I’ve spent the winter dreaming of sunny singletrack and upcoming bikepacking adventures. Trade shows, demo days, internet research, magazine reviews, exploratory trips to REI and my local bike shop have sparked my imagination and helped to stimulate the US economy. After spending the off-season acquiring a number of new products that I’m incredibly excited to try, I found myself conspiring to take full advantage of global warming.
With the last decade’s climate as a guide, I knew a mid-winter thaw would make its annual appearance in the four corners sometime in January and February. And right on cue, the warm weather and dry dirt arrived in the new year. For almost two solid weeks, Durango, Cortez, Aztec, Sedona and Moab seductively beckoned riders to capitalize on the 2015 thaw.
Although the mid-winter dirt and 60+ degree temps did not last long, the thaw afforded me the opportunity to conduct some initial gear and equipment testing. Not surprisingly, some early season favorites have emerged and have already earned a spot in my kit for this season.
ON THE BIKE- TRP SPYKE Brakes
Last year, my bikepacking exploits seemed to come with all sorts of brake drama. After two seasons of Elixir shenanigans, I had soured on the idea of utilizing hydraulic brakes for longer backcountry adventures.
I put the old BB7s back on my trusty steed, confident the return to cable brakes would mitigate facing issues I couldn’t fix in the field and the resultant, long walks back to civilization.
I went searching for a cable brake that was well designed, easy to install, a cinch to maintain and would provide me with solid stopping power. A tall order, I know. But when I discovered TRP’s SPYKEs, I new I had found my new brakes.
The SPYKEs are solidly constructed and were incredibly easy to set up on my Salsa El Mariachi. I also installed TRP rotors- 180 up front/160 rear.
A quick spin around the neighborhood and the brakes were dialed in. The SPYKE’s dual sided pad engagement design promotes even wear and engenders a “set-it and forget-it” mindset. The SPYKE is a no hassle brake requiring minimal maintenance and translates well into bikepacking and ultra racing applications.
I also love the feel of the SPYKEs when stopping. They offer an arresting experience that simulates the gentle grace offered by hydraulic brakes. No squeaking, no abrupt jerking. Just a smooth, steady application of friction and silent clamping power. Overall, the SPYKEs are rad and I’m looking forward to having them on my bike this season!
IN THE BAGS- FIX IT STICKS Replaceables Tool
Bikepackers are always trying to trim their set-ups down to the barest of essentials and our tool kits are no exception. For far too long, I’ve been guilty of carrying around a heavy, bulky bike tool outfitted with all sorts of gadgetry I’ve never once employed.
To shed weight and bulk, I disassembled my bike tool and harvested only the pieces I could utilize when fixing my rig. Although I now had the correct pieces for the most common problems I’d encounter, it was difficult using the disaggregated tools to wrench on my bike. Enter Fix It Sticks.
Billed as an “ingenious innovation that started a revolution in bicycle multi tools,” the original Fix It Sticks hit the market and offered riders an instant alternative to bulky, multi-tools. Fix It Sticks are a compact solution that generates the torque needed to wrench on your bike in the field. This season, Fix It Sticks has refined the original T-tool model, adding interchangeable bits on the Replaceables tool.
The Replaceables tool is steel and at 118 grams, feels much beefier than the original , 55 gram aluminum model.
The Replaceables tool comes with eight, interchangeable bits including: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm Hex, Torx 25, and Phillips #2 attachments. It’s fantastic Fix It Sticks has designed this new tool with the magnetic, bit nesting function and the ability to accept “any standard ¼” bit.
ON THE BODY- Club Ride 2015 New West Jersey
I don’t fancy myself a super hero. So I don’t usually wear bike jerseys. As a bikepacker, I’d rather roll with a wool or polypro top. But I’ve come to like stash pockets and I like listening to tunes. I also like collars, looking classy and less homeless as I saunter into resupply towns.
Club Ride’s 2015 New West jersey is sharp, fits me well and is western as fuck. Fashionable pearl snaps, and faux shoulder recoil patches will awaken the rugged individualist in you. You can rock this jersey on the trail, at work or at the local saloon and look good all the while.
Technical features like a hidden, full front zipper and side panel mesh venting betray the shirt’s foundation a casual garment. Weave in Club Ride’s RideDryWear quick-drying fabric, RideLight reflective accents and a UPF 30 rating and I’ve got a shirt that will race and tour well. Chose from a selection of cowboy inspired colors, grab some whiskey, a high spirited lady and ride off into your own single track sunset.