Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Porcelain Rocket - Mission control handle bar set up

Hi Everybody 
Don here with another product review 

When I first heard about bike packing I searched the net to see who was making high quality bike packing bags and two main companies were mentioned for their outstanding quality and durability - Revelate Designs  & Porcelain Rocket. I was in need of a way to carry my sleeping bag and air mattress plus other small items without anything getting wet, imagine the disaster if your sleeping bag got wet while touring - no thanks !. So I decided to buy the Porcelain Rocket mission control handle bar set up , Porcelain Rocket is based in Calgary in Canada where the owner Scot Felter sews all his bags . His line up includes two different sizes of saddle bags, the handle bar bag mentioned in this post plus he will custom make you an entire set of bags in the color of your choice to fit your bike no matter what frame size you have. They are not cheap but very well made and after 3 over night trips I am still amazed at how much stuff you can carry in the handle bar bag. The main compartment is designed around a 10 ltr OR dry bag but there is plenty of room for extra clothes at each end and the front pocket that can be detached is very useful for smaller items as well.  For more info check out his website at
Pictured below is the mission control handle bar set up bag mounted on my 2013 Kona Unit

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bags 2

The Revelate Designs/ Salsa frame bag has two pockets, the larger capable of accomodating a 3-liter bladder, with room to spare.  


The Platypus 3-liter bladder was a good buy.  The zip-style fastener (no bulky plastic cap on this model) doubles as a handle.     

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Product review - WTB Rocket V race saddle

Hi Everybody

Don here with our first product review, the WTB Rocket V Race saddle. Well as you all know cycling is only enjoyable if your ride is comfortable and the difference between a good fitting comfortable saddle and a saddle that is not comfortable can mean the end of your trip or some serious saddle sores. Personally I have found my Brooks B17 to be one of the most comfortable saddles I own , but being leather it has its drawbacks and you need to take care of it and not let it get wet. Here in Niigata where Brian and I both live and commute all year long we are faced with a variety of weather  so having an easy to care for saddle that is comfortable on long rides is whats needed. Recently after some research I decided on purchasing the WTB Rocket V Race saddle, it seems to be the favorite saddle of many MTB and long distance endurance racers and after my recent 135km ride into the mountains and back , I can easily say that this is the most comfortable modern saddle I have owned. Its not super lightweight , nor expensive but if you are looking for all day comfort on the bike and putting in long hours in the saddle I would invest in one. Most good bicycle shops should be able to order you one, for more info check out the WTB website

Friday, September 20, 2013

Overnight bike packing trip to Snow Peak HQ

Hi Everybody

My name is Don Speden and Brian has invited me to to join him in posting about cycling and our lead up to taking on the Great divide race in 2015. I like Brian have lived in Niigata for almost 15 years and even though my job as the manager and mechanic of Furumachi Bicycle here in Niigata City is very busy I try to get out for a bike packing trip as often as I can. This year I have completed 3 overnight trips into the local mountains as practice for an up coming 6 day tour in early Oct. This post details my last trip away which was about 135km return. 

Yesterday I rode out of Niigata city in the early morning to head to Snow Peak HQ, located deep in the mountains of Tsubame Sanjo. Snow Peak is a famous brand of outdoor goods and has their factory and shop located in a scenic area up in the mountains and they also have a large campsite as well. I took a direct route out of the city along side the Shinano river but unfortunately by the time I reached that road it was busy with morning traffic either coming into the city or  heading up river. Once I left the road I headed inland to the foothills to the small town of Kamo ( named little Kyoto in Niigata because of the river the runs through the town center ). After passing out of Kamo the road heads deeper in the mountains on Route 290 and involves some  short but tough climbs, I like Brian are currently riding a single speed 29 inch MTB and mine is a 2013 Kona Unit which I find fantastic as a good solid touring & commuting bike and am happy to say that with a 33T front chain ring coupled with a 16T rear cog I can ride even steep grades fully loaded with bike packing gear at a reasonable pace of about 16km per hour. Once over the low mountain passes I headed up another small valley to finally reach Snow Peak HQ around lunch time. I enjoyed a relaxing over night stay there and had plenty of time to check out their well stocked outdoor shop. Early the next morning I returned back to Niigata via a more direct down hill route and stopped for a breakfast have way home at a 7/11 , a snickers bar and a 4 pack of raisin butter bread rolls gave me enough power for the long hot ride back into the city. I ended up getting quite sun burnt as I had no idea it would reach 32 deg at this time of the year. Below are a few photos taken on my latest trip 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bags 1

After doing a bit of on-line research, I opted for the Revelate Designs 14-liter Viscacha seat bag, which is commodious and easy to set up. I have, however, discovered the bag has a slight tendency to fishtail when I'm out of the saddle and really pounding the pedals.  Notwithstanding this small drawback, I am quite pleased with the Viscacha and would recommend it to others.

The Bike

I recently purchased a Salsa El Mariachi SS 29er and intend to ride it in the 2015 tour, with modifications to be made and discussed later.  At present I am riding the Mariachi as it came in the box (pedals are Odyssey platforms), the only exceptions being Tioga 700x38 City Slickers and a 13-tooth rear cog in place of the specced off-road tires and 16-tooth cog with which the bike was equipped. The two changes made the 35k commute to work this morning as quick (1:15) as if I'd been on my road bike.     

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Grand Depart

A friend recently sent me a link to the feature length video of the world's longest and most arduous mountain bike race.  A few brief minutes into the film and I was hooked; "I will ride this event in 2015", I promised myself and wrote my friend. This blog will chronicle my preparations over the next two years for the grandaddy of all cycle races, the Tour Divide.