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Shakedown Rides Pt. 2

Unexpected weather, lessons learned and early reviews of new gear.

Click here to read about shakeout vs. shakedown.


Ride overview

On Easter Sunday, I rode 13 miles (+3,500 ft) up to Gold Hill for another quick shakedown ride. In typical Colorado spring fashion there were 20-30 mph sustained head and crosswinds, and 40 mph gusts the whole time, with driving snow and a rapid 20-degree temperature drop the last two miles. I warmed up with hot toddies at the Gold Hill General Store before making camp on nearby forest land, going for a walk and finally crawling into my sleeping bag for the night.


In the morning I woke to a gloriously warm sunshine and bluebird skies, so I hiked to a secret spot to make coffee and oatmeal before packing up and flying back downhill to Boulder.



But it wasn't without hiccups... here are three lessons learned:

  • While I initially scoffed at the suggestion of rain pants, I ended up buying some via REI Resale. I own them, but I didn't pack them. To quote Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman, "Big mistake. Huge." They weigh virtually nothing, take up no space and would have been a lifesaver the last couple miles through freezing rain/snow. Luckily I was able to warm up and dry off in the Gold Hill General Store, but if I had to set up camp right away I would have had to deal with cold wet clothes and a potentially hypothermic situation. I didn't have my proper rain shell, either, but my Pearl Izumi wind jacket proved water resistant enough.

  • On nights when the temperature drops below freezing, bring at least one water bottle to bed with you. Cuddle it. There's nothing worse than emerging from a freezing, sleepless night and having to wait for that piping cup of coffee because of a bunch of frozen water bottles.

  • In an earlier post, I expressed uncertainty about the wide MTB-style handlebars that came stock on my Surly Bridge Club. While I'll likely still swap them out for something that gives me lower-profile/resting options, I'm definitely keeping a wider hand position. It gave me so much control and confidence in the wind and allowed me to maintain a (relatively) straight line.



Gear update

New gear day! Here's what I brought on this trip, with early thoughts on some new gear:

  • Handlebar bag: Ortlieb 9L pack held my Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Bikepacking-specific tent (the poles break down to shorter 12-in pieces) and puffy down jacket. Next time it'll also house my rain gear. This pack's double-sided access makes it easy to center the weight of the tent in the middle, with lighter gear on either side for fast access, such as swapping out clothing layers during rapidly-changing weather.

  • Feed bags: I ran two Revelate Designs Mountain feedbags; one on either side of my stem. The left side held snacks, house keys and ID inside the main compartment, with SPF chapstick and my headlamp nestled in outside mesh compartments. The right side held my Panasonic Lumix camera with an SPF face stick in a outside compartment. What I love so far: I love that they fit snuggly and are well padded. My camera was safe during the often bumpy ride and the quick pull open/close system made it easy to get inside while on the go. I love the many outside mesh compartments for sunscreen and trash -and on the way back down I put my phone in one to listen to music. What I'd change: I wish it had a drain on the bottom. I can see them getting messy from food etc, and having a drain would make it easier to wash them out. They also don't completely close and could potentially collect water during a downpour.

  • Top tube bag: still running the Green Guru until my new Rogue Panda arrives, and yes, its wonky zipper still annoys the hell out of me. It held my phone and headphones on the way up.

  • Fork cage: REI bottle cage held my main drinking water bottle. I don't love this cage... It holds the bottle SO TIGHTLY it's hard to get it in and out. And forget about trying to maneuver it while riding. I just ordered two King Cage Manything cages for my fork to hold two large Nalgenes (one of either side), and will move my main drinking water bottle to a feedbag.

  • Panniers: a pair of Ortlieb Gravel packs held two liters of additional water, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad, MSR Pocket Rocket mini stove set, first aid, toiletries, clothes, bike tools, Goal Zero Crush Light (for the tent), food, spoon, mug and a book. I talk a bit more about the rugged gravel bags in this post. The jury is still out on the sleeping pad... moving around on it sounds like you're murdering a bag of potato chips and it's so narrow, I woke up multiple times to throbbing-cold feet because they snuck off the edge while I was trying to sleep on my side. Honestly, it had me yearning for my trusty Nemo Switchback. While it may be bulky, it weighs about the same, doesn't require inflation, is totally quiet, incredibly warm, doubles as a seat and will never spring a leak, rendering it useless.

  • Extra stuff sack: on top of my rack I strapped a 20L Sea to Summit Big River drysack. I love that I can roll it bigger or smaller depending on my load and its four lash loops on the outside allow me to thread the voile straps through, keeping it secure behind me. In it, I put my Big Agnes Women's Petite Torchlight 30 degree sleeping bag, old pair of Allbirds shoes, journal/pen and a couple paper GDMBR maps.

All in all, I'm getting there. I still have a ton of testing and trying new things left, like handlebars, shoes, clothes and... chamois.


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