Thursday, 25 July 2013

115km bikepacking trip to Takidani Shinden campsite - part 4

As this morning was nice and clear I decided to take a different route home after refilling my 2 ltr camelbak with some great fresh mountain spring water in Akadani . The downhill to Mikawa was fantastic , nice and cool with lots of great mountain villages to pass through before joining the mighty Agano river for the long haul back towards Niigata city, by the time I arrived back in Niigata the temp was about 30 deg so I was pretty happy not to be cycling later in the day.

115km bikepacking trip to Takidani Shinden campsite - part 3

On this trip I was testing out some new gear , a sleeping bag from Montbell which packs down really small and still allows plenty of other items to be stuffed inside my Porcelain Rocket handlebar set up as well such as waterproof Jacket and pants etc. My last trip away I discovered that my basic inflatable camping mat was very uncomfortable so I invested in a Montbell  150cm x 8cm airpad with a pillow that attaches to the pad making for a very comfortable nights sleep - 8cm of padding is awesome and better still packs down really small as can been see from the photos below.

The other thing I was testing out my my new rear Gusset single speed 16 T cog . That rear cog coupled with the Surly SS 33T allowed me to ride all the hills and is much more comfortable even though my average speed is slower

115km bikepacking trip to Takidani shinden - part 2

After passing through the onsen hot spring town on Tsukioka I turned right and headed inland skirting the hills and the Shibata golf course before meeting up with my favorite cycle road, which was built on the old railway line connecting Shibata city to the village of Akadani . It is a great cycle road which is about 13 km in length and passes through several small villages along the way and in the hotter months you are protected from the sun ,some of the way by the forest that the cycle path passes through. This cycle road is mostly used by locals and school kids but if you ever find yourself in Shibata city check it out as its worth the effort.

The last two photos show the Takidani shinden campsite where I stayed the night, a fantastic campsite with plenty of nice campsites , covered outdoor cooking area which was very handy at night when it pissed down rather hard coupled with an impressive thunderstorm and lightening show, thank god my 20 year old tent is still waterproof !

115km bikepacking trip to Takidani Shinden campsite

Well whenever I get a couple of days off together such as yesterday and today I try to get away for a local overnight bikepacking trip. At the start of this year my plan was to do at least 3 local over nights trips before my 6 day tour in early Oct. Yesterday and today was my 2nd trip and I had been watching and hoping the rain season would give me a break for at least 2 days to allow me to get into the hills. Luckily it did - I took off from Niigata city yesterday morning headed out over the Agano river towards Toyosaka where I stopped for a photo at the historic house at Fukushima lagoon. It did rain a little but it was also warm so I did not need to wear a jacket at all.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Fat Bike boom

I do not now if this is happening elsewhere in Japan, but recently I have sold a lot of Fat Bikes, as I am the only Surly dealer in Niigata City I usually have one or two fat bikes on the showroom floor for customers to test ride. The first time my boss ordered a Surly Pugsly I had my doubts whether we could sell one as they are so different and quite expensive, but now we have sold close to 10 of them and I have even built a few custom fat bike wheels as well. Earlier this year I had the chance to attend the Fat Bike demo weekend at the Snowpeak HQ where they marked out a nice course in 1.5mtr snow. These bikes really excel in snow , sand or other rough terrain but after riding a fat bike 120km on road in a local event I would not choose it for long distance on road touring, but if you a planning a serious off road adventure this bike will take you there and back with no problems at all !. Just yesterday I built up a brand new Surly Ops in canvas green, this bike comes with SLX components, a salsa handlebar with a 31.8 clamp area as opposed to the older model which used 26mm and overall felt a lot lighter than the old model. Pictured below is the new Surly Ops that I have in store at present.


Friday, 5 July 2013

The benefits of a single speed drive train

Well as I ride a 2013 Kona unit , I have been experimenting with different gear combinations on my 29 inch MTB. Pretty much the standard gear combo that comes stock on any single speed MTB is a 32 T chain ring with a 18 T rear sprocket  which is running 29 inch tyres gives you the following result.

29 inch wheels
170mm cranks
Front chain ring 32 T
Rear sprocket 18 T
Gear inches 51.6

The above combination gives you a great all round gear for off road riding and it allows you to ride most sections spinning at a high cadence, this is fine if you only use your bike off road, but if you often commute to work on the same bicycle it will take you much longer in the above gear combination. In other words its slow  on the flat.

What I did to my Kona unit was to remove the rear 18T cog which is the cassette type ( more on that later ) and replace it with a wider body single speed cassette cog in 13T with a 33 T ring up front. The result is the following gear combination.

29 inch wheels
170mm cranks
Front chain ring 33T
Rear sprocket 13 T
Gear inches 73.6

The above gear combo lets you ride comfortably at 20 km per hour even fully loaded for touring, but you are limited to the hills you can ride in other words you will be doing some walking on a long tour that involves mountains. So what are the benefits of this type of setup as opposed to a full cluster and multiple chain rings

1. lighter bike - no extra gears, derailleurs , shifters or extra cables  to worry about
2. Simple to maintain -  especially in locations with bad weather , snow, road grit etc
3. Ease of use - you just get on and pedal, no need to change gears or worry about which gear you are in
4. Bullet proof - bikes with a multi speed drive train are delicate , single speeds are simple & strong
5. Perfect gearing - you can pick the perfect gear for the type of cycling you do

Before Oct I will try out another gear combination which I think will suit the style of touring I currently do which will evolve putting a slighter larger sprocket on the back such as a 16 T which coupled with the current front chain ring and cranks with give me 59.8 gear inches . Not quite as fast on the flat but better for tackling the hills.

My rear hub is a single speed disk hub with has a far narrower cassette body than a typical rear hub which allows great chain alignment with the use of spacers . Pictured below is the type of hub I currently use.

As mentioned before I use a single speed rear cog, my favorite type is made by Surly and has a wider body than a normal cassette cog and is made from stainless steel for extra durability . The benefit of a cassette type cog over a single speed freewheel is the cassette cog comes in a far greater range of sizes compared to a freewheel . Pictured below is a single speed cassette cog

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

80km shop ride to Yahiko Village

Last Sunday my mate and part time staff member Brian & I  took 20 of my customers on a group tour out to Yahiko Village and back. For many of the riders it was their first time to visit there and ride that far. Believe me 80km is a long way in 32 deg heat especially at this time of the year. There was a good mix of riders and bicycles, road bikes, cyclo cross , single speed 29 inch MTB, 26inch MTB and even a Surly Moonlander fat bike !. We had several stops to rest and enjoyed a fantastic lunch of Udon noodles in Yahiko village. I took a heap of photos and below are a few I took on the day. To check out the rest take a look at the following link