Winter’s coming, so south to the border we go.

With a Krampus currently at my disposal, I’ve set about cutting my snow-cycling baby teeth – most recently with a wintery day in the Cibola National Forest, New Mexico. Heading out into unexpectedly snowy conditions, a planned night under the stars was soon shelved in favour of an after-dark, almost-lost retreat to the car…

The Krampus, now complete with Rabbit Holes ‘n Knards fore and aft, proved to be the perfect steed for the occasion, carving through snowy singletrack with conviction and aplomb. The day turned out to be an equally appropriate opportunity to test out my platform pedals – the VP ‘Thin Gripsters’, purchased via Rivendell Cycles.

Winter riding, here I come.

The Cibola National Forest, New Mexico, offers a web of challenging trails, made all the more so by recent snowfall. My move to platform pedals comes not a moment too soon...

The Cibola National Forest, New Mexico, offers a web of challenging trails, made all the more so thanks to several inches of snow. My move to platform pedals comes not a moment too soon…

_MG_1252

Jeremy was riding a Vicious Cycles early days 29er, lent to him by Dave at the most chilled purveyor of bicycles I know, Mellow Velo of Santa Fe. Note sticker that commemorates the Vicious’ 70th anniversary – in dog years, that is.

The Thin Gripsters are just as the name suggests - thin and grippy.

Angular yet sleek, the Thin Gripsters (technically known as VP-001s) are just as their nickname suggests – thin and grippy. Sealed bearings are velvety smooth, and they come complete with adjustable screws that dig deep into the soles of your shoes. Although riding without SPDs is sure to take some time getting used to, I’m looking forward to how much more practical it will be for overseas touring, and the inevitable hike ‘n bikes I always land myself in.

Some pushing required... Note too matching Deep V neon green rims, and Jeremy's persistance with (short) shorts...

Some pushing required… Note too matching Deep V neon green rims (laced to Phil Wood hubs, no less), and Jeremy’s weather-defying persistance with (short) shorts…

Snow-friendly Knards proved to be well suited to the powdery conditions. We carved our way down the snowy trails, spraying snow-flecks in our wake.

Low-pressure Knards proved to be well suited to the powdery conditions. We carved our way down the snowy trails, spraying a haze of snow-flecks in our wake.

Jedi-style riding by starlight.

Almost lost… Jedi-style riding by starlight.

Inspector Gadget

I received a particularly generous advanced-Christmas present this year, an iPhone no less, the first smartphone I have owned, and one I instantaneously have come to adore. Not least because it allows me to take photos, listen to music and use googlemaps – the hallowed triptych of my existence. These aside, I can make phone calls and send more-than-one-word texts – both of which are a first for me. I’ve now begun the associated duty of fattening up my constant companion with a whole wealth of apps, including a Spanish dictionary, Run Keeper, the Benchmark Roadmap of New Mexico (which includes topo layers), reading matter and podcasts (RadioLab et al). That’s for starters.

With the iPhone, I have the capability to tweet too, though whether this will be a regular occurrence awaits to be seen.

My hallowed iPhone, loaded with GPS goodness. The Plug 2 would make the perfect accompanying gadget, allowing me to charge it on the go.

My hallowed iPhone, loaded with GPS goodness. The Plug 2 would make the perfect accompanying gadget, allowing it to be charged on the go.

Still, this Guardian article, ‘On the 12th day of Christmas, your gifts will be junk’ makes for a somewhat sobering read, as does watching Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff.

“Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that, of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale. Even the goods we might have expected to hold on to are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (wearing out or breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).”

It’s a 20 minute animated film, with an accompanying website, that’s seems particularly poignant at this time of year.

The content is nothing new but no less important for it. It’s a good reminder that if I’m going to create an impact by acquiring Stuff, the least I can do is choose it wisely, think about where it came from, look after it and make it last.

Migration South

For Christmas, we’ve migrated south to visit Sage’s ‘tita’, in El Paso, Texas. I’m also scheming a short solo tour nearby, though I’m not sure yet whether it will be with side of the border or the other.

No pressure, Sage.

No pressure, Sage.

downtownelpaso

Downtown El Paso: a slice of Northern Mexico. Ciudad Juaraz lies just a hop across the fence.

The fence in question.

The fence in question.

Lunch ($5, inc soup and ice tea) at Rosa's Cantina. It's an El Paso institution.

Lunch ($5, inc soup and ice tea) at Rosa’s Cantina. It’s an El Paso institution.

mole-2

The food within. ‘Mole poblano’, a Mexican stew laced with chocolate and chile peppers. Quite delicious.

