Intermediate Bikepacking: "HELP WIPING!" Pt. 1 (WWE and the EASE)

Living out there on the trail, you’ll want some help wiping. Sure, a large enough leaf – and one that you are absolutely certain is not going to inundate your nethers with toxins or irritating fibers (causing rash, itching, and/or burning) - might serve as a decent substitute for toilet paper in a bind. But living out there on the trail, you’ll want to give at least a passing thought to hygiene. By all means, let all the hair – everywhere – just grow. Enjoy the freedom of forgetting about the existence of deodorant. People in the towns through which you pass will remember you, but the ones who will remember you as a stinky, bike-riding vagabond you’ll easily forget, if you ever notice them at all. Maybe wash your chamois or shorts once in a while, but beyond that, get dirty dirty when you go bikepacking. Just draw the line somewhere before ingesting fecal matter. Poo-borne bacteria in your gut is the Freddy Krueger to your bikepacking dreams. Don’t, dear reader, go gently into that good night. Keep the poo out of your grubby fingernails by not fussing with leaves and other poor substitutes for TP. Accept some help wiping.

Now, a roll of TP (especially a downsized one) can be shoved into various nooks and crannies of your rig, but one of the commandments to live by when bikepacking is only to carry things that serve more than one purpose. What else besides wiping your nethers is a small roll of TP good for on a bike? Wiping a runny nose? Now give some thought to what is going to happen to that small roll of TP when it comes into contact with any moisture. You can find a waterproof bag for your TP roll, but a small package of wet wipes has several advantages over that system: 1) its flat shape makes it more packable; 2) it can get wet; 3) it can be used to clean minor wounds, utensils, cookware, and anything else you want to keep crud free.

To help illustrate the virtues and ills of the various wet wipes out there, we have sampled some of the most readily available brands. From our local calls-itself-a-farmers-market-but-it’s-still-just-a-supermarket we bought a “plant-based,” “hypoallergenic,” “fragrance-free” wet wipe. From a local drug store we bought a germ-killing but “gentle” antibacterial wet wipe. And from the nearest 24-hr. convenience store we got another wet wipe that there are no adjectives to help distinguish from the other two. For a control group, we dug up an old package of wet wipes left over from a Tour Divide run; sometimes the best wet wipe around is a dry wipe because it’s the only wet wipe around.

Before presenting the fruits of all our wiping, in the interest of public health and safety we wish to illustrate the method for a proper wipe, based on a rigorously developed theory of wiping. The ideal wipe will be achieved when even pressure is exerted over a wet wipe as it passes over the Estimated Area of Soilage (or EASE) with that pressure intensifying slightly over the estimated area of maximum soilage, which you should try to situate as near to mid-wipe as possible, and tapering as your wipe moves along the periphery of the EASE. Fold your wet wipe into roughly the same size and shape of your hand to avoid any loose wipe producing drag as your wipe passes over the EASE. Tapering the pressure of the wipe as you move toward and away from the estimated area of maximum soilage will prevent you from making more of a mess than you had to deal with at the start; the idea is to never extend the area of an EASE past the boundary line of its initial natural formation. Apply pressure to the wipe with your fingertips if you sense that the depth of material on the EASE warrants a hybrid raking-wiping method; fingernails can achieve an even deeper rake to your wipe but risk compromising the integrity of the wipe itself or produce alternating tracks of lines of cleanliness and soilage in the EASE.

Using proper wiping method, each of the wet wipes we sampled was tested by the most reliable judge of quality and worth, a woman. The wet wipes were rated based on the following criteria: Packability, Disposability, Moistness, Softness, Comfort (Lack of Burn), Aroma, Accessibility, Affordability. Below is a series of graphs illustrating how the wet wipes scored in these areas on a scale from 1 to 5; taken together, the scores reflect an objective determination of WWE, wet wipe excellence.

