reply
      1. Przemek

        Thank You for reply Cass. I’ve noticed that you are using a small rack under the bag. Do you think using bagmen or SQR mounting system would be enough if mounting it to the seddle or it is rigid enough?

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          I like the SQR system, but again, not sure it can handle that kind of weight off road without swinging around too much. The Bagman with the expedition struts (I don’t see it on the Carradice site anymore) is another option, though I’ve had the pins on the quick release clamp drop out on mine. I’d probably go with a minimal and lightweight rear rack as a support, just to be on the safe side.

          Reply
          1. Przemek

            Thanks a lot Cass I appreciate it. Do you know any lightwaight rear rack for 29″ weels (disc brakes) you could recommend?

            Best,
            Przemek

          2. Cass Gilbert Post author

            The Ogre I had didn’t need a disc specific rack luckily, as the disc tabs are tucked between the stays. The Tubus Vega I used was excellent: strong and very light. But it’s unlikely to work with conventionally placed disc tabs.

            Otherwise, I only know of the usual suspects like Topeak and Old Man Mountain. The new Blackburn ones look interesting too.
            http://www.blackburndesign.com/racks.html

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