Our soundtrack as we feasted. In 1959, Country and Western star Marty Robbins sung a tale of a cowboy who falls in love with a Mexican dancer at Rosa's Cantina. Sing along with it here.

Our soundtrack as we feasted. In 1959, Country and Western star Marty Robbins sung a tale of a cowboy who falls in love with a Mexican dancer at Rosa’s Cantina. Sing along with it here.

Bike matters

The Krampus will be joining me on my mini-tour, so I’ve garbed it with water bottles and my usual bikepacking apparel. It’s not an ideal setup, as I’ll be running a single chainring (32T) with a 12-36T casette out back – certain to be a challenge in places. Hopefully travelling light will help make up the difference.

In a tweak to my usual setup, I’m trying out a Bagman 2 Expedition, a new saddlebag support from Carradice. I’ve used the previous version of the Bagman before, finding it perfect for lightweight road tours, though not sufficiently beefy for dedicated off road use.

This new model features struts that attach to the rear rack eyelets of the frame (or a Salsa Rack-Lock seat collar in the case of the Krampus), which should make for a significant improvement. Inspired by the saddlebag-loving antics of Gypsy by Trade, a return to my venerable Super C could well solve the conundrum of packing a Macbook Air – without resorting to a sweaty backpack or clumsy panniers. More on all that when I’ve had a chance to try it out properly.

Hose clamps circumvent the lack of water bottle eyelets on the Krampus. An easy and more elegant fix would be to drill the frame/fork and insert a series of threaded rivnuts - no brazing necessary.

Hose clamps circumvent the lack of water bottle eyelets on the Krampus. An easy and more elegant fix would involve drilling the frame/fork and inserting a series of threaded rivnuts – no brazing necessary.

_MG_1551

The Bagman 2 Expedition is designed for a traditional saddlebag, both supporting it and ensuring it doesn’t sway against your thighs. There’s a quick release mechanism for speedy saddlebag removal. Two struts, attaching to the bike frame’s rack eyelets, provide extra burliness.

As it happens, the Krampus has fender eyelets but no rear rack eyelets. Salsa's Rack-Lock is a neat solution. Although on the pricey side ($30), it's nicely crafted, and the only such collar I could find in the required 30.0 size.

As it happens, the Krampus has fender eyelets but no rear rack eyelets. Salsa’s Rack-Lock is a neat solution. Although on the pricey side ($30), it’s nicely crafted, and the only such collar I could find in the required 30.0 size.

Krampus in bikepacking apparel. Ready to roll, complete with tent, camping gear, stove, fuel, computer, camera and all the rest of my paraphernalia... No backpack required.

Surly Krampus in bikepacking apparel. Ready to roll, complete with tent, camping gear, stove, fuel, computer, camera and all the rest of my paraphernalia… No backpack required.

Lastly

An object of practical desire, courtesy of Rob English. I can’t wait to see this one built up. Maybe it will appear at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, held in Denver, Colorado, next February – which I’m hoping to attend.

35 thoughts on “Winter’s coming, so south to the border we go.

  1. Susie Moberly

    Hi Cass… my apologies for lack of commentry for some time… we have been moving house and renovating it… NO time for much else and my old Mac died so I’m having to get used to a new Linux computer… not easy for us oldies! How did I manage my travelling back in the golden dayzzz… NO Smart phone or computers… however, like you I’m now looking hard at a Smart phone… and pleased to hear your were given such a wonderful present! Father Christmas is very generous! I LOVE your photo of Sage… (and the name) love the T-shirt too… It looks mighty cold over there! Not sure if I could cope with your freezing conditions after the warm sunny winter we are having in Chiang Mai though it is nippy in the mountains. Have a wonderful Christmas and kiss Sage on his little feet from me! I love babie’s feet… huge hug and always enjoy your photos and blog! X Susie X

    Reply
  2. adventurepdx

    I too have just gotten a smartphone. (An Android, as I can’t afford an iPhone right now.) And I read that Guardian story you linked. It is pretty sobering. I’m not a fan of planned obsolescence, and mobile electronics are big offenders. I still own an iPod Touch (basically an iPhone sans phone) and have used it extensively in the 2 1/2 years I’ve had it. But lately some of the apps have been acting clunky and when I looked at updating them, surprise! My 2 1/2 year old iPod Touch can’t handle the upgrades. Which I guess is their way to encourage me to buy a new one. Ugh.