1. From the nearest 24-hr. convenience store, a generic wet wipe.

2. From a local drug store, a germ-killing but “gentle” antibacterial wet wipe.

3. From a local calls-itself-a-farmers-market-but-it’s-still-just-a-supermarket, a “plant-based,” “hypoallergenic,” “fragrance-free” wet wipe.

Ultimately, the wet wipe with the best WWE profile was the “plant-based,” “hypoallergenic,” “fragrance-free” wet wipe from the local calls-itself-a-farmers-market-but-it’s-still-just-a-supermarket. It won out over the wet wipes from the 24 hr. convenience store and drug store based primarily on sensory data: it smelled better and felt better on the nethers. Most importantly, our judge remarked, there was no burn. It terms of moistness and packability it was about on par with the rest, but it scored lower than average in the areas of affordability and accessibility. It is going to be the hardest wet wipe to come by living out there on the trail, and if you do find it, it’ll cost you a bit more than the more readily available wipes. That said, no wet wipe costs that much for how vital a pack item it can be.

PSA: A note on disposability

None of the wet wipes we tested scored high in the area of disposability, but one scored one notch higher than the others. The “plant-based” wet wipe was described on its packaging as “biodegradable,” but we did a little research and determined that that designation DOES NOT MEAN that you can leave the wet wipe on the ground and expect it to compost. The designation does mean that you can dispose of the wipe in an off-the-grid toilet like you might find at a state park or in a port-a-potty.

All things considered, if you are going to carry wet wipes on your bikepacking rig expecting to use them, then you darn well better carry a sealable plastic bag to deposit your used ones in until you reach a place where you can dispose of them responsibly. It is an important commandment of the bikepacking ethos that the things you carry serve more than one purpose, but a far more important commandment is to leave no trace, expect for the tracks of your tires and feet in the dirt. PACK IT OUT, folks! A wet wipe left as litter will be utterly divested of its WWE, and the cleanliness of your EASE should not come at the expense of that of the land.

Words by Seth Wood @drsethwood

Photographs and graph design by Austin Turner @austikt

Trey's Beans (Bikepacking Jokes and Shenanigans)

[suggestively] “Mmm… Where’s Trey’s beans?”

“‘Where’s Trey’s beans?’ Ha! That’d make a good title for our blog post about this weekend. Where’s Trey’s beans?!

“More like, where’s Trey?”

 Riders preparing to roll out from District

Riders preparing to roll out from District

 

At some point this past weekend, when the shop hosted the first of what we hope to become a monthly bikepacking excursion, some of us (ahem, me) thought it would be funny and/or appropriately inappropriate to title this ride report “Where’s Trey’s beans?” So I have. But, honestly, now I can’t recall what my reasoning was, or even the joke really.

 Austin Turner and JT Gragg creating a breakfast explosion

Austin Turner and JT Gragg creating a breakfast explosion

The weather was dreary the morning after I roused myself from a thankfully dry night spent in my bivy, but the company was the opposite. I was one of the last to wake. Folks were bustling about, stowing tents, and loading gear bags back onto bikes. Some people – either already packed up or not yet bothering – were gathered around the rekindled remains of our campfire from the night before. After quickly stowing my sleep system in my front roll bag and reattaching it to my bike, I grabbed my coffee-making implements and left the remainder of my gear (a lot of gear… I’m thinking, “Geez, how much did I bring?!”) in a haphazard assortment of piles and made my way to the picnic tables where a handful of folks had their stoves out making pour-over coffees and chewing on meager breakfasts. Since we were bikepacking in Oklahoma, the conversation passing between the smiling, bed-headed faces naturally turned to the beans of Hoboken Coffee Roasters, and, yeah… “Trey’s beans” was perhaps an inevitable pun. But what about the joke had made it seem to me a fitting epitaph of the trip?

 Seth Wood's Salsa Cutthroat 

Seth Wood's Salsa Cutthroat 

Nothing, really. Racking my brain after the fact, reaching back through the fog that bikepacking adventures sometimes (okay… always) cast about the halls of my memory, trying desperately to get at least a draft of this ride report down on the page, I came up with nothing, at least not about the joke. What I did remember, very clearly, was a feeling. It was the feeling of a slow sort of solidarity that I had been dimly processing in the back of my mind since the night before.

