May 16th, 2014
Calling itself the worlds first bicycle-friendly multi-purpose space, the Onomichi U2 is now open for business. What makes the space special is not that its a hotel, café, bakery, restaurant and bike shop all in one, but that you can ride your bike through almost all the facilities. You can ride your bike up to the front desk to check-in, and then take your bike up to your hotel room, which is equipped with a bike rack. The café even has a cycle-thru lane so you can get your caffeine fix without ever getting off your bike.
Onomichi U2 is at the end of a 70km cycle path that sounds, logistics aside, marvelous. Maybe I can Gerty to ride there this fall.
July 23rd, 2011
We took two Mountain Hardwear tents on our recent bike tour: A Mountain Hardware Drifter and Mountain Hardware Skyledge. They were both wonderful tents. (A huge improvement over our old Sierra Designs Flashlight and even older Eureka Timberline.) Mountain Hardwear makes great tents.
They were both watertight, lightweight, and had two doors. The two doors cannot be beat. The widespread use of netting rather than ripstop means both tents were very close to as cool as can be in the heat. Both have large vestibules when the flies are pitched.
I'm over six feet all and Gerty is not petite. There was plenty of room for us in both of these tents -- they are, supposedly the three-man versions.
Which is better?
The Drifter ($194.95) is a great, simple tent. No tent is easier to set up. It has two matching poles. Sturdy enough. Very light. The opaque side panels are tall enough to provide privacy even in cramped campgrounds on a hot night. Stephen said he thought there was less cross ventilation because of those panels but I have trouble believing there was significantly less. The footprint is a piece of ripstop.
The Skyledge ($424.95) is another great tent. It is made for ultralightweight backpacking. It doesn't seem quite as sturdy as the Drifter -- I'll bet the Drifter lasts longer -- but the weight shaving doesn't compromise useability. The Skyledge has a bit less floor area but an additional short pole across the top (in addition to two cross poles like the Drifter) makes the difference unnoticeable in use. The Skyledge packs a bit smaller. The footprint is olefin -- very light but makes noise when you're unfolding it.
The only thing I would change about either tent is to make the tent poles fold small enough to fit inside a pannier. This is minor and a personal preference: the poles fit easily on top of a rack.
All in all, I would buy the Drifter and save the money. The weight saved by the Skyledge (less than half a pound?) just isn't big enough to make it worth an extra $200.
July 12th, 2011
Bottom line on the new version: More volume but I miss the straps.
(This is not a comparison of Ortlieb panniers to other brands. The closest I have come to comparing brands is here. Generally, I like our Ortliebs better than our Lone Peaks or Arkel because the Ortlieb attachment system is simple, reliable, and doesn't threaten to leave holes in clothing or legs.)
We are using a set of Ortlieb's new Bike Packer Plus panniers on our current tour. We are also using a set of older Bike Packer Plus panniers. It's a perfect set up to evaluate what Ortlieb has changed. So, I did:
June 25th, 2011
Here's the bottom-line: I'd like to return the bloody thing and get something better made and better designed for touring.
Here's why . . . .
After years of using non-cycling specific rain gear, I finally decided to buy a rain jacket just for biking. Several reviews and the information on the Showers Pass website convinced me to buy a Showers Pass Touring Jacket. Suits aside, I had never spent so much on much on a single piece of clothing, but Showers Pass sounded like they should know what they were doing and did it well:
Inspired by the challenging rides and weather of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, we have been combining top-notch fabrics with innovative, functional design elements since 1997. The result? Truly superior cycling outerwear.
When the jacket arrived, I was ecstatic. Deep pockets, extra long flap in the rear, room for another layer, great vents, and sturdy material. Riding in it in the cold and light rain was wonderful.
Then, within a week, part of one cuff fell off.
June 18th, 2011
Julie and David from recyclingtheworld.us are in northern Canada:
[M]osquitoes were as thick as in a Deep Woods Off commercial while setting up camp. There are so many it sounds like raindrops hitting the tent. Swatting the inner tent makes them sound like a maddened swarm of bees.
This bike touring stuff can be trying.
May 15th, 2011
Checking in with Allen Giese again:
[We realize it's graduation weekend so finding a hotel room tomorrow] is going to be tough.
What we should have done next is start calling for hotel reservations but we decided to finish off the six-pack we bought instead.
It's all about the moment. Tomorrow will work itself out just fine. It's a Zen of bicycle touring thing; once you've slept in a city park getting a hotel room just isn't that important.
So in the cool morning air we took an easy pace north, made a couple of stops for drinks and snacks . . . got to Statesboro by lunchtime with very little sweat.
Now it was time to check into lodging. We checked a few places out and basically found only one hotel with a few rooms available.
Then Pam called one of the motels listed on the back of the Adventure Cycling map and found they had multiple rooms available at a low price. What's wrong with this picture?
. . .
The first thing we see is two guys hauling a couple of mattresses out of one of the rooms that look like post-Katrina furniture. We couldn't get back on our bikes fast enough, pedaled back to the hotel and scooped up the last three rooms.
Forget the Zen thing. I really don't like sleeping in the park.
May 12th, 2011
May 11th, 2011
"Sitting on my trailer pad fry'in up a steak. I told the locals it was raccoon and now we're all buddies." Image and caption by Alan Geise.
Most accounts of bike tours tend to focus on weather, miles, and how the rider felt. I understand. The basic facts of a trip are the easiest to set down. Still, those ledger-like accounts become dull, fast.
Few tourists write well and write for others to read. Those are worth reading daily. My grandmother followed her soaps; I follow the 22-year old who is in ecstasy about finding a warm church basement on a rainy day.
When I read a well-written account, I feel the burden of a dismal day, the warmth of unexpected charity, or the silliness that permeates so much of life if one is paying attention.
Sometimes I can't help laughing out loud. From Allen Giese on crazyguy:
I've never been to Yulee, FL nor have I ever heard of it. I doubt I will ever be here again. In fact, I might go out of my way to avoid it. . . .
I'm sitting in my tent, squishing gnats on my computer screen because it's the only light around. Except of course the RV parked 30 feet from me that doesn't look like it's been moved in two years with Christmas lights still strung on it. I digress.
. . . After something like 550 miles of Florida coastline I think I've seen enough. I get it. It's very sandy.
[The] ACA maps want to make sure that we experience what real back country liv'in is all about. It's about logging trucks whizzing by you at 70 miles an hour with a shoulder we're riding on that is more chewed up than my dog's chew toy. . . .