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      According to the video, planned obsolescence has been prevalent since the 50s, a ploy to boost the post-war economy. Smartphones are indeed remarkable devices, and I understand that change is sometimes inevitable as technology evolves. But the idea that obsolescence is pre-determined is depressing, as is the supply chain to get them into our hands and the whole ‘nation of consumers’ phenomenon. This quote, from economist and retail analyst Victor Lebow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Lebow), stuck out especially:
      “Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption… we need things consumed, burned up, replaced at an ever accelerating rate.”

      Reply
      1. adventurepdx

        I think the thing that gets me the most about planned obsolescence of modern electronics is how useless they become in a short span of time. Right now my iPod Touch is still functional, and will remain functional until it breaks or the battery wears out. But in a couple years most of the apps probably won’t work, which will make it less of use to me or to anyone else if I try to sell it.

        Compare it with something like bicycles, where a bike from 50 years ago can be still functional and still have the same use, then and now. 50 years from now my iPod will be a paperweight. Maybe antique stores will find some use for it…

        I realize that yeah, I’ll have to keep on purchasing these electronic gizmos every few years, and smartphones are useful. (Used the maps on mine the other day to make sure I took the right turn on a ride!) I try to buy much of my durable goods second-hand, though. And I love old bikes. I do what I can.

        Reply
    2. markbc

      Here is a tip for your iPhone. I believe you can’t replace the battery when it’s dead, just get a new phone. Since it is lithium ion, you shouldn’t charge it all the way (that’s the case with my electric car). I always just stick it in for a few minutes and not let it get beyond 80% full, and try to not let it get below 30%. I haven’t seen an option that automatically cuts off the charge at 80%, maybe there’s an app for that. They probably don’t tell you about this because of the whole planned obsolescence thang and they want your phone to die in a few years so you buy a new one.

      Reply
      1. While Out Riding Post author

        Thanks for the tip Mark.
        Actually, I think the batteries can be replaced, and as it happens, the iPhone is actually easier to do so than the 4 and 4s. And it’s more straightforward to replace a broken screen too, according to this site:

        ifixit tears down products and then gives them a rating as to how repairable they are:
        http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+5+Teardown/10525/1
        Electronic companies generally claim that miniaturisation is to blame for products not being repairable. After all, there’s a lot to cram in there.
        I’d be prefer to make the sacrifice and have a slightly larger device, that could still be fixed.
        I think Apple are more transparent than most in terms of their supply chain, and from what I’ve read, they’re relatively green too. I’m not sure about planned obsolescence though. I went to buy a replacement power cable for my Macbook Air, only to find the current version has an oh-so-slightly-different connector…

        Reply
  3. Stijn

    Hi Cass, Excellent we are back on the gear topic! Crazy idea to think 99% of “stuff” is wasted after 6 months. I wonder who all these people are? Congratulation on the Iphone. I still use my 2008 3GS and it’s still as good as new in its Otterbox defender case, knock on wood. Regarding the Tout-terrain Plug-2, the Iphone is very particular about it’s power source, so I’d like to hear from others first if the combo works or not. Being German it might well work though. Great pictures as usual and congratulation on having become a father as well. How very fortunate.

    Reply
  4. Gary

    I’ve used riv-nuts before for above the toptube bottle mounts but never for a below mount. I’m concerned that the weight of our big 1 1/2 liter bottles under the downtube may be too much weight for the ‘nuts? The upper strap will definitely help though. It will be great to see how they work out for you. Two Wheel Drive or the Coop used to have a riv-nut tool.

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hm, good point. I had a chat to Dave Salinas about it, and he seemed to think it would be fine, though I’ll check that he was referring to the downtube too. As it is, I’d do triple mounts on the downtube for the King Kage I have that fits a 1.2l Klean Kanteen. Presumably, that would help spread the load, as would a strap too. (if it was my frame, that is…)

      Reply
      1. Stijn

        I’ve used rivnuts on a downtube. Needless to say drilling holes in a frame without reinforcing them, is always going to be a risky business. There are different types and quality rivnuts and they come in aluminum, steel and Stainless. The tricky bit is to know how tight to rivet them, so the rivets don’t get stripped or start free spinning if installed to lose. I also suspect galvanic action between different metals if the drill hole is untreated after drilling might become an issue over time. I’ve never put more than 1kg on them. Hose clamps, if installed properly will be stronger, but less elegant

        Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          Brazing them in would definitely be a more secure, long term solution, but rivnuts appeal for their quick and easy application – without the need for a frame respray too. I agree though, when it comes down to it, hoseclamps make a lot of sense. I just find them a bit fiddly to instal and remove regularly, they’re (relatively) heavy and they look kind of ugly – none of which are major issues though.