 Keith Reed, Cathy Branyan, Sara Siems, Josh McCullock and David Power enjoying a morning brew around the fire

Keith Reed, Cathy Branyan, Sara Siems, Josh McCullock and David Power enjoying a morning brew around the fire

I traced the feeling back to the twelve-mile ride out to Lake McMurtry West, when it became clear that riders of widely varied cycling experience had turned out for the event. For one person, the ride out to the lake was his longest ride on a bike, and he was doing it loaded. We slowed the pace on the straightaways and let people tackle the handful of modest climbs at their own pace. We stopped at intervals along the way to have the interspersed, pulsing red lights regather into a swarm.

DSCF6861.jpg

I traced the feeling back even earlier, to the gathering of sixteen riders and loaded bikes in the dimly lit shop floor of District Bicycles, shortly after closing time on Saturday night. We were, naturally, a bit late in departing. Fittingly enough, the most experienced bikepackers were the least ready to go and the least constrained by necessity in their gear choices. Less than five minutes before we rolled out, I was strapping the last of the obscene collection of gear I had chosen to pack for a sub-24-hr. trip. Someone remarked how minimalist I looked when I carried my gear into the shop on my back, and how overloaded all the gear looked on the bike. I agreed, I was overpacked: bivouacking only in the sense of sleeping in a bivy – otherwise, glamping. And I wasn’t the only rider foregoing creature comfort. Other rigs were much more minimally packed. In fact, it was interesting to remark that the least experienced bikepackers were embracing the bikepacking ethos more purely than the rest; theirs were the everyday bikes with odd-shaped sleep rolls and tent bags strapped onto handlebars and racks with bungee cords. JT’s Surly Cross-Check was transformed into a bikepacking rig simply by installing a tangle bag on the frame, strapping a sleep pad and stuff sack to the rear rack he uses to commute, and dangling a Ti mug from his flat pack.

 JT Gragg's Surly Cross-Check Bivouac Machine

JT Gragg's Surly Cross-Check Bivouac Machine

Three riders from Tulsa – one of whom was the guy doing his longest ride ever on a resurrected Trek 830 – were new to bikepacking and had more fun than maybe anyone else in camp. Hayden Payne made himself a bikepacker by strapping a sleeping bag to the handlebar of his full suspension Niner and wearing a backpack. An experienced bike rider who was also new to the bikepacking experience, Tyson Branyan, used a backpack he earned as a DFL Trophy in the 2014 Land Run 100 and a rack attached to the rear of his cross-style Bianchi to haul most of his required gear for an overnighter. His wife, Cathy with a C, did bring some supplies to camp by car, and we were happy to her join us camping even though she didn’t do the ride. Keith Reed has a special place in my recollection of this ride for deciding at the last minute to join us. A custom Scissortail cargo bike makes it really easy to pack up what you need for a night beneath the stars and pedal away from the lights of town in your work clothes.

 Keith Reed's Custom Scissortail Cycles cargo bike, the "Jos Express"

Keith Reed's Custom Scissortail Cycles cargo bike, the "Jos Express"

There were faces new and old. Adam Blake from Gravel City Adventure and Supply Co. had made the trip from Emporia, KS to ride with us. I hadn’t visited with him in ages. On the way out to the lake, he pointed out to me that this was our first bike ride together, even though I have only ever known him around bikes. Matt Fowler, aka the Gravel Guru, had travelled with Adam, and as a longtime fan of his photography and vlogs it was a treat for me to get to know him a bit. Some riders I knew better than others. There was one dude there with whom I have clocked thousands of bikepacking miles, but you probably wouldn’t know him. There were bikes there – like, Austin’s and Tyler’s – that I’ve seen packed and unpacked in nearly every configuration, while some other rigs I had never seen before. Some the world has never seen before.