          Reply
      1. While Out Riding Post author

        I asked Mr King Kage about a triple-eyeletted cage last year at the Sacramento handbuilt show, but he didn’t seem keen. The one I have is perfect (http://whileoutriding.com/2012/05/15/back-but-going/), I’ve not had any issues with it, so it would be great if he made more.

        At Interbike, Salsa mentioned a new model (or two) that they had scheduled for November. I guess it’s been pushed back but hopefully is still on the cards.

        Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      I have some Powergrips at home I used to ride with, I’ll have to see if I can dig them out and rediscover them. It would be a shame to lose the platform screws though, as that’s what I like so much about these pedals, compared to traditional touring ones I’ve used in the past. I guess I’ll see how I get on over these next few weeks. So far, the Thin Gripsters seem great.

      Reply
  5. Eugene Smith

    I enjoyed this read. It has been a pleasure seeing you showcase some NM scenery and trails, so often overlooked. I’m down here in Las Cruces, if you ever find your way in our area again and want to connect to ride or bikepack, shoot me an email. I’ve spoken with Tim Nelson a few times, to pick his brain, but haven’t had a chance to ride with him. Anyways… take care.

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Thanks Eugene. I’ve been doing some trail running around here, nothing in your league though…

      There’s a possibility I may be passing near Las Cruces if I end up riding to Silver City. Will let you know! Have a good xmas.

      Reply
  6. Marco Holgado

    Hola Cass, que tal? yo disfruto mucho tu blog. Las fotos, y el material es buenisimo. Me and Audrey are heading down to Venezuela with a couple Trolls to bike the Andes for a bit. Your site has been super useful and inspirational.
    Is Sage your daughter??
    Cuando vas a SurAmerica otra vez?
    paz afuera

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Marco, thanks for your words. I’m sure your Trolls x2 will have a great time on the rugged roads of the Andes. Which route are you taking? I’m hoping to be back in South America sooner rather than later… ps Sage is a boy!

      Reply
      1. Marco Holgado

        Oh, my bad, apologies. Is Sage boy your son?
        We are staring in my hometown, Merida VNZla, on to Colombia, Ecuador and so on. I would like to go to SIerra El Cocuy in Colombia. Just as your good self, the farther up a mountain the better!
        Merry x-mass
        cheers

        Reply
        1. While Out Riding Post author

          Cool! I was in Merida some time ago, maybe in 1995 or so, when I was backpacking around Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela. I climbed up Pico Humboldt and went horseriding – a beautiful area.

          Reply
      2. Marco Holgado

        Nice, your horseriding guide….was he a tall&skinny French-Austrian dude called Jacky? A neighbor and good friend of mine. His farm is called Finca Yegua Blanca in la Poderosa (with direct view of Pico Humboltd, actually).
        I cant wait to go up and down, across, in and out, and through the lil’ mountains of Merida with the trolls. Neverending paths up there. Up 4200mts to sea level.
        the iphone worked great on our recent canoe paddle across Atlin Lake in British Columbia and across the Juneau Icefield
        http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc6/226167_10151136315571683_1746482387_n.jpg

        have a good one

        Reply
      3. markbc

        Marco, do you have any more info on your trip to Atlin lake and the Juneau icefield? I’ve been fantasizing about paddling down to the end of Atlin Lake, then crossing over to Sloko Lake and then continuing down the Taku River to Juneau. But it seems there might be too much white water in the upper reaches of the river.

        Reply
      4. Marco Holgado

        Yeah markbc, i might have some useful tips for that. I am not the most experienced paddler, and i have not been on the rapids downstream from Sloko lake. Gernot Dick and Peter form Sidka tours in atlin might know the ins and outs. In anycase you should take something you can hike with. send me an email if you want to chat more about it (marcoholgado@gmail.com)
        That sounds like a fun trip

        Reply
  7. gyatsola

    The Bagman looks interesting. I’ve always been interested in some way to carry a mid-sized backpack with me without a rack – would it work with a Bagman? It seems designed for something a bit wider and shorter than a typical pack.

    Reply
  8. Paddy

    Hey Cass,

    Thanks so much for sharing your adventures and your SUPER thorough reviews! It’s great to be able to chat with someone who has experienced so much. I couldn’t find any reviews on how the Bagman held up on this trip? I’m headed out on the Divide this summer and am struggling between the OMM Sherpa rack and the Bagman for my camper longflap. I have an old Nitto M18 but I’m not getting enough clearance on my Krampus (med).

    Any suggestions?

    Happy Riding

    Reply

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