DSCF6865.jpg

All these faces and machines dug up in the excavation of my memory, taken together, made me realize how to think about the feeling that I had associated with that gag about “Trey’s beans.” The joke itself didn’t matter. What mattered was the free and easy conversation started up among a group of people who differed in age, occupation, riding experience, camping philosophy, and in other ways we’ll never know about. What mattered was the fact that we were joking around while everyone was a bit stressed about rain that was promised but never arrived until after the trip was done. What mattered was that the most experienced bikepackers in camp were having an experience as novel as the least experienced bikepackers in camp, precisely because of the ride was being shared by veterans and first-timers. The presence of people who had never had a bikepacking adventure before made an adventure out of a bikepacking trip that I’ve made several times before (in terms of destination and gear).

 A bum who looks kind of like Bobby Wintle joined us for breakfast

A bum who looks kind of like Bobby Wintle joined us for breakfast

We knew we wanted this ride to encourage people to try bikepacking that had never done so before. We talked about it, strategized about how to make people feel welcomed and challenged at the same time, but I never gave any thought to this kind of ride being a new kind of experience for me. I’ve known about the virtues of bikepacking for a while now. I’ve seen places bikepacking that I could never see otherwise. I’ve formed lifelong bonds with people through experiences bikepacking. I have met people whose bikepacking experiences and capabilities far outweigh my own, and I will always have them to teach me how to get better at it. But from now on I’m going to make more of an effort to bikepack with people new to the game, to help teach me how to enjoy it more.

 Thanks to Keith Reed for grabbing my camera and snapping this shot - Tyler

Thanks to Keith Reed for grabbing my camera and snapping this shot - Tyler

Written by Seth Wood @drsethwood, Photographed and Edited by Tyler Siems @getwide

Beginning Bikepacking

The Basics of Bikepacking

 Tyler Siems' MTB Abomination: Glamping Edition. Give him a follow @getwide!

Tyler Siems' MTB Abomination: Glamping Edition. Give him a follow @getwide!

 

Whether spending one night at a destination ten miles from your home or venturing out into the wilderness for a multi-day journey, getting ready to go bikepacking involves thinking about three essential concerns: water, food, and shelter. 

 

 Seth Wood's bivouac setup. Follow Seth @drsethwood

Seth Wood's bivouac setup. Follow Seth @drsethwood

Obviously, your need for water and food - and, therefore, your need for food and water storage - will depend on how long and/or far you intend to ride and how many opportunities for resupply there will be along the way. A good rule of thumb for water storage for bikepacking is to provide yourself at least 1 oz. of water for every mile you intend to ride. If I had to ride a 100-mile stretch with no source for refill, then I would start out carrying no less than 120 oz. of water. Food intake depends on your body type, metabolism, and dietary restrictions/preferences, but whoever you are or however you like to eat, listen to your body: if it tells you it's hungry for something and that thing is at hand, then eat it. Also consider carrying a small variety of food options, especially if you're taking on a longer journey. Just because something looks good to eat when you're comfortably packing, that doesn't mean it will look good to eat when you're fatigued, rain soaked, or sun baked hours or even days later. Give yourself a variety of food options on the bike so no matter what state you're in, you'll always be able to choke something down. Most experienced bikepackers will find themsevles carrying a bag of M&M's, Sour Patch Kids, or some other form of junk food that they'll always be able to eat, no matter what. Every bikepacker will have need for some amount of food and water, and every bikepacker will have some difference of opinion with the next when it comes to ideas about an appropriate shelter.

 

 @getwide Tyler Siems' bivouacking All-City Cycles Nature Boy 853. 

@getwide Tyler Siems' bivouacking All-City Cycles Nature Boy 853. 

This is where things can get a little difficult for people looking to get started bikepacking. To know what your needs are in the department of shelter, you have to have some idea of what kind of bikepacker you are. But how are you supposed to know what kind of bikepacker you are if you've never gone bikepacking? A good place to start answering this question for yourself is to consider where you fall on the spectrum of bikepacking philosophy. There are two extremes of bikepacking theory and practice that every rider is going to fall somewhere between: bivouacking and glamping. 

 

 Austin Turner's Salsa Vaya. Glamp-ouacing? BiviGlamping? Watch Austin BiviGlamp @austikt

Austin Turner's Salsa Vaya. Glamp-ouacing? BiviGlamping? Watch Austin BiviGlamp @austikt

Bivouacking represents the essence of simplicity and minimalism; you venture out on a bicycle for a night or more with the bare minimum of gear. Your shelter may consist of a tarp, bivouac sack (or bivy), hammock, a sleeping bag thrown on the ground, or some combination of these items. You might bring a change of underwear or socks if you bring any additional clothes at all. Depending on weather conditions, you might decide to carry a rain jacket or portable winter coat, gloves, or hat, but the idea is that you bring only the clothes you absolutely need, not the clothes you may necessarily want. And you don't bring much more than you can carry by wearing, reducing the need for storage space on the bike itself. Nutrition bars and trail mixes are the go-to "meals" of the bivouacker. If you go to bed completely satiated, unable to eat another bite, then you're not bivouacking. If you sleep in complete comfort, with no draft or foreign object intruding on your slumber, then you're not bivouacking. If it takes you more than five or ten minutes to pack up in the morning and pedal off into the sunrise, then you're not bivouacking.

For our favorite article on Bivouacking in the entire galaxy, check out this post over on the Surly Bikes blog: The Art of the Bivouac

 Kids can bikepack too! Seth Wood and his son Mark headed out for an overnighter. Check out Mark's bivouac setup!

Kids can bikepack too! Seth Wood and his son Mark headed out for an overnighter. Check out Mark's bivouac setup!

Items for the bivouacker at District: wool socks, Nightrider light set, ProBar, Surly wool jersey

 

 The Ultimate Glamping Machine: The drop-bar Surly Pugsley "The Drugsley".

The Ultimate Glamping Machine: The drop-bar Surly Pugsley "The Drugsley".

Glamping is the school of bikepacking for the creature of comfort. You carry everything on the bike that you can imagine having some possible need for, and you give zero thought to the difference between what you brought and what you actually ended up using. You likely don't consider the possibility of sleeping outside without a tent big enough to change clothes in, and your sleeping bag only ever gets used when it sits atop a pillowly air mattress that compensates for rough or uneven surfaces. You have refined opinions on the virtues of various inflatable pillows, and you've sampled the range of dehydrated meals available at your local outdoor supply store. If you fall asleep shaming yourself for all the grams you could have shaved leaving your portable camp chair at home, then you're not glamping. If you have no means of warming up your toes and buttocks at camp, then you're not glamping. If you have not shopped for a fanny pack that will allow you to bring more unnecessary consumer products with you on your regular rides, then you're not glamping. Spoiler alert: we LOVE bike-glamping! Most of our short overnight adventures fall a lot closer to this version of bikepacking than bivouacking.

 

 @unlearnpavement Bobby Wintle's Glamp-Mobile Salsa Cycles Cutthroat. 

@unlearnpavement Bobby Wintle's Glamp-Mobile Salsa Cycles Cutthroat. 

Three items for the glamper at District: Stanley flask, coffee bean grinder, Must-Stache Bags District gear bag, Revelate Designs Washboard strap

 

Whatever bikepacking trip you are thinking about undertaking, no matter how long or how removed from civilization, you can teach yourself a lot about what you need to prepare for that journey by considering where you want to fall on the bivouacking-glamping spectrum. Extreme bike tours that feature long distances and extensive climbing will urge you closer to the bivouacking end of the spectrum in the interest of weight-savings, but that means that you will have fewer items to help you recover when you have the greater need of recovery. Bikepacking trips featuring shorter distances and less extreme riding conditions might urge you closer to the glamping end of the spectrum in the interest of fun and comfort, but then you have to ask yourself how much money are you willing to invest in gear and accessories (and how much time are you are willing to invest in packing them) for infrequent trips that never take you that far from home. Bivouacking and glamping are two types of bikepacking experience that are not really attainable in their purest forms. You're only ever going to be able to pull off something in between the two, but you'll always be closer to one experience than the other. Which one is up to you.               

Interested in bikepacking? Let's talk about it in the comments, we love to talk gear, routes, and whiskey choices. But mostly whiskey choices.

Click these images to make them grow!

Written by Seth Wood, edited and photographed by Tyler Siems.

Taylor's 29+ Ti Fargo

Taylor Weichman is a long-time friend of the shop, and in fact he is really part of our family. Before he moved out of Oklahoma, he commissioned us to create his ultimate dream bike, a titanium Salsa Fargo. Knowing that Taylor is an adventurous type, we were stoked to jump in and get weird with his build. With the stipulation that this would be a "one bike to rule them all" type of build, we knew that we would have to get a little creative with the build kit. We settled on the carbon fiber Jones loop handlebar and a set of carbon Bontrager Line Pro 30 rims laced to White Industries hubs as the key pieces of the puzzle. A little known fact about the latest generation of Ti Fargo frame, is that it will fully fit 29+ tires with no modifications except for running Salsa's Alternator dropouts a little further back in their swing. As far as we know, Taylor's bike is the very first 29+ Titanium Fargo to hit the dirt. 3" Bontrager Chupacabra tires a perfect choice for bikepacking and trail riding here in the MidSouth, and profile perfectly on 30mm internal rims. The drivetrain is a perfect "shop-guy" blend of choice Sram and Shimano components, with an X0 Eagle shifting setup paired with XT brakes and an XTR crankset with a Wolftooth chainring mounted to it. Brooks carbon Cambium saddle and a Bontrager XXX seatpost round out a perfect light-weight and super tough build. We miss Taylor a ton, but we know that this bike is keeping him warm at night, because he definitely keeps it tucked safely in his bed. As always, feel free to call the shop for questions about this build, or to get your own custom build started!

 

Land Run 100 2018 Registration Party

Registration for our 2018 Land Run 100 event opens this Saturday Oct 28th @8am Central Standard Time. Register HERE. We will be throwing a registration party Saturday morning starting at 7:30am with coffee provided from the wonderful Aspen Coffee. We will have a group ride leaving from District Bicycles after everyone gets registered starting at 8:30am. Two distances will be offered for the ride at 20 and 30 miles. We will end the ride at 1907 Meat Co. for brunch. BE HERE. It will be amazing.

LR100 2018 REG.jpg

Brian Bickell's Hella Dope Warbird

Brian is a local cyclist, friend of the shop and Salsa Cycles enthusiast. Brian began riding a Townie around a few years ago and after riding 50 miles in one sitting on his Townie, he decided he needed a big-boy bike. He raced his titanium Warbird for a few seasons, until eventually falling in love with a carbon fiber Warbird. He wanted it to be the best version of the Warbird and we think this build crushed it. Enjoy the photos, and congrats on the world's dopest Warbird Brian!

-

-

Build specs: 55cm Salsa Warbird carbon frame. Shimano Ultegra 6800 Di2 drivetrain, Quarq power meter. Chris King ceramic hubs laced to ENVE M50 rims. Chris King everything, ENVE  everything, badass everything.

New 2017 Salsa Fargo

We haven't seen this much excitement surrounding a new bike release since the Warbird revamp in 2016. People are PUMPED about the new Salsa Cycles Fargo Plus. SRAM Rival 1 rear derailleur, SRAM Apex hydraulic brakes, SRAM NX1 crank, Whisky Parts Co rims with monster 3" Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires. Come check out this new powerhouse and get some adventures started! 

 

IMG_7663.JPG
IMG_7657.JPG
IMG_7662.JPG
IMG_7661.JPG
IMG_7663.JPG